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A musical family: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with his sister and father.
A musical family: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with his sister and father.

Best Bets This Weekend: Music From a Long Time Ago and a Galaxy Far, Far Away

There's a theory that the universe in which the Star Wars franchise exists coincides with our 18th and 19th centuries here on Earth, so this weekend in Houston we're celebrating the music from both galaxies — two from a long time ago and another far, far away. From the Houston Early Music Festival to Schumann's cycle of poems and on to John Williams' majestic score, this weekend is stellar.

Listen for the furious strings in the background, layered up and buzzing like flies.
Listen for the furious strings in the background, layered up and buzzing like flies.
Cinematography by Peter Suschitzky, film still © LucasFilm Ltd, courtesy of Houston Symphony

There's no mistaking the menace behind the militant "The Imperial March," a melody that we first heard during Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. The film's soundtrack — with all its triumphant fanfare and themes for Leia, Luke and the force — earned another Academy Award nomination for composer John Williams. This weekend the Houston Symphony screens the blockbuster film while performing the award-winning score live, led by Houston Symphony Principal POPS Conductor Steven Reineke, in "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back" — in Concert. Ticket sales have been brisk, but a fifth concert has been added, giving us all "A New Hope" for securing a seat.

"Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back" — in Concert is scheduled for November 7-10 at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-224-7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org/starwars. $45 to $164.

The Houston Early Music Festival kicks off with Mercury's Classical Sonatas.
The Houston Early Music Festival kicks off with Mercury's Classical Sonatas.
Photo by BEND Productions

Peanuts' Schroeder was right to love the music of Beethoven, but he got it all wrong when it came to execution. Forget toy pianos, or even contemporary musical instruments: the music of the 17th and 18th centuries sounds best when performed on period instruments. The Houston Early Music Festival brings us seven concerts and an opportunity to hear scores on historic instruments (or replicas): the fortepiano, viola da gamba, medieval winds, violle, lute, a recorder and more. This year's theme is "The Old Made New" and includes music from the Baroque, Renaissance and Middle Ages.

The festival kicks off with sonatas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig Van Beethoven and Emanuel Aloys Förster, with featured artists Jonathan Godfrey on violin and Mario Aschauer on fortepiano.
Classical Sonatas is scheduled for November 7 at 7 p.m. Saturday at MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 713-533-0080 or 713-521-4533 or visit mercuryhouston.org or matchouston.org. $10 to $37.*

The Piping Rock Singers will perform Monteverdi's Vespero Della Beata Vergine, often referred to as Vespers of 1610, accompanied by a full chamber orchestra.
Vespero Della Beata Vergine is scheduled for November 8 at 7:30 p.m. Friday at First Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1311 Holman. For information, call 832-786-9226 or visit pipingrocksingers.com. $15 to $40.*

Dietrich Buxtehude goes down in history as the most famous organist in Germany prior to Johann Sebastian Bach, but it was his avant-garde mode of music-making that inspired Ars Lyrica Houston's collaboration with Music at St. Philip. Semper Phantasticus explores extravagant works for violion, viola da gamba and harpsichord through Buxtehude's sonatas, as well as those by fellow fantastical stylist Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber.
Semper Phantasticus is scheduled for November 10 at 5 p.m. Sunday at St. Philip Presbyterian Church, 4807 San Felipe. For information, call 713-622-7443 or visit arslyricahouston.org/semper-fantasticus. Free; donations are encouraged.

It seems there are still a few frontiers remaining and a work of chamber music for the fortepiano, written by Emanuel Aloys Förster, is making its United States debut with La Speranza's Unbridled Elegance. The evening includes a stormy quartet from Mozart as well as Joseph Haydn's Piano Trio in E-flat major, a delightful piece with numerous harmonic surprises.
Unbridled Elegance is scheduled for November 14 at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at First Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1311 Holman. For information, visit la-speranza.com/concert-series. Pay what you can; suggested donation is $20.*

Cleveland-based Les Délices returns to Houston, courtesy of Houston Early Music, with every intention of exciting your senses. Intoxicated: A Medieval Sensory Experience will be presented in a quartet of groupings — Heady Perfumes, Up in Smoke, Bacchanalia, and Elixir of Love — with works by renowned 14th century composer Guillaume de Machaut, as well as other notable masters: Hasprois, Cordier, Solage and Caserta. Arrive at 6:45 p.m. for a pre-concert talk with Artistic Director Debra Nagy.
Intoxicated: A Medieval Sensory Experience is scheduled for November 15 at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, 6221 Main. For information, call 713-325-5377, extension 1077 or visit houstonearlymusic.org/les-delices. $15 to $45.*

The viola da gamba first appeared in Europe in the late 15th century, but it wasn't long before the bowed string instrument became one of the  most popular instruments of the Renaissance and Baroque eras. Viols of Houston will demonstrate why when it performs Reading Session, led by Pedro Funes, president of VoH and founding member of Les Touches.
Reading Session is scheduled for November 16 at 2 p.m. Saturday at First Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1311 Holman. For information, visit houstonviols.com. Free; snacks provided.

Bach's contrapuntal masterpiece, The Art of Fugue, gets a contemporary treatment when it's paired with choreography from New York-based Syren Modern Dance, courtesy of Bach Society Houston. Get lost in the movement as Rick Erickson solves the dilemma about how the piece should be played by employing both the organ and harpsichord.
Art of Fugue with Dance is scheduled for November 17 at 6 p.m. Sunday at Christ the King Lutheran Church, 2353 Rice Boulevard. For information, call 713-400-0514 or visit bachsocietyhouston.org/artoffuguedance. $5 to $40.*

*Discounted tickets are available by purchasing a full pass ($140) or a flex pass (three or more ticketed concerts at a savings of 15 percent). For more information, visit houstonearlymusicfestival.org.

The River, by Will Boone.
The River, by Will Boone.
Photo by Lee Thompson

Folks who've driven across the great state of Texas are familiar with white line fever, or that strange phenomenon where driving is seemingly done by autopilot. That highway hypnosis is the central theme for "Will Boone: The Highway Hex," the first solo museum exhibition for the Houston-born, Los Angeles-based artist. This site-specific exhibition includes new sculptures and paintings, as well as a long form video that questions what it means to revisit one's roots. Don't miss the opening reception this Friday night (6:30-9 p.m.), then come back Saturday for a convo with the artist and CAMH Exhibitions Manager and Assistant Curator Patricia Restrepo (2-3 p.m.) and a Drop-In Experience titled "Where Do I Live?" (1-4 p.m.).

"Will Boone: The Highway Hex" is scheduled for November 9-February 16, open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays, noon to 6 p.m. Sundays at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 5216 Montrose Boulevard. For information, call 713-284-8250 or visit camh.org. Free.

San Antonio is just one of the stops for Trains Over Texas.
San Antonio is just one of the stops for Trains Over Texas.
Photo by Mike Rathke

Visitors needn't be railway enthusiasts to appreciate Trains Over Texas, an indoor model railroad exhibit at The Houston Museum of Natural Science that's as large as a tennis court and has stops in eight different cities, including Houston, Galveston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio. The exhibit has 16 trains running continuously, except for brief breaks to keep from overheating. The trains are "O" scale, which means a quarter inch is equal to one foot. Lessons in geology are embedded throughout the exhibit, where visitors will learn that Texas limestone results from when the Western Interior Seaway plunged our state underwater, a time when marine reptiles swam across our region.

Trains Over Texas is scheduled for November 15-January 5 (new opening date), from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Daily at The Houston Museum of Natural Science, 5555 Hermann Park Drive. For information, call 713-639-4629 or visit hmns.org. Free to $25.

Jennifer Johnson Cano joins Sarah Rothenberg for A Woman’s Life: The Diary of Virginia Woolf.
Jennifer Johnson Cano joins Sarah Rothenberg for A Woman’s Life: The Diary of Virginia Woolf.
Photo by Fay Fox

It was easy to admire and respect Clara Wieck, a young pianist and composer who had gained fame by the time she was 18 and who went on to marry composer Robert Schumann. Mother to seven children and close musical adviser to her husband, the 19th century wonder woman stayed busy touring and teaching throughout her life. Schumann went on to pen Fraunliebe und Leben, a romantic vision of wife and mother, and one of the song cycles being presented by Da Camera and featuring Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano. The program for A Woman’s Life: The Diary of Virginia Woolf is juxtaposed with Dominick Argento's Pulitzer Prize-winning monodrama, From the Diary of Virginia Woolf, a song cycle that mines the late author's private musings, including struggles with anxiety and her last diary entry before her suicide by drowning. Though Woolf's story takes place 135 years after Wieck's, both song cycles pay tribute to these important but different female artists. This musical, literary and visual exploration was conceived by Da Camera Artistic Director Sarah Rothenberg, who directs the performance and accompanies on piano, with lighting design by Erin Earle Fleming. Cano is a frequent performer with The Met, the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, and the San Francisco and Baltimore Symphonies.

A Woman’s Life: The Diary of Virginia Woolf is scheduled for November 9 at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at The Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-524-5050 or visit dacamera.com. $37.50 to $67.50.

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