Music for Life: 100 Works to Carry You Through

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Music for Life: 100 Works to Carry You Through

Music for Life: 100 Works to Carry You Through

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The coat would never be removed from its bag. In the short time I was away, Tom had suffered a catastrophic haemorrhage. Ambulance, hospital, blood transfusions and other interventions followed. It was the dramatic start to a serious decline in his health. I attended the constant round of medical appointments with a sense of watching time and life disappear through a sieve. Somehow I forced myself to finish a draft of the book. Somehow, he read it, making detailed comments, sometimes too detailed for the frazzled author. (“I think here you mean ‘this’, not ‘that’.” “Yes, but what about the whole thing? Does any of it make any sense?”)

I was writing a book about Rachmaninov in exile when my own

Published: 2 Sep 2023 The week in classical: LSO/ Rattle; Boston Symphony Orchestra/ Nelsons – review Brahms suffered many blows to his lonely heart, never finding redemption through love. His lifelong devotion to Clara Schumann, several years his senior and married to the composer Robert Schumann, never came to fruition even after she was widowed. For a time, Brahms turned his attentions instead to Robert and Clara’s daughter Julie, though not so that anyone would notice. News, in the summer of 1869, that Julie was to be married appears to have surprised him. Clara noted, “Johannes is quite altered, he seldom comes to the house and speaks only in monosyllables when he does come… Did he really love her? But he has never thought of marrying, and Julie has never had any inclination towards him.” Typically, Brahms spoke his feelings in the only way he could: through music. He called the Alto Rhapsody, for alto, male chorus and orchestra, his “bridal song”. Who but Brahms could have made a wedding gift in such autumnal hues? The melancholy text, from Goethe’s Harzreise im Winter (Winter Journey in the Harz Mountains), tells of a young man out of love with life. Its three parts conclude with a heavenly male chorus seeking consolation as a thirsty man yearns for water in the desert. “It is long since I remember being so moved by a depth of pain in words and music,” Clara wrote, as if full realisation had just dawned. “If only he would for once speak so tenderly.” He does, and now for ever, through the emotion of this Rhapsody. Pause I had some non-fantasy dinner issues of my own to sort out. Tom thought a good night out was John Cage followed by more John Cage. After once going with me to hear Rachmaninov’s Symphony No 2, he adopted the Harry stance. “I don’t need to hear that symphony again as long as I live.” It happens to be a favourite of mine. Would I be able to convince him that the composer, and the music itself, were more interesting than he thought? I valued Tom’s incisive editorial input but had no time to waste proving the validity of my subject.In compiling the list for this book, I had one rule: the music comes first. I resist the idea of expecting music to feed or prompt an emotional state, so I tried to turn the matter on its head. Why do I want to listen to a particular work at any given moment? What is the imperative? Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata was the name of the first piece I wrote down. Soon I had a couple of hundred absolute dead certainties and a mild sense of panic. Choices have been shaped, in part, by the cold, dank days and long nights of January. A summer regime would have been altogether more airy. Away from live encounters in the concert hall, my preference tends to be contemplative and often quiet: a measure of what level of noise I want coming in through my headphones and invading rather than enhancing my day’s activities. You may have a different appetite for musical jolts and thumps and pulsating rhythms. All the composers here can provide that option too, easy to find with a bit of YouTube-ing or Googling. The boundaries of classical music are ever more porous and open, spilling into other forms and all to the good. Give up prejudice or fear or indifference. Open your ears. Get listening. Happy new year! 1 January Sleepily So like most people whose work did not oblige them to be present, I stayed home. Days were spent in a small garden office (what crimes might I have committed without that hut). The sense of expulsion from a known existence hit everyone. To call it exile would be an affront to those millions experiencing enforced ejection from their country. The alienation, however, was real. When the days of ever more absurd exercise classes online and infuriating Duolingo language courses became too bizarre, I realised I needed to retrieve my writing self. I proposed a book to my publisher, Faber. Some friends winced when I mentioned what I was writing about. (‘Really? Is he your sort of thing?’) Shrove Tuesday is on the horizon. Stravinsky’s ballet about the loves and losses of three puppets was written for large, spectacular orchestra but the recommendation here is the two-piano version. Imagine a carnival bustle of sideshows, ferris wheel, food stalls and a carousel. The festive energy is irrepressible. This is your warm-up for the greatest work of the 20th century: Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. 31 January Vespers for a New Dark Age: VIII, Postlude Missy Mazzoli This Ethiopian nun (b.1923), once a singer to Haile Selassie, imprisoned when her country was under Italian rule, has acquired cult status; once on the margins of classical music but now moving into mainstream consciousness. The Song of the Sea merges gentle arpeggios with a wash of rising chords and a plaintive song waving and weaving through all. 18 January Giustino: Act 1: Vedrò con mio diletto Antonio Vivaldi

Music for life : 100 works to carry you through : Maddocks

Published: 19 Aug 2023 Classical home listening: Sarah Willis’s Cuban farewell; vocal works by Stuart MacRae Forgotten the title or the author of a book? Our BookSleuth is specially designed for you. Visit BookSleuth Fortunately, I had no intention of becoming a professional violinist, for reasons of aptitude, application and self-consciousness at performing. I can’t entirely blame that teacher, but the experience closed off options. I learned less than I might have done. Yet those Saturdays were part of my identity and, in a combative way, the passport to wider horizons I so wanted. Though my playing had stalled, I loved the other lessons: the theory and orchestra and music history. Without realising, I was equipping myself for the job I would eventually have: writing about music. See Faber authors in conversation and hear readings from their work at Faber Members events, literary festivals and at book shops across the UK.In the US, the composer reinvented himself as a star virtuoso pianist, one of the most highly paid performers in the land. He was featured in fashionable magazines, moved in the same gilded society as Walt Disney and Charlie Chaplin (though neither was an intimate; Rachmaninov didn’t fall easily into friendships). Soon after his arrival in New York, in November 1918, amid armistice celebrations, he was mobbed, as one critic noted, by the flapper girls of Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn. They wanted to hear his famous C sharp minor Prelude, a youthful work that became ubiquitous in rag and jazz versions as well as his own solemn, solo piano original, the bells of holy Russia written into its chiming chords.



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