Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mercoledi Musicale

One of the lovely things about the internet is being able to tap into the knowledge and enthusiasms of people from all over our small planet.  I have been very lucky in that respect in getting to know people with wide ranges of experiences and interests particularly musically.

Perhaps a bit frivolous for this posting but I
found this cartoon of Saint-Saëns conducting
his Carnival of the Animals delightful.
I've learned so much - discovered so much - from people such as my friend David in London - a man who has influenced my reading and listening habits greatly in the past seven years.  And not just things classical - I flew to London at his urging to catch Dame Edna in her one and only Panto and have eaten at three great London restaurants at his suggestion and in his and his diplomate's delightful company.  I've also met some delightful and interesting people of their acquaintance to add to the pleasure.

And the past month or so I've been getting suggestions on music - and jabs about Canadian politics, but those I ignore - from a FaceBook friend in New York City who is constantly coming up with intriguing musical selections.  One morning he had me pumped to Shostakovitch's #3 and another day he suggested this rather elegiac piece by Camille Saint-Saëns .

La Muse et le Poète pour violon, violoncelle et orchestre, op. 132 is a relatively unknown, late (1909 - 1910) piece from Saint-Saëns' vast catalogue.  There has been some attempt to assign instruments to the characters of the title however it appears that the name was given to the piece a time after its composition by Jacques Durand , the composer's publisher.

In 1909 at the age of 74 Saint-Saëns had just finished composing the world's first film score for  a silent costume drama called La Mort du duc de Guise.*  Exhausted and in need of a vacation he went to North Africa, his favourite destination.  He composed this seventeen-minute, single-movement piece while relaxing in Luxor in December of the year.   Originally scored as a  trio for violin, cello and piano,  the composer played the piano part himself at the 1910 premiere in London with the Belgian virtuoso Eugène Ysaÿe and the German cellist Joseph Hollmann.   The piece was originally intended as a memorial for Mme. J-Henry Carruette.  The later orchestration is a direct transcription of the piano part.   Despite the difficulty of the two solo parts, the work was never intended as a virtuoso piece; Saint-Saëns himself described it as "a conversation between the two instruments instead of a debate between two virtuosos."

This particular version is taken from a project to record all twenty-eight of Saint Saëns compositions for violin and orchestra and cello and orchestra.   It is a joint venture between The Queen Elizabeth Music Chapel - a music school founded in 1939 by Eugène Ysaÿe - and Zig Zag Territories.  Young violinists and cellist from the school are accompanied by the Liège Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of the Viennese conductor Christian Arming.  

February 26 - 1909: Kinemacolor, the first successful color motion picture process, is first shown to the general public at the Palace Theatre in London.

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David said...

Funny, I was turned back to a Saint-Saens piece I'd rarely listened to properly, the Septet with its unusual role for trumpet. It's music-hallish for the most part, but has an incredibly serious slow movement in which the trumpet plays a minimal role. The prompt was Debussy's being so impressed by it that he turned back to chamber music towards the end of his life.

And thank you for the kind words - the point is, isn't it, that we all expand each others' horizons. I particularly like the piquancy of finding out what the weather's doing in real time in another corner of the planet and have conjured up an image of your Ottawa dwelling which may or may not be fanciful.

Willym said...

Oh dear - you give me culture and I give you weather reports.... not sure its fair exchange.

Anonymous said...

This post was of personal interest. I'm distantly related to Ysaye by marriage and don't know much about him at all.


David said...

Likewise oh dear if you think the only value of your blog is to tell me what the weather's up to in Ottawa...don't take it the wrong way! And also don't take it the wrong way if I say I'm astonished what and whom you've seen across your rather longer life (early Abbado-conducted operas being a case in point). Keep those programmes and leave them to the HfH!