Taken by surprise

Despite everything I said in my last post…

Today I was listening to the Sibelius Fifth Symphony. I’m writing marketing blurbs for the Philadelphia Orchestra, blurbs that (as I’ve mentioned here before; I’ve done them also for the St. Louis and Pittsburgh symphonies) try to evoke the way the music at each concert really feels. Philadelphia, next year, has programmed the Sibelius Fifth along with other haunting music; I was listening to some of it, looking for the proper words to write.

And the symphony, taking me by surprise, just swept me away. I felt as if I moved inside it, almost awed. One key, I think, is that it took me by surprise. I wasn’t looking to be swept away. All I needed was to hear the music, which then crept around me, surrounding me with feeling I couldn’t hold at bay.

Another tribute to the power of classical music, overwhelming even a weary critic who’d just written that he didn’t need, today, to hear big and strenuous orchestral works.

(The performance: Petri Sakan conducting the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, streaming from the Naxos website. Not at all bad, and at the beginning and in the second movement, quite evocative. Naxos, I might add, is testing a new service, in which, for a fee, we’ll be able to stream their entire catalogue, even copyrighted works, in really good sound, for what I think will be an annual or monthly subscription fee. Depending, of course, on what they charge, this may well be a bargain for anyone who needs to hear lots of music, including both standard works and things from odd corners of the repertoire. Or, for that matter, tremendous historical recordings, which Naxos has in abundance.

(And while I’m at it, let me recommend a Sibelius site, which some of you may know. Certainly it deserves to be widely known. It’s by the Inkpot Sibelius Nutcase™, as he calls himself, and his or her essay on the Fifth Symphony is powerful and thoughtful stuff. It’s all on the Flying inkpot site, from Singapore.)

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