Category Archives: Classical

Hypnosis and Rachmaninoff 2: The Troubled Genesis of a Masterpiece

v4FNRBPPzdFlAD2uBiTuwaUR_IGMLXZQjq-XrJqdpxoT240UWqbbl3_s9Q0BITmMlifzhCAKICOeli0zcSRZjpI=s2048So often we imagine our favorite composers as musical superheroes: great geniuses who have total, unerring confidence in their own abilities to inspire us, confound the critics, and make history. Some composers do have egos to match their talents (Wagner comes to mind), but all too often, this godlike image obscures the struggles, doubts, and fundamental humanity of artists who are now safely enshrined in the canon. Rachmaninoff is certainly one of those artists.

Today it’s hard to find a concert pianist who hasn’t played Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto. Given its current ubiquity, you may be surprised to learn that the piece (and everything else Rachmaninoff wrote thereafter) almost never came into being. Prior to writing his Second Concerto, Rachmaninoff had written almost nothing for three years. This extreme case of composer’s block (a tragedy for all Rachmaninoff fans – imagine what masterpieces he could have written in three years!) was brought on by the catastrophe that was the premier of his first symphony.

By March of 1897, the not quite 24 year old Rachmaninoff was a rising star of the Russian music scene. He had garnered successes as a pianist, conductor, and increasingly as a composer, and had recently passed a milestone in any composer’s output: the completion of his first symphony. This was a wild, sprawling, youthful work, teeming with ideas and references to the musical theme that would haunt many of Rachmaninoff’s compositions, the Dies Irae. The premier was to be given in St. Petersburg by Alexander Glazunov, an esteemed composer and conductor in his own right. Unfortunately, like his countryman and fellow composer Mussorgsky, Glazunov had by this point developed a serious alcohol addiction. The rehearsals went badly, and the performance…was a disaster. It is quite possible that Glazunov showed up plastered, and what they played could not have been an accurate representation of this complex and difficult score.

Rachmaninoff depressed.

Rachmaninoff depressed.

As if the concert hadn’t been bad enough, insult was added to injury when Cesar Cui (one of the Kuchka, aka “the Russian Five,” aka “the mighty Handful,” a clique of nationalist Russian composers that also included Rimsky Korsakov and Alexander Borodin), wrote a scathing review of the symphony, railing that it was music that could only be enjoyed by the denizens of hell. Surely Rachmaninoff, aware of his own genius, paid no heed to the criticism of a composer whose music today is rarely heard in the concert hall. In actuality, Cui was at this time a big wig, Rachmaninoff a young upstart, and the review a crushing blow to his career and his confidence as a composer. Rachmaninoff fell silent, and entered a period of depression that lasted three years.

So, how did he get out of it? Rachmaninoff might never have written another note had it not been for the intervention of one man: psychologist Nikolai Dahl. In 1900, Rachmaninoff began a course of auto-suggestive therapy with Dahl, which included hypnosis. Rachmaninoff and Dahl’s sessions must be counted as one of the greatest successes of psychotherapy in history given what emerged from it: Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto. When Rachmaninoff completed the concerto, he dedicated it to Dahl in gratitude for his services. Upon its premier, with Rachmaninoff at the piano, the Concerto instantly became one of Rachmaninoff’s greatest successes, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Check back later this week to find out about the woman who may have inspired Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto.

Don’t miss Watts Plays Rachmaninoff 2 with the Houston Symphony!

Watts Plays Rachmaninoff 2
September 19, 20 & 21
Andrés Orozco-Estrada, conductor
Alison Balsom, trumpet

Buy tickets now!

Renowned pianist André Watts returns to Houston to perform Rachmaninoff’s deeply romantic Piano Concerto No. 2. Enduringly popular since its 1901 debut, the concerto’s themes have found fame in movies such as Brief EncounterThe Seven Year Itch and the popular song “All by Myself.” Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada also leads the heroic symphonic tone poem Ein Heldenleben by R. Strauss.

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A Cellist in Colombia – Brinton Smith works with Youth Orchestra

Brinton Averil Smith, Principle Cellist of the Houston Symphony

Brinton Averil Smith, Principle Cellist of the Houston Symphony

Recently, Houston Symphony principal cellist Brinton Smith and principal trumpet Mark Hughes went to sunny Santa Marta, Colombia to teach and mentor young musicians in the Colombian National Youth Orchestra.  Below are Brinton Smith’s own reflections on their experiences there.  

It is difficult to believe that it has been more than a week since principal trumpet Mark Hughes and I—still groggy from the previous evening’s Fourth of July concert at Miller—boarded planes to take us to Bogota, Colombia en route to our residency with the Colombian National Youth Orchestra (Filarmonica Joven de Colombia). After a short night in Bogota, we boarded another flight bound for Barranquilla, on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, and I quickly began to regret my poor Spanish language skills when I tried to explain to the Avianca counter attendant that my cello also had a plane ticket! (Any valuable cello needs a separate full fare ticket each time it travels, or else disaster is eventually inevitable.)

Houston Symphony principal trumpet Mark Hughes follows the rehearsal with the other faculty members.

Houston Symphony principal trumpet Mark Hughes follows the rehearsal with the other faculty members.

A driver from the youth orchestra met us at Barranquilla and drove us the 60 miles around the bay to Santa Marta, where the orchestra spends a week in intensive rehearsals before its national tour. Begun in 2010, the Filharmonica project unites the best young players, ranging from high school through age 25, from around Colombia. They are selected each year by recorded audition, and then meet for four intensive residencies and tours throughout the year. The foundation flies in professional orchestral leaders and professors from around the world to work with the players of each instrument during their weeks of rehearsal residency. Our own connection to the group comes from Andrés, who recently agreed to become the director of the Filharmonica. While his busy career precludes him from being at all the residencies, the students clearly relish the time they have with him. You can imagine what it means to be a young player in a country whose classical traditions are just beginning to be established to work with someone who is not only one of the very best in the world, but also a fellow Colombian!

The beautiful Caribbean beach we never have time to enjoy!

The beautiful Caribbean beach we never have time to enjoy!

Colombians say that they are simultaneously a first, second, and third world country, but the beautiful resort in Santa Marta shows little evidence of the latter; the scars of a multi-generational civil war and the simultaneous violence of the drug cartels are clearly beginning to heal. Andres talks of regularly seeing bodies on the side of the road when he was young, but the generation of this youth orchestra is growing up in a different country, with a booming economy (recently discovered oil reserves are likely to soon make Colombia the second largest oil exporter in South America and may be a source of further ties with Houston). While barbed wire and security posts remain around many buildings as reminders of the old days, today the threat of violence is mostly a distant memory, and the students of this youth orchestra know a country of growth, optimism, and opportunity. With towering mountain ranges, lush rainforests, tropical beaches, and everything in between, Colombia is perhaps the most diverse and beautiful country in the Americas, and Colombians are also among the friendliest people you will ever meet. Not every person can match Andrés’ buoyant cheerfulness, but in this country you can at least see where it comes from.


Peacocks beg at the lunch tables!

Unlike El Sistema in Venezuala, which is intended first as a social project and only secondarily concerned with the music, the Filharmonica Joven de Colombia is primarily focused on music. Students come from all walks of life, but are selected solely on ability and desire. Their goal is to improve their own individual playing, as well as that of the orchestra, and they follow a schedule that seems almost impossibly grueling to those of us who are coaching them. There are breaks for meals—in Colombia there is a tradition of small snacks in late morning and early afternoon, in addition to the main meals and it has all been excellent. We are not losing any weight here! But aside from these breaks, the students begin rehearsal at 9:00 AM and continue the schedule of full orchestra rehearsals, family (wind, brass or string) sectionals, individual instrument sectionals, and chamber music rehearsals until 10:00 at night. Last night I scheduled an extra master class for them in the evening and finally let them go at 10:40, but even then they were eager to keep going, and still had more questions! Their hard work pays off. Their ambitious program of Stravinsky’s Petrushka, along with Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations, the Abe marimba concerto (both with accomplished Colombian soloists) and a recent Colombian composer’s work has pulled together impressively in this week and the concerts should be excellent.


Petrushka loving iguana!

A few things that I know I will remember from our time here: the beautiful beach (although since we work on the student’s schedule, I still haven’t found any time to do anything more than look at it!); the incredible selection of exotic juices at every meal, many from fruits unknown in the States and some not even known outside of this local area of Colombia; the iguanas living wild in the trees, one of whom walked past our window bobbing his head as the cellos rehearsed excerpts from Petrushka; and, most of all, the friendliness, devotion and excitement of the students. I have never seen a group of students who have worked this hard, always with a good attitude, and who have been so eager to drain every drop they can from this experience. I’m often tired of being in a foreign land, of sitting in endless rehearsals, missing my family and home (and my daughter’s 13th birthday), but every time I work with these kids, I come away excited, energized, and hopeful. I’m grateful to be able to share with them the secrets of a beauty that transcends both our worlds, and to be a part of the deepening relationship between our orchestras and our countries. If they represent the future of Colombia, it will be truly extraordinary, and I’m glad to know them.

See Andrés live! Learn more about our ¡Bienvenido, Andrés! Weekend:
Andrés Orozco-Estrada, Music Director
September 12 at Miller Outdoor Theatre – FREE Bienvenido, Andrés Concert
September 13 at Jones Hall – Opening Night with Andrés Concert
September 14 at Jones Hall – Annual FREE Fiesta Sinfonica Concert


The Filharmonica cellists are Houston Symphony and Andrés fans!


Posted in 2014-2015 Season, Classical, Conductors and Musicians, eNews Article | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Tribute to Maestro Frühbeck de Burgos

Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos

Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos

The acclaimed Spanish-born conductor Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, revered in the orchestra field and beloved by Houston Symphony musicians, passed away on June 11, 2014.

In tribute to Maestro Frühbeck de Burgos and his legacy, the Musicians of the Houston Symphony decided to share their April 8-10, 2011 performance, which Frühbeck de Burgos guest conducted. This concert, featuring Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, was his final appearance with the Houston Symphony.

Our own Adam Dinitz, English Horn and Chair of the Musicians Committee, led the effort to make this recorded performance available to stream via our website and mobile app for a limited time. We asked him to share his thoughts about what it was like to work with Maestro Frühbeck de Burgos, and why our musicians were so inspired to honor the legendary conductor in this way.

A Tribute to Maestro Frühbeck de Burgos
By: Adam Dinitz

Adam Dinitz, English Horn and Chair of the Musicians Committee

Adam Dinitz, English Horn and Chair of the Musicians Committee

“Frühbeck de Burgos was one of the most universally respected and loved conductors of our time, especially among musicians. One of my colleagues recently remarked to me that he was the “last of the old school conductors.” I think what this person meant by that statement was that he was a no nonsense kind of conductor. He had a clear vision of how the music was supposed to go, and he knew exactly how to lead an orchestra in order to get them to buy into his ideas and give a spectacular performance. He also used this “old school” conducting baton that was extremely long. I used to joke with my colleagues that if he wanted to cue the French Horns, he could just reach over and tap them on their heads with it!

Something I always found amazing about Maestro Frühbeck de Burgos was his ability to rehearse without using a score. Many conductors refrain from using a score in a performance, but not using one in rehearsals is almost unheard of. He never made a big deal of it, however. It wasn’t about an ego or showing off, it was only about the music. (In fact, the first time I worked with him, I didn’t realize he wasn’t using a score until the third rehearsal!)

Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos

Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos

The performances with Maestro Frühbeck de Burgos were some of the most memorable concerts of my career in Houston. My colleagues and I felt it was important to share the April 2011 Houston Symphony performance because of how proud we are of what we created with Maestro Frühbeck de Burgos and what an honor it was to share the stage with him. We hope audiences join us in reliving a spectacular and rewarding weekend of music-making at the Houston Symphony.”

The 2011 concert weekend included:

Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, conductor
Aralee Dorough, flute
Mozart: Serenade No. 6 in D major, K.239 (Serenata notturna)
Mozart: Flute Concerto No. 2 in D major, K.314
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade, Opus 35

Listen to the full concert on our website!

This free stream of the concert broadcast – available online for three weeks – is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Musicians of the Houston Symphony, American Federation of Musicians, and Local AF of M 65-669 for making this streaming activity available without further compensation. Thank you also to our radio partner, Houston Public Media’s Classical 91.7, for recording the concert for broadcast.

Posted in 2014-2015 Season, Classical, Conductors and Musicians, History Archives | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Musician’s Report: Principal Cellist Brinton Averil Smith Addresses Our Board

Near the end of each season, the Houston Symphony Society holds its annual board and trustees meeting. This year, our Principal Cellist Brinton Averil Smith spoke to the attendees on behalf of the musicians. His speech turned out to be so much more than a board address. We hope you will read it, draw inspiration from it, and be reminded of the true power of music.

Brinton Averil Smith, Principal Cello Photo by Eric Arbiter

Brinton Averil Smith, Principal Cello
Photo by Eric Arbiter

By: Brinton Averil Smith

Ladies and Gentleman of the Houston Symphony family, on behalf of all our musicians, thank you for joining us and welcome at this momentous time in our history. The last 100 years have seen vast changes, but there are still people in this room who knew Miss Ima Hogg. Who could have imagined 100 years ago, when she began a project to bring music to her small city, that her act of faith would grow to become an internationally renown institution serving every citizen of our booming metropolis?

In truth, the degree of success we are enjoying today on so many levels was hard to fully imagine even 8 years ago when I moved here. That was a challenging time, but I was drawn by the passion I saw in the orchestra here, and by the optimism and energy I saw in this city. Houston struck me as a place where people still believe the future is theirs to build, and build it you have.

When I attend board meetings these days I am amazed by how much activity is going on; how the orchestra is planning for the future, and reaching into every part of our city. The criticisms that are often leveled at American orchestras – that they are exclusionary, isolated, out of date or out of touch- are all dispelled by the work we are doing here. We aren’t waiting for a crisis to build relationships throughout our city, or to open our doors and share our music with the broadest range of our population, or to send musicians to bring music into our schools and hospitals. We are doing it now, in good times, because we believe in it. I have not seen a better staffed, better run orchestra anywhere than what you see here today, and I’m extremely proud of our team and all they are doing.

You know already how well the orchestra is playing today. I believe I can say without exaggeration that some musicians in this orchestra are truly among the very best in the world at what they do.  And with our growing reputation it can get even better as we add new musicians in the coming years. We are about to embark on a new era with Andrés Orozco-Estrada. His intelligence, charm and blend of European and South American cultures sounds like a marketer’s fantasy, but only great musicianship wins the hearts of the musicians, as he has. I’ve had the good fortune to have worked with almost all the top conductors of my era, and Andrés is one of the most talented and exciting conductors I’ve ever worked with. His time with us could become the symphony’s greatest era yet.

As I conclude my years as a musician’s board representative, it has been humbling to witness how hard and how devotedly our board works for our symphony. It is inspiring to see our leading citizens give so freely, not only of their money but also of their intensely valuable time, thought and energy to build the institution. Your devotion to this cause is a profound testament to the power of what we do. In many other orchestras, musicians rarely, if ever, interact with the board members outside of negotiations. It’s not surprising, then, that each views the other with suspicion and mistrust. In Houston, our musicians and board members are not only well acquainted, but in many cases we are good friends. We celebrate together, know each other’s children and grandchildren- in some cases, we even know each other’s dogs! Familiarity brings mutual respect and an understanding of how vital both our roles are to achieve our common purpose. It doesn’t immunize us against hard times, but it does mean that whatever comes, we can meet it together, with mutual respect and true friendship. So, on behalf of the musicians, thank you to all of you on the board for your devotion and generosity to our mutual cause.

Houston Symphony 100th Birthday Celebration on June 21, 2013 Photo by Chinh Phan

Houston Symphony 100th Birthday Celebration at Miller Outdoor Theatre  on June 21, 2013
Photo by Chinh Phan

This centennial season has flown by and, for all the amazing concerts of this past year- our televised centennial at Miller Theatre, Renée Fleming on opening night, Yo-Yo Ma and John Williams, Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand, and so many more- there is no concert that better demonstrates the special teamwork between musicians, management and board than the one that wasn’t planned at all. When weather grounded Linda Eder, canceling our Valentine’s Day concert and leaving hundreds of disappointed fans with no plans for Valentine’s night, our management worked overtime to put together and advertise a last minute, free concert of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. To pull it off, musicians had to agree to rehearse and perform on the spur of the moment, some voluntarily returning from their scheduled leave. John Rydman of Spec’s quickly and generously agreed to cover the additional costs, and with less than 24 hours notice, management scrambled to try to get the word out about the free concert. We went onstage that night not knowing whether to expect 20 or 200 people in the audience. Instead,  amazingly,  the hall was packed-  families with their children, young couples on Valentine’s dates, Linda Eder fans, people who had never been to Jones Hall before and some of our symphony regulars as well- all joined together for a moment of  great music on a night that otherwise would have been a disappointment and a dark hall.  It was not the most prestigious concert I’ve played with the Houston Symphony, but it was my proudest moment as a member of this organization.


Maestro Christoph Eschenbach with Houston Symphony and Chorus after Mahler's Symphony of a Thousand Photo by Bruce Bennett

Maestro Christoph Eschenbach with Houston Symphony and Chorus after Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand
Photo by Bruce Bennett

We know future challenges will come. Economies go up and down, generations change, technology changes and institutions must change with them. If we want to meet the challenge of Miss Ima and pass on a thriving symphony and musical culture to our descendants 100 years from now, we will need to be forward thinking, flexible and innovative, and we will need support. It is the endowment that best helps institutions weather the hard times and I believe building our endowment is the single greatest step we can take to assuring this institution’s future.

This is an interesting time for classical music. In the west, it has all but disappeared from the mass media, aside for articles announcing its demise. But similar articles written 50 and 150 years ago prove that ‘imminently dying’ is one of classical music’s longest running traditions! And yet, today, there are more orchestras in the US and around the world than ever before. For an orchestra, a ‘good’ year has always been one in which benefactors subsidize the difference between expenses and ticket revenue. But this is true for many public service institutions- what would the admission price be at an art museum if they had to fund all their acquisitions solely through entrance fees? What would tuition be at a university without donors and an endowment? And these institutions are considered to be thriving.

Another argument you often hear is the implication that music written by ‘dead, white, European, males’ will have little place in our increasingly multi-cultural society. This argument rather condescendingly assumes that instead of cultures melding together, combining the best of what each has to offer, that each culture must live ‘separate but equally’ and enjoy only their own music.  Fortunately, reality doesn’t care about the opinions of arts journalists, and classical music has never been more popular with more people, in more cultures, around the world than it is at this moment. Japan and Korea are major established centers of classical music. In China, nearly 100 million people are studying classical instruments and their biggest stars play in sold out stadiums. South America is rising fast, not just with El Sistema in Venezuela, or Andrés’ Colombia, but throughout the continent. Astoundingly, even in a desolate Paraguayan slum, children raised in the most dire circumstances are changing lives, playing in an orchestra with instruments constructed out of salvage from a trash dump. I urge you to watch this so called “Landfillhilharmonic” video and see the passion in their eyes. I saw a similar passion first-hand in Natal, Brazil last year, where one of the students who played for me sold fruit by the freeway during the day so that he could afford to study the cello.

The Landfillharmonic

In the middle east, Qatar has begun an major orchestra, and a few years ago I met volunteer musicians from the Iraqi National Symphony who literally risk being shot on sight for carrying their ‘Western’ instruments to rehearsal, but refuse to give it up. India and even Africa are beginning to awaken too. Today in perhaps the most unlikely place in the world, in Kinshasa in the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo, a volunteer orchestra with almost no outside direction trained themselves to play their instruments to the point where they are performing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony quite well. They rehearse almost every day, with some of the volunteer musicians walking for hours through dangerous countryside in order to get to rehearsal. If you watch the 60 minutes story you can see their intense dedication and poignant joy amidst the outside chaos of their war torn country. If you need any further proof that truly great music- no matter who wrote it, or when- is the one immortal language that binds us all, just look into the eyes of those children in Paraguay, or the volunteer musicians in the Congo, or of the young students we work with here in Houston.

Joy in the Congo: A Musical Miracle
By: CBS News

A symphony is not designed for efficiency. It requires up to a hundred highly-trained virtuosi from around the world to come together and rehearse a program for a week, in order to play it for just a few thousand people. Some in that evening’s audience may have a truly transcendent experience, but how much time and how many resources were invested to bring them there? Could it be worth it?

I love the space program and often think about what it must have been like for Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepard to be the first human eyes to see the Earth from space. How many billions of dollars, how many lives and resources were invested just to bring just these two people to that one moment? And yet as they viewed, for the first time ever, a single vision of the entire world, where every human, every thought, every nation, every people in history has lived…as they absorbed that view, it revealed for all of us a new outlook on our world- a fundamental truth that had always existed, but which we had never truly understood until that moment.

A featured image from the Houston Symphony's commissioned film + live orchestra project titled  The Earth - An HD Odyssey Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL

A featured image from the Houston Symphony’s commissioned film + live orchestra project titled
The Earth – An HD Odyssey
Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL

In a different way, great music can do the same thing. When you find that moment- that musical epiphany- it changes your view of the world. When you realize that the sounds that move you at this moment similarly moved men and women distant from you in language, culture and time, then the eternal nature of its beauty reveals a deeper reality, beyond the confines of our own consciousness. Somerset Maugham once wrote “Each one of us is alone in the world. He is shut in a tower of brass, and can communicate with his fellows only by signs, and the signs have no common value, so that their sense is vague and uncertain. We seek pitifully to convey to others the treasures of our heart, but they have not the power to accept them, and so we go lonely, side by side but not together, unable to know our fellows and unknown by them.” We are shut off, alone inside our minds, but where words fail, music is the sole common value that can pierce those towers and convey the treasures of our hearts.

I wish I could share with you the experience of what it is like to play music.  We spend our entire lives trying to improve, to get closer to the ideal. Clumsy human hands and mind never do it true justice, but as you inch closer, you begin to sense the existence of a perfect beauty, even if you can’t entirely make it real.  Just as Michelangelo quipped that he started with a block of marble and simply removed everything that wasn’t David, so we begin to understand that the composition is not the origin of beauty, but rather that it is making concrete a beauty that already existed unseen in the world. As a performer, you try to capture that essence and share it with the audience, and if you do come close for a moment, it is a feeling of transcendence. You have slipped your earth-bound vision and briefly glimpsed a higher truth, and at that moment you, your ego, your instrument or any of your worldly problems don’t matter.

In a time of unprecedented wealth, health and longevity we have many noble charities dedicated to enriching public health and income around the world, and these are wonderful, deserving causes. But it will be a tragedy for our age if we fail to support the spiritual side of life as well. Ultimately, our brief lives are measured in quality more than quantity. Today we are lucky enough to live far longer than even our grandparents, and we have access to comfort, technology and information beyond their wildest dreams. And yet somehow we seem to allow ourselves to feel much less; we shy away from dreams of beauty, from bold passions.  We live in an age where cynicism passes for philosophy, irony debilitates art, lust supplants romance, and it is considered naïve to think that there could be more meaning to our consciousness than a mere a series of electrical impulses in our brains. I love science, but the greatest scientists I know are not jaded by what is already discovered, but humbled and impassioned by the profundity, complexity and beauty of our universe. This also is my feeling about music. If you believe that the gift of culture is meant to uplift souls and open minds, then we must stand together now and find a way to cut through the noise of modern life, to convey this gift to the next generation. It may be the most important thing we could ever give them.

Let me end with words from one of the people I admire most. Alice Herz-Sommer died this year. Born in 1903, she was, at 110 years old, the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor. Alice was also the world’s oldest pianist. She said of her time living in terror and starvation in the Teresienstadt camp, “Whenever I knew that I had a concert, I was happy. Music is magic. We performed in the council hall before an audience of 150 old, hopeless, sick and hungry people. They lived for the music. It was like food to them. If they hadn’t come [to hear us], they would have died long before. As we would have.” Alice was an amazing and profound woman. “Only when we are so old, only [then], are we aware of the beauty of life” she said. She practiced for hours every day until the end, finding more meaning and beauty in music with every passing year.  Alice lost most of her family, and her entire world in the camps. She faced things no one ever should have to, and yet she lived a life of gratitude and profound happiness, because in music she found beauty and true joy. Ladies and gentleman, I wish for you, for your loved ones and for all those who will live in this city during the next 100 years the same joy and beauty that Alice had in her life. Thank you for all you do to make it possible…

Alice Herz-Sommer

Read more about Brinton Averil Smith.

Read more about the Houston Symphony’s 101st Season with new Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada.

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Tango and Tchaikovsky with the Houston Symphony!

FREE concert at Discovery Green on April 22

Tango and Tchaik Image

The Houston Symphony and Discovery Green are joining forces to celebrate their birthdays with Tango and Tchaikovsky on Tuesday, April 22.

The authentically Argentinian evening will begin at 6:30 p.m. with tango music by René Casarsa; tango lessons from The Argentine Tango School of Houston; free Malbec wine tastings from Spec’s; and tasty empanadas from Phoenicia.

Then at 7:30 p.m. on the Anheuser-Busch Stage, our very own Concertmaster Frank Huang will lead the Houston Symphony in its first performance at Discovery Green.  The program will feature Four Seasons of Buenos Aires by Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla followed by Tchaikovsky’s romantic Serenade for Strings.

Frank Huang, Houston Symphony Concertmaster

Frank Huang, Houston Symphony Concertmaster

While we are celebrating our historic Centennial Season, Discovery Green is celebrating its 6th anniversary as downtown’s coolest gathering spot.  The two organizations share a mission to engage the Houston community with culture and entertainment through free offerings all year long. In addition to its regular performances at Jones Hall, the Symphony is committed to bringing live orchestral music to unique and accessible spaces all over the Houston metropolitan area including innovative parks like Discovery Green.

Before you go, check out some tango music by René Casarsa; fun facts about Malbec wines; and learn about the origins of the empanada.

For more information on the Tango and Tchaikovsky event, click here.


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