Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Music of mourning

Last night, while surfing the web, I discovered that my ex-wife died last November of ovarian cancer. Neither she nor any member of her family had informed me she was ill. We had not spoken for several years, but needless to say, I was badly shaken, and although it was late, I went to the stereo to find some kind of relief in music.

My first choice was Ralph Vaughan Williams' Pastoral Symphony. The second was Debussy's "Homage a Rameau" for solo piano. Both of these old favorites came into my head almost as soon as I became aware my ex was gone. Both are gentle, contemplative, and dignified, but with an undercurrent of strength. The fourth movement of the Vaughan Williams, especially, has a wonderful climactic moment in which a wave of sound rises swiftly, but with a satisfying motivation, and crashes over the rocks on shore.

This afternoon, before I walked to work in the snowstorm, the music was more about affirmation than sadness - Bach's Partita No. 2 for solo violin, and Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 32. Bach's Chaconne is one of those works that instill a sense of awe over the human mind can conceive. The finale of the Beethoven breaks the bonds of earth. The performances were by Arthur Grumiaux and Alfred Brendel.

I don't know what I will need to turn to next.

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