Languishing with the spectre of a rose

Les Nuits d'été - brilliantly set into music by Berlioz. © Charles Thibo
Les Nuits d’été – brilliantly set into music by Berlioz. © Charles Thibo

A forest. A lake. The silver reflection of moonlight on the water. Fireflies. Shadows. A voice. A female voice singing. Soft as silk. The orchestra – subtle as can be – is lifting the mezzo-soprano up, guiding her through the piece. Or is it the singer guiding the orchestra?

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Midsummer – a dream dreamt by William and Felix

Into the enchanted forest, kingdom of the fairies. © Charles Thibo
Into the enchanted forest, kingdom of the fairies. © Charles Thibo

Midsummer – time to dream… Let’s embark on a journey through the world of fairies with the brilliant composer Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, whose sister Fanny we have already met, and the 16th century writer William Shakespeare. Don’t worry, you may, but will not have to have read Shakespeare’s piece “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, even though it is a witty and funny one and certainly worth reading. Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy has composed an overture (Op. 21) and a larger piece of 11 movements (Op. 61), both inspired by Shakespeare’s theater piece, that hopefully will enchant you. The British actress Judi Dench, our guest star today, will act as our guide through Shakespeare’s lovely verses to keep you on track.

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Composing incognito – Fanny Mendelssohn

Felix Mendelssohn wouldn't let his sister perform in public. © Charles Thibo
Felix Mendelssohn wouldn’t let his sister perform in public. © Charles Thibo

“Fanny, as I know her, neither has the wish nor the vocation to be known as the composer [of her works]. She is a good woman busy with housekeeping and doesn’t think about the audience or the world of music or music as such, unless she is done with that first job.” The author of these lines was no lesser genius than the German composer Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. In a letter he wrote in 1835 to his mother, he adamantly refused to support his sister pursuing a professional career as a pianist and a composer.

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Addicted to Schubert and romanticism

Reading Rilke. I am fascinated by the Romantic Period. © Charles Thibo
Reading Rilke.© Charles Thibo

Schubert. Schubert? That’s the title of a biography of the Austrian composer Franz Schubert and it highlights the fact that Schubert has been totally underrated during his lifetime – the early 19th century – and is still subject to many prejudices and misunderstandings. He has become famous for his “Lieder” (songs), as he set into music many, many poems. The best known are probably “Die Forelle” (The Trout; text by Christian Schubart), “Der Erlkönig” (The Erlking; text by Johann Wolfgang v. Goethe) and the song cycles “Die schöne Müllerin” and “Winterreise” (The Lovely Miller’s Wife, Winter Journey; poems by Wilhelm Müller). Schubert was a prolific composer (>1500 works) and is one of the top representatives of the German romantic period.

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