On February 10th I watched the Detroit Symphony Orchestra perform Beethoven’s Fourth and Fifth symphonies at Orchestra Hall in Detroit. Even though the musicians were in Michigan, I had the full experience right inside my dorm room. The webcast was a really interesting experience that I enjoyed. I think I may have even appreciated it more than the real thing. Although you cannot replace getting dressed up and going to a concert, I liked this webcast because the different camera angles provided footage of everyone playing their instrument and if I had been in a seat I would have been stuck looking at the same few people the whole performance..
For example, the conductor would usually have his back to the audience throughout the performance, but since I was not a part of the conventional listeners, his facial expressions were exciting to watch. Leonard Slatkin, the conductor was very into the music, sometimes it seemed like he was a one man show, acting out the music on the stage. The symphonies were played by a variety of string percussion and other instruments. For instance a piccolo two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets in B flat and C, two bassoons, a contrabassoon, two horns in E flat and C, two trumpets, three trombones, a timpani and strings.
Each musician played his or her instrument with unfailing concentration and poise. I noticed that the horn [layers played with such passion that any time they had a break in the music they had to empty their spit valves. Also the oboists wrinkled their foreheads any time they played their instruments, like they were working extremely hard. The medium was the previously mentioned instruments, and did not include any voices. Both pieces were played strictly through instruments and did not include any text. Both can also be placed in the genre of Classical music.
Although they share many qualities, the two symphonies were very different in a few ways as well. For example the Fourth Symphony was very conjunct in melodic motion and had a sweet timbre. The musicians in the wind section seemed to play the harmony and the strings accompanied with the melody. I noticed there was a pisacotto of the string instruments a lot, but as the bass got louder the timbre got darker. At the end the French Horns played a coda to signal the works completion. It seemed to me that the Fifth had more of a sinister color. The three short notes followed by one long provided a rhythm that is gloomy and battle like.
As I listened I continually pictured a war scene, some were gruesome but yet other sections sounded like a victory march. In one part of the Fifth Symphony there was almost a call and response that sounded like an argument with a single note between instrument sections. The end was my favorite part, the flute upped the tempo and since it provided higher notes on the scale, it sounded happy. Such that the war was over and victory was ours. This type of music is somewhat familiar to me, I have listened to classical music prior to this experience, but I am in no way an expert in it.
The Fifth Symphony is very familiar to me, I think in popular culture it is used quite a bit to signify doom. After listening to Beethoven’s music for a while I felt myself starting to drift a little bit. I find this genre very soothing and although complex when playing, simple to listen to. Certain sections were very warm and sounded like a lullaby. I look forward to listening to another concert put on by the Detroit Symphony. After all if I get all dressed up in my dorm room and plug in my Beats headphones, it is almost like sitting there and hearing it in Orchestra Hall.