TBT: Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony

I’ve been on a major classical and Romantic music kick lately, dedicating the last three Fridays specifically to the music of the Romantic Period (here, here, and here).

As such, I thought it would be apropos to look back at a piece I wrote last January about Beethoven and his masterful Sixth Symphony.  The occasion for that piece was the South Carolina Philharmonic‘s Sunday matinee performance of their popular Beethoven and Blue Jeans concert—back in The Before Times when we still had live music.  The program, as I wrote at the time, was “‘Beethoven’s Greatest Hits,'” featuring Beethy’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor and Symphony No. 6 in F Major.

The Sixth, often called the “Pastoral,” is one of my favorites.  I’m a sucker for programmatic music, and there are programmatic elements embedded in the titles of each of the symphony’s movements, but the music sounds like the countryside.

But I covered all of this a year ago, so why repeat myself (except that I’m doing that below… hmm…)?  Here is January 2020’s “Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony“:

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The Joy of Romantic Music III: Hector Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique”

To take us into the last weekend in January, I thought it would be nice to do at least one more entry in my unplanned Friday miniseries on “The Joy of Romantic Music” (read the second installment here).  I very much enjoy the music of the Romantic composers, and have discovered some new favorites as I’ve been covering them in my Pre-AP Music Appreciation class.

I’m a real sucker for program music—music that tells a story or depicts an idea or place—and the Romantic period was full of it.  There was perhaps no greater champion—if not practitioner; Camille Saint-Saëns likely holds that title—of the form than French composer Hector Berlioz.

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The Joy of Romantic Music

This semester started with two weeks of online learning (of which today is the last day before students and teachers return to campus after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day), so it’s been an unusually slow start to the already sleepy January term.  However, that hasn’t stopped my music classes from listening to great music; indeed, we’re now covering what is perhaps my favorite period in the history of Western music:  the Romantic Era.

While I adore Baroque and classical composers and their works, Romantic music builds upon the forms established in those eras, stretching and expanding upon them to reach new heights of emotional intensity and musical expressiveness.  The music of the Romantic composers delights with its musical exploration of the supernatural, the mysterious, the Gothic, and the nationalistic.

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Monday Morning Update: Back to Work

Well, the glory of Christmas Break has come to an end, and it’s back to the grind this morning.  Due to concerns about The Virus, we’re online for at least this week, and I’ve received word that teachers will be allowed to teach from home for the remainder of the week.  That will make the transition back to full-time teaching a tad more endurable, as waking up and rolling over to the computer is much easier than engaging in the hasty rituals of the morning.

Regardless, I’m scrambling a bit this morning, so today’s post will be brief and belated.  I’ll cover my trip to Mississippi tomorrow; today, I thought I’d give some general updates as we head into the first fiscal week of 2021:

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Monsters

Back in May I stumbled upon an online culture journal, The Hedgehog Review, a publication of the Institute for the Advanced Studies of Culture.  I don’t know much about either the publication or the IASC, other than they’re based out of the University of Virginia, so I can’t speak to their degree of implicit Leftist infiltration, but default position is that any organization in 2020 that isn’t explicitly conservative is probably Left-leaning.

It’s sad that I even have to make that disclaimer, because some part of me still clings to the old ideal of a broad, humanistic approach to knowledge—that we should examine ideas on their own merits, not on the politics of the entities espousing them.  I still believe that ideal is worth pursuing; I just also believe it is currently dead, or at least on life-support.

But I digress.  The then-current issue of The Hedgehog Review was dedicated entirely to the theme of “Monsters.”  It being the Halloween season, the time seemed ripe to revisit those pieces, and the idea of “monsters.”

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Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony

It’s been an artistically fulfilling weekend.  First there was the play (I’m sure readers are tired of reading about it) in which I performed.  After three successful performances, my girlfriend and I took in the South Carolina Philharmonic‘s Sunday matinee performance of their popular Beethoven and Blue Jeans concert.  Classical music is even more enjoyable when you get to wear jeans.

The SC Philharmonic’s energetic conductor, Morihiko Nakahara (a show in himself), didn’t pull any punches with this year’s B&BJ program.  It was, essentially, “Beethoven’s Greatest Hits,” as I remarked to my girlfriend.  Morihiko always tosses in one piece of weird modern classical music, but after enduring young composer Jessie Montgomery‘s 2016 tone poem “Records from a Vanishing City,” it was straight into the classics:  Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F Major, the so-called Pastoral, rounded out the first half of the concert.  Then it was into the thundering “DUHN DUHN DUHN DUUUUUUH, DUHN DUHN DUHN DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUH” of the Symphony No. 5 in C Minor after the break.

Everyone loves the Fifth Symphony, with its iconic opening theme (the first in symphonic music to make a rhythmic idea the theme, not a melodic one).  But for my money, the bucolic beauty of the Sixth takes the cake.

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Lazy Sunday XLIII: Music, Part II – More Music

Well, it had to come at some point—the end to my glorious Christmas Break.  Sure, sure, summer break is great, but two weeks off at Christmas is just the right amount of time to recharge the batteries.  Plus, it’s not 100 degrees outside, and we get to celebrate the Birth of Jesus!

I wrote a great deal about music in the last quarter of 2019, and I’m kicking off 2020 focused intensely on the performing arts:  I’m going to be in a play this weekend.  That personal detail is somewhat important for the blog, as after today my focus (other than work during the day) will be almost entirely on that production.  As such, posts may be shorter than usual, or a bit delayed in getting up.

Regardless, in keeping with the fine arts, I thought I’d feature three recent pieces I wrote about music.  Enjoy!

  • Milo on Romantic Music” – Readers are probably exhausted of reading about this post, but Milo’s analysis of Romantic music, while certainly contentious, is fascinating.  He might play the role of a melodramatic, catty queen online, but he possesses deep erudition on a variety of topics.  This post was one of “2019’s Top Five Posts” thanks to Milo’s sharing of it.
  • A Little Derb’ll Do Ya: Haydn’s ‘Derbyshire Marches’” – Saturday mornings just aren’t the same with Radio Derb‘s opening music, Haydn’s “Derbyshire March No. 2.”  Nothing makes you feel more sophisticated about pouring coffee in your underwear than the strains of Haydn’s jaunty little march.
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem and the Pressures of Songwriting” – This morning I’ll finally be back to my little Free Will Baptist Church to play piano.  I’m also struggling to remember a huge amount of naturalistic dialogue for the aforementioned play.  The juxtaposition of returning to church piano playing and the pressure of conjuring up untold mental energies in a short span of time made this post a logical choice.  The music for “O Little Town of Bethlehem” was composed in great haste, and completed mere hours before it was performed.  My instincts (and experience) tell me that the play will, much to the director’s chagrin, unfold the same way—incompetence giving way to brilliance the night of the show.

Well, there you have it!  Happy New Year to one and all.  Back to work!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Milo on Romantic Music

The Christmas season always gets me excited for music, because there are so many wonderful carols and hymns about the birth of Jesus.  I will write more on the topic of Christmas carols later on in the month, but today I wanted to touch on a really niche topic:  Milo Yiannopoulos‘s love of Romantic-era music.

What got me on this topic is not just my musical mood; it was an epic Telegram thread Milo had going about… classical music.

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Lazy Sunday XXIX: The New Criterion

Conservatives, especially conservative writers and publishers, tend to get so fixated on policy wonkery and political debates, we sometimes lose sight of culture.  One reason I appreciate blogger buddy photog’s blog, Orion’s Cold Fire, so much is that he makes room for reviews of sci-fi novels, Twilight Zone episodes, and the like.

One publication that makes culture the centerpiece of its mission is The New Criterion, which takes the idea of reviewing the best in art, literature, music, and drama very seriously.  I recently re-subscribed TNC after having a lapsed subscription for a couple of years, and I’m eager to get my first issue in forty-eight weeks.

With that in mind, this week’s Lazy Sunday is dedicated to pieces the writers at The New Criterion inspired:

  • Civilization is Worth It” – This piece discusses an excellent audio version of a piece about Rousseau’s ideas regarding civilization (that is to say, Rousseau argued civilization was the cause of all of our problems, and we were better of dancing around naked in caves).  It’s definitely worth a listen.
  • E.T.A. Hoffman & Romanticism” – This very short post covered a charming little essay about E.T.A. Hoffman, arguably the founder of the Romantic movement in literature, as well as a brief discussion of the consequences, both positive and negative, of the Romantic temperament, and the idea of the brooding, troubled artist.
  • The League of Nations” – Trans- and supranational organizations were all the rage in the twentieth century, and the League of Nations was the first—and the biggest flop—in this do-gooding, globalist trend.  The League of Nations was famously ineffective, which just meant we’d be saddled with an even worse organization, the United Nations, after the League failed to prevent the Second World War.  Now the European Union is creating a tyrannical empire of Belgian bureaucrats in the name of preventing a tyrannical empire of German bureaucrats from trying to conquer Europe again.  Yeesh.
  • The Good Populism” – The counter to the aforementioned tyrannical transnational organizations is good, healthy populism, the kind of middle-class, conservative revolutions that brought us the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and Donald Trump (among others).  Super historian and classicist Victor Davis Hanson makes the case for the “good populism,” as opposed to Bernie Bro socialistic populism, in this piece, one of the most popular TNC published in 2018.
  • New Criterion on Principles in Politics” – What’s more important—principles or victory?  That’s not exactly the gist of this piece, but it does examine the tricky debate taking place among the Right currently about how to handle deranged Leftists.  What are the limits of principles?  The David French model of always surrendering—but being polite while doing so—is clearly not an effective way to uphold conservative principles.

That’s it for this Sunday.  Enjoy some erudite cultural criticism!

–TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments: