Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Back to the Symphony

Time to check in again with the best on-going project in music journalism, Tom Service's Symphony guide over at The Guardian. The last three installments have been the Symphony No. 8 oDvořák, a quite nice piece, full of his charming melodies, the truly great "Unfinished" Symphony in B minor of Schubert and one of the two pieces that fully justify Stravinsky's seat at the Pantheon of Great Composers, his Symphony of Psalms. Tom does a pretty good job of getting people to listen to these pieces, which is the whole point of the exercise. I don't think he does as good a job digging into them or talking about how they work, but that would probably be inadvisable in this context. At least, with these last three installments, he presents three pieces that are really worth listening to. So far the only composer to have appeared more than once is Joseph Haydn. That's only fair, as he is probably the only great composer to have written more than one hundred symphonies, most of them excellent.

So one wonders, will we have more symphonies by Beethoven? The 9th, most probably. And more by Mozart and Mahler without a doubt. There really have to be more of Shostakovich's--most likely the 5th, the 7th or the 10th. I would do all three, of course. If only to forestall more Mahler and Bruckner! Wait, did I actually say that?

Well, let's listen to the Symphony of Psalms. It really is a remarkable piece of music. Written in 1930, it incorporates many elements from past music (including a fugue in the second movement) as was common for so-called "neo-classical" music. Riccardo Muti conducting, I'm not sure of the orchestra:

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