Inside the Houston Symphony

Taking you behind the music–one concert at a time!

Posts Tagged ‘music history

Are you Classical or are you Pops?

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Music Director Hans Graf

So, as I understand it, this blog is meant to put the reader inside the Houston Symphony team, so you can see what we are all about.  It is with that in mind that I write the following …

I have been with the Houston Symphony for about 6 months as the Director of Marketing, Subscriptions.  Before that I worked at another arts organization that shall remain nameless.  Now, while I am a person who does not listen to classical music in my down time, although I will admit that I own and listen to the Mozart Makes You Smarter CD, it has been a part of my life since I was a young girl.

My family is very musical.  My grandfather was the tenor in a barbershop quartet, and both of my parents played instruments in high school and college.  My dad started out as a piano major in college, but switched to an engineering degree once he realized the implications of being a “starving artist.”  And while all of my siblings have ended up in the arts in some way, I went the musical path and went to college to be a music major.  I studied classical music, and became familiar with much of the beautiful repertoire the Houston Symphony plays.  While I was not an instrumentalist, but a vocalist, I spent many semesters in Music History classes, instrumental recitals given by friends and countless hours of sitting in darkened theaters listening to the instrumental classical repertoire.  I will admit, to the disdain of many classical music enthusiasts, that it was not my first choice in musical genre.  Yes, my goal from the very beginning was Broadway.  I wanted to be in Musical Theatre so bad, I could taste it!

So why in the world was I accepted to the very prestigious music school that did not have a single musical theatre class instead of the school that was renowned for that very thing?  Turns out I don’t have the Broadway voice that I coveted, but was very well suited to singing classical music.  So that is what I was taught.  It was an extremely rewarding experience in my life, and I still sing classical repertoire.  But, like my father, I believed my talent was not to the point that I could be anything other than a “starving artist.”  And that is what led me to go into the business side of the Performing Arts.

So, to finally get to the point, I ended up with a strange inner struggle between my love and devotion to Broadway and my admiration and respect for the caliber of music in the classical world.  The good news is I am able to really identify with both the classical and the pops genres that are the Houston Symphony products.  I was not surprised to learn that most people usually drift toward either the classical or the pops side, and I am some sort of hybrid because I like both.  I feel a kinship with those subscribers who have both the classical and the pops series, few though they may be.

Principal Pops Conductor Mike Krajewski

In the marketing world, we try to identify what motivates both the classical and pops buyers.  I find it extremely interesting that the patrons for those two genres are motivated differently.  It is an amazing challenge to try to touch the right points with each potential patron depending on the genre of music they are more likely to have an interest in.  Even though I have only been with the Symphony for a short time, I have the feeling that this challenge is going to be a part of my professional career here for a very long time.  It is one thing I enjoy about the work so much.  My colleagues and I have a hunger to learn about our patrons and what is relevant to them.  What drives them to like one type of music over another, and ultimately, how can I reach them with a message they will act on?  How do I know that one particular person will respond to a concert like Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony versus a concert like Broadway Rocks!?  There are several ways we have identified so far, but I am determined that I will always be asking this question, and always seeking more answers.

In the end, the Houston Symphony has both products, plus several others like the Family and Summer Concert Series’, so we can reach out to the entire city, and hopefully have something everyone will enjoy.  Music is so important, and to be a part of an organization that reaches such a variety of musical tastes is extremely rewarding to me.  Now, on to my challenge of reaching the masses with our message of “We have something for YOU” in a way that is relevant and meaningful to them, and will hopefully lead to more people coming to the Symphony.  We have built it!  Will you come?


Written by Allison Gilbert

April 5, 2010 at 9:33 am

Classical Music’s Greatest Love Stories

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Robert and Clara Schumann (circa 1847)

In honor of Valentine’s Day this weekend, we wanted to delve into something a little different – the love stories behind some of classical music’s greatest names. Whether it was Beethoven and his “Immortal Beloved,” or Robert and Clara Schumann, it goes without saying that some of the most beautiful pieces ever written came to pass because of a heart in love.

Ludwig van Beethoven may very well be the most well-known when it comes to unrequited love. In 1812 while he recovered from illness in the Bohemian spa town of Teplitz, Beethoven wrote three letters to his “Immortal Beloved”—an unnamed woman who’s identity is still secret to this day. Filled with passion, it is from these letters that the famous signature “ever thine, ever mine, ever ours” came. The letters were found only after his death, and are worth a read if you haven’t seen them already. A few years earlier, in 1800, Beethoven met and fell in love with Giulietta Guicciardi. He went on to dedicate his famous Moonlight Sonata to her, and although they planned to marry, were not able to because Giulietta’s father didn’t approve. She went on to marry, but Beethoven never did.

One of the most influential composers of the 19th century, Giuseppe Verdi, met Margherita Barezzi when her father, Antonio, chose him to be her music teacher. They fell deeply in love, married in 1836, and had two children, both of whom died as infants. Margherita passed soon thereafter, while Verdi was composing his second opera, Un giorno di regno (King for a Day). Already completely devastated at the loss of his family, when the opera failed, Verdi vowed to give up classical composition forever. Thankfully for us, he didn’t, because it wasn’t until 1850 that he composed one of his most masterpieces, Rigoletto.

Perhaps one of the loveliest stories is that of Robert and Clara Schumann. They first fell in love in 1836, but didn’t marry until 1840 because of her father’s adamant refusal. Schumann is said to have courted Clara through letters and secret rendezvous, even taking the chance to see her for only a few minutes after some of her piano concerts. The year they finally tied the knot, Robert wrote 168 songs, which is attributed to his marital bliss. When Robert died in 1856, Clara dedicated the rest of her days to performing his music and keeping his memory alive. There’s even a 1983 German Film called Frühlingssinfonie that portrayed their romance, as well as Twin Spirits—a special look into their story through words and music at the Royal Opera House.

The love felt through the pieces these men composed is a love that often comes from an untold story. We don’t know all of the meanings behind their work, but hope you’ll feel the music a bit more deeply the next time you hear it at the Houston Symphony.

Note: This blog posting was redirected from our SymphonE-News, a bi-weekly electronic newsletter from the Houston Symphony. To sign up for SymphonE-News, click here!

Written by Melissa S.

February 11, 2010 at 1:51 pm