By  Holli Harms

Magic for your ears at The Metropolitan Museum.

You have to make your way through the Greek and Roman exhibits.  A small trek back in time passing by statue upon statue of the human body in all its perfect glory.  Then you step into Egypt, the world of mummies and carved hieroglyphs on the solid stones of the Temple of Dendur, built by human creativity, visually on display for anyone and everyone.  At the Temple take a left and there it is, The Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium. You have traveled through time and voyaged your way to a concert your conductor Leon Botstein, the orchestra, The Orchestra Now (TON), the music, Strauss’ Don Quixote and The Last Knight.  The concert is part of the Orchestra’s Sight and Sound series and is set to complement the art exhibit The Last Knight: The Art, Armor, and Ambition of Maximilian I.

The evening is in two parts, the first, Conductor Botstein educates us, talking about the music we’re about to hear, laying out the history of chivalry and the times of Maximilian I.  We find out Maximilian I was a Holy Roman Emperor from 1508 to 1519 and devoted to the Chivalric Code of Honor of self-sacrifice, astute life through prayer, and courage. The code was guided by reason, justice, wisdom, and temperance.  A knight of chivalry is the rescuer of the idealized femininity – the damsel in distress.  Maximilian saw the code as a symbol of power, wealth, and domination.  His knights-in-armor jousted to the death and were defenders of Latin Christianity.  Maximilian himself was an extraordinary knight; his skills on the battlefield and the jousting ring made him a celebrity, one both to fear and to follow.

Leon Botstein is a music historian, conductor, educator and gift to the music world.  He founded The Orchestra Now, a unique orchestra of young musicians handpicked from some of the most prestigious conservatories in the world.  For three years they will play together at places like The Met and Carnegie and travel the world.  They receive housing and a stipend for three years and from there they all aspire to a career in music.  Under Mr. Botstein’s direction, they are music ambassadors to the world.

In the prelude to the concert, Mr. Botstein discusses Miguel de Cervantes Don Quixote, considered to be the first modern novel for its portrayal of the internal emotional life of the characters.  Quixote and his “sidekick” Sancho Panza evolve through their relationship and change by the end of the book.  Don Quixote, a knight, neither a good nor sane one, jousts with windmills and declares base women like Dulcinea a lady of greatness, is the world’s first antihero. The character of Quixote has himself been under the influence of the religion of chivalry, but this time the imagined ideal world of the knight comes face to face with the grim realities of life.

It was Don Quixote that inspired Strauss to compose his tone poem “Fantastic Variations on a Theme of Knightly Character.”  In the composition, Don Quixote is depicted by a solo cello ( Lucas Button) and Sancho Panza a solo viola (Leonardo Vasquez Chacon).  Botstein, in the first part of the performance, talks about each part of the composition and introduces us to the music of Quixote, Sancho and all the characters – even the sheep that Quixote imagines to be an army of men.  In only one hour we have been instructed in Maximilian I, chivalry, Don Quixote, and Strauss and then the second, even more wonderful part, is the magical performance, beautifully executed by this remarkable orchestra, a feast to the ears.

Botstein shared with us, “The spacial quality of the music is totally fantastic.  It is idealism mixed with brutally and the music makes its case for both.”  “Music,” Mr. Botstein argues, “is the most human of arts, the essence of imagination.”  And The Orchestra Now under Mr. Botstein’s direction is exactly that, and more, much much more.

You have two more chances to be a witness to The Orchestra Now’s Sight and Sound performances at The Metropolitan Museum Of Art 1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028

Honegger, Vallotton, and the Avant-Garde in Paris
Sunday, December 8, at 2 pm.  This is a Bring the Kids for $1 (ages 6–16) *

Haydn’s The Clock: The Intersection of Art and Technology
Sunday, February 23, at 2 pm

All performances are at the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium
Tickets start at $30; $75 for the series**

For more info on Bring the Kids Performances at the Met Go HERE
*not available for series package.

**Tickets include same-day Museum admission.