Listening to Beethoven's Septet -- Reflections from Matt on His First 5HE Concert

On Tuesday 8/30/11, Matt Monroe had his first public performance as Fifth House Ensemble's horn player at the season finale of the Rush Hour concert series.  It was truly a great concert, and below you will find Matt's reflections on the performance of Beethoven's Septet.  Additionally, if you can correctly guess whose ear is in this image, you win a free horn lesson with Matt!  Email him at with your guesses! First of all, I’d like to express a big thanks to the wonderful audience at our Rush Hour show on Tuesday. For those of us on the stage, the energy in the room was very contagious. I hope you all had as much fun listening as we did performing!

Listening. We had the great pleasure of getting input from Debbie Sobol as we prepared for this performance of the Beethoven Septet, and among her many insightful comments was one about listening. She reminded us how important it is for us as performers to remain engaged in the sounds that our fellow musicians are creating even when we are resting. In a piece like the Beethoven there is constant exchange back and forth between individual and groups of players. It completely changes the momentum and the musical expression when we all listen acutely from one exchange to the next, picking up a line from the last person and responding fluidly in a spontaneous musical conversation. This is the very essence of chamber music!

Debbie reminded us how easy it can be to tune out the sounds around us. As city dwellers there is so much going on in our surroundings that it almost becomes a necessity for our minds to ignore the unessential. We easily slip into an auditory auto-pilot that is broken only by something that applies directly to us. I pondered Debbie’s words as I rode the Red Line to the performance on Tuesday afternoon and realized how many sounds there are on the train, yet how often I had blocked them out to focus on the noise inside my own head.

There is a moment in the fourth movement where Beethoven has the horn sit for 64 measures while the cello takes center stage. It is one of those spots where one could easily just wait, count the rests, and then play the next passage. I have certainly been guilty of this, but on Tuesday I found myself lost in Herine’s soaring melody. It was a moment of inspiration that got me out of my own head and energized the rest of the piece for me.

So whether you’re honing your skills as a chamber musician or just trying to glean inspiration from every moment of life, stop and listen. Who knows what you might hear. Fifth House Ensemble