Storms and Tempests Made in Russia

Thunderstorms fascinated me since my childhood. © Charles Thibo
Thunderstorms fascinated me since my childhood. © Charles Thibo

Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, it says in the Psalms, but Tchaikovsky can teach you fear! One of the pieces that have been published only after his tragic death is called “The Storm” (Op. posth. 76). The opening is dark and violent – it could well feature in a horror movie. It is being balanced soon by a reassuring tune, but the darkness doesn’t go away. Then the reassuring melody, played by the strings and the flutes, takes over again, but not for long, the darkness comes back, like waves rolling over the countryside with violent showers and short breaks between them. You can almost hear the rain splash against the window panes. Very, very dramatic! Tchaikovsky wrote here a lovely symphonic poem, but wait, actually he wrote two! Continue reading!

Bells Speaking of Joy, Love, Terror and Death

Lento lugubre - Rachmaninov's 4th movement of "The Bells". © Charles Thibo
Lento lugubre – Rachmaninov’s 4th movement of “The Bells”. © Charles Thibo

Today, our journey takes us to Rome. The Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov stayed here at the Piazza de Spagna in 1913 for two months in the flat of Modest Tchaikovsky, where his brother Pyotr Tchaikovsky had composed several of his works. At the time, Rachmaninov was deeply worried about his personal future, suffering from frequent diseases, tiredness, a lack of inspiration and the fact that his home country was moving to the edge of civil war. He had left Russia hastily towards the end of 1912 and moved first to Switzerland, then to Italy. Continue reading!

Schumann Conjures the Fairy of Spring

I am still fathoming the depth of Schumann's work. © Charles Thibo
I am still fathoming the depth of Schumann’s work. © Charles Thibo

The Philharmonie de Luxembourg has a curious sense of timing. Performing Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 1, commonly called “Spring Symphony”, in October! On a day marked by drizzle, fog and a single, uniform shade of grey? Or was it meant as an encouragement? Hang tight, spring is just months away? Be that as it may, I did enjoy the concert, oh yes!

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Meeting Anton Rubinstein in Dresden

Anton Rubinstein lived and composed in St. Petersburg and in Dresden. © Charles Thibo
Anton Rubinstein lived and composed in St. Petersburg and in Dresden. © Charles Thibo

Those Russians! They are incredible. Incredibly in many respects, but especially when it comes to piano music. Enters the stage Anton Rubinstein. Born in 1829, he gave his first public concert barely ten years old: In Moscow he played pieces composed by Johann Nepomuk Hummel and Franz Liszt.  He had taken piano lessons with his mother initially, than with a personal teacher and composed his first piece at the age of five. As a child virtuoso he travelled to Paris, where he met Frédéric Chopin and Franz Liszt and participated in a concert at the prestigious Salle Pleyel in 1841. His journey took him to the Netherlands, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, Poland and Germany.

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