Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Simón Bolívar Symphony: Mendelssohn's 'The Italian'



Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela performs Mendelssohn Symphony No. 4, opus 90 ("the Italian"), 1st movement, Felipe Izcaray, guest conductor. Felix Mendelssohn completed the Italian Symphony in Berlin, Germany on March 13, 1833, in response to an invitation for a symphony from the London (now Royal) Philharmonic Society. It was first performed at a London Philharmonic Society concert in London on May 13, 1833. It was a great success.

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There is a nice background story behind the formation of this orchestra, named in the original Spanish as Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar. It was founded by an economist, José Antonio Abreu, in 1975, to create opportunities for youth to achieve musical excellence, regardless of social status. Abreu is no average economist, but also an accomplished pianist and conductor. Most of all, Abreu is known for bettering the lives of young people in his native Venezuela through the introduction of El Sistema ("The System"), a national network in which music becomes the primary avenue for social and intellectual improvement.

Needless to say, the system has been a great success. If you want to make a difference in the lives of young people, and also reduce youth crime, often a result of boredom, music is surely the answer. It provides the needed structure, and allows an expression in the creation of beauty. What Abreu brought to Venezuela was good, and he was rewarded and recognized for his efforts decades later, Wikipedia writes:
On May 12, 2009, Abreu was awarded the Polar Music Prize, given by the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.[11] Abreu and Peter Gabriel, who also won, were presented with their awards by King Carl XVI Gustaf at a gala ceremony at the Stockholm Concert Hall on 31 August. The Royal Swedish Academy of Music said about Abreu:[12]
The Polar Music Prize 2009 is awarded the Venezuelan conductor, composer and economist José Antonio Abreu. Driven by a vision that the world of classical music can help improve the lives of Venezuela’s children, he created the music network El Sistema, which has given hundreds of thousands the tools to leave poverty. José Antonio Abreu’s successful creation has promoted traditional values, like respect, fellowship and humanity. His achievement shows us what is possible when music is made the common ground and thereby part of people’s everyday lives. Simultaneously, a new hope for the future has been given children and parents, as well as politicians. The vision of José Antonio Abreu serves as a model to us all.
In 2010, Abreu was awarded Erasmus Prize.
It goes without saying that this model ought to be brought over to other nations including my own, Canada. I was fortunate to have played in a high school band, second trombone, for four years, although I had average ability. Even so, I love music and believe it has an edifying effect on people, so it would be better to introduce music to children in a formal educational setting, the sooner the better. In that regard, I have written about music and young people (see My Musical Dream), and about my hopes and aspirations for Canada, starting with my home city of Montreal.

1 comment:

  1. A beautiful, mature performance of an inspiring symphony written by a composer all of whose works sounded mature--even if they were composed when he was a child.

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