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.
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.
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.
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.