Thinking back about music


1 January 2017

We put on Brahms’ Serenade Nr 2 this evening, and it brought back memories. When we first moved to Ottawa, we thought classical music was something we ought to learn about, but really had no idea. As it turned out, someone from one of the universities — I am embarrassed not to remember even which university, much less who the instructor was — had launched a course that matched the season’s performance series at the National Arts Centre. We would attend a lecture about the upcoming music, then go to the performance, which was vastly more interesting than if we had only gone cold to the performance itself.

Brahms’ Serenade was on the list. So was Brahms’ Variations on a Theme of Haydn. Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, if I recall. From a distance of lo these many years, I’ve forgotten what else there was. Mahler’s Lied von der Erde? In any event, it was a wonderful introduction.

A year later, we signed up for Anton Kuerti’s series on Beethoven’s piano sonatas. Every Sunday afternoon, he would lecture about the day’s two or three sonatas, then perform them, of course(!) without reference to paper. Kuerti was at the University of Toronto, refused to fly, took the train between Ottawa and Toronto. I recall the afternoon he performed the Hammerklavier sonata; he explained that there would be only one quick perfunctory bow at the end — he had a train to catch, and wasn’t going to miss it for the world.

And there was Clyde Gilmour, who had a weekly classical music evening on the radio. His theme music was Faure’s Pavane, leading us to discover an underappreciated genius. His version of the Pavane was a rare vocal arrangement, wonderful.

Great years in Canada.

The year we spent in Munich was also profitable in the same way. My colleague Doris introduced me to Arvo Paert, now one of my favourite composers.

Thanks to all who have greatly enriched our lives by sharing their appreciation for wonderful music.


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