My grandpa used to say, "I have a ball peen hammer in my spleen." This of course has nothing to do with the various pieces the Fort Wayne Philharmonic will be playing this month, except that I'd bet a block of tofu that at least one of the composers used a ball peen hammer at some time in his life. Gershwin, for instance, was known far and wide for his affinity of the hammer family, especially little ones covered in felt. On October 7 you can hear his Piano Concerto in F at the Embassy. Composed in 1925, this piece caused some controversy because it incorporated jazz into the classical idiom. Seventy-five years later, this piece is still a great one in which to get your classical feet wet with lots of great melodies and some dazzling shredding on the ol' keyboard. Also at this performance will be Copland's Appalachian Spring Suite, an invigorating piece full of Americana and goats that you've heard in such classic movies as "He Got Game."
If you can wait until the end of the month (the 28th, to be exact... 8:00 p.m. at the Embassy to be more exact), you can treat yourself to a night out with Beethoven and Dvorak. Well, they won't be there in person (that would be icky) but their music will be. Opening the night will be Beethoven's only violin concerto. This piece is considered by many lingerie store employees to be the cat's pajamas. Even so, my preference for the evening is the second piece, Dvorak's ninth symphony, nick-named "From the New World", but don't call it that in front of it's peers or it might break into tears. Dvorak (pronounced, oddly enough "On-yun-dip") had been teaching in America in the 1890s, which was pretty still considered pretty "new" to Europeans at the time, and decided to write a symphony that captured the flavor and odor of this broad, new land. To say he succeeded is as much an understatement as saying that Jerry Springer appeals to those with prurient interests. Speaking of prurient interests, music from this symphony was featured in the disturbing Ken "billyclub" Russell film "Crimes of Passion" where there's this scene with Kathleen Turner and Anthony Perkins who has this chrome-plated battery... but I digress from my digression. The music of Dvorak's Ninth Symphony perfectly captures the wide-open spaces of America's heartland. Listening to the beautiful horn melody in the first movement makes one feel they are standing on a grassy knoll (not that grassy knoll), overlooking a wide prairie filled with goats, at one with the land and at perfect peace with oneself. Or maybe I've said too much. I'll just say that it is a very powerful, emotive piece well worth your time and leave it at that.
But wait! There's more of this great music being performed in Fort Wayne this month, but you'll have to check out the calendar at classicalgas.tripod.com if you want to know about them. Either that or call your psychic friend, but I won't charge you $5.99 per minute. One thing I must mention, aside from my burgeoning collection of Stimpy dolls, is a free community concert by the Fort Wayne Philharmonic on October 21 at the Greater Progressive Baptist Church. You never know what they will play at these crazy free outings (did someone say an orchestral version of "Iron Man"?) but it's a great, free way to check out some free music that you don't have to pay for. Did I mention it's free? Well, it is.
In keeping with tradition, this month I recommend, nay I command, everyone reading this to check out the pseudo-classical music of Wolf Hoffmann. Yes, he's the same guy who played with the German metal band Accept with a little guy named Udo and no, we're not related. Wolf has combined his love for heavy guitar with his love for classical music, creating some really imaginative pieces that are more than just "guy plays classical music on electric guitar." It's more like "bald German guy plays classical music on electric guitar." But I kid the Germans! Wolf takes such pieces as Pomp and Circumstance (the graduation song), Bolero (the Bo Derek song) and Habanera (the deep-fried rodent song) and kicks 'em up two or three notches, using the original melodies as a starting point for some pretty incredible stuff. You can check out a couple of songs on MP3.COM or buy the album at www.wolfhoffmann.com and make the man happy. He may be as bald as a ball peen hammer, but he still needs your love.
Copyright 2000 Jason Hoffman