Friday, September 11, 2009

Beethoven 5 x5

This week I'm playing with the Utah Symphony. It's their season-opener this weekend and to draw a crowd they programmed a sure-fire hit: Beethoven's Symphony No. 5. There are few pieces of classical music that are instantly recognizable to the general public, and those that fall in that category are often written off by the musicians who play them as trite or cliche "audience pleasers" (Pachelbel's Canon comes to mind--ask any cellist how he/she feels about that piece). Some pieces don't deserve the amount of recognition they've gained over the years (again, Pachelbel comes to mind) but some are so well-known for a reason: they're really fantastic pieces of music. Beethoven 5 definitely fits in the latter category.

As best as I can remember, I'm pretty sure this is my fifth time playing this piece. It may actually be my sixth or seventh, but I'm not exactly sure and saying it's my fifth time seems more symbolic or something. I won't detail the other four times (seeing as I can't even remember if it actually is four, and also because it probably wouldn't be that interesting) but as I've been rehearsing and performing the piece this week I've been reflecting on the first time I played this symphony.

I'm pretty sure I was in fourth grade at the time and I performed it with the Uintah Basin Community Orchestra, or whatever name it was going by that year. The director, Mr. Priest, must have been pretty ambitious to decide to perform such a monumental piece with such a non-monumental orchestra. I don't remember many (or any) specifics about how our performance sounded or what it was like (I had nothing to compare it to anyway--I was only 10) and I often wonder what I would think if I heard a recording of it now, but even with our extremely amateur skill level there was no covering up the beauty and genius of the piece.
We bumbled through it somehow and ever since then that symphony has had a special place in my violist heart. I remember feeling profoundly moved (as much as a 10 year-old can, anyway) at several moments in the work, and I still have odd flashbacks to the Uintah High School band room whenever I perform the piece.

I'm getting a little touchy-feely here, and you know I usually try to avoid that quality in general, but I'm on a little high right now after getting back from a performance and wanted try to pass that along as best I could. There is something transcendental about playing a Beethoven symphony. Yes, that does sound a little melodramatic and I hate to sound too grandiose about it all, but sitting in the middle of a tight orchestra and rocking some of the greatest music ever written is an experience to appreciate. There is nothing like it. My life is pretty great sometimes.


Melinda said...

Les, thanks for writing this post. I like it when you get touchy-feely.

heath said...

Sometimes I'm jealous of your cool, cool life. But sometimes it makes me tired to think about learning that much music (or at least, rehearsing it) anymore!

Jody said...

I have some pretty strong memories of that rendition of Beethoven 5 too. I remember the power of the 4th movement making a big impact, which almost made up for the terror I felt at the opening of the 2nd movement. :) Really, though, that experience helped set me on the musical course I took for so many years after. I really admire Mr. Priest and many of the music enthusiasts out in isolated little Vernal for their tenacious promotion of the arts in any way they could.

Myrna said...

Hi Leslie, I found your blog from Nancy's--I was like "who is this?" and it turned out to be you!