Letter: Classical music ‘goes viral’ — again
The Black Death killed 60% of Europe’s population (1342–1353), but it also spurred composers in new directions and ushered in the Renaissance period of classical music. According to WQXR, NYC’s classical station, “Composers who survived the monstrosity came out of it interested in exploring new secular musical forms. While the plague was gruesome, people found ways to make the passing of time more bearable. And music was a large part of the pleasantry.”
Fine music has weathered epidemics, quarantines, plagues and illnesses of all descriptions. J.S. Bach suffered through the Great Plague of Marseille (1723), which took 100,000 lives, writing music to comfort those in distress while titling his Cantata No. 25 “There Is Nothing Healthy In My Body.” Frederic Chopin was quarantined with tuberculosis in 1839, during which he composed many of his Nocturnes. Many of Ludwig von Beethoven’s compositions are believed to have been influenced not just by deafness, but by his cardiac arrhythmia, suggesting his music was figuratively and literally heartfelt. Sergei Rachmaninoff was a victim of the Spanish Flu, which took 50 million lives, but after a period of social distancing, he recovered and had a triumphant concert tour of the USA (1918).
The COVID-19 pandemic is a serious matter, but it doesn’t stop the creation of fine music, its performance or our enjoyment. We’ve seen and heard Italians performing arias like Puccini’s Nessun Dorma (Turandot) from their balconies, just as they did when the Plague of St. Charles quarantined all of Milan in 1576. Americans may be more interested in their 8 p.m. “howling” (which is fun, too), but it is classical music — the symphonies and concerti and operas — that move us from a sense of isolation to a timeless bond with all humankind.
We’re pleased to be your Yampa Valley source for classical music on the radio. Your donations are our only source to stay on the air, but we don’t know who most of our listeners are or how to reach you. Consider contributing whatever you can afford, either online at westslopefm.org (PayPal) or send a check to WSFM, PO Box 774422, Steamboat Springs, CO, 80477. Help keep the music flowing. Thank you.
The West Slope FM Board
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