Injecting fire into Joseph Haydn’s concertos

What a beautiful instrument! © Charles Thibo

There are keyboards and keyboards. Baroque composer would think of the harpsichord and mention in the piece’s name that the piece is meant for violin for instance and basso continuo. The basso part would be played on the harpsichord. Joseph Haydn would write a keyboard concerto and think of still using the harpsichord or the newly invented fortepiano, a harpsichord that can play loud (forte) and soft (piano) sounds. Today one would play it on the modern piano unless… unless Viviane Chassot were around. She is a Swiss musician with a penchant for experiments and she plays Haydn’s keyboard parts on the accordion while the Kammerorchester Basel plays the tutti parts.

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Expressing silence through sounds

Mount Fuji © Raoul Ries

A jazz piece? No. A piano piece? Yes. Single steps? No. An uninterrupted rest? Yes. Motionless, static through rhythm and melody. A singular work. A Japanese work. Tore Takemitsu. A singular sombre, heavy atmosphere, enhanced by isolated notes, clear as rain drops. Death? An uninterrupted rest. An eternal sleep. How little do we know. How little time do we have to learn. How much time and effort we waste to stay ignorant.

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Count Durazzo’s collection of manuscripts unearthed

A splash of colour © Charles Thibo

The high grass combined with the thimbleweed that my wife planted in front of our kitchen window keeps fascinating me. The colours and shapes change with the seasons, add the changing light of a grey or a sunny day and you get plenty of variations. Two aspects however remain the same: the plants’ elegance and the contrast between two different forms, the line and the dot. Elegance and contrast are two common aspects of Baroque music too and a delightful example is Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto for two Mandolins, Strings and Continuo in G major, RV 532.

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Gold veins or glowing columns of smoke?

Bruckner Sym8 2
Gold on grey. © Charles Thibo

“It remains a psychological mystery how the most gentle and peace-loving of all men […] becomes an anarchist while he is composing, throwing over board logic, clarity of development, formal unity and tonality. His music changes its shape like an unwieldy, glowing column of smoke.” This is the harsh judgement of Eduard Hanslick, a Viennese music critic, over Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 in C minor. Hanslick himself did not exactly have a reputation as a gentle critic. His measuring stick was the Vienna School, i.e. Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven. Anyone daring to deviate from that line would face instant and complete annihilation in the press.

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