IT has always pleased me that the composer Handel and the guitarist Jimi Hendrix should have lived in the same London house. A happy accident of history – and, besides, it reminds me of my teenage self and my dad.
Early in my vinyl days, there was only the one record deck. Sometimes this led to what you might term a Handel vs Hendrix stand-off. My dad would commandeer the record player for Beethoven and Bach, and when his back – or indeed his Bach – was turned, I would slip in there with a bit of Grateful Dead (the double live album).
My dad played the violin, still does at 86, and I used to wake up hearing him practise. This left a musical split personality that is with me still: lots of rock, folk and jazz in the collection, but a fair bit of classical, too.
This record went with me to university. It features three concertos, but the important one in this instance is the Double Violin Concerto in D Minor, or the ‘Bach Double’ as it is known.
In her book Year of Wonder, which offers a piece of classical music for every day of the year, Clemency Burton-Hill chooses the unspeakably lovely second movement as her ‘tune’ for Valentine’s Day.
Clemency says the whole concerto suggests falling in love, conjuring a “sublime soul matey-harmony”. “There are moments when the two violins get lost in each other’s thoughts or finish each other’s sentences without even being conscious of it; then there those passages that turn unexpectedly into heated debates.”
But the true romance comes with the Largo ma non tanto – the bit in the middle.
“For my money,” Clemency writes in her notes, “this second movement might just be the most beautiful piece of music we have.”
She’s not wrong there, and the soaring, yearning dialogue between the two violins gets me every time. And I’ve listened to it countless times.
If you want a piece of music to take you away, to spin you in teary silk, this is the best suggestion I have. It’s also the first piece of classical music pulled from the vinyl vault (or the wardrobe in the spare bedroom).
If you don’t listen to classical music, and God knows I listen to a musical all-sorts, this is my best suggestion for a place to start.
Incidentally, we’ve been following Clemency’s book all year, although we are two or three weeks behind, and have made many great discoveries.