I’m in the car. I’m in a traffic jam. I’m happy. I’m with Ludwig. Ludwig van Beethoven like you don’t know him. It’s raining. I have time. Time for Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 in B flat major, Op. 60, performed by the West-Eastern Diwan Orchestra. Listen to those first bars: The winds play that B pianissimo, the strings add a dissonant G flat while the winds hold that B. The orchestra plays a sound surface, aimless, hesitantly – and stops. And begins anew. Go – stop – go, precision coupled with tenderness… extraordinary! Gradually the first movement gains vigour and profusion without giving up a certain sovereignty. May this traffic jam last for just a little longer!
Do you like Vivaldi? In his different violin concertos that are commonly known as the “Four Seasons”, there is one that describes a peaceful day in the fields on a hot summer day, just before a thunderstorm breaks out. Ah, I love that part! But here is a violin sonata that takes up a similar mood. The warmth of the violin’s play expresses the joy of being in the midst of nature and an unbound optimism: Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber’s Violin Sonata No. 1. The ensemble Romanesca led by the British violinist Andrew Manze has released already in 1994 a recordings of ten violin sonatas and two passaglias written by Biber. We have met this composer and violinist of the 17th century already, when I wrote about his beautiful “Mystery (Rosary) Sonatas”.
A little over two years ago, the two sides agreed to an armistice. More than a thousand people have died since. Russia and Ukraine – a tragedy. More than a thousand years ago, the plains between the Carpathians and the river Don were the birthplace of what is today Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. The “Rus of Kiev” was the first centrally organized state in the region, ruled by the dynasty of the Rurikides. Scandinavian merchants traveling along the rivers Don and Dnepr had settled there in the 8th century and federated the tribes. Gradually this empire expanded until the Mongols began invading the territory. When Kiev was sacked in 1242, the “Rus of Kiev” collapsed. A new Russian empire would rise later from the duchy of Moscow – including Ukraine at times and not at other times.
Here is a little gem. In many respects. A wonderful piece. Extraordinary artists. Add the two and you get a great musical moment. The piece: Sonata in A minor for Cello and Piano, Op. 36, written by Edvard Grieg. The artists: Françoise Groben playing the cello and Alfredo Perl at the piano. Perl is a Chilean-German pianist and conductor, known for his Beethoven interpretations. Mrs. Groben was a Luxembourg cellist, no, she was THE Luxembourg cellist.