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Baker's Dozen

Tour De France: Jonathan Meades Selects 13 Exercise Bike Classics
John Doran , March 6th, 2019 09:44

After a recent serious illness, writer and documentarian Jonathan Meades was prescribed 30 minutes a day on an exercise bike. He tells John Doran about his 13 favourite pieces of classical music to accompany his regimen


Schubert - Quartet 13 Rosamunde op 29

You can get a sense of Schubert’s state of mind during the writing of ‘Rosamunde’ from a letter he sent to his friend: “I feel myself the most unhappy and wretched creature in the world. Imagine a man whose health will never be right again and who, in sheer despair, just makes things worse and worse instead of better. Imagine a man, I say, whose most brilliant hopes have perished; to whom the happiness of love and friendship have nothing to offer but pain at best; whose enthusiasm, at least of the stimulating kind, for all things beautiful threatens to disappear and I ask you, ‘Is he not a miserable unhappy being?’”

Schubert was suffering from syphilis which is probably not very good for one's amour propre. There’s this quality which is sometimes ascribed to him which is otherworldly. And I think that is correct if you consider that otherworldly does not necessarily have to mean fey, whimsical or away with the fairies but instead can suggest that there is this ‘other world’ to which he belongs and that might be a tough and rather scary sort of place. This music makes me see something and I’m not quite sure what it is, but it’s animal in form. Certain pieces of music prompt me to ‘see’ certain things while other pieces of music don’t prompt me to see anything. The reaction doesn’t really have anything to do with the music. It doesn’t really seem to have any direct correspondence with the sounds. I have no particular taste for the abstract. In art I think it’s mostly a kind of pattern making. It’s music that can inadvertently lead me towards abstraction.