Wednesday, 12 January 2011
We spent last year exploring various aspects of chamber music and so today were moving on to our 2011 subject, Tone Poems. You couldn't really have anything much more different. Chamber music is for the most part for small scale groups and tone poems are often for very large orchestral forces. Chamber music is normally highly organised, whereas tone poems broke away from the classical forms and were much freer in conception.
There are some big works on the horizon. In April, for example, I'm going to lead the group in an exploration of Smetana's Ma Vlast, a series of six symphonic poems that depicts various aspects of the Bohemian countryside. Today, though, we started easily with Mendelssohn's wonderful music for A Midsummer Night's Dream. His depiction of the woods outside Athens, the fairies, the lovers and, best of all, Bottom and his friends is, in every possible respect, magical, especially when you think that there was seventeen years between his composing of the overture and the rest of the music that makes up the entire piece.
I have twice had the pleasure of seeing a joint production between our local repertory company and the city's symphony orchestra bringing the play and the music together and the two work so well that it is hard to believe that they are separated in conception by around two hundred and fifty years. However, my strongest memory is not of anything very magical at all, but rather, in the first of those productions, of Moonshine's very real dog, who took one look at all those music stands and clearly thought he had been transported to doggie heaven. The musicians, especially those nearest his point of entry, were not so pleased with the situation!
I'm looking forward to exploring this area of musical composition because, with the exception of the Mendelssohn, I know very little about it. Do any of you have any suggestions as to pieces we should consider? We are a self-teaching group and all assistance is gratefully received.