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GUIDE | Six Classical Music & Cocktail Pairings For New Year's 2020/21

By Anya Wassenberg on December 30, 2020

New Year's at home (Photo: Markito/Pixabay)
New Year’s at home (Photo: Markito/Pixabay)

It’s been a year.

To call it unprecedented doesn’t seem nearly expressive enough, yet on the other hand, there doesn’t seem to be a word or even a phrase that truly captures the spirit of the last 12 months. As the year 2020 comes to a close, it’s a time of reflection, confusion, consternation, wonderment, hope — and a thousand other emotions.

The guest list may be non-existent this year in lockdown, but music, as always, is our salvation, and for the occasion of New Year’s 2020/2021, there are many ways to celebrate and enjoy whatever emotion is sparked by the passing of one of the most difficult years ever for so many. Here are a few suggestions that may strike a chord, and may be suitable for either celebrating the end of 2020 or contemplating what looms in 2021.

Spark A Celebratory Mood With Beethoven & Champagne

If there’s a need to find something to celebrate, what better reason than the 250th birthday of the Master (and our namesake)? In the UK, The Guardian asked their readers to pick the right music to say good-bye to 2020, and out of all the genres in all the world, a reassuring number of them picked Beethoven’s famous 9th Symphony and its message of brotherly and universal love. After two and a half centuries, his music still has the power to inspire — and inspiration is something the whole world needs right now.

Contemplate New Paradigms With John Cage & Dry Martinis

As a point of fact, the 3rd Movement of John Cage’s Variations IV is titled “After 3 Martinis”, but in any case, it’s a suitably stripped down cocktail for his music. An icon of the avant-garde, Cage’s music forces listeners to rethink their very idea of what music is, what musical instruments are. It’s an appropriate idea to contemplate on this New Year in particular. The instructions for Variations IV include, “For any number of players, any sounds or combinations of sounds produced by any means, with or without other activities.” Other directions include an elaborate system of deciding where the sounds will be performed.

A performance of John Cage’s Variations IV by members of the Westminster College Music History IV class, May 1, 2018.

Cocoon With Baroque & Spiked Hot Chocolate

When uncertainty and tension scream from every headline, many people are looking for solace at the end of 2020. Surely Bach and his Baroque compatriots are the comfort food of the Western classical music world? For every chord progression, every variation that ventures into a troubling minor key — never fear, all is resolved in a most satisfactory and even glorious manner. It’s a reminder that no matter how far we venture, it all returns to I. That the music is also exquisitely beautiful is proof that there is something still right with this world. Add a sweet, warm chocolatey confection to drink, tuck under a cozy blanket, and be uplifted and soothed.

Tafelmusik performs J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No 3 (third movement) at Toronto’s Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre on May 15, 2009.

Toast The Growing Diversity Of The Classical Music World With Florence Price & A Chicago Cocktail

Florence Price (1887 to 1953) was the first African American woman recognized as a symphonic composer, and she was also the first to see her work played by a prominent orchestra. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Frederick Stock, premiered her Symphony in E minor on June 15, 1933, and it was praised in the newspapers. Her story and her work were ignored and forgotten after her death until a cache of her work was found in an abandoned house in 2009. In November 2018, G. Schirmer acquired the rights to her catalogue. To celebrate, we suggest the Chicago Cocktail, popular in the 1930s, and made up of two dashes of Angostura bitters, three dashes of Curacao, a splash of Brandy in an old-fashioned glass with ice — and fill the rest with Champagne.

Fantasie Negre no. 1 in E minor by Florence Price (Samantha Ege, piano)

Reach Catharsis With Götterdämmerung & Absinthe

For those who aren’t afraid to confront the melodrama that has been a constant fixture of the last year, opera is the musical solution. Love, death, the end of the world — if opera responds to our deepest passions and emotions, then perhaps Richard Wagner’s Götterdämmerung is one way of putting 2020 into context. In the end, the gods are denounced, the river floods the hall, the Rhinemaidens get their gold back, and Valhalla is in flames. What could possibly come next? Add a drink or two of absinthe, and it all begins to make sense.

Celebrate The Return Of Optimism With Holst & The Happy Happy Cocktail

In the world of astrology, Jupiter is the bringer of good luck, and in Holst’s The Planets, it’s Jupiter the Bringer of Jollity. Certainly, everyone needs a dose of jollity at the end of 2020, and the resolutely upbeat mood of the piece fits the bill to a T. According to astrologers, Jupiter (along with Saturn) is about to kick off the Age of Aquarius. It seems like a good enough reason to muster up some optimism for 2021. The Happy Happy cocktail consists of vodka (2oz), triple sec (1oz), orange juice (5oz) and ice.

A flashmob of Gustav Holst’s “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity” from The Planets by the Berklee Contemporary Symphonic Orchestra (BCSO) at Prudential Center on November 17, 2016.

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Anya Wassenberg

Anya Wassenberg is a Senior Writer and Digital Content Editor at Ludwig Van. She is an experienced freelance writer, blogger and writing instructor with OntarioLearn.
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Follow me

Anya Wassenberg

Anya Wassenberg is a Senior Writer and Digital Content Editor at Ludwig Van. She is an experienced freelance writer, blogger and writing instructor with OntarioLearn.
Follow me
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