Travelling and dreaming with the poet-warrior

Antar ibn Shaddad
Antar ibn Shaddad, poet and warrior.

I have sailed through the Street of Hormuz with Sindbad in an earlier post, today I will cross the Iraqi desert and dream of the beautiful palaces of Palmyra recently vandalized by extremists supposedly inspired by Islam. On the road then with Antar ibn Shaddad, an Arab pre-islamic poet and warrior (525-615 AC) of the tribe of the Beni ‘Abs. His history has been narrated by the 19th century fantasy writer Osip Senkovsky, which in turn has been set to music by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1867/68 in his Symphony No. 2, Op. 9.

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Composing against all odds

nmzuijdnjk © Charles Thibo
Lalo’s Trio No. 3 – autumn music. © Charles Thibo

Past and present: This composer had the bad luck to play always the second fiddle. Paris choose to ignore him during his lifetime, the 19th century, and glorify Hector Berlioz, Camille de Saint-Saëns, Frédéric Chopin and Maurice Ravel. Today, you will find him mostly as an add-on to a recording of a more famous composer like Felix Mendelssohn. Which isn’t fair. Time to set the record straight then. A piece that you may come to consider as reflecting the composer’s struggle for recognition at the same time as his dexterity at the violin: The Piano Trio No. 3 in A minor, Op. 26, composed by Edouard Lalo.

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The cursed saltarello or why we should be foolish

Carnival masks in Rome. © Charles Thibo
Carnival masks in Rome. © Charles Thibo

The bigot is powerless against the fool. The fool can speak freely since he has neither wealth nor reputation to lose. I can understand that you are frustrated or even frightened by the idea that the world’s only superpower might turn into a rogue state. Let’s not be frightened! Let’s be foolish! Let’s laugh into the face of the egocentric millionaire, the spoiled son of a rich daddy, the real estate agent turned into expert on immigration and macro-economics. He will soon find out that he is much less relevant than he and his supporters believe. And it will drive him mad!

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In the company of pilgrims and bandits

Italian impressions from Luxembourg. © Charles Thibo
Italian impressions from Luxembourg. © Charles Thibo

In February this year, I wrote about Liszt’s “Années de pélerinage” and how the titles of the different pieces partly derive from Lord Byron’s novel “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”. Well, Lord Byron has inspired more than one Romantic composer. That novel impressed the French composer Hector Berlioz enough to write in 1834 the symphony “Harold en Italie”, Op. 16.

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