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Lockdown Listening with Julia Zilberman

Julia Zilberman, Chair of the Development Board, shares her Lockdown Listening, from Rachmaninov to Beethoven, from Bernes to burlesque.

I grew up to the sound of music, my mum played the piano which my grandparents bought in Berlin just after the war and it had faithfully accompanied her as they moved from one country to another, and my dad played guitar. Guitar was such a prominent member of the family that I rarely remember an occasion without it, as a new-born I’m convinced I heard the sound of its strings before registering my parents’ voices.

I shared my bedroom with that piano as my parents did everything they could to help me learn. So did endless number of most patient music teachers. Sundays were spent alternating between the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall and The Moscow Conservatory but much to the family and my own disappointment, lack of patience and ability halted my development. Thankfully, my failure to play did not prevent a life-long love of music.

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Rachmaninov, Piano Concerto No 2 in E minor

My Russian roots, and perhaps more importantly my Russian soul has always taken me to Rachmaninov and I would be betraying myself if I don’t single him out and start with his Piano Concerto No 2 in E minor. This to me is everything; nostalgia, drama, melancholy, a celebration of life and beauty. It takes me home, it follows me everywhere and it stays with me.
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Tchaikovsky, Piano Concerto No 1

My paternal grandparents spent many years in Samarkand having originally been evacuated to Uzbekistan towards the end of the war. Few luxuries were available to them but they did have a vinyl copy of The Nutcracker, their other treat being the odd herring! They wed there and Tchaikovsky’s ‘Nutcracker’ was guest of honour since the rest of the family had not survived the early years of the war. That record was a constant companion through the rest of their life journey as Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1. become mine as I moved around the world. My somber fairytale, my magic and my nostalgia.
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Heitor Villa-Lobos with Maria Callas, Bachianas Brasileiras No 5

Villa-Lobos richly exotic orchestral music in combination with Maria Callas’s sublime voice makes this piece one of a kind. I am so drawn to both, her voice as much as his music.
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Beethoven, Piano Concerto No 2

Beethoven - where do I start? I find his Piano Concerto No. 2 the most moving. This was the piece I listened to repeatedly when I was pregnant with Sava, who is now 15. I remember getting him an infant music learning book introducing him to Beethoven shortly after he was born and my dad telling me, go straight for the Piano Concerto!
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Marc Bernes, Dark Nights

There is something to be said about war time songs. Both my grandparents went through the war, fought it in the front lines, lived in evacuations and have seen the darkest side of loss. His songs were often sung by the Russian troops across the battle fields. Dark Nights is the experience of silence on the eve of the battle.
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Marlene Dietrich, Falling in Love Again

Marlene Dietrich! I was always drawn to burlesque. The seduction, the reflection, the rhythm, the energy. It transports you, it transforms you. Mesmerised by Greta Garbo movies, or imagining Marlene perform live to the silent films. There is something ever so alluring and high spirited when I listen to Marlene.
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Old Russian Romance, Don’t leave me, stay with me

It always fails me to be able to choose my favourite but it was Julian Milone from Philharmonia and his wife Lila who reminded me of this great piece during the first lockdown. This has truly pierced my soul, it brought me closer to those I was so missing in the lockdown and it underscored the pain of being apart.
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Bulat Okudzhava, Molitva

I was growing up with guitar as my true sibling in the household and it was my dad’s guitar that introduced me to bards, and their poetry became my lifelong companion. To me it has everything; melody, the wisdom of lyrics, the unity it brings when sang around kitchen tables till the dawn. And the sound of his soothing voice! One of Russia’s greatest bard poets Bulat Okudzhava tops my list.

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