Thu May 9, 2013
How-To Festival Preview: Appreciating Classical Music
An appreciation of classical music should start with a very basic human response of “I like this” or “I don’t like this.” You may hate Beethoven, but love Bach. Neither statement is empirical.
But finding what you like from 500 years of music can be daunting. On Saturday at 1 p.m., as part of the How-To Festival at the Louisville Free Public Library, I’ll give a few pointers on appreciating classical music (in 45 minutes!). Here’s a teaser for Saturday’s session, “How to appreciate classical music."
What is a concerto? It can feature one soloist (like a piano, violin, cello, etc.) or several soloists (flute and violin, or piano, violin and cello). There is a conversation between the soloist(s) and the orchestra. Concertos are for the soloist(s) to show off their skills.
If you like concertos, you’ll like: Dvorak’s Cello Concerto, Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, Rachmaninoff’s piano concertos, and Mozart and Beethoven’s piano concertos. Brahms wrote an amazing concerto for violin and cello. Jennifer Higdon’s Percussion Concerto is fun to watch and hear.
How do I listen to a symphony? A symphony can be the name for a group of musicians (a.k.a. an orchestra) or a musical composition. Most composers wrote/write symphonies. There isn’t much of a standard these days, though in the classical and romantic periods there were a few more accepted norms on how to write a symphony.
When you listen to a symphony, be aware of melodies that recur. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 is a good example. It starts like this, then after some time the famous melody returns like this, and then again towards the end.
Symphonies don’t mean anything (like blue, apples, love, etc). They’re abstract. You can ascribe any meaning, or not at all. It’s just music. When you listen to a symphony don’t worry about remembering all the music, or “understanding” what it means - just enjoy the ride.
Daniel Gilliam is program director for WUOL, one of WFPL's sister stations. He'll give a presentation on appreciating classical music during How-To Festival on Saturday at the main branch of the Louisville Free Public Library, 301 York St.
Arts and Humanities