Earlier this evening I took some time out of my busy schedule of doing homework to go see Beethoven's 9th symphony ("Chorale") played at the UHH theater on campus. Beethoven's 9th Symphony is arguably the greatest work of one of the greatest composers in history and a personal favorite of mine, so it was well worth it. And if I noticed a missed cue here or there, or a note that was off, or the fact that the choir was singing the German words with a decidedly American accent, what of it? Its beauty transcends such things.
Actually going to the theater and watching the performance reminded me of an occasional musing of mine on the nature of recorded music. Ever since Edison invented the phograph, the ability to hear music has been divorced from a need to actually have someone play it. In some ways, this is both a good and a bad thing. I like the ability to buy a recording of a piece of music and be able to listen to it as much as I want, and I'm quite thankful for it, but simply listening to recorded music without the presence of the orchestra somehow diminishes it. It's like enjoying a delicious meal, but not being able to smell it, or taking a cool refreshing drink and not being able to taste it. Neither are absolutely essential for the enjoyment of the thing, but they are both add a certain other charm without which neither is complete.
As an example, I learned there's a lot more pizzicato in Beethoven's 9th symphony than I knew before. The sight of the entire string section's bows swaying to and fro while they plucked their strings inspired a poem about it, to the same meter as the “Ode to Joy” (An die Fruede) theme.
Like a wind-swept reedy wetland,
So each deft string player's bow;
Guided by each masterful hand,
While playing pizzicato.
As they play, with bows a-shiver,
Like a windy reed-strewn glade;
Bending, swaying, all a-quiver,
Thus is pizzicato played.
I also discovered just how much work clapping is when I applauded with the rest of the theater for nearly five minutes straight at the end.