Burnout and moving forward

Drawing of piano keyboard with colourful watercolour

Julia Bognar , Senior Clinical Pharmacist, Priory Medical Group, York 

I have been thinking about how powerful music has been for me and helped me get over a difficult season of my professional life. I am lucky to be able to celebrate several things that I have gained this year and certainly playing music has been one of the least expected and the most special of those!

Playing the instrument has been an incredible journey of re-exploring a long-lost part of myself. It is not just about experiencing the dopamine or the serotonin release or the cognitive benefits. For me music is also about connecting with the world on another level. Quoting H. C. Andersen, ‘where worlds fail, music speaks’. I was writing earlier about the struggles of the shame and the isolation that are so much part of burnout, and how much relief and comfort I have found in playing these messy emotions into the pieces that I learned along the way.

On the other hand, it is not a secret that piano practice can be daunting sometimes. It is also not always easy to find time for regular practice but playing for friends and sharing the fun easily balance things off. Music has also taught me to be more conscious of my boundaries and to acknowledge and prioritise my own needs.

More recently, among others, I have picked up on a Mozart sonata, K309, composed in C-major. If you have a few minutes tea-break, I invite you to listen to the first movement here and I am hoping to add the second and the third movements very soon.

Over the years, Mozart’s music has been heavily researched for its unique impact on mood, cognitive function, and human emotions and as such, has been actively used in various forms of music therapy.

Sonatas are usually a form of ‘salon music’ which were composed to follow a rigorous ruleset of the times and were often played on the evening concerts of the wealthy households. Playing a Mozart sonata is certainly testing for the pianist!

However, amid all the structural constraints of the movement, the real Mozart shows up in this piece repeatedly and in beautiful ways. The joyful, the gracious, the adventurous, the suffering and the genius wanting all our attention, even after all these centuries! Listen to the trills, the virtuous semi-quavers, and the drama of the unisono parts (when both hands play the same tune). Listen to how the mood becomes more melancholic and mysterious in the second part, before gently allowing way for the heavy emptions, by almost ‘breathing them out’. Listen to how softly the composer rediscovers the passion and the gracious movements of the first introduction, and finally he ends the whole piece by inviting the performer to share their virtuosity with the audience.

Originally, this sonata was written for a smaller instrument, the harpsichord. This is why the dramatic and virtuous ending is important and it offsets the limitations of the volume and the size of the instrument.

I hope that listening to the piece will give the listener as much comfort, relief, and optimism as it offers to those playing and performing it time and time again.

You can read Julia’s previous posts here:

Recovering from burnout: the power of music

Talking More About Burnout

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