Blessed by the god of oboes

A while ago, someone expressed astonishment at my musical tastes, surprise that I didn’t listen exclusively to classical music while writing, since Seraphina is so evocative of classical music. This got me thinking: I was raised on classical music, almost exclusively, but I don’t really listen to it much anymore. I’m not sure why that is, if I just got tired of it, or if it’s simply that I’m drawn toward the new (to me) and that new (to me) classical music is a) harder to find, and b) requires more work to listen to, and I just don’t have the spare brains for it right now.

I imagine this is one of those questions one could delve into for a long time to little purpose. The upshot is, I have decided to go back in time a bit, to some of my favourite classical pieces I haven’t listened to in ages. A trip down memory lane, as it were.

Here’s some Ravel that one of my sisters reminded me of recently: Le Tombeau de Couperin. I own a recording of it, but I never listen to it, not because I don’t still love the piece but because in my recording they just play it too damn fast. Have a listen (and a look! And check out the awesome oboist!).

I had been baffled by my too-fast recording, but some of the comments below this video have brought something into focus for me: the oboist has to use circular breathing for some of the longer passages. Um, WOW. Playing it faster would mean you got to breathe sooner; maybe that’s why they take it so fast in my recording. Their oboist wasn’t as good as this Albrecht Mayer fellow.

What this really suggests, though, is that I need to look for a better recording for myself. Albrecht Mayer and the Berlin Philharmonic are a good place to start, it sounds like.

Ah, isn’t it gorgeous, though? Pastoral, lively, bright. I first listened to this piece when I was about 11 years old and was just reading Tolkien for the first time, so it’s still inextricably (and absurdly, perhaps) associated with hobbits and elves in my mind. But oh, that flute trill at the end is like audible sunlight. Good times, happy memories.

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5 Comments on “Blessed by the god of oboes”

  1. Ah, don’t feel bad. I love classical music, and I have dozens of CD’s, but yesterday I was having fits of ecstasy because I found out I could get AC/DC on iTunes, and I spent the afternoon watching You Tube videos of Angus Young jumping around on stage. Music is like wine- it just depends what mood you’re in.

    • LoL, thank you sir. In fact, something I spend far too much time thinking about is what sort of music my favourite composers would have gotten into if they were alive today — or the reverse, with musicians I like (I really think FZ would have been Mozart in some other era). In fact, Lars (in the novel) sprang from exactly this line of questioning. I had just seen the movie “Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey” where they trace the roots of metal to Wagner and speculate that if Wagner were alive today he’d be a total metalhead. Well, what if one extrapolated backwards? What would some hypothetical Wagner analog be playing in the Middle Ages? Bagpipes, apparently.

  2. I was not raised with much exposure to classical music, and while I’ve been wondering about it for several years now I haven’t taken it any farther than curiosity. It’s a hard genre for a newbie to get into. It’s not like you can just go out and buy THE album, you have to choose between orchestras, years, locations. Faced with too many options, I just freeze up.

    I seem to be running into Vivaldi’s Four Seasons every time I turn on NPR this fall. I’m starting to actually recognize parts of it. If I can track down either of the two recordings that I heard bits of (both apparently brand new and somewhat radical arrangements) I may finally take the plunge and buy one.

    • This is actually quite a problem for me as well, Amie! When I was a kid, all our classical music was tapes recorded off vinyl. Somehow we didn’t bother writing down which orchestra or performers except in very rare cases. But music sounds very different in different interpretations. I can’t track them all down very easily. In most cases, I don’t even try. But then I end up with supersonic Ravel and think, “geez, this isn’t what I wanted to hear.”


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