I love to listen to music. I love the joy that comes from discovering new sounds, new ways of creating, and the effects that this can have on us as listeners. I’m also someone with an addictive personality, which means that if I find a song or piece that I love, I will unashamedly abuse the replay or loop function whilst listening to it. As a child, I quickly wore out the CD’s with Puff the Magic Dragon and Pachelbel’s Canon on them, much to the bemusement of my parents who were listening along for the thousandth time.
I still have quite an eclectic taste in music, and actually, that’s kind of the best thing about having so much different music so readily available to us in the world. There will always be a piece or a song that I can turn to, no matter what the weather is like, or what kind of day I’m having. There’s an entire soundtrack to my life out there and I love how I can take that and use it to shape every new moment.
Picking my top five favourite pieces was an unmanageable task. I could not say with certainty that these are my all time favourite pieces. Rather, these are selections of music that currently nurture my mind and warm my heart, and music that I find myself constantly coming back to. It is with great fondness that a look forward to seeing how this list grows and changes throughout the rest of my life.
1. Olivier Messiaen: Quartet for the End of Time
What a journey this piece is. It’s a monumental work in stature, and one that is so deeply affecting for me on a spiritual level. As a performer, the feeling you get onstage as the final exultant tone of the violin fades away is profoundly perplexing. You sit there, vulnerable and exhausted from the journey - both mentally and physically - deeply absorbed in the final moments of life-affirming music you’re experiencing. It’s an utterly moving moment, and one that is often too overwhelming for me.
2. Jean Sibelius: Violin Concerto
Sibelius is one of my favourite composers. His symphonies and tone poems are some of the most goosebump-inducing expressions of sentiment that exist. When I hear his Violin Concerto, there’s a certain gravity that pulls me in. I stop what I’m doing and for a brief moment in time, it’s like there is nothing else that could possibly matter.
3. Osvaldo Golijov: Ayre
A glorious song cycle that weaves together texts from Arabic, Hebrew, Sardinian, and Sephardic cultures, this is a piece that blurs geographical lines and challenges musical tradition. I love how Golijov treads the line between folk, world, electronic, and art music, but instead creates his own unique narrative, thus providing a voice for some of the most chilling stories and uplifting music this world has ever heard. Ultimately it’s a work that brings us closer and reminds us of our shared humanity.
4. Johannes Brahms: Clarinet Trio
One of the first CDs I ever owned was a recording of all the clarinet music by Johannes Brahms. I’ll always associate the sound of his music with the clarinet, and indeed, with my childhood. His trio for Clarinet, Cello, and Piano was one of the first pieces of chamber music I studied as a student. I’m fond of it equally for its charm and nostalgia, but also the way he writes so perfectly for each of the instruments. One of my favourite quotes about this piece comes from Brahms’ good friend and scholar Eusebius Mandyczewski, who claimed “it is as though the instruments are in love with each other”.
5. Gabriele Mirabassi (Pixinguinha): Una a Zero
When I listen to the music of South America, I simply cannot help but smile. It’s like the musical version of coffee; addictive, stimulating and often results in uncontainable euphoria. The music-making feels so natural, uninhibited, and just so alive. If this doesn’t make you feel like dancing, then I’m not sure what will!