The wind, the wind, the heaven-born wind – you probably recognize that. It’s Hänsel and Gretel’s answer to the witch’s question: “Nibble, nibble, gnaw, who’s nibbling at my little house?” This string quartet is like the wind, or rather it is a whisper murmured into the wind, not meant to stay, meant to be blown away. Is it a lamentation? A silent prayer? A half-audible thought? A drawn-out sob about a sad reminiscence?
Haunting melodies – perhaps this describes the essence of Ahmed Adnan Saygun’s String Quartet No. 2, Op. 35. Franz Schubert catapulted into the second half of the 20th century. 1958: Europe caught up in the Cold War, France struggling with decolonization, a Fascist regime in Spain and a young Muslim nation guarding NATO’s southern flank – Turkey. A world in turmoil. 1958: Riots between Turks and Greeks shake the Anatolian peninsula, the economy is in deep trouble, a military coup is in the air. Turkey in turmoil.
Did you like yesterday’s post? Did you enjoy Telemann’s music? I hope so. This is an impromptu, an unscheduled post, that I wrote just because I felt I must. It could not wait. I could not wait. And I will be brief.
In 1915 the Hungarian composer Bela Bartok wrote a highly popular set of Six Romanian Folk Dances (BB 68). World War I had been going on for a year already, and Bartok, unfit for military duty, served his country by collecting and re-arranging folk music. If Telemann’s violin fantasies are a Baroque path to happiness, Bartok’s set of piano pieces is a modern path to happiness.
Ah, yes… Bartok. That Hungarian enigma. I hesitated for months before presenting one of his pieces as I haven’t studied his works long enough. It took the French pianist Hélène Grimaud to spur me. She was in town yesterday and what should I say? She was fabulous and Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 3, Sz. 119 was even more fabulous. An unusual piece executed with a lot of passion by Grimaud and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra led by Yannick Nézet-Seguin.