Posted by: Matt Q. McGovern | December 14, 2017

Finding my muse at the Orchestra

I have attended several concerts this year by the Philadelphia Orchestra, and before each I spent a little time researching the pieces that were to be performed as well as something about the composers.

I think that doing this has given me more to listen for during the concert, and lets me anticipate certain parts of it rather than going in blind. I play the cello and have enough classical instruction to wish I had more – yet not enough that I still need to look up everything when I’m listening to something.

I was wondering if this trait of research before each performance was more a musical one or is it the writer in me wanting to research something so I can see the creativity for myself?

I’ll say it this way: the musical part of me needs *something* so I know what I’m about to listen to. During my research of the last concert, I was reviewing the Prague Symphony and reading how Mozart was more beloved in Prague than his hometown such that he may have fashioned some of the symphony in the style of the musicians of Prague. Whether or not that’s true, the symphony was originally named Symphony #38 and premiered in Prague. At some later point in time it had become associated in name with the town. And I was about to listen to the Philadelphia Orchestra of 2017 perform it.

How would these musicians take to the same affections of a brilliant and enthusiastic composer, perhaps from some country that wasn’t showing them love and who had to travel for days to reach here. How might a city like Philadelphia take to someone like Mozart, after hearing of their love for us as a people and culture?

Philly doesn’t forget people like that who give us that kind of love. I can only imagine how Prague felt so long ago.

Did the musicians of that orchestra in Prague so long ago know that the symphony would be named after them? Did they know then that this symphony was written to showcase *their* proportions of woodwinds to strings in a way that only was known in Prague? And did the audience recognize the honor?

I recently saw something written about a painting of Van Gogh that was one of those he did on a beach instead of his normal environs. It was said that one way to measure the authenticity of it was to see if grains of sand could still be found in the paint if one were careful enough to look.

It’s the musical part of me that needs *something* to research so I know what I’m about to listen to. But I think it’s the writer in me that gets something much more rich.


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