Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Impromptu: mon amour

This was one of those Sherlock jobs, made easier for me by the internet (and how did I ever survive before? It would take months, and usually I would have to give up.) I was watching TCM, and there was a filler on about Spencer Tracy, one of my least favorite of the old-school actors. The piece was narrated by Burt Reynolds, so it was doubly cursed. But it had classical piano music in the background, and one piece snagged me. I had no idea who had written it or what it was called, though I did remember looking it up once before, years before, then forgetting all the information about it.

So which CD was it on, if any? Did it come on the radio, back when CBC Radio had anything to offer? Did I hear some pretentious concert pianist play it long ago, back when the VSO had anything to offer except middle-of-the-road, endlessly-repeated pulp? I couldn't say, and for all my poking around I couldn't find it, because it was too late to play things on YouTube with my sleeping husband in the next room.

This morning I thought I had the answer, and it was pretty quick. It was on a rather silly CD, an attempt to make the supposedly dry, dull and irrelevant world of classical music appealing to the consumer. The CD was called Mad About Romantic Piano, with a ludicrous cartoon on the front that looked like something out of the New Yorker, and I only bought it because it had some of my favorites on it. (Back then you couldn't download just the pieces you wanted, or YouTube them, because such options did not exist yet.) I started methodically sampling each track down the list, and near the end I hit pay dirt.

This version of the Schubert Impromptu No. 3, which I like, though it's a tad fast (some play it at 7:30!), is by someone called Theraud, and it was part of the sound track for a movie called Amour. I think it had something to do with Alzheimer's, so it was likely depressing. I did go and see it, whenever it came out, eons ago.

I can't describe what music does to me, because there are never any words for it - that's why we have it, and need it. One of the best verbal interpreters of classical music was a nasty old recluse who eventually cut me dead because he wanted me out of his life, period, when I had not done anything to him at all. I was supposed to ignore this when he died (so alone that his colleagues of 25 years did not even know if he had any next of kin), and sing his praises. I couldn't. He was a bitter old man, for reasons which can't be explained here, either gay or asexual, and in the end I don't believe his words or his music were of any comfort to him. Because he had left no tracks and broken no ground in his life, his memory soon disappeared.

But maybe, for all his fatal flaws, he could have explained this. Maybe not. He stayed in his little pond all his life, while people's real praise of him was withheld until after he was dead. Let us now praise the dead, in the lavish, glorious way we never chose to when they were still alive. It's the human thing to do.

POST-BLOG POST: Turns out I was wrong. Amour won the Best Foreign Language Oscar last year! The one I saw eons ago must have been a totally different film. My sense of time is so strangely distorted now. I will see some bumph about a movie I enjoyed a couple of years ago, and it will turn out it came out in 1993. I do remember, vaguely, the hype around Amour (now that I've been reminded). This theme was used a lot and probably became a "hit" briefly, like some of the pieces in Amadeus, before sinking back into the slough of perceived boredom and obsolescence that is classical music.

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