If you haven’t yet attended the philharmonic, I suggest you consider putting the experience on top of your list of things “not to be missed.” You need not be a musical scholar to savor the thrilling experience. While there is a vast array of musical styles, there are numerous composers that are easy to appreciate – Mozart, Bach, Mendelssohn, Brahms, to name just a few. Sitting in the midst of intensely creative energy will most likely engage the senses, fascinate the mind, and it may also take the breath away and bring the listener to a place of transcendental inspiration.
A couple of weekends ago, I went to Baltimore to visit my daughter and watched her perform as a violinist in the Peabody Concert Orchestra. The performance took place at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in town, as part of the “Cathedral Music Series” which featured works for organ and orchestra. The acoustics were extraordinary, the sounds reverberating to the core of my being. The pieces highlighted were from W. A. Mozart, Joseph Jonsen, and Ottorino Respighi. All three pieces were diverse, rich in tone and melody, and engaged the listener’s concentration effortlessly. The audience could not help but be moved by the frequently romantic and catchy tunes, intermittently contrasted by crescendos of intensely passionate movements.
I believe that the attending audience is greatly uplifted by a live orchestral performance because both the visual and auditory functions are engaged simultaneously. The listener’s receptivity to the music is significantly enhanced. It is fascinating to watch musicians entranced in what seems to be a state of meditative concentration, while watching the conductor’s precise directives. The subtle, but constant communication between musicians and conductor throughout the performance is baffling to the keen observer.
The individual expression of each musician forms the artistic character of the orchestra. It is inspiring to watch a performance come together, aiming to realize the full expression of the composer’s creation. It makes me hopeful when I witness people joined in a common effort to create beauty and harmony. In my view, the orchestral experience is a perfect expression of unity in action.
If you do not have the opportunity to attend an orchestra, there are effective alternatives to experiencing those magical and elevating moments. Choose an excellent performance of any well-known philharmonic orchestra from around the world, sit comfortably and play it loud enough for the music to settle into your being – you will not be disappointed.
Here are some suggestions:
W. A. Mozart, Symphonies No 35-41, Berlin Philharmonic
Mozart broke all the rules with his style and was not taken seriously at first. However, people could not resist attending his performances because they were moved by his freedom of expression and the youthfulness of his music. This selection of symphonies seems dramatic and at times very moving as they overtake you emotionally. Let this album bring you along for the ride!
W. A. Mozart, Symphonies Nos. 40-41 “Jupiter” Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra
To me, Mozart is among the easiest composer to love, because his music entertaining, witty, playful and filled with a range of melodic emotions. This album will not disappoint you – it will carry your mind in rhythm and dance. Starting with his famous Concerto No. 40 in G minor, he will fill your heart with delight!
J. Brahms, Symphonie No. 4, Vienna Philharmonic
Brahms is more serious and adheres more the traditions and rules of classical music. I enjoy the balance between the more tragic and imposing movements to the ballad-like that reveal a more child-like side to Brahms’ music. Brahms is a diversified composer and offers the world a glorious selection of music.
A. Dvorak, Cello Concert & Tschaikowsky’ Rokoko-variations, Berlin Philharmonic
Both Dvorak and Tchaikovsky bring into their composition the strong influence of either Czech and Russian folk music. I find the compositions often romantic and otherwise filled with drama – much to my appreciation. Also, these composers carry the audience to new landscapes – inner and outer ones.
L. Van Beethoven, Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, and Schubert, Symphony No. 8 in B Minor “Unfinished” Vienna Philharmonic
These are grand classical pieces that are worth listening to over and over again. Subtleties inevitably bring us back to a place of novelty, no matter how many times we hear them. Beethoven’s passion and Schubert romance were written for large ensembles which extract the grandeur of the compositions. Enjoy these masterpieces!
Bach Fugues, The Emerson String Quartet
Baroque music of Bach, Telemann and Vivaldi is enchanting for its lightness and gaiety. Bach was a very religious man who composed music for church choirs. Much of his music conveys his devotion to his faith. Bach never fails to uplift my mood wherever I may find myself listening. I will include here J. S. Bach Brandenburg Concertos and A. Vivaldi, Gloria in D major, R. 589 which are glorious indeed.
A. Dvorak, Serenades, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra: “Serenades” adheres to a stricter classical format as it was written early; but true to Dvorak’s style, the Bohemian dances and waltzes offer his signature recipe, traditional Czech influence and liveliness. This is one of my favorites because I am never bored listening. Instead, I am always engaged in his alternating rhythms and moods. The melody is rich and colorful every moment. The orchestral work is also splendid.
F. Mendelssohn, The Complete String Quartets, The Emerson String Quartet
To Mendelssohn lovers, this album is a usually a favorite. The collection presents the composer’s versatile creations, skillfully interpreted by the amazing Emerson String Quartet who brings out the vitality of Mendelssohn’s music.
I could not do justice in words to the brilliance of Mendelssohn’s creation – I am brought to tears every time I hear them. As for Max Bruch: a “must” experience. My daughter performed the Concerto 1 for violin and orchestra a few years ago and the intensity of this piece will put shivers down your spine. The movements are filled with contrasts and mood swings, all in a few moments. The concerto is so powerful and exuberant, it will stir your soul. The album then offers also a taste of Pablo De Sarasate’s delightful creation, as well as Fritz Kreisler energy injection. What a fantastic album filled with exciting treasures!
Karen Pasternak is the library assistant