The way I stumbled across this wonderful concerto is probably one of the most roundabout stories I can tell on this blog. You see, I was given a very odd song once, by Canadian breakbeat musician Venetian Snares. After a visit to Budapest, Aaron Funk, the man behind this musical project, decided to create an album using bits and pieces of classical music, including Edward Elgar’s tremendous Cello Concerto, on the track Szamár Madár (which, translated from Hungarian, literally means “donkey bird”, but alludes to stupidity in the same way as the word “ass” does in English). I have no idea how mister Funk could associate the majestic beauty and dignity of Elgar’s music with this concept, but in the end, it was this song which prompted my curiosity towards hearing the original.
I won’t indulge in a loquacious description of this wonderful piece of music – it is tremendously well known at this point as one of the most challenging and impressive pieces in any cellist’s repertoire, and for good reason. It seems to me to embody an entire lifetime dedicated to music, beaming with a calm, meditative, dignified glow, reminiscent of the memory one might have of a quiet and frail grandfather, pleased, or at least at peace with his achievements. It isn’t by accident that I make this reference, as I’ve been told many times that my affinity, not to say obsession, with music is very similar to the one my grandfather on my mother’s side had. I have very few recollections of him, knowing him only as a very quiet but very kind old man, thin and blond, with a consuming passion for art and music (he was the first person ever to take me to the museum), and a wonderfully quaint way of dressing. I wish I could have known him better, had more time to spend with him – he passed away just before my interest in music started showing. I think I could’ve had much to learn from him. In any case, this concerto somehow reminds me of him, in this half-fictional, half-real image I keep in my mind.
Elgar’s Cello Concerto needed over forty years to become known and appreciated, and it only did so once the legendary cellist Jacqueline Du Pre performed it, in the ’60s. I am very glad to have found a video of her performance on YouTube, so I leave you to her enchanting skill and expressiveness, and I’ll see you soon!