Wednesday, May 27, 2009

classical gas

Academy of St Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble @ Theatr Clwyd, 24th May

Mozart: Divertimento in D K.136
Weber: Clarinet Quintet in B flat Op.34

Beethoven: Septet in E flat Op.20

Five good reasons why it's a good idea to take a break from the usual diet of pop, rock and jazz and dip into the rarified world of classical music:

  1. It allows you to go out for civilised night out with your dad and lets him go part way to redressing the balance, since you forced him to have Radio 1 on in the background throughout your teenage years.
  2. Classical music is "soothing" (fact!), particularly if it's gentile chamber music (like we get tonight). Something to do with beats per minute, I reckon. No doubt pieces like Beethoven's near-histrionic "Ode To Joy" would be exceptions which prove this rule.
  3. You marvel at the virtuosity of the players. Just how much practice must they have put in over how many years to reach this level? A level, actually, which is pretty much the norm for the hundreds of UK musicians in major orchestras and chamber ensembles. There's such minute precision in the playing in a small group like this. Every player is so exposed that even the tiniest slip in intonation or rhythm would stick out like a really sore thumb. Are revered instrumentalists in popular music--I don't know, Eric Clapton, say--as good as this? Do they really justify the adulation and lucre which comes their way? Or is that like comparing fish and custard?
  4. It reminds you that the iPod, Spotify and the other modern-day gubbins I've been rattling on about lately, should not be taken for granted. The only way you would get to hear these pieces in the 18th and 19th centuries, when they were composed, was to be somewhere where there was a player of each of these instruments technically proficient enough to perform them. Then maybe you'd value your musical experiences much more than we tend to do these days...
  5. It allows you to attempt to prove to yourself that that your A-Level in music wasn't entirely in vain, 'cos you can just about still pick out the different sections in minuet form, ("structurally the simplest movement of a symphony or string quartet", it says here, so probably not too much to write home about...)

Next week: How listening to AC/DC for ten hours a day can lead to a life of fulfilment and prosperity...

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