OK, last week didn’t happen (we were out of town and I just didn’t get the post written), and this week’s supposed to be Tchaikovsky’s Fifth but I still didn’t get the post written (because it’s one of my favorite pieces ever and I want to do it right), so this week, a placeholder, and a particularly fascinating one. Years ago — we’re talking, when I was in high school — I checked this record out from the library. It’s a performance of Mozart’s Symphony No. 36 in C Major. Mozart wrote this piece in four days, when he was traveling with his wife. They arrived at a town called Linz, and the local Count learned that Mozart was in town and announced a concert, so suddenly Mozart found himself in need of a symphony. Out came this work.
What’s interesting about this recording is that it begins not with the symphony itself, but with a recording of the rehearsals! You get to hear conductor Bruno Walter addressing his musicians on the finer points of how he wants to get his musical vision across to the audience. This is always fascinating stuff to hear, when you realize how nuts-and-bolts it is. Walter doesn’t go in for long and lyrical digressions of what the music means and what it suggests to him in terms of imagery and whatnot; instead he obsesses over how long the introductory notes are and how the strings are accenting things that should be accented and so on. (Try to overlook the obvious lack of women in the group, when Maestro Walter says “All right, gentlemen, let’s rehearse!”)
Next week, Tchaikovsky’s Fifth. (I hope.)