Those of you who have been following this blog for a while are aware that – being a piano apprentice – I have a soft spot for the cello. I had to discover the broad tonal range of the piano to appreciate the smaller but still impressive range of the cello. It translates into a broad choice of moods from sinister, depressive, to cosy, comfortable and even glorious and triumphant.
Je suis seul dans la prairie
Assis au bord du ruisseau ;
Déjà la feuille flétrie,
Qu’un flot paresseux charrie,
Jaunit l’écume de l’eau.
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.
Today the finale of the project: Maurice Ravel’s String Quartet in F major. Around lunchtime I drive home. I have time. I take time to watch the fields I drive by once I have left the city. Fertile land. Less herbicides than in the past. Every year I have the impression the plots with wildflowers become more numerous. I like that. I love to see the golden grain, the red poppies, the blue cornflowers and the white chamomile. Harmony, serenity, beauty – it’s all there. And it’s in Ravel’s music.