Music for Tax Season

by Glenn on March 22, 2015

It’s tax season. I know, I should be checking my NCAA bracket and living and dying with each game, but I didn’t actually fill out a bracket. No, no March Madness for me. It’s tax season so I’m getting our filing caught up so that we can actually work on our taxes.

Here are two recordings for sorting and filing papers:

The first is Mahler Symphony No. 6 as played by the Budapest Festival Orchestra, conducted by Iván Fischer.

The BFO has recorded Mahler’s Symphonies Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, & 6. Until yesterday, the Sixth was the one I hadn’t heard.

Mahler’s Sixth Symphony is pretty bleak. This is not happy music and you really need to be in a certain kind of mood to enter into the sound world of this symphony. Tax season seems about right.

The BFO has a real elegance about it. Fischer has cultivated a sound that is so beautifully refined. In a way, the sound is almost too beautiful for this particular symphony, which is so dark.

Fischer keeps Mahler musical. The M6 can be blustery and played all cold and no color. This performance is strinkingly colorful. When you hear those cowbells in the first movement, you feel transported.

The Andante comes second. There’s much “discussion” about the order of the movements (Is it Andante-Scherzo or Scherzo-Andante?). I can never remember which is “the right way,” because Mahler never really made it absolutely clear. But I liked having the Andante second. This is gorgeous music, beautifully played. That’s all I can say. It was sublime.

The Scherzo takes us back into familiar territory. Themes from the first movement are presented in a different time signature. I like the break.

In the final movement you are painfully aware of a struggle between hope and despair. Near the end you feel like we may be landing somewhere between—a kind of resignation—but no, it’s a bitter end.

What do you listen to after that? How do you climb out of the pit? I listened to the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s 2015 concert with Zubin Mehta.

One of the cultural high water marks of my year (any year for as long as I can remember) occurs on January 1. It’s the annual Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s Concert.

Of course we had a little problem this year. The University of Oregon had just won the Rose Bowl and was on its way to the National Championship (outcome of that game we don’t talk about) and I think there was some momentum that led us into the Sugar Bowl to learn who Oregon would be playing.

Anyway, I forgot to tune into PBS and watch the concert and ended up watching a Eurovision broadcast on YouTube—hopefully not illegal—later. One thing that was interesting to me is that the version of this concert we see here in the States on PBS, hosted by Julie Andrews, is an abridged version. I think Ms. Andrews is a delightful host—she could host a hot dog eating contest and make it sound like the most refined and sophisticated thing ever—and I missed seeing her this year, but I did like hearing the whole concert. The conductor, Zubin Mehta, is enjoyable to watch. I imagine I would be fun playing for him if, you know, I was playing horn in the Vienna Philharmonic.

As I recall, the audio on the YouTube video was so so, so it was lovely to hear the Vienna Philharmonic on CD. After the darkness of the Mahler symphony, it felt good to climb out of the hole a little bit while soaking in the music of the Strauss family et al.

Because I was sorting papers, I didn’t make too many notes, I simply enjoyed the music.

How do you describe the way the way the VPO plays a waltz? It’s extraordinary. Here are a few moments from Johann Strauss, Jr.’s waltz, “Accelerationen,” op.234.

 

While the concert celebrates music of the Viennese ballroom, it’s not all waltzes. Here is a bit of a polka by Johann Strauss, Jr., “Elektro-magnetische,” op. 110 .

 

And there are up-tempo numbers, too. This is the “Champagner-Galopp,” op. 14 by Hans Christian Lumbye.

 

The heart of the concert, though, is a celebration of the waltz—six of them on this year’s program. The one that sounded the most Viennese to my ears and makes me dream of sipping coffee in a Viennese coffee house was “An der Elbe,” op. 477 by Johann Strauss, Jr.