Harmony. Christmas is about harmony. Harmony can only exist when there is hope. Christmas is about hope. Christmas is about light and guidance. Christmas is about a promise of a better life, a life in harmony. A life, where evil has been vanquished, where love triumphs over hate. When I look back at my life, I remember no time when I was as dispirited about humanity as now. The will to solve the urgent global problems in a spirit of benevolence and cooperation just seems to be a phrase, while real life is moving into the opposite direction.
Today is the first day of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. Jews all over the world celebrate the rededication of the second temple in Jerusalem. I want to honour on this day a Jewish composer. I want to honour Jewish scientists and artists and their intellectual output by which they enriched European culture. Among those who brought the light to Europe were the philosophers Baruch de Spinoza and Moses Mendelssohn. The poet Heinrich Heine. The physicist Albert Einstein and the political scientists Hannah Arendt and Eric Voegelin. All five pondered in one way or another the fate of mankind and the experience of God and came to different conclusions. All five deeply cared about humanity, its progress, its well-being and searched for the purpose of life.
The first movement sounds at first like a cry of despair, a confused, agitated mind looking for help, for orientation, for the light at the end of the tunnel. A slow transition to a kind of monologue, a mind wandering into unknown territories, the pizzicato* introduces a phase of consolidation and of consolation. The second movement has the texture of a prayer, a lullaby, a long, drawn-out sigh expressing a certain resignation, a certain peace of mind, albeit on the background of an overall depressed and confused mood. Occasionally gentle, optimistic figured for the violin are pitched against the darkness, but they cannot prevail. The last movement however has a hopeful, playful general mood and finishes on a strident, agitated repetition of the central theme giving the third movement a bitter aftertaste.
March 1938: German troops occupy Austria, supported by thousands of local Nazi sympathizers. April 1938: Adolf Hitler orders preparations to invade and annex Czechoslovakia. September 1938: Through bluffing and unscrupulous blackmailing, Hitler wins French and British approval to annex the Czech territories of Moravia and Bohemia. While political tensions in Europe reached a first culmination point, a Czech composer was busy writing a concerto upon a commission of the Swiss conductor Paul Sacher for the Basel Chamber Orchestra, a concerto grosso in three movements. It became known as Bohuslav Martinu’s Double Concerto, H. 271. It has been recorded by the Essener Philharmoniker under Tomas Netopil and the pianist Ivo Kahanek.