Can you imagine two rivers flowing one inside the other? For clarity’s sake let’s say one is a dark blue, slow and heavy, thick stream while the other is a light blue, fluid and blubbering spring flowing in and above the other one. Can you picture these two flows in your head? Good. This is what Gabriel Fauré’s Cello Sonata No. 2 in G minor, Op. 117 would look like if I were to paint it. I guess I am a better writer than painter, but this picture immediately formed in my head when I listened to this sonata for the first time.
Puzzled and enchanted – I felt like Alice after she fell through that rabbit hole. A very strange world, very different from what I knew up to then. I found familiar elements too, the language to Dmitry Shostakovich and Bela Bartok came to my mind. Pleasing sounds, interesting constructions, and now, after many weeks of listening to this piece, it almost feels like I had been born on the other side of the rabbit hole.
200 performers. No less. A mixed choir, seven instrumental soloists and a large orchestra. Was it the magnitude of the biblical event that inspired Olivier Messiaen to this extraordinary large-scale work? The Transfiguration of Christ is narrated by Luke: Jesus took his followers Peter, John and Jacob to the top of a mountain to pray. During their common prayer, Jesus garments turned into a shining white – he is being transfigured by a celestial light. Moses and Elijah appear and talk to Jesus while Jacob, John and Peter fall to the ground, terrified by this supernatural event.
A few hours before I started to write this post, the death of Pierre Boulez made the headlines. A controversial person, if I trust my Twitter timeline. Was he the chief representative of contemporary classical music? Of French contemporary classical music? A polemic person and a conductor with too much political influence? As a matter of fact, I am not sure that these questions matter. Music matters.