It was in April 1967, when I went to see, for the first time, in a very specially prepared movie theatre, the very influential, prophetic film of Stanley Kubrick called "2001: A Space Odyssey".
Stanley Kubrick is to blame in my case too. The seed was planted in the 1971 film 'A Clockwork Orange'. The protagonist was a classical music fan. Purcell, Rossini, Beethoven and Elgar were represented. It was Beethoven's 9th Symphony that made the impression but it wasn't until 1994 that I bought John Eliot Gardiner's box set of all 9.
Would I buy Riccardo Chailly's new version? I'm thinking about it.
'After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music'.
Aldous Huxley brainyquote.com
I thought that I (sadly enough) hadn’t had a similar serendipitous moment until I read Vic’s reference to Pirates of Penzance which reminded me of something that happened a long time ago. (Incidentally, much credit to you for the Pachelbel incident.)
It must have been sometime in the ‘seventies when the BBC broadcast a production of Yeoman of the Guard one Christmas with Geraint Evans as Jack Point. I had never heard any music like this (Yeoman has some of Sullivan’s best choral work and there is a fantastic unaccompanied quartet in the second act) and I wanted to hear more like it. Fortunately the local library had a record section and I spent months going through their G&S selection before branching out via the Magic Flute, Figaro and Boheme and then onto Beethoven and Wagner.
There is a follow up to this. We have a 14-year old daughter and last year we took her to all male productions of Pirates and of Iolanthe at the splendid Wilton’s Music Hall in east London (camp as Christmas, but beautifully staged and sung) which she adored. She is now genuinely interesting in exploring opera, although we have to choose the work carefully - I don’t think she’s ready yet for Der Meistersinger, but we do have tickets for Porgy and Bess at the Coliseum later this year. Although she’s not as yet shown any interest in orchestral music, I hope that will come in time. Meanwhile I take it as a compliment that she has the Doyle Carte Opera company on her Ipod.
No single moment but a series of cumulative eye-openers, about 40 years ago:
Opera took much longer, a very gradual process. My only knock-on-the-head moment was hearing Pavarotti for the first time in Boheme.
Great to hear all your stories, makes your anonymous lives more real. Interesting how most of us had that 'tingle factor' and then the obsession of not being able to consume enough of this newly discovered passion.
One of the early works I remember thinking 'what the hec is this?' is Concerto for Piano Trumpet and Strings by Shostakovitch. I only heard part of the last movement and was interrupted before I heard the announcer declare what it was. I wrote to Radio 3 and full marks to them I recieved a postcard reply a couple of weeks later informing me of its title etc.
Now of course we have the brilliant BBC website to view immediately the schedule.
Thanks to the internet we never stop finding new intriguing works to listen to. Gramophone posted on Facebook today about recordings of 2 symphonies new to me that I am now listening to on Spotify. Franz Scmidt symphony 4 Malmo SO and Berwald symphony 3 LSO. Both composers' names I recognise but have never listened to their music before.
Pause for thought.
Thanks to the internet we never stop finding new intriguing works to listen to. Gramophone posted on Facebook today about recordings of 2 symphonies new to me that I am now listening to on Spotify. Franz Schmidt symphony 4 Malmo SO and Berwald symphony 3 LSO. Both composers' names I recognise but have never listened to their music before.
Both works are really worth the time - the Berwald symphonies in particular are really splendid works; when ever I hear them they feel fresh and sparkling, like the Mendelssohn symphonies. The Schmidt symphony is one of those that falls too often under the radar and exists on the fringe of the repertoire - undoubtedly others will give you more information.
Wish we had spotify in my neck of the woods...
Atonal, Berwald, as a Swedish composer didn't manage to make the name he deserved. Perhaps, because his music sounds so...German, most of the time, somerthing moving between Mendelssohn, Weber and beyond. There are quite a few good and very good recordings. The best is a rather old one, on the yellow label, with N. Jarvi. His Chamber music is also very interesting and more original: There are some nice recordings of the Piano Quintets on Explore Recordings, a comprehensive double CD (at the price of one) on Hyperion and the Complete String Quartets on BIS, plus a rather extended discography of other works as well.
Franz Schmidt is one of these cases of composers who fell on the shadow of their mentors and predecessors. He was a very significant Austrian composer, who, initially, was considered as the natural successor to Bruckner. However, his music proved to be a kind of hybrid, a conservative-progressive outcome, which was too complex for the former and too strict for the avant-gardist. In any case, the fact is that his music is truly difficult, with, often, very impressive orchestration.
For some scholars and experts, his very original masterpiece is his Oratorio "The Book of the Seven Seals" based on the Book of Apocalypse. There are, surprisingly, quite a few impressive recordings, the latest, in SACD sound (on Chandos), the oldest with Mitropoulos, existing on different labels.
However, his most popular and, for many musicians and conductors in particular, most important work is the 4th Symphony, a heartbreaking masterpiece he composed for his untimely departed daughter (Requiem for my daughter). There are plenty of very good and impressive recordings: Jarvi on Chandos, Sinaisky on Naxos, Kreizberg on Pentatone (very good and moving indeed), Luisi on Querstand and a live recording with Bonn Philh. with a less known conductor (but in SACD sound on MDG), to mention the most notable I can remember.
So, you have some food for...listening,
Seconded, re. both Berwald and Schmidt's 4th. EMI produced a comprehensive set of Berwald's orchestral music with the RPO conducted by Bjorlin back in 1977. I think it's still available but it was recorded in a heatwave and the playing sounds rather siesta-like.
The old Schmidt 4 with the VPO conducted by, of all people, Mehta, was a landmark recording in its day and still sounds excellent to my ears. If I'm not mistaken, Naxos started issuing other Schmidt orchestral works. I'd be very interested in hearing from people who've sampled them.
Intrigued by Parla's reference to Bruckner in the context of Schmidt's 4th Symphony (a work I'd not come across before), I listened to the Naxos/Sinaisky recording via Spotify. Thank you too, Atonal for the original reference.
What an intriguing and very listenable work! Many thanks for pointing this out, Parla. I see exactly what you mean by your Bruckner reference - there are many points where there are very fleeting moments of a bar or so which remind one almost subliminally of Bruckner, rather in the way that Wagner's leitmotifs and their variations are sometimes only hinted at in the Ring, but nonetheless leave a very deep impression. 'Melodic moments of feeling', or something similar, was what I recall Deryck Cook described them as. And, as you say, there are passages which are very much more modern.
At first I thought the last movement was somewhat directionless, but it has an intriguing ending which, on first listening, perhaps highlights its intentionally irresolute nature. I shall certainly be returning to this and very soon.
Thanks once again to all.
Hi JKH - Yes I shall be re-visiting this and the Schmidt again very soon. Didn't have time to give them both justice.
This is what Gramophone's Facebook post said: 'It was on this day in 1905, that Franz Berwald’s Third Symphony, the lovely 'Symphonie singulière' received its belated premiere in Stockholm. This wonderfully original Swedish composer had written it in 1845 and it’s generally considered his greatest work. If you don’t know it – imagine a blend of Mendelssohn and Sibelius, if you can – sample this fine recording (once on Decca and now on Bluebell) by the London Symphony Orchestra and Sixten Ehrling.'
Maybe I need to get over that! It's just that assumption isn't it that others will see it as 'highbrow'.
Yes Partsong I used to be the same now I dont give a hoot. People do look surprised when you tell them that classical music is your main interest. Occasionally a few might ask what's my recommendation to get them started but it can be a conversation stopper. Fortunately I'm still up with pop/rock that I can quickly change tackwhen required.
I have no family or friends that have the slightest knowledge of classical so I'm out there all alone, except for you guys.... feel the love ha ha!
Going gack to Berwald and Schmidt, some additional points:
Berwald was rather controversial and even bizzare in composing some of his works, if we have to judge the titles he gave to his four surviving Symphonies : Singuliere, Serieuse, Naive. However, they don't sound so strange, serious or naive. In any case, they can't possibly sound as Sibelius at all, if we consider he died in 1865.
Schmidt, because of his Hungarian descent, he had his first influence, as a musician if not as a composer, from Brahms and Liszt. Bruckner was his teacher in Counterpoint and Harmony, while, when he became a mature composer, he demonstrated sheer interest in the Second Vienna School, performing some of the key works of Schoenberg, gaining so his appreciation. His Chamber Music lies mostly in the strict style of Reger, but it is more flowing and smooth, despite the very demanding writing form. The String Quartets on NImbus and one of the Qlarinet Quintets on Orfeo are "must" of his music.
Apart from his great Fourth, there are three more superb Symphonies, on different grounds: the First is the closest to Bruckner with strong Romantic form; the Second is less Brucknerian, with more references to early R. Strauss and even Mahler (enormous orchestration, complex score, long movements leading to a great Symphony, after all); the Third is looking to the past composers (Weber, Schubert, Mendelssohn), with a more modest orchestration but marvellous development of ideas, making a very advanced, in musical terms, symphonic work.
Finally, we should not neglect his Romantic Opera Notre Dame. There is a rather mediocre and a bit old recording on Capriccio and a much older on Gala. His Organ Work is also significant and impressive. Rather recently, Capriccio issued a 4CD-set of his complete organ works, at an almost budget price.
Good exploration. Schmidt is worth indulging in. Berwald, at least, it's worth a try.
Thank you, Parla. The Bruckner information explains a lot and I'm looking forward to exploring the other works you kindly highlighted.
I have enjoyed reading responses to this post and it is a pleasure to observe some hatchets being buried over the past few days at last. Lets hope we can have some genuine cordial exchanges and respect for each others points of view.
My personal epithany, if I may call it that, began when our Benjamin Britten loving music teacher at grammar school played Boult's 1970's recording of Ralph Vaughan William's Sea Symphony. I recall being immensly impressed by the power of the opening fanfare chords followed by the glorious entry of full chorus on the words "Behold the sea!". I don't recall how long Mr Smith, the teacher, played the record before asking for our comments but I remember telling him I had never heard anything like it and asked him to play it again, which he did. After class, one of my classmates commented that I didn't really like it and was only trying to get in the teacher's good books. I told him he was wrong and that I absolutely loved it. The next lesson I remained behind after school and was introduced to other works by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Britten and Elgar and having heard me in class during singing practice singing in descant, I was offered a place as a soloist in the town's leading Parish choir. This was the beginning of a life devoted to performing, sharing and listening to music.
Thanks Parla again for your considered response, I will dig out the other syms. and his chamber works too. Thought I heard echoes of Mahler in the 4th. Love the symphony but found my mind drifting towards the final minutes (maybe more to do with thoughts of my impending tax bill next week!).
I'll drink to that Caballe!
Thanks for sharing your 'moment'. I am a great Lover of VW but I have to say I've never been able to get into his Sea Symphony, no probs with the rest and the 6th perhaps being my favourite. Incidentally I'm looking forward to hearing this new recording of his Suite for viola and Orch.