Music can take us to many places. In times of stress, it can provide escape to exotic times and places, as does Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade.” It can transport us to fabulous landscapes, inhabited by fairies (Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker”), or figures from myth (Gustav Holst’s “The Planets”).
The very greatest music, however, can take us where we most need to go in confronting difficult times: into ourselves, to discover resources of strength, wisdom and compassion with which, in the daily bustle of life, we may have lost touch. The greatest music, like all the greatest art, touches on the dualities that affect us most deeply – birth and death, hope and disappointment, love and loss – and show us how they can be, if not mastered, at least managed, coped with or comprehended.
Some pieces I turn to for this sort of nourishment are listed below, in performances that can be purchased at amazon.com or streamed from YouTube Music. They are all included in this playlist: tinyurl.com/tcory2v
Johann Sebastian Bach, Suite No. 1 in G major for Solo Cello: No one is capable of exploring the spiritual depths of this music more fully than Zuill Bailey, cellist and, co-incidentally, artistic director of Spokane’s Northwest BachFest. His recordings of the Bach Cello Suites are published by Telarc.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, String Quintet (No. 3) In G Minor, KV 516: In 1961, the three greatest string players in the world (Jascha Heifetz, violin, William Primrose, viola, and Gregor Piatigorsky, cello) got together with colleagues to record this work for RCA (now Sony).
Franz Schubert, String Quintet in C major D. 956: This is the work which Arthur Rubinstein specified be played at his funeral. The recording made by violinists Isaac Stern and Alexander Schneider, violist Milton Katims and cellists Pablo Casals and Paul Tortelier might be monaural, but it reveals other psychological dimensions in a way that has never been equaled.
Johannes Brahms, Intermezzo in E-flat Op. 117: Starting from a simple lullaby, Brahms here taps a wellspring of compassion normally sought for through religion. Pianist Radu Lupu, in his recording for Decca, displays a power that comes not from a good teacher or from hours of practice, but from the same source that inspired the composer.
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