Travel opens up new worlds and creates memories of a lifetime, but in recent times, the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented many of us from getting away as much as we’d like. Luckily, music provides us with the chance to enjoy a mini-getaway without leaving home, and this fall, the Houston Symphony is serving up a series of concerts specially designed to fire your spirit and transport you to another place. With masterpieces inspired by bonnie Scotland and sunny Spain, these concerts are the perfect chance to take a few hours for yourself, check your daily worries at the door, and see where the music takes you!
Join us at Jones Hall and marvel at the amazing, world-class musicians of the Houston Symphony as they bring these masterpieces to life (in-person tickets start at just $26!), or fill your home with music by livestreaming for just $20.
Read on for more on these performances, and happy (musical) travels!
Highland Delights: Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony
At-a-glance: Envision majestic cliffs and explore mystical ruins with Mendelssohn’s charming memento of Scotland.
More about the program: Most vacations result in postcards and snapshots, but Felix Mendelssohn’s 1829 journey to Scotland inspired two musical masterpieces: The Hebrides (which the Symphony performed in May 2021), and the Scottish Symphony.
The Scottish Symphony was particularly influenced by the composer’s visit to the rugged ruins of Holyrood Chapel (pictured left) and Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh—a site of passion, murder, and intrigue in its days as the home of Mary, Queen of Scots. Following his visit, the composer wrote: “We went, in the deep twilight, to the Palace of Holyrood, where Queen Mary lived and loved…Everything around is broken and moldering, and the bright sky shines in. I believe I found today in the old chapel the beginning of my Scottish Symphony.”
Renowned British conductor Jane Glover leads this evocative musical postcard, Oct. 22–24.
Principal Flute Aralee Dorough
Fantastic Adventures: Carmen Fantasy and Symphonie fantastique
At-a-glance: Take in the vibrant colors of Seville with iconic music from Carmen, and fasten your seatbelt for one of classical music’s wildest rides.
More about the program: From the “Habanera” to the “Danse bohème”, Bizet’s Carmen produced some of the most recognizable and popular themes in all of classical music. Hear them all in Pablo de Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy, performed by the Symphony’s stellar Principal Flute, Aralee Dorough.
Telling the story of an artist whose daydreams slowly morph into opium-fueled nightmare, Berlioz’s rollicking Symphonie fantastique takes us on a different kind of journey—one into the depths of mind and imagination. The hair-raising finale is complete with musical depictions of crashing guillotines, rattling bones, shrieking witches, and a quotation from the ancient Gregorian Chant for the Dead, “Dies irae” (a passage later re-quoted in The Shining’s opening sequence), providing an appropriately spooky soundtrack to your Halloween weekend.
Detroit Symphony Music Director Jader Bignamini leads these performances October 29–31.
Impressions of Spain: Debussy’s Ibéria and Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnole
At-a-glance: Unwind with dreamy and dazzling evocations of Spain, rendered by music’s greatest Impressionist masters.
More about the program: Debussy’s Ibéria transports listeners to a sensuous dreamscape of perfumed nights and exuberant street festivals, and you can practically smell the sweet air and feel the warm breeze. Maurice Ravel grew up hearing Spanish folksongs sung by his Spanish-Basque mother, and these childhood memories sparked a lifelong affinity for Spanish music that colored several of his compositions (most famously the perennial audience favorite Boléro).
Mixing poetic reveries with lively Malaguenas and Habaneras, and ending in a fiery whirlwind sure to bring you to your feet, Ravel’s crowd-pleasing Rapsodie espagnole is a splash of musical sunlight guaranteed to light up your weekend.
Onstage Nov. 19–21 and led by Matthias Pintscher, these concerts also feature world-famous French pianist Hélène Grimaud performing Ravel’s jazzy Concerto in G—absolutely a must-hear for all piano lovers!