Serene Anxiety upon an Inspiration by Bach

I would like to hope that this summer will be a summer of peace, despite the drum beats in different parts of the world. I wish this summer could be devoted to the contemplation of the beauty of nature and of mankind’s cultural achievements. I wish it could inspire policy makers to realize that in a globalized world, pitting one nation against the other is a zero-sum game, inviting to revenge, and will ultimately lead to a loose-loose situation. Global issues need to be addressed in a comprehensive way and in a spirit of cooperation. There is no planet B. For nobody.

I was thinking about that while I observed this butterfly going about its business and I was thinking about it again when a little later I listened to César Franck’s piece for solo piano “Prélude, Aria et Final”, op. 23, which the composer wrote in 1886/87.  The pianist Stephen Hough writes that Franck’s “Prélude, Choral et Fugue” and his “Prélude, Aria et Final” share two motivic ideas, the first being related to Johann Sebastian Bach’s cantata “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen”, the second being derived from the bell theme in Richard Wagner’s opera “Parsifal”.

John Trevitt and Joël-Marie Fauquet write in a piece for “Oxford Music Online” that the “basis of Franck’s thematic material is the symphonic phrase, a paradoxical compound of rhetorical and passive elements which is paralleled linguistically by [Georges] Jean-Aubry’s (1916) description ‘serene anxiety’. Often Franck developed complex phrase structures using a kind of mosaic of variants of one or two germinal motifs, a technique which again underlines his indebtedness to Liszt […]” “Prélude, Choral et Fugue” and the “Prélude, Aria et Final” illustrate this procedure in its most developed and refined state.

Serene anxiety – what a strange concept. Yet it describes what I feel at the moment. Anxiety about the direction world affairs are taking, mixed with an unexplainable serenity or faith, that in the end cooler heads will prevail and that cooperation will triumph over adversity and competition. What is that you say? Wishful thinking? Oh yes, plenty of that. This blog is a place of perpetual optimism.

“Prélude, Aria et Final” has been recorded by Bertrand Chamayou.

© Charles Thibo

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de Chareli

Writer, photographer, piano student, music enthusiast. And a lot more. You are welcome to follow my blog.