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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000667.txt from 2000/04

From: Karel Vahala <vahalakv@-----.au>
Subj: Re: [kl] Some Personal Notes On Dvorak
Date: Sun, 16 Apr 2000 03:23:11 -0400

Shoruyu,
Like you I think that Dvorak's 9th is a beautiful work unjustly looked down
on. Its title is "FROM The New World", written during Dvorak's stay in the
US. It is a poignant work composed by a homesick man, full of anguish and
longing.

My own favourite recording of this is a historical one re-issued by Supraphon.
It was recorded in the 1949 by the old wax pressing method, performed by the
Czech Philharmonic conducted by Vaclav Talich. Although the sound is not
great, it is acceptable, and Talich makes the whole work hang together better
than any other performance I have heard. If you can get hold of it, do so.

Supraphon 11 0290 2 001

Good luck finding it, Karel.
Shouryu Nohe wrote:

> This will most likely be a rather lengthy post - and not very much on
> topic, but I feel I have much to say at this moment. Right now, I stand
> before you not as a clarinetist, bassist, contrabassist, or an otaku (of
> sorts), but rather as a small child who has suddenly filled with an
> immense wonder of the world around him. More or less, this post will help
> me gain a greater understanding of myself, and maybe even you will come to
> understand me more than I will.
>
> There are a great many things that give me a good deal of satisfaction in
> life - the feeling you quest that you can't quite describe, but it is
> undeniably moving. The feeling of a suit one has freshly pressed...the
> falling tresses that surround the face of a beautiful woman with an
> innocent but captivating smile...the roar of a well tuned engine as it
> pushes to redline and the velocity that accompanies it...staring into the
> clearest night sky with the realization of just how minute our existance
> within the universe is - for me, each of these is a notable experience in
> which I find particular satisfaction. However, music has had a greater
> effect on my entire life, especially since I first truly fell in love with
> it.
>
> I have always been involved in music - I often say that, "quite simply, it
> is what I do." Since the age of 4, I had been singing my brains out, more
> so that I probably sang more than I spoke, and things sort of snowballed
> from there. But it was not until late in my freshman year in high school
> that I verily, truly, undeniably fell in love with music.
>
> I had been introduced to Dvorak's Ninth Symphony through marching band; my
> freshman year, we performed an arrangement of the first, second, and final
> movements - the same arrangement that the Phantom Regiment performed in
> '89, but with woodwinds of course. I had pretty much liked the piece from
> the get-go. It was intense and dark...but I, being a rather unlearned
> musician, really had no clue as to just HOW watered down our eleven minute
> arrangement was. The April of the same school year, I came across a
> cassette of the London Symphony performing the work in its entirety at the
> local Hastings. I purchased it, a little eager to hear it performed by
> an orchestra.
>
> I played the cassette and captivated immediately. I think that it was at
> this very moment that I started to really fall in love with music. What I
> was hearing was speaking to me so well that for several weeks, I would
> wear headphones to bed, listening to the symphony in its entirety every
> night. For years, it has always been the symphony that has had a
> mysterious hold over me - sure, Mahler writes on the very essence of
> existance, but for me, that particular spot has always been held by Dvorak
> Nine, and I could never really explain why. There was a deeper meaning to
> the work for me...one I couldn't describe, even after I entered higher
> education and began studying music intensively.
>
> I promised myself not long after purchasing the cassette that if I ever
> had the opportunity to hear Dvorak Nine performed live, I would find some
> way, ANY way, to be in attendance.
>
> At 8 pm MDT on the 14th of April 2000, I stepped into the Abraham Chavez
> Theatre in El Paso, Texas, to finally answer that promise. There was
> nothing keeping me from this concert - had somebody chained one of my
> limbs to a building, I would probably have gnawed it off to make it to
> this concert. Oh sure, I'd heard the El Paso Symphony Orchestra on
> numerous occasions, and always enjoyed it. But this was IT - this was the
> real deal, Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Opus 95, live in concert.
>
> In the fourth movement, as the symphony draws to a close, the strings
> state the theme in a very grandiose and stately fortissimo, and the brass
> answer with the resolving chords resulting in a sound that cannot be
> described in words. It was the very instant BETWEEN the strings'
> statement and the brass' entrance, that briefest of moments, that
> everything suddenly fell into place - why the symphony has always held so
> great a place in my heart, and why it affects me the way it does. There
> are less than thirty seconds of music left in the work, and for that
> entire time, and some time afterward, I am very, seriously NUMB.
>
> There is no real way to convey to you what I felt this evening, although I
> am sure that many of you have experienced it yourselves. For those of you
> who haven't, I'm going to do my best to explain what all came crashing
> down upon my psyche this evening.
>
> I am my own guest conductor at live performances usually - and I suppose
> it's pretty obnoxious to those sitting around me, and being aware of this,
> I pretty much limit my conducting to movement of the hands within a box
> about four inches square. Cues are still intense though...and this
> evening, sitting in the grand tier of the theatre, I conduct the first
> movement...but when the horns strike the main theme - the minor arpeggio
> that is present throughout the entire symphony (and all its modal
> variants) - it's hard to control myself. The hair on the back of my neck
> is standing up, and my blood begins to boil a little as the music builds
> in tension. There is a great deal of tension and resolution in the first
> movement, and Dvorak's harmonic writing in tandem with his dynamic
> contrast create a very solemn yet intensely exciting feeling of conflict.
>
> The final chord brings this to a peak, and suddenly there is a great
> pause...and an eerie serenity as the second movement begins. The opening
> chords, while hauntingly beautiful, make me feel lost and disoriented...I
> can't conduct this one suddenly. All I can do is lay my head against the
> seat ad gaze in awe as the chords resolve in their blazing minor...and
> with the start of the Cor Anglais solo, I have shut the world away
> completely. But as beautiful as this melody is...it's the second theme
> that wrenches me. As the strings execute the most delicate pizzicato, the
> woodwinds emit this haunting soli in a minor mode...and I can almost feel
> my heart stop beating. There is no more tension or resolution...
>
> And the sudden return to major, I feel alive again, almost as if startled
> to life by the returning them from the first movement...then the Cor
> Anglais returns, and there is this overwhelming sense of relief.
>
> I anticipate the third movement quite a bit...it doesn't get as much
> airtime as the other movements of the symphony, and I've never understood
> why - musically, it's my favorite. And tonight, emotionally, it nearly
> drives me insane. Here, Dvorak builds tension...and builds tension...and
> builds tension...no matter how tense you are driven, he finds a way to
> increase that. Motivic themes in the woodwinds offset each other tense
> enough for you? Let's add more instruments...more? Crank the
> volume...more? We'll put the horns on a melismatic rhythm, blasting
> redarndiculously loud, grating the two juxtaposed on three - then...no
> resolution, just a moment of silence, and he starts over. And it
> continues, with shifts between major and minor, and driving harder, and a
> pentatonic scale here and a mode shift there and more growing
> tensions...and to me, not only have I been pushed to the edge...I've also
> been given a sense of satisfaction. Because it is NOW that I realize why
> I've always liked this movement - because I see ALL of this finally coming
> together, all the musical elements I just described, and to me, it's pure
> genius.
>
> When the fourth movement starts, I am conducting again...and I've been
> pretty much set on fire by the horns and trumpets. As the movement pushes
> on, the feeling intensifies, but without the insanity that consumed the
> third movement. But as the themes begin to mellow and relax, I am moved
> further and deeper in love with the whole work, finally beginning to feel
> a REAL sense of peace and resolution with the symphony. The horns sing
> the theme softly, and the strings invade, building to their
> climax...theme...and then suddenly something like an icepick finds its way
> directly between my eyes, and everything I have just tried to describe to
> you (and VERY inadequately, I might add) implodes upon me and I begin to
> tingle. The brass suddenly explode and I feel, more than ever, a
> fantastic awe of my existance, of God, of Beauty, of Life, and a sudden
> wonder and appreciation for the desire that my God placed in me to create
> music. Moments later, as the final major third dissapates from majestic
> splendor to silence, I realize that I haven't taken a breath since that
> moment, and when the audience explodes in gratitude, I gasp in a breath
> and recover from being tossed between love and hate, euphoria and anguish,
> admiration and repulsion, conflict and peace. I am probably one of the
> last ones to join the standing ovation...because I am too busy
> thinking...feeling this work of art that I had adored over the years.
>
> In one brief moment, everything I had learned over the past four years
> suddenly made more sense than it ever had, and while I continue to strive
> for music satisfaction in performance, I now know that can find greater
> satisfaction in listening to music...and seeing what it can do to me, and
> how I should strive to do the very same for others when I play.
>
> For those of you out there who haven't experienced what I have just
> described, I hope you find that someday. I certainly wasn't looking to
> get what I got tonight - all I wanted was to hear Dvorak Nine performed
> live, and what I got was a startling revelation as a musician in training.
>
> If you've read this far, thanks for hearing me out...It was just something
> I needed to share with you, so I could better understand it on my own, and
> I hope you understand it, too.
>
> J. M. Nohe
> New Mexico State University
> April 15, 2000
>
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