Every now and then I stumble by accident over music pieces that immediately catch my full attention. Here is one of my favorite examples: I was looking for recordings by the German viola di gamba (viol) player Hille Perl, whose play I like very much. She has recorded together with her husband, the lute player Lee Santana, a beautiful cycle of Baroque sonatas for violin and bass, in this case played by an organ, a harpsichord, an archlute and a theorbo, a kind of bass lute: the “Mystery (Rosary) Sonatas” composed in the 17th century by Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (1644-1704).
Several years ago, I spent some time in Stockholm. It was in the first half of December, it had snowed for several days and I walked along the Strandvägen. The sky was blue, the sun shining brightly and the city bathed in a golden morning light. Extraordinary! I thought of other cities on the Baltic Sea with a proud history: Hamburg, Lübeck, Tallinn, St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg! Tchaikovsky! His Symphony No. 1, Op. 13 “Winter Rêveries”! Continue reading!
If it hadn’t been for the cellist Steven Isserlis, I wouldn’t have written this post. At least not now. I follow Isserlis on Twitter, and a week ago, he pointed out an article he had written some time ago about the Romantic composer Robert Schumann for the Gramophone magazine. That intrigued me since I did not make any direct connection between Isserlis and Schumann. To my surprise, I found out that he is a keen admirer of Schumann, like me. Needless to say I was delighted. “There is no composer to whom I feel closer than to Schumann. He has been a beloved friend since I was a child; I remain as fascinated today as I was then by his unique blend of poetry, ecstatic strength and confessional intimacy”, Isserlis once remarked. Continue reading!
Imagine this: A young, eager student, firmly set to become a pianist-composer, with his talent at the piano confirmed at early age, is being refused for a post-graduate piano class because of “insufficient maturity”. Several months later, having finally been admitted, he starts to compose his first symphony, his graduation task. He finishes it ten months later and his work causes ripples in the music scene at home and abroad.