'Desert Island Discs' is a BBC radio programme which has been going on for 70 years, in which a 'celebrity' from any
field chooses eight records to be taken if that person were to be shipwrecked on a desert island and which would have to last, potentially, for the rest of his/her life. (A 'record' = a single track. So no complete albums, operas, musicals etc. are allowed.)
A single book may also be taken - apart from the complete works of Shakespeare and the Bible, which are, by chance, already there - as well as a single luxury i.e. something which is of no practical help to survival or to escape. It cannot be a radio (or TV) as that would defeat the object of the exercise. It must also be inanimate - so, no pet cats etc!
I've actually been listening to the programme since about 1962. Even when I lived in Germany I followed it on long-wave radio.
My blog friend Andrew @ oneexwidow.blogspot.com
has already recently done the posting of his choices and Stephen @ thestateofthenationuk.blogspot.co.uk
is currently revealing his own choices one by one. So, after toying with this idea for years, I think it would be better to strike now while the iron is hot.
My choices are:-
Beethoven - 9th Symphony
movement, rather than the last) - conducted by Otto Klemperer.
Beethoven - Piano Sonata in C minor Opus 111
(second movement) - played by Vladimir Ashkenazy
Bach - Mass in B minor
- the opening of the 'Gloria' - conducted by Karl Richter
Brahms - Alto Rhapsody
- soloist, Janet Baker
Beatles - Hey Jude
ABBA - Super Trouper
Rodgers & Hammerstein
- 'This Nearly Was Mine'
from 'South Pacific' - sung by Paolo Szot
- Selection from the 'Sonnets'
recited by Sir John Gielgud.
I'd have been satisfied with so many of their tracks that the final choice must have an arbitrariness about it. I suppose my accolade for the best single track they ever made would be a toss-up between 'Strawberry Fields Forever' and 'Eleanor Rigby' - but both were, largely or exclusively, solo efforts by Lennon and Mccartney respectively, but also both having a huge input from George Martin. Then there are their many album tracks - again, almost too many jewels to count - 'And Your Bird Can Sing', 'Two of Us', 'Something', 'And I Love Her', 'In My Life', 'Here There and Everywhere', 'Sexy Sadie', 'I am the Walrus', 'Girl', 'While My Guitar...', 'Revolution'.......the list just goes on and on.
So, finally plumping for 'Hey Jude' doesn't necessarily mean I think it's the greatest of all the Beatles tracks, though it is certainly among them. It's just that it's more representative than some. For me, this time was when pop music reached the absolute heights of excellence - and it's never been quite there since, though it has come close - Bowie, Carpenters, Elton, Queen, even Madonna - and then, of course, there's......
This is the most evocative track out of my eight choices. It marks the start of what turned out to be my decade of hedonism, during the second visit of what was to be no less than 35 visits to Amsterdam, within the next 10 years, usually alone. (On my very first visit I'd been too scared to do anything!). It was a decade of frequent peaks of joy, but also regular heartbreak, living more intensely than I've ever lived before or since, making new friends - and, within the space of a few years, losing very nearly every single one of them through.... you know what. A decade of extreme highs and lows, but years which are treasured in my memory forever.
The 'Super Trouper' album came out when I was already a very
keen Abba fan so even without the associations I would almost certainly have picked a track by them. But I think the entire album is a succession of gems anyway - so many brilliant tracks (particularly 'Our Last Summer' which, in its lyrics, sings of Paris, a city I was then yet to discover - and to find that Paris was my favourite city of them ALL!). But the title track of this album brings all that era back to me. I only have to put it on, close my eyes - and I'm there again!
'This Nearly Was Mine'
I couldn't live without something from a musical - and this is as fine a choice as any I can think of. There may be musicals other than 'South Pacific' which, though I love tremendously, I love even more. ('Les Mis' still delivers to me the highest count of pleasurable goose-pimples than any other musical.) I could also have chosen a Lloyd Webber - specifically from 'Evita' (any number of songs there!) or one from any of his trilogy written with Tim Rice.
But this particular song from South Pacific never fails to get me close to tears. I'm not generally a great fan of Hammerstein's lyrics - 'subtlety' was never his strong point - but here, with Rodgers' gentle, lilting, poignantly sad waltz, he hits the emotion right on target. It's a sentiment which we all recognise and go through regularly, no matter what our sexuality. I just find it so very profoundly moving.
Incidentally, until I googled his name, I hadn't realised that the singer I chose, the Brazilian Paolo Szot, is an 'out' gay man. He may not sing it as expertly (he has a bit of a 'warble') as, say, Jose Carreras, but the latter declaims
the song whereas the lyrics are clearly that of introspection and inner regret at the loss of something that had been so close to having - and Paolo delivers it as an 'inner voice' just as the lyrics require. Heart-moving stuff!
- for me the loveliest speaking voice of my time. He may not have been the greatest actor (that surely was Olivier, though since his death even he is now considered to have been rather mannered) but what beautiful, fruity, full-bodied enunciation Gielgud had! I find his rendering of Shakespeare's words quite hypnotic - and if I have to live for the rest of my life knowing how only one person talks, I can't imagine my choosing anyone better than Gielgud to show how it can be done. Though I've learnt to recite all the Sonnets myself off by heart (yes, all 154 of them) Sir John is an object lesson in how to do it properly
My classical choices
is, in my books (along with the 'Missa Solemnis'), simply the greatest music ever written by man. I only chose the former rather than the latter as I've already got a mass with the Bach (my joint-favourite of all composers) - the 'Gloria'
of whose B minor Mass
is surely the most exhilaratingly joyful music ever written - by anyone!
I picked Beethoven's final piano sonata
because of it being a glorious summation of his achievements - written, like his final symphony, when he was completely deaf, but nevertheless an almost unbelieveable miracle of sound and invention. Most music critics would place the string quartets as a whole, particularly the late ones, on an even higher plain than the sonatas. But there are more than twice as many of the latter - and they cover such an amazingly immense spectrum of emotion. I could live with his piano works more comfortably than with his chamber pieces, and Ashkenazy is the pianist who, for me, gets closer to Beethoven's spirit than any other.
The Brahms Alto Rhapsody
, particularly the final C major section with the male choir joining the Alto soloist, would be a piece I'd choose for my funeral, if I were to have one (though I don't want one anyway).. It is so very simple and deeply, deeply
moving. This music never ever fails to reduce me to tears - and when it's the solo voice of an angel like Janet Baker (the favourite female singing voice of my lifetime), well nothing on earth can trump that!
- a comfy pillow. (Having a good sleep is ever so important to me.)
- the many who pick the rather obvious choice of 'War and Peace
' do so by saying that they've either never got round to reading it, or they started but never finished it. Well I would choose it on its merits - which are manifold. I've read it (so far) six times in three different translations - and I worship it as a work! Just about everybody says that 'Anna Karenina' (four or five times) is an even greater work, and I'm willing to concede that. But W & P has such a mind-blowing panorama of the psychology, emotions and motivations of a good number of individuals during Napoleon's disastrous Russian campaign, that one really cares
for them and what happens to them. The characters rise from out of the pages and sit with you as you read. Also, Tolstoy's sweeping commentaries on the politics and strategies of the time, with his countless 'asides', just leave me breathless. Microcosm and macrocosm brought together in one glorious volume. I love
it - and it's power to involve blows me away every time. I will never stop re-reading it.
So that's it! I've said to Andrew @ 'the widow's world' that one's list doesn't have to be definitive for all time. As one goes through life the choices cannot help but change according to the impact one's circumstances of the time have had. But these are my choices as at now
It would be so very interesting if other readers of this blog could offer their own contribution to this little game . Go on - have a go, (please