I remember the moment I decided to write this post in every detail. A year ago on a free afternoon I was driving home and shortly before I would pass the speed radar I focused for the split of a second on those golden trees at the roadside against the blue sky – royal colours. I was listening to Camille de Saint-Saëns’ Symphony in A major – a majestic sound. I stopped the car, got out and shot that picture. It was a warm, sunny day, a light breeze made the leaves rattle, the road was empty. I went back to the car, sat on the driver’s seat, the door open, and listened to that beautiful music. I was in no hurry and enjoyed a magic moment. Happiness.
One can debate whether it is legitimate to do what I did with Bela Bartok lately. I mean, offering my personal thoughts and feelings triggered by Bartok String Quartet No. 5 as an interpretation of a piece of music. I love to debate and I have the wisdom of Umberto Eco on my side. Come on, challenge me! No? Then I shall do it again. With another piece, Camille de Saint-Saëns’ Sonata for Cello and Piano No. 1 in C minor, Op. 32, written in 1872. I suggest you enjoy the recording by Stephen Isserlis (cello) and Pascal Devoyon (piano).
I got the idea to write this post half a year ago, when I boarded the train from Paris to Luxembourg. After a short business trip (an excellent excuse to book a ticket at the Opéra Garnier and enjoy Aribert Reimann’s “Lear”), I was sorry to leave. Paris has fascinated me since my first weekend escapes to Paris when I was a student. A friend of mine living in Paris regularly travelled to Munich to see her boyfriend and I was free to use her apartment for two or three days. I would hop on the night train and Paris was mine! So when I boarded the TGV in June this year, I picked a lovely piece of chamber music as a farewell melody. In 1853, Camille de Saint Saëns wrote his Quartet for Piano, Violin, Viol and Cello in E major. Good-bye Paris then, good-bye 2016 now.
Past and present: This composer had the bad luck to play always the second fiddle. Paris choose to ignore him during his lifetime, the 19th century, and glorify Hector Berlioz, Camille de Saint-Saëns, Frédéric Chopin and Maurice Ravel. Today, you will find him mostly as an add-on to a recording of a more famous composer like Felix Mendelssohn. Which isn’t fair. Time to set the record straight then. A piece that you may come to consider as reflecting the composer’s struggle for recognition at the same time as his dexterity at the violin: The Piano Trio No. 3 in A minor, Op. 26, composed by Edouard Lalo.