a Carnegie Hall concert

 

 

I attended a concert yesterday evening at Carnegie Hall in Manhattan. It began with Beethoven’s symphony No. 1.

I felt like I was lifted off the floor. An experience not unlike what Walt Whitman describes in Leaves of Grass: “The orchestra whirls me wider than Uranus flies, / It wrenches such ardors from me I did not know I possess’d them.”

It’s good to hear music performed live. Too much listening to recorded music can produce, in effect, what is called “stereo ear.”

Every Beethoven symphony is compelling and can stand on its own; there are no inferior ones (meaning inferior to another symphony of Beethoven’s). Beethoven’s symphony No. 8, for example, is equal to any of the others, though not that often performed.

Beethoven’s Fourth is a gem and probably equal to his Fifth.

Each symphony is unique, different – e.g., the Pastoral and the Seventh each are equally interesting, yet totally different from one another and from Beethoven’s other symphonies.

The Eroica and the Ninth are each completely original. Monumental works unlike no other symphony of Beethoven’s or any other symphony in the classical canon.

A question: I’m sure Beethoven had good teachers; no creative genius emerges ex nihilo. But, whose works are Beethoven’s modeled after?

Answer: no one. They’re completely original.

I will admit that in the first symphony, one can see indebtedness to Haydn’s late symphonies, but it already is definitely, unmistakably Beethoven.

 

 

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The second work on the program was Mozart’s “Great Mass” in C minor (K. 427). The Kyrie of the Great Mass is better, I would say, then the Kyrie of Mozart’s Requiem.

Listening to a soprano singing the Laudamus te of K. 427 is to experience ecstasy. It’s like what Whitman experienced in 1855 during a performance of Verdi’s “Ernani”: “A new world — a liquid world — rushes like a torrent through you” is how he described it.

 

 

 

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Carnegie Hall. What a venue! To think that they were going to tear it down in in the late 1950’s. There are no bad seats; you can hear perfectly and have a great view of the stage from the second tier.

I have never liked Lincoln Center. It’s a sterile “arts center” with worse seating and acoustics than Carnegie Hall. The architecture is typical 1960’s (think Shea Stadium), functional but uninspiring. Lincoln Center ruined a neighborhood; the surrounding streets have no street life. There are hardly any restaurants, watering holes, cafes, or places of interest, other than one or two rip-off restaurants on the other side of Broadway, across the street from the main entrance.

The audience at Carnegie Hall yesterday evening was a typical New York one. Rapt. Totally attentive and focused. (And, one can sense, knowledgeable.)

You could not hear a SOUND in the audience. I know there are some hacking coughs that a cougher can’t prevent or control, but, at the same time, it is my belief that most coughs by audience members at concerts are nervous coughs brought about by impatience or boredom or whatever. I swear I did not hear a single cough yesterday, not one.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   October 13, 2017

About Roger W. Smith

Roger W. Smith is a writer and independent scholar based in New York City. His experience includes freelance writing and editing, business writing, book reviewing, and the teaching of writing and literature as an adjunct professor. Mr. Smith's interests include personal essays and opinion pieces; American and world literature; culture, especially books and reading; current issues that involve social, moral, and philosophical views; and experiences of daily living from a ground level perspective. Besides (1) rogersgleanings.com, a personal site, he also hosts a websites devoted to (2) the author Theodore Dreiser and (3) to the sociologist and social philosopher Pitirim Aleksandrovich Sorokin.
This entry was posted in my city and neighborhood, my favorite music, personal reminiscences of Roger W. Smith, Walt Whitman and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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