Saturday, 1 November 2014

Concierto de Aranjuez - Rodrigo

My Dad was 5 feet 6 inches tall and my Mum was 5 feet 4 inches tall. I am one inch smaller than my Mum, a height I reached at the age of 12. When I was 13 I invited a male friend around who was just shy of 6 feet 4 inches. It was the visit of this giant that made me realise there was something not quite right about our living room and kitchen. He didn't fit. It transpired that my Dad had built the kitchen so that work surfaces were at the perfect height for my Mum. In the living room he had sawn off a few inches from all the furniture so it was perfect for us. Nothing to see here - all perfectly normal.

Although if you look closely there is a wealth of clues about my parents' life. Perhaps you noticed the T-square on the side board? Or the barometer that was tapped every day? Just in view are some crystal glasses for use when entertaining. My parents never invited anyone into our house ever. No one. Ever.

It was in this downsized living room that I first heard Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez. I bought the Deutsch Grammophon version as my Dad had told me they were good recordings.

I listened on my Philips radio-cassette player. I couldn't believe the quality of the sound. With my eyes shut I was in the middle of the orchestra in my own sitting room. It was miraculous. There was also an instant sadness as I realised that could never replicate that awe and wonder on first hearing of that joyously relentless and vigorous first movement.

Many years later I discovered that second movement was a  response to Rodrigo's devastation at the miscarriage of his wife's first pregnancy. On first hearing, I had no way of knowing this. Did I even ask myself the question? Perhaps I simply related to it by referencing my own angst which was without doubt as pathetic, self-absorbed and utterly typically myopic as any non-problems of the average teenager.

That is why Beethoven's late string quartets remain in my itunes account unplayed. I have over-thought this. In trying to plan the right moment, every moment becomes the wrong one. Should I leave it to chance and set my itunes player to random so the quartets can catch me by surprise in an unplanned moment?  

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