The Composer Offers Himself a Surprise

© Charles Thibo

Rimsky-Korsakov is well-known for his symphonic poems and his operas. However, he has also written a piano concerto, rarely performed but no less interesting than his other works. It is just as lyrical as his symphonic poems, and over time this short, lovely piece has become one of my favourites. The composer wrote his Piano Concerto in C-sharp minor (op. 30) between 1882 and 1883, after he had met his patron Mitrofan Belayev. Rimsky-Korsakov belonged to the circle of artists who emphasized the national element in Russian music, and Belayev, a nouveau-riche industrialist believing in a greater role for Russian, felt drawn towards the composer.

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Travelling and Dreaming With the Poet-warrior

Antar ibn Shaddad
Antar ibn Shaddad, poet and warrior.

I have sailed through the Street of Hormuz with Sindbad in an earlier post, today I will cross the Iraqi desert and dream of the beautiful palaces of Palmyra recently vandalized by extremists supposedly inspired by Islam. On the road then with Antar ibn Shaddad, an Arab pre-islamic poet and warrior (525-615 AC) of the tribe of the Beni ‘Abs. His history has been narrated by the 19th century fantasy writer Osip Senkovsky, which in turn has been set to music by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1867/68 in his Symphony No. 2, Op. 9.

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Arensky’s lyrical memorial to a Russian cellist

Autumn colours. © Charles Thibo © Charles Thibo

What a gentle introduction – the warm light of the autumn sun bathes a rural landscape in soft yellow, orange and brown colours, but here, sharp, black patches, rocks, splintering dead wood – contrasts mark the Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 32 that the Russian composer Anton Arensky composed in 1894 from the first bars on. It closely follows the Romantic language of a trio that had deeply impressed upon the composer: Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio in A minor, that I have presented in an earlier post.

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Landmarks and memories of sunny days

The taste of the summer. © Charles Thibo

No, the summer is not over yet. Many more warm and sunny days to enjoy. And still, I feel that little nostalgia already. It sneaks into my mind at the end of August, when I get up and the sun has not yet risen. In two weeks school will start again, and by then the sun will set way too early and the air will be too cool and humid to spend the evening in the garden. Landmarks. Autumn is knocking discretely at the door.

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