Swann hears the phrase again . . . And it was so particular, it had a charm so individual, which no other charm could have replaced, that Swann felt as though he had encountered in a friend’s drawing room a person whom he had admired in the street and despaired of ever finding again.”

Dear friends,

I was twenty years old and living in Paris when my class assignment was to read the first and last volumes of Marcel Proust’s epic novel, “À la Recherche du Temps Perdu” (In Search of Lost Time). In French, of course. I had come to the City of Lights on a Junior Year Abroad program, and, beyond the enticement of studying with a well known flutist, I looked forward to my immersion in literature and philosophy classes with esteemed profs on a side street near Montparnasse. What I didn’t expect was to fall in love with Proust, whose writing I assumed would be dry, lengthy, and impossible to understand. I was wrong.

Even with the constant need of my mini dictionary, his themes of childhood, involuntary memory, and the mysteries of the heart, were a startling revelation to me. But most astonishing were his descriptions of music, and the visceral experience of listening to it. Throughout the novel, Proust writes about a fictitious composer,Vinteuil, an amalgam of many composers who left an indelible mark on his life and work.

Early in the first book of the novel, the narrator’s memories of childhood are triggered by tasting a petite madeleine dunked in tea, and in case you have never tasted one, now is your chance—we’ll have them at intermission! The taste and texture of the tea-soaked pastry prompt involuntary memories, and remind him in a vivid and palpable way of the same experience he had as a child. This is Proust’s trademark, a profound sensory experience of memory, triggered by smells, sights, touch, but especially by music, and in particular, a little phrase of music. What has been the

subject of endless, almost obsessive speculation, is what pieces of music Proust might have had in mind when he wrote extensively about that “little phrase” throughout the novel. His supreme gift lies in describing music as sensory experience, and for emulating its flow in his own prose.

Needless to say, a ‘Proust concert’ must be worthy of his renowned wordiness, so we thank you in advance for indulging us in presenting a slightly longer concert than usual – about 2 hours 15’. I hope you will love every selection as much as I do. 

–Julie