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Why You Should Go to Symphony Concerts

Why You Should Go to Symphony Concerts

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Published by hopeyj
Comic essay on symphony concerts.
Comic essay on symphony concerts.

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Published by: hopeyj on Mar 29, 2007
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01/01/2013

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As we continue in our efforts to become wealthy, we look around to see what it is thatwealthy people do so that we might do the same so that we may rub elbows with theupper echelons of society and become wealthy and influential, too. One of the things thatwealthy people seem to do is attend symphony concerts. Today, we will examine whatsorts of things one will hear at symphony concerts when one is awake and what one canread about in the program during the intermission after one has woken up.First of all, a symphony orchestra is a group of musicians and people who make their living playing musical instruments and a man, almost always, who tells them how to dothat. He stands in front of them and is usually foreign or an American who might as well be. There are French horns and flutes and way too many violins. Sometimes there is aguest performer who is a baritone and who sings or plays the piano or flute but not at thesame time. He is a guest soloist. He is usually foreign too, as are the female singers whoare not baritones although they have sometimes have lower voices than the visiting tenorswho are not baritones. Much of the music was written by Germans before they died tooyoung, but if you are unlucky that night it will be by a Dane, who did not. Sometimes,there is a piano concerto by a Russian, which is a shame and very long. Often there issome Mozart and usually an intermission and program notes and wine, if you drink whichyou shouldn’t. Everyone dresses up, thereby providing you with a splendid opportunity toobserve how the wealthy dress for a night of culture and edification.(Or at least what theyare wearing after they have dressed.) Many of the wealthy don’t attend the concerts, butdo support the symphony financially so that upper idle (sorry) middle class people willthink well of the wealthy and of corporations.Let us now examine in depth the sorts of pieces you might hear at a symphony or that, atany rate, will be performed at concerts that you attend not being wealthy enough yet todonate but not attend.Sometimes a concert will open with a concerto. A concerto is usually a piece in which asolo performer performs with a whole bunch of other people, which is a little confusing but not to the musicians. For example, there is the Double Concerto, Op.102 (there areabbreviations galore in classical music) by Johannes Brahms which features a cello and aviolin played by two different people at the same time. One plays one, I mean. And theorchestra supports them. Musically, I mean even though the orchestra members are paidmuch less and aren’t as famous. And the conductor leads everyone in case they get lostwhich would be his fault, seems to me.A concerto often opens a classical music concert and an overly long symphony oftencloses it. Beethoven, Mozart and, unfortunately, Rachmaninoff wrote piano concertos andsome of them are even pretty.Symphony orchestras, then, are musical ensembles that play many kinds of thingsincluding symphonies. They might, for instance, play a tone poem, which is an evocationof a literary work or a physical locale or an attempt by a composer to distil a certainemotional state, usually one of his. Richard Strauss (1864-1949) and Franz Liszt (1811-1886) wrote tone poems, also called symphony poems and not so nice things by people
 
who didn’t like them. The pieces. Liszt himself seems to have been a likable person (hewas very kind to Brahms, for instance), but Strauss seems to have a swine. But both areconsidered great composers or at least great musicians in the case of Liszt.So, you might hear a concerto or a tone poem. There is also what is called a suite. Thisconsists of snatches of a longer piece, like a ballet (like Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite) or an opera (like Kurt Weill’s Three Penny Opera Suite). A suite is a quick andeasy introduction to the longer work, which you might decide to avoid after hearing thesuite. It is often cobbled together by someone after the composer’s death who doesn’tmake any money off it. The piece. The composer.An overture is like a suite in that it features snippets of a longer work--often one that bombed at the time, was never produced, was a smash hit but which is never performednowadays or was produced after the composer's death though the music was composed before that. Overtures are usually pleasing, certainly compared to say a symphony by Nielsen, Bruckner, or Mahler.Let’s see, concertos, symphonies, tone poems, overtures, suites. What else? There arevarious other forms, such as symphonic dances and great big choral works which youusually hear when someone you love is in the chorus and you catch glimpses of him or her in Handel’s Messiah, the Mozart Requiem and Carmina Burana, which you haveheard--trust me. Now, what sort of composers will you hear on various programs? Generally, conductorstry to balance things out so that the audience isn’t pounded into a big depressed blob bytoo much heavy stuff. Mendelssohn cheers you up right before the deadly Shostakovich.Haydn lightens things up before the Mahler; same deal with Mozart and Bruckner.Sometimes, a whole program will be devoted to the work of one composer like say, “AnEvening of Elgar,” in which case you had better like that composer or things are reallygoing to drag for you kid, oh boy. It is at times such as those that program notes are agodsend, as at least one can educate oneself about the circumstances surrounding thecomposition of the music that one is not enjoying.Usually, there are 2-4 pieces during a typical symphony concert played one at a time before and after the intermission. A tone poem, a suite or an overture might be precededor followed by a concerto. A concerto is usually fun because it is exciting to see big name performers and wonder whether they will screw up in some dramatic fashion or perform beautifully, which is usually exciting and sometimes spellbinding. The evening oftenwinds up, as noted above, with a symphony and it is a good idea to check in the programto see how many movements there are so that you can tick them of as they go by and planyour exit from the hall, traffic being what it is these days.Symphonies to be avoided include all of those by Bruckner, Mahler, Brahms, Sibeliusand Schumann who was a nice man, though. Dvorák's Fifth Symphony seems to benearing its conclusion around five times, but things keep getting revved up again.

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