Beethoven is dead, and has been for a while – but what a treat it must have been to be in the audience of the premiere of Symphony No.6, my favourite of his. Perhaps he was conducting – any Beethoven scholars perusing this? – and to hear it performed as the composer wanted would have been something special.
But we can’t do that: as I said, Beethoven is dead. Some two hundred years later, we can go along to a performance of the Pastoral, and enjoy the music, the musicianship, the atmosphere, the thrill: we don’t worry that it is not being performed by the original ‘band,’ or value it any less for the lack of Beethoven’s physical presence.
Tonight I’m going to a ‘Classic Rock Concert’ with my son. He’s 15. We’re going to a concert in the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh where a band will be playing some great songs by the likes of Pink Floyd Led Zeppelin, Genesis, The Who, Fleetwood Mac. No, you purists, don’t scoff! Apart from Genesis, I’ve never seen these bands live, just being too young when they were at their peak. And now, chances are high that I never will, and neither will my son. Sure, we may catch echoes: Steve Hackett is playing next month in Edinburgh, and we’re going along. There’s a remote chance that Pink Floyd might get together, now that Roger Waters and Dave Gilmour are back on speaking terms, but with Richard Wright sadly deceased, the four piece can never appear on the same stage again.
Tonight’s band I do not know, but I’m sure they will do the songs justice, and I’m looking forward to it—is it really a lesser experience than that of seeing the genuine and original article?
Of course it is (no offence, tonight’s band).
But so is going to hear Beethoven’s 6th two hundred years later (no offence, London Symphony Orchestra).
Time is the problem. My son enjoys rock music from the 70s, and to him that is a long time ago. I saw Yes playing in Glasgow a couple of months ago, but without Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman. A couple of years ago Oliver Wakeman, son of Rick, stood in for his old man, and I began to wonder if the whole of Yes would be replace by their descendants.
Soon, bless ’em, these bands will just be too old too play. I saw a great list of bands in the 70s and 80s —although you might not agree with my tastes—but my son won’t see them. My son, if he takes his children to ‘classical rock’ concerts will explain that their Granddad saw Genesis, Yes, Strawbs, Tangerine Dream, Hawkwind, Motorhead… His children will look at their Dad, with what emotion?
This is not a nostalgia rush. There’s some terrific music being created today, and there are many good musicians on – we’re in a golden age of music, folks, here at the Digital Dawn.
My son and I saw MacFloyd last year. They are a superb Pink Floyd tribute band. They’re Scottish (“Hanging on in quiet desperation is the Scottish way”), and I was as moved as if David Gilmour was standing there with the rest of the original team.
Beethoven may not be conducting, Jimmy Page may not be playing Stairway to Heaven, but they are still in there when their music is played live.
(Note: the concert was last night, and the band were brilliant: stunning musicians one and all).