While I enjoy most classical music, and love most of that, there are a few pieces I adore—never tire of hearing, filled with emotional significance for me. Brahms’ Second Symphony (especially the lyrical first movement), Mahler’s Second Symphony (especially the other-worldly last movement), and Copland’s Clarinet Concerto (gorgeous first movement) all hold special places in my heart. Rounding out my Top Four (and they are all ranked equally in my book) is the second movement of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G.
I first heard this masterwork on WABE Radio in Atlanta when I was in my teens. I was a big fan of all things Ravel in those days (even the overplayed “Bolero”), and I expected to like the piano concerto, but was unprepared for its effect on me. After a wow of an opening, movement #2 is just heartbreakingly beautiful, every note. I find the finale a bit jarring, because of its jazzy, breakneck pace (though that certainly does showcase the virtuosity of the soloist). But that middle movement? Pure gold!
One of my favorite LPs is a recording of this powerful piece with the London Symphony. I also, over the years, bought a cassette, and later a CD, of my favorite Ravel, and listened to it in the car all the time. It was my go-to when I felt happy, melancholy and everything in between.
After my second miscarriage in 1993, I was really struggling. The loss was revealed during a routine ultrasound at 12 weeks. I had four other little children to care for, so there was not much time to mourn. I went to my pastor and dear friend Mike Carlson with my pain, wanting desperately to bring some good out of this sad situation. Together, Mike and I decided to put together a special church service for all who had suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth. I will never forget that night in our candlelit chapel. We read Scripture, a passage from Luther, and a beautiful poem by Barbara Crooker called “The Lost Children.” Each woman came forward for a red rose. The recorded music we used included the Ravel that meant so much to me.
By the time Evan was a high school senior, he was a pretty accomplished pianist. He decided to give a graduation recital at church. We had a post-concert surprise for him (the audience was in on the surprise): a dinner party in his honor in Parish Hall, sending him off to the Naval Academy in style. The last piece on the recital program was my beloved Ravel. The tears I predictably shed that afternoon on hearing Ev play this piece were tears of joy and pride.
Tonight, Sheridan has tickets for the two of us to hear the concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and I can’t wait. Once again, I am sure I will get a little weepy. But I welcome those tender feelings, and give thanks for the genius who made the music, that makes my heart sing.