PCMS Unlocks A World Of Music During Lecture Series

Peter Chawaga, for GPA -- The compositions of classical music’s masters have endured for hundreds of years, inspiring countless listeners and constantly finding new audiences. But the work of even the most widely-known composers can still harbor secrets. From the inspiration behind the sounds to the approach of theme and rhythm, there are lessons steeped in each note that make for a more rewarding listening experience. Sometimes, all it takes to unlock them is a guide.

On March 25, fans of classical music gathered in the Comcast Circle at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts (300 S. Broad St.) to hear a free lecture sponsored by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society (PCMS). Led by Richard Freedman, the John C. Whitehead Professor of Music at Haverford College, the lecture preceded a performance by violinist Lisa Batiashvili and pianist Paul Lewis.

During his lecture, one in a free, pre-concert series, Freedman played excerpts of the pieces to be performed that evening, highlighting the most compelling moments and providing context behind each composition. Freedman offers concert-goers the benefit of his expertise so they could experience the performance with trained ears.

“The lectures are an opportunity to connect with fellow listeners, helping people hear things they might not have otherwise,” he said.

This particular lecture focused on the Bach, Beethoven and Schubert pieces to be performed by Batiashvili and Lewis. Using speakers and his own voice to sample the pieces, Freedman highlighted Beethoven’s aptitude for thematic transformation from one movement to the next, Schubert’s expansive use of contrasting keys in the same piece and Bach’s ability to rework melodies in artful ways. In the 45 minutes allotted, he touched on each composition and noted their historic importance.

“I hope this oral introduction will prepare you for what I know will be an exciting performance,” he concluded.

With that, the lecture attendees joined a larger audience in the Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater to enjoy the show.

Batiashvili and Lewis have played all over the world. Individually, they are two of the most sought-after musicians in the classical realm and they have performed together in Paris, Brussels and Hamburg. As they played, Freedman’s lesson came to life. The performance was made all the more impactful with a deep understanding of the themes and movements that the musicians were interpreting. Achieving this level of understanding and improving the audience’s concert experience are the goals of the series.

“The lecture series has been a way to give new patrons and those with a lifelong love of the genre a better understanding of the music they will hear,” said Erik Petersons, Education and Outreach Director for PCMS. “As accessible as the music can be, there’s a depth you can always keep plumbing. The lecture gives the audience a chance to deepen their appreciation for music and the concert itself.”

The evening’s combination of world-renowned classical performance and educational insight is exemplary of the PCMS mission, to serve the region with compelling chamber music while promoting music education.

“PCMS is a unique institution and Philadelphia is extremely lucky to have an organization that presents great music almost every day of the week,” said Freedman.

The lecture series only adds to the city’s luck.

Visit the PCMS website to learn more about its pre-concert lecture series.

Image courtesy of Jessilyn Brown.