Beating a dead warhorse

I really dislike the term warhorse.  It smacks of something overplayed and unnecessary.  Of course warhorses, like adages, can be overused, which causes them to lose their impact.

If warhorses are unneeded, if new is better, then maybe we purge the repertoire of Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony, Smetana’s Moldau, Brahms’ Hungarian Dances, Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances, and…oh yes…Beethoven’s Fifth.

Got your attention, didn’t I?  

Yes, it’s easy to dismiss some of these because of the vary familiarity which comes with the ability to hear anything, anytime, anywhere. Radio announcers and programmers are as guilty of this as anyone. When you spend as much time surrounded by classical music as we, it is easy to listen while not hearing.

However, all it took for me to begin listening more closely again was a February evening in a Sarasota concert hall, as the Minnesota Orchestra played Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in a way I thought impossible.  It sounded fresh, visceral and invigorating.  So much so that I told those who attended the concert with me that I would gladly sit down right then and listen to it again.

That is what can happen to a warhorse when engaged musicians take the stage.  That is what your dollars support when you walk through the doors at one of our theatres, buy a ticket, and enjoy music being made in the moment.

Matthew Guerrieri, a writer for the Boston Globe, has spent “a good part of the last several years” working on a book about Beethoven’s Fifth.  (The First Four Notes: Beethoven’s Fifth and the Human Imagination was published Nov. 13 by Alfred A. Knopf.)  Guerrieri says one member of the Boston Symphony chastises “anyone who would go and hear Beethoven’s Fifth “for the hundredth time,” who would keep “listening to it, claiming falsely that he hears something new every time.”

I beg to differ.  In our busy lives, music is an accompaniment, a familiar friend.  Once in a while, however, it pays to pay a little closer attention to the familiar you just might hear something new.

Read: Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is a warhorse for all time (Boston Globe)

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