“Immersion into a world without outlines, without horizons” – a note by myself to myself I scribbled down when I contemplated Claude Monet’s masterwork series “Nymphéas” (waterlilies). I had seen these vast paintings for the first time as a student while I visited Paris, some 25 years ago. I’ve seen them again a few months ago, when I took my daughter to the Musée de l’Orangerie to see one of my favourite works of my favourite painter. At the beginning of the 20th century, the French Impressionist painter painted some 250 works with the lilies he had in his garden in Giverny as the central theme.
Children made this piece of art. It immediately caught my attention. Cones painted in dazzling colours. The contrast between natural and artificial. Here’s a piece of music that has such contrasts too. And it retained my attention for a much longer time span than those cones, even if they get an honorary mention on this blog: Sonata for Cello and Piano in D Minor (L. 135), written by Claude Debussy and recorded by Sol Gabetta and Hélène Grimaud. Brace yourself, for you are in for a wild ride through the realm of chords and harmonies.
Today, I will try something new: Over a week I will present three works from three different composers, recorded by one single ensemble and compiled on one single album. Three quartets, magnificently performed by the French Quatuor Ebène. The idea to group these posts sprang from the parallels between the pieces and the parallels between the pictures I matched to the posts. I discovered this album a year ago and immediately fell in love with all three quartets.
Perhaps you remember my fantasy of seeing Atlantis at the bottom of the Atlantic, that I described in my post about Sibelius’s work “Oceanides”? I once tried diving – and it was exhilarating! Too bad live so far from the sea. Floating over a town at the seabed, swimming between the ruins of mansions, churches, a theatre… a recurrent dream of mine. Over a year ago, a piece of the French composer Claude Debussy woke up that fantasy: “La Cathédrale Engloutie” (The Sunken Cathedral), number 10 of the first book of Debussy’s “Préludes”.