Arts Classical attitude

News and notes from san antonio’s other music scene

Food and more for the soul

It’s no secret that music, like other environmental factors such as color and smell, affect mood.

For me, music is an integral part of daily existence. When it comes to setting the tone for a fine meal, going to the CD shelf is just as routine as checking what’s in the fridge. People write books, teach courses, and fill advice columns with instructions for pairing wine and food. I would argue that proper music pairings are just as important, although a little more intuitive and somewhat (though not much) more dependent on personal taste.

Over the holidays my husband and I contracted terrible colds. We prepare fairly elaborate meals every night and had been engaged in a serious run of Indian food (yes, sitar music makes the spicing more harmonious). Feeling a little puny and unenergetic, we reverted to the simplest, no-effort meals we could come up with. We had Italian greens from the garden, ideal for slow simmering with olive oil and garlic, served on top of fava-bean puree with a side salad, pork loin cooked with garlic and rosemary, and a nice little bottle of Chianti. It was home-style Italian comfort food. It deserved the proper energy level. Almost instinctively I reached for the Rossini overtures, full of the playful pomp and vigor that made the composer not only one of the most popular opera composers of the 19th century but also a celebrated gourmand. It did the trick — just like the many times we reached for Granados or Albeniz to accompany a Spanish meal, Chopin or Ravel for French treats.

In my experience, most gourmands have a fondness for music, and I don’t know a single musician (classical or otherwise) who doesn’t consider it standard post-performance procedure to have a fine meal or share a drink with a group of friends. The cellist with a well-known local quartet is pursuing advanced sommelier training. His colleague has been known to cook elaborate Turkish feasts for more than 20 people.

“I’ve never known a great musician who wasn’t a fabulous cook,” says violinist Stephanie Sant’Ambrogio, founder of the Cactus Pear Music Festival, which was inspired by the Zuni Grill’s signature cactus-pear margarita. Locally, CPMF’s famous gourmet receptions are rivaled only by the gourmet dinner-house concerts of Musical Bridges Around the Word’s Musica Viva series.

It seems logical, at least to me, that different art forms might inform or enhance each other, but clearly factors besides synergy can influence musical choices. I remember one dinner with a musician friend following a concert — an inspired concoction of Gorgonzola cheese, arugula, and pine nuts lightly roasted atop home-baked pizza dough she had whipped together before leaving for work. We were discussing what music to put on and her suggestion was, “Anything but classical.” The comment caught me a little off guard, but it also made sense. Obviously, she (and many of the guests at her impromptu dinner party) loves music enough to make it her life’s work. But professional classical musicians practice, rehearse, teach, and perform more than 40 hours a week. Sometimes jazz or flamenco are better choices, or with BBQ, the blues. But keep the music flowing; it’s good for your soul.

Diana Roberts

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