Hours full of pain – not exactly a selling argument! But this is the title the composer Gabriel Dupont gave a piano cycle he wrote in 1904: Les Heures Dolentes. If you listen to the recording by Stéphane Lemelin, you will at once hear that title is well deserved and that no one ever has described in a more beautiful way the slowly passing, monotonous hours when you try to recover from really bad news, these moments when you feel paralyzed, unable to speak, unable to move, when you stare in front of you aimlessly, absent-minded. This singular mood when all seems lost and life makes no sense anymore.
Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth – gently the boat rocks and rolls in the bay, pushed by a light sea breeze, swayed by the rippling waves. While I did not intend to blog during my summer vacation1, a picture I shot a few days ago in Brittany reminded me of Maurice Ravel’s piano piece “Une barque sur l’océan” (A boat on the ocean). A beautiful piece Ravel wrote in two versions: one for the piano (1904/05) and a fully orchestrated one. The first one has been recorded by Pierre-Laurent Aimard the second one by the London Symphony Orchestra, two amazing productions.
The sea has inspired many a composer, but how about mountains? Richard Strauss has composed his “Alpensinfonie” and Olivier Messiaen “Chronochromie”, both subject of an earlier post. And then there is Vincent d’Indy with a beautiful symphonic poem: “Jour d’été à la montagne” (Summer day in the mountains), Op. 61. The piece is written in three pieces with the thematic ideas following the course of the day: Twilight – Day (Afternoon under the pines) – Evening and partly it takes up Strauss’ language. In a post about d’Indy’s earlier work “Tableaux de voyage” (Op. 36) I explained how this French composer wanted to follow in the footsteps of Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner, and d’Indy’s proximity to Strauss should not come as a surprise.
I must have been five or six years old when my mother showed me how to make a little flamenco dancer in a flaming red dress out of poppy blossoms. A half-opened bud would form the dress and the scarf, a closed one would become the head. Quite often when I see poppies on a path I think of that little trick. Could I still do it? Should I show it to my child? Actually I feel sorry for the poppies-to-become-a-puppet. Nature already gave them a certain fragility…