Another sunrise, another day, another adventure? Long ago I read a sentimental novel about an aircraft pilot living a solitary life, proud of his independence, unattached to any woman, any family, living a self-determined life with an emphasis on having fun. No shackles, no responsibility except for his own life. What a delusion! At some point he acknowledged the vast emptiness around himself and inside himself. He meets a woman than, but for the two to become soul mates he needs to turn fear into courage, prejudices into tolerance. At some point he decides that to succeed as a couple he and his soul mate have to turn every day of their every-day life into an adventure.
If this sounds rather like a fantasy, well, it is a fantasy. I thought a lot about that book when I was 18, 19 years old. If nothing else, the book was a stimulus to do something to make my own life more interesting. Don’t wait for something beautiful happen. Make something beautiful happen yourself. Quite a challenge, but most of the time it works for me. And here, I found something today that made this very day of April already worth living, and hopefully it will make your day, this 2nd of May, a little more beautiful too: Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Concert Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra, op. 56. Actually I know that piece well, but it had been a long time since I had last listened to it: September 2016.
Tchaikovsky wrote this piece in the summer of 1884. During spring he had thought about writing another piano concerto, but somehow the Muse deserted him. “I tried to follow-up on my idea for a piano concerto, but the result is deceiving, there’s nothing really new in it”, he noted in his diary. He took up another piece, that would become Suite No. 3 in G Major (op. 55), and, oh miracle, while he went about it, he knew the next work would not be a piano concerto, but a piece in two equally long movements for piano and orchestra. And what a piece it is!
The fantasy is set in G major, just like the suite, it is dynamic, optimistic, it reflects Russian folk influences and Schumannesque phrases for the piano. The first bar creates some tension already, and then, totally unexpected, the flutes come up with an innocent dance which makes you ask: what next? How is Tchaikovsky going to turn this into something meaningful? And that’s what I find so charming, it is full of surprises, both the first and the second movement, things you would not expect and that you could not possibly put into a piano concerto. So lovely!
Now, if you want to dance into an early spring morning with Tchaikovsky, be my guest. The piece has been recorded by Mikhail Pletnev and the Philharmonia Orchestra.
© Charles Thibo