Family Concert: Kids’ Choice—5 Minutes That Made Me Love Classical Music

Saturday, August 10, 2019 , 6:30 PM

Grieg: In the Hall of the Mountain King from Peer Gynt

Brahms: Hungarian Dance No. 5 in G Minor

Ravel: The Fairy Garden from Mother Goose

Beethoven: Adagio cantabile from Pathétique Piano Sonata

Tchaikovsky: Excerpts from The Nutcracker

Dvořák: Largo from Symphony No. 9, “From the New World”

Williams: The Imperial March from Star Wars

Mussorgsky: The Great Gate of Kiev from Pictures at an Exhibition

We reached out to our students, musicians, and children of musicians with the questions: “What piece of music did you love when you were young? What inspired you? What piece of music made you love Classical music?” We received so many responses we’d be here for days if we played them all! Several works were chosen by lots of people, like the pieces that open and close tonight’s program. We were delighted to know that some of the works chosen by our youngest respondents were pieces also chosen by our oldest respondents, remembering what they loved as kids! This music stands the test of time for a reason.


Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)

In the Hall of the Mountain King from Peer Gynt, Op. 23

Composed: 1874
Instrumentation: 2 flutes and piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, 2 percussion (crash cymbals, bass drum), and strings

Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg was drawn into the project of staging of Henrik Ibsen’s epic tale of the folk hero Peer Gynt by the writer himself. The story follows the wild adventures of our outrageously inappropriate hero, stumbling from one surreal situation to the next. In the Hall of the Mountain King is music that is played when the mountain trolls are chasing Peer Gynt, infuriated because he was attracted to the Mountain King’s daughter. The trolls give chase, shouting their murderous intentions, threatening to “hack off his fingers!”, “bite him in the haunches!”, “boil him in broth and bree!”, and “roast him on a spit and brown him in a stewpan!”  Peer escapes unscathed, of course.

Who chose this piece?

Stephanie Guzman is the Education Program Coordinator for the Sun Valley Music Festival’s Music Institute. She studied violin and viola at the Institute for 8 years. She says:

The first time I listened to this song I was 6 years old. I would close my eyes while listening to it, and I remember wondering how anyone could be able make music like this! Why was it able to raise goosebumps on my skin? I knew I had to get to the bottom of it and from that moment on I wanted more! I wanted to learn the “how” of how it all came to happen. I desperately wanted to make those sounds someday which is why I chose to play an instrument!

Milana Reich is a violinist with the Sun Valley Music Festival Orchestra. She says:

[This piece] was so fun to listen to as a kid because it starts out so “sneaky” and gradually speeds up to a very fast tempo! We used to make tunnels out of the furniture cushions, hide behind them, and then run faster and faster as the music sped up to avoid “capture.” 


Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Hungarian Dance No. 5 in G Minor

Composed: 1868
Instrumentation: Flute and piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, 2 percussion (crash cymbals, bass drum), and strings

Brahms likely encountered much of his first Hungarian/gypsy music while a teenager in Hamburg, when an influx of Hungarian refugees came there as a stopping point on their way to the United States. In 1868, he composed the several Hungarian Dances for piano four-hands, pieces that he arranged from existing tunes he had heard. The arrangements were full of verve and color and became huge hits. The popular G minor Dance was arranged by Albert Parlow for orchestra in the 1870s.

Who chose this piece?

Jillian Osenga has been studying violin, piano and voice at the Music Institute for 7 years. She says:

This piece is really special to me; it honestly helped me decide what instrument I wanted to play after playing the piano for a little bit, and it reminds me of that every time I hear it. It inspired me to choose an instrument in the orchestra so I could constantly be making music with other people. I really do love this piece because of the way the melody switches from instrument to instrument. It’s a very exciting piece.


Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

The Fairy Garden from Mother Goose

Composed: 1910
Instrumentation: 2 flutes, oboe and English horn, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, timpani, 3 percussion (triangle, suspended cymbal, jeu de timbres), harp, celesta, and strings

Ravel’s Fairy Garden from Mother Goose is particularly apt for this Kids’ Choice concert, because the work was composed for children to play. The day after the premiere, Ravel wrote to the 11 year old Jeanne Leleu, “When you become a great virtuoso and I either an old fogey, covered with honors, or else completely forgotten, you will perhaps have pleasant memories of having given an artist the very rare joy of hearing a work of his… interpreted exactly as it should be.”  Leleu would go on to become a composer and a professor at the Paris Conservatoire, living until 1979. In the Fairy Garden movement from the suite arranged for orchestra by the composer, Ravel provides a lyrical bed of sound for an other-worldly solo violin line shimmering in and out of the magical orchestral garden.

Who chose this piece?

Jason Shafer is the Principal Clarinet of the Colorado Symphony. He says:

The Fairy Garden by Ravel will always hold special meaning for me. As a young musician, it’s the first piece that I ever played in an orchestra, and I was blown away by the simple yet deep beauty of the music; I can listen to it over and over again and still be moved to tears. It’s so fitting that it also ended up being the music to which I walked down the aisle at my wedding!

 Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Andante cantabile from Sonata for Piano No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 13, “Pathétique”

Composed: 1798
Instrumentation: Solo piano

The slow middle movement from Beethoven’s “Pathétique” Sonata remains among his most beloved works. Young classical music fans likely heard this music frequently while growing up, as the theme music for Karl Haas’s popular and widely distributed radio show, Adventures in Good Music, first produced in 1970. The “pathétique” moniker was Beethoven’s own, an indication of deeply felt emotion in the music (without the modern connotation of sadness per se).

Who chose this piece?

William Ver Meulen is the Principal Horn of the Houston Symphony and the Sun Valley Music Festival. He says:

As a very young pianist (6 or 7) and obsessed by Beethoven, my mother bought me a complete set of all 32 Beethoven sonatas on LP performed by Arthur Schnabel. We listened to many together with particular attention to the Pathétique and its beautiful slow movement. She told me how moved she would be when I got to be good enough to play it for her. Some years later I did. When I think of the piece it reminds me of my mom. In fact, she specifically requested that it be played at her funeral, now already 19 years ago.


Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Opening bars from Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67

Composed: 1804-08
Instrumentation: 2 clarinets and strings

One of the best-known and most frequently performed works of all time, we will only hear a few short bars tonight, but we think you’ll recognize them!

Who chose this piece?

Saya Ishii is the daughter of Polina Sedukh, Principal Second Violin of the Sun Valley Music Festival. Saya is 7 and plays piano and violin. Saya answers some questions:

  • When did you hear this piece most recently?  When my mom played a recording at home. She has to practice for her work and listen to music.
  • What do you do when you hear it? I dance and create stories in my mind.
  • Would you tell us one of your stories? In the beginning I see animals being chased by a monster… Animals are running away! But, when the monster is gone, animals are peacefully playing with each other; games like hide and seek. Then, the monster suddenly comes back again and animals have to run, until it’s peaceful again.
  • Why do you love it? Because it makes me think of my mom playing in orchestra.
  • Do you think you would want to play it one day yourself? I can play the first notes on piano and violin already!


Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Trepak from The Nutcracker, Op. 71a

Composed: 1892
Instrumentation: 3 flutes, 2 oboes plus English horn, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, 1 percussion (tambourine), celesta, and strings

Even though the first performances of The Nutcracker were not a success, its popularity skyrocketed in the 20th century and by the 1960s the work became a perennial holiday favorite. Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy, with its famous celesta part, comes towards the end of the ballet, a celebratory dance by the princess in the Land of Sweets. The rollicking Trepak comes just a bit earlier in the ballet, as part of a demonstration of the international splendors in the Land of Sweets—the Trepak showcases the Russian candy canes.

Who chose this piece?

Hannah Spiering is is 6 and plays violin. She answers these questions:

  • Why do you like The Nutcracker? Because it’s pretty and I love to dance and I love the music and it’s so good!
  • How do you feel when you hear it? I feel happy. I feel really good because I feel like I’m getting lost in the music.
  • What do do when you hear it? Dance! I feel like I’m in the show and it makes me want to dance to how the music is going.
  • When did you hear it last? I heard it last on my Ipod touch that my mama set up for me.

Kaia Behr is 5 and plays cello. She answers these questions:

  • How does this music make you feel? It makes me feel kind of like Clara (the main character). And it makes me feel happy!
  • Why do you love it? I love The Nutcracker because It reminds me of Christmastime and I have two Nutcracker books and a real Nutcracker at my house. The music and the dancing makes me feel excited!
  • What do you do when you hear it? I want to dance but I listen quietly so I can pay attention to all the performers.
  • Where did you hear it last? Each year during Thanksgiving week, I go to the Eastman Theater in Rochester, NY to hear my parents and their friends play with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and see the dancers from the Rochester Ballet Theater perform the Nutcracker. I really love going to the dress rehearsal because it feels like the concert is just for me!


Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)

Largo from Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95, “From the New World”

Composed: 1892
Instrumentation: 2 flutes, 2 oboes plus English horn, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, and strings

Dvořák’s New World Symphony was composed during his extended stay in the United States, partly as a demonstration of how America could use its rich resource of home-grown vernacular music to find its own voice in the concert hall. Presciently, Dvořák saw the musical traditions of African Americans and of indigenous Americans as pointing the way forward. The moving Largo was inspired by Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha. The famous English horn melody is pentatonic, a scale associated with Native American melody, among many other folk idioms. The middle section flutters with birdsong as nature gradually wakes from its slumber.

Who chose this piece?

Alasdair Neale is the Music Director of the Sun Valley Music Festival. He says:

The New World Symphony was the centerpiece of the very first orchestra concert I ever went to. I must have been about 8 or 9. I remember being impressed by two things in the slow movement: first, the sheer beauty of the music, which completely entranced me; and second, the nerve it must have taken the English Horn player to do that exposed solo!

John Williams (b. 1932)

The Imperial March from Star Wars

Composed: 1980
Instrumentation: 3 flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets plus bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, 4 percussion (bass drum, crash cymbals, triangle, glockenspiel, vibraphone, snare drum), harp, piano (doubling celesta), and strings

For many, inspiration from orchestral music came first in the movie theater rather than the concert hall. John Williams’ epic scores to the Star Wars franchise redefined how music can add to the emotional and narrative impact of the action on the silver screen. Williams essentially wrote the score to George Lucas’s space opera, complete with musical themes that would evoke characters, places, ideas, or relationships. The sinister Imperial March theme instantly evokes Darth Vader himself, together with his stormtrooper henchmen. True aficionados will remind us that this franchise-defining theme was actually not introduced until the second film, The Empire Strikes Back.

Who chose this piece?

Kristin Ahlstrom plays first violin in the Sun Valley Music Festival Orchestra. She says:

When Star Wars came out, I liked the score so much that I decided I wanted the music from the Throne Room played as a wedding recessional (which I think is pretty neat idea for a five-year-old). My admiration for John Williams has only grown since then, as he has written some of my favorite scores: Superman, E.T, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park. He’s a master!

Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)

The Great Gate of Kiev from Pictures at an Exhibition

Orchestrated by Maurice Ravel

Composed: 1874, orchestrated by Ravel in 1922
Instrumentation: 3 flutes (2nd and 3rd doubling piccolo), 3 oboes (3rd doubling English horn), 2 clarinets plus bass clarinet, 2 bassoons plus contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, 5 percussion (tam-tam, triangle, ratchet, crash cymbals, glockenspiel, suspended cymbal, chimes), 2 harps, celesta, and strings

Mussorgsky composed Pictures at an Exhibition as a memorial tribute to his friend Victor Hartmann, a Russian architect and painter who was only 39 when he died in 1873. Moved by an exhibition of Hartmann’s watercolors, designs, and drawings at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, Mussorgsky composed his piano suite of vividly constructed vignettes, based on ten of the works. The Great Gates of Kiev, the final movement, is based on a design Hartmann presented for a Kiev gateway that was to be built to commemorate Czar Alexander II’s escape from an assassination. The plan is fanciful, including buried arches, a cupola in the form of an ancient Russian helmet, and three prominent bells. Ravel’s masterful 1923 orchestration captures the majesty of the scene.

Who chose this piece?

Sameer Patel is the Associate Conductor of the Sun Valley Music Festival. He says:

One of my favorite piano pieces that I studied in high school was Pictures at an Exhibition. It was the grandeur of the final piece in the work, The Great Gate of Kiev, that moved me the most, and I loved nothing more than making all that sound at the piano and dreaming of what it would be like to conduct this piece one day with a full symphony orchestra (tonight is my first time!).

Jenny Jordan is a student at the Music Institute. She studies violin, piano and voice. She answers these questions:

  • How does this music make you feel? The Great Gate of Kiev really feels like a grand finale to one of my favorite suites ever written: Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky. It gives me a sense of awe and closure to a journey the entire suite sets up. Whenever I listen to the suite, I gush the most at the end because of the sheer beauty of the last movement.
  • Why do you love it or how does it inspire you? What I love most about this piece is its ability to put a picture of the gate into the mind of the listeners without even using words. I compose occasionally, and putting pictures and stories behind music is fascinating to me (and if you know the story behind the entire suite, it makes listening to it much more rewarding). The Great Gate of Kiev does such an amazing job at this that it’s hard for me not to get soaked up in the music. Its grand melodies also compliment the rest of the piece so well and pull it all together in a finale that really makes you feel a sense of conclusion. Although it was originally written for piano, I really love the orchestrated version by Ravel. The colors given off by the different instruments really bring life to the piece that’s hard to get with just a piano.
  • What are your memories of hearing the piece? During my 7th grade year, I was in Sinfonia, an extra orchestra for more advanced middle schoolers. My orchestra teacher, Mrs. Martin, always liked to pick pieces for us that the SVMF would be playing during the summer in order to encourage us to go see the concerts. That year, they were going to perform the entire Pictures at an Exhibition, so we played four movements including The Great Gate of Kiev. I had a lot of fun playing these pieces, especially with such an amazing teacher, who really helped inspire me in the earlier years of learning my instrument. When the SVMF Orchestra played it so perfectly on such a beautiful day, for a moment, I couldn’t think about anything besides how much I was invested in this story the entire suite had told me, all wrapped up in an unforgettable ending. I was so overjoyed it was almost overwhelming. Pictures at an Exhibition was really the first time I had felt such admiration for a work of music (ask my parents; I listened to it all the time), and it was one of many sparks that would inspire me to pursue music.


Program notes by Jon Kochavi