More than a year after he first heard it, Swann understands the "little phrase" better:
He knew that even the memory of the piano falsified still further the perspective in which he saw the elements of the music, that the field open to the musician is not a miserable scale of seven notes, but an immeasurable keyboard still almost entirely unknown on which, here and there only, separated by shadows thick and unexplored, a few of the millions of keys of tenderness, of passion, of courage, of serenity which compose it, each as different from the others as one universe from another universe, have been found by a few great artists who do us the service, by awakening in us something corresponding to the theme they have discovered, of showing us what richness, what variety, is hidden unbeknowst to us within that great unpenetrated and disheartening darkness of our soul which we take for emptiness and nothingness.The music that gives me the best chance to come close to the response Proust describes is Glenn Gould's 1981 recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations. And I'm not alone: I just watched Bruno Monsaingeon's 2005 documentary Glenn Gould Hereafter, in which several people talk about Gould's Bach recordings in these terms.
From Swann's Way, translated by Lydia Davis (New York: Viking, 2002), 362-63
Proust: "one phrase rising"
Swann's little phrase
Classical music for beginners (Start with the Goldberg Variations)
Three records (One is the Goldberg Variations)
All Proust posts (via del.icio.us)