Sunday, March 03, 2013
My mother buys me the cards that she thinks are 'nice'. They always have some sort of pastel image on the front and 'Son' in gold lettering, with a cloyingly sentimental verse inside. I usually end up feeling slightly depressed by the fact that if she really knew me, my mother wouldn't give me these cards. But I'm also touched by the fact the fact that the words really mean something to her.
One year, I decided to give my mother a card that I thought was beautiful and spent a long time choosing it. The following week, my father took me to one side and told me that she was very upset to receive a card that said 'Mother' instead of 'Mum' and had no verse inside. I learned my lesson and now look for the soppiest birthday card I can find. Sometimes I delegate the task to my wife.
Every year, my mother tells me how much she loved the card, particularly the "wonderful verse".
I hope that when my sons are older, I will be interested in them enough to send a card that shows some insight into the adults they have become. My mother is lovely in so many ways and I'm lucky to still have her, but her lack of interest in my life can be breathtaking. I once rang her from Death Valley and explained that the temperature was 110f. She replied "Well, there's been a heatwave in Worthing."
When asked what I wanted for my birthday, I told my wife that I really didn't mind as long as it was a CD of music by someone whose first name was Franz and surname began with Sch.
But nothing by Schubert, please.
Undeterred, she managed to find these:
For a joke, I told someone that I was working through the classical repertoire alphabetically and was now on Sch. The look on their face told me that I had picked the wrong person. In some corner of Lewes, I will now be known as the man who hasn't listened to Tchaikovsky yet.
Both CDs contain some of the best music I've heard for a long time and the beginning of Franz Schmidt's Symphony No.2 is one of the most beautiful, life-enhancing openings you could wish for:
Franz Schmidt didn't have the happiest of lives: a feud with a rather vindictive Mahler, a wife who went insane and a daughter who died in childbirth all contributed to his growing alcoholism. But his music betrays little of this and I particularly like what one critic described as its 'fulgent' orchestration.
Fellow Austrian Franz Schreker's life also ended tragically, when his career was bought to a standstill by the Nazis - he was half-Jewish. According to Wikipedia, "In his lifetime (Schreker) went from being hailed as the future of German opera to being considered irrelevant as a composer and marginalized as an educator." He died in 1934, two days before his 56th birthday.
This is how good he was:
I have clearly struck gold with the Franz Sch- stipulation.
Next week it's Schuman and Schumann.