Saturday, 14 July 2012

Musical Memories

It’s hardly an original statement, but it’s extraordinary just how evocative a piece of music can be.

My father had an immensely irritating habit which I have completely inherited, of half whistling, half under his breath, some tune he couldn’t get out of his head. As a child I didn’t find this irritating: it struck me as just one of the things that adults – sorry, grown-ups – habitually did. And I still don’t find it irritating when I do it myself. But others! Why, it’s as tedious as those people in crowded carriages who insist on explaining by mobile how you change a car tyre or make a soufflé.

One of the tunes which seemed to haunt my father most was the main theme from the third movement of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. This is an extraordinary melody, swinging high and low, at just the right speed, neither hurried nor leisurely, like a wave heading for a shore.

It was my father who introduced me to Beethoven and for many years I regarded him as simply the very best composer there had ever been. Well, after all, what better authority is there than a father’s? But later of course the reaction set in. Why, there was Bach, there was Mozart. There was Schubert! Dashing off pieces so fast he often couldn’t always finish them. And finding his way straight to the heart.

But then today I put on the Beethoven Violin Concerto.

It really is an extraordinary piece. Dark. Then wistful. Gay. Sad. Lilting. Majestic. Whoever else I may have dallied with at times, Ludwig is special. And of course he brings back memories.

One of my father's possessions that I've inherited is the miniature copy of the Rubayiat of Omar Khayyam which he would carry in his flying tunic, on missions with the RAF during World War II. The final quatrain is the poet’s goodbye to the world:

And when thyself with shining foot shall pass
Among the guests star-scatter'd on the grass,
And in thy joyous errand reach the spot
Where I made one — turn down an empty Glass.

I’ll have to fill and empty a glass tonight. And turn it down. While, of course, half whistling the theme from the third movement of the Violin Concerto.

Still listening to your music.
And half whistling it, just like you


Anonymous said...

What a shame you didn't inherit his looks
(We don't love you any less for it.)


David Beeson said...

These things so often skip a generation