Back in the olden, golden days (that would be the early 1700's), those crazy kids would get together in little cafes, listen to music, and drink an exotic new beverage called "coffee". This new caffienated brew became so popular so quickly that it upset both parents and church authorities. In celebration of coffee and bucking authority, all this season, the Philharmonic players will be guzzling coffee at an alarming rate and playing every piece in double-time. They will also be offering you the same opportunity. Yes, now you too
can experience a coffee buzz and listen to a live concert, all within the comfort of your local Performing Arts Center. You see, the Fort Wayne Philharmonic doesn't just do those huge Grand Series performances at the Embassy once a month. One of the many things they do is the Spectrum Series, a more intimate concert experience at the aforementioned PAC. Instead of the usual 80+ performers, the Spectrum concerts include only forty or so musicians and they play smaller-scale classical works. Plus you can get coffee. For about ninety minutes before the concert and at intermission, you can indulge your addiction with specialty coffee, latte, cappuccino, and the whole family of bean-based beverages. However, the best part is the picture of Maestro Tchivzhel in the brochure holding a big mug of steaming java. This belongs on a T-shirt!.

But on to what really matters: the music! There will be Concertino (No. 4) for Trombone and Orchestra by David, featuring David Cook, professor of trombone at our very own IPFW, as soloist. I was unable to find any information on the composer and was unwilling to spend money on a CD, so I stalked Mr. Cook for about a week (sorry about the "spit valve incident", Mr. Cook). I found out that he's a fine, upstanding citizen with active salivary glands but didn't find out much about the piece in question. Also on the bill is a piece by Edward Elgar. Elgar was single-handedly responsible for revitalizing English classical music, though I don't think he served any time for this offense. He is probably best known for writing the infernal "Pomp and Circumstances", the official graduation music of champions. He didn't serve any time for this one either..

Anyone who is fond of movies from the '80s will enjoy the next piece. Of course (of course?), I mean Mendelssohn's 4th Symphony, subtitled "Italian". Of his five symphonies, this one has long been the most popular. The mood of the piece reflects the many pleasures in Italy, the landscapes, the art, the people, and, of course, the cheese (behold the power of cheese!). This piece is very inspiring, full of life-affirming melodies that can lift even the lowest of spirits. The first movement of this piece was used in the movie "Breaking Away" to bring the spirit of the Italian bicycle racing team to the American heartland of Indiana! I remember very little of that film except that the protagonist shaves his legs (I have a lot of these disturbing childhood memories). The final movement is used as the film's racing theme. The best performance of this last movement is neither too fast (which sounds chaotic and rushed) or too slow (toddler on a trike). It will be interesting to see how an orchestra flying on coffee will manage to contain itself...
More on Mendelssohn

Before the end of the evening, the Spectrum players will find time to play Haydn's Trumpet Concerto in E-Flat Major. The soloist is Daniel Ross who has been with the Philharmonic for sixteen years and still manages to look bright and cheerful in his publicity photos. Franz Josef Haydn was born in 1732 during the peak of the coffee craze, the same year Bach wrote a piece called Coffee Cantata (I'm serious). This was before the time of Beethoven so Josef didn't know that he was supposed to be gruff and full of angst. Rumor has it that he was one of the most pleasant and cheerful guys you would ever want to meet, generous to a fault and never taking himself so seriously that he could not make a joke at his own expense. This same lighthearted attitude shows clearly in his music (translation: no brooding!).

Early in his life, Franz had a promising career with the Vienna Boys Choir. As he grew older and his voice started to change, his vocal teacher recommended a "very simply operation" that would allow him to keep his saintly voice. Luckily for his as-yet unconceived children, Haydn's father found out about the operation and put a stop to any unnecessary scissor action. Years later, Haydn managed to snag the mother of all cush jobs. He became a servant. Actually, he was hired as a court musician/composer by Prince Esterházy. So technically, he was a servant, but he was treated like royalty. He had his own maid and footman, a great salary, and spent his days writing and performing music for Prince Ester. The Prince was no slouch of a musician himself so sometimes he would join in the merry-making. Haydn managed to waste thirty years this way, and in the process revolutionized the world of music. He single-handedly (that's twice I've used that phrase in this column and I for one, think it is time for the madness to stop!) standardized the structures of the symphony and the string quartet and he made huge advances in structure, harmony, and melody. In many ways, his music is much more radical than that of Mozart. Mozart was obsessed with symmetrical perfection but Haydn wrote melodic phrases lasting 3, 5, 7 or even (NO! SAY IT AIN'T SO!) 9 bars in length! But in the colossal shadows of Mozart and Beethoven, his great accomplishments are often overlooked. Haydn would probably shrug off such negligence and go write another symphony (he wrote over 100). Regardless, he is considered one of the most humane and comforting of composers. In his own words, he composes so that "the weary and worn, or the man burdened with affairs, may enjoy a few moments of solace and refreshment." So come to either of this weekends performances, buy yourself a big cuppa joe, and enjoy a few moments of "solace and refreshment[s].".

Copyright 1998 Jason Hoffman

Previous Article ~ Home ~ Next Article