Tuesday, 20 March 2012

taking the Fifth

Do I hear music differently from everyone else?  Last night, driving up the A1 to York, I was listening to Classic FM's Tchaikovsky evening.  This included a performance of the Fifth Symphony.  Now, Tchaikovsky's Fifth has long been a favourite of mine, ever since I was first introduced to classical music as an undergraduate.  And more recently, I've found the rousing final movement an interesting possible musical analogue of "open-ended evolution", in the sense that every time you think it's finished (except for the last time, of course!), it continues onwards and upwards, with a variation, or flourish, or difference, or interesting reprise. (Okay, yes, it can sometimes sound a little crude in places, but that can be overcome with a good performance.)

So I was astounded to hear the announcer describe the symphony as "melancholy", and that some had said that Tchaikovsky was "putting on a brave face" in that uplifting (to me) final movement.  What?

This is from a radio station that has a session called Smooth Classics where they seem to think that anything "slow" equates to "relaxing", rather than, on occasion, heart-rending.  So, I decide to check whether it was me, or the announcer.

A quick look at wikipedia suggests ... something else, many somethings else: "gradually transforms into a triumphant march", "Tchaikovsky is expressing optimism with regard to providence", "the entire symphony seems to spring from some dark spiritual experience", "a horde of demons struggling in a torrent of brandy", and "slaughter, dire and bloody".

From this I conclude that not only do I hear music differently from everybody else, but so does everybody else!

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