This month we focus on the character strength of ZEST or VITALITY. This is a core quality to cultivate, especially if it doesn’t come naturally to you. ZEST is associated with greater well being, a higher quality of life, better self care, more positive engagement with the world–all things that protect your brain’s health.
Music can energize you, even if you do not easily feel zestful. When you pick the right kind of music, exercise is more effective for your body, your spirits lift, your mind becomes more alert.
As you listen to the music we have chosen to give you an experience of ZEST, notice the changes to your own body, mind and spirit. What kinds of music energize you?
It’s worth tuning in to your own responses and making more conscious listening choices to increase your zest level.
Georges Bizet (1838-1875) is one of those remarkable musical geniuses who, like Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Pergolesi, died too young. And like them, ironically, he produced some of the most sparkling music we know. One of the greatest ironies of his brief life was that he died shortly after the catastrophic premiere of his opera CARMEN–so he did not know it would become so beloved, one of his greatest successes.
He began his composing career in 1855 with a spectacular piece that does not seem to have been played in public until 1935. He apparently held it back because of his anxiety about competing with his mentor, Charles Gounod. As he later wrote to Gounod: “You were the beginning of my life as an artist. I can now admit I was afraid of being absorbed.”
This work, his Symphony in C–the only symphony he ever wrote–is an absolute gem. As you will hear, it is rhythmically vibrant and full of beguiling melodies.
Amazingly, he composed it when he was still a student at the Paris Conservatory. He started it on October 29, 1855, four days after his seventeenth birthday, and completed it by the end of that November!
Written in the springtime of his life, it is full of youthful brio. You’ll feel your blood warm up and your spirits rise from the first notes of the exuberant work.
Here is the perky first movement. Listen for the contrasting lyrical second theme spotlighting the oboe.
The second movement, the Adagio, is essentially a gorgeous solo serenade for oboe. There is a contrasting middle section where the strings soar with a beautiful melodic line that anticipates what Bizet will do later in Carmen. A fugato eventually brings you gently back to a reprise of the opening oboe melody, now deliciously accompanied by pizzicato strings.
The third movement is an earthy uptempo number. In the trio section, Bizet injects a folk idiom, with the melody going through its turns over a drone.
The finale is a wonderful mix of fluttering and lilting melodies, recalling in spirit the recently composed Midsummer Night’s Dream by Mendelssohn, which the young Bizet had probably heard.
You can find the next 3 movements at this url: