‘Wouldn’t you just die without Mahler?’ asks Rita of her tutor in ‘Educating Rita’ – to which the tutor replies drily ‘Frankly, no.’ Rita is echoing her new, educated and cultured friend who before long does actually die, with or without Mahler, by committing suicide. I’ve never really got into Mahler, even after seeing Ken Russell’s film about him (which has the memorable final scene with Glenda Jackson as his wife running from wall to wall shouting ‘He hated me! He hated me! he hated me!’)
No, apparently that was ‘The Music Lovers,’ which was about Tchaikovsky:
this is Mahler:
Anyway, whether or not anyone did – or has – or will die without Mahler, I could die listening to Bach, and in particular to this:
Bach is God. There is no other way to say it. And I’ll say it again: Bach is God. Recently I’ve been doing yoga to music, mostly accompanied by work specifically written for yoga, such as Shiva Rea’s ‘Yoga Trance Dance’ which I love:
– lately, though, I’ve been branching out a bit, and today I put on the Toccata and Fugue. But after five minutes I stopped moving and just stood utterly still, transfixed by what I was hearing. It can be quite embarrassing in social situations, such as a concert, to find yourself utterly carried away: it’s like when I go to the hairdresser’s and they wash my scalp – I find it very hard not to screw up my face and utter groans of pleasure.
I probably shouldn’t have told you that.
Anyway, the Bach experience reminded me of my old piano teacher K Stuart Hart (he was very keen on that ‘K’) a short, pompous man whom many people disliked but whom I grew to love through his passion for music. He chain-smoked throughout our sessions (imagine! I could probably sue him nowadays) and at times when I played well or when he was playing me a piece he would screw up his face with emotion. If it sounds unbearably pretentious, it wasn’t; and his approach to playing was always very pragmatic: he would never have done anything so precious as to suggest I might die without Mahler.
But I could die with Bach. Definitely.