Schnittke’s vision of the future (it sounds weird let me tell you)

The rest is noise One of the things I love about London is you can find pretty much anything you want and some times things you had no idea you wanted. Most of the classical concerts I go to are of the later variety.

Anyhow, I go on the Southbank website often and just browse the concerts to see if anything stands out. I saw Schnittke’s vision of the future by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the whole programme sounded amazingly great.

I do go to a lot of these concerts and usually I don’t feel compelled to blog about them. Last night’s was different if only because Alfred Schnittke’s vision of the future is damn right weird.

Let me be clear here. I am not an expert. I have a bit of a haphazard approach to classical music but I’ve been listening to a lot of it for ever (thanks to my mother’s insistence that I take ballet as a child). So you know, the below can be total and utter bullshit, in which case please go find someone who knows what the heck they are talking about.

Michail Jurowski, the conductor, at the pre-concert talk noted that Schnittke’s Symphony No.1 can be interpreted as a struggle between war and piece. There are entrances and exits throughout the piece and he interpreted one of the bigger exits of half the orchestra as a parallel to the Holocaust.

I’m always a little bit sceptical with such explanations. Regardless of what it all means the  symphony was gob-smacking (a technical term). It’s the most theatrical symphony I have ever seen and I love the way the usually rigid orchestra gets to move about, coming in, going out and creating something other than just sound.

There are incomprehensible moments. I usually know they are truly incomprehensible because someone a little bit pretentious will be stroking their beard and nodding in appreciation. These people are either really getting it or they are basically like the jazz bar aficionado who will nod and go ‘yeah man‘ to whatever seems to have no discernible rhythm as a sure sign of quality. But I digress.

There were moments of pure genius and the amazing control that the orchestra showed was breath taking. There would be an amazing melody making your stomach clench and then in half a breath there would be no sound, or the delicate little sound of one or two instruments delicately played. It made for a whirlwind that would not stop. In places it did feel like Schnittke thought he would be getting points and an extra life if he managed to use more instruments. Here’s something a bit weird: The electric guitar sounded SCARY. No other way to put it. It was the most ominous sound in there – it was quite something.

I wish I understood music more because then I would have been able to appreciate the improvisation parts. Apparently the symphony is an essay in  aleatoric music (long live Wikipedia) so it’s definitely one that you have to listen to/ see again and again as different conductors and musician’s will interpret the piece differently.

Overall I would say this was an incredibly difficult thing to listen to. This is the next day and little parts still come to mind and I keep thinking about it. Obviously a good thing. But it has also left me with a deep sense of unease, a sense of loss and little triumph. I felt very little hope and what hope there was seemed to be intertwined with an ironic sense of humour here and there.

I am obviously affected. I think this is what they call a WIN.



Leave a Reply

Find me