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So, Karin, the kids and I accompanied Karin’s Aunt C and Uncle K to the Seattle Symphony last night in Benaroya Hall. Uncle K – a friendly and articulate man with a serious knack for storytelling – is a retired professional Cellist, so you can imagine what a fabulous experience it was.
There were four pieces, each with several movements, the premier piece being Beethoven’s Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Piano in C major, Op. 56, which is commonly known as the “Triple” Concerto. It is the only concerto Beethoven ever wrote for more than one solo instrument and is, unquestionably, a beautiful piece of music. Uncle K commented to me, “This music is universal. If space aliens were to come to earth and hear this, they would find it as lovely as we do.” I have to agree with him. I mean, how could they not?
I wanted to mention one thing I read in the program before I get to making with the funny. It speculates as to why Beethoven went outside his norm to write a piece with three solo instruments. I think it’s fascinating:
Beethoven’s biographers have made much of his loneliness. It is true that the composer never achieved the conjugal relation he long desired and was somewhat isolated by his loss of hearing in later life. Still, he enjoyed a number of significant friendships. No doubt the most important was his friendship with Archduke Rudolph, scion of Austria’s ruling Hapsburg family…
Rudolph and Beethoven developed genuine respect and affection for each other. This would not have been possible without the former’s very real musical abilities. He was the only person to whom Beethoven ever gave regular instruction in composition, and all evidence indicates he was a talented pianist as well…
Several of Beethoven’s associates assert that the [“Triple” Concerto’s] piano part was fashioned expressly for the Archduke.
Beethoven left no indication why he chose to employ three solo instruments in this concerto. Perhaps Rudolph, who was only 15, was not yet equipped to handle the demands of the soloist’s role without some assistance.
Okay, a few somewhat humorous observations from this most classy of events:
Did I Say Classy?
The first question on the Seattle Symphony’s FAQ page is “What should I wear?” They hint at business or business casual dress but end by saying, “Wear whatever makes you feel comfortable!”
The exclamation point must have really buoyed the dude with the blue Mohawk and baggy knee-shorts with dangling wallet-chain who sat a few rows in front of us. Nothing against scary guys with native American hair-dos; he was, after all, looking quite comfortable.
Strike a Pose
I looked around the audience and noted something as enjoyable as it was peculiar-bordering-on-creepy. At least a third of the people I observed were seated in a very particular pose: bent ever so slightly forward, with one arm across the lap and the other elbow resting on it, with the thumb of this hand positioned under the chin and the index finger resting across the lips or cheek. This is, evidently, the best position for enjoying live classical music.
It is also the best position for looking like a
pretentious jackass refined intellectual*.
You know what would have been slick? Seeing Blue Mohawk strike the pose; the juxtaposition of elements would have been pretty awesome, I think. The gorgeous sleeve-tattoos would have really brought the whole thing together, from an artistic standpoint.
Star Wars and Stravinsky**
We heard a Stravinsky piece last night – Symphony in three movements – and as I listened to it, I was reminded of certain pieces composed by John Williams for, believe it or not, Star Wars. There were quite a few elements that were strikingly similar and I am convinced that Williams was deeply influenced by Stravinsky, at least with regard to his work on the Star Wars soundtrack.
*Sincere apologies to anyone offended by the original version. I'm just trying to be funny. Don't stop reading my blog on my account!
**OK, so this last observation was during Stravinsky and not Beethoven and wasn't all that humorous. Sue me.