December is the last month of my Year of Wonder. Clemency Burton-Hill's book Year of Wonder describes one piece of music for each day of the year, and I have listened to every piece in the book so far. It's been great fun, to say the least.
November was a particularly good month with many dreary, minor key pieces to fit the mood for late autumn. A few of my favorites (at least the ones I could find on YouTube) are embedded below.
Whether you have already begun the journey or would like to begin now, I have embedded a Spotify playlist for Burton-Hill's recommendations for December.
Two months to go in 2019, and I wish there were more.
Year of Wonder by Clemency Burton-Hill has provided me with one piece of music for each day of the year, and I've been sticking faithfully to the plan since January 1, listening to her recommendations for each day. If you have not yet begun the journey, I highly recommend purchasing her book and getting started. You can begin on any day of the year.
Whether you have already begun the journey or would like to begin now, I have embedded a Spotify playlist for Burton-Hill's recommendations for November. (The only piece I could not find on Spotify from Burton-Hill's book is the piece she recommends for November 20 – Param Vir's White Light Chorale for solo piano. Click on this link to find a performance on YouTube.)
I have also embedded videos for a few of the highlights from October.
I have just finished another wonderful month with Clemency Burton-Hill’s Year of Wonder and have embedded videos of four pieces of music that were covered in the book for the month of August. With each piece I have included a quote from Year of Wonder with hopes that anyone reading this blog will be inspired to purchase the book and dedicate themselves to listening to one piece of classical music every day for the next year.
For those who have already begun the journey, I have also embedded a Spotify playlist for September’s recommendations from Burton-Hill’s book.
J.S. Bach, Partita No. 1 in B-flat major, BWV 825, “Allemande”
“It might seem a bit irreverent to describe the mighty J. S. Bach as a ‘palate cleanser’, but among the many services into which I have pressed his music over the years (commute companion, grief counsellor, baby wrangler, and so on) the role of life-clarifier and head-clearer is right up there. Whenever I’m stuck, whenever I need to quiet my ranging mind, whenever I require what I imagine is the sonic equivalent of yoga or meditation, it’s to this sort of music I turn, and submit myself, and go still, and recover.”
Audrey Abela, piano
Anton Bruckner, Locus iste
“This three-minute motet makes a strong case for the argument that there is little more powerful in music—or indeed, in life—than the sound of intertwining human voices.”
UniversitätasChor München, conducted by Johannes Kleinjung
Sergei Rachmaninoff, Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Second Movement
“This is the sort of unashamedly wonderful piece that some classical music critics pride themselves on deriding—for being, I don’t know, ‘cheesy’ or ‘populist’.… Being universally loved does not detract from the concerto’s genius. Quite the opposite.”
Hélène Grimaud (piano) with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, conducted by Claudio Abbado
Leonard Bernstein, “Somewhere” from West Side Story
“Bernstein, together with his lyricist Stephen Sondheim, takes the simplest yet most gut-wrenching of scenarios—not now, my love, but someday, somewhere, we well be able to be together— and enshrines it in music that is so direct and relatable it just takes you apart.”
Cynthia Erivo with the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Gianandrea Noseda
Every day I open the Kindle app on my iPad, read the day's entry from Year of Wonder, listen to the music, and then sit back in awe over the richness and diversity of music history. That has been my routine since New Year's Day (yes, it was a resolution).
In Year of Wonder, Clemency Burton-Hill describes one piece of music for each day of the year. Her descriptions generally take less than five minutes to read and the music takes less than ten minutes to hear. If you want to know more than what Burton-Hill describes, a quick online search can take you to other resources. If you want to hear more of the music, you will more than likely be able to find it through online streaming. (I recommend Spotify.)
A day-by-day devotion to Year of Wonder exposes you to a tremendous diversity of composers and styles of music. In short, the world of classical music contains much more than the compositions of dead European males. I always knew this, but Burton-Hill’s book has allowed me to experience what this means in a way that I have absorbed the lesson well.
If I may, I'd like to make a suggestion. Take a break and listen to the music from Year of Wonder. Rather than saying, "Stop and smell the roses," I prefer to say, "Stop and listen to the music.” Burton-Hill’s Year of Wonder does a terrific job mixing well-known classical masterworks with lesser known, and sometimes obscure, works. All told, a trip through her book will provide many moments of pleasure and the type of inspiration that can only come from listening to music.
I have embedded a Spotify playlist for next month’s recommendations from Burton-Hill’s book. I have also embedded videos from this month to provide a sampling of what’s in Burton-Hill’s book.
And the journey continues! I have been reading Clemency Burton-Hill's Year of Wonder since January and listening to the one piece of music she describes for each day of the year.
I have embedded the playlist for July below, as well as videos for a few of my favorites from Burton-Hill's recommendations from June. If you would like to read what Burton-Hill has written about each of these pieces (and many more), I highly recommend purchasing a copy of her book.
For no particular reason other than it's always fun to hear, I have embedded two videos of Mozart's great Queen of the Night aria from The Magic Flute, "Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen." (“Hell’s Vengeance Boils in My Heart”).
Animated Graphical Score by Music Animation Machine
Since January I have been posting a Spotify playlist each month for Clemency Burton-Hill’s Year of Wonder. Burton-Hill's book has been great fun for me, and I look forward each day to reading about a piece of music and finding a variety of recordings for that piece on Spotify.
I have embedded the playlist for June below, as well as videos of a few of my favorites from Burton-Hill's recommendations from May.
After four months I am still chipping away at Clemency Burton-Hill’s Year of Wonder and listening to one piece of music every day for 2019. In previous months (January-April) I embedded pieces from the book on this blog that were either new — or relatively new — to my listening repertoire. This month I’ll take a different approach and embed videos of six pieces that are well-known in the world of classical music. I do this to make the point that Burton-Hill’s book will not only introduce you to new music, but also ask you to revisit the music that anyone who listens to classical music should know about.
I have also, as usual, embedded a Spotify playlist of Burton-Hill’s music for the next month.
"I should have gone mad but for music. Music is indeed the most beautiful of all Heaven's gifts to humanity wandering in the darkness. Alone it calms, enlightens, and stills our souls. It is not the straw to which the drowning man clings; but a true friend, refuge, and comforter, for whose sake life is worth living.”
– Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
This energetic version of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings is played by the New Century Chamber Orchestra under the leadership of the great violinist, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. In 1999, Ms. Salerno-Sonnenberg received an honorary Master of Musical Arts degree from New Mexico State University, the first honorary degree ever awarded by NMSU (my alma mater, btw).
For everyone attending my Billy the Kid walking tour of Silver City, NM, here's a list or resources to get you started with understanding the Kid and his endlessly fascinating life. Although I could recommend many other books and resources, the items on this list should serve as a good place to begin.
In Year of Wonder,Clemency Burton-Hill provides descriptions of 366 pieces of music, one for each day of the year. I made a New Year's resolution to listen to every piece in the book, and I have not yet missed a day. What an adventure!
I have already posted playlists for January, February, and March on this blog, and here's my playlist for April.