My coming out process is inextricably linked, as I have written here here, here and here, with recovering and affirming my identity, part of which involves reviving my interest in and love for music and writing about compositions that have “spoken” to me. In this regard, my mother used to say that she and I would sit together, when I was quite small, and listen to classical music. I can’t really remember doing that, but I do remember that she had a record that included this piece, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (Op. 43, Variation 18), as well as other works by Sergei Rachmaninoff. And I do recall her playing this record when my Dad wasn’t around; he couldn’t abide classical music.
So, I guess you could say that this Rhapsody was probably one of the first pieces of classical music to which I was exposed. I recall thinking it was very beautiful, but it wasn’t until many years later that I grew to love it. This was due, in part, to the use of the piece in the movie Somewhere in Time, which I first saw several years after it had come out.
The video below features a performance by the Gwacheon City Youth Symphony Orchestra, from Gwacheon City, Korea, near Seoul. The performance, considering the age of the performers, is amazing. I have a soft spot in my heart for Korea and its culture, one of a number of affinities I cannot really explain: I’ve passed through Incheon Airport four times, but have yet to see anything of the country. I found the following background material on the Gwacheon City Youth Orchestra which will perhaps augment an appreciation of the video clip:
“Kim Hyeong-jun, 20, the first violinist, is the only one who is not going to a music college ― he’s a law student. He joined the orchestra when he was the sixth grade, and never missed a practice session, even when he was a junior in high school (typically, the busiest year for Korea’s high school students).
“There are four city youth symphony orchestras in Korea ― Seoul, Busan, Gwacheon and Ulsan. One in Seoul was established in 1984, Busan’s in 1994 and Ulsan’s in 2001. Only the orchestras in Seoul and Gwacheon have permanent conductors. Gwacheon City Youth Symphony Orchestra has an annual budget of about 500 million won ($520,000); it gives about 2 million won in scholarships to its 110 members, and holds 13 concerts a year. During the summer, its members also attend a camp training session.” [Source: Joongang Daily]