Beautiful Music

Writing 101 – Day 3

“Celebrate three songs that are significant to you. For your twist, write for fifteen minutes without stopping — and build a writing habit.” Couldn’t do this in 15 min. Itstarted out that way but then it grew and I reviewed and added and revised and ….. well, here it is.

I love classical music, the piano, the cello, a lovely clear voice. There is so much beautiful music — Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Mozart, Rachmaninoff — how can I choose a favorite?   From  all the  music around me, I have three favorite pieces that lift my spirit and make me soar. Each has its own story and each has added beauty to my life.

The first, and my favorite, is Saint-Saen’s exquisite “Carnival of the Animals,” a 14-movement musical suite that the French composer wrote while he was vacationing in Austria. The strange thing is that he thought it was too light, actually wrote it in jest, and believed that he wouldn’t be taken seriously if it were performed, so he only allowed the 13th movement, “The Cygne” (The Swan) to be played during his lifetime. It’s written for two pianos and a cello , but is usually played with the other movements by full orchestra today.

I first heard excerpts in the French movie at Epcot many years ago and  loved the film so much that I sat through it many times each visit. Finally, I went to the Disneyworld office and asked if there was a CD of the  soundtrack. No, but I was given a printed list of the music, and when I came home I purchased all of it.

Poet Ogden Nash wrote verses to accompany the Carnival, and in 1949 Noel Coward narrated a performance by the Andre Kostelanetz Orchestra. It’s now available on Youtube along with cartoon illustrations for each movement. I love this version because it makes the music so approachable for children. It would be a wonderful teaching tool –one movement each day – and is ,indeed, used by music teachers everywhere.

My second choice is the 12-minute symphonic poem, “The Moldau” by Czech composer Bedrich Smetana, one of a cycle of six tone poems that Smetana called “Ma Vlast” (“My Country.”) It tells the story of the Moldau River as it flows through Smetana’s Czech fatherland, A rondau of 8 continuous sections, it evokes life along the river: a forest Hunt with horns and trumpets, a Peasant Wedding followed by Moonlight and nocturnal serenity, then a thunderstorm and ends in Prague.

I was first introduced to it by my mother-in-law who left her Yugoslavian homeland as a bride and, I’ve been told, where she was an accomplished concert pianist. To my knowledge, she never played a piano after she left her homeland at 22 and never mentioned it again. Her love of classical music was  strong, however; I remember her listening to the Saturday matinee performances of the Metropolitan Opera every week, and one time she had the volume turned up so loud that on her radio that a speaker sitting on her dining room credenza exploded a ceramic Christmas tree sitting nearby.

When I shut my eyes and listen to The Moldau, I see the ebb and flow of its movement through the countryside. I could actually be swept away with the beauty of the music. I remember asking my best friend  to listen to it with me because I was so sure she would feel the exhilaration I felt, but I was disappointed when it was obvious that she didn’t hear what I heard.

The sad thing about The Moldau is that when Smetana wrote it in 1872 he was suffering terrible headaches and  would take long walks along the shores of the Moldau. and by 1864 he had gone totally deaf, unable to hear his beloved music.

Beautiful “Silent Night” is my third favorite even though I had to give a great deal of thought to “Amazing Grace” also.   Perhaps unexpected because it’s not classical, but recognized by everyone, it’s a traditional Christmas carol.   I wrote a blog in which I told of listening to “Silent Night”  as I visited holiday lights in my neighborhood, lights so stunning that they could chase away my sadness.   The carol was written in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber to lyrics by Joseph Mohr while he was in the small town of Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria. I love Susan Boyle’s recording  which, interestingly, is included on a non-Christmas CD.

I’ve made three choices, but as I conclude this,  so much other music swirls in my mind that I ask myself, how can I even think of choosing “favorites?”


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One Response to Beautiful Music

  1. lauzlau says:

    I come nowhere near your knowledge of classical music, but I am always inspired by listening to it (my favorites are piano & violin). Silent Night is one of my favorites, too.


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