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Here Comes Treble: Life, Death And A Wedding

Isabel Bradley dedicates a wonderful piece of music and a poem to a dear friend who died all-too unexpectedly.

For more of Isabel's wonderful words please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/here_comes_treble/

Recently, I was privileged to perform Peter-Lucas Graf’s wonderful transcription for flute, of the violin sonata in A Major by César Franck. Learning and rehearsing this work over several years has been a continual voyage of emotional discovery.

The relatively slow, calm, first movement is pensive, as if the composer was looking back over a long life, well-lived. The fast and turbulent second movement, technically very challenging on the flute, expresses agitation, anger and passion, though it also contains several lyrical passages, and ends with a flourish, as if to say that in spite of everything, in the battle between good and evil, good triumphs.

It has always been the third movement that has provoked my deepest emotions. As I play the conversational recitative section, it is as if I’m reliving every experience of being told of the death of someone I’ve loved. There is question and answer, disbelief and denial, numb acceptance and questioning. This ‘recitative’ section, is followed by an aimless flitting hither and yonder, as though through inconsequential thoughts. Then comes the fantasia section, including acceptance, sadness for the deceased and for one’s own diminished being, leading to a glorious section of quiet memories of good times spent together, bursts of anger that they could leave so permanently, numbness again, and sheer grief as the movement ends.

About a week before our performance, our dear friend, Jean, died in a car accident. As I rehearsed that third movement, I decided to dedicate the performance to Jean, reading the poem below, saying, “She regularly attended these Monday evening concerts, and is very much missed”:


You left today
So unexpectedly
There was no time to say

We were expecting you to go away
“Have a lovely trip,”
We said
“See you in six weeks.”

But you left so suddenly
So – forever – so
So finally.

There wasn’t time to say it all
How much we loved you
enjoyed your company
laughed at your jokes
Admired your cooking
your intelligence
your broad knowledge,
And all that made you so uniquely

Thank you for your friendship
For being ours for a while.
Thank you for – just being you

In bright contrast, the final movement of the sonata is a burst of pure joy, a canon in which flute and piano chase each other in a game of tag. It didn’t surprise me to learn that this canon was written for the dedication of love at a wedding as its inspiration. *

For this programme, the opening work was Gabriel Fauré’s delightful Morceau de Concours.

After the Franck, my accompanist and I played Francis Poulenc’s Flute Sonata. This is a quirky, charming work, with no dark clouds anywhere in its sunny passages… But maybe that is another story altogether.

Until next time, ‘here comes Treble!’

*See the excellent program notes by Jason Sundram – http://jsundram.freeshell.org/ProgramNotes/Franck_Sonata.html

By Isabel Bradley © Copyright Reserved


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