By the way, last Friday Erik and I went to a concert at the SF Symphony. This was definitely the best performance I'd ever heard there, and it also ranks among the best concerts I have heard ever. This was Michael Tilson Thomas conducting an 'All-French' program, meaning two pieces by relatively avant-garde French composers Pierre Boulez and Olivier Messiaen, and two by older, better-known composers Ravel and Debussy. The Boulez and Messiaen weren't too bad, and I really liked that MTT introduced the pieces beforehand instead of just subjecting us to them (which would have been a complete turnoff), but in my opinion the best part came after the intermission. The Ravel piece was originally a concerto for violin and cello, but the assistant concertmaster had arranged it for a larger string ensemble (I think maybe the entire string section), and that was gorgeous. When the first notes sounded I thought, I haven't given Ravel enough credit; this is wonderful. A beautiful, lyrical piece. After Ravel came Debussy, one of his most famous works (arguably the most famous, for orchestra at least), La Mer. I'd never been a huge fan of La Mer, perhaps because it's one of those works that just doesn't translate well to recordings. So I didn't quite know what to expect. When it first started, though, I felt immediately that however amazing Ravel had been, he just couldn't top Debussy for sheer genius. I prostrate myself before his brilliance. The first movement of the Debussy is... words fail me. I can't describe it, but I was filled with joy. And the last movement was a fabulous crashing finale. I think all the rest of audience loved it, too. I don't know how they can play stuff like Strauss most of the time and only do things like this occasionally. I floated out of Davies Symphony Hall, though my urge was to run. I had that wonderful feeling one gets every once in a while, of being able to speed across the world without one's toes ever touching the ground, of being able to run and jump and dance for hours without weariness, in a state of careless ecstacy, finally coming to a halt in a blissful heap of sleepfulness.
I haven't downloaded or bought a copy of La Mer yet, though I'm hoping to at some point. I don't know if I'll be able to find one that does justice to my new memory of it.