Music to Die For

We’ve been spoilt for choice when it comes to music lately. We’ve not made much mention of it here for a variety of reasons, chiefly because we’ve been travelling. We’re back from Cheshire though, and we can’t resist telling you about the latest piece of rather wonderful music to come our way.

This was a concert by the university’s symphony orchestra. We have academic family in the violins, so always make a point of going when we can, and we always enjoy ourselves. This particular concert would have drawn our attention even without the familial connection because it was a program of Dvorjak and Sibelius. Sibelius, we confess, mostly evokes dreadful memories of IB music composition with insufficient theory and a bizarre thing called Flexi-time. Dvorjak though is a composer who cannot, in our opinion, write a bad piece of music. Without exception his music leaves us wanting to weep.

When it came up in conversation then that this year’s winter concert by the orchestra was going to involve a cello concerto by Dvorjak, we were resolved to go. When latterly it came up that the violinist-and-academic-daughter (to say nothing of a good friend) was the lead violinist for the Sibelius, we had all but bought the tickets.

The music did not disappoint. The cello concerto was at once recognisable and unfamiliar. We want to say it sounded like nothing we have ever heard, but in fact there were parts that strongly evoked Rusalka for us, and an early motif that we would swear was influenced by the same music that inspired the Witches’ Ride portion of Hansel and Gretel. It was full of melodies that danced, phrases that soared, a liveliness that was infectious. It did leave us wanting to weep, but out of gratitude for the loveliness of the music, and the joyous shout it had ended on, not, as so often with Dvorjak, because of the haunting aspect of the music. No, this was an evening when we could look to the interval serenely, though we continue to hear the throb of the cello even now.

The second part of the programme was Sibelius’s first symphony. This was a completely new piece for us, and made for interesting listening. Perhaps the most striking thing about it was the fragments that grow into themes, rather than the other way round. What we were most struck by was the flutes, which sounded like the sighing of so many trees. It was all tree-like to us, this symphony. We’re not sure why, but sometimes we run away with curious thought-fancies when actively listening to music. This one was all about the language of the trees, and the violins, which held our attention throughout, were so many dancing leaves.

We should perhaps be more articulate, but we’ve thought about it and we’re really not sure how else to convey to you the enjoyment we took in the evening. We can only say that we are very glad we went, and are delighted to have taken two new pieces of music away from the experience.

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