I’ve been taking the opportunity to go to some concerts during the Bath music festival.
Vivalidi’s L’Olimpiade was staged at Bath Abbey on Wednesday. I think that the main reason for staging it is because the (rather tenuous) plot involves competing in the Olympics, though this all happens in the background. Like most operas it suffers from a rather silly story, mainly involving people being forced to marry the wrong person. It is really not a classic. Still the music was luscious, as you would expect from Vivaldi. I have to say I don’t find Vivaldi’s operatic music emotionally affecting in the way that I do Handel’s, but you would have to have ears made of cheese not to like it.
On Thursday I went to a concert of English music given by the Bath Philharmonia. They are a pretty good orchestra, and it was a very enjoyable evening. Vaughan William’s The Lark Ascending and Holst’s Planet Suite would be on most people’s list of favourite English music. I was surprised to be told by the conductor that the Planets is really not played anywhere outside Britain, it is almost completely unknown. He suggested this was because there is something very English about the music and that the rest of the world just don’t get it.
I don’t really buy this as an explanation. The music of many composers sounds very characteristic of their own nationality (eg Tchaikovsky, Sibelius) but this does not stop people around the world enjoying it.
Perhaps the surprising thing about the Planets is that the English like it so much. Undoubtedly part of the reason is the ‘Jupiter’ theme, without that the piece would probably not be so popular. Not that I am suggesting it is not good music – it is brilliant. But also quite strange, and must have been absolutely startling when it was first played.
Perhaps there is no good reason. Sometimes things just turn out a certain way. In fact this is my core belief about the way the world generally works. Things mainly just happen, and we tend to make up explanations after then event.
This probably reflects some deep psychological flaw on my part, but that is how I think. One of the reasons why I had to give up being an economist is that deep down I didn’t believe any of it. Economics tries to provide a logical explanation for stuff that just happens. This is not to say that economists are not right about some things. I remember most economists I knew were sceptical about the Euro before it was introduced, and how right they were.
I seem to have got off the subject somewhat.