Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sublime Noise

In 1910 E. M. Forster wrote in the novel "Howard's End, "

" It will be generally admitted that Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is the most sublime noise that has ever penetrated the ear of man."

I will give him that, but on Sunday I think I may have hear the second most sublime, Beethoven's 7th Symphony, played by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and conducted by Gustavo Dudamel at the Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles.

I am certainly far from an expert on classical music, but I can definitely express my emotional reaction to this piece. During the second movement, I felt a surge of emotion that brought tears to my eyes and could only be described as feeling that I was in the presence of greatness.  Greatness in terms of the music, the conducting, and the musicians. Something brilliant and profound was happening on the stage of the Disney Hall.  And as E.M. Forster wrote about Beethoven's Fifth, I would say about Beethoven's Seventh, while listening to it "The passion of your life becomes more vivid."  (By the way, that line alone  makes me so want to go back and reread "Howard's End," one of my very favorite books!)

This feeling continued until the end, and I felt the entire audience shared my bliss.  The experience was inspiring and I left realizing I need to listen to more classical music.  My first choice is to go to concerts and hear it live, which I do whenever possible.  But  I am also determined, as a New Year's goal, to listen to the music of the great composers at home.  Last night I played Beethoven's Fifth to remind myself what Forster was talking about.  And I listened again to the Seventh.  How wonderful it was to have the music coursing through the house.

By the way, this goal of mine to listen to the music of the great composers should be easier now that Anthony Tommasini, music critic for The New York, has started a series of articles addressing the question:  Who are the 10 greatest classical music composers in history?  He will focus on Western classical music.  So I will anxiously await his conclusion and excitedly read the articles he writes along the way.

He made a good point in his article "The Greatest" in The New York Times on Sunday when he noted that four of the possible ten that he chooses --  Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, and Beethoven --  may all have worked in Vienna during a period of roughly 75 years, from 1750 to 1825.  He asks "What was going on in that town at that tine to foster such awesome creativity"?   I wonder the same thing.   Today, he wrote his second column of the series addressing that question, "The Big Four of Vienna."

I also find it interesting that Sunday's performance at the Disney Hall, which also featured a piece by John Adams and a symphony by Leonard Bernstein, was simulcast in 450 movie theaters in the United States and Canada.   These screenings were heavily attended, according to Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times.

I am inspired!

Photos from Los Angeles Times


  1. Incredibly evocative post. I almost felt as if I were there with you.


  2. very inspiring! Now I'd love to listen to these pieces...and read "Howard's End"!

  3. And it would have been even more divine if you had been able to come. So sorry you were sick! Next time...