“Fleeting in the Ear, Forever in the Heart” recently appeared in the New York Times. It was written by Anthony Tommasini, whose insights into classical music have been educating and edifying this reader for years. In this piece, he recollects the effect that Artur Rubinstein’s playing of Chopin’s Ballade No.1 in G minor had on his tenderly developing esthetic sensibility. (He was about twelve years old at the time.) Here are Tommasini’s own words describing the experience:
The ballade opened with a forceful line that began in the low register of the piano and rose up the keyboard in octaves, as if making some grim declaration. At the peak of the ascent the line twisted into a soft plaintive turn, delivered in two halting phrases.
Then something stunning happened, just for a moment: a short gesture, a softly sighing three-note melodic fragment landing on a dissonant-seeming chord that at first sounded as if it were wrong. Yet the harmony lingered, and the pungency of the clashing notes was strangely beautiful, almost comforting. This led into what seemed the saddest melody I had ever heard. The main business of the ballade had started.
He adds: “I remember how powerfully I reacted to that moment with the sighing phrase. I still get shivers when I hear it or play it.”
Included in this article is a video in which Anthony Tommasini enlarges upon his deep affinity for this haunting Chopin piece. He also provdes a link to a video of Rubinstein playing the Ballade.
Alas, one hears, but not see, the performance. So here is a video of Rubinstein’s great contemporary Vladimir Horowitz:
Tommasini’s article features three additional videos focusing on various other musical selections that he cherishes. Finally, the author invites us, his music loving readers, to share with him and with one another our own “magical moments in music.”
The first moment that came to my mind occurs near the end of the “Et in Terra Pax” from Antonio Vivaldi’s Gloria. It occurs right about three minutes into the video above. But really, the whole thing is so gorgeous – especially as performed in this video by the National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia – that I’m somewhat averse to singling out any particular part. (Ron and I particularly admire the fluid gestures and consummate musicianship evinced here by conductor R. Mikeyan.)
Next I thought of the Intermezzo from the opera Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni. This is what I found:
I am immensely moved by Georges Pretre, born in 1924 and one of our greatest living conductors. The music seems to be flowing right through him.
Finally, this is a video I’ve had in my YouTube favorites for quite a while now. Joseph Marie Canteloube based his Songs of the Auvergne on the folk melodies of France’s Auvergne region. They are sung in Occitan, the local dialect.
Many of us first became acquainted with these lush, gorgeous compositions through recordings made by Dame Kiri te Kanawa. I still love these discs, especially the first one. But many consider Netania Davrath‘s version to be unequaled. Here she is, singing one of the best loved songs from the collection, Baïlero: