SHOW #38: Fabulous 5th featuring works by Daniel Kellogg, Jay Greenberg, and Ludwig van Beethoven at Chautauqua
So, Internet, this entire show was a very different experience for me. I’ve only seen a full orchestra, maybe two or three times in my life, and on at least one of those occasions they were playing with a rock band. So it’s a bit strange for me to head out with the specific intent of seeing orchestral pieces performed. So why would I do this? Well, once again I owe a new musical experience to my girlfriend. This time we went because her brother wrote one of these pieces. For those of you who are curious, yes I’m dating Lisa van Beethoven. We get some strange looks but really, she’s surprisingly spry for a 240 year old. So, once again, I must state that I might be biased. Of course I’m not sure if my bias matters because I can’t imagine anyone coming to my blog for classical music advice.
As evidence of my amateur status as a classical music listener I present this. Right before the first piece began the symphony did that little tuning bit and immediately after the cacophony everyone started applauding. I had no idea what was happening and the first thing I could figure was that there was some kind of classical music inside joke where in you sarcastically applauded the orchestra after they tuned up. It was weird but interesting, then I caught sight of the conductor making his way to the podium and realized that, no, I was wrong. There was no clever and mildly hilarious inside joke that I’d never been privy too we were just applauding the arrival of the conductor.
Can I briefly state that it’s a bit strange to call music recently composed classical? I’m not really sure what else to call it, and I do think that is what people call it, bit it’s odd to take something someone wrote this year and refer to it as classical.That nitpick aside though, what did I think?
Gates Of Paradise by Daniel Kellogg
This piece was an overture which is shorter than a symphony. I get the feeling that an overture is roughly equivalent one movement of a symphony, so it was a fairly short piece. The shortness of it didn’t lower impact though because it felt very big and very dramatic. There was a sense of conflict in the piece, at least I thought there was. The strings, which tended to be on the light and airy side were butting up against the big heavy horns. It gave the piece a sense of story in my mind, it felt like the musical equivalent of a battle. With the ebb and flow of of the light side and the heavy side moving about each other with the occasional clash when they came together. The interplay was very dice and the dramatic feeling when everything came together was great. I’m not sure that there was really a story within the piece but I live in such a narrative driven mindset that it can be easy to find and apply story where there really isn’t one. Again, I’ll say that I know nothing of classical music but I did like this piece because of the way that it moved from light to heavy and the way that that movement lent a sense of story to the piece.
Greenberg’s 5th Symphony by Jay Greenberg
This was a full fledged symphony and by my estimation it was a bit longer than it needed to be. Not to say that it was bad, because really it wasn’t, at least not to my untrained ear. It just didn’t have the same drama or gravitas as the piece that came before it. It was much lighter and less impactful. So I just didn’t enjoy it as much. The second movement was my favorite part of the piece though I can’t exactly pin down why that was, it just sounded the best to me. There was a bit of an odd sensation that parts of the symphony had been nearly cribbed from other sources. There were portions that sounded just one note away from the Jaws theme, and another part that sounded like the theme song from some old 70s TV show. Maybe that was just my mind trying to make sense of what I was hearing, trying to give it context but it was still weird and it took me out of the piece a bit. Now, I’m to understand that this was composed by Greenberg when he was only 16 years of age so maybe that’s why there was a bit of pop culture in there? Who knows, all I know is that it’s fairly impressive to compose anything at 16. Heck when I was 16 I was still trying to master the fine art of driving so I really can’t criticize. I can form an opinion though and that opinion is simply that, I just didn’t enjoy it that much.
Beethoven’s 5th by Ludwig van Beethoven
You’re probably familiar with this Beethoven guy. He was in the first Bill and Ted movie so, I mean, odds are you saw him there. You may also have become acquainted with him through Looney Tunes where he along with others was often featured as the soundtrack to zany hijinks. I’m not sure what I can say here that hasn’t already been said about this piece by people more knowledgeable and more eloquent than myself. It was beautiful, and powerful, and moving. You know that, you’ve heard this, at least you’ve heard part of it because the first movement is widely used and it’s dun-dun-dun-DUN is seemingly universally known. What was interesting to me is how much of the rest of the piece seemed familiar to me, I feel like all told I’d probably heard 70-80% of it, though never all in one sitting. It’s just been chopped up and used piecemeal by television and movie producers. It’s just a great piece by one of the greatest composers that ever lived. Perhaps seeing it performed is the kind of thing that everyone owes themselves the pleasure of. I don’t know, I certainly enjoyed it.
I’m not sure if I’ll see a classical music again, at least not for this blog, but it’s an interesting and different music experience that exists in a wholly different segment of society, and it’s the kind of thing that you should do at some point. If you love music, branch out. See it in it’s different forms, maybe you’ll find something you never knew you could love.