The beautiful days. The beautiful days are not gone. Despite the acid I spread on Friday. The beautiful days are happening right now. If we allow them to happen. The day before I was writing this post the roof of one of the landmarks of Paris was destroyed by a fire: the Cathédrale de Notre-Dame. A terrible loss. But the day I wrote this post, I rose with the sun, I didn’t have to work, the house was calm and I enjoyed a beautiful sight out of the kitchen window as the vineyards are coming to life. The beautiful days are whenever we want to make them happen.
“Les beaux jours” is a piano cycle written by the French composer Marie Jaëll. Listening to this work is more than appropriated for this morning. It fits my mood, it fits the sight out of the kitchen window. Jaëll composed it in 1894, at the age of 58. Franz Liszt was full of admiration for her and had declared Jaëll had “the mind of a philosopher and the fingers of an artist”. True. The piece exudes calmness, gentleness, inner peace and optimism, with just a touch of Romantic nostalgia. Lovely.
Jaëll was obsessed by composition. It was her vocation. And it was a kind of escape. Her husband Alfred, an outstanding pianist, was seriously ill between 1877 and his death in 1882. Composing was Marie’s salvation. “I work, I work and I feel marvelously […] I feel like a new being, completely new, that does nothing but write and explore itself. Ten years later she would write: “I work a lot… it’s the luck of the artist.” And: “I am speaking about composition because I constantly hold the pen.”
During the later period of her life, Marie was preoccupied by piano pedagogy. “Les beaux jours” just like its pendant “Les jours pluvieux” (The Rainy Days) was written for her piano students: twelve delicate, poetic pieces, simple in their expression, of varying degrees of technical difficulty, explaining the link between the technical aspect of piano playing and the produced effect, i.e. the emotion expressed.
“Les beaux jours” has been recorded by Dana Ciocarli.
© Charles Thibo