All original work © 2009 - 2018 Alexey Provolotsky

8 August 2016


After another violent row, she jumped into the car and drove off. Her left hand fumbled for the glove compartment. Somewhere inside, in between old lipsticks and chocolate wrappers, she was supposed to find a gun. Although wait. Not a gun. She was supposed to find a CD of her favourite Bach. Goldberg Variations performed by Glenn Gould.

In actual fact, there were supposed to be two CDs with two different versions. One dated from 1955, the other from 1981. The Canadian pianist famously played Bach's masterpiece at two different stages of his career: first, there was the fast, early version that was all passion and impudent charm; second, there was the version recorded before his death, the slow and thoughtful playing of extraordinary grace and experience. Both were magnificent, as critics said. She, however, knew a lot about music, enough to prefer the first version, the one that was almost twice as fast as the funereal dirge performed by Gould in 1981.

He, too, had his favourite. Inevitably, it was the slower version where the magical 'Aria' dragged on for hours. They used to have arguments about Goldberg Variations and she used to enjoy telling him all those intriguing little details about the genius of Glenn Gould. How he always wore gloves. How he hated clapping. How he preferred a chair of a particular height. How he...

At which point the car veered slightly to the right, and she narrowly escaped a tree poking out of the edge of the road. Her heart sank a little, and the reason was not so much the possibility of an accident as the fact that once she put the CD into the record player, it was the 1981 version that she heard. 'Bastard!' she screamed to no one in particular. Because the second CD wasn't even in the box. He must have taken the wrong one, the 1955 one, when he said he needed some background music for one of his 'fancy' maths classes at the University. It was, what, a week ago now?

'Bastard!' she screamed again but chose not to switch the music off. Because there was nothing else in the car and because she needed something to hijack her thoughts sopped in Pinot Grigio.

But Jesus how slow it was. How stupid, soulless and slow. And so for no other reason but to spite him, she increased the speed of the car by ten, fifteen miles per hour. It felt good, and it was the sheer contrast that she was enjoying with such great abandon. And how she needed to enjoy something after his words and on the narrow path in the middle of the forest where she had found herself seconds before 'Variation 15' started playing. Still, she pushed on.

While going to bed, alone this time, he poured some more wine and played the CD he had taken from the car seven days ago and hadn't actually had time to use in one of his exhibition classes. This was the wrong CD because it sounded faster and a lot less calculated. However, he was too tired and too broken down to notice, or to remember that one of the tyres of the car needed changing. 

The music did the job and soon he was knocked off into sleep. A sleep that was so deep and so powerful that he could not even hear the anxious sound of the telephone as it kept ringing all through the dawn.