Corona virus, with it’s accompanying postponements, cancellations, quarantines and isolation requirements, has not only left us with the frustrations caused by the necessary disruptions of our regular lives, but hidden in all the inconveniences it has left us with an unplanned plentiful gift of free time and the possibility of using that free time in positive and creative ways.
Through the last year we have seen huge increases in personal videos; masterclasses, lectures, interviews, mixed media, demonstrations, exhibits, personal announcements and extraordinary opportunities for listening. Many of these videos are beautifully produced and some have offered us great vehicles for both learning and entertainment, Personally, as a symphony musician for 35 years of my life and one who has avoided symphonic music since leaving my orchestra life in 1990, I am surprised to find myself not only enjoying listening again, but listening from a new and fresher prospective, the time off from playing has changed me from listening as performer to listening as a listener, it’s very different from chronically taking note of the ensemble, the intonation, balance , tone quality and other aspects in a brass section. Music needs a performer, creator and a listener to exist.
As an enthusiastic listener I have developed a new appreciation for form and in the study of form, I have become fascinated with codas. Why would an 83 year old retired symphony musician become fascinated with codas? We see codas in our musical lives as a common and frequent occasion. It seems all codas are unique, from a short virtuoso flurry in a work by Schubert or an extended developed and powerful coda in a Mahler symphony, which can appear so powerful and coherent that it could almost stand on it own as a complete work.
The coda of the first symphony built on the interval of a descending 4th which is prevalent through out the whole symphony but developed in to a powerful and triumphant fanfare appropriate for crossing the legendary rainbow bridge into another world.
The 2nd symphony, The Resurrection Symphony, also develops previous themes and brilliantly compresses the finish to a fortissimo unison note of the whole orchestra with the strength of a clap of thunder from a close distance, leaving the listener stunned.
The coda of Mahler’s 9th symphony (The Adagio coda) is quite different than symphonies 1 and 2. The four note chromatic themes used to create a 10 minute poco a poco diminuendo morendo which results in one of the most beautiful and dramatic moments in all music. During the final four notes the listener is nearly unable to distinguish where the music actually ends. The result is the long period of silence before any sounds come from the audience. This musical silence is one of the most powerful and amazing moments in symphonic music.
Carlo Maria Giulni “My friends, do not confuse dynamic and intensity”
Roger Bobo, January 12, 2022, Oaxaca, Mexico