Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What might have been

They got a cellist, a violinist, a pianist and a clarinetist together to play a John Williams piece for the inauguration. Top-flight musicians all: two legends, Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman, and two young performers poised for greatness, Gabriela Montero and Anthony McGill. How could they assemble this specific instrumentation and not do Quartet for the End of Time?

Oh, right, the apocalyptic overtones. Don't want to herald a new era with the sounding of the seventh trumpet. It's still awesome, though. The above recording by a chamber group from New Mexico is mislabeled (it's actually the sixth movement, the "dance of fury, for the seven trumpets") but pretty good. Dig this, from Messiaen's preface to the score:

"Music of stone, formidable granite sound; irresistible movement of steel, huge blocks of purple rage, icy drunkenness."

Stone and steel for the nation's new resolve; purple for a country that is neither blue nor red; icy drunkenness for all the revelers waiting in the cold today. It would have been perfect.

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