A woman’s challenge: Finding a unique voice

Light. © Charles Thibo

A welcoming sound. A welcoming house. Back home where I belong to. The cello’s warm voice invites me in while the strings evoke the tense moments of the past. Does this piece mirror Marie Jaëll’s state of mind while she wrote her Cello Concerto in F major? In 1882, the year she wrote this piece, her husband had died. Does the composer try to find consolation in music? She did. She often sat in the wooden shed her father had built for her when she was young, absorbed by her music, and anyone knocking on the door would have to expect the reply: “Marie is not here, she’s in the realm of music.” An exceptional woman living an exceptional life.

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Brilliant tears and a certain idea of beauty

Translucent. © Charles Thibo

Have you ever met what the Germans call a “Schöngeist”? The French equivalent is “un bel esprit” – I found no English term, but I had to think of Oscar Wilde. A person attracted by arts, preferring their superficial beauty over their deeper philosophical meaning, be it a poem, a song, a painting, a statue. Someone who cultivates his sense for aesthetics and surrounds himself with  beautiful things. I imagine Franz Liszt being such a “Schöngeist”. He had an extremely developed sensitivity, a passion for superficial beauty and a distinctive penchant for gallant and glamorous people. His music mirrors this character trait.

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Doing it her way – with a little help from her friends

Omen? © Charles Thibo

A dark premonition must have been haunting the composer went she sketched this Lento. Or was it the legacy of her teacher, the influence of the late German Romantic masters? Franz Liszt is not very far indeed, for Marie Jaëll stayed with him in Weimar for quite a number of years, and Richard Wagner, well, Richard Wagner was omnipresent at the time. In 1871 Jaëll wrote her Sonata for piano in C major, dedicated to Liszt.

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