What follows are some references to classical music in some of the Haruki Murakami works that I have read:
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (2013, 2014)
As they listened to one piano recording, Tsukuru realized that he’d heard the composition many times in the past. He didn’t know the title, however, or the composer. It was a quiet, sorrowful piece that began with a slow, memorable theme that played out as single notes, then proceeded into a series of tranquil variations. Tsukuru looked up from the book he was reading and asked Haida what it was.
‘”Franz Liszt’s ‘La mal du pays.’ It’s from his Years of Pilgrimage Suite ‘Year One: Switzerland.'”
“‘La mal du…’?”
“‘La mal du pays.’ It’s French. Usually it’s translated as ‘homesickness,’ or ‘melancholy.’ If you put a finer point on it, it’s more like ‘a groundless sadness called forth in a person’s heart by a pastoral landscape.’ It’s a hard expression to translate accurately.” (68-9)
Kafka on the Shore (2002, 2005)
“Playing Schubert’s piano sonatas well is one of the hardest things in the world. Especially this, the “Sonata in D Major.” It’s a tough piece to master. Some pianists can play one or maybe two of the movements perfectly, but if you listen to all four movements as a unified whole, no one has ever nailed it. A lot of famous pianists have tried to rise to the challenge, but it’s like there’s always something missing. There’s never one where you can say, Yes! He’s got it! Do you know why?”
“No,” I reply.
“Because the sonata itself is imperfect. Robert Schumann understood Schubert’s sonatas well, and he labeled this one ‘Heavenly Tedious.'” (102)
When the Haydn concerto was over Hoshino asked him to play the Rubinstein-Heifetz-Feuermann version of the Archduke Trio again. While listening to this, he again was lost in thought. (329)
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1995, 1997)
When the phone rang I was in the kitchen, boiling a potful of spaghetti and whistling along with an FM broadcast of the overture to Rossini’s “The Thieving Magpie,” which has to be the perfect music for cooking pasta. (1)
After doing the breakfast dishes, I rode my bike to the cleaner’s by the station. The owner — a thin man in his late forties, with deep wrinkles on his forehead — was listening to a tape of the Percy Faith orchestra on a boom box that had been set on a shelf. It was a large JVC, with some kind of extra woofers attached and a mound of cassette tapes standing by. The orchestra was performing “Tara’s Theme,” making the most of its lush string section. (56)
When Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings ended, a little piano piece came on that sounded like something by Schumann. It was familiar, but I couldn’t recall the title. When it was over, the female announcer sad it had been the seventh of Schumann’s Forest Scenes, titled “Bird as Prophet.”… The announcer explained that Schumann had created a scene of fantasy in which a mysterious bird lived the forest, foretelling the future. (278)
“It’s kind of like The Magic Flute. You know: Mozart. Using a magic flute and magic bells, they have to save a princess who’s being held captive in a faraway castle. I love that opera. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen it. I know the lines by heart: ‘I’m the birdcatcher, Papageno, known throughout the land.” (406)
I could feel a certain warmth in the mark on my cheek. It told me that I was drawing a little closer to the core of things. I closed my eyes. Still echoing in my ear were the strains of music that Cinnamon had been listening to repeatedly as he worked that morning. It was Bach’s “Musical Offering,” still there in my head like the lingering murmur of a crowd in an auditorium. (455)
– Originally compiled in 2017.