Monday, September 22, 2014

Music soothes

A quote frequently misattributed to Shakespeare :  "Music has charms to soothe a savage breast," is also just as often quoted as soothing the savage beast (and I am part of those or at least was, until I researched the phrase). Actually it is the first line of a play written in 1697, The Mourning Bride by William Congreve (and I, like you, had never even heard of him!), spoken by Almeria in Act I, Scene 1.
Another phrase, which is just as wayward, is  "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned," spoken by Zara in Act III, Scene VIII, again in The Mourning Bride. But I digress: just making sure that everything I learn is also in turn spread far and wide.

Congreve’s first phrase, regardless of whether one reads it as soothing a savage breast or a savage beast, is certainly true (unless perhaps one is talking of Hard Rock, Electronic music and others of today’s ilk that seem to stir rather than soothe, but presumably back in his day there only the classics in Western Europe and America, most probably Baroque classical. 1700-1730: Bach, Purcell, Vivaldi, Handel; 1730-1775: Handel, Gluck, Bach, Mozart, Vivaldi; 1775-1790: Mozart; 1790-1810: Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn; 1810-1840: Schubert, Chopin, Weber, Schumann, Rossini, Mendelssohn; 1840-1850: Mendelssohn, Liszt, Verdi, Schumann, Wagner. Along with these composers the traditional regional folk songs, religious hymns and opera.)

I experienced this myself Friday night when I attended the first of this year’s series of concerts (I sat out a year due to too much travel, but missed it so subscribed again this season – and luckily got my old seat back – approx.. 10-15 feet from the performing soloists and on the same level!).
A world-renowned conductor: Neeme Järvi, directed the OSR (Orchestre de la Suisse Romande: in Franz Liszt’s Preludes from “Poetic Meditations” from Lamartine; Joseph Haydn’s Symphony n° 83 in sol minor then Richard Strauss’ Don Quichotte, symphonic poem opus 35. The soloist for the latter was Gauthier Capuçon on the cello and Frédéric Kirch on an alto violin.

Watching Mr. Järvi conduct is always entertaining: a raised eye brown, a shrugged shoulder or a minute movement of baton or hand communicates his passion to the orchestra.

A rapturous rendition of the Don Quichotte, the cello soloist was superb: a Kaleidoscope starting in black and white with sharp-edged squares, triangles and lines, it metamorphosed into brilliant colours, rounded circles, oblongs and ovals – all bright but softened in form transforming sounds as sharp and bleak as hard grey stones birthed in stridency to smooth stones shimmering in placid pools.

I left the concert hall, after a bad day, whole again, in peace in mind and soul.

Lac Léman, le 19 septembre 2014
Flowers along the lake