Monday, December 10, 2007

Beethoven, Day Four

Countdown to Beethoven's Birthday:
Beethoven's Fourth Symphony

[The"Countdown to Beethoven's Birthday" concept.]
Except for the first two symphonies, which are generally considered something of a warm-up exercise, the Fourth is the one that gets the least airplay. I think that's too bad. I like the Fourth. My favorite part is the introduction, which gradually assembles itself out of a sort of musical mist until, several minutes in, a full-fledged theme finally presents itself. It's rollicking and joyful and worth the wait.

Beethoven's Fourth certainly isn't the only piece of music to gradually coalesce out of a quiet, murky beginning, but it's the earliest I can think of by several decades (except for one of the piano concertos -- number four, maybe? -- by, well, Beethoven). Mahler's First Symphony has a similar game plan, and it's interesting to listen to the openings of B-4 and M-1 back to back, as the one clearly informs the other. But Mahler is writing, what, 75 years later? That's a measure of how far Beethoven is ahead of the curve. (Copland's Appalachian Spring, a different kind of piece but one that assembles itself in the same general way, was written in the 1930s.)

Here's a side note for you first-time classical listeners -- do you put on a symphony, attend for the first 30 seconds, and then find your mind wandering and eventually just get on with your day with the music playing in the background? It's nothing to feel bad about. I could probably count on one hand the times I've really, truly attended to a symphony all the way through, and I've been listening to this stuff for 30 years. If you're just starting out, best to just let the sounds sink in for a while. If you are struggling but determined, just listen to the first movements and call it a day. That's where an awful lot of the action is anyway.


Anonymous said...

I've come to think of listening to classical music as similar to yoga or meditation. When you notice you're wandering, you don't beat yourself up about it, you just acknowledge your distraction and gently bring your attention back. I was listening to #1 in the car yesterday (ok, so I'm behind schedule) and wondering if listening to music would be easier if I actually had any musical talent or training.

d said...

i think that's why i've never been able to get into classical music—i get bored somewhere in there and find myself not paying attention to it anymore. the songs (pieces?) are so LONG.

but i also have mild ADD, so...

The [Cherry] Ride said...

Umm,how much longer is this whole Beethoven thing going to happen for?

PS - Too bad I missed your Sunday post/quiz until now - I would have rocked it!

Michael5000 said...

@[Cherry]: Don't worry, man, there's five more days still to come! Glad you're enjoying it!