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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Tuesday January 03 2006

My thanks to Lynn S, not only for commenting on this recent posting here, but also for linking from her blog to this posting, the one about Bach.  I confess to being in a state of permanent confusion about the me-blog-versus-niche-blog(s?) dilemma.  I am now confining my own brianmicklethwait.com activities to this one blog, mostly because it is easier to keep one blog going than three or four.  But maybe I will eventually switch back to slightly nichier blogging (again) at some time in the future, when I am clearer in my mind about what I am going to do with the rest of my working life than I am now.

But meanwhile, when I do a very niche-like posting about classical music, I worry that (a) people who regularly read this blog but most of whom do not care for or about classical music will be irritatingly interrupted (I often go on a bit rather when I write about this, to me, wondrous stuff) , but that (b) people who actually would have quite liked to read the posting will never know of its existence.  So when I write a niche posting here, it is hugely encouraging to be linked to by a niche blogger who is niche blogging in that exact niche.  Lots of classical fans read Lynn.  Now, a very healthy trickle of Lynn’s readers are presumably reading/have read my ruminations upon Bach, listening properly (or not so properly) to CDs, etc.  Thank you Lynn.

Binge listening is of course a subject that has been brought to the attention of many classical fans, especially in Britain, but also I guess in many other places, by the Beethoven and Bach binge broadcasts recently indulged in by BBC Radio 3, my own recent Bach binge having been provoked by the Radio 3 one in the run-up to Christmas.  (I don’t know how wide and deep is the reach of BBC Radio 3 around the world, in these internetted days, but I assume that it is quite impressive.)

When I wrote that Bach posting, I had quite forgotten that I had another recent classical music binge earlier this year, concerning just one piece of music, which was provoked by just one CD of that piece.  The piece was Bruckner’s Symphony No. 5, and the recording was by Christian Thielemann.  For some reason I was utterly captivated by Thielemann’s performance.  It was a live recording, which may have had something to do with how completely it got my attention.  I recall reviewers remarking that it “concentrated on making every bar exciting”, and for some that was a complaint, but that was certainly how it sounded to me.  Having wallowed in this Thielemann recording a few times, I then got out all my other recordings of the piece and listened to them.  I even purchased another one, the much admired Sinopoli recording.

This Bruckner 5 binge was provoked by me adoring some of the other Bruckner symphonies with a passion, such as 4 (excellent), 7 (my first love, in my vinyl twenties, Solti, Vienna Philharmonic), 8 (fabulous, one of the all time great symphonies for me, again first with Solti and the VPO), and 9.  I also have long enjoyed the slow movement of 2.  But 5 has never made that much of an impression on me.  I have listened to it, really listened to it properly, a few times.  I once went to hear Bernard Haitink conduct it at a Prom, about thirty years ago or more.  However, it settled down in my mind as one of Bruckner’s many shots at writing a really great symphony, of the sort he actually did write with 7, 8 and 9, even though 9 wasn’t finished.  Now I realise that 5 is a great symphony in its own right, worth listening to for itself, and not just because of what it lead to or for the pleasure of hearing some different Bruckner.

I agree with Lynn that these binges are very enjoyable and a very good way to listen to this music.  They are the kind of thing of which people say “When you’re on a roll, stay on it.”

In the past, people had lots of attention, and would bestow it lavishly on anything worth attending to.  Hence those extraordinarily long speeches that star speakers used to give in days gone by, and hence all those great long symphonies.  Now, we none of us have enough attention to go around, and whenever we feel it flagging, we tend to switch off or switch over.  And we start to realise that this is hurting our appreciation of the world.  We thus treasure those times when our attention is truly attending and is going flat out on one piece of music or category of music, or on anything else, come to that.

In general, it seems to me that one of the great keys to a happy life is to do quite a lot of wholly good bingeing, rather than partially bad (because e.g. physically damaging) bingeing (drink, drugs, etc.).  Good bingeing is good.  I may one day be struck down by delirium tremens, but this will not be because I overindulged earlier this year in Bruckner’s Fifth Symphony.

Well, I - for one - really enjoy your classical music peices. The one about Bach was great. So as far as I’m concerned keep on doing them.

Posted by David Hadley on 03 January 2006
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