Wednesday, November 16, 2011

'The saddest music ever written'

Author Thomas Larson calls the Barber Adagio the saddest music ever written. That is a big claim to make but heck, it never hurts to make big claims.

A Facebook friend posted it and I had to listen. Larson makes a good point that that the mood "is rarely found and held in a piece of music." "Held" being the relevant word here. It is true that Barber does not lift that mood. Or change it, for that matter. As Larson says, "It dies of its own exhaustion." Then he says something about how we feel glad that it does.

That is the truth!

It is interesting to me to hear about this piece. I have heard it a million times and actually I would be happy if I never heard it again, you know? I mean, I feel I know it now.

One thing, they say it is the quintessential music to play at funeral services. I have never heard it at a funeral.

On the site where I found this, the comments have turned into a discussion of the saddest rock songs ever written. In classical music I think the competition is much more keen. I nominate a lot of Schubert. Or the slow movement of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto.

With that music it is harder to say what gets you. To put your finger on it. This is funny, my mom and I were just talking about this piece last night and I was thinking how the clarinet was new when Mozart wrote this piece, and he sensed the instrument's bittersweet nature and built on that. He does the same thing in his Clarinet Quintet. Beyond that, I think the music creates a kind of conflict in you. It's sad but in a way it is not. So it pushes you and pulls you.

I mean, this song by Schubert ...

... it's a beautiful melody, a kind of sprightly piano part, a prettiness ... what is it?

Or a Chopin waltz, simply and beautifully played.

Pennario gets me thinking of this Schumann.

That piece kills me!

The slow movement of Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony also kills me. Lots of Mahler ... and Richard Strauss ... and Beethoven ... and Brahms of course ... and Wagner, and even Bach. I could go on and on. We all could.

It is fun to think about the saddest music ever written!

Strange as it sounds.

1 comment:

  1. the first thing that poops into my mind is the slow movement in Shostakovich sym #5