A fan, knowledgeable about an art form in the way that only obsessive fans are, in conversation with a master practitioner of the art in question — that’s what Haruki Murakami and conductor Seiji Ozawa have given us in “Absolutely on Music,” a series of transcribed conversations between the two artists. The combination — fan and master; novelist and musician — is ideal. Murakami is conversant enough with music that the questions he asks Ozawa are intelligent and informed, but since he is a nonmusician who, by his own admission, can barely read a score, the questions are imbued with just enough ignorance of the musician’s craft that they elicit answers that will be enlightening to those of us who may be fans, or even musicians, but are not as well versed as Murakami, let alone a professional like Ozawa.
Murakami and Ozawa listen to various recordings of classical music as they talk, and their remarks on what they hear will send readers back to the music, enriched by both Ozawa’s knowledge and Murakami’s informed enthusiasm. They consider, for example, several renditions of Beethoven’s third piano concerto, and their comments on the use of silence in Glenn Gould’s recording with Leonard Bernstein — “It’s the hallmark of his style, those perfectly timed empty spaces” — and in Mitsuko Uchida’s version with Kurt Sanderling — “Listen to that, those perfect moments of silence” — can only compel us to return to the music, and the silences, once more.