For centuries, sommeliers and gastronomes have strived to pair wines with food for the perfect dining experience. On Friday, the New World Symphony will pair fine wines with classical music for the perfect musical experience.
The concert hall of the symphony’s Frank Gehry-designed home will be transformed into an elegant cantina for “Heard it through the Grapevine,” an experimental program conceived and produced by cellist Hilary Glen, a third-year fellow.
Glen discovered studies published in the Oxford Biomedical Journal that examined how surroundings and music affected how people perceived taste. In one study, participants were served a specified wine while a piece of music was played. Then, the music was changed and the participants noted the changes in the taste of the wine.
“It was fascinating,” said Glen, who holds degrees from the prestigious Indiana University and Eastman schools of music and was tasked with planning all the different programmatic and logistical aspects of the concert. “I thought it would be interesting to explore the many different connections between wine and music.”
Other efforts typically linked genres of music, such as indie rock or bluegrass music, to certain wines and spirits, but Glen wanted to highlight the subtleties inherent in the diverse range of classical music.
“I certainly love wine and I love doing wine tastings, especially after living in upstate New York, but I would definitely not consider myself an expert,” Glen explained. “I enjoy wine as much as the next person.”
She enlisted master sommelier Virginia Philip, one of only a couple hundred wine professionals worldwide to attain her industry’s highest certification, to consult on the program and Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits agreed to provide the wines.
While the audience sips G.H. Mumm Brut Cordon Rouge to French composer Lili Boulanger’s “d’un matin de printemps 4:40,” they will be challenged to ponder what, exactly, does Champagne sound like.
Then, the orchestra will perform two similar works from different centuries, Handel’s Concerto Grosso Op. 13 No. 1 in B-flat Major and Ellen Taafe Zwilich’s Concerto Grosso (1985), while sipping Kruger-Rumpf Estate Riesling and Selbach Riesling Kabinett. They must then determine whether they perceive the same styles of wine differently compared to works composed two centuries apart.
According to history, Franz Schubert (1797-1828) preferred to drink wines produced at the Austrian winery Weinbau Sattler. While the symphony performs the fourth movement of the composer’s famous “Trout” quartet, the audience will sample a 2014 vintage of wine from the same winery.
The program will conclude, appropriately, with Saint-Saens’ familiar “Dance Baccchanale” from the opera, “Samson et Dalila.”
Unfortunately, the musicians will not get to taste any of the wine until the concert is concluded, but Glen said they are still very excited by the concept.
“They may be a little disappointed, but they will definitely get some wine afterwards,” she promised.
Glen see this unique program as an opportunity to introduce classical music to new audiences: “I hope everyone learns a little bit about music and wine. I’m always in favor of breaking down the barriers to classical music.”
The New World Symphony presents “Heard it through the Grapevine” at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 6 at the New World Center, 500 17th St. in Miami Beach. Tickets are $40 at NWS.edu.