Support Your Local Symphony!
Saturday, May 14, 2011 at 11:26 PM
Joel's Classical Shop in Endowment Fund, Hans Graf, Houston Arts, Houston Symphony, Jones Hall, Mahler, Mark Wigglesworth, Million Ways to Give, Prokofiev

The Houston Symphony is winding down another successful season this month, but it turns out they've saved some of the best for last. My wife and I just returned from a heart-wrenching performance of Mahler's tenth symphony conducted by music director Hans Graf. Sadly it's not a piece that gets performed all that often, but it should be. If you've got an hour and a half free Sunday afternoon at 2:30 it's not too late to catch the last performance of it.

Their previous subscription concert featured an absolutely dynamite program: Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky and Stravinsky's Firebird with guest conductor Mark Wigglesworth. He was on fire all night, lending extra energy to exciting pieces that really benefitted from it. (I really hope the Symphony considers him as a successor to Graf as the next season is the maestro's last.) The orchestra, joined by the chorus in Alexander Nevsky, gave a perfect performance which I considered to be the highlight of the season; every musician was fully invested in the music.

I must make a confession: I wasn't expecting to be that impressed. A few years back while working for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, I attended a concert of Nevsky (the full film score version, which I happen to prefer to the composer-excerpted "Cantata" of highlights presented by the Houston Symphony). The conductor was then-music director Esa-Pekka Salonen and the venue was the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the orchestra joined by the famed L.A. Master Chorale. It was an incredible performance, done to a projection of Eisenstein's film to fully appreciate the art of writing music to accompany it. I never thought I'd hear a performance of the music that could touch that one, but I was wrong -- the Symphony under Wigglesworth blew me away!

Even though money is tight, my wife and I were so impressed that we were inspired to make a donation to the symphony then and there. If you value symphonic music in Houston, you should consider doing the same: If the Symphony reaches a pre-set goal by the end of this month to increase their annual fund, The Houston Endowment will give them an additional MILLION dollars, which will go a long way towards making a lot of important programs stronger, particularly their educational outreach to children. There are actually two goals they have to meet -- one is a straight dollar amount, but the other is actually to increase the number of individual donors, so even if you can only afford to send them five bucks, you'll really be helping them out! Here's some further info on the Symphony website.

I really hope they make their goal because the Symphony really deserves some love. The Houston Grand Opera and Houston Ballet are considered among the best in the country, but the Symphony doesn't really get the same kind of attention outside Texas. Personally I think a new hall would make a big difference if they can get the financial support. Jones Hall has a lot of beauty and it's an important cultural landmark, but I guess I'm just a little spoiled by all those years of attending concerts in L.A.'s Walt Disney Concert Hall, one of the best acoustic spaces in the world. When the L.A. Phil moved its home from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (comparable to Jones Hall acoustically) to the new hall upon its completion in 2003, it greatly increased their prominence and respect in the world classical scene. A wonderful orchestra deserves a wonderful concert space, and it is my great wish that Houston arts supporters will make that a priority in the coming decade.

Hopefully you can make it to a concert this month and witness firsthand the passion of our fine Houston Symphony, either the remaining Sunday matinee for Mahler 10 or the following three concerts next weekend which close out the season, featuring Dvorak's Cello Concerto and Rachmaninov's Symphony No. 2. Even if you can't do it in person, I hope you'll consider helping the Symphony reach their goal this month. I had the great honor of working with them during the 2005-2006 season, and can personally vouch that the gang there really loves and believes in what they do, from Hans Graf and the orchestra members to the wonderful staff behind the scenes and volunteers from the general public. They really deserve whatever extra support we can give them.

Your friend in music and fellow Symphomaniac,

Yavar

Article originally appeared on Joel's Classical Shop (http://www.joelsclassicalshop.com/).
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