Can there be anything more dramatic than a man proclaiming the absolute power of the Love, seeing into the eyes of his enemies and submitting calmly and willingly to martyrdom to prove his faith and to convince his followers that they are right to believe in what he has said? To profess the ultimate sacrifice to set an example? To die so that others could live sometime somewhere in a better, more peaceful world? Hardly.
Have you ever met what the Germans call a “Schöngeist”? The French equivalent is “un bel esprit” – I found no English term, but I had to think of Oscar Wilde. A person attracted by arts, preferring their superficial beauty over their deeper philosophical meaning, be it a poem, a song, a painting, a statue. Someone who cultivates his sense for aesthetics and surrounds himself with beautiful things. I imagine Franz Liszt being such a “Schöngeist”. He had an extremely developed sensitivity, a passion for superficial beauty and a distinctive penchant for gallant and glamorous people. His music mirrors this character trait.
Something compelled me to go back to this violin concerto, and I can’t quite say what it was. I felt a certain urge to immerse myself into it again, to see if I would enjoy it in a different way or more deeply, with amplified emotions after having it initially dismissed as being of lesser interest.
A dark premonition must have been haunting the composer went she sketched this Lento. Or was it the legacy of her teacher, the influence of the late German Romantic masters? Franz Liszt is not very far indeed, for Marie Jaëll stayed with him in Weimar for quite a number of years, and Richard Wagner, well, Richard Wagner was omnipresent at the time. In 1871 Jaëll wrote her Sonata for piano in C major, dedicated to Liszt.