Sunday, October 4, 2009

Beethoven's Fifth: My Proudest Moment

duh duh duh DUN!

That was an exciting opening, don't you think?

I took a course in college on the Romantic symphony, which was a truly enjoyable class, and our teacher had us listen to recordings of certain pieces. Most of the recordings were performed by the
Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner. For those of you who don't know, the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique seeks to perform each work with as much historical accuracy as possible, including playing on period instruments and using a lower standard pitch than today's orchestras use.

The recordings are fantastic. Whenever I listen to music, I prefer the John Eliot Gardiner version to any other recording. Over the months of the class and beyond, my ears grew trained to those recordings. I didn't realize how accustomed I was to them—or that I could really tell that much of a difference—until one day a couple years later.

I was in a classic Classical mood, if that makes sense, and wanted to listen to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony (because it's a classic, see?). I decided to mix things up a bit and listen to one of my old recordings instead of the Orchestre. I put the cd in my car's player and was reaching for my seatbelt when the first notes sounded (see the first line of this post).

"BLAGH!" I cried.


I ejected the offending cd and put in my old favorite with Gardiner. Could my ears really detect the half-step (if that) variance in the two recordings of Beethoven's Fifth? I listened as the Orchestre began the first movement: it was definitely lower-pitched. I put in the other cd again. It sounded weird. Besides the pitch, the conductor took the movement slower than Gardiner, which was not nearly as exciting. I couldn't listen to it. It just wasn't right.

My ears amaze me sometimes. I had no idea I could hear that sort of thing, but it sure makes me proud. Good old ears.

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