The Long and Stony Road to Triumph

Tchaikovsky's second piano concerto is a glorious start into the day © Charles Thibo
Tchaikovsky’s second piano concerto is a glorious start into the day © Charles Thibo

Triumph! The fanfare at the beginning of this piece is a statement in itself. Here comes a composer who is not afraid of pushing the envelope. A piano concert with a first movement lasting 20 minutes? 688 bars? Well… A second movement written in the form of a triple concerto with a constant dialogue of the piano, the violin and the cello? He who dares wins. Harmonies in abundance, alternating with harmonic experiments? To hell with the critics! By now you should have guessed that we are speaking about Pyotr Tchaikovsky. What a man! What a composition!

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A Fugue or a Prelude Every Three Days

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Shostakovich – inspired by Bach. © Charles Thibo

A year ago, I published my first post on Johann Sebastian Bach, not really knowing where my journey through centuries of classical music would lead me. I have learned a lot since then, about music, about history, about mankind. The journey made me meet Dmitry Shostakovich, a controversial and fascinating composer. Today’s post will be about Shostakovich and how he followed-up on Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier. Now wait a minute, that’s a leap of 250 years. Yes, indeed. But isn’t Bach God? Isn’t he immortal and eternal? Bach was, is and will be.

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Hiking with Bach through East Germany’s Vineyards

Bach's music matches the wines from the Saale-Unstrut region. © Charles Thibo
Bach’s music matches the wines from the Saale-Unstrut region. © Charles Thibo

For many years I have lived in Eastern Germany in a region of extreme contrasts. I worked in Bitterfeld, the heart of the former GDR’s chemical industry marked by extreme environmental pollution and the layoff of tens of thousands of workers after the collapse of the socialist system. I worked and lived in the Halle, where Händel was born, a town with a vibrant theater and music scene and an attractive university. My job often took me to Leipzig, home to the Bach family for many years, with its opera, its museums and art galleries. And over the weekend, I hiked through the lovely vineyards in the Saale-Unstrut valley, mostly during autumn when the leaves would start to turn yellow or orange. I visited some amazing castles there, and the beauty of the landscape made me quickly forget that the whole region was not doing well at the time.

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Galilei and the Well-tempered Lute

Nicolas Tournier portrayed this luthenist in the 17th century.
Nicolas Tournier portrayed this luthenist in the 17th century.

Everybody knows Galilei. Galileo Galilei, the mathematician, astronomer and philosopher. The one who dared thinking about the earth not being flat and the the sun not revolving around the earth. But do you know Vincenzo Galilei? He was Galileo Galilei’s father and a lutenist. He was born around 1520 in Santa Maria a Monte and died in 1591 in Florence. He was also a composer and a musicologist, though that term had not yet been coined in the 16th century. Vincenzo had another son, Michelangelo Galilei, who became a famous lutenist too. Vincenzo Galilei worked as a lutenist first in Pisa, later in Florence and was a member of the Florentine Camerata, a group of artists and intellectuals who wanted to revive the ancient arts like the drama as it was performed in Greece.

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