We went to the Wigmore Hall on Saturday for a kids' concert put on by our friends at Cavatina: the Kungsbacka Trio, augmented by Laurence Power and Graham Mitchell, playing Schubert's Trout Quintet. It was a full performance of the whole quintet: what made it a kids' concert (apart from the audience) was the fact that the musicians preceded the main performance by teaching about the Quintet, using a pleasant story about young Franz going on a fishing trip. They adorned the story with various snatches of the music to explain to the children what to listen out for. They also threw in a full (and wonderful) performance by Elizabeth Watts of Schubert's song "The Trout": the fourth movement of the Quintet is a set of variations on the song. (After this, the audience had to sing the first verse also!)
Our children thoroughly enjoyed the whole event. The thing is, I found myself wondering why you had to be a child for this sort of thing to be considered useful. I learnt masses about the work from the way they introduced it, and much of the piece stuck far more clearly in my head from the way it was presented. I'm sure that if you designed a programme specifically for adults, you'd do it somewhat differently, but the principle remains: having the musicians go through the work telling you lots about it and playing different sections must surely be a very good way of helping people appreciate it - particularly those new to classical music. It seems like you get some attempt at music appreciation classes at school (if you're lucky), and then after that, it's tough luck mate - you're on your own.
By the way, the performance was top class - beautiful tone, exceptional clarity, and gentle good humour (the quality for which Stephen Johnson uses the German word gemütlichkeit), and a world apart from the far more muscular (and more exciting) approach taken by the Greenwich Trio in the last Trout I saw earlier in the year.
11th November 2008