Smiling and Brahms

There have been two things to day that have made me especially love today as a day which I’d like to write about.

The first of these, is smiling, i.e. “forming one’s features into a pleased, kind, or amused expression”, but I mean the kind of smiling where you don’t have to actively “form” it, where instead something makes you smile.

The most important thing you wear is the expression on your face.

Unknown source

I adore this quote, especially as smiling is one of my favourite things to do, just for the sake of it. I think smiling can be addictive, or at least I’ve made it a habit. Half the time I ask myself: why am I smiling? And whether or not there’s a reason for it, I find one, and feel that I’ve justified to myself why I should be happy until the next time I contemplate why I’m grinning like an idiot (and I’ve got nothing wrong with being an idiot if you’re a happy idiot). I also love how the word “wear” makes me think I can always choose to get a smile out of my wardrobe and put one on if a feel like it.

What today has made me smile? If I listed everything, it would be a very long list, so here are just some of them:

waking just as my clock turned from 6:36 to 6:37 and knowing that I’d got a full day ahead of me to do as I wish

listening to some of my favourite music (I actually have so many “favourite” pieces in my spotify playlists that it would take almost a week non-stop to listen to them all!): a load of Bach for solo violin, Schubert’s Arpeggione sonata, Handel’s Concerti Grossi, Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony, Shostakovich’s later string quartets, Mendelssohn’s violin concerto (I love watching the video on youtube of Perlman playing the 2nd movement of this – his expression just before the start of the 3rd movement is completely brilliant) and Brahms (which I’ll come back to)

my brother adding “who Clare fancies” after the mention of someone who he doesn’t even know, who happened to be a rather inappropriate person to”fancy” and left me almost unable to swallow any of the rest of lunch thanks to many fits of giggles (the dining room table conversation got even worse after that!)

reminiscences of some embarrassing moments (or not particularly embarrassing, they just make me laugh, but then there’s not much that I don’t find amusing, except jokes that I don’t understand) in the past week

The second of these two things that have made today better than it would have been otherwise is Brahms (linked to smiling by the fact that Brahms most definitely makes me smile), or rather what I’ve found the concept of “Brahms” to be a metaphor of, that feeling when you look at something you’ve looked at many times before and realise you finally understand what it signifies, and knowing that you’ve gone one step further in understanding life as a result. I don’t think I can explain very well what I mean,nor would I really wish to, but I”ll give you the words of Isaac Stern, referring to his late friend Joseph Szigeti, which at least explain what I’m going on about:

“I remember a performance he gave at Carnegie Hall in the mid-forties. In the opening work, he was ill at ease and not quite with it. Then he played the Brahms G Major Sonata, one of the most seraphic, poignant, soul-searching works in all the violin literature — music you don’t perform, you live through. You try to show to what degree it is the essence of living, an appreciation for the act of life. Szigeti hit his stride and took off. I believe the pianist was Nikita Magaloff; the pianist is always so vitally important to such music. It was one of the most ennobling performances I have ever heard. Nobody in the hall breathed. You were not listening to a performance of someone standing on the stage at Carnegie Hall; you were surrounded by a golden aura of music.”

(I must disagree with Brahms G major sonata being “golden aura” though as to me most of it looks green. 🙂

Brahms’ sense of harmony amazes me – I look at his scores and wonder how it sounds so perfect, and love it all the more at how it does so. (and I’m struggling now to keep a straight face listening to it!) Brahms is one composer who intimidates me almost. Understanding Brahms has been one of my longstanding aims, and I think I’m maybe a tiny bit further along that road. And I love how when you get a little bit further along a track, you come across another 10 that break off from it. One thing I love about life is that you can not just pick that track, but make another 10 more, and never look back at the long road you’ve come down but instead smile at what lies ahead undiscovered. What’s even better about this road in particular is that I’ll know I’ll never get to the end, so I might as well have fun trying – trying to do the impossible is always more exhilarating that attempting what you know must be true (I’m now looking at my playlist entitled “Failure” and laughing in remembering how when I created it I thought that achieving failure was such a great achievement I’ve put the happiest music in it, and in the one called “success” – I evidently never finished deciding what to put in it – the only thing I’ve got is Shostakovich Symphony 7, which is seen now mainly as a symphony to remember the 25 000 000 soviet citizens who died in WW2, which I find rather ironic even though I know my motives for doing so).

I love how Stern uses the words “music… you live through”, although when I re-read them out of context they seem more like they’re referring to some dreadful torture that you’ve got to “live through” somehow. I think it’s be a great euphemism to replace everything I didn’t want to”live through” with the word “music”.

Maybe what I dislike most about Brahms G major violin sonata (except it being in G major, since I really hate G major, though I do try not to hate everything in G major purely on the principle that I don’t like the colours of G major, but then again I think it’s awesome to have something you love written in something you hate, because I find I end up loving what I have to try to love so much more than those things which you love naturally) is how my favourite bit of the 1st movement is the very end of it, and I hate looking forward to something coming to an end so much! Sometimes in life too I think I look forward to what’s going to happen so much that I forget to enjoy the moment, carpe diem nevertheless.


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One response to “Smiling and Brahms”

  1. URL says :

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