Monday, 24 August 2009

Classical Gas

In addition to her piano lessons, my daughter attends a music school on Saturday mornings to learn choir singing, composition and musical appreciation. It seemed like a good idea at the time and she seems to enjoy it so we pay up and hope it is enriching her life. As a bonus, she became eligible for tickets to a children’s performance by the BBC Concert Orchestra at Watford Town Hall. Tickets were limited to two per pupil so she and I attended the gig and what fun it turned out to be.

The BBC Orchestra has a fantastic repertoire ranging from true classical pieces to TV and film themes to programme incidental music and we were treated to a selection from every area of their expertise. We thrilled to the themes from Dr Who, Mission Impossible and Wallace & Gromit as well as incidental music from the BBC’s wildlife programmes and pieces by Strauss, Bizet and Britten. Like all live music there is nothing quite like listening to a full orchestra in flight – the dynamic range, the punch, the sheer volume!

I love the Mission Impossible theme but you really haven’t lived until you’ve heard it played by a massive orchestra, it is truly awe inspiring.

And on the subject of classical music, I watched the ‘Proms’ on TV last night for the first time in a very long time indeed and for one reason only; one of the pieces on the bill was Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’. The ‘Rite’ is my all-time favourite orchestral work and this was beautifully played by the Scottish Symphony Orchestra. I was first introduced to this piece when forced to study part of it for Music ‘O’ Level when I was 16 and it has lived with me ever since. I have several recordings of it on both vinyl and CD and listen to it quite regularly. It is no less than a masterpiece but if you have never heard it before, be warned – it is not easy listening. The premiere of the ballet for which it was composed ended in an audience riot in 1913, so revolutionary was its rhythmic invention and primal bi-tonality.

To me it could only have been composed by a Russian. It is underscored by Russian folk tunes and amongst the violence and complexity there are moments of heartbreaking melancholy. It is one of those works that seems to underline my conviction that melancholy is a much maligned and misinterpreted state. At its best, it wields tremendous emotional power and can give you those goose-bump moments of sheer beauty. The Rite has some of those moments. But then so does Abba and my favourite band, Lush. Melancholy should never be confused with depression. Depression offers no hope, melancholy offers moments of insular reflection when the wonders of the natural world invade your soul and music is one of them.

1 comment:

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