Patience is required. We have boarded the plane, the doors are closed, seat belts are fastened and we are waiting. The clearance to start the engines and to taxi to the runway still has to be given. My golden rule: Whenever I get on a plane, I always take a book with me to pass time once we have reached cruising altitude. And for the minutes the plane needs to taxi, take off and climb through the clouds, I always, always have some music on my iPhone. When I flew to Amsterdam lately, my choice fell on Robert Schumann’s Schumann Andante and Variations in B flat minor, Op. 46.
Here is a piece for the heart, radiant, full of light and optimism, and an excellent contrast to the dark moods à la Kafka and Shostakovich, that I have bothered you with. In 1832 Mikhail Glinka, the Russian composer considered as the father of Russian classical music, wrote his Grand Sextet in E flat major (IMG 15), a piece in three movements and scored for two violins, viola, cello, double bass, piano. It was published by the Moscow editor P. Jurgenson in 1881 and ranks among the best known works of this composer.
A night in Naples, the moon is rising over the volcano Vesuvio, straight out of the crater, and Fanny Mendelssohn and her husband Wilhelm Hensel enjoy a romantic moment on the balcony of the house they occupy. Spring 1840: Fanny had rented a piano and her inspiration knew no limits. She composed as she had already done earlier when the Hensels had still been in Rome, an uninterrupted flow of beautiful melodies, set free by the liberty she enjoined far away from her home in Berlin. O fortuna velut luna…
The quartet starts with an element of pain, a nervous anxiety. But Dmitry Shostakovich quickly introduces a balancing element, a comforting melody, trying to cover the repetitive pattern in a struggle for acoustic supremacy – in vain. Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 5 in B flat major (Op. 92) is one more example of the composer’s amazing talent to express emotions with maximal clarity in a few, essential bars.