Some pieces make me forget time and space. Ludwig van Beethoven’s Violin Concerto for instance. Franz Schubert’s song cycle “Winterreise”. Some books make me forget time and space too. Books like Reiner Stach’s biography on Franz Kafka. Three volumes and an annex, several thousand pages, a wonderful gift. Diving into Franz Kafka’s world, diving into the life in Prague at the turn of the 19th century and into the mysteries of the mind and the emotions of this enigmatic writer – what a pleasure! I discovered Kafka very late, in the summer of 2017, by now I rank him as one of those writers that fascinate me most.
Here is one sweet way to start a day! No, not Bach, there’s more than one composer that makes me feel enthusiastic at sunrise. For much too long I have neglected the Czech composer Leos Janacek, but the previous post on Bohuslav Martinu’s trio and the research it required made me discover quite a few recordings of Janacek’s orchestral music that I did not know about yet. Janacek’s Suite for String Orchestra (JW VI/2) was written in 1877; thus it is one of the composer’s earlier works. He was only 23 years old, a young musician, a poor student about to finish his education at the Prague Organ School.
Sadness. The feeling of being deeply hurt. Tragedy. The violin says it with a single, beautiful weeping melody. The violin – Julia Fischer. The piece – Dvorak’s Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 53. The outlook seems bleak, no hope, only desolation and despair. And yet… sadness can be overcome. Towards the middle of the first movement, there seems to be a spark of light, a ray, a beam. The violin no longer cries or moans, but sings a sweet, consoling, a comforting tune…
What a loss! On August 12, 1928 the Czech composer Leos Janacek died. And shortly before his death, he produced two of the works that I am tempted to label as the best he wrote. Who knows, what masterpieces Janacek would have composed, had he lived on! The Quartet for strings No. 2 was completed in 1928, five years after the Quartet for strings No. 1. We have met Janacek already as the composer of that beautiful piano cycle “On an overgrown path”, performed by the Luxembourg pianist Cathy Krier. Today I would like to present the French Quatuor Zaïde and it’s interpretation of the two mentioned chamber music works. Continue reading!