A young French aristocrat. A cavalry officer. And a resounding name: Viscount Marie-Alexis de Castillon de Saint-Victor. And above all a man deeply in love with music and fully devoted to the promotion of this wonderful art. Alexis de Castillon, as he is commonly known, was born in 1838. At the age of 11, parallel to his school studies, he started to take piano lessons. He also learned to play the organ in his hometown Chartres. Following a family tradition he continued his studies at the prestigious military academy of Saint-Cyr.
Can you imagine two rivers flowing one inside the other? For clarity’s sake let’s say one is a dark blue, slow and heavy, thick stream while the other is a light blue, fluid and blubbering spring flowing in and above the other one. Can you picture these two flows in your head? Good. This is what Gabriel Fauré’s Cello Sonata No. 2 in G minor, Op. 117 would look like if I were to paint it. I guess I am a better writer than painter, but this picture immediately formed in my head when I listened to this sonata for the first time.
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).