The Sureness and Lucidity of a Madman

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Relax. © Charles Thibo

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.

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Composing a Concerto while the War is Raging

Vienna-Budapest. © Charles Thibo

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.

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Walking with Monet, Suffering with Fauré

Meet you at Giverny. © Charles Thibo

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.

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A Fleeting, Cheerful Gift with 100,000 Little Notes

Mirrors. © Charles Thibo

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.

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