Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Live is Beautiful



Continuing with my Culture Vulture tour of Hong Kong: Two evenings ago, I attended the classical music concert entitled Inspired by Harmony: Grainger Quartet x Hong Kong Sinfonietta that I had previewed in bc magazine a couple of weeks back. As I sat in the prime seating -- just seven rows from the front -- I had been allocated for the performance, I got to realizing that this would be the first classical music concert that I was attending since I left Philadelphia -- whose resident orchestra is truly world class -- back in July 2003.

Then shortly after the concert -- one whose attendees, contrary to what one might expect for a classical music audience, were a wonderfully egalitarian mix of young and old and often quite casually dressed in the bargain! :) -- commenced, I got to realizing what I've been missing in the intervening period when I was in Malaysia. Put another way: How right the folks behind the Hong Kong Sinfonietta are in extolling the maxim that 'Live is Beautiful'! (A slogan which, more than incidentally, appears on the orchestra's current season programme, publicity materials and even the tie-in t-shirts that were being sold in the lobby area of Sunday evening's concert venue.)

Have you ever had the experience when listening to a piece of music caused you to feel as though your heart was melting? Although I wasn't literally moved to tears the way that two music-loving friends of mine were at the Tsai Chin concert we attended some months back, I actually did feel at certain points in this Hong Kong Sinfonietta concert -- specifically, when listening to the sublime sounds issuing out of special guest artist Peter Cooper's oboe during the performance of nationalist composer Antonin Dvorak's Serenade in D Minor, Op 44 and, again, during Baroque composer Alessandro Marcello's Oboe Concerto in C Minor -- that I was tearing up inside!

Here's the thing: I love classical music but circumstances have made it so that I feel that I can only properly enjoy classical music live. What circumstances, I hear you ask? Okay, disclosure time, and please don't be too shocked, but the fact of the matter is that I'm actually 40 percent deaf and have been for a long time. (I first discovered this when aged 16 but the diagnosis was that I had been this way for a while before; I just hadn't quite realized it!)

With regards to what being 40% deaf means: it's not so much that I generally have difficulty hearing sounds but more that I have what I think is rather funnily called a "discrimination" problem. For instance, I usually can hear such as regular volumed conversations okay, except in crowded places (e.g., popular bars on a Saturday night!) where and when lots of people are talking and different voices consequently blend together to me. And although I do listen to pop music at a louder volume than many people, I think it'd be fair to say that quite a few other individuals are prone to listening to pop songs at a (much) higher volume than me! ;b

However, classical music is a quite different matter entirely. For fairly early on in my life, I realized that a lot of its subtleties are lost on me when I listen to recorded forms of them -- even CDs, never mind cassette tapes and less high quality devices. Thus it's got to be live or not at all for me. And hence the existence of such as the Hong Kong Sinfonietta in Hong Kong giving me yet one more reason to enjoy being here in the Fragrant Harbour more than -- sad but there you have it... -- my birthplace of Penang. ;S

4 comments:

glenn (kenixfan@Hotmail.com) said...

Well if it makes you feel better, classical music is meant to be heard live, much like Shakespeare is meant to be seen performed not read in a classroom.

In the pre-recording device era, music was written with performance in mind OR at best, a piano transcription designed for home peformance on a living room piano.

I had a big classical music phase when I worked at a college record store (3 of them actually) and got sick of almost all rock music for a spell.

I favor a lot of chamber music, esp. Brahms, and pretty much any of the French composers of any era: Poulenc, Ravel, Milhaud, Debussy, Faure, Messiaen.

Messiaen in particular is just a fascinating character in his personal life and the methods he used to compose -- transposing birdsong even.

He is a rare figure that is both "traditional" and, in some pieces, still avant-garde.

I've never seen his works performed because usually it's only the organ works if you are lucky and I'm more interested in the other chamber works or birdsong pieces for piano.

YTSL said...

Hi Glenn --

Thanks for your (extended) comments! And if you're wondering, I do appreciate and enjoy getting feedback and further opportunity to interact with readers, etc. :)

"Well if it makes you feel better, classical music is meant to be heard live, much like Shakespeare is meant to be seen performed not read in a classroom."

It does to some extent that, believe it or not, I actually like Shakespeare best when I read him (often out loud) rather than when performed! ;D

"In the pre-recording device era, music was written with performance in mind OR at best, a piano transcription designed for home peformance on a living room piano."

Makes sense... :)

"I favor a lot of chamber music, esp. Brahms, and pretty much any of the French composers of any era: Poulenc, Ravel, Milhaud, Debussy, Faure, Messiaen."

Thanks for your list of favorites. Messian sounds fascinating. Thanks for bringing his very existence to my attention! :)

As for myself: Hope it doesn't sound too boring but I really do love the music of Chopin, particularly his nocturnes.

eliza bennet said...

I on the other hand enjoy recordings of classical music and absolutely revel in the opportunity to be able listen to same pieces performed by different artists.

Also there is the added fact that some of the best artist who can actually pull you into the music piece are not in this world anymore. Such as Jacquline Du Pré whose performances are almost magical - if one wants to hear them the recordings are the only alternative they have.

I'm sure that if you invest on some nice piece of equipment and good speakers you too will enjoy many many delights classical music can offer you.

Also given your education I can understand your sympathy for Chopin :) As a person who is partial to strings it took sometime for me to like him.

YTSL said...

Hi "eliza bennet" --

As the proverbial saying goes: Different strokes for different folks.

"I'm sure that if you invest on some nice piece of equipment and good speakers you too will enjoy many many delights classical music can offer you."

It's true that I haven't invested in such but I *have* heard music from nice pieces of equipment courtesy of others...and really, it's still not the same and enough for me. So live it has to be -- at least for me! ;)