When we honor another person’s worth, we do not merely respect their personhood; we cherish and celebrate it.
- Norman Rockwell, Teacher's Birthday: Surprise (1956)
Film and Stage
- Devi, on the impossibility of living up to the image of a goddess (Satyajit Ray’s summary). This film presents the concept of honoring a person’s worth in the negative.
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Elgar’s Enigma Variations, Op. 36, are short orchestral pieces in honor of various of the composer’s friends. He was honoring them for who they were, not what they were, and so was honoring their intrinsic worth, not their value to others (performances conucted by Elgar, Bernstein and Temirkanov).
Along the same lines is Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin (A Piece Written as a Memorial), M. 68 (1917). Each movement is dedicated to the memory of a friend of Ravel’s who had died in World War I. Ravel originally composed it for piano: top performances are by Lortie, Chamayou and Osborne. Top orchestral versions are conducted by Martinon, Marriner, Boulez, Ansermet and Oramo.
Antonín Dvořák, Legends, Op. 59, B. 122 (1881) is a tone poem, consisting of ten short idyllic pieces, originally composed for piano four hands, then orchestrated by the composer in the same year. “The set may have been a sequence of meditations on the lives of saints; according to Dvorák's biographer Otakar Sourek, the composer was possibly inspired by Liszt's Legends for piano on the life of St. Francis.” Top performances of the orchestral version are conducted by Kubelik in 1976, Bělohlávek, Fischer in 1999, and Măcelaru in 2022.
Haydn, String Quartets, Opus 55 (“Tost” quartets, set 2, 1788), represent a significant shift in tone from Haydn’s Op. 54 quartets, commonly labeled as the first set in his “Tost” series. As in all of his string quartets, Haydn is in the process of exploring the possibilities of interplay between the voices – the expression of their relationship. In these three quartets, as contrasted with those from Op. 54 (“Tost,” set 1), Haydn has progressed from mere respect (as in fairness) to honoring the other.
- Quartet No. 45 in A major, Op. 55, No. 1, FHE No. 22, Hob. III:60
- Quartet No. 46 in F minor (“Razor”), Op. 55, No. 2, FHE No. 23, Hob. III:61
- Quartet No. 47 in B flat major, Op. 55, No. 3, FHE No. 24, Hob. III:62
Haydn, String Quartets, Op. 64 (“Tost” quartets, set 3, 1790), continue the mood, tone and theme of his Op. 55.
- Quartet No. 48 in C major, Op. 64, No. 1, FHE No. 31, Hob. III:65
- Quartet No. 49 in B minor, Op. 64, No. 2, FHE No. 32, Hob. III:68
- Quartet No. 50 in B flat major, Op. 64, No. 3, FHE No. 33, Hob. III:67
- Quartet No. 51 in G major, Op. 64, No. 4, FHE No. 34, Hob. III:66
- Quartet No. 53 in D major, Op. 64, No. 5 (“The Lark”), FHE No. 35, Hob. III:63
- Quartet No. 52 in E flat major, Op. 64, No. 6, FHE No. 36, Hob. III:64
- Schubert, Piano Sonata No. 15 in G major, Op. posth. 161, D 887
- Tchaikovsky, Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50, TH 117, “À la mémoire d'un grand artist” (In Memory of a Great Artist) (1882): the work’s title refers to the subject’s greatness but its personal and elegiac character makes it about the artist’s intrinsic worth.
- Similarly elegiac in character, Shostakovich, Piano Trio No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 67 (1944), was inspired by Shostakovich’s friendship with and admiration for Ivan Sollertinsky.
- Holst, Walt Whitman Overture, Op. 7, H42
- Hahn, Piano Quartet No. 3 in G major (1946) (dedicated to Madame Zerline Rochard)
- Bax, In Memoriam (1916)
- Caplet, Le miroir de Jésus (1923): fashioned after the Christ narrative and the rosary, this song cycle recounts the story of a life.
- Jim Snidero, “Live at the Deer Head Inn”: “. . . the quartet’s simultaneous awareness of one another, the audience, the jazz tradition and the weight of the present era makes for a spellbinding live recording.” [Alexa Peters, Downbeat magazine, May 2021 issue, p. 48.]
- “Arthur Farwell: America’s Neglected Composer”: this composer honored Native Americans through music
- Jonathan Miles, Want Not (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013): “Miles’s message . . . (is) that no one can be thrown away . . . As terrible as we can be, we belong here and we matter and we might even do some good.”
- Luis Alberto Urrea, The House of Broken Angels: A Novel (Little, Brown and Company, 2018): a “ . . . highly entertaining story of Big Angel, the de La Cruz family’s patriarch, who buries his mother even as he himself is dying and as his family gathers to celebrate his 70th, and last, birthday.”
From the dark side:
- Katie Kitamura, Intimacies: A Novel (Riverhead Books, 2021): “. . . the real heat here, as in Kitamura’s previous novel, 'A Separation' (2017), lies in the author’s abiding interest in the subtleties of human power dynamics.”
- Dawn Winter, Sedating Elaine: A Novel (Knopf, 2022): “. . . Frances owes money to a drug dealer and, with no way of getting it, contrives to have her obnoxiously upbeat, generationally wealthy girlfriend, Elaine, move in with her so she can shake her down for money.”
Some keep the Sabbath going to Church – / I keep it, staying at Home – / With a Bobolink for a Chorister – / And an Orchard, for a Dome –
Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice – / I, just wear my Wings – / And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church, / Our little Sexton – sings.
God preaches, a noted Clergyman – / And the sermon is never long, / So instead of getting to Heaven, at last – / I’m going, all along.
[Emily Dickinson, “Some Keep the Sabbath Going to Church”]
From the dark side:
- Edgar Lee Masters, “Sersmith the Dentist”