09 October 2014

Breaking Away ... with Mendelssohn

I recently started to play viola in a community orchestra.  Our concert is this Saturday, October 11.  (If interested, see here.)  One of the pieces on the program is Felix Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4, "the Italian Symphony.  (Yes, Mendelssohn was in Germany, of Jewish descent, but perhaps because he was NOT Italian, this piece seems to have something about it VERY Italian, just as Czech Antonin Dvorak's American string quartet and New World Symphony are VERY American. )

Of course, the music is well known and shows up in various films.  But the most memorable use, for me, is in the classic 1979 "coming of age" film, Breaking Away. * It features four 19 year olds in Indiana U.S.A. uncertain of what the future holds.  One wants to be an Italian bicycle racer, very badly.

So the next time you are "breaking away" on your bicycle, just think of the first movement of this piece.  Guaranteed to ride faster!  And with more Italian style!

*The film won the 1979 Academy Award for best screenplay.  The title to the film refers not only to a cycling "break away", but of course to the Indiana youths breaking away from their childhoods, their small town, etc. ...

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