Deep from the murky depths of Indiana autumn comes... a free children's concert! Yessir! At 3:00 on November 5 you and your family may attend, at no immediate charge to you or your neighbor, a free concert at the Embassy theatre. These are great for kids in elementary school and older as the program is usually not longer than an hour and a brief explanation is given before each piece. For that matter, these casual concerts are also great for those wanting to get their classical music feet wet and a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Those pieces that are played are ones you will usually recognize and they usually throw in some familiar movie themes,,, but I'm still waiting for them to play an orchestral version of the Spongebob Squarepants song.
On November 13 those ne'erdowells will be playing yet another Mahler symphony as part of the Masterworks performance. As is typical with Mahler symphonies, this one is a massive, bloated piece (about seventy minutes without commercials) with an enormous brass choir guaranteeing that there won't be a dry spit valve in the house. But I had better watch my step in what I say about Mahler... his followers are almost as rabid as the Mozartians: no sense in bringing a plague of wiener dogs upon me and my family. This symphony in particular is full of the spirit of German songs (they call them leiders) and appeals to those who like, well, German songs of the very late 1800s. Music from this symphony was used in the film "Death In Venice", which makes it one of Mahler's most recognizable pieces, though nine out of ten Yoohoo-swilling llamas believe that that particular movement is not a "typical" Mahler movement. By almost all counts, this symphony is a huge, difficult structure that takes many, many, many listens... for fans of Britney Spears it ain't. But those who love Mahler and who spend the requisite hours on this symphony claim that when they listen to this symphony time stands still. Indeed, the emotional scope and breath of this work is magnificent, but personally, I'll just stick with acid rock. If you show up real early, say 6:45, you can listen to a mini-discourse on this piece by an avid Mahlerite and learn some of the things in this piece that make Mahler fans drool like Pavlovian water fowl.
But there is more shiny goo in the bottom of this Spam can! On Friday November 17 there is the next Unplugged concert. For the hip and social-savvy I don't need to elucidate on how great these shows actually are. But since such suave readers are permanently hung over, I'll just remind them that these concerts are informal (even the cellists wear their most casual dickies) and not only have shorter pieces that are introduced by local television personalities (Woody Woodpecker excluded) but also include a snazzy video. Yep! Get ready for the buzzword: these performances are multimedia! After the show you can hang out with Slim Whitman for some tasty vittles and beer, all included in the price of your ticket, a paltry sum of thirteen U.S. dollars.
Speaking of hung over, if you are standing upright after the Unplugged concert, saunter on over to the Performing Arts Center on the 18th (unless you slept in a coat closet, in which case just exit said closet) for a chamber concert. The Fort Wayne Philharmonic will be playing a symphony by Haydn, but unlike those of Mahler, his usually run only fifteen to twenty minutes, depending on how fast the orchestra plays. There will also the first symphony by Sergei Prokofiev, the thinking man's Danny Elfman. This short symphony also runs in the fifteen minute range and was written to be the kind of symphony Haydn or Mozart might have written if they had lived in the 20th century. But it's more than just a stylistic rip-off as Prokofiev can't help but include his own sarcasm and humor into the mix. While every minute of this piece is a delight for the ear, it's the third movement that makes me soil myself with delight. Here Prokofiev introduces a lazy, awkward melody that changes key almost every measure. The result sounds like a drunken llama dancing a waltz, and I should know. But that's another story for another time.
Copyright 2000 Jason Hoffman