Overcoming the Absurdity of Life

The force of life. © Charles Thibo

Serenity and joy – those were the emotions that I felt after I had listened several times to Bedrich Smetana’s Piano Trio in G Minor, op. 15. Interesting when sou consider that the composer wrote this piece st a moment of incomparable sorrow. “The death of my eldest daughter, an exceptionally talented child, motivated me to compose my Trio in G minor”, he confided many years after the tragedy in a letter to one of his physicians.

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Smetana draws miniature portraits of his homeland

Mystic sunrise. © Charles Thibo

All is well. The sun will rise just like any other day and all will be well. There is no need to doubt or to fear. This is the reassuring message I read into Bedrich Smetana’s two sets of “Czech Dances” JB 1:107 and JB 1:114. Very nice piano pieces, and by keeping them short, Smetana reduced them to the essence. Miniature portraits of his country reflecting either traditional dances like the polka or everyday ideas: a hen, a bear, an onion, a parading soldier. He wrote the pieces between 1877 and 1881, at the end of a turbulent career. They have been recorded by the US pianist Garrick Ohlsson.

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A life ripe with ruptures and resentment

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Warm and cold. © Charles Thibo

A few dramatic, frightening opening bars… a prelude to a sad and slow theme. Then, drama, again. And then: melancholy. This string quartet expresses a lot of feelings: distress, a cry for help, a longing for deliverance, a certain bitterness, the memory of past joys and injuries, of youthful lust and glory – time flies and before we realize it, we are confronted with our own finiteness.

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A Silver-Green Ribbon Runs Through It

Bedrich Smetana translated the rippling of the waves into music. © Charles Thibo
Bedrich Smetana translated the rippling of the waves into music. © Charles Thibo

Water, light, morning mist, magic by the moonlight, fairies – we have seen all that already, right? Well, those are the eternal subjects of the Romantic era, which hasn’t halted before the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and what is today the Czech Republic. And all those elements appear in another piece of music, that has fascinated me since I heard it first at school. Eternal gratitude again to my music teacher. Continue reading!