Classical Explorations

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While classical music has been a rather large part of my cultural education, it hasn’t played an important role in my adult life. I do like to listen to it playing in the background while I study, read a book, or do one of my other very wild favorite occupations. But after all this time, I find it hard to actually form an opinion on it. Even though I can identify some difference between the music of various composers, I have difficulties exploring the possibilities of classical music by myself. As I can hardly be the only one who feels this way, I’d like to draw your attention to a lovely series of concerts, aiming to introduce classical music to a new public. It’s called Pieces of Tomorrow, and it takes place about once a month in TivoliVredenburg in Utrecht.

A few weeks ago, I visited Pieces of Tomorrow for the very first time. This edition was all about Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra (inspired by Nietzsche’s novel of the same name). I’m fairly sure you’ve heard the beginning of the piece, although you might not know it by name. You can listen to its opening in the following video (the music starts at 00:20):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfe8tCcHnKY

As you might have noticed, the image in the video comes from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, for which Strauss’ piece was indeed used. It also played an important role in the concerts of Elvis: the iconic opening was often to be heard when he appeared on stage. These are the kind of details you’ll learn when visiting Pieces of Tomorrow (in this case it was illustrated by video images of an Elvis-hologram). Furthermore, the piece will be properly introduced both by a host and the conductor of the orchestra. I was pleasantly surprised by the manner in which this happened. The introduction was light-hearted, but also substantial. The enthusiasm of the conductor made the history of the composer come to life, enabling me to immerse myself in the world of Richard Strauss. Another thing which I found to be very helpful was the method of listening to certain motives in the piece beforehand. The orchestra was asked to play some repetitive parts, which were shortly introduced by the conductor. We were informed about the atmosphere and the emotions that could be recognized in these parts. After this, we sat back and listened to the Radio Filharmonisch Orkest playing Also Sprach Zarathustra. I enjoyed recognizing the bits that were introduced beforehand, and I felt I was a bit more able to understand the music than I normally would have. This was also made possible by the screen on stage, on which the titles of the separate parts of the piece appeared as they were played. Because of this, the large amount of musical notes became easier to unravel.

I think there’s not much left for me to say. If you’re interested in receiving a little help in your efforts to understand classical music, I can highly recommend Pieces of Tomorrow. The evenings are very informal (you can take your drink into the concert hall and the musicians are wearing everyday clothes), but also substantial. The turnout is high, and the average age of the public is low. In March there will be two concerts: Poème de l’Extase by Skrjabin (March 2nd) and Matthäus Passion by Bach (March 30th).[1] Lessen your sense of guilt and explore the world of classical music at last!

[1] More information can be found on http://piecesoftomorrow.nl/

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