Until Wednesday night, I had quite mixed feelings towards Mussorgsky‘s A Night on the Bare Mountain (or Night on Bald Mountain?). There was a depressing incident at primary school when a supply teacher asked us to listen to it and write a piece of creative writing based on what it inspired in us. It didn’t stir up anything other than bored feelings in my 8-year-old self, so my essay was pretty dismal and I got called into the headteacher’s office and quizzed about why I’d only written three lines in the hour or so that we’d been given.
Later on it was one of my set study pieces for music GCSE. I quite enjoyed the graphic textbook illustrations of nefarious activities at the witches’ sabbath but again, didn’t feel especially moved by it. I’ve heard it countless times since on the radio and sometimes hummed along absent-mindedly but never consciously sought it out to listen to.
Then, on Wednesday night, this term’s orchestra rehearsals began and we had our first crack at it. And it was terrifically exciting – I couldn’t believe I hadn’t ever ‘noticed’ it properly before. I was swept along by the story and had a real sense of the individual roles of each group of instruments in the narrative. As a viola you’re right at the centre of it all, and it’s a lovely place to be.