Musical Homicide

My wife and I generally enjoy WHYY’s “Showcase” on Sunday nights (as previously noted here) and were looking forward to this week’s edition, as the Delaware Symphony’s season finale was supposed to be broadcast, featuring Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony” and Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9 (Opus 125)”, two of my personal favorite pieces of music. The Delaware Symphony did a wonderful job at conveying Schubert to the airwaves but, in my not so humble opinion, murdered Beethoven’s piece through one simple mistake: they played it entirely too quickly.
“Luddy Van’s” 9th is a piece that needs to be savored through all four of its movements – each one building upon thematic elements introduced in the prior ones. Particularly wonderful is the fourth movement, which is probably the best known of the four, which features the addition of four vocal soloists and a full chorus. Each movement, as performed by the Delaware Symphony, was played faster than the last, with the fourth moving so quickly that the chorus seemed, well, rushed as they attempted to get the German phrases out (no mean feat, that, even at traditional speeds). The tempos seemed to range from time-and-a-quarter to time-and-a-half faster than I have ever heard it played. At first, I thought perhaps WHYY had sped up and then pitch-shifted the performance in order to fit it into the time allotted, but the andante maestoso passage of the fourth movement was very nearly correct in its timing, which leads me to conclude that the entire thing was performed much, much too quickly. The technical execution was impeccable, with very few missed notes that I could ascertain; it’s just that the whole affair was over far, far too quickly. And that, my friends, is a musical crime.

1 Comment

Look, like Mauro taught us: All you need is loud tympani and kun lee rockin it out and it is good music. RE: Dance Macabre, Dance Bachhanel and Carmina Burana (yes I am the only person to have ever broken a tympani head in this song!)