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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 in London.

Stephen Chatman, professor of composition, School of Music

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.” (Heinrich Heine.)

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 of Music

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 of Music

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 for $75.)

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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