Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Dr. Bob Prescribes: Mahler, Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection”

Gregg Valentino, (b. 1960)

How much is enough?

Everyone, please say hello to Gregg Valentino. (“Hello Gregg.”) For a time, Gregg held the record for having the world’s largest biceps: 28 inches around. Gregg grew those guns through a combination of exercise, steroids, and a really nasty topical oil called “Synthol.” However he managed to create those arms, we imagine Gregg has no trouble opening even the most reluctant of jars, although we also imagine that shopping for shirts can be something of a chore. 

Gregg, dude, regarding those arms: how much is enough?

Ferrari F140 V12 engine
Ferrari F140 V12 engine

Wrap your eyes around the marvel of technology and power that is Ferrari’s 6,496 cc (6.5 L) F140 V12 (12 cylinder) engine. At 8,500 rpm, this sweet puppy generates a power output of 789 hp (horsepower) and 530 lb⋅ft of torque at 7,000 rpm, making it – as of 2018 – the most powerful naturally aspirated production car engine ever manufactured. (A “naturally aspirated engine” is an internal combustion engine that relies solely on atmospheric pressure for its oxygen intake; as opposed to an engine with a supercharger or turbocharger, which forces oxygen into an engine.) The automobile into which that engine is its heart is a Ferrari 812 Superfast, which will set you back by $363,730 base price, or some $465,509 with options. When the good people at Ferrari named the car “Superfast”, they weren’t whistling “When the Moon Hits Your Eye Like a Big Pizza Pie”; the car has a top speed of 211 miles per hour and accelerates from 0–100 km/h (0–62 mph) in a face-sculpting, multiple g-force inducing 2.9 seconds. It’s just the sort of speed and power you need to beat someone to a parking space at Whole Foods. 

Once again, we ask, how much is enough?

From 2005 to 2010, I lectured at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Illinois, the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO). On June 25, 2005, I attended the dress rehearsal of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, led by the Festival’s newly appointed music director, James Conlon. I was sitting front and center, two or three rows from the stage. When the first movement began with its vicious snarl in the low strings (fortississimo: fff) I was flung (ffflung!) – physically shoved – back against my seat. By the time the rehearsal ended – which included the magnificent CSO chorus and vocal soloists Birgitta Svenden and Heidi Grant Murphy – I was darned near shell-shocked and covered with tears and drool (my own, thank you). I had sat directly in front of orchestras before, including the San Francisco Symphony, but I had never experienced anything like the sheer, devastating, overwhelmingly gorgeous sonic power of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. It was the orchestral equivalent of Gregg Valentino’s biceps, a Ferrari F140 V12 engine, and more, and the experience of that dress rehearsal answered my question and proved to my satisfaction that when it comes to orchestral oomph, you can never have enough.

Continue reading on Patreon to learn about Dr. Bob’s “ask-for-everything-and-expect-everything” Prescribed Recording, which he considers perhaps the greatest Mahler 2!

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