When I got home, I turned on the radio, to hear what was to be heard, and Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor came on.
I don’t know why, but this concerto always makes me feel weepy inside. I blame it on the minor key. And, perhaps, sheer composing brilliance. Trying to describe it leaves me breathless inside, turned around and confused. Some music has the power to move me in ways that I cannot quite explain, and sometimes that power seems universal, like with Barber’s 11th Opus. But Elgar cuts to the core here in a way that Barber only touches upon.
I first heard Jaqueline Dupres playing it, in an older recording. I think her version is the best I’ve heard, perhaps because her later tragedies add a note of irony to her brilliant performance. It’s the only performance of it I’ll listen to, now.
100 days ago, I turned the Elgar on at the maximum possible volume, and I went to the exact centre of my living room floor to lie on my back for a moment and wallow in the music. The windows were open, but the street noise was quite overpowered by the sound. I love to be enveloped and enfolded by music–it’s one thing I miss about having a car, that ability to put the stereo on full and drive through the night with the wind rippling in your hair, singing along at the top of your lungs, suddenly very, vibrantly, present.
I imagined for a moment that perhaps passerby would hear the music and feel a twinge of sadness too, even if they didn’t quite know why. And then I surrendered to it, allowed myself to be borne along on a tide of sound and emotion, and for an instant nothing else seemed terribly important.
There’s this point in the concerto when the music gets very quiet for a moment before the main theme reasserts itself in a blast of horns and strings, as though emerging in triumph from hardship, but there’s a certain…bitter twinge to it. And then the music grows quiet and wistful again, reflective and introspective.
Elgar understood, I think, that even in moving on, one foot will always remain in the past.
Gone now, released one, past returning, freed one, suffer no more.
I try to honor you every day.