In his lighter moments Robert Schumann was quite a joyful fellow! I could not imagine how else he could have written Op. 102. The German title is “Fünf Stücke im Volkston”, which would give “Five Pieces in a Folk Tune” if translated. But the title is misleading, these pieces, even if written for the amateur musician, have nothing simplistic about them, far from it. They are very refined, carefully constructed, permeated by the elegant, graceful version of German melancholia. To compose a melody creating the illusion to be light is one of the challenges – I think Mozart once said this.
A few weeks ago I finished reading a monumental double biography of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin – well written and extremely interesting, as I elaborate in a review on my other blog, but depressing at times. Add the grey and wet weather we experienced in January – not exactly what makes me feel hopeful and optimistic. Luckily there is music to help me and you overcome such moments, music like that joyful Quartet in E flat major that Felix Mendelssohn wrote in 1823.
Hours full of pain – not exactly a selling argument! But this is the title the composer Gabriel Dupont gave a piano cycle he wrote in 1904: Les Heures Dolentes. If you listen to the recording by Stéphane Lemelin, you will at once hear that title is well deserved and that no one ever has described in a more beautiful way the slowly passing, monotonous hours when you try to recover from really bad news, these moments when you feel paralyzed, unable to speak, unable to move, when you stare in front of you aimlessly, absent-minded. This singular mood when all seems lost and life makes no sense anymore.
Midnight. This specific time, this specific mood. The house is calm, everyone has gone to bed except the cat and me. A specific constellation. It is one of the moments that inspiration strikes me. I started to read a biography about the German pianist Grete Sultan (1906-2005) tonight while I was listening to Robert Schumann’s Fantasy in C major, Op. 17, performed by Grete Sultan. The urgent need to penetrate the music, to dream and drift, to write. Now.