Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wind for a Dead Calm: Ravel's "Adagio assai," from the Concerto in G

People make a lot of melodramatic statements about music; they will even be heard to say that a piece of music "saved their life..."

I can't go that far, as sappy and emotional as I am. My life has never been in danger that way; that way that implies a death of the soul that leads to the ultimate end...

But I have been a ship in a dead calm, sitting still in waters of various emotional hues: sadness, fear, depression, anxiety...

What is needed in those cases is a breath of wind. So, while I cannot claim this piece has ever "saved my life" I can say that, time and again, it has been that wind to push me out of the dead calm; the thing that showed me that there is more in life than death, taxes, conflict and the mundane clockworks of the daily routine; that hope is somewhere, even when it seems to be hiding from us...

Ravel's "Adagio assai" movement from his Piano Concerto in G, has been that piece for me, for more than twenty thirty years. It's always there when I need it, and I have needed it lately.

Here it is, in case you need some fresh air, too:


  1. I love this concerto. It's extraordianry that it was written by a man born in the 1870s who discovered jazz in his 50s - it has so much youth and energy in the outer movements. As for the adagio, it's just sublime.

    1. I agree on all points. My father, however -- a composer and orchestrator by trade -- loathed the adagio. He thought it was "directionless." He loved everyother note Ravel ever wrote, including the outer movements... Strange.