Archive for the ‘missa solemnis’ Tag

What Defines Me?

I just discovered a colleague’s very stylish blog, and was inspired by her post asking What Defines You?,” and her subsequent personal list. As a bit of a Top 10 List addict, I was fast on my way to rounding up my own. I’ve left jcm off the list, as it’s eminently clear that this blog defines me, but that’s just too easy, eh? Here they flow, in random order:

My 7th Birthday Photo


This photo (May ’77, Cincy, OH) conjures up the warm, sentimental feelings of uncomplicated youth, and a loving connection with my family. Although my folks aren’t pictured here, their nurturing presence is all around (and on the other side of the camera). The Winnie the Pooh cake was likely by my special request. I love the retro feel of the old square prints, with rounded corners.

There is a simplicity to my memories of childhood, and of these such moments…no crowded party, or branded birthday theme (seemingly requisite these days), just closeness and joy. I’m so thankful to have the foundation that my upbringing provided me. Funnily enough, CJ has a photo that is almost exactly the same (parallel lives?). Now, just two months from my 40th bday, I suppose I’m a bona fide “adult”!?

“Peristeriona” Ceramic Vase


This vase holds all the memories of CJ’s and my beautiful around-the-world journey together…Hong Kong to Greece to Senegal. It was something I had dreamt of doing for decades, while I racked up frequent flyer miles!

We purchased this in a charming little shop on Sifnos, an authentic, less touristy Greek Island option that we both long to return to one day. The yellow and black colors call to mind the brilliant glow of the sun, and the contrasting shadows, on the traditional white structures and breezy hillsides.

CJ and I have the gift of travelling very well together, and our time on this island was one of our most special yet…divine food, a white-knuckle scooter ride through the hills, and lots of R&R by the sea.

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If music be the food of the soul…

Seeing the movie The Soloist yesterday put me back in the embrace of the sort of music that I love most deeply. The beautiful soundtrack features Beethoven’s “Triple” Concerto, Eroica and Ninth Symphony, and the Bach Cello Suite No. 1. I highly recommend the movie, while confessing it’s quite flawed. But, like Shine or Hilary and Jackie it effectively uses music as a character itself, showing its truly transformative nature, as well as how it can be a reflection of one’s internal Sturm und Drang. (See the real story behind the movie here.)

The Soloist

I have a short-list of classical music favorites in this vein that I return to time and time again, and never tire of. They are my spiritual balm, are deeply healing, and “feed” me when I’m feeling lost or run-down. If I were ever considering an atheistic path, these pieces will continue to convince me otherwise. I consider them some of the most spiritually transformative works in the genre.

I tend to prefer more contemplative, stirring works than cheerful, overtly uplifting ones, when looking for something transcendent, so those weigh more heavily here. Surely one of these will be played at my funeral (which is hopefully a long way off). And, these are not necessarily my favorite recordings, but they are what’s available online, and in a good enough quality, worthy of viewing.

I’ve narrowed to one work per composer, otherwise Richard Strauss and Beethoven would have filled the entire list. I had to leave out the Mahler, Elgar, Faure, and Morricone. They are in no particular order.

Missa Solemnis: Benedictus (Beethoven)
This movement flows without a pause from the previous Sanctus.

Eclogue for Piano and Strings (Gerald Finzi)

Vier Letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs): Im Abendrot (At Sunset) (Richard Strauss)
This rendition is too frenetic, but Popp makes it worthwhile. I most love della Casa and Fleming’s (first) studio recordings.

Mass in C Minor: Et Incarnatus Est (Mozart)
Noone has ever sung this like Ileana Cotrubas, on the Raymond Leppard recording.

Tristan und Isolde: Love Duet (Wagner)

Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, “Organ”: Poco Adagio (Saint-Saens)

Fourteen Songs: Vocalise (Rachmaninoff)

Missa Sancti Gotthardi: Anima Nostra (Michael Haydn)
Please ignore the RIDICULOUS video. This one is for your ears only!

Double Concerto in D Minor, for two violins: Largo (Bach)

German Requiem: Ihr Habt Traurigkeit (Brahms)
As much of a Janowitz fan as I am, this is a bit past her prime, and the Kathleen Battle and Elisabeth Grummer studio recordings can’t be beat.

Beau Soir (Beautiful Evening), for violin (Debussy, arr. Heifitz)

I hope that you experienced here at least one of these pieces for the first time (again, these video themselves in most cases are not the focus here, just a delivery device). Although I don’t think it’s an ideal practice to extract a single movement from a symphony or mass, the “jewel” of such a work can become a portal for one to want to explore more of the complete work. I hope you find that to be the case. Good luck on your journey! I leave you with the Joseph von Eichendorff’s text from Im Abendrot:

We have gone through sorrow and joy
hand in hand;
Now we can rest from our wandering
above the quiet land.

Around us, the valleys bow;
the air is growing darker.
Just two skylarks soar upwards
dreamily into the fragrant air.

Come close to me, and let them flutter.
Soon it will be time for sleep.
Let us not lose our way
in this solitude.

O vast, tranquil peace,
so deep at sunset!
How weary we are of wandering—
Is this perhaps death?