So at 6 o'clock I got up and went down to my study. It was a glorious late spring morning. Brilliant sunshine and cloudless deep blue sky. The dew sparkled on the lawn as though thousands of tiny pearls had been miraculously scattered on the grass overnight. I turned on BBC Radio 3. At that time they broadcast a sequence of low cost and usually undistinguished recordings of live concerts culled from other broadcasters. But for today serendipity had arranged a broadcast of an orchestral sequence put together from Wagner's The Mastersingers. The Prelude to Act 3, followed by the Dance of the Apprentices and Entry of the Mastersingers, and finally the Act 1 Prelude. The orchestra was the Oslo Philharmonic conducted by Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos.
Now there are two opposite poles in my musical life, Bach and Wagner. The importance of Bach has been expressed no better than by author, cyclist and fellow pilgrim Anne Mustoe (see my post Lux Aeterna and not Ligetti
"For me, there is music, and then there is Bach. Bach is transcedent. He is the sun, whose light blots out the feeble rays of other composers. There are many whose music I enjoy, but I would throw their entire opus on the bonfire to save one fugue of the divine Bach."
Bach is a saint. The purity of his music is like taking crystal clear water from a cold spring. But we cannot live on spring water alone. So sometimes I turn to other refreshment. If Bach is a saint, Wagner is the magician creating spells from his intoxicating brew of magic, evil, and yes - sometimes purity. For some drugs, alcohol, the latest iPod, a new SUV or a round of golf can take them to a higher plane. This morning the Prelude to Act 3 of The Mastersingers took me there.
The B Minor Mass, the Goldberg Variations (which was composed for an insomniac) and The Mastersingers are not great music. They are not serious music. They are not works of art. They are not about life. They are life, and they are miracles. Thank God they are available to us, and thank God we can appreciate them.
Footnote from Pliable - and thank heaven for public service broadcasters whose serendipitous programming triggered this post. (If I had put on a CD it cetainly wouldn't have been Wagner, more like Couperin). There are a number of great blogs by PBS broadcasters linked from On An Overgrown Path including Alan Brandt , Richard Friedman, and David Duff
If you enjoyed this post follow the overgrown path to Music and Alzheimer's