By the time you've stumbled upon this article, you've no doubt already planned your weekend activities. While I agree that drinking expensive liquids to the deafening roar of a cover band is not without it's merits (merits I'll disclose as soon as they occur to this mass of disheveled neurological tissue) there are other options to explore. For example, drinking expensive liquids during the intermission of the deafening roar created by the Fort Wayne Philharmonic orchestra. It should also be noted for our male readers that such an excursion is an easy and inexpensive way to convince that special someone that you are more than the run-o-the mill jerk and that you care about art and beauty, almost guaranteeing superfluous nookie in your immediate future. And what goes hand in hand with "romance" better than a $100 gift certificate from one of WhatzUp's more adult-oriented advertisers? Think hard now… don't disappoint me or my bevy of trained arachnids. Yes, the answer is "Italy!" This weekend the Philharmonic will be playing Mendelssohn's 4th symphony, which is appropriately titled "Italian" because the mood reflects the people, landscapes, and gustatory delights of this boot-shaped country. If you've ever seen a television commercial for an Italian restaurant (it doesn't matter which one), you've heard the opening theme of this symphony playing in the background. You can read more about this piece should you visit my oft-neglected web site classicalgas.tripod.com and click on the macro shot of my nasal pores. Be assured, however, that nine out of ten phlebotomists agree that this piece is "really good."
The second half of the concert will feature a symphony by Anton Bruckner. Musicologists whose salaries are paid out of your tax dollars have called this man "the eternal student" because he continued to hang around his old high school years after he graduated. He also has the distinction of having written a Symphony #0. I won't go into the details of how this came about but suffice it to say that he later kicked that monkey. Up until about six minutes ago, many people paired the name of Bruckner with that of Mahler. While it is true that both were Austrian, wrote vast symphonies, and have taken a long time to be appreciated by the general beer-swilling public, they are actually very different. Aside from the obvious differences in cheese preference (gouda vs. provolone), I won't insult your intelligence or my ignorance by going into these differences, but rest assured that these differences are very, very real. Bruckner spent nearly forty years of his life as a church organist and teacher, writing but a few stodgy masses. His epiphany came when he first heard a piece by Wagner and realized his future lay in breaking all these musical rules he had laying around his house like so much dust-laden bric-a-brac. But where Wagner had reinvented the opera, Bruckner intended to reinvent the symphony. Even though he didn't start writing in ernest (a small town outside of Frankfurter) until he was over the hill, he instantly produced mature works that bore his trademark style. After squeezing out a couple of symphonies, he suffered a bout with numeromania, an obsession with counting, the same mental condition which caused John Lennon to write "Revolution #9." But to misquote a famous Monty Python film, "he got bettah" and began writing again, this time penning his 4th symphony - the very same symphony that will be played this weekend. Mere coincidence? I don't know about you, but just thinking about it gives me the willies. Bruckner himself referred to this child as "The Romantic" (while naming his first symphony "The Mohair Hammock"). Nay, 'tis not about gushy valentines hearts or the previously hoped-for nookie but rather is an allegorical representation of the Austrian countryside. If you've ever been to Austria, you know how difficult it is to get a good Slurpee™ there. You'll also know that the one thing they have in the Austrian countryside, aside from goats, is horns. Lots and lots of horns. I don't mean to scare off any potential Philharmonic patrons, but the amount of horns in this symphony is probably best described as "scads" but not quite "oodles." Appropriately, Bruckner has an avalanche of brass tones in the first movement and later outdoes himself in the Scherzo, which is a hunting scene. This movement is the first instance of a characteristic triplet rhythm which Bruckner later used to excess, thus earning him quite a bill from the Austrian Triplet Providers Union, a gaggle that contemptuously labeled this motif the "Bruckner Rhythm." Please note that while the Bruckner Rhythm is now accepted and embraced in musical circles, it is not an effective means of birth control. Still, the symphony as a whole is quite an effective example of the musical form known as "the symphony" and I highly recommend you help the economy by dropping your dollars, and yourself, at this weekends Philharmonic performance.
Copyright 2001 Jason Hoffman