A new chapter in my family’s story has taken us over 800 miles from our previous home, down and down and down into the bucolic green and genteel part of our country. Over the past few months of living in this New Place, I’ve found myself with head spinning and heart longing for the familiarity of my community, my family and my friends. A fine thing, then, that our New Place is bucolic and genteel and brimming with life and “y’all”s. Nonetheless, I’ve needed comfort more times this summer than I care to admit.
We all have our comforts, those lovely little things that cosset us when things “get weird”, to borrow a term from the American Psychological Association. Oftentimes that comfort is food, and oftentimes that comfort food is mac n’ cheese. Whether the is-it-actually-food form out of the blue box or a schmancy sort laden with three cheeses, nothing assuages the psyche quite like that classic.
Which brings me to my actual point: there have been several classical pieces in constant rotation in my home that have served in the place of mac n’ cheese. All of the comfort, none of the calories (my diet book is forthcoming!). (Kidding.) When my spirit was/is low, hearing these pieces slowed the spinning of my head and the ache of my heart.
You get the picture.
Anyway, let’s move on to more pasta and less cheese. Gabriel Fauré wrote his lovely, mystical Pavane Op. 50 in 1887. “Elegant, but not otherwise important,” remarked the composer in what was most certainly the catalyst for the “bewildered” emoji. The piece was originally written for piano, but is most often heard in an orchestral arrangement featuring a small group of strings, winds and horns. Here, however, is a very enjoyable trio performance of flute, harp and viola.
Murray Perahia’s recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations never fails to clear my head. Listening to it is like giving my brain a good spring cleaning, because the music is just that: clean. Clean and lovely and rippling and vibrant. Note: adjective level exceeded. While my Sibling will rally for Glenn Gould’s recording, you’ll find me firmly planted in Camp Perahia. His fingerings are extremely light and crisp, which is exactly what the Variations require. #Perahia2016 #TakingAmericaBach
Lastly, Renée Fleming’s recording of Debussy’s Beau soir has served me well these last few months. Accompanied by the stellar Jean-Yves Thibaudet, her lustrous soprano sails through the poem written by Paul Bourget around the mid-1880s and set to music by Debussy not long after. I first learned this piece in college and find the melody just as haunting today as I did then.
What classical music has met you well during difficult times? We’d love to hear about it.