So you want to listen to classical music?

For most classical music seems like some closed club that you need to know music theory to enjoy. In this article, I explain why anyone can get into it.

This question seems daunting, almost like a challenge. I remember being asked that by a person I know who likes classical music and fits into the mould that so many of that ilk seem to be made from. She was the highfalutin kind of person who seemed to make out that in order to appreciate classical music you had to know the ins and out of musical theory, and that if you did not understand even the simple basics of music theory then you would not be capable of enjoying this art form. Her question sounded more like she was mocking me rather than looking to discuss a common interest with me. She knew I had no musical training, while she had. The impression she gave me was that there was no way I could possibly like classical music because I knew nothing about it.

But this is complete and utter rubbish. You can enjoy any art form whatsoever without having even the slightest idea how someone does something. From painting, through music, the only thing you need to know is that art is appreciated not because one knows the theory behind its construction but (1) you like what you are seeing, reading, or hearing, and (2) beyond the superficial of aesthetics there is some deeper emotional connection to the piece.

Classical music is as hardcore and rebellious as punk rock. Trust me, the more you get to know about it the more you will see that this is the case.

When you look at other music forms, like pop, rock, or whatever, a person enjoys the song or tune simply for that reason. They might just like the catchy tune or melody, the drum beat and baselines, or just enjoy the lyrics. But apart from that, you have no idea what the composer went through when writing it, what music theory went into its composition, or what tricks went into its being recorded. The same can definitely be said about classical music. You do not need to know about music theory to enjoy it, no matter what form you are listening to.

The difference between classical music and all the other forms of musical genres is the fact that classical stretch further back in time taking in hundreds of years of music history whereas most other forms are a still relatively new. Pop is the best example, this form really only got started in the late 50s early 60s.

A common misconception, therefore, is that classical music is old, stuffy, and out of date. A relic, or museum piece that nobody young would like. But this is just not true at all. Classical music is as hardcore and rebellious as punk rock. Trust me, the more you get to know about it the more you will see that this is the case.

Just as rock can be divided into different forms based on when it was recorded, say for example rock and roll, hard rock, prog rock, punk rock, and heavy metal, all tell you something of the style and time period, so too can Classical music be divided into sub-genres that tell you something of the style and times they were written in.

There are 7 definite periods of classical music. These are as follows.

The Ancient (pre 500) Early music (500- 1400)The Renaissance (1400-1600) The Baroque (1600- 1750) The Classical Period (1750-1820) The Romantic Period (1820- 1910) and The Contemporary Period (1910- today) I personally like to split the contemporary period into two parts. The Modern (1910-1930) and the Post Modern (1930- today) because it is crazy to compare the works of Rachmaninov with that of Philip Glass.

In the end, the best way to get into the music is to just listen to it.

The best way to get into the music, however, is not to get too bogged down with the dates and titles of these periods. The point is that you should look at each of these different periods as a chance to find what particular type of classical music you like best. Plunge into the music by sampling the different periods to find what you like. Remember also that a lot of the early periods were written mostly for the church and tend to be religious, though not always. It is good to note that these early periods also contain a lot more vocal music. The Classical period saw a move away from religious music as society became more secular.

Just listen to what you can, find what you like, and don’t let anyone put you off. Everyone starts any endeavour with the same amount of knowledge.

Another good way to get into music is to think of composers that you would like to listen to. The classical period contains a lot of the names that we have come to know about, Mozart, Hayden, Beethoven for example. This could help as you do some research, look up the different periods and see what names were big names and see if you can come up with something that really reaches you. Google the names of the composers and see what comes up, in the end, the best way to get into the music is to just listen to it.

Don’t let anyone put you off. Classical music is not an exclusive club that requires some insider knowledge. It is just like any other type of music that you listen to. Just pick up an album and listen, go to concerts, they are not expensive and if you are unsure of when to clap, just wait for others to start clapping. I will deal more about concert going in another post, but for now, just listen to what you can, find what you like, and don’t let anyone put you off. Everyone starts any endeavour with the same amount of knowledge.

Classical music is not an exclusive club that requires some insider knowledge. It is just like any other type of music that you listen to. Just pick up an album and listen.

The only thing you really need to know is that when you look up a piece of classical music, say for example Beethoven’s 5th symphony, and you see Op 67, it might be confusing. Don’t fret. This stands for opus and is a device that enables us to slot a piece in the order of it’s being written. For Mozart, this is designated as a K number, not an OP number. These numbers help us, for example, Beethoven’s first symphony is his Opus 21, which means he wrote 20 other pieces of music before writing that symphony, his second symphony has the opus number 36. We see then that it is a really helpful device for dating a work and seeing where it slots in the overall work of the composer. I added this explanation because someone once asked what the OP number meant and she was laughed at by people who felt too happy to tear down rather than help. These people seem to care nothing about the music but simply relish the pretence of elitism that the music gives them. Take no heed of those ones. Classical music is a great form. Get into it.

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Furtwängler: Long Misunderstood

I have long misunderstood the German conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler. I mean the guy was a renowned Nazi wasn’t he? That has been the general consensus, right? It was even mentioned in the BBC’s Symphony documentary how he performed at the birthday celebrations for Hitler. Which gave the impression that unlike Arturo Toscanini who left for America rather than stay in Fascist Italy despite the praises of Mussolini, Furtwängler remained in Germany and performed for the Nazi leadership at key celebratory functions of the Third Reich. So there, guilty as charged then. He was a Nazi, right?

Wrong!! Utterly, utterly wrong. He was anything but a Nazi.

There are a number of reasons why many have portrayed Furtwängler as a Nazi, mostly out of professional jealousy and spite which meant that while his career was tarnished men like Toscanini could continue to flourish, trading on their fleeing Fascist states while claiming wrongly that Furtwängler staying was proof enough of his support of the Nazi Part.
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But if we look a little deeper at his relationship with the Nazi Party and his reasons for staying in Germany we would clearly see that this was not the case. In fact, it will help us to see this conductor was not Nazi supporter.

When Hitler was first appointed as Chancellor, Furtwängler did not celebrate. He was anything but congratulatory of the birth of the Third Reich. In 1932 he said of Hitler “this hissing street pedlar will never get anywhere in Germany.” Hardly the words someone who thought that this was a something to celebrate.
When Hitler began pursuing his ugly policy of attacking the Jews of Germany removing all their rights and freedoms he was even more vocal in his views on that policy. He even went so far as to write a letter to Hitler’s propaganda minister Goebbels in which he said…

“Ultimately there is only one dividing line I recognise: that between good and bad art. However, while the dividing line between Jews and non-Jews is being drawn with a downright merciless theoretical precision, that other dividing line, the one which in the long run is so important for our music life, yes, the decisive dividing line between good and bad, seems to have far too little significance attributed to it.”

In another letter to Goebbels later in 1933, he went so much further to show his views on the anti-Semitic policies of the Nazi party…

“The Jewish question in musical spheres: a race of brilliant people!”

For him, there was only one question worth thinking of and that was whether art was good or bad. Not on the point of some silly political opinion, but on its merit in solely aesthetic terms. Art was not to be judged by who was playing it, not to be judged by whether it was simply fitting in with the whims of whatever form of government happened to be in power. These were issues that had no significance to Furtwängler. In order to show that this was a matter that he felt strongly about, he threatened to resign from all his posts immediately if the removal of Jews from the orchestra threatened to damage the integrity of his art. This was a brave move by the conductor. But it clearly showed the regime where he stood. A brave and foolhardy move many would agree. However, he could do this because he understood that the Nazis needed him around to keep a cultural veneer to their government in the eyes of the world. He was willing to trade on this need to protect the musicians under his care. However,  he was not finished there because he concluded the letter to Goebbels by stating that…

“To continue giving concerts would be quite impossible without [the Jews] – to remove them would be an operation which would result in the death of the patient.”

So clearly he was not afraid to speak out about the Jewish plight, albeit from a music point of view and not from the humanitarian angle. But then perhaps he felt that this would be the best way for him to speak out about the policies against the Jews, and the fact that he wrote to the very heart of the Nazi establishment, condemning their policy showed the courage that many non-Jewish conductors who fled the fascist governments of Europe did not show. It was far easier to run away than to stay and plead the case of the dispossessed. But that is what Furtwängler did.

But he also showed how he despised the regime in other ways too. When conducting overseas concerts he used only those who had fled the German government and were opposed to Hitler. He made donations to those Jews who had fled Germany from his performance fees. He refused to play the Nazi anthems, and would not play in concert halls decorated with the Nazi flag when he performed concerts in Paris and London before the war.

imagesHe refused to give the Nazi salute. One time famously, he refused to give the salute, even though Hitler and the party leadership was in the audience. He had held the baton in his right hand so that he would be unable to hold his hand out in salute. Hitler seeing what was happening jumped from his seat and shook the conductor’s hand, the moment captured by a photographer. It was used as evidence that he was a supporter of the regime, by both the Nazis and others who wanted to damage his reputation in order to enhance his own.

He refused to allow the Nazis to remove the Jewish leader of the Orchestra Szymon Goldberg for the Mannheim concert which was held to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Wagner. Then after the concert, he shunned the Nazi leadership’s banquet and spent the evening with his Jewish assistant and her mother. He publicly described Hitler as an enemy of the human race in 1934. In 1936, Hitler tried again to force him to be used as a tool of the Nazi party. The event was recounted by the anti-Nazi grand-daughter of Wagner, Friedelind Wagner…

“I remember Hitler turning to Furtwängler and telling him that he would now have to allow himself to be used by the party for propaganda purposes, and I remember that Furtwängler refused categorically. Hitler flew into a fury and told Furtwängler that in that case there would be a concentration camp ready for him. Furtwängler quietly replied: “In that case, Herr Reichskanzler, at least I will be in very good company.” Hitler couldn’t even answer, and vanished from the room.”

Even during the war, he showed time and time again that he was not with the Nazis, refusing to conduct in occupied France with the explanation that though he loved the country he felt that should he conduct there he would be doing so as a vanquisher, resolving that he would return to the podium in France only when the country was liberated. He was linked with the German Resistance movement, even knowing in advance of the plot to kill Hitler, although he was not involved directly with the plot.

However, this did not prevent him from being hauled before the courts after the fall of the Third Reich, as the Allies tried to find out who should answer for the atrocities. But many spoke out in his defence. Yehudi Menuhin the violinist sent a wire to defend Furtwängler saying…

“Unless you have secret incriminating evidence against Furtwängler supporting your accusation that he was a tool of Nazi Party, I beg to take violent issue with your decision to ban him. The man never was a Party member. Upon numerous occasions, he risked his own safety and reputation to protect friends and colleagues. Do not believe that the fact of remaining in one’s own country is alone sufficient to condemn a man. On the contrary, as a military man, you would know that remaining at one’s post often requires greater courage than running away. He saved, and for that, we are deeply his debtors, the best part of his own German culture… I believe it patently unjust and most cowardly for us to make of Furtwängler a scapegoat for our own crimes. If the man is guilty of specific crimes, accuse him and convict him. As far as I can see, it is no punishment to be banned from sordid, filthy Berlin and if the man now old and ill is willing and anxious to return to his exacting task and responsibilities he should be encouraged for that is where he belongs, right in Berlin..”

Furtwängler’s  own closing statements at the trial set out his take on the matter….

“I knew Germany was in a terrible crisis; I felt responsible for German music, and it was my task to survive this crisis, as much as I could. The concern that my art was misused for propaganda had to yield to the greater concern that German music be preserved, that music be given to the German people by its own musicians. These people, the compatriots of Bach and Beethoven, of Mozart and Schubert, still had to go on living under the control of a regime obsessed with total war. No one who did not live here himself in those days can possibly judge what it was like. Does Thomas Mann [who was critical of Furtwängler’s actions] really believe that in ‘the Germany of Himmler’ one should not be permitted to play Beethoven? Could he not realise that people never needed more, never yearned more to hear Beethoven and his message of freedom and human love, than precisely these Germans, who had to live under Himmler’s terror? I do not regret having stayed with them.”

In the end, he was cleared of all counts he faced during his denazification trial. Perhaps it was testimonies like the one given by Hugo Sterlitzer which convinced all that he was never a Nazi, and had worked against the party’s evil plot to exterminate the Jews.

“If I am alive today, I owe this to this great man. Furtwängler helped and protected a great number of Jewish musicians and this attitude shows a great deal of courage since he did it under the eyes of the Nazis, in Germany itself. History will be his judge.”

History indeed should be the judge. On a personal level, he showed the kind of courage and conscience that were sorely lacking among many Germans of the time. He stayed in Germany to be with his mother, to help his orchestra, and particularly to help the Jews who played in it. He was always quick to express publicly to the very leaders of the Nazi regime his disagreement with the so-called Final Solution, even though this could have cost him his life.

For those who judge him, and portray him as a coward, when they for the most part fled and spoke out only from the safety of America and England, their words should now in the full passage of time be seen only as the envious attempts to prevent a talented conductor from taking the work from them that had been theirs while he remained in Germany.

I am glad I took the time to look in Furtwängler even more. He not only was a great conductor. But he was one of the few brave souls in Germany who dared to challenge what he saw as an evil that had to be confronted. Anyone who dismisses him should actually look into what he did, then they would see that here was a man who cared about art to the point that he had no tolerance of the hatred which Hitler tried to force upon him. I shall make an effort to listen to his work. It’s time to end the prejudice of his work which was the goal of the Nazis and those who were jealous of his abilities.

The BSO: Coming Straight Outta Dresden!

21st February 2017

Poole Lighthouse Centre

Wagner: Lohengrin Prelude to Act 1

Schuman: Cello Concerto

Wagner: Lohengrin Prelude to Act 3

Schuman: Symphony No. 3 (Rhenish)

Conducted by Kiril Karabits

Guest Performer Steven Isserlis

The overriding desire to see Steven Isserlis play was what drove me to swallow my usual disdain for the music of Richard Wagner, and boy was I glad that I did. Because tonight at the concert hall there was an electric atmosphere as music lovers of all forms flooded to the Poole Lighthouse to see one of the foremost cellists.

To begin with, though, credit must be given to the players of the orchestra and Kiril Karabits for turning the music of Wagner into something that actually excited me. Listening to this music in the hands of a skilled orchestra and a superb conductor on the top of his game I finally got what the fuss was all about. I do add that the sweeping and utterly romantic Act 1 Prelude was by far and away more enjoyable than the Act 3 Prelude, but that was due to the nature of the music and the fact that the first piece by Wagner was not as brash and annoying as the second. However, both pieces were transformed from what I consider to be the typically Wagnerian, over the top rage inducing music, into something that swept me off my figurative feet, and all the credit for that was with the BSO and Mr Karabits.

There was a very perceptible hike in the audience’s anticipation as the stage crew set about changing the seating in order to make more room for the platform and seat which Mr Isserlis was to sit upon during his part in the concert and indeed as he walked out he was met with a wall of sound from the audience who were only too thrilled to show how delighted they were to in the company of such an extraordinary talent. From the beginning, we were treated to what seemed like the effortless flexing of Mr Isserliss’ musical muscles, and the histrionics which his fans have come to know as a hallmark of a performance by that great musician. He nodded, hair flying, bobbing his head with the music, beating his hand upon his breast when he was not playing, but above all else, what we all loved was his playing and the way the music seemed to come with no more than the lightest touch of the bow and the gentle pressure of fingers to strings. The only analogy that comes to mind was that of watching a man of the stature of Hendrix playing. It was a treat, one that really made listening to anything by Wagner worth the price.

The audience were so grateful for this wonderful performance that the applause went on for ages and Mr Isserlis showed his appreciation for such warm applause by treating us to an encore that was an adaptation of the second movement of Tchaikovsky’s 4th symphony for string quartet, which was orchestrated by the composer, and altered so as to incorporate the entire string section. Truly and enchanting and unexpected pleasure, the conductor, virtuoso and players really did have the audience eating from the palm of their hands.

The second part of the evening was not a letdown either as one would imagine such a thing becoming after such a wonderful first start. But Mr Karabits is a conductor of the highest quality at the top of his game. Here is a man who truly knows the music he is conducting and has a clear direction of what he wants the orchestra to do. Schuman’s symphony was a typically romantic piece, but while more modern tastes might be inclined to dismiss this as old fashioned, quaint and almost boring, I would defy anyone to hear this music as the BSO and Mr Karabits performed it last night and still go home thinking the same. It would be the most unyieldingly ignorant to do so. Mr Kiril Karabits is a cultural treasure to the region, and the BSO are a cultural icon.

I went home from this concert positively humming, it was a great evening as one is almost guaranteed to have with the BSO. I sincerely urge you to go and see them if you get a chance to. You can find out more about getting tickets and memberships by going to their website HERE.

The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra Take Us Back To The USSR

The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Prokofiev Violin Concerto No.2

Shostakovich Symphony No.8

Conducted by Kirill Karabits

With Valeriy Sokolov

Poole Lighthouse

25th January 2017

What a difference a week can make. Last week I was thrilled with the romantic charm of Elgar and Rachmaninov, along with the brilliance of Guy Braunstein on violin. This week, the BSO treated it’s audience to a more modern, younger, and fresher style of music. Prokofiev and Shostakovich and the young Ukranian Valeriy Sokolov took up the bow and the stage.

Prokofiev wrote the second violin concerto around the time when he was working on Romeo and Juliet and as his return to the USSR was drawing closer, and right from the beginning, he hit us with the melody as the soloist played the violin with no accompaniment. His playing was light and almost jaunty. Despite his relative youth Valeriy Sokolov is a genuinely singular musician and tonight he showed the assembled audience just how beautifully he can play in a piece that has all the hallmarks of the style of music that was in vogue in the inter-war era when the minds and bodies that were shattered by war and struggling with the looming threat of new wars.

The BSO and their principal conductor Kirill Karabits were on the top of their game and once again turned out a performance tonight that was quite simply thrilling. The greatest compliment you can make about a professional in any field is that they are so good at what they do they make it look easy, so easy anyone can do it. So it is with Kirill and Karabits. They make it look so easy that you can quickly forget just how out of this world their work is.

The second part of the night was as moody and foreboding as the first half was light and airy. Shostakovich wrote this damning indictment of the fearful oppressive atmosphere of the Soviet State. Something that was lost on Stalin and the rest of the Soviet leaders who thought that this was another war symphony. Though they were not happy with the work as it was not the celebratory piece that they had wanted from one of their leading composers as the victory over Fascism loomed.

Once again the BSO lit onto their task with aplomb and treated their audience to a demonstration of how to play a piece of music with all the mood and intensity to convey the emotions that the composer wanted to get across to the audience. The looming threat was never far away, the desperate dread that you would be taken away and vanish forever. As the musicians performed the various solos which symbolised the individual’s will to survive. This was yet another fantastic night with the BSO. They just never let you down.

The BSO Tugged Our Heartstrings In A Romantic Music Extravaganza

Heart & Soul: The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra play Elgar and Rachmaninov

Elgar’s Violin Concerto with Guy Braunstein

Rachmaninov’s Third Symphony

Kirill Karabits Conducting

Poole Lighthouse Arts Centre

January 18th 2017

 

It is easy for a writer to use superlatives when confronted with the kind of concert that the BSO put on last night. But that is only because it is hard to quantify with words just how good both the orchestra and the virtuoso were in last night’s concert. Little did we, the audience, know, as we filed into our seats, that we were going to be treated to an evening of music played so emotively that we would be put into a trance.

There were many highlights in this concert. First of all was the truly remarkable performance of Guy Braunstein. He had the audience eating from the palm of his hand right from the first note that he played, and did not release his grip over the audience until he had finished his encore, another piece by Elgar called Salut D’Amour. His performance must rank up there as the finest that an audience of the BSO has ever been treated to, the only lament about it is that it was not recorded for posterity. If you happen to see that Guy Braunstein is playing near you, then, by all means, get a ticket and go. You will not be disappointed. You will be robbing yourself however if you don’t.

Another worthy mention from the concert was Kirill Karabits, who is one of the finest conductors in this country and like many of the musicians within the orchestra he is not as well known perhaps as he should be. Something that hopefully will be remedied over the years. He pours himself into the music and gave so much at the end of last night’s concert that he looked like a man who had just run a marathon. So good was his control of the music that the audience had no time to be bored. But he was masterful in conveying the sheer depth of beauty that is written into both pieces. His interpretations are highly intelligent and though you might think you know a piece of music, he will always delight you with what he brings out during a concert.

The highlight of the evening was definitely the performance of Elgar’s violin concerto. The interplay between the soloist, the orchestra and the conductor pulled the audience in and the audience, in turn, could not contain their pleasure when the last not died down.

After the intermission, the audience took their seats and felt that it would have been a near impossible task to follow up what had gone before but to think that would be to show a serious lack of faith in the orchestra and the intuitive conducting of Karabits. The orchestra started the great icy landscape of music that Rachmaninov composed. It took massive levels of concentration on the part of the maestro as he conducted the piece, but he was more than a match for it and what he and Rachmaninov asked of the orchestra they were willing to give. The BSO is a fine collection of musicians but there were moments when there were certain ones who stood out and deserved applause. Amin Merchant’s playing is always worthy of not, but he showed just why he is worthy of higher renown than he gets during the opening of the second movement as did the playing of Anna Pyne on flute in the third movement.

The BSO is a fine collection of musicians but there were moments when there were certain ones who stood out and deserved applause. Amin Merchant’s playing is always worthy of not, but he showed just why he is worthy of higher renown than he gets during the opening of the second movement as did the playing of Anna Pyne on flute in the third movement. Also the harpist Eluned Pierce was her usually wonderful self and deserves a certain amount of praise from last night.

As I said before, as Kirill took his applause and presented the orchestra to the audience who cheered and applauded and showed their gratitude with unabashed glee, he looked like a man who had exhausted himself conducting. It is that level of care which he has for the music, his musicians, as well as the audience, that has taken him to the high standard he has attained as a conductor. Kirill Karabits and the BSO always guarantee a good night out, you know what you are getting with them, brilliant musicians with a phenomenal conductor, but last night was a concert that was one of the best nights in the music hall I have ever had, if not the best. It was a concert that should not have been missed. Simply put, it was fantastico!

My rating for this concert was 5/5.

BBC Philharmonic Orchestra Take Us On An Evening Of New Perspectives.

New Perspectives: the BBC Philharmonic play Ravel and Shostakovich

Conducted by Nicholas Collon

With Jean-Efflam Bavouzet in Piano

Live from the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

Friday 13th January 2017

There were a number of things that made this concert a wonderful musical evening, from the chance to hear a world premiere of Colin Mathews’ orchestration of  Les Vallee des Cloches which had been written by Ravel originally as a solo piece for piano, but was just recently scored for orchestra, to the delightful playing of Jean-Efflam Bavouzet in Ravel’s marvelous Piano Concerto for The Left Hand and a beautiful encore of Debussy’s First Arabesque which was as light and delicate as a cloud on a summer’s day at the hands of this great virtuoso.

Then with the skilful direction of Nicholas Collon the orchestra performed the deeply troubled and ominous 8th symphony of Shostakovich so well that the tension was almost like a heavy wet blanket, weighing down. We felt the impending oppression of the heavy hand of the Soviet government, the growing threat of the Nazi invasion with all the fear and dread that will come.

The whole concert was a wonderful evening of music by two writers who are different and yet were both touched by the wars that marred their lives. There are times when the music was light and almost jovial, but then the underlying darkness was there and never far away.

The BBC Philharmonic is a wonderful orchestra and they showed their skill once more in this concert. Certainly, there were some standout moments which I mentioned at the onset, but there were moments that were breathtaking and for these, the musicians responsible were called upon to stand and take the deserved ovation of the crowd who were not stingy in showing their appreciation. For who could deny them their due for such a wonderful performance?

Mozart In The Jungle’s Not Yet Titled Shows Us The Power Of Music.

If you have not yet delved into the wonderful world of Mozart In The Jungle, which is in its third season, then you really should watch it. It is based on the struggles of the New York Symphony Orchestra, a made up organisation which is actually The Chelsea Symphony with a number of actors sprinkled among their number.

There are two reasons you should watch this…

(1) Being an excellent introduction to the music, which is the main character of the show and each episode serves as a wonderful vehicle to explore some of the finest music in the genre. If you know nothing about classical music and would like to start learning this is the way to go about it. (2) If you love classical music you will enjoy the music, and seeing the world of the orchestra portrayed in such a way that is free of the typical stereotypes cliches that one associates with this genre of music. Also, you will find yourself sometimes learning something new, or meeting a new composer who has not had the recognition that he really deserves.

(2) If you love classical music you will enjoy the music, and seeing the world of the orchestra portrayed in such a way that is free of the typical stereotypes and cliches that one associates with this genre of music. Also, you will find yourself sometimes learning something new, or meeting a new composer who has not had the recognition that he really deserves.

The main thing about this program that really stands out for most fans of the show is the way that music is portrayed as the powerful cure that it is. It is a healing thing, which can unite, encourage, incite, relax and free the listener. It has a power on our emotions that nothing else, not even my beloved poetry, can match.

That is where this episode comes into play. Season two ended with a strike and lockout of the Orchestra’s players by the management over failed contract negotiations. The third series started with a stalemate continuing and the conductor, Rodrigo fleeing the nonsense of red tape to continue to pursue the music. Eventually, he realises that he needs to bring the whole thing to an end, and so he returns to New York and helps the warring parties to negotiate, and end the trade dispute. It is then he decides to make the bold move of having them celebrate the end of the lockout with their first concert together again in Rikers Island Prison, for the benefit of inmates who are locked in.

So episode seven, filmed as a documentary by one of the characters (the awesome Bradford Sharpe) which he calls Not Yet Titled. They actually performed for some of the inmates who were then incarcerated in Rikers. It was a moving experience for the inmates and for me watching, as they performed works by the French composer Olivier Messiaen who was imprisoned by the Nazis during the horrific days of the Holocaust. His music some of which was composed in prison is very modern in style, sometimes there are frantic moments of high energy, and then there are moments when the music is so soft and peaceful. You could see that the prisoners got this, they understood that this music was speaking their experience for them.

The last piece they played was called Turangalila Symphony, which Rodrigo informed the inmates was written after his release from the prison camp. I recommend you listen to this piece of music if you get the chance to. Because as you listened to it you would agree that it summed up the feelings and impressions of a man who had for so long been stuck in a prison and suddenly was back out in the world. The way that it begins you feel for a moment scared, everything is terrible. You look around and the world is terrifying, everything seems the same perhaps, but the movement of the world around you, so big and immense after being in a small room for who knows how long. Surely that is something that the prisoners got. But there was a message of comfort for the too, because even as the music was wild, furious and terrifying, there were moments when it was still too. Peaceful, like moments of joy and acceptance too. You could see the prisoners got this from the music.

The way that it begins you feel for a moment scared, everything is terrible. You look around and the world is terrifying, everything seems the same perhaps, but the movement of the world around you, so big and immense after being in a small room for who knows how long makes it all seem a little menacing. You would feel unsure of yourself, ill at ease with all around you. Surely that is something that the prisoners got. But there was a message of comfort for them too, because even as the music was wild, furious and terrifying, there were moments when it was calm too. The music would slow down to a peaceful lull, or it would be sweet and joyous, as though there were times when Messiaen felt at ease, happy even before they whole thing would begin again. You could see the prisoners got this from the music.

Interlaced in the episode there are interviews with various prison inmates and each one to a man was moved by the whole thing. The most common expression was that the music reached them, that even though they had always thought that classical music was not for them, they felt that the music took them out of themselves, and freed them.

You see, that is what I get out of music. That it is a liberating thing. Sure there is some music that can be damaging to the listener, filling them with the worst of human emotions, as it were. I shan’t name those genres here as I don’t think it is necessary to do that. But when you listen to music based on hope and joy, and unity, then there are no walls that can keep you. Music is the ultimate high. This episode really did show us just what music can do for us, and as the world lurches from one ugly turn to another we will need more beautiful and adventurous music that encourages and liberates us. We also need more shows like Mozart In The Jungle, that shows us that orchestras are full of interesting devoted people who are just trying to make a living doing something they love, for people who love the same thing to enjoy. Long Live The New York Symphony Orchestra!!!!

This episode really did show us just what music can do for us, and as the world lurches from one ugly turn to another we will need more beautiful and adventurous music that encourages and liberates us. We also need more shows like Mozart In The Jungle, that show us how orchestras are full of interesting devoted people who are just trying to make a living doing something they love, for people who love the same thing to enjoy. Long Live The New York Symphony Orchestra!!!!