Sunday, March 11, 2007

Seven is Enough for this Octet

In spite of the photo I've posted as my blog ID, I'm going to try to avoid turning this into an "aren't my children adorable and brilliant?" space. It's too easy. Still, since I just happened to have been blogging about the Mendelssohn Octet, I feel compelled (and overwhelmingly proud) to report that my 7-yr old has fallen for this music as well. Our family spent about 2 1/2 hours together in a car today and after the 15-minute 1st movement finished playing she immediately said, "Can we listen to that again?" She kept saying that until we'd listened to it four or five times. Naturally, the first time through I made of point of narrating the thrilling pedal point retransition that happens about 10 minutes in. The next time we got there, she did a preemptive, "Dad, you don't need to tell me about this part" exactly as it arrived. OK, so she sounded a bit like a teenager embarrassed by her crazy father, but I was much too proud of her engagement with the music to be offended.

Now I'm not saying she was listening with total active focus every time through, but it made me realize there probably is something particularly captivating about this work, especially in terms of making a strong first impression. While she does have a lot more musical exposure than the average 7-yr old, I often have to remind myself to be patient when she isn't that interested in listening to something I want her to love. Although I did do my annoying pedal-tone song and dance with her, I had basically chosen to bring the CD for my wife and me to enjoy and wasn't expecting to win a new convert. On some level, it might just be that soaring opening theme; it's basically little more than a series of skyscraping arpeggios, but what a way to open a piece. I know the opening theme was one of the things that grabbed me right away when I first heard the Octet. Still, my daughter clearly responded to a lot more than just the theme. There's magic in there somewhere.

Just to finish up what I was saying below about the scoring, I continue to be struck by how unique the rugged sound of 8 instruments is in comparison to a fuller orchestra. I'm second to no one in my appreciation for a big beautiful string section playing something like a Tchaikovsky tune, and in fact the sumptuous Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings is a great example of what I think the Mendelssohn should not be. When played by only 8 lucky souls, as full and vigorous as the sound can be, it never has that Mantovani or 101 Strings effect. In other words, to state the obvious, it's chamber music.

No comments: