concert experience

Topic

girl with fingers in her ears

Do we really want to hear Beethoven’s Fifth as it was heard at its premiere? Do we want to listen to 50 unevenly trained musicians, give or take, playing for four hours on weak instruments that are hard to play, in an unheated concert hall conducted by a deaf man on one rehearsal?

Het Concertgebouw. Image credit: Jean-Paul Opperman.

“Our mission is to enrich and connect people with a sublime musical experience – that’s what we do. What this means is that it’s not only the music that should be sublime, but everything about Concertgebouw should be sublime.”

Wilhelm Schreuer: Das Konzert im Schlossgarten

There has been a drumbeat of naysayers who prophesy the doom of symphony orchestras, telling us in somber tones that only rich, old folks go to concerts these days. I’m sorry, but that’s not how I’ve seen things.

David Modell

Dave was one of my very first supporters and not only encouraged me, but backed me in the hard work of establishing FSI. He was rooting not only our home team, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, but for orchestras all around the country.

Scene from Anthony Minghella's production of “Madame Butterfly,” which has become a Met favorite. Image credit: Metropolitan Opera.

New York’s Metropolitan Opera has stood resolutely against Regietheater decadence. In fact, its greatest gift to the world at the present moment is to mount productions – whether sleekly abstract or richly realistic – that allow the beauty of some of the most powerful music ever written to shine forth. The question now is whether that musical gift will continue.

Children. Image credit: Alfred Eisenstaedt.

When we throw together these shows on one rehearsal, with an undermanned orchestra augmented by freelancers who perhaps have never played together before, we are again denigrating the intelligence of our audience: “They won’t know the difference.” In my experience, this is profoundly wrongheaded.

Many are surprised by the beauty of New York City’s City Hall subway station, hidden underground.

Reading the gripping chapters of Robert R. Reilly’s book, with YouTube on the screen, was both an education in itself, and a source of shame to me, who have defended tonality all these years without realising that it is a live tradition, constantly renewing itself in defiance of an academic orthodoxy that denies its right to exist.

The terroirist revenge, a renewed commitment to authenticity, was not created by wine alone and it does not apply to wine alone either. Rather, it is a movement among the new and the young today – exactly those not brought up in the traditions of grand opera and Bordeaux, but who seek out, nevertheless, the real, the genuine, and the authentic experience.

Vintage film camera

You often hear the expression “film music” used pejoratively. “It’s just film music,” said of some new symphonic piece, suggests an overblown pursuit of effect at the cost of structure, of atmosphere at the cost of musical form. But is this just the snobbery of the avant-garde, a kind of musical elitism that belongs to an age from which we have recovered, now that our innocent distractions, once dismissed as “mass culture,” can be enjoyed for what they are, namely fun?

Château Fombrauge 2008 magnum nestled in an original Stradivarius case.

There is a natural harmony between the principles and values that describe classical music and those that define meta-luxury. Even more significantly, those principles and values resonate most deeply in our human nature, transcending all the boundaries that so worry us when we contemplate the problem of luxury.

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