I was at a concert: Beethoven and Bruckner

A couple weekends ago we headed to Lincoln Center for a concert featuring music by one of the three B’s and another B that I assume would crack the top ten of B’s if we were ranking them (I’ll file that one away). Guest conductor Juanjo Mena, who I remember from a show back in Kansas City, was there, as was James Ehnes, whose violining I’ve enjoyed from the distance of various broadcast recordings for some time now. It was a surprisingly well-attended and perhaps not-surprisingly good concert. Continue reading

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10 Best: Symphony movements, no. 2

Bruckner_Anton_Postcard-1910

Symphony no. 9, mvt. 1 by Anton Bruckner

I probably don’t need to rehash this too much, considering I’ve written at relative length about Bruckner and this symphony a few times, including after my recent trip to Chicago. Suffice it to say, this is about the most earth-shattering music that exists anywhere and there’s no reason we shouldn’t be playing this through headphones on a pregnant woman’s stomach to every unborn child about to enter this world, just to give them something to look forward to…and to spiritually prepare them for the revolt against global capitalism or Satan’s armies, whichever comes first (unless they’re one and the same…OH SHIT!). Continue reading

The train, the fog, and the Bruckner: Chicago, part 2

Distinguished as fuck

Distinguished as fuck

Now that you’ve already been bored to tears by part 1 of my Chicago adventure, let’s get on to the part where there was actually music involved. As I said previously, in spite of my unflinching love of Bruckner’s music, I had literally never heard any of it live before, which is kinda insane when I really think about it. Truth is, there is still a relatively decent-sized subset of conductors who either don’t get Bruckner (and therefore avoid programming him) or think his music sucks (and therefore avoid programming him). Even so, it’s a bit surprising I hadn’t run into a live Bruckner performance by accident. Needless to say, considering the fact that I had been waiting, consciously or otherwise, for 15 years since I first discovered the man’s music, my expectations were through the roof, atmosphere, and a good chunk of the galaxy going into last Saturday night. Continue reading

The train, the fog, and the Bruckner: Chicago, part 1

In the relatively immediate aftermath of my breakup earlier this year, I somehow decided that I was going to do “something nice for myself,” and this “something nice for myself” eventually turned into a trip to Chicago to see the symphony perform Bruckner, theoretically crossing two things off the bucket list that I don’t have. I booked myself a room at the moderately swanky Hilton Chicago, got expensive tickets to the symphony, and bought Amtrak tickets because taking the train is fun (and in no way because of my not-actually-debilitating fear of flying). Friday morning I checked a third thing off of what is now a pretty sad retroactive bucket list and took the train out of Union Station in Kansas City. It was not nearly as cool as it seemed in my head. Continue reading

Cruising with Bruckner & Sibelius

Things have finally settled down from the insanity of April, and with that the desire to write something, anything, returns, at least somewhat. Of course, I’m doing this from a hotel room in Dallas, Texas, listening to headphones and simultaneously trying to remember and forget the things learned this week, which is doing nothing for whatever passes for a “creative process.” Right now, I’m just cycling through bits of music that I really like, a playlist which looks strange and is admittedly an out-of-context affront to the composers’ intentions. Then again, perhaps Strauss and Barber would feel good about themselves if they knew that I was gaining some combination of motivation, satisfaction, and solace from random excerpts of the shit they wrote.

Driving down here I did an experiment that I entitled “Will Bruckner and Sibelius Symphonies Make Me Hate Texas Less?” and I have to say, the results are encouraging. The contention that classical music, even raucous classical music, is something to be experienced in a moment of contemplation or repose is something that I think I officially don’t agree with. It was fun as hell to roll the windows down (or at least push a button to make them go down) and crank up the finale of Bruckner 8 or Sibelius 2 – no less fun than cranking up The Black Keys or Radiohead or Geto Boys or The Mills Brothers.

I think it’s pretty obvious that I don’t give a fuck about the conventions associated with classical music, and I probably realized this all along, but it really hit me somewhere in the vacuous wasteland that natives call Oklahoma. By the way, I’m from Kansas City! Tangent: I’m listening to the “Wo ist er…” bit from Salome, and I have to say, this cover photo of Birgit Nilsson is freaking me out.

WTF

She looks like a drag queen version of Brendan Gleeson taking a shit in the middle of a Moroccan restaurant, which is actually less fucked up than Salome now that I think about it. Anyway, I just want to say definitively, on the record and for the record, that classical music, while capable of generating tidal waves of emotion and requiring serious concentration to fully appreciate, can also just be a hell of a way to cruise the Interstate Highway System.

Also, I’m still here. Thanks for sticking around.

10 Best: Symphonies no. 4

When I first thought about a countdown of the best symphonies numbered four, I sort of assumed it would flow roughly as naturally as the countdown of symphonies numbered five.  I was wrong.  What an unbelievably crowded field.  Normally I would be inclined to use the “honorable mention” as an excuse to list something that may not immediately leap to mind (as in the Don Gillis Symphony no. 5 ½ on the previous list).  But when I made my little chart, there was no room for half-assed attempts at getting Mozart 40 or Haydn 94 or 104, or The Poem of Ecstasy on the list, which kind of blows my mind.  Obviously the pool of possibilities swells with the inclusion of Brahms and Schumann, but wait until this thing is done and you see who got left off altogether.  Without further hyperbole…  Continue reading