Families entertained with music

THE SLOVAK Philharmonic was filled with a special kind of sound last weekend as dozens of families turned out for the first in a series of Young People's Concerts. Some were so new to the scene they toddled through the halls, their wide eyes scanning the surroundings, before sliding into their parents' laps. Others were old enough to insist on sitting by themselves. Within a few minutes, though, all sat entranced.

Children absorbed in classical music - the Philharmonic is building a new generation of listeners.
photo: Courtesy of Slovak Philharmonic

THE SLOVAK Philharmonic was filled with a special kind of sound last weekend as dozens of families turned out for the first in a series of Young People's Concerts. Some were so new to the scene they toddled through the halls, their wide eyes scanning the surroundings, before sliding into their parents' laps. Others were old enough to insist on sitting by themselves. Within a few minutes, though, all sat entranced.

The concert/lecture was entitled Evolution of the Orchestra and was hosted by Larry Newland, at one time an assistant conductor to Leonard Bernstein at the New York Philharmonic. As well as a means of introducing young people to music, it is part of an effort by the management of the Slovak Philharmonic to build a new generation of music lovers.

"I think children learn best if they're taught to look while they listen," Newland said.

And the young audience gladly complied. Everyone quietened down as a Baroque Trio started the afternoon with an excerpt from Händel's Trio Sonata in F Major. Newland and hostess Jana Ďuriačová then came onstage and introduced the event in gentle parental tones. Newland's ability to speak Slovak was impressive.

Playfully surveying the trio, he turned to his audience and asked, "Is this an orchestra?"

"Noooo!" the young voices replied.

More string players were brought onstage and each demonstrated their instrument's sound with excerpts from children's songs, such as Medveďku daj labku (Little Bear, give me your paw). Newland then conducted Antonio Vivaldi's Piccolo Concerto in A Minor, with soloist Martina Bernášková playing a wooden recorder, to show the change in sound quality from Baroque to early Classical music. Bernášková's performance was rapid and precise, a perfect example of the style's thin, flighty quality.

And so the concert continued, with Newland adding players from each of the orchestra's different sections and performing more examples.

The orchestral excerpts were particularly well chosen. Mozart's Symphony in G Minor clearly highlighted how the string section formed a solid foundation for the orchestra; Wagner's overture to the third act of his opera Lohengrin showed how the brass section added colour and muscle; and Bernstein's overture to his opera Candide featured each instrument as an individual soloist.

A raffle was held afterwards, in which some children received a small bag of books and Newland's handshake.

Parents and children alike were delighted. One family surrounded Newland backstage and praised him profusely as he posed for a picture and signed their programmes.

"Thank you, Larry," they repeated in between smiles. "Bravo, maestro."

One can only hope the audience will do the "homework" Newland assigned them at the end of this concert: "Come back and hear more music."


Larry Newland will return to the Philharmonic on April 29 for this season's last Young People's Concert, entitled How to Listen to Music - Unusual Orchestral Instruments.

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