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Monday, September 04, 2017

Music and prophecies of war

I'm not a musician, but some pieces thrill and intrigue. I was listening last Thursday to Debussy's String Quartet on Radio 3 and was planning to buy it when I found I already had it.

Debussy's work was followed ten years later (1903) by Ravel's - adapted by Stephen Edwards (at the age of 20!) for the BBC's 1992 serialisation of Mary Wesley's "The Camomile Lawn", an explosive story of reckless sexual relations in the context of WWII. The whole opus but especially the pizzicato in the second movement communicate an intense love of life, enhanced by a consciousness of its fragility. It has one near tears.

Partly this intensity may be because Ravel was 28 at the time he composed it, an age when the senses still burn; maybe also, like some other art and music (think of Stravinsky's brash Rite of Spring) it was a canary in the mine, warning of great wars to come; as they did, starting very soon after with Japan against Russia in 1904 and all that followed.

Both works are on the Deutsche Grammophon CD of the Melos Quartett, which I have; but there is another version of each online as below:



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