Category Archives: Classical

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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Cellist Johannes Moser Greets Houston

Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet
April 10, 12, 13, 2014
Hans Graf, conductor
Johannes Moser, cello
Tchaikovsky: Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture
Tchaikovsky: Pezzo capriccioso for Cello and Orchestra
Tchaikovsky: Rococo Variations for Cello and Orchestra
Prokofiev: Symphony No. 3
Buy tickets!

Conductor Laureate Hans Graf leads the Symphony in a powerful all-Russian program. First, hear the ripening love and impending tragedy in Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet. Then, hear rising-star cellist Johannes Moser perform Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations, a piece that earned him a special prize in addition to the top prize in the 2002 Tchaikovsky Competition. Finally, thrill to the frenzied passages and crazed sliding melodies of Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 3.

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From the Magazine: This Month in Symphony History – March 2014 Issue

From the Houston Symphony Magazine:
The article below includes extended content from the article of the same title featured in the March 2014 magazine.

Centennial Article
The Houston Symphony Visits New York

The Houston Symphony Magazine’s trip down memory lane stops in New York at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall where the Symphony made its debuts. March is significant to Carnegie Hall because it was in this month in 1889 that Andrew Carnegie organized the Music Hall Company of New York when he purchased nine parcels of land along 7th Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets. Architect William Burnet Tuthill was hired in July, and the Music Hall opened in 1891.

Carnegie Hall

Carnegie Hall

Since the Hall was built prior to required structural steel construction, its walls are primarily brick and masonry. Carnegie Hall’s exterior Italian Renaissance design showcases the era’s eclectic architectural taste; Tuthill focused on simple, elegant style elements and created an exceptional acoustic setting.

The Houston Symphony made its New York debut, led by Conductor Sir John Barbirolli (Giovanni Battista Barbirolli) on March 3, 1964, at Lincoln Center in honor of its 50th anniversary season. The program included: Berlioz’ Corsair Overture, Tone Poem in Summer Garden by Delius, Symphony No. 6 by Vaughan Williams and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. Harold C. Schonberg of the New York Times called the Vaughn Williams piece “a combination of savagery, modality and folk music. It has its share of moving melodies, and the long phrases given to the tenor saxophone in the third movement make the dubious instrument actually sound noble. It is the bleak last movement, though, that grips the imagination as much as any symphonic movement composed this symphony. With the playing he drew from his orchestra, Sir John is welcome anytime.”

Maestro Barbirolli

Maestro Barbirolli

The following year on March 11, 1965, Barbirolli led the 94-person orchestra in its first of 16 performances at Carnegie Hall. This festival emerged when Carnegie Hall’s prime tenant, the New York Philharmonic, moved to its own hall, Lincoln Center, in 1960; executive director Julius Bloom brainstormed events to fill empty dates.

The Symphony appeared at the International Festival of Visiting Orchestras at Carnegie Hall alongside several other orchestras, including the Vienna Symphony, the Royal Philharmonic of London, the Toronto Symphony and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The festival’s program included: Weber’s Euryanthe Overture, Vaughn Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, Elgar’s Variations on an Original Theme, (Enigma), Sibelius’ Lemminkainen Suite The Swan of Tuonela and Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5. New York Times reporter Theodore Strongin said the Symphony’s performance of Weber’s Euryanthe “was played with ease and affection and . . . a great hit with the audience.”

Barbirolli waiting to board the plane for the1965 tour

Barbirolli waiting to board the plane for the1965 tour

On March 25 and 26, 1966, Barbirolli and the Houston Symphony returned for a spring East Coast Tour that included 19 cities. According to the Texas State Historical Association, Barbirolli continued to build an enthusiastic audience by including a fair amount of modern music in his programs. The eastern seaboard tour, which included Washington D.C., garnered unanimously good reviews, rating the Symphony among the major orchestras of the country. When the Houston Symphony returned from this particular tour, the audience shared a renewed enthusiasm for the orchestra. Barbirolli led an annual spring tour until the end of his term in 1967.

Conductor Lawrence Foster continued the Carnegie Hall performance streak on March 19. 1973—a month after Luciano Pavarotti premiered at the historic venue. Conductor Christoph Eschenbach, who is often credited for enhancing the orchestra’s national and international presence, led the Houston Symphony in Washington D.C. and New York on March 3, 1991, the year that Carnegie Hall celebrated its 100th anniversary. Eschenbach, and the Symphony returned to the Hall on March 5, 1998. on the Shell 1998 U.S. Tour.

For more information on these musicians and others, stop by the box office or Symphony Store to buy a copy of the new Houston Symphony commemorative book, Houston Symphony: Celebrating a Century.

See more articles like this in the Houston Symphony Magazine, available before each Houston Symphony concert at Jones Hall. Or click here to see our magazine archives.

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How the Houston Symphony Saved Valentine’s Day in Less than 24 Hours

How the Houston Symphony Saved Valentine’s Day in Less than 24 Hours

By Glenn Taylor, Chief Marketing Officer, Houston Symphony

Just when it seemed that the Houston Symphony audience for acclaimed vocalist Linda Eder would be broken-hearted on Valentine’s Day due to Eder’s inability to travel to Houston, the Symphony, its vendors and Houston media saved the special night with a series of serendipitous moments. The Symphony proved that even Mother Nature wouldn’t stop their quest to entertain Houston when more than 1,200 patrons attended an alternate free performance of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons – but it wasn’t easy to pull off.

It started the afternoon of Thursday, February 13, while the Houston Symphony staff was gathered for a goal-setting retreat. News suddenly arrived that 12-inches of snow covered New York City and that Linda Eder and her band were unable to travel to Houston for their scheduled February 14 concert the next evening.  The retreat was quickly put on hold as members of the Symphony’s senior management team scrambled to discuss possible options.  The Eder concert would be rescheduled to a May date, but the team was left figuring out how to accommodate a group of audiences who had decided to make the Houston Symphony an integral part of their Valentine’s Day plans.

The Symphony was all but ready to announce the rescheduled concert – with no performance in its place – when Executive Director/CEO Mark Hanson lobbed out the idea of putting together an alternate concert.  The idea resonated among staff, but for an arts organization that typically plans concerts with months of lead time, it was a lofty goal.

Among the many moving parts was the consideration of repertoire (something recently rehearsed so no additional rehearsal would be needed), availability and buy-in of musicians and crew, in addition to the question of incremental operational costs.

Frank Huang, Houston Symphony Concertmaster

Frank Huang, Houston Symphony Concertmaster

As luck would have it, the orchestra had recently prepared the favorite orchestral music classic The Four Seasons, which doesn’t need a conductor but features a violinist as leader and soloist.  Houston’s Concertmaster Frank Huang, who wasn’t scheduled to play the evening of February 14, agreed to put his plans aside and step up to lead the work.  The orchestra’s musician committee also came to the table with their support and approval for the added concert, knowing the classical music staple would beautifully commemorate the romantic holiday and nicely feature the orchestra’s string players to an expanded audience.

David Chambers, Chief Development Officer, happened to be meeting with  Symphony supporter and owner of the Houston-based Spec’s Wines, Spirits & Finer Foods, John Rydman, who when hearing about the predicament and opportunity, agreed to underwrite the alternate concert event.

With all the pieces in place, the Symphony jumped into action to communicate with its patrons via email, phone and social media about the rescheduled Linda Eder performance and the now added Valentine’s Day free concert. Throughout the night and next day, staffers contacted media vendors and partners to spread the word.

Within 24-hours, the Houston media, including the Houston Chronicle, Culture Map Houston, SUNNY 99.1 KODA FM, KROI News 92 FM and KUHF 88.7, informed the community that Valentine’s Day was saved with an alternative concert, and shared details about Eder’s rescheduled performance. Patrons learned that all current Eder tickets would be valid for the May concert, or that they could opt to exchange tickets for a few other Symphony performances this season. Symphony supporters expressed their understanding on the organization’s Facebook page, as well as their enthusiasm for the symphony’s quick reaction to the cancellation and excitement to hear the talented string players perform one of the most recognized works in classical music.

The lovely Valentine's Day crowd

The lovely Valentine’s Day crowd

The non-ticketed 7:30 p.m. performance was seated on a first-come, first-served basis.  Several hundred people gathered outside Jones Hall before the doors were opened in order to claim their seats– perhaps a premium or box seat they would never typically occupy. In the end, more than 1,200 happy audience members were in attendance to sway to Vivaldi’s beloved music. Hanson, proud of the organization’s quick efforts, began the concert with thanks to all those involved and in attendance, while also grabbing a quick cell-phone pic of the lovebirds in the audience (then posted on the Houston Symphony’s Facebook fan page).

Thanks to Houston’s cooperative spirit, this Valentine’s Day was one that even 12-inches of snow couldn’t stop.

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Behind the Scenes in Colombia: A Sneak Peak at KTRK’s Upcoming Special on Andrés Orozco-Estrada

Last week, a few representatives from the Houston Symphony and Houston’s ABC13 KTRK took a trip to Colombia to explore incoming Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada’s home land. The interviews and footage they captured will be featured in the 30-minute TV special they are creating about Andrés, which will air in August of this year. Below are some photos from their adventures in Colombia:

Plaza Botero in Medellin

Plaza Botero in Medellin

Gina Gaston of ABC13 with downtown Medellin in the background

Gina Gaston of ABC13 with downtown Medellin in the background

Nora Estrada (Andrés' mother) being interviewed by Gina Gaston

Nora Estrada (Andrés’ mother) being interviewed by Gina Gaston

The stage of the Teatro Metropolitano in Medellin, where the crew filmed Andrés conducting

The stage of the Teatro Metropolitano in Medellin, where the crew filmed Andrés conducting

Andrés preparing to conduct the Filarmómica Joven de Colombia

Andrés preparing to conduct the Filarmómica Joven de Colombia

Andrés' childhood friend, Carlos Botero, Assistant Conductor of FJC) chatting with Andrés backstage after the concert in Medellin

Andrés’ childhood friend, Carlos Botero, Assistant Conductor of FJC, chatting with Andrés backstage after the concert in Medellin

Gina Gaston riding in a cable car in Medellin

Gina Gaston and crew riding in a cable car and shooting footage in Medellin

Click here to learn more about our 2014-15 Season, which will be Andrés Orozco-Estrada’s inaugural season as Houston Symphony Music Director!

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