Monday, March 21, 2011: Spring Solstice

Celebrate Spring! Part 1

Welcome, Spring! In observance and celebration of the Spring solstice, Opus Osm is departing from our usual format to bring you a special week-long series of introductory articles about how to enjoy listening to classical music.

You may know all about this already. If so, please feel free to add comments (below) or to correct any of our mistakes.

But if you aren’t too sure about what to listen for in classical music … if you don’t quite feel comfortable at a concert … or if you’d like to understand what’s going on at a classical music concert, these articles may be helpful for you.

As always, our intent is to education, entertain, and enlighten people of all backgrounds, nationalities, and experience levels in Czech classical music, opera, and ballet.

Part 1

Concerts: No Fear

Q: What’s the difference between a symphony orchestra and a philharmonic orchestra?

A: The names. That’s all!

Q: What’s the difference between a symphony and a concerto?

A: A symphony is a “large” piece played by the whole orchestra, all together. Symphonies are broken into (usually) 3 or 4 sections, called movements, with a little pause in between each one.

A concerto has the same structure, but there’s always a guest soloist who has a really big role. The spotlight alternates between playing by the orchestra, the soloist, and both together, all in the same piece.

Q: When is it OK to applaud?

Each movement in a symphony has different characteristics and a different mood, so the musicians need that little pause in between to prepare, regroup, turn pages, and recover from the previous movement before going on.

The little pause, though, is often confusing for the audience. Should we applaud then or not? The answer depends on the moment: some orchestras appreciate immediate feedback, and others don’t want to break their concentration. Watch the conductor. If he or she turns and smiles, acknowledging the applause, it’s safe to applaud again after the next movement if you feel like it. But if the conductor shakes his or her head or doesn’t move, it means you should wait until the end to applaud.

In between movements is also prime time for audience coughing and reshuffling in the seat (as if we could get it all done in advance!). oo

Tomorrow: A, B, C, Sharps, Flats … Too Many Notes?

Photo Credits: Zuzana Pernicov√°

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