What a loss! On August 12, 1928 the Czech composer Leos Janacek died. And shortly before his death, he produced two of the works that I am tempted to label as the best he wrote. Who knows, what masterpieces Janacek would have composed, had he lived on! The Quartet for strings No. 2 was completed in 1928, five years after the Quartet for strings No. 1. We have met Janacek already as the composer of that beautiful piano cycle “On an overgrown path”, performed by the Luxembourg pianist Cathy Krier. Today I would like to present the French Quatuor Zaïde and it’s interpretation of the two mentioned chamber music works. Continue reading!
Decades ago, around 1985, I possessed a thing called “walkman”. It was the must-have gadget at the time: a small cassette player with earphones. Actually the first wearable device to listen to music. I was so proud of my white Sony WM-22 – later I had a black DD II model, the Rolls-Royce edition in a metal housing. And I listened to Rossini all the time.
In 1992, just a few months after Lithuania had regained its independence from the Soviet Union, I visited my longtime penfriend Jolita Grizickaite in that Baltic republic, heir to the now forgotten but once mighty Polish-Lithuanian kingdom.
Here is the truth: I can’t remember how I came across this guy. Röntgen. Conrad Röntgen? The guy who discovered the X rays? What has he got to do with music? Nothing. I mean Julius Röntgen. The composer. Oh! Röntgen was a Dutch-German composer (1855-1932) and wrote some 600 works that are mostly forgotten. What better reason could I have to present him here? He was born in Leipzig and soon proved to very gifted. He began to compose when he was still a young boy. His mother was a good pianist, his father led the orchestra of the Leipzig concert hall, the Gewandhaus, and both had taught him before he started the real thing: studying music in Leipzig and Munich. He became a music teacher and professional pianist when he moved to Amsterdam at 22. He taught there until 1925, when he turned 70, and he was heavily involved in convincing the Dutch to build a new concert hall in Amsterdam, the actual Concertgebouw. So far for his biography.