Childhood Memories of a Sympathetic Man

Grand Duke Jean © Cour grand-ducale

Luxembourg’s former Grand Duke Jean has died at the age of 98. I met our head of state when I was a boy and I found him a sympathetic man. I was twelve and my boy scout group celebrated the 75 anniversary of the worldwide boy scout movement in 1982 with a huge international jamboree. It took place in the park that surrounded the Grand Duke’s former residence. Grand Duke Jean was at the time the head of Luxembourg’s boy scout federation and he was around all the time during the jamboree.

Continue reading!

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.

Continue reading!

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.

Continue reading!

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!

Continue reading!