Sunday, January 09, 2005

Symphonic blues?

I am wearing sackcloth and ashes over missing the world premiere of Matthew Taylor's Symphony No.3 on Friday night. Helen played the harp at the concert and has a full report at Twang Twang Twang. I fear I had to stay in and practise/rehearse (we had a gig yesterday) and so it has been and gone and I feel desperately guilty. (Not least because Matthew once dedicated a very touching piano piece to me. Matthew being a great Schumann fan, it's called Blumenstuck. I remember thinking the title beautifully ironic because at the time I did indeed feel bloomin' stuck...but, thank goodness, that's a long time ago...).

Helen asks in her report why symphonies aren't generally being written these days; Lisa has some succinct and pertinent replies. But what's worrying me about Matthew's new piece is when we will ever have the opportunity to hear it again. Writing a symphony takes so much time, effort and spiritual blood & guts that it seems nothing less than tragic if there's to be only one performance. Sobering, of course, to think of symphonies over the centuries whose composers never heard them at all - Schubert's Ninth being the prime example. To Lisa's list of reasons, however, I should add that concert promoters who refuse to take risks must shoulder some of the blame. By being over-conservative, they have steered audiences towards further conservatism - if you feed people nothing but familiar music, they will come to expect and accept nothing but familiar music. As indeed, they now do.

Hats off to Matthew and his few symphony-writing colleagues who dare to stand their ground and speak their musical minds, even if it means swimming against the tide and even if it means busting every gut every day of their lives. Bravo.