Once upon a time, there was a crusader riding to the East to liberate Jerusalem. His name was Tancredi. During a battle at night, he meets a Muslim warrior, Clorinda, a woman from the enemy’s camp with whom he had a love affair. But since Clorinda is wearing armor, Tancredi mistakes her for a man. They fight long and hard, but in the end, Tancredi is victorious. While Clorinda dies, Tancredi realizes who she is and Clorinda embraces the Christian faith. The Italian poet Torquato Tasso has written this romantic story in the 16th century as part of his monumental work “The liberated Jerusalem” and the Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi has set it to music. Tasso was Monteverdi’s favorite poet.
I am not sure what Johannes Brahms would have said, but I think Franz Schubert would have warmed up to the idea, especially after a few beers at the “Schwarze Katze”, one of his favourite pubs in Vienna: blending blues with the second movement of his String Quintet in C (D.956) and the second movement of Brahms’ String Sextett No. 1. In the realm of emotions, blues and Romantic classical music are immediate neighbours. Both express mankind’s longing for a better world, both oscillate between joy and sadness, both find their expression most of the time in plaintive ballads. So marrying the two can be an interesting experiment. And Schubert was open-minded person, enjoying performing in a small circle of like-minded musicians.
Smirnov took me by surprise. I had bought that record a while ago when I did some research about the Moldavian-Austrian violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaya, but hadn’t listened to it actually. So, on a frosty, foggy winter morning, I selected that record while driving to the office. It usually takes me half an hour or so and when I had left the valley and cleared the fog the sun was just about to rise over the horizon. I admired the spectacular colors of the sky and at the same time I heard the first bars of Smirnov’s Elegy for Cello Solo, Op. 97a. At first I didn’t quite understand what was happening, but somehow I had to leave the main road, stop the car and watch and listen. And get out and shoot that picture.
I was at the Polar Circle yesterday night. I heard the winds blowing, chasing ice particles over the floes. I heard the whales moaning and I heard the seagulls. I heard the sea as it crashed against rocks and I heard gentle waves rippling over stone pebbles on the beach. I heard Kimmo Pohjonen, Samuli Kosminen and the Proton String Quartet.