Thursday, November 13, 2008
Last night after arriving home late, I was scanning the endless range of cable stations for something to "lull" me to sleep. Suddenly on EWTN, the Catholic religious network that I have to say I normally avoid, was this huge sounding symphony of Beethoven's "Misa Solemnis" which I had listened to decades ago but suddenly found myself newly enthralled at this masterpiece of musical genius. Having my musician's background and experience in producing musical groups and writing music to a certain extent, I just can't imagine the genius of Beethoven who intertwined so many layers of music and voice into this long expression of passion and spirituality. Here was the Bavarian Chorus and Symphony of a couple hundred musicians and a tremendously talented "Quartet" of singers, performing this huge composition so perfectly together that it brought tears to my eyes.
I couldn't find the same version I saw last night on TV as performed by the Bavarian Radio Choral and Symphony so I will look to buy the DVD somewhere online. I did find Bernstein's series of recordings of this mass on YouTube and share one of the video links above at the head of this blog. It isn’t as quality of a recording or perfectly balanced performance as I witnessed last night, but it still gives a pretty good illustration of what I am expressing today.
Even though this “Misa”...Latin for “Mass”… is written and performed in Latin...the universal passion and combinations of moods created by clashing dissonances, eerie harmonies, heavy percussion, varied tempos, and amazing control over so many artists to produce the lightest solo line to the heaviest combinations of all instruments and vocalists giving 100% simultaneously. Once can't help but make some life comparisons to this symphonic symbol of genius ideas and creativity.
To hear the wonderful quartet parts in this symphony is to marvel at the combined individual talents, singing in counterpoints yet all in beautiful harmonies and controlled tones, ending up on the same chord eventually bar after bar, staff after staff...is a testament to individual talents/styles that when combined in a common direction of the symphony make total sense and complete productive effect. World collective efforts could use some of this process in advancing the human race in the many causes we share.
Beethoven's melodies are lilting and lifting, whether sung with lyric or simply tones played superbly by one of the symphony instrumentalists. To think Beethoven wrote this masterpiece in his later stages in life when completely deaf is another testament to man's ability to overcome adversity to express his innermost passions and ideas. These are the true miracles we observe in life where one excels even in the midst of their most trying times. There is something in the human spirit that challenges us to overcome our failures and difficulties...to make the self immortal even in our physical mortality. For those of us who have learned music, to master an instrument, or to simply understand the disciplines of composing such musical ideas...this is an experience that I think knows no other comparison. To have these hundreds of great talents both in the chorus, symphony and quartet tied together by a great Director to perform the genius creations of a composer who lived 200 years ago is a truly astonishing feat and again, symbolic of how our world could function together if we all were free to develop our talents and intelligence anywhere near our capacities.
Personally, I think our world could use more exposure to these fine arts and expressions of achievements in harmony and cohesive ideas...that could be replicated in all other aspects of our lives...from politics to religion to corporate productivity. Music is truly the universal language and how sad to me that the world is much more focused on sports and wars both real and economic than on "making beautiful music together". I am newly challenged to expose as many people in my own little world to the "symphonic world". Whether young or old, rich or poor...with a little understanding, experience and an open mind...I think anyone could understand the power and potential of these artistic expressions. At least I am currently optimistic of this possibility during times of great pessimism.