Inventing the string quartet in the 18th century

Richter's string quartets are lovely entertaining pieces. © Charles Thibo
Richter’s string quartets are lovely entertaining pieces. © Charles Thibo

Elegance – that’s the first word coming to my mind when I listen to Franz Xaver Richter’s Seven Quartets Op. 5. Lightness is another immediate association with this music. It’s entertaining in the best way, not too intellectual, but not trivial either. And the quartets have a few surprises, like the Spanish flavor of the second movement of Quartet No. 5 in G major, where Richter uses castanets. Intrigued? Try the recording of the Casal Quartett.  It will be well spent money. The Swiss ensemble used period instruments for the recording and was nominated for the Grammy Awards last year…

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Play it again, Maria!

Mozart's piano sonatas are fresh like morning dew. © Charles Thibo
Mozart’s piano sonatas are fresh like morning dew. © Charles Thibo

Mozart’s piano sonatas rank among those compositions that I could listen to for an indefinite time. Whenever I forget to change the default setting on my iPad, it plays some albums over and over again. Today I spent hours listening to the Sonata Nos. 5, 6, 7 and 10, 11, 14, all played by the Portuguese pianist Maria Joao Pires. And I did not get tired of it. How can that be? I believe, the pleasant melodies, the carefully constructed harmony and Maria Joao Pires’ extraordinary skills as a pianist are the main reasons. The label Deutsche Grammophon has published them all on a collection of 6 CDs.

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Memories of Bach in a modern, dissonant setting

Ysaÿe was influenced by Bach and Debussy. © Charles Thibo
Ysaÿe was influenced by Bach and Debussy. © Charles Thibo

Avant-garde. Ahead of his time. Anticipating Ligeti’s sound shapes and clouds. His compositions are extra-ordinary just like his name and his origin. Eugène Ysaÿe. Belgium. Born in 1858, he became one of the best known violinists of his time. And he composed six violin sonatas that keep intriguing me. Food for the soul? May be. Food for thought? Certainly.

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French piano concertos in the tradition of Franz Liszt

Saint-Saëns' piano concertos are just right for celebrating spring. © Charles Thibo
Saint-Saëns’ piano concertos are just right for celebrating spring. © Charles Thibo

A horn? A French Horn? Well yes, Camille de Saint-Saëns opens his Piano Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 17 on the sound of a horn. Not the ordinary introduction, but then again the French composer wasn’t an ordinary man, oh no! You will like this concerto from the first moment on. The triumphant trumpets are followed quite quickly by the piano – relief, there is a piano! – and finally by the strings to move through the piece on a brilliant melody that reminds me of the soundtracks of some Disney children movies. Optimistic, lighthearted. The horn is later echoed by the flutes, then the strings play the main theme of the first movement – ten minutes of joy set to music.

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