Have a look at the picture – what do you see? Not much, I agree. It is dark, an eery light hovers over the horizon. A few lights, one on the top of a distant tall building. It’s a lighthouse. On an island. Shadowy figures walking briskly down a paved road. What are they up to? Would you feel comfortable walking behind these people? Now imagine this scenery with howling winds, battering rain and the uncertainty of being in time for the last ferry. Finally the soundtrack: the first movement of Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1, Op. 107. Now you have reasons to shiver and to feel tight.
The name didn’t ring any bell when I read it on the program of the Philharmonie de Luxembourg back in March 2014. But I didn’t worry about it. A recital by Nikolai Lugansky with Franck, Rachmaninov, Chopin, Prokofiev, Mendelssohn – that sounded promising enough not to give too much thought about a composer I had never heard of. A forgotten composer with forgotten melodies: The last piece Lugansky played that evening was Nikolai Medtner’s Canzona Serenata Op. 38/6 from the piano cycle “Forgotten Melodies I”. A revelation.
Surprise! I thought I would delight you today with an uplifting piece of music to chase away any dark moods and to achieve this, I’ll offer you… horns. Horns! Beautiful, golden and loud French horns that make a lot of beautiful noise. I love French horns, and this not only since I discovered the omnipresent Sarah Willis of the Berlin Philharmonic on Twitter! No, horns are fantastic, just like the cello, their forte is the fusion of warmth and sadness. Today’s piece is called “Six Horn Quartets” (Op. 35) and its prevalent mood is optimistic. It was written by the Russian composer Nikolai Tcherepnin in 1910. It has been recorded by the Deutsches Horn Ensemble.
Are you familiar with the Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus? Father and son were held prisoner on the island of Crete and since Crete’s ruler, King Minos, controlled the land and sea routes, Daedalus built artificial wings for himself and his son in order to flee. Before take-off, Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too high, because the sun would melt the wax that held the wings together, nor too low, because the sea foam would soak the feathers. Once in the air, Icarus, exhilarated by the experience of flying, forgot his father’s warning and soared higher and higher. The heat of the sun melt the wax, the wings fell apart and Icarus drowned in the Aegean Sea.