A Trio that Builds a Bridge into Modernity

Golden fall 3
Contrasts. © Charles Thibo

Alexander Grechaninov’s quartets have already been praised on this blog just like his liturgical music. He is one of the great composer’s of Russia at the turn of the century, at the dawn of modernity. Here is a curious piece: his Piano Trio No. 2 in G Major, op. 128. The opus number points to the fact that Grechaninov wrote it late in his career, in 1930 more precisely, while he stayed in Paris where he had emigrated to after the Bolshevik Revolution. It’s language is characterized by modal instability, the composers oscillates between D major and G major and an E-flat major and G minor respectively. But what is even more striking is the fast-paced tempo, the restless mood of the three movements. Quite special and very striking.

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Greta. It Can Be Done.

Crisis. © CNN

What a strange night to write about music. The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson rebuffed by the Supreme Court under Lady Hale. Democrats under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi deciding to impeach US president Donald Trump. And Swedish activist Greta Thunberg dressing down politicians at the Climate Summit in New York. Yes, it can be done! And it can be done by women and teenagers. I feel the resolve, the courage to try to change the world – against all odds.

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Seven Minutes of Tone Row Meditations

© Charles Thibo

At work. Time suspended. A revelation, once more. Edison Denisov’s music. Three Pieces for Cello and Piano, written in 1967. Clarity. Darkness. The legacy of the Soviet Union, the dogma of Socialist Realism and the intrusion of serialism*. Wrap your arms around me. A water drop is falling. Memories of Birtwistle’s piece … What a fascinating piece! Seven minutes of a musical meditation. How weird it must have sounded in a Moscow concert hall in the 1960s.

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When the Soviet Avant-garde Raised its Voice

Denisov Sonata Cello Piano
Mediation about life. © Charles Thibo

Dmitry Shostakovich was his teacher and mentor, but the student went beyond the limits Shostakovich had helped to define. In the Soviet Union this was quite an achievement. Edison Denisov moves into the realm of sound clusters and minimal music that others have explored before, albeit in an environment where creativity and expressivity were less restricted: György Ligeti in West Germany, Luciano Berio in Italy, Steve Reich in the United States. How did this square with the doctrine of “Socialist Realism” that Soviet music was to follow?

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