This coming Saturday, I will say Kaddish for my father, to mark the seventh anniversary of his passing. As readers of this blog know, he and I often played and talked about music together, and a set of concerts I just played reminded me how much I miss that.

ProMusica Chamber Orchestra played Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony this past weekend. This has always been my favorite of Beethoven’s symphonies – lighter, shorter, and more upbeat than its odd-numbered neighbors, the mighty “Eroica” and the famous Fifth.  It is a workout to play – the last movement in particular goes like the wind (especially with David Danzmayr conducting!). However, it’s the slow movement that’s always been my favorite, and there’s one moment in particular that touches me more deeply than any in music. It took me until this weekend to realize why I love this passage so much – it is the most human, vulnerable music I know.  In turn, the principal bassoon, principal clarinet and horns are all asked to play very high and softly, while the cellos, basses, and timpani softly echo the movement’s main rhythm, a “heartbeat” figure, miles beneath them in the bass. Have a listen:

For these few moments, Beethoven takes us right to the edge of the abyss, but doesn’t linger too long – the flute solo which follows is the most beautiful, loving part of the piece. And that’s Beethoven in a nutshell, going from the depths to the heights in no time. These are the sorts of passages that I remember talking about with Dad – I hope he still gets to enjoy them as much as I do.

Bravos to my ProMusica colleagues – bassoonist Rachael Young, hornists Stephanie Blaha and Bruce Henniss, and especially clarinetist Ilya Shterenberg – your playing was absolutely wonderful. And a special thank you to my stand partner Joel Becktell, who had to listen to me talk about this passage every time we got to it in rehearsal – sorry, man!

Till next time,


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