NSO to Live Twitter Performance of Beethoven

Have you ever sat in the audience for a classical music concert and wished you understood the music better -- even for a piece you were familiar with?

National Symphony Orchestra Associate Conductor Emil de Cou feels your pain.

De Cou is writing a series of messages on Twitter designed to draw the audience into Thursday night's NSO performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 6, better known as the "Pastoral Symphony," at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, which is the summer home of the NSO. Wolf Trap is encouraging audience members on the outdoor lawn to follow on their cell phones during the concert.

Following a similar experiment in 2007 involving iTunes and podcasts, audience members who are interested in learning more about this symphonic work can follow the Wolf Trap Twitter feed. During the intermission of Thursday's concert, tweets explaining the composer's intent behind the music will be sent both to those at the live performance and for those playing the piece at home.

This particular work was not chosen by accident. Many pastoral symphonies were written before and after Beethoven's time, but his remains the best known. It's a genre that audiences of the 1800s were very familiar with -- a context with its own musical themes that is largely lost to modern audiences. So sample tweets like "Measure 37: A grove of trees filled with singing birds" will give any listener a visual context to go with the performance.

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