Tension. At one moment deeply relaxed, anxious at another. Enjoying the day, apprehensive about tomorrow. In 1914 Maurice Ravel wrote his Piano Trio in A Minor (M. 67). He dedicated it to his counterpoint teacher André Gédalge, the trio was first performed in Paris in January 1915. He had been mulling the idea of a trio for years, but he was spurred by the tense political situation in the summer of 1914. War was in the air and Ravel wanted to enlist in the army.
More than a year ago I passed a rather expensive looking hotel in Vienna. Modern architecture, a lot of glass, a lot of metal, geometric forms, angular. The total opposite of what I associate with Vienna. The total opposite of what I cherish about Vienna. A provocation. Here’s another provocation, a rather brutal contrast to the classical music I traditionally associate with the Austrian-Hungarian Empire: Zoltan Kodaly’s Concerto for Orchestra (K. 115). An impressive piece, full of edges, dynamic, powerful and well-balanced at the same time, with beautiful melodies and resounding harmonies, reminiscent of the generations of composers that preceded Kodaly.
I am no good at botany, so I won’t be able to tell you the name of the flower in the picture. It grows in Giverny, in the former garden of the Impressionist painter Claude Monet. That’s where I saw it right after a short rain shower, in all its splendour, its mysterious aura. Now listen to Gabriel Fauré’s Piano Quintet No. 1 in D Minor, op. 89. Perhaps you will fall under its spell like I did with Fauré’s work. Like I did with Monet’s garden.
I imagine him a young man, bursting of energy and creative ideas, actively building a career as a composer, well-educated, versatile, gifted, successful. Felix Mendelssohn. Felix the lucky one. One of my personal favourites among his works is his Piano Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, op. 40. It exudes the personal traits that I attribute to Felix, associated to the genius of Ludwig van Beethoven and a musical language directly derived from Beethoven.