Beatles producer George Martin famously called the gigantic crescendo of the Lennon-McCartney song “A Day in the Life” an orchestral orgasm. Last month Rolling Stone named it #1 of the top 10 Beatles songs. By any standards it’s wonderful music, which at the moment you can hear on YouTube if you don’t have the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.
24 hours ago I thought I’d make a list of the top 10 orchestra orgasms. It quickly grew to 20. And I dropped “top;” this isn’t something to rank. With your help, kind readers, I’m sure we can get to 50. Please add your favorites in the comments box below.
20. Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Marche pour la cérémonie des Turcs, from Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. What an explosion of energy! They didn’t need Viagra at the French court.
19. Franck Symphony in D Minor. The whole thing.
18. Darius Milhaud’s Le Boeuf sur le Toit (The Ox on the Roof). Is there really an orgasm here? It’s a long, elegant session of Franco-Brazilian Carnival dance. And hasn’t dance been called sex standing up?
17. Lutoslawski’s Third Symphony, which builds to a riot of trombone slides.
16. Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Wing on Wing. Most numerous climaxes.
15. Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto in its exquisite second movement.
14. Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. See the Jerome Robbins ballet if you don’t think this is white-one-white, ethereal sex.
13. Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet. Best post-coital cigarette.
12. The Berg Violin Concerto. Really, any Berg.
10. Manuel de Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain. At the moment of greatest intensity he inserts a hint: the Tristan theme.
9. Boulez’ …explosante-fixe… A concerto for two flutes, and flutes figure prominently in several of the twenty.
8. Schumann’s Second Symphony, the lovely third movement. Even the theme alone.
7. Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy. Of course.
6. Richard Strauss’ Dance of the Seven Veils from Salome.
5. Mahler. Pick a Mahler symphony or song cycle at random, any will do.
4. Frank Zappa’s The Perfect Stranger. A door-to-door vacuum salesman and a housewife entertain each other.
3. Webern’s Passacaglia, Op. 1. That’s right, you need to hear it again. Listen to Boulez’ recording.
2. Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto, the slow movement, with an attenuated Tristan quote at the two climaxes and a long afterglow.
1. And the number one orchestra orgasm is Ravel’s . . . no, not Boléro, not at all Boléro. Daphnis et Chloé, the Danse Generale.
Please add your choices in the comments box.