As a parent of two 13-year-olds, I am, not gracefully, dealing with the ‘teen years’ in stereo—that time when we begin the lifelong process of reconciling our pasts with our future—both becoming an adult, and, as the interweb says, adulting.
Perhaps because of personal circumstance, I view this coming season of music in a similar way. Every program seems to feature a work that deals with its legacy—sometimes respectfully, sometimes not—sometimes embracing the aesthetics and values of the past, sometimes rejecting them wholesale. Just like my kids. In each instance, though, these composers, whether rejecting or accepting their inheritance, are seeking to forge something new, impactful, and meaningful, on their way from transitioning from descendant to ancestor. Hopefully just like my kids.
In our first program in September, we have three composers whose works have varying relationships to their past and present. Mozart embraces it in his concerto for Flute and Harp, Prokofiev reflects on it (with a wry smile or ten) in his ‘Classical’ symphony, and Beethoven dynamites his way forward in the Fifth Symphony. Likewise, our second concert features Debussy’s La Mer—which seems, like the surliest of teens, to all but reject the tenets of Western music in favor of an Eastern aesthetic. Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring left no tradition unrejected by the time he was through with that score. Bartok, in his Concerto for Orchestra, like Prokofiev in his ‘Classical’ Symphony, looked back for clarity in moving forward. And then there is Mahler. His Seventh Symphony which closes our season, is a breathtaking amalgam of influences and traditions, as well as a frank rejection of them. Wild mood swings, impulsive, unpredictable, and dramatic—it feels like real life. His Seventh Symphony feels, in the end, like an epic journey. Mahler said ‘a symphony must be like the world’. I can personally confirm that this one is, in fact, like my world. I hope my kids, and our journey, end up as well as Mahler’s 7th.