So many artists in this world are tortured. Among them, for instance, are writers Sylvia Plath and Edgar Allen Poe; artists Vincent van Gogh and Pablo Picasso; and musicians Robert Schumann and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
One day, Tchaikovsky, with grave intent, stood in a river as it swirled around him–the black current swirling and sapping his body heat, ushering him closer to hypothermia and death. The river did not claim him that time. Tchaikovsky, in writing to one of his patrons, talked about the happiness of others:
“How happy they are that all their feelings are simple and straightforward. Reproach yourself, and do not say that everything in this world is sad. Joy is a simple but powerful force. Rejoice in the rejoicing of others. To live is still possible.”
I imagine this scene in a market square or a busy street—people swirling, some with faces set and leaden tracing a path to a singular destination, while others lean against lamp posts, laughing, or languid at a café sharing a drink, immersed in discourse.
Was Tchaikovsky masking his pain? Was he just trying to get a few more Rubles out of his trusty benefactor? He was, however, discussing his feelings behind the Finale in his Symphony No. 4 which is a featured selection in the Central Kentucky Concert Band’s March Fo(u)rth concert this Sunday, March 4th at 3 pm at Transylvania University’s Haggin Auditorium.
Dr. Ben Hawkins, CKCB’s conductor, provided a note of caution in making too strong a connection between an artist’s mental state (whatever state that may happen to be) and the art the artist produces.
“Composers create music,” said Hawkins,” And that music as often as not has no connection with any personal narrative in his or her life. Deeply depressed composers have written joyous music, and happy composers have written profoundly sad or disturbing music.”
The Finale is a joyous and manic celebration of sound that swirls around the listener, more like the ebullient street scenes described by Tchaikovsky than the cold eddies of the river in which he stood offering to forfeit his life.
We, as listeners, are partners in the emotional experience of the music. Said Hawkins, “It’s the complex web of tonal and temporal relationships within an entire piece that generate whatever response a listener might have. The great moments that sometimes transpire during a performance only happen in relation to what has happened prior to then.”
Hawkins and CKCB assistant conductor Les Anderson intend to provide many opportunities during the concert for great moments and to show the audience the manifold forms of the march.
In grand relief with the Finale is the First Suite for Band by Alfred Reed.
Anderson will conduct First Suite on Sunday’s concert. When asked about the reasons he selected the piece, Anderson said, ”…It is modern and had the two movements of two contrasting march styles with the hard-driving March and the circus-like Gallop. I also love the Rag; it is a march-like piece that adds nice contrast to the rest of the pieces on this concert.”
Continuing the dive into the marches, Anderson noted, “Reed, being a 20th century composer, uses a lot of dissonance as compared to the Tchaikovsky selection. He also writes music that is easily identifiable as American. His march is not like most of the marches you think of when you are thinking of Sousa, King, Fillmore, and other American March kings.”
Summing up the goals of the entire program, Hawkins said, “I just want the audience members to be engaged and uplifted by the music.”
The band has spent the New Year working to ensure that the rejoicing Tchaikovsky observed in the street will be present in this next concert.
There is no admission charge to the concert; no tickets are required. There will be a reception in the auditorium lobby after the concert.
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