A Heavenly Pentagon: Elgar-Holst-Slatkin-Shaham-PSO – Naomi Yoran

Not always do I find a strong relationship between the title of a
concert program and the performed music. This was not the case on April
21-23 with the given title: HEAVENLY CONCERT!

Elgar’s Violin Concerto evoked in me heavenly sentiments that I usually associate with certain movements of romantic composers from the 19th century. Holst’s The Planets evoked heaven with its astrological and mythological associations. Gil Shaham, Leonard Slatkin & the PSO performed HEAVENLY! (How rich is the language which offers such subtle variation of meaning for the same word.)

Being always interested in geometry & fascinated not only by its
mathematical properties but also by its contribution to the
development of symbols & signs in all cultures, I would like to
offer my own "playful symbol", the Pentagon. I love the pentagon shape for its interior 5 pointed star, which
as a child, I imagine it as a perfect happy human figure, stretching
its arms, legs & head, creating a perfect personal universe. As I
grew up I was fascinated by its embodiment of the Golden Section, the geometrical property so important to the ancient Greek mathematicians & philosophers who declared it as The Perfect Order: Harmony & Beauty.

So how about having the 5 stars of the concert: Elgar-Holst-Slatkin-Shaham-PSO at
the corners of the pentagon, creating the perfect star of Harmony &
Beauty! (Another example of music & mathematics sharing the
attribute of order as a tool of creation.) While I am at it, imagine
connecting each two points of the pentagon with the center: now we get
five connected identical triangles. in my "playful symbol" I would
install at the center the invisible Choir. (You don’t see the center of a pentagon but you sure know it exists!)   

Now to a few thoughts which lingered many hours after the concert.
(Since I am in an "orderly mood" I will list them numerically…)

1. I always perceived Edward Elgar as a romantic composer who
fit into the second half of 19th century England with its Pre-Raphelite
painters, designers and poets. They all faced the changing times of a
society moving into modernity as we know it, with a sense of nostalgia
& sadness. In the same time they were able to offer great beauty
& a sense of guarded optimism. Very British indeed.  In the case of Elgar, knowing that he composed the Violin Concerto
when he was 53 years old, at the peak of his musical career and already
10 years into the 20th century, the tenderness, melodic beauty of
gone-by days is especially touching.

2. Gustav Holst, although born 17 years after Elgar,
still experienced the "Victorian Age" while growing up and I am not
surprised that as a sensitive young composer he became interested in
eastern cultures. Let’s not forget: this was still the time when the sun
was never set over the British Empire and so many "goods &
ideas" penetrated the British imagination.

3. Both Composers experienced WWI and died in 1934. Each of them, I think, was affected differently by the war. Elgar with increased sadness which is evident in his work during & after the war; Holst with a much more fatalistic approach.

4. For me, The Planets is a perfect example of how a
composer can overcome "a writing block". Many composers used the
structure of musical poems "connecting beads on a string to create a
beautiful necklace" before (& after Holst) and many times on
purpose. The totality of the seven movements is greater than each
"bead". Heavenly Perfect!

5. This must be my final note after dealing with "my pentagon…" Tomorrow I will celebrate my birthday. I am not from the Victorian Age but I am not Generation X either. I loved The Planets 5th movement: Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age. It was so vigorous in sound & energy! I wish all of us to feel as vigorous as we will approach the Mystic of Heaven, the unknown.

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