Bells speaking of joy, love, terror and death

Lento lugubre - Rachmaninov's 4th movement of "The Bells". © Charles Thibo
Lento lugubre – Rachmaninov’s 4th movement of “The Bells”. © Charles Thibo

Today, our journey takes us to Rome. The Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov stayed here at the Piazza de Spagna in 1913 for two months in the flat of Modest Tchaikovsky, where his brother Pyotr Tchaikovsky had composed several of his works. At the time, Rachmaninov was deeply worried about his personal future, suffering from frequent diseases, tiredness, a lack of inspiration and the fact that his home country was moving to the edge of civil war. He had left Russia hastily towards the end of 1912 and moved first to Switzerland, then to Italy. Continue reading!

Succumbing to an earworm in D major

Beethoven's violin concerto lifts me up to heaven. © Charles Thibo
Beethoven’s violin concerto lifts me up to heaven. © Charles Thibo

“Ohrwurm” [ˈoːɐ̯ˌvʊʁm] – that’s what the Germans call it. Earworm? Does that exist in English? Here is what I mean: a melody that you hear once and that you can’t get out of your head then. The German composer Ludwig van Beethoven wrote such an “Ohrwurm” – his violin concerto in D major, Op. 61. It’s the only violin concerto he wrote, and one wonders why, since this piece is absolutely amazing! It has a profound effect on me. Whenever I hear it, I feel wide awake, instantly energized, totally present. I also feel transported into another world, floating above life on earth, defying gravity. Unsurprisingly, it is one of my all time favourite violin concertos.

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Schumann conjures the Fairy of Spring

I am still fathoming the depth of Schumann's work. © Charles Thibo
I am still fathoming the depth of Schumann’s work. © Charles Thibo

The Philharmonie de Luxembourg has a curious sense of timing. Performing Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 1, commonly called “Spring Symphony”, in October! On a day marked by drizzle, fog and a single, uniform shade of grey? Or was it meant as an encouragement? Hang tight, spring is just months away? Be that as it may, I did enjoy the concert, oh yes!

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Meeting Anton Rubinstein in Dresden

Anton Rubinstein lived and composed in St. Petersburg and in Dresden. © Charles Thibo
Anton Rubinstein lived and composed in St. Petersburg and in Dresden. © Charles Thibo

Those Russians! They are incredible. Incredibly in many respects, but especially when it comes to piano music. Enters the stage Anton Rubinstein. Born in 1829, he gave his first public concert barely ten years old: In Moscow he played pieces composed by Johann Nepomuk Hummel and Franz Liszt.  He had taken piano lessons with his mother initially, than with a personal teacher and composed his first piece at the age of five. As a child virtuoso he travelled to Paris, where he met Frédéric Chopin and Franz Liszt and participated in a concert at the prestigious Salle Pleyel in 1841. His journey took him to the Netherlands, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, Poland and Germany.

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