It took a minute until I understood: R. Sch. Hommage à R. Sch. Robert Schumann. It was late at night, I was tired and my last intellectual effort of the day dealt with the 10th anniversary of the Japanese music festival Viola Space in 2002. One of the pieces performed there was György “Hommage à R. Sch.”, composed in 1990 for clarinet, viola and piano, Op.15/d. Schumann was an avid reader of Romantic books, like those written by the German novelists Jean Paul and E. T. A. Richter. Kurtag, a contemporary Hungarian composer, wrote this piece as a reverence to Schumann, the fictive persons Eusebius, Florestan and Master Raro, two of them being used by Schumann as pen names, and the Kapellmeister Kreisler that gave Schumann’s “Kreisleriana” its name.
This music is about inner turmoil, about desperation, at the same time about caring love and tenderness. A dark tragedy with a human destiny in its center is unfolding, elements of a Romantic heroic rebellion are flaring up – what a pleasure! What a masterwork! A week ago, I listened to this piece for the first time. Last Friday I heard it played back to back with Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 by the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, Patricia Kopatchinskaja playing the solo part: Robert Schumann’s Violin Concerto in D minor (WoO 23).
New York and Washington. Moscow, Madrid and London. Ankara and Paris. Brussels. Terrorism has struck again. Terrorism is about fear. Terrorists mean to scare us. And terror is about symbols. Muslims dreaded the sight of the crusaders’ cross. All over Europe people panicked at the sight of Gestapo policemen in long leather coats. Evil is good at forging a corporate identity. It partly explains its power, as it connects in our brain a visual effect to the very deep emotion of fear. Today, the Islamic State wants us to tremble at the sight of their flag. It wants us to believe that it is everywhere and that it can strike at us anytime. Let’s not be tricked. We should not be afraid.
Luck was on my side yesterday evening: First, the Doric String Quartet introduced me to Thomas Adès, a contemporary composer, and to “The Four Quarters”, a highly interesting piece. Second, the cellist John Myerscough explained in a few, well-chosen words the structure of that work in order to pave the way for a greater acceptance and a better understanding of this example of Neue Musik. He succeeded on both accounts. The setting of that enriching experience: the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam – my first ever visit in that prestigious concert hall.