The rain and warmer nights has made the gardens and hedgerows suddenly ‘take off’! As we very carefully creep out of the major locked-down state, it is even more noticeable just how much natural beauty there is all around us – then on top of that there is music. This week’s quotation is from the great Claude Debussy. “Beauty must appeal to the senses, must provide us with immediate enjoyment, must impress us or insinuate itself into us without any effort on our part.”
I am reading a truly fascinating book about Bees and their place in history, politics, the lot! The author is none other than Bee Wilson! It is actually tracing the story of the honey bee, but it made me think that those early chores will be done in seconds whilst listening to Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumble Bee . Written in 1899/1900 is an orchestral interlude for his opera, The Tale of Tsar Saltan, it is intended to musically evoke the seemingly chaotic and rapidly changing flying pattern of a bumblebee. Is is very short, but interestingly, it closes the third act where the magic Swan-Bird changes Prince Gvidon Saltanovich (the Tsar’s son) into an insect so that he can fly away to visit his father who does not know that he is alive. Aaaah! Guaranteed to get the day off to a ‘flying start’!
With the clearer skies of August shooting stars which are said to possess a bit of magic are visible. They are thought to symbolise positive vibes and good luck for anyone who gazes upon one – let’s get out there everyone. So I draw your attention this week to Debussy’s Claire de Lune – (Moonlight) which was inspired by a poem written by the French poet Paul Verlaine in 1869. Claire de lune is the third and most famous movement of Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque. Despite the name which makes it sound as if it was part of a ‘masque’, we are assured that a Bergamasque is not a kind of dance in itself, though the name comes from the Italian city of Bergamo. It refers to the kind of music there, based on a folk dance. However, the poem does also make reference to a masque! Written in 1890 when Debussy was 28, it was significantly revised just before it was published in 1905. Its original title was ‘Promenade sentimental’ which it most surely is. The translated poem goes like this:
Your soul is like a landscape fantasy,
Where masks and bergamasks, in charming wise,
Strum lutes and dance, just a bit sad to be
Hidden beneath their fanciful disguise.
Before listening to Claire de lune, Daniel Barenboim has made this wonderful video ‘5 Minutes On Debussy’ in which he tells us what to listen out for – it is absolutely fascinating. Now listen to Maestro Barenboim perform Claire de Lune – just beautiful.
Time for the coffee concertissimo with Peter Hewitt. It may be the last one but never fear, we will find something else to relax over a cup of coffee. This week Peter features the march (second movement) from Beethoven’s 28th Piano Sonata Peter describes it as a “concise little piece full of intricacies, much counterpoint and lots of energy. With the late piano sonatas, Beethoven invites us into a wonderful and completely unique harmonic world which influenced so many of the later Romantic composers.
What’s on this week: The Royal Opera House’s series, ‘From our house to yours’ series continues with Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty. It is only available until Friday 7th August. The classic fairy tale features the proverbial wicked fairy Carabosse who is furious that she wasn’t invited to Princess Aurora’s christening. She gives the baby a spindle, saying that one day the Princess will prick her finger on it and die. The Lilac Fairy makes her own christening gift a softening of Carabosse’s curse: Aurora will not die, but will fall into a deep sleep, which only a prince’s kiss will break.
On her 16th birthday, Aurora discovers the spindle and pricks her finger. She falls into an enchanted sleep, and the whole palace sleeps with her. One hundred years later, Prince Florimund discovers the palace, hidden deep within a dark forest. He wakes Aurora with a kiss. The curse is lifted, the whole palace awakes, and everyone rejoices. Aaaaah! Not to be missed as these wonderful performances are coming to an end. This certainly reflects beauty appealing to the senses.
A quick reminder about the Live from London Festival – don’t forget to get your tickets through Churchill Music – I have the codes waiting to go out to you. Full details were in last week’s email. There could be an issue in using the email@example.com so best to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org instead. Concerts start streaming from 1st August, but can be accessed any time up to 31st October.
Now for something completely different – a touch of ragtime with a difference with Stephanie Trick and Paolo Alderighi. This incredible husband and wife duo are absolutely ‘at one’ and amusing with it. Guaranteed to get your feet tapping and brighten the spirits.
And Finally: What is a cat’s favourite song? Three blind mice!!!!