Composing a Concerto while the War is Raging

Vienna-Budapest. © Charles Thibo

More than a year ago I passed a rather expensive looking hotel in Vienna. Modern architecture, a lot of glass, a lot of metal, geometric forms, angular. The total opposite of what I associate with Vienna. The total opposite of what I cherish about Vienna. A provocation. Here’s another provocation, a rather brutal contrast to the classical music I traditionally associate with the Austrian-Hungarian Empire: Zoltan Kodaly’s Concerto for Orchestra (K. 115). An impressive piece, full of edges, dynamic, powerful and well-balanced at the same time, with beautiful melodies and resounding harmonies, reminiscent of the generations of composers that preceded Kodaly.

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Inspired As a Child by a Gypsy Band

The colour of tradition. © Charles Thibo

In 1933 Zoltan Kodaly wrote a symphonic poem called “The Dances of Galanta”. Galanta is a small town in what is today Slovakia. It used to be part of Hungary, and Kodaly spent several years here when he was a young. A well-known gypsy band stimulated the boy’s interest in music and gave him a first idea of harmony and melody. “The Dances of Galanta”, written to mark the 80th anniversary of the Philharmonic Society Orchestra in Budapest, take up material form 18th-century verbunkos dances, and became Kodaly’s most popular work.

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Lost in Thoughts with a Duo for Violin and Cello

Autumn – from green to red. © Charles Thibo

I like this time of the year. The morning light is very special. I see myself on a Sunday morning sitting in the kitchen. The house is calm. I sit at the table and the first sunbeams are penetrating the morning haze hanging over the vineyards. They plunge the kitchen in a warm, welcoming light. On the right I see the river, on the left I see the leaves of a vine as they turn from green to red – a beautiful red I enjoy every autumn. In a few days all the leaves will be flaming red and hide that old cracked wall that leads to the garden.

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