Balance. Johannes Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 77 is perfectly balanced. Solo parts and orchestral parts. Elegance and vigour. Joy and exasperation. Tranquility and loudness. Zen-like flows and fast paced accents. You know how excited I get each time I listen to Beethoven’s Violin Concerto (op. 61). It was written in D major too, but 72 years earlier (1806). Brahms’ only violin concerto brings me close to that state of mind. And I heard it yesterday at the Philharmonie de Luxembourg, performed by Leonidas Kavakos and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Luxembourg. It was fantastic!
A warm spring day. A sky as blue as you can imagine it. Close your eyes. Can you feel that breeze, light as a feather? The sun is bathing your face. Can you feel it? Clouds. Shadows. Dark, light, dark, light. The clouds are passing by. The first movement is called a “Barcarole”, and that term usually denotes a song sung by the Venetian gondoliers with an accompaniment suggesting the rocking of the gondola on the water. Lean back, drift away! Alpha and Theta waves are traveling trough your brain and make you dream like in a daydream.
It is hard to imagine, but yes, it is true: Pyotr Tchaikovsky could not stand the sound of a violin or cello accompanied with a piano! Can you believe that? All those trios written by Mozart, Haydn or Schubert, and here comes Tchaikovsky and says: I don’t like it, it sounds awkward. In a letter to his patron, Nadezhda von Meck, dated 18 October 1880 he justifies himself after she had teased him why he had not written a trio when she would hear so many of them in Florence, where she stayed in autumn 1880.
“Music alone is dangerous… There is something worrisome about music, gentlemen! I am not going too far when I declare her politically suspicious.” Those are the words of Dr. Settembrini in Thomas Mann’s great novel “Magic Mountain”. And he is right: Music is to seduce us, it wants us to get lost, to lose ourselves, to dream, to fantasize… a breeding ground for all kind of ideas beyond the politically correct and the socially acceptable. Music infiltrates society with emotions that escape any kind of control. And these emotions can explode quite unexpectedly when they reach a critical mass. Listen to music, and revolution is at hand! Especially when that music has been written by Romantic composers like Franz Schubert.