Verdi had anvils, Tchaikovsky had cannons, and just recently I found out that there’s a part for GIANT HAMMER in Mahler’s 6th Symphony.  So naturally I watched every recording of the “hammer blow” moment I could find, and then threw together this video of 6 of them.

I only realized recently that Mahler’s symphonies are more than just great mountain ranges of sound; they’re theatrical showpieces with horn flashes, ostentatious percussion, virtuoso solos, offstage performers, and all sorts of other eye-catching touches.  I get the impression that they weren’t meant to work on a purely sonic level.  I didn’t really enjoy the drama of a Mahler symphony until I watched Abbado conduct the 2nd (“Resurrection”) on YouTube.  Sure, the hammer blows in the 6th are meant to be heard, but they’re also meant to be seen and, in live performance, FELT as the shock wave shoots through the hall.

Featuring Michael Tilson Thomas & WDR Symphony Orchestra, Claudio Abbado & Lucerne Festival Orchestra, Bernard Haitink & Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein & Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Paavo Järvi & Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, and Hee-Chuhn Choi & Korean Symphony Orchestra.


Symphony no. 6 “Pastorale”

As performed by Christian Thielemann and the Vienna Philharmonic

One of my favorites in honor of Beethoven’s 243rd Birthday

This work is one that holds all the answers for when I didn’t know I needed any. I love the genteel feel of the 1st movement and how all the notes just seem content to bask in the sunshine. I love the calm of the 2nd movement and how the world seems suspended in time but only if for a moment. I love the jovial vigor of the 3rd movement and the driving force of a simple country rump (it’s my favorite movement actually).  And oh, what I love about the 4th movement. It’s the storm clouds to the other 3 movements’ lazy sunshine. It’s considered to be one of the most terrifying pieces in all of classical music. That first chord is terrifying like an unexpected thunderclap. It’s wondrous. This whole work is wondrous. 

Also, Christian Thielemann is a conducting genius. I chose this version because 1. It’s the Vienna Philharmonic 2. He’s attractive and looks good in a tux 3. It’s the Musikverein and 4. I once saw an all Brahms program conducted by him (with Skaatskapelle Dresden) and cried for the whole entirety. He was that damn good.
Dmitri Shostakovich - Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 53 - III. Presto

Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava), Ladislav Slovák, conductor

Listening to… Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 53, by Dmitri Shostakovich. Took a while for this symphony to grow on me, but now I love everything about it: the brooding opening, the scherzo middle movement, and the delightful final 3rd movement. Shostakovich said this about Symphony No. 6:

“The musical character of the Sixth Symphony will differ from the mood and emotional tone of the Fifth Symphony, in which moments of tragedy and tension were characteristic. In my latest symphony, music of a contemplative and lyrical order predominates. I wanted to convey in it the moods of spring, joy, youth.”

I think he nailed it.

Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 'Pathétique', II. Allegro con grazia
  • Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 'Pathétique', II. Allegro con grazia
  • Tchaikovsky

biliyorsunuz : yine sarhoşum
ve oturmuş
Çaykovski dinliyorum
radyoda .
Tanrım , 47 yıl önce
açlık çeken bir yazarken de
dinledim onu
şimdi yine dinliyorum
ve az da olsa bir başarı sağladım
ve ölüm
volta atıyor odamda
purolarımdan otlanıyor
şarabıma yumuluyor
Çayk Patetik Senfoni'yi
örerken ,
ne yolculuktu ama
ve biraz şansım olduysa
onu zarı doğru atmama
borçluyum :
açlık çektim sanatım için , beş lanet-dakika için ,
beş saat için , beş gün için -
sözü kağıda dökmekti tek isteğim ;
ne şöhrette gözüm vardı , ne de parada :
ben sözü yazmak istiyordum
onlar beni pres makinesinde ,
fabrikalarda ,
ayak işlerinde istiyorlardı.

Benimsin nasıl olsa , diyor ölüm
yanımda geçerken:ne olmuş olursan ol :
yazar,taksi şoförü,pezevenk,kasap.
paraşütçü,benden kaçamazsın…
tamam güzelim , diyorum ona .

Sabahın biri sabahın ikisine doğru ilerlerken
içiyoruz birlikte ve
sadece o biliyor
zamanı : ama kandırdım
onu,beş lanet dakikamı
fazlası ile aldım.

Kapalı Bir Kapıdır Cehennem (Purolarımı içiyor ölüm) -  Charles Bukowski


Symphony No. 6 Mvt. 1 - Beethoven

Because Beethoven.


DAY 1: Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74 Pathétique Mvt. I - Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky 

This movement of Tchaikovsky’s last symphony is over 18 minutes long and therefore will not fit an audio post or a single youtube clip. So this is Part 1 of 2. 

History: This symphony was composed between February and August of 1893. Tchaik wrote to Vladimir Davydov that February that he had recently destroyed a symphony he had worked on all autumn, because he had found something better. He called it “an enigma to all—let them guess; the symphony will be entitled A Programme Symphony (No. 6)… The programme itself will be suffused with subjectivity, and not infrequently during my travels, while composing it in my head, I wept a great deal. Upon my return I sat down to write the sketches, and the work went so furiously and quickly that in less than four days the first movement was completely ready, and the remaining movements already clearly outlined in my head.” Tchaikovsky died 9 days after the premiere of his final symphony. 

Dedication: The composer dedicated his final work to Vladimir Davydov, his favorite nephew and speculated lover. He had great discussions with Vladimir about the intricacies of this symphony. Davydov inherited all of the royalties of Tchaikovsky’s works after his death and later committed suicide in his former home. Although Tchaikovsky’s sexuality is only speculation, much of his sixth symphony deals with not being accepted. (his death, though originally thought to be cholera was later speculated as suicide) He himself says it best in a letter to his Anatoly: there is “nothing more futile than wanting to be anything other than what I am by nature." 

Musical Highlights: The first minute or so with bassoon melody is haunting and very foreboding. It gradually builds tension up until about 3:56 when the "love theme” is introduced, bringing light and passion into this emotion stricken movement. The composer plays with this love theme as well as hints of reminiscence from the dark beginning melody. This section of the piece ends with a cadenza-like feel from clarinet and bassoon. 

Why I picked it: Not only does this show a complex variety of passion and grief, this movement must be one of my favorite orchestral works. I promise most days won’t have as much intensity as this one!