As part of Subscriber Appreciation Month, we reached out to two longtime subscribers, Ann Friedberg and Ben Newman, to ask them about their relationship with the Houston Symphony. Here’s what Ann had to say.
Calvin Dotsey: When did you first become interested in classical music? Was there a special family member, friend or teacher who introduced you to the world of classical music?
Ann Friedberg: I first became interested in classical music at the age of 10, when I was accepted into the 5th grade orchestra class in my elementary school in New York City. My violin studies, both in school and privately, began then under the guidance of Mr. Saul Pavlow. We learned to play arrangements of classical music and performed in the school orchestra.
I continued my musical studies through the 12th grade, piano and violin, at the High School of Music and Art (now a part of Fiorello LaGuardia High School in Lincoln Center). In high school we had a rich background in music theory and history, ear training, music appreciation, as well as orchestra practice and performance. My husband Ben was also introduced to classical music in his first year of high school in Glasgow, Scotland.
I have fond memories of my mother playing Rachmaninoff, Beethoven, and Mozart on our beautiful Steinway Model M 1913 piano at home, and that very same piano is now in my home, an instrument that has been with our family for 60 years!
CD: When did you first attend a Houston Symphony concert?
AF: My first concert with the Houston Symphony was sometime in the mid-1980s, when I decided to try out a subscription series….and I’ve been hooked ever since! Ben and I have been attending the Houston Symphony together since 1988, the year that we met.
CD: Do you have any favorite Houston Symphony memories you would like to share?
AF: There are many performances that stand out in our minds. Recently, Emanuel Ax on piano, and his encore performance with our principal cellist, Brinton Averil Smith. Just superb! In the past we have enjoyed Itzhak Perlman on numerous occasions, as well as Joshua Bell and Nigel Kennedy on violin. We have also enjoyed our concert master, Frank Huang, who played with such passion in his solo numbers. Uri Pianka, who was with the Houston Symphony for 18 years was also a favorite of ours. We remember his performance with Christoph Eschenbach on piano. Probably our all time favorite, however, was the very moving performance by the Houston Symphony of Scheherazade—it brought tears to our eyes.
CD: How has the Houston Symphony changed since you first began attending?
AF: We have seen so many wonderful transformations at the symphony over the years. We love the pre-concert talks and the interviews with guest artists on the huge screens before performance. The symphony store has expanded its array and selection of gifts for the music lover in all of us. Also, Ben and I have enjoyed the many groups who perform in the upper lobby before the symphony starts. We love the dynamic Andrés Orozco-Estrada, our new Maestro. His energy and passion are contagious, and we appreciate the musical information he imparts to us before we hear a selection.
CD: What does the Houston Symphony mean to you?
AF: The Houston Symphony has meant so much to us over the years. When we attend concerts, we transcend to a very tranquil place—we forget the cares of the day and get lost in the music. Over the years we have made special friends, our symphony family, whom we see each time, so we feel very at home here and we know you will, too! Just watch the talented members of the orchestra enjoy what they love to do best. Their love for music shines through in every note. Just close your eyes and take it all in—it doesn’t get much better than this!!