As a music major at the tail end of my college career, I've led a rewarding, though exhausting, last few years. The time I spend practicing piano (my main instrument), going to lessons, classes, rehearsals, and studying — not to mention working a part-time job — can add up to 16-hour days, most of it filled with music. So it amazes me that after all that activity, listening to music is still the way that I choose to relax.
It's something I love that much, a friend that can be exasperating at times, but I couldn't imagine living without. What I look for is not something that will help me tune out and turn my brain off. I need something that rekindles my passion for music, something that pulls me off the couch and back to the piano. These are the pieces that most remind me that music is not merely a frivolous act. It relaxes me and reenergizes me. That affirmation of my vocation is what brings me peace at the end of the day.
Bach: Cello Suites
There are countless recordings of the cello suites out there, but my personal favorite is by Pablo Casals. There's something special about the scratchy audio quality that makes it sound like a discarded treasure was just brought down from the attic. These pieces are revelations, and I can only marvel at them.
Brahms: Piano Trio B Major, Op. 8, No.1
I love the dialogue among the instruments in this piece. The yearning between the piano and cello in the opening movement and the sneakiness in the scherzo are the highlights of this trio for me. The rich harmonies and colors give me a chance to take a cleansing breath after a long day.
Part: Summa for Strings
Summa is trancelike enough to lull me into a calm, but active enough to make me listen for Part's tendency to make very subtle changes in rhythm, harmony, and texture.
Copland: Old American Songs
Listening to this set of arranged folk songs lets me bask in the illusion of a simpler time. Copland had a knack for creating uncomplicated beauty — like in the "Long Time Ago" ballad and sly, unbridled fun in "The Dodger."
Attaboy by Chris Thile, Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, and Edgar Meyer
This super-group is an exciting example of what can happen when folk tradition is joined with the structure of Western classical music. I can't get enough of the colors achieved in this piece. The main theme presented by the mandolin has a rhythm that draws you in, feeling both lilting and off-kilter at the same time. Each time I hear this, I smile: it's playful, it's soaring, and it has a youthful drive.
Debussy: String Quartet in G minor, Op. 10, Andantino
Maybe it's odd that I've picked such a harmonically angsty piece as a "relaxing" musical choice — but the hazy, mysterious quality of this quartet puts me in a happy place.
Beethoven: Emperor Concerto, Op. 73, No. 5
Even after a long day of piano practice, rehearsals, studying, and work, I'll never get tired of Beethoven. If for some reason I need to remind myself of the beauty in the world and restore my sense of wonder, I listen to the adagio second movement. Works every time.
Emily Feld will be starting her senior year at Concordia College, where she studies piano performance. She is an active chamber musician, singer, and composer of choral music, and is excited to see where those three passions take her in life.
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