Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Piano Concertos Nos. 4 and 5: Beethoven

My life, and my mindset, is shockingly different than it was just a few years ago. When my wife and I lived in Texas we went to the health food store to shop, mostly because they had great prices on bulk foods, and we even brought our own bags (a radical idea just 5 years ago), as I spent more time outdoors and started noticing how many plastic bags end up in our nature preserves. We started to eat more organics and I jumped on board with that because I grew up eating my grandpa's fresh vegetables and fruits. Once my son came along, we were full swing on the organic bandwagon, even members of an organic CSA, and then after I read Disease Proof Your Child by Dr. Fuhrman, my family moved to a "plant-based" diet: we still eat meat and bread, but we try to get the majority of our intake from plants (we plan to buy 2 shares at our CSA next year). If, 3 years ago, you had tried to get me to eat the way I do today, I would have laughed. Slowly, though, this way of living has become easier and easier, and combined with playing basketball once or twice a week, I have lost almost 20 pounds in the last year.

Once you start down this path, though, it's hard to stop. Now I am learning more and more about the simplicity movement. One idea I come back to over and over again is how folks work overtime and have such busy schedules that they don't have time to make coffee, so they buy a $4 coffee everyday, so they have to work overtime to pay for the coffee, and so on. That's not necessarily a perfect example, but you get the idea. Is there value added with all this extra stuff in my life? What if we could just cut more out? Do less? What would we do with that extra time? I am reading Simplicity Parenting, and so much of it resonates with me. I think back on the highlights of my own childhood; so many of the things I am nostalgic for are the simpler times, just hanging out in the neighborhood with my brothers, or going to the park with my parents.

Beethoven: hippie music, right? Ok, maybe not, but I was trying to keep up with the 1000 Recordings Podcast guys, and heard one of the recordings I had skipped the first time through because I couldn't find it. And it's all about simplicity.

Artist: Ludwig van Beethoven
Album: Piano Concertos Nos. 4 and 5, Arthur Schoonderwoerd, Ensemble Cristofori.
Recording #511
Stream the album here

I started reading the entry in Moon's book, and right away, I went, "Whoa." "This recording offers an excellent encounter with the early-music philosophy, which shares a kinship with heirloom vegetable farming and other back-to-basics movements." Seriously? Could this have been better timed? Had I read that when I first started this project, I might have thought, whatever. But now I really paid attention to it.

Beethoven is pretty easy to like: it's like a song with a great hook. He always comes back to these perfect melodies, and when you have a orchestra of only 20 members (the standard size in Beethoven's day), rather than the typical 80-100, you can really focus on those melodies. In general, this book has made me realize what a purist I am when it comes to music; simple is good, and the original is often the best. Some of my favorite discoveries have been totally old school: Roscoe Holcomb, the Louvin Brothers, the Carter Family. So, yeah, I DO want to hear what Beethoven had in mind when he wrote these pieces, by hearing it on the instruments of the day. Fortepiano and catgut strings and whatnot. So if you are looking for a jumping off place on classical, as a guy who really doesn't know much about classical, I can say this is a pretty good start. I found the overall tone very warm and inviting. Give it a listen and let me know what you think.

Check out Moon's entry here.

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