#Classical365: 39 – Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition

I haven’t listened to any classical music for a week. Consequently, I wasn’t sure whether to number this the next in the sequence of works I listen to, or the next day on which I did listen to something. I’ve opted for the latter. That way when I get to the end I can see how many days I missed out on.

It’s not difficult to see what broke the listening routine. I haven’t been to the gym for a week, not since I noticed that painful twinge in my back when I bent down to pick up 10kg. Visited Debbie on Monday to get it sorted out. It wasn’t until Friday evening I felt able to return. Gave myself the weekend to fully get over it. Good job too, as I’ve had a cold to expel. Tomorrow will be the day I get back to listening, and back to exercising. I’ve missed it.

I haven’t missed the listening. It had become very nearly a chore. One more thing which needed to be done during the day. If it fell out of the schedule then it quickly became the equivalent of school detention. Where’s the joy in that exactly? Maybe the break was healthy.

What’s reunited me – kind of – has been spending part of today cleaning the kitchen. It’s long overdue. It hasn’t had any kind of close attention since the week before Christmas. So today, out with the hand-held steamer, scrubbing away the stains (and the varnish) on the kitchen top, rubbing away the grime on the kitchen floor. That and the bathroom gleams now.

And whilst I was doing that, Steve Osborne playing Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition in a lunchtime re-run of a Wigmore recital broadcast by Radio 3 earlier in the week. Brought back all sorts of memories.

First, page-turning for Caroline Dowdle at Snape in a concert combining Pictures with Carmina Burana. An extremely uncomfortable experience – for pianist and page-turner. It sealed the fate on our relationship. Very sad.

Second, meeting soloist Steven Osborne after an invite to the Polish Club by a Radio 3 presenter – I should have said no immediately after receiving the invite, but the alcohol I’d already consumed tricked me into thinking I wouldn’t make a fool of myself. As it turned out, Obsorne’s then record producer lived down the road from me in Hither Green, so a shared car ride home seemed like an option too generous to turn down. Everything was fine until the car stopped somewhere in Peckham to pick up another passenger, who, when she stepped into the car proclaimed, “dear God, it smells like a brewery in here!” I haven’t been able to listen to Osborne perform since.

Ended up listening to a different recording of Pictures made by Alfred Brendel. The fourth movement – The Old Castle – was the one that transported me. There’s something irresistible about a pedal note, the musical equivalent of repeating the same phrase at the beginning of every sentence in a piece of prose. Agonising and beautiful all at the same time. I can’t imagine I’d ever enjoy listening to the orchestral arrangement again.

I was listening to Alfred Brendel playing Moussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition via Spotify.

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