UBC Reports | Vol.
51 | No. 2 |
Feb. 3, 2005
If Music be the Food of Love…Play On
A handful of UBC School of Music professors reflect on love
and music in honour of Valentine’s Day
My specialties are chamber music and art song. Both of those
genres are almost synonymous with romance, since their execution
requires breathtaking intimacy between the players. When you
add a subtext of seductive intention to your partnership,
rehearsals can get very intense.
There is a well-known painting of a violinist carried away
by the emotion of the music, seizing his lovely pianist in
a passionate embrace. It is an entirely plausible scenario!
The best pieces for that sort of spontaneous impulse? The
choices are many, but my personal favourite would be any sonata
of Johannes Brahms.
In the realm of song there are literally thousands of love-drenched
examples, although song texts more often focus on rejection
or unrequited longing. A spectacularly memorable song of intimate
sharing is Morgen by Richard Strauss. The poem states that
the two will meet on a seashore on this “sun-breathing
earth,” and will gaze mutely into each other’s
eyes in the silence of perfect joy. The music is transcendentally
beautiful, creating the sense of that stillness through a
mix of melody and quietude.
Rena Sharon, professor of collaborative piano studies,
School of Music.
I composed an orchestral work commissioned by the Vancouver
Symphony Orchestra, dedicated to and inspired by my wife,
Tara. This premiered at the VSO’s first concert of the
millennium, Jan. 6, 2000. The piece is a romantic dream sequence
that includes a waltz, a lullaby, some ragtime and so on -
all original pieces, changing in mood, spirit, tempo and idea
throughout. Titled “Tara’s Dream,” the piece
was short-listed for the international 2001 BBC Masterprize
Stephen Chatman, professor of composition, School of
My favourite romantic music is Johannes Brahms’ 3rd
Symphony and the music from the ballet of Romeo and Juliet
by Serge Prokofiev. As for the link of love with music: “Music
expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is important
to be silent.” (Victor Hugo.) It also fills a psychological
space. “Where words leave off, music begins.”
Jesse Read, professor, School of Music.
I do have one memory that will never leave me, from a time
when I was struggling in New York and teaching piano at a
children’s music school. Walking into the teaching studio,
I saw my first pupil of the day, six-year-old Lily who never
practiced, standing behind the piano with her back to me.
As I got near, she turned around and presented me with the
most beautiful lily (because of her name) I have ever seen,
and a handmade card of thanks with a big red crayon heart
on the front. It was Valentine’s Day - important to
her and forgotten by me!
Sara Davis Buechner, assistant professor of piano, School
Music has been associated with love from the beginning in
the broad sweep of western musical history. It is at the very
centre of most secular compositions of the 12th, 13th and
14th century and continues until this day in most popular
songs, impervious to the times.
Even religious and sacred music is about love in a different
sense. Songs from the Middle Ages and Renaissance often dealt
with courtly love, the desire for the unattainable. In later
eras, music explored the violent passions of love, exposing
the light and dark sides of this most fundamental of emotions.
Alex Fisher, assistant professor of music history, School
And in a slightly different vein….
Renowned tenor and UBC alumnus Ben Heppner appears at The
Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, Feb.12 at 8 p.m., with
a rich collection of beautiful love songs by Britten, Tchaikovsky,
Sibelius and Grieg. (Ticketmaster 604-280-3311. Information:
604-822-2697 or www.chancentre.com)
A masked ball, held on the stage of The Chan, Feb.10, 7 p.m.,
just ahead of the Valentine weekend, provides music for the
soul, delectable food for the palette and dancing to the sounds
of Dal Richards and his orchestra in a spring fundraiser for
the UBC opera ensemble.
(Call 604-822-8246 for your tickets. $125, with tax receipt