17 May 2010

Expressing That Which Cannot Be Said

When a kid's first word is "music", you know she really means it. What child chooses a two-syllable word that has a diphthong and voiced fricatives as their first? (Although come to think of it, Megan's was "Bruce", which is easier but still unusual. What strange children we were.)

KBYU Classical 89.9 is celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, and as such has done a variety of things to celebrate the theme Fifty Is the New Forte. Ha ha. The BYU Philharmonic did a series of concerts in the fall and winter that were all fifth symphonies in honor of the anniversary, including Mahler's fifth in February and Beethoven's fifth in April, both of which I attended. The Mahler was gorgeous; I had never heard it before, but I really loved the piece. The conductor discussed it in some detail before they played and told us what to listen for, which was really nice because I felt like I understood the music better than I would have otherwise. Most people aren't familiar with Mahler if they don't know classical music well, but it is very possible that you have heard the fourth movement of his fifth symphony before.There is a story that says he wrote the movement and sent it as a marriage proposal to the woman who became his wife.

Beethoven's fifth symphony is, in my opinion, probably the greatest symphony ever written. While the BYU Philharmonic is not as good as a professional symphony orchestra, they still did a marvelous job with the piece. I particularly enjoyed the pace at which they played; in the program notes the conductor explained that most recordings and performances we hear drag out the pauses written in, but he wanted to follow the score exactly, so he took the first and third movement at a slightly faster tempo and the second at a slightly slower. I really loved it, and at times it almost sounded like a totally different symphony than the one I am so used to hearing on my recording. For those of you who are only familiar with the first lines of the first movement, I've included the second movement for your hearing pleasure. It really is gorgeous. But you must go find a quality recording of the entire symphony to get the entire effect.


Last night some of the BYU music faculty performed pieces by Chopin, Schumann, and Barber in honor of their anniversaries (Chopin and Schumann being 200 this year, Barber 100) and that of KBYU. I went with two of my roommates to the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake to hear them play. While I didn't love the Barber (although Richard Elliot played a prelude and fugue on the organ that was gorgeous), Schumann's piano quartet was lovely, and I always love Chopin pieces. I fell in love with him when I discovered his nocturne in E minor, Op. 72 No. 1 at Bruce and Lisa's house when I was fourteen. He has been my favorite composer to play ever since.

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