Usual day. Went to the gym. Listened to a different work. Was transported. Achieved. Achieved better with the routine than I have all week. Pushed myself doing more reps. Noticed the steam when I breathed out. That’s when you know you’ve pushed yourself, when you can see the whisps of steam floating around in front of your mouth. Pleased. Good work. Accomplished something. Worked hard. Good honest sweat.
And I got to listen to Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.24. Realised mid-workout why it is I never tire of listening to the work: it is genius. Every note is needed, nothing is extraneous. Nothing is overplayed. Nothing is over-egged. It is the most exquisite of critically-acclaimed box set dramas. Episodic with cliff-hangers and a resounding, well-deserved, much-needed and much-applauded conclusion. It is the last piece of music I will want to hear before I die. Sod the Requiem, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.24 in C minor is the centre of the universe.
I’m gushing, obviously. But it is only a fraction of what I was thinking at the time when I was listening to Gould’s interpretation during the workout. Gould was inevitable I suppose. This listening project has introduced me to him and thus far I cannot get enough of him. I imagine at some point I will tire of him.
I go back home and get cracking on some ‘demanding’ work. Move fast, make corrections, buff and shine. Get the job done. Get it out. Cross it off the list. I put Barenboim’s rendition on. It was Barenboim’s recording I had on tape in the mid-nineties. A TDK 90 Juliet gave me after I’d given her the CD box set of Barenboim’s Mozart Piano Concertos, Christmas 1996. We split up on 14 February 1997. I put the phone down on the receiver in a cold and suddenly very lonely flat in Leiston. The break-up music? Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.24. Utter perfection.
Barenboim wasn’t the first time I’d heard the 24th. That was the National Youth Chamber Orchestra playing at Snape and then a couple of days later in the Royal Albert Hall during the Proms in 1990. Exquisite.
Then the phone rings. I turn down the music, listen to what the person on the other end of the phone is saying. I mentally put the call on hold in my head: is that person crying? It took less than 15 seconds to confirm in my head the person was, why they were crying and who was the cause of it. Fury swelled almost uncontrollably. An uenxpectedly protective feeling as though I was, right there and then, poised and raring to go into battle right there and then on that person’s behalf.
This has happened before. When I was at school. ‘Chris’ was his name. He’d been taunting us about our skills at quadratic equations, dismissing our efforts and promising us with a hint of menace that he would show us all how it was done and how our teacher had failed us and when he’d shown us then we’d respect him. He was the new maths teacher.
I felt the same thing back then. How dare he! What the hell did he know what our previous teacher did or didn’t know. Who was he to dismiss the previous teacher (who happened to be very good and much-loved). Why wasn’t anyone saying anything? At the end of the lesson I went up to him to state my case. Don’t be nasty about our last maths teacher. He was really good. We liked him. We learnt stuff. Chris bellowed. Roared. Barked. Snarled. I stood still. He barked more. Told me to go. I left. Only later that day did the head of the maths department come up to me in the lunch queue and told me I should apologise for being rude. I’ve never forgiven him for that.
I was thinking about all of this on my way into central London for meetings this afternoon. Thinking about the beauty of Mozart’s music. The perfection. The rapture one can experience listening to utter perfection and how in a single breath how a bully can destroy something so very precious, tarnishing it with their warped view of the world.
Mozart’s 24th takes on a different significance today. Another layer pasted over the top of twenty years of other experiences that all cascade over the top of Mozart’s music. Such experiences enrichen the listening experience.
But, if there’s one thing I maintain resolve about it’s this: all of us have a personal responsibility to stand up to bullying in all its forms.
I was listening to Glenn Gould performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor on Spotify.