Inspiration


Cover & Artist Photos:
Dario Acosta for Deutsche Grammophon, 2018 (CD): Daniil Trifonov, Destination Rachmaninov. Departure, Piano Concertos 2 & 4

Inspiration:
Concert performed in Großer Musikvereinssaal, 29. 9. 2018
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), Francesca da Rimini. Symphonic Fantasy after Dante, Op.32.

The music critique Hartmut Krones writes in the concert booklet about the genesis of this composition. In summer 1876 Tchaikovsky was traveling to Bayreuth to review the first cyclical performance of Richard Wagner’s “Ring der Nibelungen”. Sitting in his railway compartment he came to read the fifth canto of the Inferno in Dante’s Divina Commedia. There Dante portrayed a historical contemporary as a character, who the narrator has met on his way through the Inferno as a shade. Francesca, the daughter of the Lord of Ravenna was married to the lord of Rimini to secure peace between the families. Unfortunately, she fell in love with Paolo, the younger brother of her husband, who eventually surprised them and killed them both. They were then condemned to hell for their adulterous passions.

This story strikes not only such a chord in Dante, who fainted out of pity, but in Tchaikovsky as well, who immediately decided to begin with a symphonic interpretation of the tragic tale. An entry in his diary written already on 7 November states: „I have worked on that with great enthusiasm and do believe that I arranged the essence of love successfully”. The symphonic poem was first performed in a concert on 25. 2. 1877 in Moscow.

My wish to visualize that creative process of inspiration gained impetus by the photos of Dario Acosta, who made Trifonov to pretend the traveling composer Rachmaninov. On the cover photo you see him in the railway compartment sitting at the window, his mind absorbed by reflections and his right hand’s pointer finger is tapping on the shelf. Books, papers and utensils are spread out on the bench. Bright daylight comes through the window and lightens his face from front, photographed in profile view. His head is slightly inclined, the eyes are looking onto his right hand. The soft chiaroscuro lighting creates a gentle mood in the picture.

I have set that scene into the night train, rolling from Saint Petersburg to Bayreuth. I imagined myself as Tchaikovsky, reading the tragic love story in a scarcely lit compartment and became inspired to compose that symphonic fantasy. Just this creative movement of the spirit I wanted to depict by a black square as the open window, through which suddenly a swarm of little notes, symbolized by scraps of paper, whirled into the room and illuminated it.
On my first take you can see how the composer himself was surprised. The second picture seems to be more harmoniously staged.