Welcome to my new musical series for 2021, “30 Days, 30 Songs.” Follow me this year as I blatantly steal this Instagram challenge all in the name of good music and good fun. Every other week, I’ll cover one or two or more topics from the list (see here for a refresher), allowing them to percolate over musical memories, nostalgia, and whatever else comes to mind in the moment. And now, gimme a beat boys to free my soul, I wanna get lost in this rock and roll!
Day 16: One of your favorite classical songs
One of my favorite classical songs is Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 (“New World” Symphony).
I’m taking the notion of “classical” liberally here, because as much I occasionally enjoy the sounds of Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart – artists from what’s considered the actual Classical music era (1750-1830) – my preferences tend toward composers of the Romantic period (1830-1900), your Tchaikovskys, Verdis, and Mendelssohns. Of them all, Dvořák’s is tops for me, particularly his “Symphony No. 9” (1893).
When I was a pre-teen, I took piano lessons for a few years. Looking back, it was far too few, but it was enough to instill something of a bug that stuck with me for many years after. As my parents believed that every house should have a piano, I made pretty good use of ours on my own well into high school. It was then that I became enamored with this Dvořák piece, especially its second movement, Largo. I taught myself how to play an abbreviated version of it that we had on sheet music; never learned to play it in full, alas.
Speaking to the Largo movement, I love the way to ebbs and flows between hope and sadness. There’s a bittersweet melancholy to its notes (something this version of the song captures so, so well), that feeling was watching a new day dawn and not knowing what’s going to happen next.
However of its four movements, third is the most amazing to my ears. It’s lively, frenzied, and evokes a wild passion that’s quickly tempered. It brings one to the brink, and holds out at the very last second! And when that payoffs finally comes, oh man…is it ever…brilliant. Just brilliant.
Listening to the piece now reminds me that I clearly don’t listen to enough classical, romantic, baroque, or otherwise similar music. Also, all those piano regrets that I’ve tried to atone for over the years but still haven’t quite done so. Since I’m not dead yet, I guess there’s still time. In the meantime, “Symphony No. 9” does help make things seem right with the world, if only within its 40-minute timespan.