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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

It's music time!

I will be sending you all a special Thanksgiving greeting and a brief message either Wednesday or Thursday. But I thought I would give you a special gift as well.

This really has nothing at all to do with Thanksgiving, other than to let our hearts be filled with gratitude for great music that thrills us, soothes us, captures our emotions, and draws forth from us the deepest feelings we all share as human beings.

Tchaikovsky is known for writing some of the finest music the world has ever known. He is no doubt known best for his widely-acclaimed 1812 Overture, which has been performed perhaps by every known orchestra and ensemble in the world.

But Tchaikovsky wrote a lot of wonderful music. An example is Romeo and Juliette.

This is the overture from the piece, and it lasts roughly 20 minutes. But if you will do me a favor and allow yourself some down time to just sit and listen, and watch, I think you may discover why I consider this piece to be a gift. I take it as a gift to me. This is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written.

I know, I say that about all of the pieces I post here. But that is my intent -- to post only the best of the best, the music that moves me and captivates me. This is one of them on my list.

Here you will see Eugene Ormandy conduct the piece at the age of 80 in 1979. This would be one of his last performances as conductor and music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra. In 1980 he would step down and become "Conductor Laureate" due to a health condition that began to dog him increasingly as he got older. He had already hand picked his successor to take over when he felt he needed to step down.

But as you will see here, the Maestro was still in complete control, conducting the music from memory, and still able to pull out of the musicians the finest sounds you will ever hear from a symphony orchestra. He could be very calm and tenderly emotional while at the same time quickly changing to a vigorous, focused, dramatic, and highly charged man on a mission to draw out from his musicians the high-volume crescendos and fortes, and fortissimos, with an intensity that was not to be outmatched by any orchestra on earth.

This piece also showcases what the Philadelphia Orchestra was known for -- the glorious strings, woodwinds, flutes, French horns, English horns, and even when the brass section was at the forefront, they played with a finesse and tone that was distinctive in its quality, and easy on the ears. And everything fit together as if these particular musicians were meant to be, that they had somehow been destined to play together in order to produce that sound. And it was Ormandy who chose them. He had hired every one of them by the late 1960s and beyond.

Don't let the intro fool you though. At roughly 4 minutes and 15 seconds, and again at 5 minutes and 30 seconds into the piece, the mood changes quickly, and the music comes alive with the two main themes of Tchaikovsky's wonderful work...and everything builds up to a dramatic finish, with Ormandy displaying his characteristic vigor, his hands shaking to indicate he wants more volume, and a slight frown and clinched teeth to indicate he wants it played to the hilt. And they hit it out of the ballpark. Enjoy...

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