11/21/2008

Borrowing a Page...

...from Robbo, with a gratuitous musical observation.

Today strikes me as a day for Beethoven's Eroica (3rd) Symphony. I'm not sure what it is, exactly, about this piece that has always stricken (struck?) me, but it is, without question, my favorite piece of symphonic music. And it's up there as my favorite piece of music period, though Bach's B Minor Mass will probably occupy that slot on a more permanent basis.

I frequently wonder if I love Eroica as much as I do because we had the opportunity to perform it in our high school orchestra (we did a mighty fine job, if I do say so myself) and I can attest that it's one of very few symphonies that has a score for violas that doesn't suck. I'm not sure what it is about most symphonies (or at least the ones that make it into a typical high school orchestra's repetiore) that refuses to take the viola seriously, but there you have it. Most composers treat the viola as either wanna-be violins, forcing violists up into 4th and 5th position so that you can approximate the notes of the lower violin ranges or they're glorified beat-keepers. Much like altos tend to be "all the work and none of the glory", the viola is, by and large, the forgotten child of the symphony.

Anyway, I suspect the fact that our teacher was a violist figured in to the various musical selections we got to experience and so, on reaching high school, I began to finally experience orchestral music that was fun to play. Of course, it was a double-edged sword, because she expected much more of her viola section than any other section in the room. And that pressure, ultimately, siphoned off the joy faster than even Beethoven could inject it...so I only kept at it for one year.

My mother can add this to the list that I'm sure she's keeping somewhere, but, well...I've always kind of regretted that.

2 comments:

Robbo said...

Coincidentally, I was just noodling on ol' Ludwig Van today, thinking again about how my two favorite symphonies of his are probably the Seventh and the Second.

For some reason, I did not know that you were a violist. Being a lawyer myself and subject to jillions of jokes, I am delighted to discover that someone else occupies a similarly-situated position of scorn. A randomly chosen joke (which I'll bet you've heard before):

A violist came home and found his house burned to the ground. When he asked what happened, the police told him "Well, apparently the conductor came to your house, and ..."

The violist's eyes lit up and he interrupted excitedly, "The conductor? Came to my house?"

beth said...

Heh. It's been a while since I've heard that one (or any, honestly, seeing as how I haven't played where people can hear me in eons.) :)

I'll have to re-listen to the 7th and 2nd...I will admit to bee-lining for the 3rd most times I'm in the mood for a symphony, so it's been a while since I gave anything else more than a passing listen.