Saturday, February 16, 2013

Dissonant Beauty?

It is once again symphony concert time for the fetching Mrs B and Mr. "Tales".  Tonight at Jones Hall in Houston we get to hear our great Houston Symphony Orchestra in a great program: Richard Wagner's Siegfried Idyll, Mozart's violin concerto #5 [the Turkish], and last but not least Sergei Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, Suite #2.

There is always a controversy among Jews on attending a concert that contains music by Wagner because of Wagner's political views [anti-Semitic] and even more because the evil Hitler loved Wagner's music and he said it gave him inspiration.  As a Jew, while deeply troubled by Wagner's anti-Semitism [in the 1800's], I can separate that from his music and recognize the beauty and greatness of his music.  As far as Wagner being Hitler's favorite composer, I discount that are you telling me if Hitler had loved Beethoven, no Jew should ever listen to Beethoven?  That doesn't make sense to me.  Wagner's Siegfried Idyll is truly a beautiful piece of music and it opens the concert program.

The second piece of music on the program is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's violin concerto #5 in A Major [known as the Turkish because of the theme in the third movement]. While Mozart had so many grand piano concertos and so many great symphonies and operas and chamber music pieces, he, in my opinion was disappointing in his violin concertos.  He composed 5 violin concertos.  They are all nice but light pieces, none of them achieving the greatness of many of his piano concertos. His 5th violin concerto is definitely the best one, and it has a fun third movement that you will see in this video beginning at the 3:42 mark with the Turkish theme beginning at 4:10.  One thing that Mozart does in this piece that he does in a lot of his pieces, is end the piece softly.  Most composers want to finish their piece in an exciting loud climax to get a rousing ovation from the patrons at the end of the piece. Mozart is one composer not afraid to end many of his pieces softly.

The final piece on the concert program is Sergei Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet Suite #2.   Prokofiev was a great Russian Romantic composer. This is a well known and loved piece by Prokofiev. The suite #2 contains a lot of dissonance. Dissonance is sound that is inharmonious.  It is a harsh sound with the notes played sounding like they don't go together. So, you might say to yourself, why would a composer use a dissonant sound in his composition. They might do it if they want to portray a dark dramatic mood or maybe a scary mood. You will hear how this Suite #2 definitely starts off like you are listening to a scary movie. Right from the start you can hear the dissonant sound. A harsh scary sound.  The major theme of this suite starting at the 1:25 mark also has dissonance, but to me it is a more beautiful dissonance. This theme is really mesmerizing and is one of my favorite themes.  I am really looking forward to hearing this piece just to hear that theme.  Yes, a theme filled with dissonance- a dissonant beauty!

This video is an excerpt [1st movement] of the Suite #2 from Romeo and Juliet.
Please turn up the volume and enjoy!

W.A. Mozart: Violin Concero #5 in A Major, the Turkish, movement 3, Rondo, Tempo di Minuetto:

S. Prokofiev: Excerpt from Romeo and Juliet, Suite 2, movement 1, "Montagues and Capulets":


Anonymous said...

Can certainly understand the Jewish problem with Wagner. Beethoven is my favorite composer and I loved the Montagues and Capulets. How lucky you are to have the Houston Symphony - what we have is a symphony of sorts and I always think we should drive down to Houston on occasion for some great culture. Surely enjoyed your email.

Big Mike said...

Thanks so much...yes we would welcome you to Houston and the great Houston Symphony Orchestra!