I’m listening to the Razumovsky String Quartets by lovely lovely Ludwig van. They’ve been with me since I first picked up that cassette twenty-two years ago. Now I’ve the Takacs Quartet on iTunes, but the joy remains the same.
As I reflected on the wonder of this constant companionship, I remembered that my beloved brother Bill gave me in 1986 as a Christmas present the complete symphonies of Beethoven, conducted by Leonard Bernstein. I had never heard them all the way through before. I still remember Bernstein’s face on the slender box cover, and the tissue like paper covering the vinyl discs. It was one of the most beautiful gifts I received as a young man.
Later, I would buy paticular symphonies on cassette so Beethoven could travel with me. One of my most cherished memories is of a road trip around Tennessee some twenty years ago, during which Beethoven’s underrated Eighth Symphony accompanied me. I drove a ’69 Mustang convertible full speed the length and breadth of the state with Beethoven playing at maximum volume. It was the pure joy of youth, and lovely lovely Ludwig van was there at every moment.
None of that would have been possible without that first gift from my much older brother. He also introduced me to the films of Kubrick and many others, and he even showed me when I was sixteen that I had so much to read and experience before I could even open Proust.
So, as I listen once again for the, what, thousandth time to Beethoven’s string quartets, I think of my brother, who gave me novels and movies and great music. Tomorrow I shall call him – we don’t talk enough – and tell him how grateful I am for all he has done for me. I love him so.