Oct 31, 2013
Julia Wedman's 'My Musik'
Inspired by the CBC Radio 2 programme “This is My Music,” we have launched a series in which Tafelmusik musicians offer their reflections on various pieces of music that play a special part in their lives. view full listing
Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D Major (Jascha Heifetz with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by John Barbirolli, 1937)
When we were kids, my sister Naomi and I used to dance around the house to this recording. I love the opening of this concerto—the orchestra starts with a sweet, unassuming melody, but then suddenly the bass section breaks into eighth notes and starts an avalanche of sound that sweeps you into the most magical, thrilling world! Jascha Heifetz was one of the most incredible violinists of all time. His precision is astounding, and in this recording his playing is beautiful, playful, creative, spontaneous, and truly heart-felt. The orchestra is also fantastic in this performance. When I listen to it, my heart races with excitement and it feels like my whole body is vibrating. It makes me want to be a violinist when I grow up.
Michael Jackson: Thriller
I spent my childhood in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, listening to Top 40 radio. I was ten years old when this album came out, and Michael Jackson was it! His music had great rhythm, it was catchy, funky, dangerous, and original, and we all spent hours learning to “moonwalk.” The Thriller video was the first ever produced for MTV and I was immediately hooked. I spent many hot summer days trying to escape sunstroke by hiding in our basement watching music videos, imagining the ones I would make one day. These days I love watching YouTube footage of Michael Jackson’s live concerts (the one from Bucharest in 1992 is my favourite). Every time I watch Man in the Mirror at the end of his show, I am so touched by his love for the audience, their love for him, his warmth for the other musicians on stage, his passion for the music, and his seemingly boundless energy and joy being on stage. His performances were magical.
Peggy Lee: All-Time Greatest Hits
When I was doing my undergraduate degree at the University of Western Ontario, I was surrounded by singers. My roommate, my boyfriend, and most of my best friends were all voice majors, and we spent a lot of time listening to and discussing music. I discovered Maria Callas, Leontyne Price, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and Peggy Lee! I think this is when my obsession with rhetorical expression and communication began. Peggy Lee was a wonderful jazz and pop singer, and my roommate and I listened to this CD every time we felt stressed and needed some fun (i.e. every day). My favourite song is the existential Is that all there is?, for which she won a Grammy in 1969, based on the 1896 story Disillusionment by Thomas Mann. I love the orchestration—especially the string parts and the mournful trumpet. I love the quality of her voice as she tells the story, I love the groove, and mostly I love the solution to one’s disillusionment with life: “Let’s break out the booze and have a ball.”
Biber: Violin Sonatas (Andrew Manze & Romanesca) and The Rosary Sonatas (Andrew Manze & Richard Egarr)
One fateful day in 1997 at the Indiana University music library, I came across these CDs, and my life has never been the same. As I listened, my first thought was “Is this allowed in classical music?” My second was “Why hasn’t anyone told me about this music yet??? I have been robbed!!!” Andrew Manze plays with the freedom and passion of a gypsy violinist and he makes sounds I had never heard come out of a violin before. It was love at first listen for Biber and me. I marched right into my next violin lesson and announced that from that day forward, I would only be playing music composed by Biber. My teacher (Stanley Ritchie) laughed but immediately got me started, and from the first note I felt the mix of awe and kinship I always feel playing Biber’s music. A few years ago, I was offered the opportunity to record the Mystery (Rosary) Sonatas, and it literally changed my life, both musically and personally.
J.S. Bach: Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin (Rachel Podger)
I started learning the Bach Sonatas and Partitas when I was fourteen years old, and I can’t imagine my life without them. This is some of the most difficult music (technically and intellectually) ever written for the violin, but also the most intimate. Bach is the person I always turn to when things aren’t going well. He has an innate understanding for the challenges in life, and instead of trying to “make everything better,” he provides the space to work through deep emotions. He wrote these pieces soon after his wife Maria Barbara died and for me they are a journey from despair, grief, anger, and emptiness to peace, hope, and finally joy. There are many wonderful recordings of these pieces, but I will always be partial to Rachel Podger’s. The year she was preparing for her recording, we both attended a winter session at the Banff Centre for the Arts. Often at the end of the day, I would go and listen to her practise, and was inspired by her hard work, her beautiful musicianship, and her joy. Listening to her play always brings back wonderful memories.