Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The opening of "2001: A Space Odyssey" (original temp track)

People who are just beginning to appreciate classical music sometimes ask me if performance really matters as much as music critics lead one to believe. Is Carlos Kleiber's version of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony really that different from, say, Leonard Bernstein's?

The video embedded above provides an excellent answer to this question. I recently discovered an early print of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey in which we hear what editors call "the temp track," which differs in some ways from the soundtrack of the release prints of the film. This print features the original performance of Richard Strauss's famous opening fanfare from "Also Sprach Zarathustra," as heard during the title sequence. I do not know the name of the conductor. (I believe that the theatrical prints used a performance conducted by Herbert Von Karajan, leading the Berlin Philharmonic.)

Even if you are not a seasoned classical music aficionado, I think you will agree that this alternative performance makes a subtle, but discernible, difference in the overall aesthetic impact.
This track sounds like my high school band taking a whack at the piece! I pulled up the Strauss performance--eerie, majestic.

Damn. To my deafened and infected ears that was anything but subtle-- it sounded like howler monkeys just spotted werewolves.
Horrible. Sounds like a junior high school orchestra on its first try at this composition.
Friends, it was just a joke. There's a band called the Portsmouth Sinfonia which specializes in creating the worst possible performances of famous pieces.
Bernstein and Von Karajan would both be hanging themselves if they had to listen to more than 10 seconds of this.
Correction: There WAS a band called the Portsmouth Sinfonia. They stopped doing things like this years ago.
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