I did something at 6:56 p.m. tonight that I have wanted to do all of my adult life. I knew that someday I would and even as a teenager I remember having admiration for those who did it each year. I still do admire them, and now I am with them. And for myself well, there are times of admiration, to be honest, but what I experience is a smile and not a smug one at all. It is a smile born of a kind of satisfaction, and now I am not alone in it. I think I will make this an annual affair so to speak and keep doing it.
That is all I have to say about that.
Ninety minutes later, after some puttering and light exercise, I had a dinner of hummus, two seasoned boiled eggs, and a bowl of blueberries and walnuts, For dessert later, I will have almonds with a bit of chocolate. Only a bit of chocolate, as I am mostly after the almonds.
I’ve switched now from the radio to glorious vinyl with Symphony Fantastique by Berlioz. Call me silly, but as I thumbed through the B section, I saw that I had three recordings of this. I chose the oldest one, recorded 50 years ago and performed by the Vienna Philharmonic led by Pierre Monteux.
What a smooth orchestra, deep, rich, dear God those low strings! French horn, a silky clarion call. The upper strings chirping high and then descending to join the midrange as the basses ascend all becoming one.
One good thing among many about records is that you must get up to turn them over. I always treat that like an intermission . . .
Oh oh, those low strings. they sound . . . no word. It touches me somehow.
And I need to turn down the volume! My neighbor R. turned ninety a couple of weeks ago, and that day I had asked him if the music ever bothered him and if it did to tell me. He said no, only the bass sometimes. I am fairly certain that it’s the bass above him from a guy named J. upstairs from J., but I will keep a check on it. R. said that he likes Miles Davis, so I play A Kind of Blue in its entirety from time to time.
The clarinet and bassoon, brassy horns now, not velvet, all brass.
Clarinet, no it’s oboe entering tentatively with the English horn. Distinctive. Horns, strings follow. Clarinets and flutes in unison leading with horns taking over. Back and forth with strings filling any lull. Just listening now as it is getting too sweet . . .
Next movement. The tympani player is very good, and I love the hollow, echoing sound of those older drums from fifty years ago. The modern Dresdens used by most orchestras today are crisper, cleaner, tighter, but this recording has a remarkable dynamic range and has captured something else. Oh, he has switched now to slightly harder mallets, as the orchestra joins in for a frequently heard section of the Symphony.
Listening . . .
In the quiet moments, I hear frogs outside my window, keeping time.
Next movement, the one everyone has heard. No notes unless something comes up . . . lights out now.
Oh, the tolling of those bells! What a hall they have in Vienna . . .
Oh my, with the lights out the soundstage seems larger, and the pizzicato of the strings is off to the left and back and crystal clear. Finale, even at low volume it is grand. Someday I will turn it up a bit, draw the blinds to darken the room more, and just . . . IHNI.
Time to turn in. I will grind coffee for the morning and call it a day, for sufficient unto the night is the fantastique thereof. [Ugh, in review that last sentence reeks of corn-y-ness, but the sentiment is sound–TW]
Photograph “Fantastique” © 2018 Timothy Waugh