Sunday, July 17, 2011

Stay Classy(cal)

I like classical music. This wasn't always the case. As a youngster my school always went to those symphony field trips which were supposed to infuse us with a love and understanding of classical music. Didn't take.

It wasn't until my college years when all of these studies recommended studying to classical music as a way of increasing retention of information that I started dabbling in it. It was also around that same time that I made some very close friends who were music majors and so, of course, were steeped in music culture.

So, I started with the "greats" -- guys like Beethoven and Bach and Mozart -- but thanks to my friends I found some of the less widely known guys like Bruckner (more on him in a future post).

One who was in the middle was Antonin Dvorak. Most people if they know Dvorak at all know him for his Symphony #9 -- "From the New World". And honestly, that way my first exposure to his work... but it wouldn't be my last...

On a wandering path that I won't bother to tell I eventually stumbled into Dvorak's Stabat Mater.... and was blown away.

A little background here -- the Stabat Mater is based on a long, religious poem possibly written by a monk (but there are disagreements), that recounts Mary, the mother of Jesus's experiences at seeing her son crucified. The poem is in Latin and so is Dvorak's adaptation.

Dvorak started writing the music to the piece after the death of his youngest child while still basically an infant. He didn't finish it at that time and put it aside. He later returned to it and finished it after the rapid deaths of his two remaining young children.

Even without knowing the background one can hear, can *feel* the grief and sorrow that pours out of this music. It is power and passion in both sadness and hope. It hits like a hammer to the heart and it steals your breath away. I mean that literally. The first time I heard this piece in full I had to stop and just take deep breaths because it hit me that hard. It isn't often that music moves me like that but this piece did. And that is the greatest compliment I can think of to pay to the memory of Antonin Dvorak.

So do yourself a favor and seek this piece out and listen to the whole thing. Here's just one movement of the piece to give you some idea....

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