Tchaikovsky: Symphonies #4 and #5

Having had such a great experience with #6 a couple of weeks ago, I was eager to hear these. As with the Pathetique, I had not, as far as I can recall, heard them since I was in my early 20s. So I did, and it was a mistake.

It was too soon. It was almost impossible that these two works would come up to the level that had just been set by their younger sibling. There is nothing at all wrong with them. They are both good, maybe great, works, and maybe at the right time I would have found, or in the future will find, them as moving as I did the 6th. But as it was they just struck me as being similar but not as good. 

It was like falling desperately in love with someone you met only briefly in another town or another country, with which you have also fallen in love, then going home and expecting the next attractive girl you meet to bowl you over in the same way. It's not likely to happen that way.  

For what it's worth, though, here are a few impressions:

I must have listened to the Fourth a good many times in my youth, because it was instantly and deeply familiar. So familiar, in fact, that I wonder if the opening fanfare has been used in some movie or TV show. And I liked it a lot, particularly that mostly-pizzicato third movement. But under the circumstances it seemed like a lesser foreshadowing of the 6th. As someone noted in a comment on the post about the 6th, the 4th, in contrast, ends on a note of triumph rather than despair. At the moment that comes across to me as...well, it wouldn't be at all fair to call it a defect, but less powerful, anyway. It does not speak to my condition. Or not as powerfully.

The Fifth, on the other hand, I didn't recognize at all. I listened to it once, fairly attentively, and thought "This is objectively good. I recognize that these are beautiful melodies, potent crescendos. Why am I not responding?" A few days later I gave it another try: put the LP on, listened to the first side (first two movements), and decided I had to let it go. This girl is lovely and sweet and intelligent, but she can't replace my lost love. It's not her, it's me. I must not lead her on. So I put the record back in its sleeve. Someday, at least several months from now, I'll take it out again, 

One odd thing: at points during both symphonies I found myself thinking "this sounds like ballet music." I guess what I meant was that it sounds like Tchaikovsky. But I don't remember having that thought during the Sixth.

The performances, by the way, are by Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. I can't find a date on the box (it's a set of Tchaikovsky's last three symphonies) but the packaging says mid-'60s to me.


I Really Don't Understand Halloween Mania

Not that there's anything wrong with Halloween. But the way some people plunge into it now strikes me as a little crazy. 

A couple of blocks away from my house there's a yard which features a werewolf sort of thing that must be eight feet tall. And a life-sized witch, and a few other things which I haven't gotten close enough to identify. At night there's a lot of spooky purple lighting.

This is not so very unusual. But what is unusual is that this display has been up for at least two weeks: i.e., it went up in mid-September. When I first saw it I had a moment of confusion about the date of Halloween: wait, Halloween is at the end of October, right? Is it at the beginning? Am I forgetting what month we're in now? By the time Halloween actually arrives, these props will have been in place for a month and a half. 

This seems to be a relatively new thing. I knew a family back in the '90s who went to a huge amount of trouble and expense to decorate their house for Halloween. As far as I recall that was the first time I ever encountered that kind of zeal. Since I grew up in the country I may have missed some of it, but I really don't think many people in the '60s or for the next decade or two went in for it with this kind of zeal. I don't remember it happening where I lived in the '80s but maybe I've just forgotten, or didn't pay attention.

In general Halloween seems to have become a major thing for a lot of people, which must surely have some social significance, but I don't know what it is. 


Should: "Sarah Missing"

Here's another recent discovery from the embarrassingly large number of recordings I acquired some time ago and never really listened to. Once again I put a CD full of MP3 files (over a hundred tracks) in my car player and listened to them one or two at a time as I ran little errands around town. Since I don't commute anymore it takes a while to get through one of these discs, and they usually have some surprises, if only due to the odd juxtapositions: they were originally made as backups, and I just threw whatever I hadn't yet backed up onto them (this was at least fifteen years ago). This disc, for instance, includes some black metal, some indie rock, some electronica--and some shoegaze, including this band, Should.

I had no memory of ever having heard this music before. There are four tracks from them on this disc, and this is my favorite. Yes, it sounds very much like Slowdive--very good Slowdive--but the other three tracks don't; i.e. they aren't copycats. I immediately went to Bandcamp and bought the entire album.

But I haven't listened to it yet.

They've only put out four albums over a period of twenty-five years or so. Judging by what I've heard they're definitely worth further listening. The title of this song, "The Great Pretend," from their 2011 album Like A Fire Without Sound, is also the title of their most recent (2014) album.