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Author Archives: Melissa S.
Over the next few weeks, we hope you’ll all be able to join us at Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park for Summer Symphony Nights – a series of free concerts featuring exciting repertoires and the chance for an affordable night out on the town! Here’s a quick rundown of what we have to offer (and remember, all concerts are FREE and begin at 8:30 p.m.):
- Bernstein and Ravel (Brett Mitchell, conductor): Thursday, June 17, 2010
- Mendelssohn’s Third (Robert Franz, conductor): Friday, June 18, 2010
- Tchaikovsky’s Fourth (Diego Matheuz, conductor): Friday, June 25, 2010
- Dvorak’s New World (Krzysztof Urbanski, conductor): Saturday, June 26, 2010
- A Star-Spangled Salute (Mike Krajewski, conductor): Sunday, July 4, 2010
During this year’s performances, we’re excited to add some interesting technological twists to the mix. At June 17th’s “Tweetcert,” you’ll be able to follow our Twitter feed (@HouSymphony) to read live, up-to-the-minute program notes written by Assistant Conductor Brett Mitchell. We’ll also have the audience vote via text message for the encore during our June 18th concert. The pieces to choose from will be Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5, Rossini’s Overture to The Barber of Seville or Rossini’s Overture to William Tell – each one sure to be a delight!
And what would summer be without some great pictures? Throughout the entire series, we’re inviting you to enter our first-ever photo contest (which we’ve named OH SNAP!), and we look forward to selecting some of the best photos to win!
So, when you’re on your way into Miller, make sure and grab a Symphony hand fan – it will include all of the info you need to participate in these activities! For more information about the programs, conductors and guest artists for Symphony Summer Nights, please visit us online.
Russian composer Igor Stravinsky is arguably the most important composer of the 20th century. Not only were his ideas new, complex and impressive to all who heard them, but his legacy as a musical risk-taker even landed him a spot as one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people of the century.
This weekend in our 2009-10 Classical Season Finale, Maestro Graf leads the Orchestra in one of Stravinsky’s most notorious compositions – The Rite of Spring. Written for the famous company Ballet Russes, The Rite of Spring has a dramatic history connected to its 1913 premiere in Paris – a riot ensued as soon as the music began, halting the performance and cementing the event as one of classical music’s most unforgettable.
Of the event, Philip Glass wrote for TIME Magazine in 1998, “Trouble began with the playing of the first notes, in the ultrahigh register of the bassoon, as the renowned composer Camille Saint-Saens conspicuously walked out, complaining loudly of the misuse of the instrument. Soon other protests became so loud that the dancers could barely hear their cues. Fights broke out in the audience. Thus Modernism arrived in music, its calling card delivered by the 30-year-old Russian composer Igor Stravinsky.”
The theories floating around about the cause of the riot range from the story (pagan sacrifice), the ballet’s choreography (very suggestive), and the music itself (harsh, brutal rhythms, to be exact). Think of it as an early 20th century concert review that went terribly, terribly wrong. Who needs newspapers when you can throw punches? That was the rule of the day, after all.
Also on the program this weekend is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, a piece feared by pianists, but highly respected among orchestras. Both “Rach 3” and The Rite of Spring remain incredibly popular to this day, although they are stylistically completely different.
As Maestro Graf said, The Rite of Spring is “one of the most glorious and powerful staples of every great orchestra’s repertoire.” Pair that with guest pianist Garrick Ohlsson’s tremendous energy, technique and amazing musicality and you are in for an adventurous evening in music.
When you first see him walk on stage, there’s no question that this music superstar has a flair for the flashy – right down to his footwear (custom ADIDAS sneakers, to be exact). Pianist Lang Lang commands respect wherever he goes, not only because of the magic that comes through his fingertips, but because of what he means for his generation.
At 27, he has become a bridge between old and new generations of classical music fans, and through his art and philanthropy, has truly made a difference in the lives of millions of people. The Chinese piano prodigy is a prime example of what can happen when a child is exposed to music at an early age, and then has the opportunity to explore and develop that interest.
When Lang Lang was just 3 years old, he began playing piano in his hometown of Shenyang, a city in northeastern China. By age 5, he had won his first piano competition; at 9, he started studying at the Beijing Central Conservatory of Music; and by 17, was a star.
His international popularity was further cemented when he appeared during the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. He has single-handedly been credited with inspiring over 40 million Chinese children to take piano lessons – a phenomenon The Today Show labeled the “Lang Lang Effect.”
Because of that success, Lang Lang has dedicated himself to a philanthropic cause very dear to his heart – one that provides musical opportunities for children who may have never otherwise had them.
The Lang Lang International Music Foundation, Inc, has enabled the pianist to “support cutting-edge philanthropy programs using music education, exposure, and outreach to deliver messages of hope and inspiration to children around the world,” according to the organization’s website.
Exposing children to music is also one of our main focuses here at the Houston Symphony. Whether it be our Symphony Detective Concerts, Explorer Concerts, inviting student musicians to perform in-hall or even going out into the community during the summer Sounds Like Fun! series, we are always trying to reiterate that Music Matters! (which, by the way, is also the name of our outreach program).
It is through these programs, that we, just like Lang Lang, are able to provide an experience for Houston-area youngsters that will leave a lasting impression – and hopefully help them unlock a hidden passion for music.
Join us this Wednesday for a one-night-only Symphony Special concert featuring the rockstar himself, Lang Lang, and the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra – made up of the world’s finest musicians under age 27. With former Houston Symphony Music Director Christoph Eschenbach on the podium, hear for yourself why Music Matters!
As we wrote about a few weeks ago, one of the most interesting aspects of music history is hearing stories of beauty created through chaos. Hannu Lintu brought Sibelius’ Patriotic Second Symphony the energy it commanded this past weekend, and our first classical concert of April will tap into another historical struggle – the people of the Soviet Union and the restraints put upon them by Joseph Stalin’s regime.
Although he’s considered the greatest composer from the Soviet Era, Dmitri Shostakovich’s history was a rocky one. Very popular in the 1930s, the composer was suddenly condemned by his fellow countrymen and labeled as an “Enemy of the State” for writing music deemed dangerous. He composed his Fifth Symphony, in essence, to get back into the “good graces” of the Soviet government. The subtitle of the symphony — “A Soviet Artist’s Reply to Just Criticism” — spoke to the government and gained him his popularity again.
In reality, the work had subtexts of criticism, even if the Soviets were oblivious to it. Shostakovich even said of the Symphony years later, “I think it is clear to everyone what happens in the Fifth Symphony. You’ve got to be a complete oaf not to hear it … The rejoicing is forced, created under threat. It’s as if someone were beating you with a stick and saying, ‘Your business is rejoicing, your business is rejoicing.’ You get up, stunned, saying, ‘My business is rejoicing, my business is rejoicing …’ ”
Had Shostakovich not lived with the struggles he did, we would not have this wonderful work. Can you imagine a world in which beauty was created only on the surface? …
It’s hard to find someone today who doesn’t know The Beach Boys. And even if you think you don’t know their music, as soon as you hear the first harmonies from “California Girl,” “Kokomo,” or “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” you realize you do. The Boys have cemented themselves as one of the most popular groups ever, and their music has stood the test of time for almost 50 years. As a 24-year-old marketing girl, you’d think those sun-soaked songs wouldn’t have an impact on me, but I may very well be one of the most excited staff members about their upcoming concert on March 19 – I even signed up for concert duty just so I could attend!
See, the first concert I ever went to was The Beach Boys. I was a wee little girl of 7, and had just moved to Chicago with my mom and new Stepfather. That concert was the first thing we really did together with our newly-formed family, and even though I had never heard of The Beach Boys up to that point, I learned a lot about the “golden oldies” from listening to the radio incessantly with the parentals (anyone from Chicago remember 104.3?) I absolutely loved the concert (at 7 you can imagine I was still quite impressionable), and it became one of my fondest memories. But there’s also that other way that Mike Love and the gang made their way into my life …
As a young girl growing up in the early 90s, I (of course) was a fan of the TV show Full House, and you *know* The Beach Boys were known to make an appearance on the show from time to time. Remember the one where Uncle Jesse gets to sing with them? Not to mention all of the times the Tanners would break out into an old Beach Boys song! (Side note: Actor John Stamos, who played Uncle Jesse on the show, actually did record and perform with the Beach Boys and even appeared in the music video for Kokomo!)
I don’t need to get all sentimental and tell you how those songs instantly bring a smile to my face and remind me of a childhood filled with great music, but the Boys and family do go hand-in-hand for me. Which makes me kind of curious – is there a musical group, or an old movie, or even a place out there somewhere that does the same for you?
Next week, I’ll be bobbing along to “Barbara Ann” and thinking about my step-family, Sweet Home Chicago and how lucky I am to be a part of an organization that’s responsible for having such a musical impact on its patrons. I hope you’ll be in the audience enjoying the concert, as well, making your own memories to last a lifetime.