Do you know Lalo? Of course you do, you have met him in a post two weeks ago! Edouard Lalo composed a piece called “Symphonie Espagnole” (Spanish Symphony) which inspired Pyotr Tchaikovsky to write his Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35. “Do you know the “Symphonie Espagnole” of the French composer Lalo?”, Tchaikovsky asks in a letter his patron Nadezhda von Meck in March 1878. “I liked this work very much. A lot of freshness, spiking rhythms, beautiful melodies with remarkable harmonies.” All this can be said about Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto.
I have sailed through the Street of Hormuz with Sindbad in an earlier post, today I will cross the Iraqi desert and dream of the beautiful palaces of Palmyra recently vandalized by extremists supposedly inspired by Islam. On the road then with Antar ibn Shaddad, an Arab pre-islamic poet and warrior (525-615 AC) of the tribe of the Beni ‘Abs. His history has been narrated by the 19th century fantasy writer Osip Senkovsky, which in turn has been set to music by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1867/68 in his Symphony No. 2, Op. 9.
Together with the Overture “1812” the Capriccio Italien (Op. 45) is the earliest work of Pyotr Tchaikovsky that I listened to. They were both on the same recording I got as a teenager for Christmas, the third piece being the Marche Slave. Its introduction is impressive enough for a young, ignorant mind. Trumpets! More brass joining the trumpets. And then the strings, a dramatic, earnest gesture, a hint of melancholy…
A clever dilettante, huh? That’s what the composer Sergey Taneyev initially thought about his colleague Alexander Borodin. He later revised his judgment and treated Borodin’s compositions with due respect, which is fortunate since I like both composers equally well. In June 2016 I enjoyed the Russian Borodin Quartet performing Borodin’s second string quartet in Luxembourg, a lovely experience that I discussed in the related post, and now it is about time to have a look at his String Quartet No. 1 in A major.