Guest post by Rhonda Rizzo

In the caress of notes, Cassie knew nothing of fire, death, loss, or fear, just love plucked from Bach’s hands, to Eric’s, to her own—spoken in a language too deep for words.

—excerpt, The Waco Variations

Writing about music is like dancing about architecture. And while I can’t speak to dancing or architecture, this cliché sums up the problem of using words to describe what is fundamentally an experience, not a concept. Whether listener or performer, we enter into the world of the notes and receive and respond to the music through the lens of personal experience and understanding. And, because everyone’s experience and taste is different, how does a writer capture in words the sensation of sinking one’s hands into the piano keys, or the eerie magic of “one mind” that occurs when musicians perform together?

Write what you know. It’s another accurate cliché. As a lifelong pianist, I know music. I know the experience of making music, and of listening deeply to others. As a writer, I know my character, Cassie, and how she falls in love to Bach and allows herself to grieve through the music of Rachmaninoff and Liszt. I write the common ground between what I know, what Cassie knows, and the human truths that connect all of this to music.

Show, don’t tell. A writer’s cliché. If I tell the reader that Cassie and her boyfriend Eric, had a good performance of a Bach double concerto, it’s dull boring. Showing makes it tactile. It makes it real. It makes it matter.

In the second movement, Cassie stopped being aware of any reality beyond the music. The competition, the judges, her hair, her dress—none of it existed. The notes defined her universe. And as she and Eric passed the sensuous lines back and forth, she dissolved into them. She was the piano, and the piano was her. She was Eric, Eric was her. And Bach was what held everything together. There were no mental pictures and no stories. Just the music, and Eric, and the piano, which seemed to grow out of her fingertips.

—excerpt, The Waco Variations

Make me care, I used to tell my piano students. Don’t just press the notes. No matter how beautifully you phrase a line, if you don’t have anything interesting to say, you’re just speaking phonetic music. Writing requires the same because readers deserve entry into all aspects of the moment, not just a description. In both art forms, if the notes or the words don’t communicate something beyond themselves, everything comes out flat and lifeless.

Another quote: the visible is the invisible written down. As musicians and writers, we use what’s concrete (notes, words) to point to intangibles: love, joy, loss, hope, and a myriad of other human emotions. It’s an internal landscape we all share, and because of this common ground, music—and writing about music—is about bringing the listener or reader into a new world through our shared emotional doorways. We don’t need to know why a piece of music moves us to tears, or how a paragraph conjures up an entire world. We experience it. We feel Cassie’s struggle with an unfamiliar piano and we know her belief that somehow she can communicate with her deceased parents through the notes of Liszt’s Sposalizio.

Taking a deep breath, she put her hands on the keys, closed her eyes a second, and then played the opening lines. The muted upper register hampered her attempt to get a bell-like tone in her first right-hand arpeggio section. She tried to play through it, thinking of each note as being wrapped in thick velvet. Perhaps the clarity was there, at the center of all that velvet? What the piano took away from the upper register it gave back in the middle; when Cassie started what she always thought of as the prayer-like section—the one where she sensed she needed to breathe the notes rather than just play them—the velvet tone gave the notes a warmth she had never before been able to achieve on any other piano. The sounds matched the one she had been hearing in her mind, and the magic of reality matching the ideal was so strong that she could feel the hair on her arms bristling. Normal life fell away, and for those breathless moments she sensed that the notes were getting through and that somehow, someone was on the other side, hearing all the love and loss she poured into each pitch.

—excerpt, The Waco Variations

Writing about music is, ultimately, writing about humanity because that’s where power of the best music and literature resides. The form—the architecture—only points to the bedrock truths we all share. We love, we grieve, we celebrate, we mourn, and we seek (and sometimes find) meaning in the most unexpected places.


rhonda2bheadshot2bpianoRhonda (Ringering) Rizzo is the author of The Waco Variations. She has crafted a career as a performing and recording pianist and a writer. A specialist in music that borrows from both classical and jazz traditions, Rizzo has released four CDs, Made in America, Oregon Impressions: the Piano Music of Dave Deason, 2 to Tango: Music for Piano Duet, and A Spin on It.  As both a soloist and a collaborative artist, her performances include several allclassical.org live international radio broadcasts, Water Music Festival, Central Oregon Symphony, Oregon Chamber Players, Aladdin Theatre, Coaster Theatre, Ernst Bloch Music Festival, Bloedel Reserve, Newport Performing Arts Center, Skamania Performing Arts Series. In addition to her work as half of the Rizzo/Wheeler Duo, with pianist Molly Wheeler (www.rizzowheelerduo.com), Rizzo records and writes about the music of living composers on her blog, www.nodeadguys.com

Her numerous articles have appeared in national and international music magazines, including American Music Teacher, Clavier, Piano & Keyboard, and Flute Talk. Her novel, The Waco Variations, was released in the summer of 2018 and can be found on www.amazon.com.  

Rhonda Rizzo earned her undergraduate degree from Walla Walla University and her Master’s degree from Boston University.

Guest post by Rhonda Rizzo

In the caress of notes, Cassie knew nothing of fire, death, loss, or fear, just love plucked from Bach’s hands, to Eric’s, to her own—spoken in a language too deep for words.

—excerpt, The Waco Variations

Writing about music is like dancing about architecture. And while I can’t speak to dancing or architecture, this cliché sums up the problem of using words to describe what is fundamentally an experience, not a concept. Whether listener or performer, we enter into the world of the notes and receive and respond to the music through the lens of personal experience and understanding. And, because everyone’s experience and taste is different, how does a writer capture in words the sensation of sinking one’s hands into the piano keys, or the eerie magic of “one mind” that occurs when musicians perform together?

Write what you know. It’s another accurate cliché. As a lifelong pianist, I know music. I know the experience of making music, and of listening deeply to others. As a writer, I know my character, Cassie, and how she falls in love to Bach and allows herself to grieve through the music of Rachmaninoff and Liszt. I write the common ground between what I know, what Cassie knows, and the human truths that connect all of this to music.

Show, don’t tell. A writer’s cliché. If I tell the reader that Cassie and her boyfriend Eric, had a good performance of a Bach double concerto, it’s dull boring. Showing makes it tactile. It makes it real. It makes it matter.

In the second movement, Cassie stopped being aware of any reality beyond the music. The competition, the judges, her hair, her dress—none of it existed. The notes defined her universe. And as she and Eric passed the sensuous lines back and forth, she dissolved into them. She was the piano, and the piano was her. She was Eric, Eric was her. And Bach was what held everything together. There were no mental pictures and no stories. Just the music, and Eric, and the piano, which seemed to grow out of her fingertips.

—excerpt, The Waco Variations

Make me care, I used to tell my piano students. Don’t just press the notes. No matter how beautifully you phrase a line, if you don’t have anything interesting to say, you’re just speaking phonetic music. Writing requires the same because readers deserve entry into all aspects of the moment, not just a description. In both art forms, if the notes or the words don’t communicate something beyond themselves, everything comes out flat and lifeless.

Another quote: the visible is the invisible written down. As musicians and writers, we use what’s concrete (notes, words) to point to intangibles: love, joy, loss, hope, and a myriad of other human emotions. It’s an internal landscape we all share, and because of this common ground, music—and writing about music—is about bringing the listener or reader into a new world through our shared emotional doorways. We don’t need to know why a piece of music moves us to tears, or how a paragraph conjures up an entire world. We experience it. We feel Cassie’s struggle with an unfamiliar piano and we know her belief that somehow she can communicate with her deceased parents through the notes of Liszt’s Sposalizio.

Taking a deep breath, she put her hands on the keys, closed her eyes a second, and then played the opening lines. The muted upper register hampered her attempt to get a bell-like tone in her first right-hand arpeggio section. She tried to play through it, thinking of each note as being wrapped in thick velvet. Perhaps the clarity was there, at the center of all that velvet? What the piano took away from the upper register it gave back in the middle; when Cassie started what she always thought of as the prayer-like section—the one where she sensed she needed to breathe the notes rather than just play them—the velvet tone gave the notes a warmth she had never before been able to achieve on any other piano. The sounds matched the one she had been hearing in her mind, and the magic of reality matching the ideal was so strong that she could feel the hair on her arms bristling. Normal life fell away, and for those breathless moments she sensed that the notes were getting through and that somehow, someone was on the other side, hearing all the love and loss she poured into each pitch.

—excerpt, The Waco Variations

Writing about music is, ultimately, writing about humanity because that’s where power of the best music and literature resides. The form—the architecture—only points to the bedrock truths we all share. We love, we grieve, we celebrate, we mourn, and we seek (and sometimes find) meaning in the most unexpected places.


rhonda2bheadshot2bpianoRhonda (Ringering) Rizzo is the author of The Waco Variations. She has crafted a career as a performing and recording pianist and a writer. A specialist in music that borrows from both classical and jazz traditions, Rizzo has released four CDs, Made in America, Oregon Impressions: the Piano Music of Dave Deason, 2 to Tango: Music for Piano Duet, and A Spin on It.  As both a soloist and a collaborative artist, her performances include several allclassical.org live international radio broadcasts, Water Music Festival, Central Oregon Symphony, Oregon Chamber Players, Aladdin Theatre, Coaster Theatre, Ernst Bloch Music Festival, Bloedel Reserve, Newport Performing Arts Center, Skamania Performing Arts Series. In addition to her work as half of the Rizzo/Wheeler Duo, with pianist Molly Wheeler (www.rizzowheelerduo.com), Rizzo records and writes about the music of living composers on her blog, www.nodeadguys.com

Her numerous articles have appeared in national and international music magazines, including American Music Teacher, Clavier, Piano & Keyboard, and Flute Talk. Her novel, The Waco Variations, was released in the summer of 2018 and can be found on www.amazon.com.  

Rhonda Rizzo earned her undergraduate degree from Walla Walla University and her Master’s degree from Boston University.

Concert going is a social as well as a cultural activity and one of the great pleasures is the after-concert discussion with friends – and occasionally strangers who linger in the auditorium or foyer – keen to share their thoughts on what they’ve just heard. Sometimes a performance can be so profound, moving or thought-provoking that an immediate verbal response may be impossible, as we each privately digest and consider what we have just heard. At other times, the words tumble out eagerly as we rush to share our impressions of the event.

Last week I was back in London for a very special concert at Temple Church, part of a series hosted by Temple Music Foundation featuring pianist Julius Drake and friends. Here was Schubert’s heartrending song cycle Winterreise, a work written the year before he died which has been invested with all kinds of meaning and psychobabble by those who believe this painful narrative is an autobiography of sorts. Austrian mezzo-soprano Angelika Kirschlager was singing this great work for the first time – and for me this was the first time I’d heard a female voice in the role of Schubert’s lonely winter traveller (I’ve now heard the work performed by tenor and baritone voices and also in an excellent English translation). Seated at the back of the church, it took awhile to tune one’s ear into the church’s acoustic, but once settled, it was clear to me that this was a performance of exceptional intensity, drama and emotion. I couldn’t see Kirschlager very easily from my seat, but her projection and commitment to the role was clear, her voice at times rough-edged and richly-hued to bring greater meaning and expression to the text and music.

Repairing afterwards with friends to a cosy pub on the Strand, we discussed what we had just heard over wine and beer (we also discussed the vessel from which my friend Adrian drank – was it a “tankard” or a “glass with a handle”? Such is the way when lively, inquisitive minds meet….!). While I enthused about the intensity and drama of the performance, my companions were rather more guarded, and this provoked a vigorous, but always friendly and considerate discussion. This was not some dry bar-by-bar analysis of the work and its performance, but thoughtful, heartfelt and immediate reactions by people who really care about music and concerts. It proved how meaningful, subjective and, above all, personal our experiences of music are.

It was a real treat to hear such an absorbing gig, then ‘share’ it there and then, as if the evening re-booted into 2 great nights in 1 – Adrian (@adrian_specs)

Never before has a performance led to a spirited, respectful and absorbing conversation. Something that deepened my understanding about a work and a performer – Jon (@thoroughlygood)

As a writer and reviewer, I find such conversations can crystallise or adjust one’s thoughts about a concert, the works performed and the performers, offering valuable reflection or reappraisal ahead of a review or article being written. It’s also a healthy reminder that we do not all like or appreciate the same things – and thank goodness for that, for these differences make the concert-going experience far more rewarding and interesting.


Adrian’s review of the concert at Temple Church will be published on this site shortly.

 

A new community group on Facebook for those who blog about the piano and those who enjoy reading blogs……

musicwriter_key_tops

A dedicated space for pianists and writers to share and encourage one another, as well as a focal point where bloggers can share all their latest posts.

This is important, because many online communities don’t like bloggers to link their sites. For example, on Reddit not all subreddit areas welcome blog posts at all, while forums such as Piano World can also react with hostility towards bloggers who share their posts. And even on Facebook, some groups prefer to limit or restrict the sharing of blog links.

And that’s why those who READ blogs will enjoy the Piano Bloggers group as much as those who write them! The aim of the group is to offer a unique space online where interaction between readers, writers and pianists can flourish.

The group is moderated by Andrew Eales, Mark Polishook and Frances Wilson (The Cross-Eyed Pianist)

Read more about Piano Bloggers

This week I hosted an event called Music into Words which explored the wide variety of writing about classical music today – from concert and opera reviews to academic writing, programme notes, blogging and even fiction writing which has a focus on music.

The original impetus for the event came from a BBC Radio Three Music Matters programme, aired in 2014, which debated the future of music criticism in the age of the internet. I and several other music bloggers felt the programme was unfairly skewed towards mainstream print journalism with very little positive focus on the valuable contribution of bloggers and online reviewers. As a consequence, I and a couple of other music bloggers decided to present an alternative view. When I first proposed a live event, at which people would speak and the audience could participate in a Q&A/discussion session, I had really no idea how it would work. In a way, I felt I had tossed a handful of balls into the air, not knowing where they might land. What I did know, however, was that the other people who expressed an interest in organising such an event (all of whom I met via Twitter) were all passionate about what they do – all bloggers who write about music, and all come at the subject from a different angle. We shared a desire to “explain” why blogging has a purpose while throwing the debate open for as wide a discussion as possible. In fact, the popularity of the live event (it sold out several weeks in advance of the date) and online discussions via Twitter and our respective blogs, demonstrated that there is a great interest in this subject and a keen willingness by people to engage in conversation about it.

Writing about classical music is, like the music itself, often considered elitist, exclusive, the preserve of the expert or academic, couched in obscure terminology, and generally unwilling to engage with “ordinary people” (whoever they may be). I hope that the live event, which took place on 2 February 2016 at Senate House, UCL, London went some way to demystifying writing about classical music, while also explaining for the uninitiated what blogging is all about and why bloggers have an important role in writing today (and not just in the field of classical music, by the way).

Three speakers talked about their role as bloggers/writers on music and the wider role of writing as a means of engaging with readers, audiences, potential audiences, musicians and more. It was also very interesting to have the views of Imogen Tilden, classical music editor at The Guardian. She explained that budgetary restraints meant that not everything could be covered and that as editor she had to be very selective about what concerts and operas are reviewed. Because of this, she felt bloggers and online reviewers have a role in “filling the gaps”.

The lively discussion raised a number of interesting points, including:

  • How to find “good” blogs online when there is so much material out there on the internet
  • Musical terminology and why it is important that it should not be dumbed down
  • Writing negative reviews
  • How to encourage more musicians and others in the classical music industry to use social media
  • Self-editing one’s writing
  • How social media can shape and drive more voices on/interest in classical music

Based on the success of this first event, others are planned and we are very much open to suggestions as to how we might shape future events.

Follow Music into Words on Twitter @musintowords

Music into Words on Facebook

Meanwhile, you can view the talks by Simon Brackenborough, Mary Nguyen and Jessica Duchen here:

A compilation of tweets about the event

Summaries of the event by the speakers:

Corymbus (Simon Brackenborough)

TrendFem (Mary Nguyen)

Jessica Duchen

We were very sorry that due to illness Dr Mark Berry (Royal Holloway, University of London, author and blogger as Boulezian) was unable to join us. Mark will be a speaker at a future event.

Inspired by this first Music into Words event, I am hosting and speaking at a related event in the autumn. Writing the Piano will feature contributions by acclaimed pianist, teacher and writer Graham Fitch, pianist, teacher and blogger Andrew Eales and myself, and will explore different ways of writing about the piano, the instrument, playing and its literature. The event is on 18th October 2016 at the 1901 Arts Club, London SE1. Further details to be released shortly.

(Photo by Christian Hoskins. L to R: Jessica Duchen, Frances Wilson (The Cross-Eyed Pianist), Mary Nguyen, Imogen Tilden of The Guardian)

 

Guest post by Karine Hetherington

Music has always been an important part of my life.  I started playing classical piano aged six, did the usual grades, then abandoned the instrument for two decades.  I picked it up again aged forty.

My Russian grandmother was a very accomplished pianist.  She had attended the prestigious Sergei Rachmaninoff Russian Conservatoire in Paris in the 1930s and encouraged me when I came back to the piano. She would invite me to perform at her annual concerts in her Paris apartment every year.   It certainly kept me on my toes as long as she was alive! She played chamber music until the age of 94 and was tackling physically demanding solo works well into her eighties. It is no accident therefore that when I wrote my novel ‘The Poet and the Hypotenuse,’ music and my grandmother were going to feature heavily. I decided to set my book in 1930s Paris because this city is my second home, and I am fascinated by the period.

I took as my starting point the fact that my Russian grandmother had worked in a record shop in the Latin Quarter during this era.  She loved her work, the proliferation of artists and music styles was exciting for her and she took great pride in assembling the record displays in the shop for jazz artists such as Django Reinhardt, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway or for very exciting newcomers such as singer Edith Piaf.

Taking my grandmother’s story as an inspiration, I threw myself into the period, using the music as my guide.  I have always been interested in the impact of music on people, its mood-enhancing qualities, its ability to bring people together, to comfort them.  For musicians, playing music is a drug, an experience hard to beat.  But music isn’t everything.  This is the conclusion that my main character, Tatiana Ivanov, arrives, at after some life-changing experiences.  But it is music, which forms her and makes her who she is.

Music list: Chopin’s Etudes played by Horowitz 1935

Schubert’s Sonata in B Flat Major

Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ Symphony No 9

Josephine Baker – ‘J’ai Deux Amours’

Edith Piaf – ‘L’Etranger’ (The Stranger)

Tino Rossi – ‘Marilou’

Cab Calloway – ‘Keep That Hide-di-Hi in Your Soul’

Beethoven’s Sonata Pathétique Op 13.  Adagio cantabile

Karine Hetherington is a teacher and writer who lives in London. A dual-British and French national, with a Russian ancestry thrown in, her short stories and novels reflect her passion for both the detail and grand sweep of European history. After studying creative writing at Birkbeck College in London, Karine has been telling stories that have brought history to life, with tales of love and adventure that draw on the detail of real events and real lives.

Karine’s novel ‘The Poet and the Hypotenuse’ is available now. Read an extract below

2 The next morning Tatiana was at the shop counter, running her finger along the register of orders, when in stepped a small, pink-faced man with round spectacles and straggles of grey hair escaping from under his cap. It took her a second to recognise her old piano professor, whose once seal-slick dark hair and trim body had at one time energised her playing. Not wishing to offend his vanity, she made an effort to avert her eyes from the small mound that stretched the lower buttons of his tweed jacket, and threw her hands in the air with genuine delight: ‘‘Professor Conus, how wonderful to see you!’ she said, lifting the flap of the counter and walking out to greet him. 

Pleased to see her but maybe conscious of his altered appearance, Conus removed his cap and patted his unruly strands of hair. ‘How are you my dear?’ he said, now reaching out to squeeze her hand as she stood before him. 

‘Well, thank you Professor, and you?’ 

‘Oh, I can’t complain,’ he said in a distracted way, looking away for a minute. Bringing his gaze back to her, he gave her a pained smile, exclaiming: ‘But Tatiana please, call me Sergei. No more of this ‘Professor’ business.’ 

‘Very well Sergei,’ she replied, feeling a little coy and letting go of his grasp. It would take some getting used to, for she had been his student for four years, to the age of eighteen. 

‘Yes, fate and our old friend Horowitz have brought us together,’ he said, eyeing her wistfully. Has his recording of Chopin’s Etudes arrived by the way?’ 

‘I’m afraid not,’ she said, shaking her head. ‘We have a backlog of orders at the moment. But I understand your anticipation.’ 

‘A genius that Horowitz,’ he said, half-closing his eyes. ‘I am quite convinced that one hundred years from now, he will still remain recognised as one of the Chopin’s greatest interpreters.’ 

‘Yes,’ she said excitedly. ‘Such energy and urgency in his playing that I find myself wishing to. …Oh I don’t know…’ She shook her arms in front of her. The sentence hovered in the air. 

‘To play them?’ he said, glancing at her affectionately. 

‘Yes.’ Though a little surprised, she was grateful that he fathomed her frustrations without her needing to explain. 

‘You still could.’ He stopped and gave her a quizzical look. 

‘I know, I know,’ she said, conscious of her voice dropping a few tones. She had been working on the Etude in G flat Major, the one on the Horowitz record, when she had stopped coming to his classes.
 

‘Why don’t you come and see me at the Conservatoire?’

How insistent and determined he could be. And how well he knew her.
She glanced up at him.

‘I have so little time Sergei.’

There was a little embarrassed pause as she recalled the ending of their professor-pupil relationship three years previously, when her father had been unable to keep up with the Lycée and Conservatoire payments. Overnight, her musical hopes had been brought to an abrupt close. As he stood before her, giving her that understanding smile, she found it hard to believe that she had been so nervous meeting him. Perhaps it was his brilliant reputation, which her father had impressed upon her on the way to the first audition. “Tatiana, the Bolsheviks have chased him out of Leningrad and inadvertently sent him to us. Their ignorance in all matters of the arts is our gain. Hurry up and stop looking so glum!” 

They had been early and had had to wait, she on an uncomfortable chair wrapped up in a woolly hat, coat and gloves, while her father paced the dark, drafty corridor of the Russian Conservatoire. When the professor had eventually arrived, flustered and irritable, she remembered the terror of stepping into his enormous study – his realm — and hearing him sigh as he pulled back a dusty curtain to let in the morning light on her.

“What are you playing for me today?” 

“Schubert’s Sonata in B flat major,” she had replied, trying to keep a measured tone as her father had advised her to do. 

‘Hmmf,’ he snorted. ‘Difficult, but no matter.’  Sitting on the stool, twisted towards him, she had made an effort to smile. 

‘Begin,’ he had said in a gentler tone. 

Swivelling round on the piano stool, she had removed her gloves quickly and stared at her hands fully stretched over the cold, white keys. It was all she remembered for her fingers from then on had just taken over. 

‘Good. Good, Mademoiselle.’ Such words of praise from such an exacting teacher! His analysis had filled her with hope: ‘your voicing and timing in part needs work but you have the touch my dear. It is not given to all. We can start next week.’ 

From the age of fourteen she had played for him and it had felt like a whole life had elapsed in his presence. He had overseen her development from a shy, timid girl to young woman who believed in her ability to become a professional pianist. But that was in the past. 

‘Tatiana?’ Conus brought her back to the present.

‘Oh sorry, I was just thinking…’


‘Yes, my dear,’ he said, mouth drooping as if he were just on the point of saying something but thought better of it. He put his old leather music case on the counter and stood back, giving a tug on his short, grey beard: ‘And so you are working here. All this music around you.’

And to illustrate the point, he lifted his short arms and turned his small, still agile body this way and that.

‘Perfect,’ he said, his eyes alighting on the Louis Armstrong display in the Jazz section. ‘Do you like it?  

‘I do enjoy working here. No need to go to musical concerts at the Salle Pleyel, when everything I want is…’ She stopped. The professor was looking bothered. 

‘But I do hope you get out a little bit, Tatiana.’ He pursed his lips and shook his head. ‘An attractive, talented young woman owes it to herself to be admired.’ 

Caught off guard, Tatiana felt the blood rush into her cheeks. She had never been easily able to take compliments from men. 

‘A little thin though,’ he added in a half-playful, half- concerned voice.  She bristled at the remark and started to walk back towards the counter gripped with a sense of injustice. He was not the only one who made her feel awkward in this way. After church she was teased by her parents and their friends, who could not understand why she was so opposed to meeting eligible young Russian men. Her father, dismissing her reticence as shyness, had already designated Sacha Kirov, a rich nephew of his previous and now defunct business associate, as a candidate for her affections. They had met, at social occasions and had been friendly towards another. But that had been all. Vladimir, who still joked about it, told her that, she had acquired a reputation of being choosy and independent.  ‘It’s all right for you, brother,’ she would think to herself. You can go anywhere you please, while I have to have to be escorted!’ 

The professor realised his indiscretion and trotted after her, flustered.

‘That is not to say that you are not beautiful, my dear.’ 

She now wished Mme Clerc hadn’t gone out to the bank and left her alone and vulnerable to a conversation of this type. She snapped the counter down, turned back towards him, her back straight, her eyes she hoped, a little cold. 

‘And now I see I have offended you. Too much time spent in stuffy music rooms. All I am saying is that you are young my dear. This is the time to enjoy yourself. For years you were always playing. You are living in the most exciting city in the world!’ 

She let out a laugh of resignation and shook her head. It had always been impossible to stay angry with him for long. Conscious, however, of time passing, she took out the heavy leather order book from the drawer below the counter. Mme Clerc or another customer would soon be walking back through the door and she couldn’t be seen to be talking idly.  The book was marked at Monday – today — and her eye fell upon the first entry. “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Symphony no. 9. A faint tingle of warmth rose in her breast.

‘And where am I to meet this Prince?’ she said glancing up at the professor. 

‘Ta, ta, ta, a prince! Why not just settle for a mere muzhik,’ he said, throwing up his arm impatiently.  Tatiana raised her eyebrows in surprise.

‘A peasant?’ 

‘Well, not quite, my dear.’ The professor stretched his palms in front of her to placate her.  ‘But you know, a commoner. With talent of course. Energy and generosity of spirit. It goes without saying that he is to be an Adonis and to be madly in love with you. But he mustn’t fawn over you, otherwise you will tire of him,’ he said, wagging his finger.  She crossed her arms. Really the professor was such a nuisance. 

‘Always such high standards. Do not forget that women,’ he paused, to check that she was listening. 

‘Yes Professor? Women …? ’ 

‘… Are like flowers. They wilt if they are not nourished by some sunshine!’ 

Tatiana threw her arms up, letting out another laugh; this time more exasperated than weary. She had never discussed such things with him, or anyone else. There had always been the music and it had been enough.