Classical Re-Education

A radical change in listening choices today. I was doing reception duty in my hall this morning, and was about to put on Xfm when I noticed a cassette tape lying beside the stereo. Nigel Kennedy playing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor and Bruch’s Violin Concerto No 1 in G minor. I put the tape on, and ended up listening to each work two or three times through.

My links with classical music have become somewhat eroded over the years. I finished Grade 8 in violin and piano, and meandered for a while after that, unwilling to take on the practice required for performance certificates and diplomas, due to my increasing commitment to competitive debating. I was a first violinist in the Singapore Youth Orchestra from when I was 13, and left when I was 18, also because I needed time to train for the World Schools Debating Championships.

The music this morning took me back to that time of my life. They were pieces I’ve played, and loved, and I suddenly felt a sudden and acute loss of those days when classical music was so much a part of my life. I might pop down to Oxford Street later and look for some of those old loves, but I realize the inadequacy and stagnation of my knowledge here now – which interpretation?

Who does the best rendition of Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole? Stravinsky’s The Rites Of Spring? Who will give me the sound and fury I love in Mussorgsky’s Night On Bare Mountain and Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances, but preserve the sinuous beauty that peeps in every now and then? I know nothing about Mahler but want to, who will teach me to appreciate him? Can anyone play Paganini’s violin caprices and do them justice? Bach’s Goldberg Variations?

Ignorance is anything but bliss.