A Glass of Chianti

Monday, June 05, 2006

How could I have missed this?

A post that starts off with a taste of Virgil and then has an extended meditation on youth orchestras. Was there ever anything that should have been posted here sooner? Surely not.

Adolescence, in general, lends itself well to tackling the Shostis and the Mahlers. I'm a firm believer that when you start spelling Tchaikovsky correctly, you are then too old to play him well. They all benefit from the earnestness that comes with being 16. I think that Sudeep has it almost right when he says
Yes, Beethoven and Brahms are epic too, but there's something psychologically penetrating about Mahler considering his own death, or Tchaikovsky strong statements of fate that require teenagers who are going through the trivialities of their latest existential crisis to put all that aside. Their performances should give us pause:
I don't know that youth performances of these pieces are powerful because the teenagers are able "to put all that aside." On the contrary, the narcissism and inability to put anything aside that marks that age is what makes it compelling. It's the performer who thinks that everything he says, everything he plays, has to be profound that makes these influential experiences. It's the same reason why kids (even very remarkable ones) can't play St. Saens; they try to make it profound. French music falls flatter than a Kansas highway when it is saddled with that.

Youth orchestra programs are loaded with the Russians and with Copland and Italian overtures (when conductors get back to that practice... hopefully soon) because they all benefit from performers who think they are the center of the world, that their part needs to be heard and that they have vital things to say. There are no unimportant doublings in a Mahler symphony - just ask the trombones.
What I'm actually worried about though, Sudeep, is kids + Wagner. I'm not even a Wagnerite and I see problems with large doses of that!