How can I learn more about classical music?
Most orchestras give you several ways to learn more. You can read program notes online in advance of a concert, or in your seat before the concert begins. Many concerts are preceded by free lectures or discussions, and these can be entertaining and enlightening. Sometimes the conductor or soloist even talks about the music during the concert.
But you might not need to “know” more to have a great time at your next concert. Most people who attend concerts frequently find that it’s like any other passionate pursuit: The more you do it, the more you enjoy it. Most of the classical works you hear repay frequent listening: The more often you hear a piece, the more wonderful layers you hear in it. If you enjoyed your first concert, plan to come again!
Check the orchestra’s web site for future concerts that are specifically designed to help you hear the many layers in the music. And if your concert hall has a gift shop, pay a visit during intermission; you may find books and recordings that will help you enjoy your next concert even more.
Here are some links to web sites where you can look up composers and their works, buy recordings, and learn more about classical music:
For a wonderful introduction to American music, visit the web site for the American Mavericks public radio series, which features the San Francisco Symphony. The site includes biographies of composers, music downloads, and interviews and features on contemporary music.
Andante.com offers classical music news, reviews, and commentary. For a monthly fee, subscribers can download performances and access reference sources.
The online store ArkivMusic.com has a very complete catalogue of classical recordings. So does Amazon.com.
For kids who are learning to play instruments, FromTheTop.com offers a great resource, and access to public radio’s From The Top programs.
Many orchestras have wonderful web sites for smaller kids. They can play musical games at playmusic for starters, and visit its music links page to connect to more great music sites just for them.
The Learning Zone of the Naxos Records web site has an introduction to classical music, biographies of composers, a glossary of musical terms, and an excellent guide to live-concert listening. You can also stream loads of classical pieces, so this is a great place to visit if you want to listen to a work a couple of times before you hear it in concert.
And if you like the very newest “classical” music, don’t miss NewMusicBox, a monthly web ‘zine about living composers and their works.