A mermaid is floating through the score

 Claude Monet's garden in Giverny, close to Paris - the mermaid would have felt at home here. © Charles Thibo
Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny, close to Paris – the mermaid would have felt at home here. © Charles Thibo

The bassoons. Wide-spaced strokes of the timpani. The double-bass. Now, the strings. Waves. The flutes. Something is gliding through the water, breaking through the surface, ripples, moonlight, grace – a mermaid. In 1902/03, Alexander von Zemlinsky, a Viennese composer, wrote the wonderful symphonic poem “The Mermaid” that I want to present today. Zemlinsky was an early talent: At the age of 12, he attended already the conservatory of the Viennese Gesellschaft der Musikfreude*. He studied piano and composition and was being mentored by both Johannes Brahms and Gustav Mahler.

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“Make me a bearer of the death of Christ”

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The Holy Virgin at the cross. © Charles Thibo

History is not without remarkable coincidences. In the year 1685, three great Baroque composers were born: Johann Sebastian Bach in the German town of Eisenach, Georg Friedrich Händel in Halle, some 140 kilometres north-east of Eisenach, and Domenico Scarlatti in Naples, Italy. Domenico Scarlatti was the sixth child of Alessandro Scarlatti, composer of a wonderful “Salve Regina” and the oratorio “O di Betlemme altera”. Tale padre, tale figlio – the French musicologist Adelaïde de Place believes that the son inherited the talent from his father with the additional benefit of genius.

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Taught by the conductor of a Czarist military band

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Sibelius’ family played chamber music at home. © Charles Thibo

The Scandinavian landscape and the love for his home country were the most important source of inspiration of this composer: Jean Sibelius. This remarkable composer from Finland has written in 1903 the beautiful Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 47. It was performed for the first time in 1905 in Berlin under Richard Strauss, and is part of the repertoire of many violinists. One recording that I would like to recommend is the one by Lisa Batiashvili and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra.

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Baroque musical delight from Britney Spears’ forefather

Vermeer painted a girl at her virginal at Pachelbel's time.
Vermeer painted a girl at her virginal at Pachelbel’s time.

They did it again! My favourite French Baroque ensemble Gli Incogniti dug out a little known composer and presented quite recently a delightful album I immediately fell in love withy. “Musikalische Ergötzung” (Musical Delight), P. 370-375, P. 450 is the title that Johann Pachelbel gave a set of six suites for two violins and basso continuo*, composed in 1695 in his German home town Nuremberg.

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