Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Desert Island Discs V

Last year I took part in the BBC Great British Amateur Orchestra series, and indeed in the first episode was one of the featured artists.   This was a great experience  even though "We was robed!"   While I was slightly uncomfortable with the competitive aspect of the show I was more upset that we didn't get through to the final even though we were Cleary the most technically competent orchestra, and even more upset that the music we were given to play after this, the first episode did not include the brass. So although I was featured in the first episode along with the rest of my section I took no further part.

First challenge was "The Symphony", we were given an extract from Tchaikovsky's sixth ~ the Pathetique.   I was really pleased to get this symphony as it is one of my favorites, and has a great Tuba part, I was less pleased when it became apparent that we were only going to play a short extract from the last movement.  True a searingly emotional extract but none the less a short extract taking out of a massive context.   I wanted to play the whole thing!

Of course when we look back on Tchaikovsky's life this was an eminently sensible, if a little obvious choice for our orchestra.   It is now pretty much generally accepted that the symphony deals with Tchaikovsky's struggles with his sexuality and whether he is prepared to live a dishonest life denying his inner being.   Indeed it is often taken as being a prelude to his suicide, if indeed it was suicide ~ sometimes I wonder if we read too much into pure music, but we have both angst and triumph, joy and sorrow, what makes this symphony so dramatic is that it finishes with the sorrow and angst, in the minor key, with the joy and triumph expressed in the third movement.

I would be lying if I were to deny an affinity with these feelings, but once again I could not have explained why when I first came across the piece back in the 70s ~ I would then have said that what appealed to me were the big romantic melodic lines, a great tuba part (especially in the third movement) and suburb, masterful orchestration.

We start about 49 minutes in, my interview is around 17 minutes in.

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