Recently I succeeded in turning in my final course essay a day early and although I expected to be reveling in a state of euphoria by now, I must confess that my feelings are more akin to exhaustion. The truth is that I have thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself into the paradoxical world of Oscar Wilde and untangling the mysteries of aestheticism, but with my dissertation breaking on the horizon, Oscar Wilde had begun to wear out his welcome. At the beginning of every essay, I never fail to convince myself that I will maintain a schedule that will significantly reduce stress and ensure the completion of my work weeks ahead of the deadline. Does this foolishness sound familiar? Then it should not surprise anyone that I only managed to turn my work in one day early, but only because my pride would not allow me to wait until it was due. And I only managed that thanks to the mercy of the ladies in the administration office, who were on their way out the door, but who graciously accepted my work in lieu of the drop-box (which is never open when I need it).
On a more pleasant note, I recently celebrated a birthday with the music of Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler performed by the Bardi Symphony at De Montfort Hall (which is a venue I love, if you haven’t already guessed, although I suspect the warmth of the theatre is part of a conspiracy to increase ice cream sales). As part of my life-long dedication to rising above the level of philistine in my appreciation of art, I decided to take a chance and experience music that was completely new to me. It is true that I am very fond of classical music, but my realm of expertise encompasses 19th century French composers and, aside from a devotion to Beethoven since childhood, my knowledge of Germanic composers is severely underdeveloped. The evening began with a divine rendition of Strauss’ “Four Last Songs” that was transcendentally beautiful; the sort of music that inspires a blissful reverie far removed from reality. For the duration of the performance, the material world around me ceased to exist and I indulged in traveling through the fields of my imagination to my heart’s great satisfaction and content.
Next was a performance of Mahler’s “Symphony No. 5”. I understand that Mahler has a reputation as a controversial composer, the sort of artist that is either loved or despised. I can well believe it after experiencing the frenetic changes in mood inherent in this particular symphony and it was astonishing to observe the violinists playing with such fury that I half expected smoke to rise from their bow strings. It was nothing short of a masterful display of musicianship and the orchestra was very deserving of the applause their performance garnered. In hind sight, it might have been advisable for me to wait a little before committing to the standing ovation because the applause went on long enough for almost each individual member of the orchestra to take a personal bow. Then again, it is quite true that they were deserving of such acknowledgment and I returned home a better person with a new appreciation for the music of Strauss and Mahler.
Music: “Il Nostro Concerto”-Umberto Bindi
Book: To Kill a Mockingbird- Harper Lee
Film:La Strada (1954)