#Classical365: 32 – Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier (I) Prelude and Fugue in D Major

I wasn’t working until late afternoon/early evening, but it felt like I was working all day. Couldn’t relax knowing that I had to be at Broadcasting House for the Audio Drama Awards in the evening. Ironed my shirt, watched some TV and had a hot bath to try and sort out my back. Restless all day.

When I left the house, I wasn’t especially excited about the prospect of tweeting before and during the awards ceremony. Felt incredibly flat when the four of us on the team sat down to talk tactics at 5. Had I asked too many people to help? Would we get anything decent? Had I overestimated everyone’s confidence levels? But, as the guests started to arrive at 5.30, energy levels went up. Guests we thought we’d struggle to identify, name, photograph and tweet about, quickly became challenges for all of us on the team.

Every so often other colleagues who had identified celebrities at the check-in desk sought us on the team out and pointed to who we might be interested in. People started making not-very-subtle glances in the appropriate direction. The colour of people’s ties, hair and dresses suddenly took on the utmost significance. In the space of half an hour we tweeted nearly ten times with a different guest pictured in each. More than I’d anticipated. More pleasing was that without any planning or prior agreement, a natural team emerged powered by an energy that seemed to come from nowhere.

I love it when the team pulls together unexpectedly and the thing you had in mind when you asked different people to work on something suddenly becomes the reality you’d dreamt of. It is an incredibly uplifting experience. It feels like a real achievement. Something to be proud of, even if close analysis undermines the sense of ownership that the pride implies. It wasn’t my achievement: it was everyone’s. Being able to stand back and derive joy from a shared achievement is incredibly important to me.

A good night then to listen to Bach’s Prelude and Fugue No.5 in D Major. Bright, solid and celebratory. At no point so far this year has a piece of music summed up my mood. This is both heels firmly on the ground stuff. A strong jaw line, a wide grin and a spring in your step. This mood can’t continue indefinitely – nothing ever does. So, why not celebrate it by immersing yourself in it when you can.

#Classical365: 29 – Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier (I) – Prelude & Fugue No.4 in C sharp minor

Again, no time. Another busy day. Very productive. Left central London in a good mood. Win.

The fourth prelude and fugue has an entirely different mood compared to the others I’ve listened to. There’s a restlessness which I think must been rooted in the key, something I didn’t hear in the C minor prelude and fugue. It felt out of character in comparison with the others. Unsettling. At the end of it I had this feeling that a question was lingering unanswered. Quite eery that.

Gould sounding more prominently than in other preludes and fugues. Felt like I had a music teacher sad next to me encouraging by humming along while I battled at the keyboard.

#Classical365: 26 – Well Tempered Clavier (I) Prelude & Fugue No.3 in C# Major

Feel ratty at the end of a long day in which I feel like I’ve been snarling at mostly everything. That may not have been how I’ve appears externally. In fact, for the most part, I’ve been my usual largely chipper save for those moments when I can let my guard down. Inside I’ve felt like an angry under-nourished dog barking at everything and everyone. 

I’m wondering whether this might have something to do with the gym visit this morning. The routine says that this week should see me do two circuits instead of one. It was a struggle and I just about made it through. Glad I got there earlier too. Meant I wasn’t quite so rushed. The pay-off was that I got up earlier. Maybe I’m just tired. 

The cumulative effect is distinct and familiar. I feel rough around the edges. Hacked about like the effects of a hover-mower on a lawn – the job has been done, but not especially gracefully. The long grass has been cut back but there aren’t any of those pleasing alternative strips. The lawn needs to be neat and tidy. When will it neat and tidy?

It’s one of the few days I’ve felt distant from classical music. The prospect of listening to something seems less appealing. There’s a need for something to sort everything out, but I can’t think of what that thing is. I need a musical guarantee. I need something that fertilises the soil. But what?

I end up falling back on Bach’s Preludes and Fugues. They’re like a packet of paracetamol. Take two at a time. Take no more than two in one day. Don’t waste them. Don’t OD.

The C# Major is a whirlwind. Gould gives it relish. Grabs it tightly and refuses to let go. The cadence at the end of the prelude suddenly clears the air. A moment of release. The fugue doesn’t let up. A scurrying affair with a relentless pedal note promising closure.

Bach does the trick. Just a short burst. The cadences are the magic bullet, for sure. But there’s something else. I’ve chosen to listen and done nothing but listen. It is the most calming, most therapeutic moment of the day.

#Classical365: 23 – Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.24 in C Minor

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.

#Classical365: 22 – #Classical365: 20 – Well Tempered Clavier (I) – Prelude & Fugue 2 in C Minor BWV 847

Lost my earphones. God only knows where. Suspect it was in the pub last night.

Yes, I went to the pub. So much for staying off booze during the week. Last night I caved in. Went to the Yorkshire Grey close to Broadcasting House to celebrate a colleague’s birthday. Said yes to a large glass of red, then had another. Was then persuaded to have a small glass after that. Nice to chat to people outside of the office surroundings.

That’s where I think I lost my earphones.They probably fell out of my coat pocket when I put it on to go home. Cycled all the way from the pub to Oxford Circus tube station and then realised I hadn’t got my bag with me. Pedalled like fury back to the pub convinced I’d left the bag on the pavement. I hadn’t. It was in the pub. Crying shame I didn’t keep an eye out for the earphones them. Really miss them.

So as a result, I missed out on listening to something yesterday. It was going to be Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.24. I shall save it for another day.

Today’s work was pragmatic. More Bach. The second prelude and fugue. They’re bite-sized indulgences which succeed in only a healing at the end of a long day.

By hard day, I’m not talking coal-mining-hard. Just really felt how exhausting constant interactions with so many different personalities really take their toll. There’s the anticipation, the actual moment, the reviewing, the reflection and then the subsequent follow up. Some go absolutely fine and are an absolute joy. Then there are those which are unnecessarily challenging, those when you feel you need to accommodate someone. Interactions that you bend like a reed in the wind.

I’ve listened to a few different versions of the C minor prelude and fugue. Barenboim is too fast – as though he’s furiously pedalling a spinning wheel. Pierre Laurent-Aimard’s interpretation is more to my liking although the ambience in the recording makes the fugue a little twee and reverential. Also tried the Helios Guitar’s arrangement of it – largely unsuccessful.

The dryness in Gould’s acoustic makes his the most appealing for me. There’s a fury in his playing despite the slower tempo he takes in the prelude – I particularly like the fact that I can still hear the gaps in between the notes. At the beginning of the fugue there’s a hint of sweetness in the air. The robotic style at the opening of the prelude is a distant memory – we may just get a smoothness by the end of fugue. We don’t. But, that doesn’t matter. Because we get a major key to round things off. A flash of order restored. Utter perfection.

I was listening to JS Bach’s Prelude and Fugue No.2 in C Minor BWV 847 played by Glenn Gould on Spotify.