How to learn about classical music: talk to orchestra musicians

Posted on: February 20, 2019

“So, you want to get to know a piece of classical music better. Let’s say you pick Beethoven’s fifth piano concerto,” writes Anne Midgette in Friday’s (2/15) Washington Post. “The text in the concert program … will provide a few details…. But ask a conductor about the concerto, and you’ll probably learn something quite different.… James Ross, music director of the Alexandria Symphony [says] the striking thing … is the [second-movement] key signature.… He assumes the persona of the orchestra: ‘We’re in B major, why move anywhere? Let’s just live on this exotic island and watch the waves.’ … Jauvon Gilliam, the NSO’s principal timpanist, [describes] the end of the second movement, when the whole orchestra suddenly shifts down a half-step, from the unusual B major to B-flat…. ‘There’s not even a chord to transition,’ he says. ‘It just sort of drops.’ … Gianandrea Noseda, music director of the NSO, [says] that ‘even in a very orthodox way of composing, Beethoven couldn’t be orthodox.’ Noseda points to the unusual opening, in which the orchestra strikes three basic chords … followed by three piano cadenzas…. [Pianist Pierre-Laurent] Aimard … sees the piece [as] ‘a shout for freedom.’ ”

Posted February 20, 2019

In photo: Gianandrea Noseda conducts the National Symphony Orchestra.