I do every time I hear Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony or the first movement of his Symphonic Dances or pretty much every note of his Third Piano Concerto. Perhaps it’s my Russian ancestry resonating with that flavor in his music. Or perhaps it’s all the stories of his life that I recall as I allow his music to wash over me. Or maybe I’m inspired when I remember the difficulties in his life that didn’t overtake him or make him bitter. Or maybe I just like his music and find a pleasure in it that points me toward the God who made music so delightful and gave me ears to hear.
I hope my musings in this article can help you find those experiences of joy that point you to the One who placed eternity in your heart. As I write, I pray that He would use the temporal to point you to the eternal.
I’ll share three reflections from hours of listening to Rachmaninoff. I don’t offer them with any sense of authority as I would if I were preaching a sermon or teaching a Bible study. I won’t even say that God “gave” me these ideas as if that carried some kind of divine inspiration. I’m simply trying to think about something that falls into the category of “whatever is lovely” in that list of things we are told to think about in Philippians 4:8.
First, there is such a thing as beauty. And for that we say “thanks be to God!” Rachmaninoff’s music could be described as interesting or complex or layered or finely crafted or requiring attentive listening or demanding of the utmost skill to perform. But more than anything, it’s beautiful. I listen to his Vocalise and just want to sigh. I try to play his symphonies as background music, and they won’t allow me to do anything except close my eyes and immerse myself in them. I once showed up to a doctoral-level class fifteen minutes late because, even though I arrived at the parking lot in plenty of time, I sat in my car, unable to turn off the radio station that had selected Vladimir Horowitz’s performance of Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto as its “morning drive-time selection.”
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