A woman’s challenge: Finding a unique voice

Light. © Charles Thibo

A welcoming sound. A welcoming house. Back home where I belong to. The cello’s warm voice invites me in while the strings evoke the tense moments of the past. Does this piece mirror Marie Jaëll’s state of mind while she wrote her Cello Concerto in F major? In 1882, the year she wrote this piece, her husband had died. Does the composer try to find consolation in music? She did. She often sat in the wooden shed her father had built for her when she was young, absorbed by her music, and anyone knocking on the door would have to expect the reply: “Marie is not here, she’s in the realm of music.” An exceptional woman living an exceptional life.

Continue reading!

When all is lost and life makes no sense anymore

Frozen. © Charles Thibo

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.

Continue reading!

D’Indy’s religious experience in the mountains

In the Alps. © Charles Thibo

The sea has inspired many a composer, but how about mountains? Richard Strauss has composed his “Alpensinfonie” and Olivier Messiaen “Chronochromie”, both subject of an earlier post. And then there is Vincent d’Indy with a beautiful symphonic poem: “Jour d’été à la montagne” (Summer day in the mountains), Op. 61. The piece is written in three pieces with the thematic ideas following the course of the day: Twilight – Day (Afternoon under the pines) – Evening and partly it takes up Strauss’ language. In a post about d’Indy’s earlier work “Tableaux de voyage” (Op. 36) I explained how this French composer wanted to follow in the footsteps of Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner, and d’Indy’s proximity to Strauss should not come as a surprise.

Continue reading!

Respighi paints a picture of darkness and drama

A storm is brewing. © Charles Thibo

Wagner? This is not Wagner. But it sounds like Wagner! An Italian, you say? Non è possibile! But yes, this symphony, aptly named “Sinfonia Drammatica”, was composed by an Italian composer, Ottorino Respighi. For those of you who have followed this blog from its creation on, that name will have a familiar ring – Respighi composed this wonderful cycle of symphonic poems with the city of Rome as its main subject, that I discussed in one of my first posts.

Continue reading!