The Lexington Philharmonic‘s inaugural Kicked Back Classics event started with a scene from the movie that has arguably done more for classical music than anything else in the the last quarter century (give a couple years): Amadeus.
It’s the scene where Antonio Salieri plays several of his own selections for Father Vogler, who doesn’t recognize a note of it. Then Salieri plays him some of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik which Vogler recognizes and exclaims, “That’s charming!”
At the Kicked Back classics event, conductor Scott Terrell, pianist Inon Barnatan and the Philharmonic took Wolfie’s music beyond charming to really interesting, like “I may come to your concert with my ear tuned completely differently” interesting.
The event was designed as an outreach program to appeal to new audiences who may find devoting more than two hours and several dozen bucks to a a full blown orchestra concert like Friday night’s Phil show a bit daunting. In a little over an hour, the artists explored portions of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22 and Jupiter Symphony in the Downtown Arts Center.
The venue was a twist for the Philharmonic, which in previous incarnations probably would have defaulted to the Singletary Center for the Arts recital hall or a similar venue for a show like this. But the last couple years the Phil had gotten out of default mode. The recital hall would have still created a barrier between the audience and orchestra, whereas in the DAC, the audience flowed into the orchestra, enough so that Terrell joked a few patrons had joined the violin section.
It was that kind of atmosphere, generally loose and congenial, even allowing Terrell to do a play-by-play with all five themes from the Jupiter Symphony. In a fairly easygoing monologue, Terrell took the audience through the complexities of portions of the works, highlighting themes, showing how Mozart wove them together, even having the audience hum the violin part of a portion of the Piano Concerto. The performers did offer full performances of a movement from each work.
There were a few bugs, like Terrell’s body microphone appeared to be left on during most of the performance, so those of us seated under speakers could hear him breathe as he conducted. But for a premiere effort, this show went fairly smoothly.
Only two Kicked Back classics events are scheduled this year, and Terrell says that feels right. But from an audience standpoint, it was a successful format that could probably stand being presented more than twice a season. A bit more repetition might help it get the audience it was going for.
Walking in, I heard a guy behind me say to his date, “Do you like classical piano? I think that’s what we’re going to be hearing tonight.” But for the most part, the nearly 100-person crowd appeared to be mostly Philharmonic and Lexington arts regulars. And despite numerous invitations to tweet and blog at will, the event’s Twitter hashtag went mostly unused and I couldn’t see much cell phone usage at all from my top-row perch.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. Everything was not meant to be tweeted, and maybe the best review of all is that what was happening in the room was so interesting (and charming) we all didn’t feel a need to go to the World Wide Web for an hour.
Note: Rich Copley once worked at a video store where a customer asked him if Amadeus was about space aliens. Seriously, that happened.