Friday, January 23, 2009

Happy endings

Today gets a happy ending for me because I am writing in this blog. It is almost midnight but I am going to make it, under the wire! I will always blog, without fail!

Speaking of happy endings, I loved Prof. G's comment yesterday about Haydn having mastered the art of the ending. I agree.

As long as the curtain is falling fast on today, I think it would be fun to list a few endings I think are great. This is a game anyone can play. You can occupy yourself for hours with it.

These are just off the top of my head. Maybe some other time we can set the bar higher and narrow the category somewhat: best endings in British music, say, or best endings in ecclesiastical music. But here are a few endings I have always admired.

1.) Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto, or his Third, or the Second Symphony, etc. I love how Rachmaninoff lurches toward an ending. I have gotten to write about this in the paper now and then and it is always thrilling. It always reminds me of a sled, or a toboggan -- you reach a certain point and it tips over the edge and you are just flying, there is no stopping you. Then he ends with his signature rhythm: Rachmaninoff. You just have to laugh out loud with delight. It is that much fun.

2.) Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony is too obvious an example so I will say Mozart's "Linz" Symphony. That ending to the last movement! You just wait for it!

3.) The ending to "Der Rosenkavalier." Operas are a whole other category, but this one is just so cool, with the little boy running out and grabbing up the handkerchief. Who doesn't cry seeing that?

4.) The end to "The Magic Flute" makes me cry too, that big chorus. As soon as orchestra introduces it I get tears in my eyes. I have to stop drinking wine before I watch operas!

5.) I am thinking too much about Mozart tonight. But the other day I was playing through the slow movement of that great beginner sonata, K. 545. I was trying to improvise the way the pianist Robert Levin was teaching us to when he was here. That is another story for another day. Anyway, I am always so moved by the ending to that movement. You get that sudden passion and then that final, simple G major chord. I think that is enchanting.

6.) I normally do not think Beethoven is that good at endings. There are some times when he hits the same chord over and over and you are thinking, uh, Beethoven, come on, wind it up. Wind it up now. But he got it right in the ending to this sonata I love, the great Opus 109. What an ending, so quiet, so right.

7.) Mahler's "Kindertotenlieder." That last line, "Wie in der Mutter Haus."

8.) Chopin's "Aeolian Harp" Etude. It is too late at night to try to spell "Aeolian" so I hope I got that right. I have this etude memorized so I play it at parties and my friend Gary, whenever he is there, he points out the greatness of this ending, the little trill Chopin throws in in the bass. Gary always shuts everyone up and makes them listen to that.

9.) I am going for 10 now! No. 9 will be .. OK, I have it. Respighi's "The Pines of Rome." You cannot beat that! You just see the sun sparking off those Roman soldiers' shields! That is Ottorino Respighi up above. He is not a composer whose picture you normally see!

10.) Oh, I can't help it. I'm going to give this slot to Mozart too, why fight it. He was so much the master of the ending. When I was a kid I thought the "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" had the neatest, niftiest ending in the world. I still think so. You take it for granted but it does.

11.) Another good one: the ending to the finale of the 14th piano concerto, in E flat. That little chromatic flourish at the end kills me.

12.) Let's throw in Haydn because he was the one who started this discussion. The Symphony No. 104! It's thrilling how he declaims that last magnificent theme one last time and then builds on it.

Wow, that was fun, coming up with those!

On that note...

1 comment:

  1. Since you mentioned Beethoven, I have to pass on Oscar Levant's remark where he described the end of the Fifth Symphony as a "sort of an 1805 Roxy finish."

    Also, and I hate to do this this way, but did you get my YouTube e mail with that ancient footage from Notre-Dame in Paris? I'd like to know if it opened and you saw it.