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Scenes of Travel

Scenes of Travel

  • Door Eleanor Hodgkinson
  • Release 18-2-2011
  • Media-indeling CD
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Prijs: € 15,16

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Ever since I was young I have enjoyed travelling. Both the excitement of the journey and the fascination of the final destination hold equal appeal. To experience new people and places is a way of opening up new worlds and possibilities. As a child I would make up stories based on where I was staying, secretly assuming the role of one of the characters, my inner monologue accompanying even the dullest of locations. Early family holidays were in the West Country, and then later on in Brittany: the rich folklore inspired me to find magic pebbles, plants with supernatural abilities and caves that, unknown to anyone but myself, were the doors to other universes. Travel took off when I went to Germany, alone, aged 15 to stay with a family I had never met. This was in the days of pen-friends. Nina lived deep in the Bavarian hills and I attended the local school, run by High Catholic priests. The pupils treated me like royalty; no-one had ever done an "exchange" before. For my 16th birthday we visited some local pigs and Nina's mother made the most delicious chocolate cake I had ever tasted, the creamy filling overflowing with wild blueberries picked in the mountains the day before. We ate it for breakfast. After that, there were several more trips to Germany: a couple of "tennis exchanges", in which, predictably, the Germans always won, and one for a piano competition when I was 20. This came complete with pushy parents silently patrolling the practice facilities checking out the other competitors. I travelled with a fellow student, sleeping on a shared futon in a kitchen at the back of some piano studios. The highlight of the event though, was the train journey I made afterwards, alone, from Karlsruhe, through Switzerland, to France. I was hypnotized by the endless amazing views of lakes and mountains, and this feeling was repeated some years later in Banff, Canada where I spent time in a residency at the Arts Centre. My first cruise was from Singapore to Cape Town, encompassing all of the "honeymoon" islands: Seychelles, Maldives and Mauritius - handy if you had a wedding to research for. The Iraq invasion happened on the day we were in the Seychelles. A group of us heard it on the radio in a tourist boutique, and it was unsettling to realise the extent of the anti-British sentiment in the countries we visited thereafter. Other cruises took me through the Panama Canal, up the Norwegian Fjords, round the Mediterranean and beyond. I also worked in Hong Kong for long stretches, a different sort of travel, but one that enabled me to absorb something of the flavour of life there. Culturally distinct from the UK, I felt the displacement sometimes cited by western travellers to SE Asia. I both hated it and loved it. The frenetic whirlwind of life gives each minute momentum and direction: always, everything is towards the next shop, bar, restaurant, new fix or experience; no time to stop or pause, it is hot, intense, particular in smell, feel and sound (no peace, only less hum) and the city overwhelms and subsumes you. None of these composers ever made it to Hong Kong - at least, not to my knowledge - but they all travelled. Some only went a small distance; others were constantly on the move, and the places they visited and the journeys they undertook influenced their outlook on life, the people they mixed with and the music they wrote. Between 1797 - the year of Schubert's birth - and 1917 - the year of Debussy's death, transport connections were opening up across continents and the world: the age of travel was coming into it's own, paving the way for the global culture of 21st century society. Travel brought peace and solitude to some, to others glamour and adulation, and others found knowledge and like-minded friends: for each composer there was some gain that enabled them to develop their artistic abilities. Felix Mendelsssohn was not the "typical" Romantic musician: he was happy and had both wealth and fortune in his life-time. Born into a well-to-do Jewish family in Hamburg, Mendelssohn found himself in Berlin, Dusseldorf and Leipzig in his formative years. Visits to London, Scotland and Italy in the late 1820's and early 1830's provided inspiration for works such as Hebrides Overture, Fingal's Cave and The Italian Symphony. This Fantasy was written around the time he visited Scotland - and has also been called Sonata Ecossaise: from the mysterious opening arpeggios to the torrent of virtuoso semiquavers at the end, Mendelssohn takes us on a fantastical journey of yearning melodies and impassioned outbursts. The imagery of the orchestral pieces is also evident in this work. By contrast, Schubert was a more modest traveller, seeking quiet and tranquillity in his sojourns outside Vienna; the landscape of his native country provided him with ample stimulation for his vast output of music. These 2 impromptus are beautifully different; the first in G flat major consisting of an endlessly unfolding melody accompanied by harp-like figurations, whilst the second in A flat major has a more unsettled feel, which is revealed in the darker central section. Liszt's flamboyant personality was ideally suited to the life of the touring virtuoso. He caused great scandal when he eloped with the Countess Marie d'Agoult, travelling throughout Europe for a number of years. This Sonetto comes from the collection "Annees de Pelerinage" inspired by the culture and nature of Switzerland and Italy. This dramatic work was originally written for tenor and piano, the emotive nature of Petrarch's text suiting a vocal setting. But Liszt preferred to later revise it for solo piano, creating an expressive but virtuoso piece. Debussy's Clair de Lune needs little introduction. It is typical of his early works, coming from the Suite Bergamasque, a set of 4 pieces which hark back to the style of the Baroque era. Although not a great traveller, spending most of his life in Paris, he had an inquisitive mind, exploring new music and trends of his day. This piece shows his obsession with harmonic colour and atmosphere that came to dominate later compositions. Another composer who looked to the structural ideas of earlier times was Grieg. He wrote the Holberg Suite to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Danish playwright Ludvig Holberg. In 5 movements, each one is a 19th century take on an old dance form - and the piece is also called "From Holberg's Time". Grieg's favourite place to write when he was at home from his travels in Europe was in his house, Troldhaugen, which had a serene setting overlooking Lake Nordas. Adventure and excitement were with Isaac Albeniz from an early age. At 9 he toured Spain, and at 12 he stowed away to Buenos Aires, going via Cuba to the USA. After that he made his way through Europe, giving concerts as he went. Still only 16 he tried to study with Liszt, but failed to meet him. A further tour of Europe followed in the early 1890's and he also lived in London and Paris during this time. Despite his vast travels, his piano music found it's roots in Spanish dances and rhythms and has become immensely popular. These works come from an era when travel was more leisurely and there was time to reflect and think. The lives of these composers fascinate me as they represent a small cross-section of the diversity of lifestyles and musical thought prevalent in the 19th century. I wonder how the places they visited would appear to them now, and what might be the things that would inspire them today. Would Debussy still hate Rome? Perhaps Schubert might consider New Zealand for even greater natural inspiration? And would Liszt have stayed at home, giving pod casts instead of touring? I'll leave that to your imagination........

Details

Titel: Scenes of Travel
Releasedatum: 18-2-2011
Label: CD Baby
Media-indeling: CD
UPC: 0609722864077
Objectnummer: 1267619X