Bravo Grand Prix cyclists, bravo musique sacrée

What great audiences there are in Quebec. On Friday people lined the flats and the steep curving streets to applaud  164 Grand Prix cyclists, including the eventual winner from the Netherlands, Robert Gesink, as they whizzed by beneath circling helicopters, behind the sirens and flashing lights and speeding motors of police and race officials.

More choruses of "Bravo," sustained for long minutes, at the cavernous église St. Roch, where the Clarion Choir of NYand Musica Antiqua of St Petersburg performed the Rachmaninoff Vespers, or all night vigil, with its delicate, perfect harmonies. Sopranos chiming lightly as a crystal bell, the solemnity of the so deep bass ("I know the voices of my countrymen," said Rachmaninoff when confronted with the difficulty of finding a singer capable of achieving that low b- flat), the chant occasionally evoking images of fields with peasants bundling hay, at least in my mind.
 As many bravos for the Choeur Créole de Cuba Saturday night, different voices, also that combination of sweet high and visceral low, braided like currents in a clear stream, but more plaint in the mostly Haitien tales of mariners in trouble, a child begging for help, pourquoi Haiti pleure-t-elle?
Instead of the black in which the singers dressed for the Rachmaninoff, the six women wore traditional garb in bright yellows, with head wraps. Not absolutely a cappella, because one of the four men  beat sticks and sometimes drums, and the taller, thin man made sounds that reminded me of someone thumping a stand-up bass, but he did it with his mouth. Exacerbating the emotional effect of the music, after all the bravos, the choir walked down the centre aisle touching audience members on their shoulders, taking our hands, looking into our eyes. Bravo, indeed!

Raskolnikov's internal Siberia

I heard on the CBC radio 2 program Shift recently that Rachmaninoff was always thinking about death and that is why the Dies Irae, the chant used in the requiem mass, is so often a part of his work. In the Dies Irae text, the saved will be delivered and the unsaved damned. Just as watching the adaptation of a Trollope novel enhanced my view of  the antisemitism in Crime and Punishment, the music of Rachmaninoff, in, for example, Isle of the Dead, though written nearly 30 years after Dostoevsky's death, seems the perfect score to that narrative. That and the second piano concerto, so different, but both pieces sad, both passionate. It's what I love about Russian novels and Russian music.

Other notes on C and P, from a writer's point of view. The long passages of dialogue. Seldom a clipped exchange, but veritable speeches as one character unveils himself to another.

The brilliant creation of narrative tension by witholding information. Although Raskolnikov murders the old woman pawnbroker on page 77 of my copy, he is not officially arrested for the crime until page 531. He ends up in Siberia, but the punishment begins almost immediately after the murder as he suffers with doubt, tortures himself with reflection, both attracts and alienates people around him.

I read that Dostoevsky was one of the first writers to employ multiple points of view in a novel and for that I thank him. How narrow a world can appear when seen through only one pair of eyes.

I see, sadly, that the impoverished conditions in which writers live were the same then as now.