The National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) kicked off their third concert series by making their triumphant return to the anthem on October 24. Instead of playing at the Kennedy Center, the typical NSO concert hall, the series caters to a younger audience by performing at the more mainstream nightclub. NSO to the anthem aims to provide high quality music at affordable prices, specifically targeting those with limited exposure to orchestral music, and did not disappoint.
The first concert in this year’s series featured three separate performances with a schedule that spanned different genres and stories. Baltimore gypsy jazz group Hot Club opened with a short set and was joined by singer Alexis Tantau for the evening. The group covered various songs from the 20th century, ranging from “La Vie en Rose” to the music from the soundtrack of the 1964 film. My beautiful lady. Their rendition of “La Foule,” a Spanish-influenced song popularized by legendary French singer Edith Piaf in the 1950s, was particularly astonishing. Supported by the melodic, string-filled sound of the Hot Club, the performance was enhanced by Tantau’s soulful humming ability with a warmth that kept viewers hooked with every breath.
To capture the attention of a younger audience, the ONS opened with The block, a modern piece by Kennedy Center composer-in-residence Carlos Simon. As Simon explains, this 2018 composition represents the diversity of life that exists on a single block in Harlem, especially against the backdrop of the city’s deep roots in African American culture and music. The NSO’s painstaking interpretation does justice to this nuanced story, which Simon cleverly conveys through alternating whimsical patterns of woodwind pecks and the rich brass band. This juxtaposition and The block the use of percussive jazz creates a kaleidoscopic effect vividly reminiscent of the Harlem music scene. It also serves as a reminder of the depth that such stories can have despite being historically ignored by racial power structures. Alternating time signatures and invoking textured patterns, the scintillating shade of this composition effectively introduced an orchestra’s powerful ability to tell stories to a newer audience.
The ONS further showcased its storytelling abilities through a passionate performance by Tchaikovksy Symphony No.5, a 19th century composition and classic in the orchestral canon. Although Tchaikovsky’s work still speaks for itself, the performance benefited greatly under the direction of guest conductor Nicholas Hersh, who is also associate conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO). Hersh is passionate about expanding the reach of classical music; he created BSO Pulse, in which he brought together indie groups and orchestral musicians in avant-garde collaborations.
Before the play, Hersh presented the symphony to a large audience of orchestral listeners for the first time. He spoke of Tchaikovsky’s Six Symphonies as a snapshot of the thoughts of the widely celebrated Russian composer at a specific point in his life, urging his audience to watch Tchaikovsky’s symphony and classical music with an understanding of the stories she tries out. to tell. In doing so, Hersh has managed to reintroduce a classic masterpiece through an accessible lens that resonates with modern audiences.
As such, the heartbreaking and impeccably detailed NSO performance of this masterpiece creates a thoughtful vibe in which Hersh’s familiarity prevails in bringing orchestral music to a younger audience. By reframing the work through a modern lens, the stimulating nuances of Tchaikovsky’s work struck an unexpected parallel with the equally provocative modern composition that preceded it, bringing together the old and the new.
In keeping with the theme of accessibility, ONS members were dressed as simply as members of the public. The modern yet grandiose aesthetic of the anthem added to this feeling; instead of traditional velvet curtains, projected virtual stage curtains framed the stage. The simplicity of the event invoked an accessibility that welcomed symphony fans for the first time to the classical orchestra. However, informality did not prevent the public from experiencing a high quality performance.
NSO to the anthem is part of a growing body of events hosted by symphonies around the world that aim to bridge the historic gap between classical music and modern audiences around the world. If this first concert is the image of what is to come, this series will not disappoint you.
This series will include a seasonal Ugly Sweater themed concert with guest conductor Emil de Cou on December 8, and conclude with a spring concert conducted by Rocderick Cox on April 8 which will feature Helix from Esa-Pekka Salonen and Sergei Prokofiev Symphony No.5.