We are truly blessed in Luxembourg. The Philharmonie de Luxembourg offers a first-rate programme of classical music year after year, and each spring, the city of Echternach hosts the Festival International d’Echternach, often with internationally renown guests. Yesterday I heard the famous Borodin Quartet performing Borodin’s second string quartet, Shostakovich’s eleventh string quartet and Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No. 1. After a week full of bad, sad news, this concert was a blessing: Four excellent Russian musicians bridging a century of wonderful Russian music!
Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, it says in the Psalms, but Tchaikovsky can teach you fear! One of the pieces that have been published only after his tragic death is called “The Storm” (Op. posth. 76). The opening is dark and violent – it could well feature in a horror movie. It is being balanced soon by a reassuring tune, but the darkness doesn’t go away. Then the reassuring melody, played by the strings and the flutes, takes over again, but not for long, the darkness comes back, like waves rolling over the countryside with violent showers and short breaks between them. You can almost hear the rain splash against the window panes. Very, very dramatic! Tchaikovsky wrote here a lovely symphonic poem, but wait, actually he wrote two! Continue reading!
Those Russians! They are incredible. Incredibly in many respects, but especially when it comes to piano music. Enters the stage Anton Rubinstein. Born in 1829, he gave his first public concert barely ten years old: In Moscow he played pieces composed by Johann Nepomuk Hummel and Franz Liszt. He had taken piano lessons with his mother initially, than with a personal teacher and composed his first piece at the age of five. As a child virtuoso he travelled to Paris, where he met Frédéric Chopin and Franz Liszt and participated in a concert at the prestigious Salle Pleyel in 1841. His journey took him to the Netherlands, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, Poland and Germany.
I really would like to live next door to Alice. That is, Alice Sara Ott, the German pianist. I would ask her to illustrate posts on this blog from time to time for she’s not only an accomplished musician, but also a gifted cartoonist! And yes, I do admire her! Two years ago, Alice Sara Ott made a wonderful recording of Modest Mussorgsky’s masterpiece “Pictures of an Exhibition”. The music inspired her to some funny drawings illustrating two of the different parts of Mussorgsky’s cycle: “The Great Gate of Kiev” and “The Ballet of the Unhatched Chicken”.