Concert Note:
A Fave
8 August 2019

When I met Kathleen forty years ago, she was not much interested in string quartets or symphonies. She loved Motown, cherished singer-songwriters like Laura Nyro and Joni Mitchell, and took a serious interest in jazz. (A favorite album: John Coltrane’s Giant Steps.) I stretched my jazz stride to keep up with her, and I bought Joni Mitchell’s albums the moment they came out — although here, as with the Beatles, Kathleen much preferred the earlier stuff, while I liked the later. (Miles of Aisles vs Dog Eat Dog.) We were both hooked on Donald Fagen. 

But most of the music that has issued from the apartment’s speakers involved no electronic instruments of any kind, and most of the concerts that we went to involved orchestras, or at least multiple violins. The only criterion for buying tickets was that I use my head to spare Kathleen boredom or annoyance. (She still doesn’t much care for operatic sopranos.) Kathleen genuinely enjoyed these events, but the first time that she was thrilled by a symphony concert was after a performance of Schubert’s Ninth. I forget the orchestra and the conductor — the concert was part of a series of International Greats. (A lower rung from grandees like Karajan and Bernstein. It might have been Vladimir Ashkenazy, during his conducting phase.) Kathleen sizzled as if she’d had an instant-read vitamin injection. I made a mental note. I passed on some miscellaneous liner-note information, mostly about how the Vienna Philharmonic wouldn’t even rehearse the work, because the winds had all the tunes in the finale, while the strings, in Donald Tovey’s words, “turn round like carriage while we enjoy the journey.” (Well, maybe Tovey did say that, somewhere. But in his piece on the symphony collected in Essays in Musical Analysis, Tovey describes the violins as “madly turning somersaults.” And it was the London, not the Vienna Philharmonic, that giggled so badly that Mendelssohn chose to withdraw the work from the program.) Whenever Schubert’s Ninth came up, Kathleen would hum along, saying that she knew every note but couldn’t say what it was. Well, I knew. 

Previewing the Mostly Mozart catalogue a few months ago, then, I was delighted to be have the opportunity to hear, with one purchase, a particularly noteworthy conductor and a symphony of which Kathleen is unusually fond.  TK

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