Existential needs – how many composers had to worry every day about their financial situation and felt it as severe limit to their creativity! Not this man however. “I had a family to feed and to secure the education of my children”, Max Bruch explained. “I was compelled to write pleasing works, easy to understand. […] I always wrote good music, but always music that was easy to sell.” Quality did not suffer necessarily. Towards the end of his professional career as a composer and a music teacher, he wrote a set of works for clarinet, cello and piano: 8 Pieces, Op. 83. He also composed two arrangements, one for violin, cello and piano, and a second one for violin, viola and piano, always having the versatility and economic benefit in mind.
I once had a friend. He died a few years ago. He was the husband of one of my oldest friends. He stayed for some time at my mother’s place before he found a flat for himself and his wife. He was a jolly character, an intellectual, an artist, a philosopher, a wine lover. I sometimes miss his laughter, his bright, round face, his love for mankind. I want to remember him today. All Souls Day. One more Catholic holiday. People go to cemeteries, listen to sermons revolving around eternal life, deliverance. I don’t believe a word of it. My friend is dead. His ashes have been buried, and he only lives on in the memories of those who have known him. Such as my memories.
Have a look at this pebble. It is another souvenir from my wanderings in the Alps last summer. That rock has been in that mountain river for so many years. The alternance of heat and cold, the wind and the water have given it is round shape. No edges. Grey strata alternate with white ones, at least two different types of rock have been compressed together in that pebble. The shape, the colours, the water that flows around it, all these elements gave it a natural elegance. I touched it after it had caught my eye. It felt good. I left it where it belonged to so that others could admire it.
Tonight millions of people will start celebrating Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is the most important celebration of the Jewish liturgical year and celebrates the reconciliation between God and the faithful. In the Book of Leviticus 16, 30 God makes a promise to Moses: Before the Lord all your sins will be washed away. The celebration opens with a prayer repeated three times. All promises made to God prematurely under the influence of fear or false doctrines and remaining unfulfilled are null and void IF the sinner truly repents. The prayer’s name: Kol Nidrei. The German composer Max Bruch (1838-1920) has set it to music in 1881. Beautifully.