I've been to several Beyond the Score concerts, organized and performed by the Chicago Symphony to give people a sense of the history to a classic piece of music--an exegesis in concert form. The program begins with a about an hour of history, biography, and musical examples, replete with narrators, actors, video, and orchestral examples. The second half consists solely of the piece in question.
Weekend: CSO goes Beyond the Score
Sometimes this format works really well. I saw the "Beyond" of the Rite of Spring, one of my all-time favorite pieces, and actually took my parents. The program was a great introduction to the piece for them, having never heard it outside of Fantasia, but I found it equally riveting, having heard it many dozens of times both live and recorded (and yes, a couple times in Fantasia).
Sometimes the format doesn't work as well. I went to the "Beyond" of Mahler's 4th Symphony, hoping to finally get Mahler, but ended up writing him off once again. The presentation itself was fine, but I think it was perhaps a poor choice of symphony: maybe too long and dense to be sufficiently parsed in a short time.
Nevertheless, I'll be at Symphony Center this weekend to go "Beyond" Rachmaninoff's 1909 tone poem, Isle of the Dead, and have high expectations. I know the piece pretty well (or rather knew it once) but am curious to see what makes this piece worthy of such scrutiny. The CSO website alludes to a "new palette of orchestral sound and texture", which is something our contemporary ears have a hard time discerning, having been exposed to so many orchestral experiments since. It will be interesting to see how the piece fits in to the turbulent times of the early 20th century.