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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Music as our calling card

An adult brought up on Mars asks “Posh music?” What’s the best answer?

Schools grind out Peter and the Wolf or Carnival of the Animals saying kids respond best to a story. Both fail twice over: neither is memorable and it isn’t music’s job to tell a story. Most story-telling (ie, programmatic) music tends to be inferior and, if music has a job, it’s to evoke emotions. Strong melodies do this best.

Melodies can be sad or rambunctious (I don’t go for humorous). No point in saddening our Martian so let’s opt for the latter. And for the moment exclude the human voice. Because we’re conveying the quintessence, abstract music is our best bet. A voice brings too much to the party.

Here I’m saddling up my hobby-horse. A concerto simultaneously demonstrates the individual and the group and is usually by definition dramatic. But what instrument? I must confess that neither Mrs LdP nor I, as complete novices, responded well to the solo violin however much we embraced it later. It’s gotta be the joanna.

And, since I’m writing the post (though anyone can later disagree) I want something that says, “If you don’t get this you’re not of our species”

Here it comes. Horns and piano trading bars. Hinting: Bom, bom, bom, bom-di-di-di, bom, bom! Brahms two!

By some diabolically competent Russian – Emil Gilels for choice. But EVGENY KISSIN (see inset) will do. Welcome to our civilised but emotional world.

HOW MUSIC’S MADE. A tough act to follow but The Crow saw this on the US’s Public Broadcasting channel and wondered if I’d be interested. I was. Anything that blows away music’s apartheid is commendable and this celebrates an important moment in American musical history. Click GERSHWIN.


  1. Great video, what a find!

    How about Brahms Double Concerto?

  2. One of my early posh music memories is hearing and seeing a performance of Britten's A Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. It is subtitled of course Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell which immediately established as a work as as well as a guide. I am on my way to You Tube to see if there is a video.

  3. I've just heard an extract of the Berlin Phil conducted by Simon Rattle and I'm now going for the full monty. Terrific performance. I wonder how it compares with the Malcolm Sergent/London Symphony first performance.

  4. Julia: I should explain. Since the Kissin performance is marked simply by a blank screen on YouTube, Julia is referring to the Gershwin clip which celebrates the moment when the clarinet's ascending figure at the beginning of Rhapsody In Blue was transformed beneficially into a glissando. A modern day clarinetist explains how this is done.

    Double Concerto. I've never owned it and I'm ashamed to say I had to resort to YouTube to remind myself how it went. It's a perfectly respectable piece (especially when Perlman and Rostro are doing the sawing) but it doesn't have the immediate impact of the second piano concerto. My aim was to have the Martian leave the stage completely changed.

    Plutarch: I've always preferred the Young Person's Guide to the other two works I've cited. For those who are unfamiliar with it let me say it takes the listener on a tour of the orchestra's instruments (including a truly brilliant bit played by the percussion) via a series of variations on a simple theme that even the most incompetent among us could whistle. It is a genuine work, however, and is only incidentally instructive. However, as I said to Julia, my intention was to remove the Martian's backbone and replace it with a treble clef.

    As to Plutarch's comparison exercise I think I'm prepared to bet heavily on Rattle.

  5. I didn't know the 2nd... I have a recording of the 1st... so now I'll listen obediently to the 2nd... hoping for a Transformation to my backbone.

  6. EB: A veritable crown-roast of a concerto, a wren into a pigeon, into a pheasant into a goose into an ostrich multi-stuffer, rib-eye scorched on the outside dark red on the inside yet hot all the way through, Welsh lamb with Jersey royals. Oh, EB, it's red meat of the best sort. If it's truly your first hearing please report back however long it takes. The world awaits your communiqué and I'll willingly pay for the download.