Saturday, December 19, 2009

music and books in the journal of Hélène Berr

Hélène Berr was a brilliant student and talented classical violinist. She was first in her class at a small Parisian private school, the Cours Boutet de Monvel taking honors in both philosophy and in Latin and modern languages. Entering the Sorbonne in 1938, she received her first degree in English language and literature, again with honors. In 1942 she registered for a doctorate at the Sorbonne with a thesis topic of Keats's Hellenism. She worked in the library at the Sorbonne and continued to attend lectures and seminars until prevented by the risk of being arrested and deported. She also took music lessons as long as she could and both played and listened to music with friends and relatives.

Her Journal records many of the books she read and gives extracts from ones that meant most to her, particularly poems of Keats and Shelley and Les Thibault by Roger Martin du Gard.

Here are some of the books and pieces of music of which she wrote.

Books Quoted or Mentioned in The Journal of Hélène Berr

Music She Played or Heard

Beethoven Schumann second violin sonata: Schumann 2nd Violin Sonata: 1st mov. Gidon Kremer vl. Martha Argerich pf.

Bach 1st violin sonata: Nathan Milstein playing Bach Sonata #1, Adagio and Fugue only.

Ravel Trio: Audio recording of Ravel's Piano Trio by the Claremont Trio from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, complete in MP3 format

Cesar Franck Sonata for Violin: Vadim Repin and Nikolai Lugansky Play Franck's Violin Sonata 2004, in Tokyo, 1st mov., 2nd mov., 3rd mov., 4th mov.

A personal note:

The Budapest Quartet was the first chamber group whose work I came to know and love. The version of the group that was active during World War II can be heard in two Beethoven Quartets listed above: Quartet No. 7, 1st mov. and Quartet No. 15, in A minor, Op. 132, Adagio, Heilige Dankgesang

{The Budapest String Quartet, from an early concert at the Coolidge Auditorium, Library of Congress; source: Library of Congress}

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