Believe it or not, there are people — one or two of us, at least — who ponder the question, "What, in fact, is classical music?" If you go to any concert in Richmond this fall where quiet people sit in rows to listen, you'll hear a profusion of answers from the stage. Here's a sampling:
The Richmond Symphony begins its Altria Masterworks series Sept. 22 and 23 with the emphatic Piano Concerto No. 1 by Tchaikovsky, performed by Norman Krieger, and Mahler's first symphony, the opening bars of which you may have heard in the movie "Tree of Life."
On Sept. 29, its Pops series begins with "Bernstein on Broadway," a tribute to Leonard Bernstein narrated by his daughter Jamie.
The symphony's Metro Collection series, performed in Ashland, is augmented this year by a new Rush Hour series — Thursday evening concerts in Gottwald Playhouse at CenterStage that feature a shortened version of select Metro Collection programs. "Song and Serenade," featuring tenor and French horn soloists, is the theme of the Oct. 4 Rush Hour and Oct. 7 Metro Collection concerts.
Over at the University of Richmond's Modlin Center, the Philip Glass Festival is under way through Oct. 5. Glass, who celebrated his 75th birthday in January, has been influencing other composers — classical or not — nearly as long as he's been writing music. A Sept. 19 concert by ensemble-in-residence Eighth Blackbird demonstrates this with works by Glass, Nico Muhly, Mayke Nas and others. Glass will be there Oct. 4 and 5.
Classical music at Virginia Commonwealth University traditionally is represented by its Rennolds Chamber Concerts series. This fall, highlights are violinist Jennifer Koh and pianist Shai Wosner, Oct. 13, and the Brentano String Quartet, Nov. 17, playing music by Bruce Adolphe, who also will be there.
For a different perspective at VCU, catch a rare appearance of the new-music ensemble Quux Collective with faculty saxophonist Sheri Oyan on Nov. 3.
The best professional chamber music deal in Richmond takes place this weekend at the free Alexander Paley Music Festival at First English Lutheran Church. This year, the three-concert series is almost exclusively Bach, Beethoven and Mozart, so enjoy classic classical music and toss some old Deutschmarks or new dollars into the donation basket.
Notable amateur and semi-professional concerts: Richmond Philharmonic performs Debussy, Rachmaninoff and Mussorgsky on Oct. 28. One Voice Chorus performs R. Nathaniel Dett's "The Ordering of Moses," one of the first full-scale oratorios written by a black composer, Nov. 11 and 17.