Wednesday this summer, we’re giving you a chance to take a musical vacation. We travel to a different destination every hour of each #GetawayWednesday and I hope you’re enjoying our musical travels so far.
All of our globetrotting has gotten me thinking about how music takes us all sorts of places when we listen. Sometimes those places are actual geographical destinations, like we’re highlighting on each #GetawayWednesday. But sometimes music takes us to emotional or metaphysical destination (or state of mind).
Below, are a few pieces of music which do that for me.
Music of Empowerment
A lot could go here, but for me there are two pieces of music which always get me amped up and make me feel like I can take on any challenge life throws at me. Both are marches. The first, is the memory of the victorious Roman army, marching past the pines of the Appian Way as the sun rises.
The second, is the march from Paul Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber, which was supposed to be a ballet score for Leonide Massine, but when Hindemith saw one of Massine’s ballets he hated it so much he wrote this music instead.
Music of Serenity
Anytime life gets too complicated and I’m looking to simplify, I turn to this music by Mozart. Just about as simple as you can get: Adagio, 46 measures long, no dynamic markings, just “sotto voce” (literally “under voice”).
Even more serene, is this stunning Mozart-inspired piece by the Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov. I love this one because it demands a certain amount of patience from the listener. Stop. Listen. Be moved.
Music of Frustration
We all get mad from time to time, right? There’s plenty of music out there to help channel our rage in a healthy way. Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11 depicts a government massacre of protestors gathered in the Winter Palace Square in St. Petersburg in 1905. You can hear the machine gun fire in snare drum.
If something can be “fiercely pacifist,” Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem is. The Dies Irae section is an angry call to put down arms.
Music of Anguish
There’s nothing more heart-wrenching than the last movement of Mahler’s 9th Symphony. Whether it is part autobiography or premonition is still sort of up for debate (although, it’s probably neither), but what can’t be argued is the emotional weight of this devastating music.
When I said in the previous paragraph that there was nothing more heart-wrenching than the last movement of Mahler 9, perhaps I was wrong. I give you the final two movements of the Piano Quintet of Alfred Schnittke, written in response to the death of his mother. This music is utterly desolate. There is not even a glimmer of hope anywhere here. This music helps us confront those darkest moments in our lives.
Music of Ecstasy
From agony to ecstasy, I give you the closing moments of one of my favorite orchestral works ever written: a piece that has been described as “a bath of ice, cocaine and rainbows.”
It doesn’t take a large orchestra to pull off musical ecstasy. Try this on for size. (Hang with it to the climax of the movement at the end.)
Music of Romance
Again, there’s so much to choose from here, but I’ll focus on two works that don’t get played all that often. Both are inspired by Shakespeare. First, from music that a 20-year-old Erich Wolfgang Korngold wrote for a production of Much Ado About Nothing at the Vienna Burgtheater.
Finally, music of tender romance from Sir William Walton’s score to the 1944 Laurence Olivier film Henry V.