UPDATE: This giveaway is now closed.
I’ve been playing “Mama’s songs” in the van again. This time, it’s Franz Schubert‘s Symphony No. 9 in C major, “The Great.” We are looking forward the upcoming DISCOVER concert with the San Antonio Symphony. Do you have any rituals to prepare for a concert? I have some tips for you from the Symphony’s education expert, and a ticket giveaway.
DISCOVER Schubert “The Great”, the final concert in the 2013-14 DISCOVER series, will begin at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 11, 2014 at the Majestic Theatre. The Symphony gave me four tickets for my family and another four tickets for me to give away to my readers. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment, no later than Wednesday, May 7, sharing your favorite way to listen to classical music. I will randomly choose a winner and send an email notice on May 8.
The Symphony’s DISCOVER concerts are designed to help new audiences learn about classical music. As discussed in this earlier post, my kids and I went to DISCOVER “New World” Symphony in February; this post has F.T.’s review. (He reviewed “The Nutcracker,” too.)
The first thing you notice when entering the theater for the DISCOVER concerts, unlike the Classics concerts (May 9 and 10 at 8 p.m.), is the large video screen above the orchestra.
At the beginning of the program, Music Director and Conductor Sebastian Lang-Lessing talks about the featured piece of music, presents photos and video clips on the big screen, and leads the orchestra in playing musical excerpts. During the performance of the complete work, a camera zooms in on the conductor and the musicians. The preview lecture and the video screen closeups make each DISCOVER series concert a rich educational experience. To buy tickets in advance, order online at sasymphony.org, call the Symphony box office at (210) 554-1010, or go through Ticketmaster.
My pre-concert ritual includes buying a recording of the music we are going to hear, and then to listening to it with my kids. I wasn’t sure which one to buy, so I asked around. Jeremy Brimhall, Director of Education and Community Engagement at the San Antonio Symphony, advised me to be mindful of the style differences between American and European orchestras. Brimhall also suggested looking for a recording that bundles Symphony No. 9 “The Great” with Symphony No. 8 “The Unfinished”—Schubert’s most famous symphony. (My first encounter with “Unfinished” was in the pages of Paddington At Large.) One of my law school buddies recommended the reference book 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die by NPR’s Tom Moon, who in turn recommends a 1942 recording conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler. My cousin Jodie, a registered Suzuki violin teacher, buys respected labels like Decca and EMI and avoids recordings with titles like “best of classical” or “classical relaxation.” After browsing around, I ordered a 1958 stereo recording on Decca conducted by Josef Krips, and I am quite pleased.
My kids and I have been listening to our Schubert CD while driving in the van. While it’s nice to have a captive audience, the conditions are not ideal. Compared to pop music, classical music has a greater dynamic range—i.e., it gets much louder and much softer—so I have to keep adjusting the volume. Also, what do you do when you reach your destination, but you are still in the middle of the second movement? Associate Conductor Akiko Fujimoto told me that’s why she can’t listen to classical music in her car.
Brimhall suggested playing classical music in the background while your family does an activity together—not watching TV, but maybe playing a board game. According to Erik Twist, Headmaster at Archway Veritas (earlier post), Great Hearts students listen to classical music while playing chess. Readers, how do you like to listen to classical music? Do you have a strategy for keeping little hands busy while listening?
In addition, Brimhall suggested sitting down with your kids to read a short biography of the composer, available at sites like Arts Alive Canada, Classics for Kids, and the Composers’ Gallery in the New York Philharmonic’s Kidzone.
Talking with children about a piece of music like Schubert’s “Great” is challenging because it’s abstract. By contrast, “Peter and the Wolf” (earlier post) tells a story; instruments represent characters, e.g., oboe and duck. A lovely coincidence—this dress in Fairytale Fiesta, on exhibit at the Witte Museum until August 24, 2014, illustrates the characters from “Peter and the Wolf.”
Schubert’s “Great” is harder to pin down. Moon (at p. 679) praises conductor Furtwängler for summoning such defiant beauty from the orchestra during the midst of World War II. Describing the score, Moon writes: “Schubert’s primary theme is a long, meandering journey down a wooded lane.” Moon also refers to “faraway vistas, the sloping mountains on the horizon.”
Moon’s analogies to nature are apt. Whenever I encounter a piece of music as complex and abstract as Schubert’s “Great”, my brain tends to assimilate the music visually, in broken lines like fractals, resembling natural forms like rocks, branches, waves, or flames. I wonder how Lang-Lessing will describe the music in his introduction; I am looking forward to hearing it.
This DISCOVER concert is the last family-friendly Symphony event on my calendar for the 2013-14 season, but the Symphony has already posted the 2014-15 schedule for Classics and Pops. Mark your calendars for the 75th Anniversary Concert with Joshua Bell on June 14, 2014 and the opening night concert on September 20, 2014 in the new Tobin Center, featuring Renée Fleming singing Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs. “S.A. Symphony to open in Tobin Center with Renée Fleming”, David Hendricks, San Antonio Express-News, February 21, 2014. And there will be a Strauss festival. In the meantime, we will savor Schubert’s “Great.”
To enter the giveaway of four tickets to DISCOVER Schubert “The Great” on Sunday, May 11, leave a comment, no later than May 7, about your favorite way to listen to classical music. I will randomly choose a winner and send notice on May 8. Good luck!
Disclosure: The San Antonio Symphony gave me four free tickets to give away, and another four tickets for my family and me to use.