A Composer’s Dealings With Grief
I dedicate this post to my blogging friend Bernadette on Haddon Musings who hosts the blogging event “Senior Salon”. The Senior Salon has been put on halt as Bernadette lost her son very recently.
I know that Bernadette shares my love for classical music. The trio I mention here can be heard as a way to handle grief. This music describes the phases of grief better than words and you can breathe in the music into your many layers of feelings.
Summer-time is Music Festival time. In Denmark, we have a lot of festivals on Classical music placed in venues like old fine manor houses or churches. For the sixth time, my husband and I went to the Hindsgavl’s Music Festival on Funen, the island where Hans Christian Andersen was born.
Trio con Brio is a professional Trio consisting of Jens Elvekjaer on piano, his wife the Korean Soo-Kyung Hong on cello and her sister Soo-Kyung Hong on violin. The trio has played together for 18 years and they play at the finest venues in the world.
At the festival, both artists and listeners eat together in the former stable. As we were going to eat dinner I saw the two sisters and then the pianist running through the big hall chasing two small girls who found it funny to run away from dinner. This took place two hours before their performance. I really liked to see that children are children and very lively too.
I believe it’s tough for the musicians to play such an emotional piece on losing a child when you have small children yourselves.
Should anybody be interested to come to Trio Con Brio have their annual Chamber Music Festival in August at another place on the same island in a town called Kerteminde.
The artists like to come to the festival because of the beautiful surroundings, the excellent food and the relaxed atmosphere. We all get the meals in the same big former barn.
The audience is disciplined to be quiet during the concerts. The chamber music requires full concentration from the performers as they are so few performing at a concert and mostly without a conductor.
The music I would like to tell you about is by the Czech composer Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884). His parents had been through a huge amount of grief. His ten older siblings had all died before they reached the age of two.
From early childhood, Smetana showed extraordinary talent on piano and later studied law and was politically engaged as a politician in the war of independence from Austrian-Hungarian empire.
He had to bury his wife and three out of four daughters.
The trio in G-Minor, opus 15 from 1855 was created as a way of coping with the great loss of his little four-year-old daughter Bedřiška. She would sing different Bohemian songs in tune before she died of scarlet fever. The music is explained in more depth by a Peter Larsen from Melbourne.
We had the music explained before the performance that it was written as a self-therapeutic way of managing his grief of losing his eldest daughter Bedřiška.
The violin opens up the first movement in a lamenting solo interchanged by a beautiful second theme that was the daughter’s favourite song which she was able to sing. It is so real what you go through in sorrow. You feel the overwhelming pain of the loss and then remember the light moments where the child is singing her song and seems vividly alive.
You can hear the movements here by The Zagreb Festival.
The second movement is both unsettled and has sudden changes with happy memories.
The third movement opens with galloping rhythms which reminds us of Schubert’s song (in German “lied”) “Der Erlkönig”. That “lied” tells about a horse-riding father with his child who desperately tries to avoid death, the “Erlkönig”. Excellently explained in the music blog “Ear sense”
The last movement leaves you in a light mood after a funeral march through death was inevitable.
In spite of the intolerable loss, Bedřich Smetana points out that life is stronger than death.
I am sure that this music can be used as a therapy in times of great losses.
Excerpt from the music blogger “Ear Sense”:
Smetana’s lone piano trio is a milestone of romanticism. It predates and significantly presages music that would soon come from the likes of Brahms and Dvořák among others.
Glimpses from Hindsgavl Castle
The old part used as a venue for celebrations and gatherings and concerts. It’s placed in a huge park with a view over the water. Hans Christian Andersen was there too in his time.
The other part of the castle is used as a restaurant, concert venue in a former barn and two former stables as hotel rooms and lobbies.
Not only the music – the breakfast makes you want to come back to