Orchestra Concerts Essays

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Essay/Term paper: Concert paper 3

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February 20, 1997
William Strang
Music 6
Concert Paper #3

On Feb 20,1997, I attended a piano concert that was performed by Barbara Wieman. The performance was held at the American River College Music Department choir room. The choir room holds about 100 people and every seat was taken and students were seated on the floor. The audience was dressed casual as everyone was students trying to do their concert papers. Barbara Weiman was also dressed casual but nice. The piano concert started at 12:20pm and was finished at 1:05pm. The program started with a piece from L.V. Beethoven called Sonata in F minor, Op.57. This piece can be characterized by an intense, dramatic use of fluctuating dynamics. It was as if the crescendo was not allowed to climax, then is aborted by a sudden change to pianissimo. The so called Beethoven motif was used throughout the piece, very effectively I might add. Barbara Wieman was very animated performing this piece and seemed to be very emotional while playing. This piece was very distinct and there was an effective use of rests that was displayed. I would call this piece very serious. After Beethoven we were treated to F. Schuberts Impromptu in G flat Major, Op. 90, No.3. This piece was very pleasing to the ear so we could call this consonant. The music seemed to flow and had a great rhythm. This piece was romantic in nature and probably that is why it was written in the romantic era. C. Debussy "s Feux d"artifice (fireworks) was the next piece played. The harmony was very obscured in this piece of music. The theme trying to be presented in this piece was as if fireworks were going off. The notes were ever changing and there was a very good uses of all the keys of the piano. This piece was not very pleasing at all and I did not care for it at all. From looking around the room it seemed other people would agree. After that unpleasant piece was played we were lead into La Cathedrale engloutie (The Sunken Cathedral). It was very slow starting but eventually started building the tempo and then seemed to drop off and become very slow in tempo. This piece seemed as if it were trying to tell a story. Alot of people seemed as if the were going to sleep. The last piece was changed from S. Prokofieff to Chopin"s Ocean Atrium piece. This piece had rhapsodic melodies giving the illusion that the piece might have been improvised. It was very moving and flowing using melody and harmony. Very pleasing and also from the romantic era. What a great way to end the piano concert. Everyone enjoyed the music so much that she provided us with an encore. She played another piece by Chopin. I would definitely recommend to anyone wanting to learn more about music to take your class. This has been a great experience for me.
February 17, 1997
William Strang
Music 6
Concert Paper #2

On Feb 15,1997, I attended a concert put on by the Sacramento Chamber Orchestra. The performance was held at the Dietrich Threatre, Sierra College in Rocklin. Dietrich Threatre seats about 500 people, and on that evening there was about 300 people present. The concert dress was casual for the audience but the Sacramento Chamber Orchestra performers were dressed in tuxedo"s for the men and black outfits for the women. The performers consisted of 8 women and 10 men. The orchestra was conducted by Zvonimir Hacko. Programs were provided and the concert followed the printed program very well. The starting time was 8:00pm and finished at 10:00pm.
The style of music played varied because of all the different musical era"s represented. Mozart from the classical era, Dvorak from the romantic era, Bartok from the early 20th century, and Copland from our present. The Sacramento Chamber Orchestra consisted of Violin 1, Violin 2, Viola, Violoncello, Double Bass, Piano, and Harp. When combined, the performance was outstanding and uplifting.
The concert opened with Mozart"s marvelous miniature, "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" which stands for ("A Little Serenade"). Mozart"s Serenade, which is like a tiny symphony, was conducted and played with exemplary care. The tempo of the music was upbeat, it"s dynamics were managed thoughtfully, and the musical form presented consisted of alterations that were superb. The "romance" of the second movement was hushed and tender, the finale was as light as air.
After the finale of Mozart"s we were treated to the Dvorak Serenade in E opus 22. The Dvorak was in five movements lasting a little over half an hour. The waltzes of the second were a bit of folk flavor, and were quite beautiful. The third movement, Scherzo, was dance like and soulfully romantic. The fourth movement,Larghetto, was even more soulful in mood, which deepened as its melody passed from the violas to the cellos. The finale brought us back with a touching recollection of the very beginning of the work. The Bartok Divertimento was in three movements. It can be best described as continuous, fascinating, exciting and full of action. The melodies were strong, as were the rhythmic pulses and dissonance"s. So much was happening that all you could do was go for the ride and enjoy it. The last major piece was by Copland, called Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra with Harp and Piano. The Copland piece was in two movements bridged by an unusually long cadenza(Soloist), that lasted over three minutes. The soloist seemed to dwell on the lyric sweetness of the first movement and then signaled the merriment of the second movement. The first part struck me as very slow but the second part was very rhythmic,very perky, and was passed around appreciatively by all, while the piano and clarinet were trading ideas with each other. All in all, this piece signaled excitement and was made very enjoyable with the clarinet and piano. As this was my first Chamber Concert I was not sure what to expect. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I"m looking forward to my next concert.


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(Matt Chase for The Washington Post)

Since as early as World War II, American orchestras traditionally have performed the national anthem at the first concert of the season. “The Star-Spangled Banner” has become routine during holiday and outdoor performances, as well. But in the blaze of patriotism that followed the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, some orchestras began playing the anthem at every concert, and 14 years later, a few are still clinging to that ritual.

It’s an odd, and frankly inappropriate, custom. In a performance that celebrates global artistry, this is no place for perfunctory patriotism. The pomp and circumstance of a national anthem mercilessly clashes with the complex creativity of classical composers.

The practice recently stirred controversy in Fort Worth. There, at each performance of the local orchestra, an opening drumroll cues a spotlight on an American flag on the Bass Performance Hall stage. The audience rises, and row upon row of patrons — hands earnestly over hearts — belts out Francis Scott Key’s vision of the 1814 battle of Fort McHenry. Rousing vocalism suggests an audience filled with serious church choir members.

A Dallas musician’s critical Facebook post, calling the ritual “an outrage,” launched a new debate about the practice. Dallas Symphony cellist Theodore Harvey told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the anthem is “very jarring for the people who are there just for the music.” Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra President Amy Adkins responded with a Facebook post of her own, saying the anthem “is a simple but poignant way that we can use music to honor those who serve or have served in the U.S. military, as well as those who have lost their lives.”

Those are worthy sentiments, but an orchestra concert is a bizarre place to press the point. That’s not why we’re there.

The national anthem makes sense for concerts celebrating national holidays. I also understood playing it as a prelude to orchestra concerts, even opera performances, in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11. We felt damaged and vulnerable, and the familiar words and tune helped reassure us that we would survive that unprecedented attack. “The rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air” must have put a lump in every throat. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra continued playing it for several weeks thereafter, then quietly dropped it. But the Fort Worth orchestra has been doing it ever since, and it has been a part of Oklahoma City Philharmonic concerts since 1990, after a group of patrons signed a petition for it.

We go to a symphony concert to be transported to another world, away from our daily concerns and frustrations — and away from narrow nationalism. Almost by definition, symphonic programs are international. They celebrate the musical genius of great composers from around the world, with many of the biggest names hailing from Austria, Germany and Russia. In August, for instance, the anthem made for an awkward opening to the Fort Worth Symphony’s three-concert “Classical Masters Festival,” featuring music by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. And in March, it preceded Richard Strauss’s tone poem “Don Juan,” about the legendary lothario. American patriotism was a strange bedfellow to German portrayal of sexual exploitation.

The sounds and tone of the American anthem have nothing in common with the great symphonic works of 18th- and 19th-century Europe. Sticking “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the beginning of a carefully designed program of global artistry feels arbitrary and out of place, the proverbial bull in a china shop.

[Why a musician’s life expectancy depends on what kind of music she plays]

If orchestras are so eager to display their nationalistic pride, they would do better to add more American composers to their repertoires. U.S. orchestras are far too neglectful of our own concert-music heritage. Audiences get the occasional Copland, Gershwin, Barber and Bernstein, along with token works by contemporary composers. But the performance of important American legacy composers — including George Whitefield Chadwick, Charles Tomlinson Griffes and Walter Piston — is rare.

This is just the latest collision between American nationalism and classical music. During World War I, a number of American orchestras banned performances of German music. No Beethoven! Boston Symphony Orchestra conductor Karl Muck and the Cincinnati Symphony’s Ernst Kunwald were jailed for being from Germany and Austria, respectively. In Muck’s case, his problems started when a rumor spread that he refused to include “The Star-Spangled Banner” in the orchestra’s fall 1917 program.

Orchestra concerts are not the only place we should reconsider how we’re using the national anthem. I’ll grant that there’s an argument for opening baseball and football games with the tune. Our rah-rah national pastimes are about pride and triumphing over adversity, in line with the anthem’s lyrics and tone. According to Marc Ferris, who wrote a history of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” it was first sung at a baseball game in 1918. Back when audiences sang along with the band or an arena organ, the anthem fostered a sense of community.

But at sports events these days, “The Star-Spangled Banner” is usually subjected to stylings — often grotesque distortions — by various pop singers. Roseanne Barr’s screechy rendition at a 1990 baseball game sparked a nationwide uproar. After Aaron Lewis scrambled the words at last year’s World Series, he felt obliged to issue a public apology. Even opera diva Renee Fleming couldn’t resist oh-so-artfully pushing and pulling the tune like taffy at the 2014 Super Bowl.

But even when played respectfully — as the highly accomplished Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra does — the national anthem doesn’t belong in a typical symphonic program. “The Star-Spangled Banner” is as out of place there as eating hot dogs and guzzling Cokes during a performance of a Brahms symphony. It feels forced, even desperate, as if we’re trying a little too hard to prove our patriotic bona fides. Can we please just get on with the music?

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