December 2011

Eroica for Christmas

December 27, 2011 09:16

When I was around 16 I got a black, music-themed, T-shirt for Christmas. Not a particularly unusual gift for a teenager, except that this black T-shirt had the first page of the score to Beethoven's 3rd printed on it. I wore the T-shirt to a rehearsal later that year, and at one point, as we were putting the chairs and stands away, found myself face-to-face with another Beethoven fan. Who was staring intently at my chest. "That's awesome!" he said. His girlfriend, standing nearby, glared at him and kicked him in the ankle. "I mean the T-shirt!" he said. I believed him. We Beethoven geeks have to stick together.

This past summer, I met another Beethoven geek, Nathaniel Meyer, a conducting student at Yale, who founded the Belmont music festival here in our small town just west of Boston. The festival orchestra consists largely of college and conservatory students, but there is also a little room for more "seasoned" Belmont residents (ahem).

In the article I linked to above, Nathaniel says that "some of the most sublime music ever written isn't being heard, including by many people his own age" and that he founded the festival "as a way to gather community members around music."

In August, the Festival orchestra played two selections by Dvorak, the cello concerto and the Symphony No. 8. The entire concert is online here. (You can see me occasionally, for example at 13:38. But listen to the whole thing for the wonderful artistry of cellist Sebastian Bäverstam.)

Nathaniel announced then that we would likely be performing Beethoven's 5th over winter break, but when I got the email it turned out to be the 3rd instead. I've played it before--in the year I got the T-shirt--when I was not much younger than the other orchestra members. There are at least 2 ways to approach a piece in that situation: using your past experience to propel you forward, or wiping the slate clean and getting a fresh start. I'm hoping for a little of both. Either way, I'll be wearing my T-shirt.

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