Costa Blanca Arts Update - ADDA Simfonica in Tchaikovsky and Chausson
First impressions are often pretty accurate. Sometimes, however, opinions mature with time and often initial enthusiasm becomes tempered by familiarity, usually diminished as far as the mundane. This seems common with work of art, especially so with pieces of music, whose first hearing can seem perfectly vivid, often inspiring or surprising, only to dim with repeated experience. It is rare for a piece to grow in a listener’s estimation with repeated exposure.
One of the very first pieces of so-called classical music I braved was Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony. I still remember teachers at school almost dismissing Tchaikovsky on the grounds that he did not measure up to the structures and intellectual rigour of certain Germanic individuals who shall remain nameless. It was a judgment that coloured the opinion of an impressionable youngster who, fortunately was something of an intellectual rebel, so anti-conformist zeal identified the composer immediately as someone to explore. So why did I buy the record? Well, I was curious and it was cheap in 1967. It was the 1963 Fidelio recording with the Danzig Philharmonic under Felix Heiss. I still have it.
Tchaikovsky’s fifth, after all, is immediately accessible. It has that great triumphal theme. It also has plenty of high points, lots of brass, climaxes, memorable tunes and orchestral colour. It also has that finale that in isolation sounds so assured, confident and celebratory.
Many years later, having re-discovered Tchaikovsky’s great trilogy of four, five and six, I was privileged to hear several performances of number four and then followed that with several of number six, a work which I rediscovered and was forced to reassess, concluding it really must rank as one of the greatest achievements of the human mind. I seem to have an in-built distrust of populist assumptions, and so had come to regard the Pathetique as possibly over-rated. I was wrong, of course.
Number five, meanwhile, tended still to be taken for granted until, courtesy of a couple of life performances, it revealed itself anew. And the experience was revelatory. Notable now in the first movement are phrases, whole passages that were to reappear in number six, with all their portentous undercurrents. Number five, still triumphal and optimistic, at least on its surface, quite suddenly developed a hollowness, a self-doubt similar to that which accompanies the crescendi that Shostakovich offered in symphonies four and seven. They did not quite believe their own rhetoric. All of a sudden, active after 40 years of familiarity with the work, Tchaikovsky five suddenly grew up, transformed from my own youthful affirmation to the mature doubt that its composer no doubt intended.
And the latest exposure to the work was on 20th of March, courtesy of ADDA Simfónica under Josep Vicent in Alacante. Whether it was a result of several months without orchestral music or indeed whether this was merely yet another inspired performance by this wonderful orchestra and brilliant conductor remains a moot point. That the work itself and the performance of it were both masterpieces was undeniable.
“It’s not Beethoven, is it?” asked one of my teachers all those years ago. “No, it isn’t” is the correct answer. “It’s Tchaikovsky” and the experience is profound, as well as, like in all great art, profoundly personal
Also on the same program we heard Ángeles Blancas singing Ernest Chausson’s Poem of Love and the Sea. Long, languorous lines of near melody unfold in this work to create almost a dream of sound, an illusion of beauty that never seems to solidify
Now this remains at work I personally find impenetrable, in common with many of the other works of the same era, such as Pelleas et Meslisande of Debussy. Much of Chaussson is magnificent, but he really does have a tendency to take himself very seriously. This poem is very much in the genre of Debussy’s Pelleas, a Symbolist meander around the edges of emotion, a blurry wander through a Gustav Moreau dream world. The experience is perfectly wonderful, but the meaning is difficult to discern. It is a piece I have heard regularly and indeed I have three recordings of it. Perhaps like Tchaikovsky five, this is a work I will return to after 40 years to re-discover its key. I will be 110 by then. Can’t wait.
Author of Eileen McHugh, a life remade, a free downloadable biography of an unknown sculptor. http://www.philipspires.co.uk/eileen.htm
Eileen McHugh - a life remade - is a novel about a sculptor whose creative life ended in the 1970s. She left no work, but now an archive of her notes and sketches has come into the possession of Mary Reynolds, who is determined to resurrect the artist’s life and reconstruct her work. She contacts people who knew Eileen as a child and as a student in London. Via these partial memories, she recreates the artist and her work.