Vern's Verbal Vibe

Singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist and purveyor of folk 'n' roll: spirit-filled sad songs made better.

April 19, 2010

Mom's Greatest Hits

My mother taught piano, and were it not for a crippling stage fright she never overcame, I truly believe she could have been a concert pianist. A musician of staggering talent, Mom played (and taught) the classics, but could tear through a wicked boogie-woogie when the mood struck her.

Every so often I'll near a snippet of some classical piece and think, "Ah, that's one of hers," but I never know which one. Having majored in rock, I am only now getting around to exploring the classics in earnest. I can identify Bach fairly easily; after that I'm pretty much lost. Chopin was Mom's favourite, and I wistfully recall our playful banter—she advocating for the romantics, me the 20th-century mavericks. "Oh, you'd like Bartók," she'd say. Then, with a snort: "He plays between the cracks." And with that, she'd pull out one of her music books and give me a sample. Mom could play anything.

All these years later I'm trying to compile Mom's Greatest Hits via download, but as I've alluded to, I've a slight problem: I know them only to hear them. The titles, of course, are of little help. It's a shame that the greats of yesteryear didn't name their masterworks "Beach Blanket Bingo" instead of "Prelude No. 37 in F sharp Minor, Opus 32, No. 6." Would've made it easier for the Luddites of 250 years hence to identify the piece, yes?

So—I download, I listen. If it sounds familiar, it's one of Mom's Greatest. If not, I try again. To this point I've unearthed but three of Mom's Greatest Hits:

Beethoven - Für Elise (look, Ma, a title!)
Chopin - Nocturne in E flat minor, Op. 9, No. 2
Rachmaninoff - Prelude in C sharp minor, Op. 3, No. 2

And to satisfy my 20th-century jones (Mom would find these between-the-cracks city):

Webern - String Quartet, Op. 28
Stravinsky - The Rite of Spring (caused a riot; you can't beat that)
Stockhausen - Kontakte

The journey continues. Thanks, Mom.

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