Es muss sein…

by Barbara Maria Rathbone

Some think that to describe music is like trying to describe the air – too infinite, too labile or inchoate, to capture any real meaning. I beg to differ. For me, music provides pictures of vivid colour and texture so I give those colours to the words, and those words in turn convey how it feels to make music, to feel it take shape inside you. ‘Es muss sein’, as Beethoven said, and he knew. He could not hear, but only see and feel the music he wrote.

Below is  the epilogue to my book ‘The Conductor’s Wife’. Here are words, perhaps inadequate, and the music they describe, with the help of Ravel and Martha Argerich.

Time had been suspended, excluded even, for she was now in the relativity of stage time and wrapped in its gossamer protecting veil, under the accretion of gathering sound.  The first movement had been harder but then her wrists forgave her and floated away into runs of notes, extravagant cascades of colour that never withdrew until in the slow movement with her solo ingress, when all the glory unfolded and what were merely black and white wooden drums became form and pigment – golden, lyrical, swimming into their own providence.  She did not own it now – it came from the composer to her, then out into the world.  Julien had said:  “This is how it will be,” and it was.  To say she had conquered was to belie her journey, for she had only music, which she could plainly see…and she herself filled the place where it went.