Project main supporter - LATTELEKOM
Thanks to LATVIAN CULTURAL ASSOCIATION TILTS Inc. and Dallas/Riga Sister City Committee for partially supporting Symphony of Toys 2005 in Riga.
The Story and the Mystery of the “Toy Symphony”
By Arkady Fomin
The composition, originally called in German “Kinder Sinfonie” (“Children’s Symphony”), and known in America under the title “Toy Symphony” goes back to the 18th century. It was created to entertain everyone on the stage and in the audience. The score of this humoresque piece of music calls for two violins, bass, and a small battalion of toy instruments - cuckoo, nightingale, toy drum, toy trumpet, rattle, and triangle. My first introduction to this musical piece goes back to 1955. As an orchestra of the Darzina School of Music in Riga, Latvia, we were preparing for a special concert to be presented in Moscow as a celebration of Latvian Republic artistic achievements under the Soviet regime. And what a preparation period it was! This one movement piece was rehearsed over and over again. We had to play for several committees to be approved for a Gala Concert in Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater. The members of the Young Musicians Orchestra included Emanuel Borok, Gidon Kremer, myself and other prodigies. The atmosphere approaching this performance was festive, but got rather nervous with the announcement that members of the Soviet government would be in attendance. As I learned later reading the Western Press, a “look alike” was often sent instead to attend this kind of function. Today, I would not be surprised if some of those VIPs were actually brought from the Wax Museum Collection – at least it looked like that to me. The time was the cold winter of 1955.
In over thirty years, I never came across this composition again. Then in 1987, Marilyn Roark Borok, the assistant director of the Conservatory at the time, suggested that our annual winter Holiday concert become more of a community event through the Santa’s Helpers Toy Drive. Then suddenly, all the childhood memories of the sound of the toy instruments came to my mind and I decided to look for the music of the “Kinder Sinfonie” for string orchestra and noisy instruments. Browsing through music catalogs, I came across the work “Toy Symphony” listed next to Joseph Haydn (Papa Haydn). The title “Toy Symphony” gave me an immediate idea to call the concert and the concept “Symphony of Toys..” I ordered the music and when the score arrived, I realized that this was the same funny piece that we rehearsed over and over to entertain the Moscow audience along with the nobility of the Soviet government. Investigating further, I came to a very convincing discovery, that it wasn’t “Papa Haydn” who wrote this piece, but rather “Papa Mozart” (Leopold Mozart, the disciplinarian and enterprising father of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart). The mystery was unveiled. While all the printed materials, even now, credit Joseph Haydn as the composer, your mind should think Leopold Mozart. (This is another proof to the expression “Read between the lines.”)
The Symphony of Toys concert as it’s now known, gives a unique opportunity to young musicians via the medium of music to participate in a community effort to help other children. It was first performed in 1987, on the toy instruments by the Conservatory students and Conservatory supporters in Caruth Auditorium on the campus of SMU. In 1989, it moved to the opening season at the Meyerson Symphony Center. For the past years, hundreds of young musicians have taken part in this combination of music and community effort experience. The roster of Toy Soloists has included the late Eduardo Mata and Louise Kahn, Mayors Annette Strauss, Steve Bartlett, and Ron Kirk, and important patrons of the arts.
We invite you to visit this store year round to help children in crisis. At the NCD, we are proud that the Symphony of Toys will bring joy to thousands of children and audiences of all ages through the sound of music.