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Astonishing classical music


I like the BBC. I have to confess that I’m fascinated by BBC Radio 3 and its Breakfast in the morning, which is broadcast between 7.00 am and 10.00 am. However, I don’t listen to it every day, just sometimes, especially when I’m studying.

Last week, I was really busy with my writing and other things, so I thought, ‘Why not change Mozart to something else? I ‘torture’ his music almost every day’. I turned on the radio and the music I heard beat me. Actually, I couldn’t have switched on the radio at a better moment. The music that flowed from loudspeakers was such a magic stream of harmony and like a balm for my soul. And I thought with amusement about Claudius Ptolemy, a Greek erudite who lived in the first century A.D and made up a very specific definition of music. He claimed that it is just an ability to distinguish between high and low sounds. Well, in the piece I heard there were so many colours and shadows.

Today it’s difficult for me to put this experience into words. The music is not a picture, or a written piece. It is much more; it is some inner experience that anyone who doesn’t feel the beauty of music will never experience. No other art is able to influence us as much as music that moves, touches and impels us to reflection. Anyway, while listening to that Breakfast I managed to catch with my dry ear that it was contemporary music than from immemorial times. The beginning of the piece was very interesting; it was played on strings which sounded like a beehive. Later it mixed with a low sound of French horns and trumpets which dialogued with each other. All of these instruments created an atmosphere of tension, especially when the music gradually got louder and took the shape of an amazing crescendo. Suddenly that beehive underwent to a hectic dance with the trumpet in the foreground. Also, later a tambourine there was introduced. This music sounded to me somehow lively, like the connection between some rustic dance and an orchestra of amateurs. Obviously, I mean the simplicity of harmony, not the work itself. The piece ended with a decrescendo. The next movement astonished me with its melancholy, but to be honest, I did not remember as many details of it as in the first movement. To be plain, the whole thing seemed to blend together in some significant sadness. There were definitely strings, bass drum and my favourite oboes. I don’t remember the third movement at all, as I was probably too absorbed with my work then.

Later, I found out more about this wonderful work. It was The Karelia Suite, Op. 11 by Jean Sibelius (1865 – 1957), one of the most popular Finnish composers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The first movement was called ‘Intermezzo’, and my beehive and tension were actually intended by the composer to be march. The second part was called Ballade, and the third – Alla Marcia. According to some sources, the music was influenced by folk music and the history of the Karelia region, where Sibelius spent his honeymoon in 1892.

As we see, intensity of these sounds might be better understood with this little fact about the piece. Anyway, Sibelius couldn’t dress his longing and other feelings towards Karelia any better.

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