It felt a little like meeting an old friend after many years. I sat at my desk on a rainy Saturday afternoon and listened to a piano trio written by Edouard Lalo. I was writing letters and my thoughts drifted. “Lalo, Lalo…”, I wondered. “Have I written about him?” Actually I have, in a post in November 2016. So why had I forgotten about him? The trio is beautiful, and he surely has written other lovely pieces. A quick research yielded a wealth of pieces unknown to me, and my joy over these discoveries was such that I had to insert an unscheduled post about Lalo’s Violin Concerto in F major, Op. 20 in my publishing schedule.
Restlessness. Tension. Suffering. I feel it the moment I write this post. Pyotr Tchaikovsky must have felt the same way. His music depicts a life in disarray, marked by a troubling uncertainty, a deep personal vulnerability. The music triggers those sensations all the more easily since I am myself tense at the moment, restless, quickly irate. And while moments of joy and happiness pop up every now and then in Tchaikovsky’s Quartet No. 2 in F major (Op. 22), I find it hard not to feel miserable.
“Du blanc, rien que du blanc! Je suis la mariée!”1 Ophelia has lost herself once more in her delusions. The grief over the death of her father Polonius, killed inadvertently by Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, has driven her crazy. What a tragedy! While Hamlet feigns to be mad to plan in secrecy the death of King Claudius, brother and murderer of Hamlet’s father, Ophelia, the woman he loves, has succumbed to true madness because her father Polonius’s death through Hamlet’s hand. William Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet” is one of my favourites, and Pyotr Tchaikovsky has composed in January 1891 a wonderful incidental music inspired by the play.
Few symphonies have such a characteristic introduction – once you’ve heard it, you will recognize it at once. And from the texture of the introduction you will know the name of the composer: Pyotr Tchaikovsky. I marvel at this symphony’s beauty, at its dynamics, its melodic lines, its lyricism – a song, a dance, all imbued by the spirit of Russia: Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64. And I love the recording by the Russian National Orchestra under Mikhail Pletnev.