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Sergey Prokofiev composed his Fifth Symphony during the fateful summer of 1944. Though the Second World War was still raging, the tide had turned in the Allies’ favor. The Soviets were pushing back the Nazis from their borders, and the US and British Allies had landed on the beaches of Normandy in June.

One of the dachas where composers stayed in Ivanovo.

One of the dachas where composers stayed in Ivanovo.

Prokofiev in any case was sheltered from the war’s hardships at a special “House of Rest and Creativity” for composers at a former aristocratic estate near the town of Ivanovo, about a day’s journey northeast of Moscow. Accompanied by his second wife, Mira, the retreat set up by the Union of Soviet Composers proved an idyllic setting for composition. Prokofiev’s appreciation for the small, simple comforts found there is revealing of the hardships they otherwise endured: “our room is big and quiet and they feed us wonderfully. Best of all is the forest with its fresh young leaves…”

Though the piano score was finished in as little as a month, many of the musical ideas that ended up in the symphony can be traced back several years in his sketchbooks, some as far back as 1933. It had been fourteen years since he had completed his Fourth Symphony, years far less tranquil than the summer of 1944.

Return to Russia

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Prokofiev fled the chaos in his native land, immigrating to the West. He toured the United States and ultimately settled in Paris, but became increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress he felt he was making with his career as a composer. His unique blend of dissonant harmonies and melodic lyricism was too traditional for modernists and too modern for traditionalists. Prokofiev felt out of place.

Prokofiev and his family, photographed in 1936.

Prokofiev and his family, photographed in 1936.

In 1925, the USSR began a charm campaign to lure Prokofiev and other expatriate artists back to Russia. Prokofiev made several visits to the USSR; his works were performed, new pieces were commissioned, and he was promised the freedom to tour internationally should he return. Although he had some idea of the restrictions placed on artists, he still genuinely believed he would be more appreciated and have greater opportunities in Russia than in the West. More and more of Prokofiev’s income came from Russian sources, but still he hesitated, until Soviet authorities threatened to cut off their support if failed to return. He acquiesced.

Prokofiev’s final international tour was in 1938. While in the United States, he went to see Disney’s newly released Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Walt Disney himself tried to lure Prokofiev back to the West with a lucrative Hollywood contract, but Prokofiev’s two young sons were already in Moscow and there was no way he could accept. He could not have known that he would be returning to the purges of Stalin’s terror.

Terror and Hope

According to one estimate, as many as 500,000 public figures were executed in the USSR between 1936 and 1938. Prokofiev’s friend and collaborator, the theater director Vsevolod Meyerhold, disappeared. Meyerhold’s wife was found dead, brutally stabbed in the eyes. Deeply disturbed, Prokofiev was shortly thereafter forced to write a cantata in celebration of Stalin’s 60th birthday.

Needless to say, the career he had hoped for did not materialize. Many pieces he wrote were rejected, and while he had some successes, he constantly had to try to read the minds of less than enlightened Soviet bureaucrats. Under the stress, his first marriage collapsed, and he began an affair with the woman who would become his second wife, Mira Mendelson.

Prokofiev at the podium (likely during a rehearsal).

Prokofiev at the podium (likely during a rehearsal).

Fortunately for Prokofiev, the USSR’s entry into World War II seems to have temporarily slaked the endless search for enemies within. As a valuable cultural propaganda tool, Prokofiev’s star was on the rise: in 1943 he was even awarded the Stalin Prize (Second Class) for his Piano Sonata No. 7. Apparently, the judges did not notice the subversive messages encoded into it that later commentators have discerned.

The world premiere of Prokofiev’s new symphony was thus a highly anticipated event. Prokofiev himself conducted it in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory on January 13, 1945. The pianist Sviatoslav Richter was in attendance, and left a vivid recollection:

“When Prokofiev mounted the podium and silence set in, artillery salvos suddenly thundered. His baton was already raised. He waited, and until the cannon fire ceased, he didn’t begin. There was something very significant, very symbolic in this. It was as if all of us—including Prokofiev—had reached some kind of shared turning point.”

The symphony was a brilliant international success, and marked the highpoint of Prokofiev’s standing within Russia during his lifetime. Officially, Prokofiev wrote that he “conceived of it as glorifying the grandeur of the human spirit, praising the free and happy man—his strength, his generosity, and the purity of his soul,” although he later told a correspondent for Time magazine that it was “about the spirit of man, his soul or something like that.” Throughout the allied world, this seemingly optimistic symphony was interpreted as a symbol of victory in the war, but the truth is more complex.

The Music

The symphony begins simply, with a lyrical melody shared by the flute and bassoon:

Prokofiev was perhaps the greatest melodist of his time, and this symphony is full of his uniquely beautiful melodies. An upward surging figure in the basses and cellos then leads to a soft, contrasting second theme in the flute and oboe. One last theme then appears in the violins and brass, followed by a skittering figure in the strings.

The opening melody then returns in the cellos and double basses as these melodies are fragmented, recombined, and made to interact with each other. After a lyrical yet intense development, the opening melody returns in the trumpets. The other melodies return as well, leading to a grand but foreboding ending based on the opening melody.

The second movement is a fast, maniacal scherzo, full of Prokofiev’s characteristically sardonic sense of humor. The music zigs and zags unpredictably, as if the orchestra is engaged in an elaborate game of cat and mouse. A contrasting middle section appears with a more lyrical melody in the woodwinds. The return to the scherzo is masterful: in a frighteningly gradual crescendo, the music slowly gets faster and louder.

The third movement is a slow and deeply felt meditation. It begins with a long, twisting melody passed among the woodwinds before soaring in the strings. The sudden surges to the highest notes of the violins are particularly expressive. A new, urgent melody appears in the lower strings accompanied by a Morse code-like pulsing in the piano, leading to a more ominous melody in the trumpet and bassoon characterized by drumroll-like trills which recall the style of a funeral march. The melodies conflict with each other, becoming increasingly tumultuous. After a violent outburst, a high, delicate version of the opening lyrical melody returns.

The last movement begins with a dialogue between the sections of the orchestra that recalls the opening of the symphony. The solo clarinet then launches into a quick, vivacious theme. This melody alternates with contrasting sections, and many ideas from the previous movements reappear. The symphony climaxes in a wild and brilliant finale, in which strangely mechanistic figures repeatedly cut off the main theme. Prokofiev seems to end by asking, “But what comes after the victory?”

Don’t miss the Houston Symphony’s performances of Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5 on October 26, 28 & 29, 2017. Get tickets and more info at www.houstonsymphony.org.

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Dear Houston Symphony Family Member,

The past few months have brought catastrophic losses and challenges to our community—but they have also demonstrated to the world just how united, selfless and #Strong Houston really is.

While Jones Hall suffered less than some nearby venues, the damage and subsequent repairs led to the displacement of our orchestra and staff for seven weeks and the cancellation of nearly 20 concerts and events. However, while we were unable to perform in Jones Hall, the music played on. In the aftermath of the storm, over 25 musicians quickly assembled to play at shelters throughout Houston, giving 20 performances in nine days. Thanks to our friends at Rice University and the University of Houston, we were able to relocate 10 performances, six of which were full-orchestra concerts presented at no charge, as it was important to provide the shared experience of beautiful music in what our music director, Andrés Orozco-Estrada characterized as “group therapy” for all of our friends and neighbors in the Houston community.

We expect foregone revenue for the 2017-18 season to total approximately $2.5 to 3 million. We are taking action to mitigate the impact, and are confident in our community’s desire to support our recovery. We will soon be launching a campaign for Harvey relief with a goal of raising $2 million by December 31, complete with a generous challenge grant to inspire contributions. If you have ever considered a gift to the Houston Symphony, now is the time. To help, please click here.

This weekend, music will return to the Theater District when the Houston Symphony makes its 2017-18 Jones Hall debut with three performances of Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony. We can’t wait to share this special homecoming with our entire community. We look forward to bringing Houston a full season of magnificent Classical, POPS, Family and Community concerts, as we believe the arts play a key role in healing our community following our shared crisis. In addition, this March, Andrés and the orchestra will embark upon an eight-city major European tour, showcasing on the world stage, perhaps at a time more important than ever, the quality of Houston’s cultural arts and our city’s remarkable resilience following Hurricane Harvey.

We are thankful to have had the chance to share music with our community throughout this challenging time. Most of all, we are thankful for you, our audience. Orchestras belong to their community, and we are so incredibly proud to be Houston’s symphony, now and always.

Sincerely,

Janet F. Clark
President
Houston Symphony Society Board

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When Mozart set out to write three symphonies in the summer of 1788, he could not have known that they would be his last essays in the genre. He was eager to bring in much needed additional income, as the Vienna premiere of his opera Don Giovanni in the spring had not been an unequivocal success. The general reaction was that the music was too learned and complex for all but a handful of connoisseurs, and Emperor Joseph II himself commented that “Mozard’s [sic] music is certainly too difficult to be sung.” With a wife and young son to support (his infant daughter had died in June), Mozart hoped to improve his financial footing with a series of concerts at one of Vienna’s casinos. Elegant social clubs rather than gambling houses, casinos in Mozart’s Vienna were places where patrons could dine, chat, read newspapers, play games, dance and enjoy music.

Mozart, as depicted in an unfinished painting by his brother-in-law, Joseph Lange.

Mozart, as depicted in an unfinished painting by his brother-in-law, Joseph Lange.

Whether the casino concerts ever came to pass is an open question; indeed there is no hard evidence to suggest that Mozart’s final three symphonies were performed during his lifetime, although it is entirely possible that they were. Mozart may also have planned to bring them on a visit to London that unfortunately never came to pass; however, the nickname of his final symphony, “Jupiter,” did come from the London-based impresario Johann Peter Salomon, who bestowed the moniker on the symphony after the composer’s untimely death.

Mozart saw himself primarily as a composer of operas, so it is perhaps not surprising that he never wrote another symphony in the three years he had left to live, which instead witnessed the production of Cosi fan tutte, Die Zauberflöte and La Climenza di Tito. Mozart lived at a time when the idea of a canon of immortal musical masterpieces was only beginning to take shape, and while symphonies were regarded as the pinnacle of instrumental composition, they functioned rather differently on concert programs than they do today. Instead of appearing toward the end of a program, a symphony normally would begin a concert. The logic was that the most complex music should be presented first, while the audience was still fresh. Additionally, in an era when dimming candle-lit halls was impractical, the customary loud, grand opening with full orchestra served as the signal to the audience that they needed to be quiet because the concert was beginning.

One of the entrances to the Trattnerhof, as photographed in 1910. Mozart lived in this building for a time, and it also housed a casino. This is one of the places Mozart might have had in mind for the premiere of his

One of the entrances to the Trattnerhof, as photographed in 1910. Mozart lived in this building for a time, and it also housed a casino. This is one of the places Mozart might have had in mind for the premiere of his “Jupiter” Symphony.

The symphony served to set the mood and transport listeners to the realm of the sublime and the beautiful, preparing them for the lighter and more varied assemblage of chamber music, arias, solo improvisations and concerti to follow. At the end of the concert, the final movement of the symphony could be repeated, and it is possible that on some occasions the last movement could have been separated from the rest of the symphony and played only at the very end of the concert. A symphony thus served as a sort of framing device, bringing an audience into the world of music and then delivering them back to the outside world at the end.

The “Jupiter” Symphony certainly succeeded as few ever had before. Indeed, many critics and music lovers regard this work as the pinnacle of Mozart’s instrumental music. Its combination of simplicity and complexity, melodic invention and emotional depth remain unsurpassed. Though Mozart never knew of its nickname, the image of the Roman god Jupiter seems to fit with the feelings of grandeur, joy and wonder that the work inspires.

The Music

The symphony begins with a striking contrast: three loud “drum roll” motifs lead to a soft, rising phrase in the violins:

The contrast recalls a familiar subject from ancien regime painting—Mars and Venus, the Roman gods of war and love, respectively. The martial character of the music initially prevails, full of pomp and bluster. This military character may have been a nod to Austria’s impending war with the Ottoman Empire, a war that would unfortunately prove deleterious to Mozart’s career, as its economic disruptions would reduce the disposable income his patrons had to spend on music.

A grand fanfare-like passage leads to a long held note. As we will see, pauses and silences will play just as important a role in this movement as melodies and harmonies. After the pause the “drum roll” theme returns, but this time quietly, with a more delicate countermelody above it in the woodwinds. This new variation grows and gathers strength, leading to another pause. Ever the opera composer, Mozart has the orchestra take a quick breath before beginning a new melody “in the singing style.” Its rising profile recalls the gentle violin phrase from the opening, and its quintessentially Mozartian chromaticism adds a sensual playfulness. While the melody begins in the violins, it is soon echoed in the cellos and basses, imitating an operatic duet between a soprano and bass.

“Mars and Venus United by Love” by Paolo Veronese.

As this theme unfurls, it becomes ever softer and higher, fading into nothing. After a grand pause, the orchestra enters fortissimo on a shocking C minor chord, disrupting the playful mood. The music soon recovers, leading to one more pause. We then here a rustic, folk-song like tune that is actually a quotation from Mozart’s concert aria  “Un bacio di mano” (“A kiss on the hand”), K. 541. The words to the melody are “You are a bit innocent, my dear Pompeo,/Go study the ways of the world.”

Sure enough, this naïve theme will gain much experience in the development that follows. First, however, the music returns to the beginning and we hear an exact repetition of everything we have heard so far. The repetition of the opening section of a movement (referred to as the exposition by later theorists) allowed listeners to better familiarize themselves with the main melodies and ideas of a piece of music that they likely would never have heard before.

After the repeat, the innocent closing theme of the exposition slips into a distant key, and then becomes the subject of tumultuous contrapuntal developments. The music becomes quieter, and the opening “drum roll” theme seems to reappear, but it soon becomes clear that this a false return as the music continues to fragment and evolve. When the “drum roll” theme does reappear in full, the other main melodies of the movement follow, each subtly changed by the conflict of the development. The movement comes to a jubilant close, and the tension seems to be resolved for the moment.

A couple dances a minuet in a detail from a fresco by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo in Venice's Ca' Rezzonico.

A couple dances a minuet in a detail from a fresco by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo in Venice’s Ca’ Rezzonico.

In the slower second movement, Mozart is at his most lyrical. The opening melody is halting at first, as if hesitant to express itself, but soon unfurls into one of Mozart’s loveliest creations. With little warning, the music suddenly turns to a minor key with a restless, syncopated figure in the violins. This profoundly expressive music leads to a more hymn-like, consoling theme, the end of which features an operatic duet between the violins and flute. After this opening material repeats, we plunge into an intensified version of the restless, syncopated music. After reaching an exquisite climax, the opening theme returns with extensive ornamentation. Instead of the darker, syncopated music, a new transition leads to the hymn-like theme, resolving the tension. The movement ends with a final appearance of the opening theme. Although this ending was added by Mozart as an afterthought, it brings the movement to a satisfying close.

The third movement is a minuet, the most popular ballroom dance of Mozart’s era. To facilitate dancing, ballroom minuets were necessarily square and predictable, so composers like Mozart enjoyed making their symphonic minuets as irregular and unpredictable as possible by playing games with the music’s pulse. Listen to the low bass instruments to hear how Mozart shifts the stress of the beat from phrase to phrase. The minuet also has a contrasting middle section that plays with the repetitious nature of the minuet; the two chords that begin this new melody are also serve as the melody’s own ending. As the melody repeats, it ends and begins itself simultaneously. This “loop” is interrupted by a surprising outburst in A minor, which then slyly fades back into the loop. After the contrasting middle section, the opening section repeats.

The first three movements feature purposely clear and simple textures; the main melodic line is always reinforced by the other parts so that it speaks as directly as possible, and any contrapuntal passages are kept fairly simple. This restraint prepares the audience for the finale’s dazzling complexity.

In the finale, Mozart reveals his unsurpassed mastery of counterpoint, the art of weaving different melodies together simultaneously. The melody that begins the finale is based on the following four notes:

example 1

These notes were actually the beginning of an exercise from Johann Joseph Fux’s Gradus ad Parnassum (Steps to Parnassus), a counterpoint textbook that is still sometimes used in music schools today. Nearly every composer in Mozart’s time would have recognized it from their first studies of counterpoint. Students would have been given this melody and then asked to write a series of increasingly complex melodies that fit together with it. It is as if Mozart were saying, “You had your crack at this exercise. Now see what I can do with it.”

Mozart transforms this staid exercise into a jaunty tune before launching into an overwhelming cascade of melodies, countermelodies, cannons, fugues, inversions, stretti and all manner of contrapuntal complexities. Different gestures allude to the previous movements: most notably, the opening “drum roll” figure returns. Mozart wears his extraordinary genius lightly; ultimately this music is an expression of joy and imagination that defies the ‘serious’ reputation of counterpoint as a dour art form.

He saves his most brilliant idea for last. As the symphony draws to its close, the music comes to a halt with one final pause. We then hear the four notes return as a pure counterpoint exercise before they are combined with four of the movement’s melodies simultaneously in a quintuple fugue:

Here is how the five subjects of the quintuple fugue fit together.

Here is how the five subjects of the quintuple fugue fit together.

This passage, the culmination of the entire symphony, reveals that these seemingly diverse ideas were in fact designed to fit together from the beginning, like the cosmos itself. As the symphony races to its joyous conclusion, it is easy to understand why the nineteenth century commentator Aleksandr Ulïbïchev wrote, “One must hear this music to believe it possible.”

Don’t miss the Houston Symphony’s performances of Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony on October 20, 21 & 22, 2017. Get tickets and more info at www.houstonsymphony.org.

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1816 was a busy year for Franz Schubert. He composed approximately 200 compositions, including a mass, various other sacred choral works, his Fourth and Fifth Symphonies, an overture, two concertante works for violin and orchestra, at least two string quartets, three violin sonatas, various other chamber works, two piano sonatas, numerous dances and dozens of songs. He had turned 19 in January.

Franz Schubert, as depicted by Wilhelm August Rieder in 1825.

Franz Schubert, as depicted by Wilhelm August Rieder in 1825.

That Schubert found time for so much composition, however, is even more extraordinary. After dropping out of school to focus on music at age 16, his stern and patriarchal father, a school master, was not entirely supportive. His father insisted that Schubert earn his keep by teaching kindergarten-aged students at the school he ran, a task to which Schubert was ill-suited according to a number of his friends and acquaintances. Schubert’s older brother Ignaz, who also worked at the school, later painted a vivid picture of their shared vicissitudes:

“…the likes of us scholastic beasts of burden are abandoned to all the roughness of wild youngsters and exposed to a host of abuses, not to mention that we are subjected to the further humiliation of an ungrateful public and a lot of dunderheaded bigwigs.”

Schubert was not only busy with teaching, but also with socializing. Although he had dropped out of school, he maintained several of the friendships he had made there. Schubert had been able to attend the prestigious Imperial and Royal City Seminary thanks to a music scholarship he received when he was accepted as a boy soprano in the Imperial and Royal Court Chapel. Many of his friends there came from more prosperous, upper-middle class backgrounds, and would provide him with steadfast material and emotional support throughout his brief life. They treasured Schubert’s extraordinary talents, and were among the only people to hear many of Schubert’s compositions during his lifetime. Most of Schubert’s works were unveiled to them at convivial gatherings they called “Schubertiads.”

Mozart on the Brain

A Schubertiad, as sketched by Schubert's contemporary Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller in 1827. Waldmüller likely sketched the scene of Schubert playing the piano and singing with two friends as it happened.

A Schubertiad, as sketched by Schubert’s contemporary Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller in 1827. Waldmüller likely sketched the scene of Schubert playing the piano and singing with two friends as it happened.

Additionally, Schubert played viola in an amateur orchestra that was small enough to fit in the apartment of one Otto Hatwig. It was at one of this ensemble’s meetings that Schubert’s Fifth Symphony was first performed. Musically, many have noted the influence of Mozart on Schubert’s youthful symphony. Indeed, the 19-year-old Schubert confided the following to his diary a few months before completing his Fifth Symphony on October 3, 1816:

“As from afar the magic notes of Mozart’s music still gently haunt me…Thus does our soul retain these fair impressions, which no time, no circumstances can efface, and they lighten our existence. They show us in the darkness of this life a bright, clear, lovely distance, for which we hope with confidence. O Mozart, immortal Mozart, how many, oh how endlessly many such comforting perceptions of a brighter and better life hast thou brought to our souls!”

Though Mozart had been dead some 25 years, his music was more popular than ever, and for a young composer like Schubert, Mozart’s symphonies were models to emulate. Much more so than those by Beethoven, who had already composed eight of the nine revolutionary symphonies that would change the course of music history forever.

Apart from a small number of devoted imitators, most composers ignored Beethoven’s innovations, including the young Schubert. It would be several years more before Schubert would grapple with Beethoven’s legacy and find his own response to Beethoven’s musical revolution. For now, however, he was happy to follow in Mozart’s footsteps. His Fifth Symphony thus offers us a glimpse of an alternate reality, showing how music might have evolved had there been no Beethoven.

The Music

In the first movement, one clear nod to Mozart’s style is the “breath” the orchestra takes before beginning the second main melody of the movement, which itself is very Mozartian. Though the symphony displays many such touches, Schubert’s own developing personal voice also shines through. The symphony’s opening, for instance, was quite original. Instead of starting with a slow introduction or plunging right in, Schubert begins with four introductory bars that Schubert scholar Brian Newbold charmingly called a musical “curtain.” It is easy to imagine a curtain rising in a small, eighteenth-century theater to reveal the world of the stage as the symphony begins:

We then hear one of Schubert’s loveliest melodies in the violins. During his life, Schubert was primarily known as a composer of songs for voice and piano, and the vocal, singing style of his songs is often found in his instrumental compositions as well. Melody takes on an increasingly important structural role in Schubert’s music as he loosens and expands traditional classical patterns of composing. Pieces of the melody are echoed in the lower instruments as accompaniment; this technique can frequently be heard throughout the symphony.

The slow second movement is perhaps the most original. After the first graceful, elegant melody unfolds in E-flat major, the music slips into the distant and highly unusual key of C-flat major. This key change gives the duet between violins and woodwinds that follows a dreamy quality. The music then shifts to C-flat minor (written enharmonically as B minor to avoid an excessive number of flats in the key signature), but throughout there are still hints of major. This ever-shifting play of light and shadow will become one of the hallmarks of Schubert’s mature style.

The third movement minuet is surprisingly in a minor key, with a contrasting middle section in major. Although its character clearly recalls the minuet from Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor, the melody was actually recycled by Schubert from a quartet he had written for an opera, Des Teufels Lustschloss (The Devil’s Pleasure Palace). The opera tells the story of the poor knight Oswald, whose love for the maiden Luitgarde is tested by seemingly supernatural apparitions in an old castle. After he bravely proves the constancy of his love, the ghosts and demons are revealed to be theatrical illusions organized by Luitgarde’s skeptical uncle, Count von Schwarzburg. The opera, which called for an elaborate set, went unperformed until the twentieth century.

The finale begins with a characteristically cheerful tune that soon gives way to all manner of harmonic surprises and developments. Its understated ending caps off a remarkable youthful work that shows Schubert’s mastery of symphonic writing and hints at the directions he would later take.

Don’t miss the Houston Symphony’s performances of Schubert’s Symphony No. 5 on October 20, 21 & 22. Get tickets and more info at www.houstonsymphony.org.

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This season, the Houston Symphony welcomes a new Composer-in-Residence, Jimmy López. Born in Peru, trained in Finland and currently living in San Francisco, López’ star has been on the rise in recent years, most notably with the high-profile world premiere of his opera Bel Canto at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Get to know the man behind the music below.

Jimmy López is awesome!

“I always say that composition is a profession that chooses you, in a way.” Photo credit: Franciel Braga

Houston Symphony: When did you first begin composing? What prompted your first compositions?

Jimmy López: I started composing when I was about 12 years old. I remember I was listening to Bach at that time. The music teacher at my school started playing some inventions by Bach, and all these different voices playfully interacting with each other lured me in. I knew around that age that I wanted to do something with music, but I wasn’t sure exactly what it was. During those years of discovery, I started practicing piano a lot. I would sometimes take a page of a sonata and try to get into the composer’s mind, thinking, “Well, what would I do next if I were the composer?” I found myself constantly modifying the pieces I was practicing, and that’s when I realized that perhaps performance was not my calling. Composing was what I really wanted to do. I always say that composition is a profession that chooses you, in a way.

HS: When did you decide to pursue composing as a career?

JL: So that happened, I would say, when I was about 16 and finishing high school. By then I had already told my parents that I wanted to be a composer. I really felt inside my heart that that was what I wanted to do. The Lima Philharmonic Orchestra was established around that time, and I started attending all the rehearsals, and I was assistant librarian for many years with them. So that experience helped me realize that that was the profession I wanted to pursue.

HS: How would you describe your musical style? How did you find your personal voice as a composer?

quote here

“[Finding your voice] is a little bit like cleaning up your room.” Photo credit: Franciel Braga

JL: A composer is in constant evolution. Consider Stravinsky, for example, who varied his musical style even late into his life.  Nevertheless, I do feel that I now have an identifiable, individual voice. I would say that through my 20s I was trying to absorb different styles and incorporate what I found interesting. It’s a little bit like cleaning up your room. When you are young, you have a lot of ideas and a lot of things you want to try, but then as you mature, you start realizing that there are some things that you don’t really need, or you start becoming more economical. That’s how you start defining your style.

I would say that my style is cosmopolitan, but definitely rooted in Peru. The incorporation of Peruvian elements into my music actually started somewhat late. It didn’t happen until I moved to Finland, because when I was living in Peru, I was really fixed on European composers. Then when I went to Europe, I found that people were expecting something different from me, because I was coming from, for them, a distant country with a very rich folk music tradition. That prompted me to look back into my own musical heritage and to try to incorporate that. At first, it required a conscious effort, but now it comes to me more naturally and effortlessly. My years of training in Europe also had an important influence, at least from the technical point of view, and the fact that I now live in California has really contributed to my search for the creative freedom that I so appreciate on the West Coast of the US.

HS: The vast majority of your works have descriptive titles. What sources of inspiration do you draw on when composing?

JL: Each piece really has its own source, its own unique world. As a composer, it is good to have a guiding idea that gives you unity, whatever you’re writing about. At the same time, I also feel that a title is a great tool for communicating with the audience. For example, my cello concerto has four different episodes, which are the different stages of the flight of a condor. We have the cello as the condor and the orchestra as nature, in a way, echoing the sound.

But at some point the music has to make sense on its own as well. I think my musical thought is more abstract than the titles would suggest. When I actually dive into the musical material, I am more concerned with the actual construction of the phrases and the musical language itself. It’s hard to explain, but I would say it’s good to find a balance.

HS: What has been your proudest accomplishment as a composer so far? Why?

JL: That’s an easy answer right now, because I wrote an opera called Bel Canto. The sheer size of the project, the amount of pages in the score, the amount of people, the amount of meetings and workshops and all that—it was enormous. It was basically a journey of five years of my life. It was an enormous collective effort with Lyric Opera of Chicago that opened the doors for me to work with people such as Renee Fleming and Sir Andrew Davis. We had a full house, and it was aired on PBS on Great Performances, so I couldn’t have hoped for a better outcome. And I’m still really proud of it!

“The sheer size of the project, the amount of pages in the score, the amount of people, the amount of meetings and workshops and all that—it was enormous.”

HS: In addition to sharing your extraordinary music with us, as the Houston Symphony’s Composer-in-Residence you also plan to work with Houston area students. Could you tell us a little about these plans?

JL: Yes! I am not only coming to Houston to show my works; I also want to listen to what Houston has to offer, in this case in the form of music from young composers. We’re still in the early stages, but I have already met with many people at Rice University and the University of Houston, and they were very enthusiastic about having some of their composition students work on this project. It’s going to end with a chamber music concert, but the concert is just the last part of the whole process. What we want to do is mentor the composers, have a workshop and maybe even work with other kinds of artists. The concert will be underlined by a single theme that is very much rooted in what Houston is today. For me it’s really important to give younger composers the opportunity to cooperate with musicians of the highest level in Houston.

HS: Do you have any ideas for new projects with the Houston Symphony?

JL: I actually do! I wrote a symphony last year for the National Orchestra of Spain, and somehow I got bit by the symphony bug. So I want to write a second one for the Houston Symphony, but this time rooted in something that is very important to Houston—the space program. I think this wonderful gift Houston has given to the world has inspired all of us; I know I have been fascinated by space since I was a child.

Hear music by Jimmy López at the Mexican Institute of Greater Houston’s FREE Lunada concert on Saturday, October 14. Learn more here.

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Students and teachers across Houston faced many challenges during the first weeks of the school year as they dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Late starts, damaged facilities, and the stress of uncertainty permeated campuses throughout the region. Despite the late start to the school year, Crespo Elementary students are eager to embrace a new year of the Houston Symphony in their classrooms. Excitement rang out among third, fourth and fifth graders when Houston Symphony Community-Embedded Musicians invited them to be part of the “Crespo Symphony” this year!

Houston Symphony Community-Embedded Musician Anthony Parce brings music back to Crespo Elementary after Hurricane Harvey.

Houston Symphony Community-Embedded Musician Anthony Parce brings music back to Crespo Elementary after Hurricane Harvey.

In the third year of the Houston Symphony residency at Crespo Elementary presented by BBVA Compass, Houston Symphony Community-Embedded Musicians are bringing a fresh element to the classroom. They began the first week by introducing Crespo Symphony Skills to students, including communication, giving feedback, working in an ensemble, practicing, and making a statement. These skills will not only make them successful members of the “Crespo Symphony,” but will also help them succeed in all areas of life. Students will develop these skills as they learn to analyze and appreciate orchestral music and even play some of their own melodies.

“These skills are freshly relevant for students facing a dramatic changes from Harvey and a shortened school year,” says Community-Embedded Musician Anthony Parce, “I am very excited about the trajectory we are taking. In our third year of this residency, we are hitting our stride in discovering what impressive talents these students have.”

The Houston Symphony is excited to be back at Crespo Elementary, where we will provide regular classroom lessons, in-school concerts and family engagement concerts, as well as invite students and families to Houston Symphony concerts at Jones Hall. Special thanks to presenting sponsor BBVA Compass and Houston Independent School District for making this collaboration possible.

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Houston has weathered many storms, but Hurricane Harvey was unprecedented. Catastrophic flooding shut down our city for over a week, and many areas are still struggling to return to normal. Houston’s Theater District was not exempt; our home, Jones Hall, was fortunately spared the worst of the flooding, although it still suffered significant damage. While the stage and auditorium were fortunately untouched, underground areas including the courtyard level entrance and restrooms, administrative offices and the rehearsal room required repairs.

Musicians perform for evacuees and first responders at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Musicians perform for evacuees and first responders at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

It wasn’t just Jones Hall that sustained damage, however; 14 Houston Symphony musicians and staff were personally affected by the flooding. This didn’t stop them from jumping in to help our city cope. In the aftermath of the storm, over 25 musicians of the orchestra quickly assembled to play at shelters throughout Houston, giving 20 performances over the course of nine days. A number of these musicians were affected by the storm themselves. In the words of Principal Cellist Brinton Smith, “In many cities, such extraordinary selflessness might make them unusual. In our city, it makes them typical.”

Smith also described the experience of playing at the George R. Brown Convention Center: “As we were finishing a performance, one of the volunteers asked us to come play for an evacuee who was blind and alone, and had been unable to calm down for days since being brought to the shelter. Seeing her reaction to hearing a Mozart string quartet reminded me that music connects our hearts and minds in a way words never can.”

Eric Larson (double bass) and his wife, Melissa McCrimmon, help clean up at the home of Matthew Strauss (percussion).

Eric Larson (double bass) and his wife, Melissa McCrimmon, help clean up at the home of Matthew Strauss (percussion).

Musicians and staff were eager to help not only the community, but also each other. Joel James, the Houston Symphony’s Senior Human Resources Manager, quickly connected musicians and staff in need with others who wanted to help. “We made it through the storm just fine, so we really wanted to get out and help others,” said Melanie O’Neill, the Houston Symphony’s Publications Designer. Melanie joined other staff members at the home of Principal Trombonist Allen Barnhill, whose home was flooded. “We ripped out the dry wall and trim boards. Despite the situation, it was nice to see everyone in good spirits while working together,” Melanie said. The Symphony also started an Employee Relief Fund, which thanks to the generosity of our community will provide much needed support to those affected.

Once the waters began to subside, our musicians were eager to bring orchestral music back to Houston as soon as possible. Thanks to our friends at Rice University and the University of Houston, we were able to present four different programs at the Shepherd School of Music and the Cullen Performance Hall last month. Most of all, we have been so thankful for you, our audience. Your support has helped us through this difficult time, and without you, there would be no music. As we complete repairs to Jones Hall and to our own homes, you can be a part of our recovery by making donations to our annual fund and our Employee Relief Fund. As Brinton Smith said, “There is nothing that makes us prouder than to be Houstonians—to be your musicians, playing for you in an orchestra built by, and for, the extraordinary, generous and compassionate people of Houston. Thank you.”

To donate, visit www.houstonsymphony.org/donate.

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Following the success of the recently opened St. Petersburg Conservatory, the first institution of its kind in Russia, a second conservatory opened in Moscow in 1866. Among the new professors was one of the first graduates of the St. Petersburg school: a young composer named Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

“Pancake Week,” by Kustodiyev Boris Mikhailovich (1916). Pancake week was a week of festivities celebrated before Lent, similar to Mardi Gras or Carnival in the West.

A large proportion of the Moscow Conservatory’s first students were young women, many of whom had no ambition to become professional musicians. Tchaikovsky wrote to his stepmother, “I confess I was terrified at the sight of such an enormous number of crinolines, chignons, etc. But I still hope that I shall manage to captivate these fays…” Captivate them he did, although not in the way he had hoped. One of his female students later remembered him as “young, with nice-looking, almost beautiful features, a deep, expressive gaze in his beautiful dark eyes, fluffy, carelessly combed hair, and a marvelous blond beard.” He had plenty of admirers, although the painfully shy, homosexual composer was frustrated by the lack of seriousness some of them displayed toward their musical studies. Imagining him as Apollo surrounded by the Graces, Tchaikovsky’s father wryly responded to his letter: “I should be very curious to see you sitting there, blushing in confusion.”

Tchaikovsky, photographed in autumn 1865, just months before he moved to Moscow.

Tchaikovsky, photographed in autumn 1865, just months before he moved to Moscow.

By March of 1866, the young professor embarked on a major project: his First Symphony, a milestone for any composer. He had composed about half-a-dozen shorter orchestral works thus far, only a couple of which had been performed, but felt ready to attempt something more ambitious. “No other work cost him such effort and suffering…Despite painstaking and arduous work, its composition was fraught with difficulty,” recalled his younger brother Modest.

Tchaikovsky became increasingly frustrated with his teaching responsibilities, which took time away from his composing. Thus, during his summer vacation, he joined his family at a small dacha outside St. Petersburg determined to make serious progress on his symphony. He worked late into the night, consuming numerous cigarettes, until he suffered a breakdown from exhaustion. He never composed after sundown again.

“The Azure of February,” by Grabar (Khrabrov) Igor Emmanuilovich
(1904 ).

Before returning to Moscow, he showed his still unfinished score to some of his former professors at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, hoping they would agree to have it performed once it was finished. Unfortunately, they did not like his new work and offered many criticisms, most of which Tchaikovsky felt were unjustified. He would spend over a year more slaving over the symphony that refused to cooperate, and would make further revisions to it in 1874, some eight years after beginning it.

Nevertheless, Tchaikovsky had a special fondness for the work, regarding it as “a sin of my sweet youth.” Its charming melodies and vivid orchestration give little hint of the trouble it cost the composer, and the unmistakable Tchaikovsky sound is already in every measure.

Tchaikovsky gave the symphony the descriptive title “Winter Daydreams,” and gave atmospheric titles to the first two movements as well. The first movement, Daydreams of a Winter Journey, begins with an enchanting melody in the flute and bassoon:

The melody is developed and varied with new orchestral colors, leading to a fortissimo. A second, contrasting melody in the clarinet follows, leading to brilliant, brassy fanfares. The ensuing development becomes increasingly turbulent, until the music suddenly comes to a halt. The main melodies then reappear, and the movement ends quietly with a final reminiscence of the opening theme.

The slow second movement, Land of Gloom, Land of Mist, is one of his most inspired. After an introduction from muted strings, a dreamy melody appears in the oboe. A contrasting theme follows in the violas and flutes. The two themes alternate as Tchaikovsky creates exquisite, snowy orchestral effects around them. The main theme returns first in the cellos, then in the horns for a climactic variation. The opening string introduction then returns as the movement fades away.

The third movement is a scherzo, a fast, dance-like movement that showcases Tchaikovsky’s ingenuity as an orchestrator. The original, Italian meaning of the word scherzo is “joke,” and with a tempo marking of Allegro scherzando giocoso, or “fast and jokingly playful,” Tchaikovsky seems to have taken it literally, creating an unpredictable play of sonorities. The mischievous outer sections surround a more lyrical center, the theme of which briefly reappears just before the movement ends with a final joke.

The last movement is based on a variant of the Russian folk song “I will plant, young one,” which Tchaikovsky could have heard sung in towns throughout Russia. Here is a translation* of one version of the song:

I will plant, young one,
A few flowers,
The flowers will start blooming,
And tearing at my heart.

I gazed at the flowers,
With my heart fainting,
With my little heart fainting,
Waiting for my friend.

How is my joy coming along,
He’s not coming soon.
I see, I see, that my joy
Doesn’t want to love me.

Love, love, my joy,
Whomever you wish!
I said farewell to you,
Now you say farewell to me!

The movement’s slow introduction begins with the bassoons playing a fragment of the folk song, which gradually emerges in a lugubrious version played by the violins. The music then becomes faster and faster, leading to an exultant new theme for full orchestra. Tchaikovsky shows off his contrapuntal skill, weaving multiple melodies together in a kaleidoscopic texture. The folk song then returns in a faster, dancing version for bassoons and violas. After a contrapuntal development, the exultant theme for full orchestra reappears, but soon after the music breaks off. The slow introduction returns, but this time it builds up to a grand, regal statement of the folk song for full orchestra. Tchaikovsky then concludes with exhilarating orchestral fireworks, proving that even in his First Symphony, he was a master of the grand finale.

Don’t miss Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 1 at Rice University’s Stude Concert Hall September 28, 30 & October 1. Get tickets and more info here.

*Many thanks to Daniil Kabotyanski for providing this translation.

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Dmitri Shostakovich’s First Symphony may be the greatest graduation project of all time. Composed at the age of 18, Shostakovich’s First Symphony was written to fulfill the graduation requirements of the Leningrad Conservatory (earning him the equivalent of a college music degree), and would take the international music world by storm the following year. But even more impressive were the enormous obstacles the young composer had to face in the years leading up to this momentous debut.

Shostakovich with a cat, photographed 28th June, 1925, while he was in the midst of putting the finishing touches on his First Symphony.

Shostakovich with a cat, photographed 28th June, 1925.

Shostakovich had been only 10 years old when the February Revolution ended over 400 years of Romanov rule. As a native of St. Petersburg, he witnessed firsthand the transformation of his country from a Tsarist autocracy to a Communist dictatorship between February and October 1917. These earth-shaking events would have powerful ramifications on his work as a composer, but at the time he was just a musically gifted boy eager to develop his talent—and to survive.

He entered the Petrograd Conservatory at age 13 (St. Petersburg became Petrograd in 1914 with the outbreak of WWI—the name “St. Petersburg” was perceived as too German), but was put into a class with much older students on account of his precocious musical abilities. He not only was a gifted pianist, but also possessed a Mozart-like musical mind (he would compose many of his pieces in his head before writing them down).

Life was difficult for the conservatory students, especially as Russia descended into an abyss of famine and civil war. Fuel rationing left the conservatory unheated during the cold Petrograd winters, and one food shortage left Shostakovich with a ration of only two spoons of sugar and half a pound of pork every fortnight, hardly enough for a single meal. In 1921, the director of the conservatory, the composer Alexander Glazunov, submitted a successful petition to the People’s Commissariat for Enlightenment for increased rations for this promising pupil, even though Shostakovich’s music was not to his taste. Shostakovich never forgot the older composer’s kindness.

“Lenin at a Rally of Workers,” by Isaak Brodsky (1929).

Then, in 1922, Shostakovich’s father, a bureaucrat in the department of Weights and Measures, perished from pneumonia. His mother had to work to support Shostakovich and his two sisters, and Shostakovich brought in extra money by capitalizing on his remarkable skill as an improviser, working as an accompanist at silent movie theaters (a task he would come to hate—he felt he was made into “a musical machine able to portray at the drop of a hat ‘happy meetings of two loving hearts’”—trite escapist fare that bore little resemblance to the realities of life in Soviet Russia).

Thus, by the time Shostakovich began work on his watershed First Symphony in the autumn of 1924, the composer had been through more than usual for a young man who had just turned 18. Despite the conservatism of his professors at the Petrograd Conservatory (his main teacher was Rimsky-Korsakov’s son-in-law, who seemed determined that music history would not progress beyond about 1905), Shostakovich had already absorbed many of the young century’s musical developments. Meeting with other young musicians who had imported scores from abroad, Shostakovich quickly assimilated the new musical language being developed by Stravinsky, Prokofiev and other composers. While his First Symphony does bear traces of these influences, Shostakovich wielded them into what we today recognize as his unmistakable personal voice. Shostakovich’s style would continue to develop and mature over the course of his long career, but even in this early work his characteristic sense of humor and intensity of expression are already apparent.

The symphony opens with a mischievous duet for trumpet and bassoon, the opposite of the grand, portentous opening that Shostakovich’s teachers might have expected:

The introduction that follows is full of humorous starts and stops, as melodic fragments furtively appear in one set of instruments then another, like a forbidden note passed around a classroom.

A solo clarinet then abruptly begins the first proper theme. While its square, four-bar phrases and simple, pulsing accompaniment seem conventional, its angular shape and strange “wrong-note” harmonies give it an ironic twist. Shostakovich later complained that “At the conservatory, they taught me ‘scheme,’ not ‘form.’…Not a word was uttered about the expressive character of the musical line.” Perhaps the young Shostakovich is having a joke at his teachers’ expense, giving them a theme that technically “follows the rules” but has an expressive character would leave them shaking their heads.

Charlie Chaplin in

Charlie Chaplin in “The Gold Rush,” which came out in 1925, the same year Shostakovich completed his First Symphony. Despite his distaste for accompanying films, Shostakovich always enjoyed Charlie Chaplin’s movies.

The theme is then developed, at times following textbook procedures and at others taking unexpected turns. These developments are suddenly abandoned, and right according to schedule, a second contrasting theme appears as dictated by academic models. Introduced by a soft, pizzicato string accompaniment, a solo flute plays this second theme, which has a gentle, waltzing lilt and perhaps more sincerity than the musical jokes we have heard thus far. Hints of Tchaikovskian ballet music are even detectable amid Shostakovich’s unconventional harmonies and metrical games. The theme fades away to a long, low note in the basses, and a solo violin announces the beginning of a more developmental section with material from the introduction.

After several boisterous passages, the first theme seems to reappear, but is abruptly cut short as it is in the wrong key (such false returns had been a classic gag since Haydn). Instead, we hear the themes return backwards: first the graceful waltz, then the cheeky first theme, and last the introduction.

The second movement is a madcap scherzo that intensifies Shostakovich’s ironic comedy. A number of commentators have noted its cartoonish character; with its prominent piano solos, this movement might easily have been inspired by Shostakovich’s work as a film accompanist. Its fleeting melodies fly by at lightning speed, until we reach a quieter, slower, and more ominous middle section. The fast opening music returns gradually, accelerating back to the original tempo with great suspense. The theme from the middle section then returns triple forte in the brass, transformed by the musical whirlwind. The darkly comic attempts of the piano to end the movement form one of Shostakovich’s most witty (and haunting) musical jokes.

Wagner's Tristan und Isolde ends with the deaths of the adulterous lovers.

Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde had become a symbol of doomed love.

In the slow third movement, it quickly becomes apparent that the fun and games are over. The movement begins with an extended solo for the oboe, which plays a long, heartfelt melody. The oboe is then answered by an expressive cello solo that strongly recalls the opening of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. Could Shostakovich be invoking the age-old trope of using a high solo instrument to represent a woman and a low one to represent a man? Such an interpretation, combined with the references to Wagner’s love story, would give an amorous coloring to this music.

Once the cello solo subsides, menacing, militaristic trumpet fanfares appear softly in the background as the violins take up the oboe melody. The mood darkens, and the solo oboe takes up a new melody whose dotted rhythms recall the style of a march (possibly a funeral march?). After some development, the opening oboe melody returns as a high violin solo. The cello melody does not return; instead, the march reappears in its place, played by a muted solo trumpet. The opening melody plays simultaneously in the low strings, revealing that it and the march are in fact two sides of the same coin (perhaps a reference to the idea of “Liebestod”—”‘love-death”—that dominates Tristan and Isolde). As the movement ends, we hear just a hint of a cello solo as the music fades away amid the soft, ghostly fanfare rhythms, now played by the strings.

Maintaining the dramatic tension, the third movement goes straight into the finale with a snare drum roll that begins imperceptibly, but grows in volume and intensity until the orchestra explodes. The finale then begins with an introduction that has the character of an operatic scene: woodwinds ‘sing’ arioso lines above tense, tremolo strings. The cellos play a yearning motif reminiscent of the previous movement’s Wagnerian theme. After a crescendo, the music catches fire with a fast, incendiary clarinet solo. After some frighteningly intense passages, the music slows for a more lyrical violin solo, but the fiery music soon returns. It builds to a sustained fortissimo climax for full orchestra, which suddenly breaks off. A doom-laden timpani solo based on the fanfare motif from the third movement follows, leading to the return of the lyrical solo violin melody, but this time played by the solo cello. The melodic line grows in intensity, transferred first to the trumpet, then the strings above a pulsing, Tchaikovskian accompaniment, which is cut off at its height by violent fanfares that bring the symphony to its tragic conclusion.

Leopold Stokowski in 1926.

Leopold Stokowski in 1926.

Shostakovich completed the short score of the symphony by May of 1925, just in time to present it to his professors. Despite the symphony’s unconventional elements, the faculty was so impressed that they recommended it for public performance by the Leningrad Philharmonic (Petrograd had become Leningrad the year before). Overjoyed by this exceptional honor, Shostakovich finished the orchestration in the following months. The symphony was given a performance at the conservatory that summer, but had to wait until the following May for the public premiere. This new work caused a sensation, and the image of the 19-year-old, bespectacled composer nervously taking his bows would become a famous in Shostakovich lore.

Somehow, this symphony that began with schoolboy pranks and ended with tragic love destroyed by violence spoke to the Leningrad audience, which had been through so much in the past decade. Within a year, it would be performed by the Berlin Philharmonic under Bruno Walter and the Philadelphia Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski (who would later become the Houston Symphony’s Music Director in the 1950s). Nearly overnight, the teenage Shostakovich had achieved international fame, a fame that would protect him throughout his many dangerous confrontations with the Soviet state in the years to come. The symphony remains one of his most popular works.

Don’t miss Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 1 at Rice University’s Stude Concert Hall September 28, 30 & October 1. Get tickets and more info here.

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Dear Houston Symphony Family Member,

 On behalf of everyone at the Houston Symphony, thank you and congratulations to our outstanding orchestra, Chorus, music director and vocal soloists who together performed a magnificent and inspiring season opening concert last night at Rice University’s Stude Concert Hall.  It was incredibly meaningful to have our talented Houston Symphony and Chorus back, sharing the joy of music and helping our community heal from recent events.  Our deep gratitude also goes out to Bob Yekovich and the Shepherd School of Music for opening their home to us, our amazing staff who has been working tirelessly and creatively behind the scenes to secure performance venues and concerts, and the entire Houston Symphony community for the patience, flexibility and support extended to all of us as we launch our 2017–18 Season.

I am also writing with an update on the condition of Jones Hall and a summary of changes to concerts through the end of September.  Houston First is working on adding a page to their website to update the public on the status of theater district buildings; we will provide that link when it becomes available.  We appreciate Houston First’s diligent efforts to help us return to Jones Hall as soon as possible. Work is underway to repair wheelchair-accessible restrooms, the courtyard level entrance hallway, the offices and the rehearsal room.  Houston Symphony performances at Jones Hall have been cancelled or relocated elsewhere through at least the end of September. Here is a summary of updated concert information for performances through October 1:

Mahler & Dvorák
Andrés Orozco-Estrada, conductor
Thursday, Sept. 14 (8 p.m.)
Friday, Sept. 15 (8 p.m.)
Sunday, Sept. 17 (2:30 p.m.)
Location: Stude Concert Hall at Rice University

  • The performance originally scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 16 will now take place on Friday, Sept. 15.
  • These concerts are being offered for free to the community; original ticket holders for the weekend have priority access.
  • Reserved tickets to these performances are fully committed; however, all are welcome to attend on a stand-by basis as unoccupied seats will be released a few moments before the start of the concert.

Beethoven and Piazzolla
Andrés Orozco-Estrada, conductor
Friday, Sept. 22 (8 p.m.)
Saturday, Sept. 23 (8 p.m.)
Location: Stude Concert Hall at Rice University

  • The concert program originally scheduled for Sept. 22, 23 and 24, Andrés Conducts Schumann, has been cancelled.
  • This new concert program is being offered for free to the community; original ticket holders for the weekend have priority access.
  • There will be no Sunday concert.
  • Reserved tickets to these performances are fully committed; however, all are welcome to attend on a stand-by basis as unoccupied seats will be released a few moments before the start of the concert.

Russian Masters
Vassily Sinaisky, conductor
Thursday, Sept. 28 (8 p.m.)
Saturday, Sept.30 (8 p.m.)
Sunday, Oct. 1 (7:30 p.m.)
Location: Stude Concert Hall at Rice University

  • The performance originally scheduled on Sunday, Oct. 1 at 2:30 pm will now take place at 7:30 pm.
  • All other concert details remain unchanged.

Garrison Keillor
Monday, Sept. 25 (7:30 p.m.)
Location: Cullen Performance Hall at the University of Houston
(The Houston Symphony does not perform on this program)

  • Patrons will be provided with additional details regarding parking and directions closer to the concert date. Since the performance location has changed, patrons will receive new tickets with revised seating assignments.

Thank you for your continued support of the Houston Symphony and our community at large.  You can make an invaluable contribution to our recovery and to that of our affected orchestra and staff members with a gift to the Houston Symphony Annual Fund or Employee Relief Fund here: www.houstonsymphony.org/donate

Thank you for all that you do in support of the Houston Symphony and #HouRecovers. Together, we are #HouStrong.

All the best,

Janet F. Clark

President

Houston Symphony Society Board

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