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CLASSICAL  December 2007

CLASSICAL December 2007

Subject:

Music Makes Every Day a Holiday

From:

Janos Gereben <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 4 Dec 2007 14:55:29 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (125 lines)

Just back from a visit to the Philippines where Christmas is celebrated
massively October through January, I became even more aware of our own
persistent (if shorter) holiday music season that surrounds us in the
stores, on TV, with "Messiah" at the symphony, "Hansel and Gretel" at
the opera, "Nutcracker" at the ballet...  The question came to mind:
could these sounds form a shared experience for our first memory of,
first impression by classical music?

Surprisingly, not one of the respondents to a large personal survey of
music-loving friends around the world answered in the affirmative.  Music
"firsts" are all over the map, but Twelve Days of Christmas don't seem
to make a dent.

Here are some of the answers to the question "What is your earliest
memory of classical music making a personal impact on you?"

* "My grandparents, immigrants from northern Italy, had an album of
opera records and a windup phonograph. When I was about 8 (in 1945) and
staying with them for the summer, I heard  Caruso singing "Una furtiva
lagrima" and became fascinated with the sound and the person making it.
I played the record so often that my grandmother took me to a record
shop and offered to buy anything I wanted for myself - I found someone
yodeling "O bury me not on the lone prairie" and brought that back to
play on her machine. I loved that too, but a few days later the record
was mysteriously broken: there was no doubt who the villain was: Uncle
Leo lived upstairs and had gotten tired of my obsession." [Dan Shea]

* "I was riveted by Leporello's Catalog Aria [from Mozart's `Don
Giovanni'] at about age 5 or 6, recorded by Ezio Pinza in the late
1940s, under Bruno Walter. After that, in my mid-teens, Beethoven's
Symphony No. 5 and Stravinsky's `Petrouchka'." [Lisa Hirsch]

* "Family gathered around Mother at the Baldwin spinet making
singing-type noises to the tunes of George M. Cohan and other favorites
of my grandparents. First such memory dates to about 1946 - age seven. H
A double-R I G A N spells `Harrigan' - on a good day (or is it a bad
one?) I remember the rest of it." [Mike Richter]

* "It was, believe it or not, `Ionisation,' by Edgar Varese! When I
listened to this at first, my reactions were `This has been recorded,
therefore it is music. This is music? Then what IS music?' As I listened
more, and I did listen a lot, I grew to look forward to it. And the
first time I heard it live, I was very confused - there was an
instrument missing, and I couldn't put my finger on it. When I finally
figured it out, I had to chuckle - the missing instrument? The
shwssh-shwssh-shwssh of the needle tracking in the rapidly spinning 78
RPM groove." [Charlie Cockey]

* "My dad owned an LP copy of the 1937 Toscanini-New York Philharmonic
recording of Beethoven's Symphony No. 7. I must have played it a million
times, air-conducting it with a pencil in my room. Later, I bought the
full score, and that's how I learned to read and follow scores."
[Michael Zwiebach]

* "Ravel's 'Bolero' with Bo Derek unveiling herself. Also 'Peter and the
Wolf,' particularly the part where Peter is eaten by the Wolf." [Edward
De Jong]

* "I remember always liking Bach and being fascinated by the
mathematical-ness of it. The first time I listened to his fugue, for
example, which starts out with a perfect fifth; then the second
instrument comes in and starts a few measures with a fourth, and from
playing the string bass and the violin, I knew that the two (i.e. the
fifth and the fourth) were inverses of each other. Not only were they
inverses, but the tempos are offset from each other, and this still all
sounds harmonious. Then the third instrument comes in on double time (I
believe), and the mass still sound cohesive. I was completely mystified
how Bach kept all of this straight in his head... [Kyoko Oishi]

* "The Sextet from 'Lucia di Lammermoor.' When I was 11, my father
brought home a 3-LP Caruso reissue album and put it on, I recognized it
immediately, exclaiming: 'Daddy, I've heard that before!' 'Yeah, you
broke it when you were 2,' he replied.  I started whistling to Caruso
recordings right after that... eventually leading to my whistling
career." [Jason Victor Serinus]

* "Janos Starker LPs on an Australian Supraphone of two of the Bach
cello suites: the first classical LP I owned. When I asked him to sign
it at Hertz Hall about three decades later, he was not impressed, but he
did sign it. Maybe I should have explained that I had purchased other
recordings of his since?" [Graeme Vanderstoel]

* "When I was 14 or 15, our school had an 'Opera Day' and we  were
allowed to 'dress up' instead of wearing uniforms. While we mostly
regarded the expedition all the way from Berkeley to San Francisco as an
opportunity to demonstrate our finery, most of us became painfully aware
of how difficult it was to perch on high heels a whole day. We saw 'La
Boheme' one year, 'Madama Butterfly' another, and as soon as the music
began, I forgot about the clothes and the pinching shoes, and flew away
to another kingdom."  [Nan Warren]

* "It was definitely Beethoven's First Symphony. It's so Mozart-like, it
was easier for a child to digest it. I still love it and the second
movement still does something to me. Maybe a case of arrested child
development. [Marika Somogyi]

* "I remember while being young, sitting on my bed and listening to the
`March Slave' over the radio and being excited and carried along by it.
I also remember sitting on that bed in 1930 or '31 at age 8 or 9, and
reading in `Popular Mechanics' (I devoured it) about the German army
using trucks with wooden covers disguised as tanks in manoeuvres (the
Versailles Treaty forbade use of real tanks) and shivering with fear,
alarmed at the notion." [Robert Commanday]

* "We had a tradition in our family in Baku, having a music evening on
every weekend, we'd play instruments, sing, read music. Then my father
introduced me to opera, I was 8 or 9 years old, and that was 'Eugene
Onegin.' It's been my favorite opera ever since." [Sofia Biktimir]

* "Tchaikovsky: `1812,' `Romeo & Juliet,' Fifth Symphony - in that
order, when between 11 and 12. Despite years of young people's concerts
and the New York Philharmonic previously. I think the the concreteness
of references in the `1812,' familiar tunes, brilliant orchestration,
and intuitively building excitement all contributed; `R&J' was on the
flip side and eventually became familiar enough to enchant." [F.L.]

Janos Gereben
www.sfcv.org
[log in to unmask]

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