concert experience

Topic

Toluca, Mexico

Given my experiences in Mexico, my lingering question has been, “Who decided, or why do we feel, that we must upend our programming in order for people of targeted ethnicities to comprehend and enjoy classical music played by a live orchestra?”

Edwin Longsden Long: Then to Her Listening Ear Responsive Chords Came Familiar, Sweet and Low, 1881.

All the concrete, busy activity leading up to the performance is not the music, but only its production apparatus, and it extends far beyond what happens in the concert hall – a massive undertaking by numerous people leading to an ephemeral acoustical rumbling and disappearing into the clatter of, hopefully, happy applause.

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens.

“I wrote to Peter Gelb, whom I know, and I said that the only way you’re going to solve these problems is to tear down that house, which is almost four thousand seats, and build something half the size or less. I am convinced that these very large concert halls are a thing of the past.”

Fritz Kreisler, Harold Bauer, Pablo Casals, and Walter Damrosch at Carnegie Hall in 1904

There will always be a type that can’t stand that the broad public fails to share his passions. They will not reconcile themselves to the fact that classical music will always be, as it has always been, a minority taste. But the minority – lucky us – has an abundance before it.

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.

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