Archive for the ‘1878’ Category

Who Tipped The Balance?

Thursday, October 15th, 2020

So what was it this week that got me – as I noted yesterday – in mind of the Righteous Brothers’ 1974 hit “Rock and Roll Heaven”?

Well, there was a conversation at one of my music groups at Facebook. One of the members – inspired, no doubt, by the recent passing of guitar genius Eddie Van Halen – asked when it would have been that the musical talent in Heaven’s band outweighed the talent here in the living world. The writer opined that the balance may have tipped when Prince died (2016), or when David Bowie passed (also in 2016), but seemed certain that if those transitions had not given the afterlife all-stars enough heft, the subtraction of Van Halen from this realm and his addition to the next had done the trick.

I was pondering the question, knowing my answer would be different, when I broke out in laughter. In the comments, someone had written, “Well, Bach died in 1750.”

That was no doubt a better response than anything I would have said, which might have included Robert Johnson (1938), Glenn Miller (1944), Louis Armstrong (1971), Duke Ellington (1974), John Lennon (1980), and on and on, including Richard Manuel (1986), Rick Danko (1999), George Harrison (2001), Clarence Clemons (2011), and Levon Helm (2012).

So I kept my personal Pantheon off the page and wandered along.

I also saw at Facebook this week a recurrent post – or one of several similar recurrent posts – that show portraits of departed musicians and asks which one the reader would bring back for one more show. I think there are several versions of that one, but the musicians whose faces I seem to see most frequently are Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Amy Winehouse, Elvis Presley, Prince, Michael Jackson, and Kurt Cobain.

I mentioned it to the Texas Gal after dinner the other day and told her that when I bother to leave an answer to those posts, I usually say “Beethoven.”

She shook her head. “Vivaldi,” she said, as I knew she would. I also know the program would include “The Four Seasons.” I told her that Vivaldi would be quite a show, too. And I said that although I’ve never bothered to make a ranking of my favorite classical composers, I imagine that if I did, the Italian Baroque master would likely end up in the top twenty or so.

And I added, thinking more deeply, that my choice of Beethoven for my concert would not indicate that he is my favorite classical composer. I have read, though, that he was likely the classical world’s second-best performer on the piano. The Texas Gal asked who was best. I told her I’d read over the years that Franz Liszt generally topped the list, adding that my choice simply reflected that I preferred Beethoven’s music to Liszt’s.

So who is my favorite classical composer? There are four that I would have to sort through: Mozart, mostly for his symphonies, especially No. 40 in G minor; Antonín Dvořák, mostly for Symphony No. 9 in E minor, “From the New World,” and his Slavonic dances; Bedřich Smetana, for his Ma Vlast (My Homeland), the set of six symphonic poems that includes “Vltava (The Moldau)”; and Franz Schubert, mostly for his Hungarian dances and his Symphony No. 8 (Unfinished).

Yes, there’s a Bohemian and Magyar tinge there. Works by composers from those areas touch something deep in me, as do works by Slavic composers from portions of Europe further east. (Think Tchaikovsky, Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Glinka, and more.)

I’m not going to sort out those favorite composers today (and I may never do so). It’s enough to have a jumble of favorites for those moments when I want some classical tunes (and those moments do arise). For now, I’ll just leave some Dvořák here. This is Slavonic Dance No. 8 (Furiant, Presto), composed in 1878. I first heard it when I played it in a summer orchestra in 1967 or so.