Up the Mountain, Through the Fields, into Town

Wheat field with cypresses, painted in 1889 by van Gogh

The shimmering air on a summer afternoon – a physical phenomenon that astonishes me time and again. Air is transparent per se and still you can see it when it ascends, being heated and becoming less dense than the air around it. I had to think of it when I listened to “Les eaux” (The Waters), the first movement of Thomas Adès’ piece of chamber music “Lieux retrouvés” (Places rediscovered). It refers to the flow of water, horizontal, vertical, patterns easily disturbed, leading to turbulence, interferences – the rippling of a water surface caused by wind, a dropped stone. The geometry behind this has fascinated many a composer – we have already found that in the music of Franz Schubert and Maurice Ravel.

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Emotion and elegance fused in an early work

Franck Trio1
Grace. © EW

The first few seconds were sufficient to capture my attention. Darkness. Grace. Consolation. Enlightenment. Tension. Spirituality. Salvation. What a piece! In 1839 César Franck wrote his Trio Concertant No. 1 for Piano, Violin and Cello, one out of three that form his Op. 1, published in 1843. Franck – one of the most eminent French composers of the 19th century. He had been trained at the conservatory of Liège, a city that was part of the Dutch kingdom until Belgium gained its independence. Franck – the composer who failed to enter the Paris conservatory for the simple reason that he wasn’t a French national. Naturalization took a year and in 1836 he started to take lessons in piano and counterpoint at the prestigious Conservatoire.

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Taking it easy with Tchaikovsky’s caprice

Summer! © Charles Thibo

Together with the Overture “1812” the Capriccio Italien (Op. 45) is the earliest work of Pyotr Tchaikovsky that I listened to. They were both on the same recording I got as a teenager for Christmas, the third piece being the Marche Slave. Its introduction is impressive enough for a young, ignorant mind. Trumpets! More brass joining the trumpets. And then the strings, a dramatic, earnest gesture, a hint of melancholy…

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An optimistic sonata for a happy moment

Grieg Sonata (1)
Sunset at the seaside. © Charles Thibo

This sunset makes me a little nostalgic. A week at the Channel. A cozy evening in a beachhouse. Dinner outside, tea and cookies inside when the fresh land breeze had set in. Reading, chatting, watching the sun, the few seconds it takes to disappear, that magic afterglow in the sky. And Edvard Grieg. A happy moment.

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