Thursday, March 2, 2017

A Month of Music, Day 3

“Now then,” I told Lady, “we have to get straight down to work, since it now turns out that you absolutely cannot listen to the Tchaikovsky or the Prokofiev that I was trying to fob off on you, yesterday.”

“Wonderful,” said Lady, “since I am either under general anesthesia, or very soon to be so, or just out of. Anyway, I’m languishing here at Centro Médico, which, as you know, is ideally suited to languishing. So it’s completely inappropriate that you even think of putting me in your blog, today.”

“Deadline,” I told her. “If it’s 31 days, it’s 31 days. And now it turns out that I’ve wasted nearly 1/31th of them, since the Tchaikovsky and the Prokofiev were no-go’s.”

“What’s the matter with those guys?”

“Well, a very-intelligent reader of this blog deemed Tchaikovsky’s music ‘pathetic….’”

“Well, is it?”

“Quite possibly,” I told her. “Let’s put it this way: if you are attending a cocktail party held by the International Association of Music Critics, do not drop the name of Tchaikovsky as one of your ‘go-to’ guys….”

“Wonderful,” she said. “Another thing for my anesthiated mind to wrap around. Or around which to wrap, just to satisfy Mr. Fernández.”

“Yes, about his prepositions he is persnickety. Anyway, today I have to get right on track. Though I have to say, I feel distinctly unsettled today…”

“Indeed? And has anybody been doing surgery on you? If not, you’re definitely settled, or even in fact well-populated….”

“It’s the day after Ash Wednesday,” I told her, “and Ash Wednesday is always jarring to me. In fact, I won’t feel better until we get Jesus out of the desert, onto the cross, into the tomb, and then resurrected again. I hate not knowing the outcome of things….”

“Surely there isn’t much doubt…”

“Easy for you to say: You’re a believer.”

“Well, I believe in God,” said Lady, “just not so much the other stuff.”

“You know, that totally irks me,” I told her. “Because believe me, it’s no fun being an atheist. Everybody thinks I just sail through life, never shedding a scruple. But it’s just the opposite! First of all, I have to work twice as hard to be a good person, and then I have to worry about everything that you believers know is going to happen. So Advent is torment, since what happens if God forgets to blow into Mary’s ear?”

“God blew into Mary’s ear?”

“Think I read that somewhere, but did a Google search help? Of course not. And that’s the point—if I had any sort of belief, I’d know all about God and the Virgin Mary’s ear. It just increases the angst, somehow, not knowing and having to worry all the same….”

“Hmm,” said Lady, “rather like being in the hospital, awaiting surgery?”

“Err, yes….”

“Well, anyway, don’t you have some work to do? You completely flubbed yesterday, you know, and given that you’re just three days in, it doesn’t look promising.”

“That’s the problem,” I told her. “What if I do something really criminal, like recommending Elgar? Or Smetana? They’d probably take away my musician’s license.”

“Don’t tell me…”

“Well, of course! You wouldn’t want anyone un-credentialed or unauthorized to be performing ‘music,’ would you?”

“Hmm,” she said, “not a bad idea. Let’s see, there could be a poet’s license, as opposed…”

“…to poetic license,” we said in unison.

“Anyway,” I told her, “I’m completely unsure what music to play, or indeed, if it’s OK to play any music at all, during Lent. But obviously it has to be something religious, and that’s a problem, because we could do a whole year of religious music, and still not have scratched the surface. Damn, and at some point, I suppose I’ll have to tackle the passions….”

“Tackle the passions,” said Lady. “And exactly what sort of blog am I being dragged into, this dread day that I’m spending in Centro Médico? You might wait a day or two, until the anesthesia entirely wears off, before tackling any passions with me!”

“Theologically speaking, you have nothing to worry about,” I told her. “Passion—from the past participle of the Latin verb patī….”

“Into my sick chamber does he come,” began Lady, “strewing past participles…”

“I am NOT strewing past participles!”

“Casting then, or perhaps dribbling,” she replied, “and it’s entirely unfair. Please, whatever you do, keep your passions well and truly to yourself!”

“I intend to,” I told her, “though the word ‘passion’ here refers only to the suffering of Christ…”

“Only?” she asked.  “You call being crucified….”

“We’re well astray, here,” I told her. “anyway, it’s very much on my mind to do something about Buxtehude, since generally speaking, very few people do anything about Buxtehude.”

“Well, since he died in 1704 why in the world should anyone do anything about Buxtehude? What do you want—a mass said? Flowers on the grave? And is it true, by the way…”

“Why do you always hit on the scandalous bits of every composer? Wasn’t it enough that Bach walked 200 unauthorized miles or so to study with Buxtehude? Bach! But now you’re going to dredge up the story…”

“Well, I just wanted to know….”

“Yes, he seems to have had seven daughters, the eldest of which was Anna Margareta. And yes, Handel, Bach, and a guy named Johann Matheson all got the same pitch. Buxtehude was ready for retirement, and perfectly happy to give up his post to any of the three…”

“Hah!” said Lady. “I knew it! So Anna Margareta got thrown into the bargain! And since all three skedaddled, well, she couldn’t have been too much of a beauty! My my, how the human resources profession has blossomed, over the years!”

“Surgery has done little to improve your mood,” I told her. “How would you like to go through history as the eldest daughter of Dieterich Buxtehude? Snigger, snigger, all down the centuries!”

“I would disdain to snigger,” said Lady. “And certainly not down the centuries. All right—let’s have Buxtehude, if we must. What’s it to be?”

Membra Jesu Nostri,” I told her. “Actually, just the second cantata of the seven. You know, after the seven….”

“…limbs of Christ. But I’ve never gotten: why are the knees considered limbs?”

“Probably just to get it up to seven,” I told her. “You know, it’s one of those numbers that has all that symbolism attached to it. Anyway, whether the knees are limbs or not, the image is wonderful. ‘You will be brought to nurse, and be dandled on the knees….’ Who doesn’t wish for that?”

“It is a particularly strong post-surgical yearning,” said Lady. “Yes, dandling! Well, and is that all for the day? Surely there’s something more up that authorial or musical sleeve?”

“Well, there’s always Biber—that is, Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber….”

“Dear me, he certainly went a long way to distinguish himself just Justin…”

“Wouldn’t you? Makes checking into a hotel, or a country inn, lots easier.”

“Obviously. OK—so what are we hearing from HIF Biber?”


“Henry, or whatever…”

“A civil tongue,” I told her, “which is what you ought to keep. Well, how about the introit from the Requiem a 15? True, it starts out a bit slow, but after 45 seconds or so, it turns just glorious. And it’s a nice introduction to requiems, you know.”

“Am I to be introduced to requiems?” said Lady. “Are they the sort to whom a lady, or especially a Lady, might be introduced? And how much of an acquaintance am I supposed to have with them? It would make a difference, when I set out to buy the Thanksgiving turkey.”

“They’re quite circumspect,” I told her, “and really need little in the area of entertaining. And since it is a mass for the repose of the soul of the dead…”

“First dandling,” said Lady, “and now repose. Well, well, I suppose I can give it a listen. Unless, of course, you have somebody else that I’m supposed to blather on about? Really, Marc, I have just had surgery!”

“Well, there’s always Zelenka,” I started off saying.

But the Biber had done its work. I looked at her, and the old nurse in me checked her breathing: yes, the chest was rising and falling rhythmically. It was cold in the room, so I drew the blanket she had brought from home up to her cheeks. And then, since she didn’t have to answer, I asked her the question.

“Sometimes I wonder,” I whispered to her, “are you my sister…

… or my daughter?”

(Note to readers—I just got a call. She came through surgery fine….)