It is frustrating.....


I'm an audiophile because I'm a music lover. Like most of the people on this site, I try cables, equipment, spikes, etc with one goal : to get the best out of 'canned' music, make it as close to life performance as possible. Knowing that 'perfect' reproduction is impossible, I go to live concerts as much as I can - on the average 10 classical music concerts, 2 ~ 3 operas, some jazz concerts per year.

Than it starts to become frustrating. Third time this year, I have left a concert at the break in Lincoln centre (NYC).

The acoustics : great, individual instruments : very palatable (!), no coloration, yadi yada yada...

Performance : miserable. No soul, no urge, no involvement from the orchestra... No pride in their work ?

Give me my 'miserable' listening room, 'coloring' cables, 'imperfect' equipment ... even a 'mono' CD - but a good, involving performance !

I'm not even talking about 'technical / mechanical' performance of the musicians - for me, technical brilliance is important, but secondary. It is the feel, interpretation, the 'soul' which is more important.

And the audience - horrible (see the thread 'cough vigilante). It is actually worse ... May be someday they will sell popcorn in the concert halls...

I have decided that I can save that $50/$60 per person / per concert, plus the trimmings, to buy 'canned' performances.

No wonder that the industry is complaining about less and less concert goers - they've just lost two.

Sorry for the rumblings.... I had to let some steam out...
ikarus
You are going to the wrong performances.
Excellent post! And I would add to that litany the rigidity of programming. Seems to me that either you get the warhorses, or new "difficult" music that I hate.

I once suggested to the conductor he play more material from lesser known but very accessible composers such as Walton, Stenhammar, Alfven, Hanson... He sniffed that he didn't do second rate composers. This after performing a piece of modernist dreck that was a true snooze!

I've been a loyal supporter of the symphony, but these days, I tend to boycott. My response to their arrogance -- I can live without your nonsense. Reiner, Bernstein, Furtwangler, Kleiber, Szell, Karajan, and Boult are good enough for me to do without the latest mediocrities.

I used to boo at some concerts, but my wife was too embarassed by it so now I just cancelled my subscription and hear at most 2 concerts a year.
If you are referring to the NY Phil, I've watched/listened to the "Live from Lincoln Center" broadcasts on TV & Radio and I've had the impression they are playing on Auto Pilot.

This is not just them. I've had the same impression at times sitting in Symphony Hall in Boston. Ozawa is now gone, so maybe some new blood will help. But it is not just the Music Director. The musicians have to care


I am very lucky to now be down near Baltimore. New music director Yuri Temirkanov is fantastic. I find I can't wait for each concert to take place. They have everything you say your orchestra lacks.
Temirkanov was asked why he decided on Baltimore of all places. He guest conducts all the worlds major orchestras, and with his stature could almost have his pick of where he wanted to go. What he said was informative. He said Baltimore has an excellent orchestra, but they yearn to be even better. Therefore, it is an orchestra he can work with to attain something. They are open to new ideas and taking chances. He also related that some orchestras know they are great, so they are content, "which is very dangerous".

To give you an idea of the musicians in Baltimore, the principal cellist is famous for being offered the principal's chair of the MET orchestra in NYC without even auditioning or applying for the position. A lot of cellist would die just to get an audition. He turned it down; was not interested in being in NY. A lot of the musicians are faculty at the Peabody Conservatory at John's Hopkins.


I can also relate to the coughing. It is so rude. It is possible to cough quietly if you can't help it. They could at least cover their mouth with something.


You should take the train down to Baltimore some evening when Yuri is conducting.

Another thing the managements are doing is booking all these Teenage wonderkins for $$$ reasons. They play fast with no technical mistakes, but also with no nuance, soul, emotion, etc. But is sell lots of tickets and they are cheaper to contract. The typical person going to the Symphony to be "seen" does not know the difference.

There was a concert conducted by Temirkanov in January with british pianist John Lill who most of you probably have never heard of. They play the Beethoven 5th (Emperor) concerto. Lill was a Tchaikovsky runner-up in the 60s. He does not usually play much outside of europe. Well the concert was fantastic; as good an any Beethoven played by Solomon, Curzon, Perahia, etc. The concert hall was only about 60-65% full at the most. Regular concert goers are not interested in a Bald, middle-aged foreign pianist they have never heard of. The people who did show up probably did so because is was a chance to hear Temirkanov. In the end happily, the ones who did show up gave Lill four rounds of loud well deserved applause.

For those who live near Boston, I highly recommend the Boston Philharmonic and music director Ben Zander. Not only does the orchestra care, the audience does also, so it is a unique experience. Be sure to go early to Ben's pre-concert lecture, not to be missed.
I remember reading Riner was almost mean as a snake. Well apparently, that's what it took to get the desired performance.My favorite conductors are mostly the old guys, from the 40s/50s/60s/. Sort of how free agency has changed all of sports. Too much $$$;not enough personal caring for the "whole" Hard to get good team players these days.
I'll take two tickets. And Oh, can I sleep on your couch? [:)]
Ikarus, I feel as you do, however I doggedly keep on going to concerts, because I want to always refresh the imprint of the real thing in my mind and soul in order to keep the memory fresh for the goal I try to tweak for.
Amen Jsbail, there is plenty of wonderful and inpassioned music making taking place; particularly in NYC. One has to be willing to venture beyond the more familiar venues, but even in those, great music making takes place on a regular basis. Don't you guys (and ladies) ever go to American Composers Orchestra concerts at Carnegie Hall. Very interesting and challenging stuff and beautifuly played by the best musicians in NYC, particularly when conducted by Dennis Russell Davies, a brilliant and inspired maestro. Most performances at the Met particularly under Levine are fabulous in my opinion. There is really interesting change happening at the NYC Ballet, I encourage those who in the past found that orchestra lackluster to give them another chance. The Brooklyn Phil under Spano is giving some at times electrifying performances. And let's not forget our neighbor the NJ Symphony under Macal, really good stuff. Check out some of the smaller ensembles such as EOS (across the street from Lincoln Center at the Society for Ethical Culture); truly innovative programming and vibrant playing. Merkin Hall regularly offers fascinating programming by some of the most interesting chamber ensembles around, like Speculum Musicae, Met Orchestra ensembles, and others. As far as jazz and other improvisatory music there is always great stuff going on in NYC. The Knitting Factory, Small's, the Village Vanguard always has great artists featured. As far as the NY Phil goes, I assure you the vast majority of the players care very deeply about what they do. Yes it is true that at times the performances leave much to be desired but classical music (any worthwhile music for that matter) is under attack by the electronic dreck that passes for music these days. The music and it's practitioners need the support of the public not the condescension that seems at times to be in vogue. Why that is I'm not sure but I suspect that in part it is due to the possibility that the pursuit of audio perfection in the home has caused some to feel somewhat uninvolved during the live music experience. Some of the "attributes" of far too many "audiophile" systems are in fact distortions in my experience. There will never be substitutes for some of the great artists of the past; just as there will never be a substitute for the sound of live music.
I will be printing and saving your post Jlggomez, thanks.

One more frustrating thing managements are doing around the country is classifying "cross-over" artists in with the classical artists. I fully support Mark O'Conner and Bobby McFerrin's right to perform their art, but IMHO they are POPs concerts and do not belong in my subscription. The first thing I do when I get my subscription in the mail each year is exchange them away before they even print the tickets for the season. It's strange because most POPs schedules are the same old thing (mostly show tunes) and including these in the POPs series would do more to introduce the POPs crowd to something "more classical" instead of annoying the classical crowd. Bobby McFerrin is very talented, but paying money to hear him HUM Mozart Serenades just does not cut it for me.

I live just outside of Cleveland, home to what many people consider to be one of the finest orchestras in the country, but I only get to about one or two concerts each year. Not because of scheduling, but because of the lack of decent programming. I love a great piece of music, but the Cleveland Orchestra, for all its strengths, tends to play the same old warhorses over and over and over again. I firmly believe that this is one of the reasons that "classical" music is so quickly becoming less and less popular. Cleveland's got an audience of 70 and 80 year olds who will walk out if anything that was written in the past 75 years is played, and that's the audience for which Dohnanyi programs. One way to draw in new faces might be to draw in new(er) material. I, personally, would certainly attend more concerts if more new music were played.
I also find listening to my home system much more enjoyable than going to an orchestra concert because of the audience (or, in my home, the lack thereof). There's such an elitist atmosphere of snobbery at these concerts. Besides, staying at home is more comfortable. I can't go to Severence Hall to see the Cleveland Orchestra in my underwear while eating ice cream.
One thing that I have wondered, though: how does one compare a rock and roll concert to a recording of a rock and roll band. If one were to go to see Rush or Pearl Jam at the local stadium, I can't imagine that any of the audiophile "buzzwords" would apply. With all of the screaming and the enormous, bass-heavy PA speakers, there really wouldn't be much of a soundstage or any clarity to speak of, would there? Wouldn't a good recording of rock music always be superior to a concert?
Amen Jsbail, there is plenty of wonderful and inpassioned music making taking place; particularly in NYC. One has to be willing to venture beyond the more familiar venues, but even in those, great music making takes place on a regular basis. Don't you guys (and ladies) ever go to American Composers Orchestra concerts at Carnegie Hall. Very interesting and challenging stuff and beautifuly played by the best musicians in NYC, particularly when conducted by Dennis Russell Davies, a brilliant and inspired maestro. Most performances at the Met particularly under Levine are fabulous in my opinion. There is really interesting change happening at the NYC Ballet, I encourage those who in the past found that orchestra lackluster to give them another chance. The Brooklyn Phil under Spano is giving some at times electrifying performances. And let's not forget our neighbor the NJ Symphony under Macal, really good stuff. Check out some of the smaller ensembles such as EOS (across the street from Lincoln Center at the Society for Ethical Culture); truly innovative programming and vibrant playing. Merkin Hall regularly offers fascinating programming by some of the most interesting chamber ensembles around, like Speculum Musicae, Met Orchestra ensembles, and others. As far as jazz and other improvisatory music there is always great stuff going on in NYC. The Knitting Factory, Small's, the Village Vanguard always has great artists featured. As far as the NY Phil goes, I assure you the vast majority of the players care very deeply about what they do. Yes it is true that at times the performances leave much to be desired but classical music (any worthwhile music for that matter) is under attack by the electronic dreck that passes for music these days. The music and it's practitioners need the support of the public not the condescension that seems at times to be in vogue. Why that is I'm not sure but I suspect that in part it is due to the possibility that the pursuit of audio perfection in the home has caused some to feel somewhat uninvolved during the live music experience. Some of the "attributes" of far too many "audiophile" systems are in fact distortions in my experience. There will never be substitutes for some of the great artists of the past; just as there will never be a substitute for the sound of live music.
Sorry for the double post folks. Trouble with my log on. Sugarbrie, I could'nt agree with you more concerning "cross-over artists". Allow me to relate an experience I had working under "maestro" McFerrin. I had the pleasure of working as an extra player with the NY Phil a couple of years ago during one of their Parks summer series. He conducted Gershwin's American in Paris. He had a lot of trouble with a piece that is not particularly demanding of conducting chops; to the extent that in the somewhat tricky double time section 3/4's of the way through, the only way that things would not fall apart was if he stopped conducting altogether. The final performance of the series was on the night of a fierce rain storm and due to the resultant traffic jams one of the saxophone players was late. Either McFerrin is incredibly cool and composed(no pun intended)or as most suspected, he did not even notice. Now, as you said he is talented in what he does well, but that is an indication of what oftentimes happens in orchestras. The players feel discouraged and even a bit offended that they have to work for coductors who really are not up to par. Avguygeorge, you might be interested in this one, and verifiably true. Reiner was always known for having a, at times, impossibly small beat pattern. One of the Chicago bassists, know as a jokester, set up a small telescope on a tripod at the first rehearsal one week. He would peer into it on occasion to the glee of some. Reiner said nothing for three days. On the fourth day, as the rehearsal was ending he held up a small note and pointed it at the bass section. In small letters, visible only through the telescope was written: "You're Fired".
I am performing in a concert with Dave Brubeck on March 24th in Baltimore. I am not sure who is crossing over to who. Dave has composed a lot of music for chorus and jazz quartet, so I guess we are meeting half-way. We will be recording the music the next day coming to a Tower Records near you. Anyone interested in coming? More information at www.baltimorechoralarts.org
Excellent post, Frogman, and good luck with your singing, I presume, Sugarbrie. I'll put in a plug for the NJ Symphony Orchestra, Zdenek Macaal does not let them give anything but a fully committed performance. There are plenty of smaller ensembles and soloists performing in localities around the NYC area who give fine performances, that's one of the best things about this area. BTW, Frogman, unfortunately the Brooklyn Phil is losing/has lost Maestro Spano to the Atlanta Symphony, so it's clear others noticed his considerable talent as well.
Try Miami. I checked the weather today and its 75 and sunny the rest of the week. Michael Tilson Thomas" project for young musicians (I can't think of the name of the orchestra) was, when I lived there, a bunch of up and comers, playing there hearts out with lots of interesting music. And then there's all those Cuban and Nicaraguan Restaurants.
Go to Carnegie Hall.It is the best sound system in the world It makes music involving. The acoustics at Lincoln Center are mediocre at best.
The organization Tilson Thomas started is the New World Symphony. It is intended as an alternative to Conservatories. In the past, if you did not get into a conservatory for whatever reason, and get the experience in orchestra playing needed to get a good job with a major orchestra, you were locked out of that kind of career. Tilson Thomas started this as a way for good young musicians who missed out on the conservatory experience, to get the training they need to get a job with a good orchestra. He calls it "An Orchestra Academy". Tilson Thomas is a Saint for starting this. You can find out about it at WWW.NWS.ORG
"the typical person going to the symphony to be seen"....I think I might throw up! While there seem to be many different suggestions for excellent music in the NYC area, is there a consensus on which symphony or venue is most likely to attract the person who is going "to be seen"? I want to make sure I stay as far away as possible. I don't know enough about the ballet to know if the American Ballet Theatre programs and performances are good or bad, but I can warn readers that is has recently been hijacked by lah di dah socialites who may be "tirelessly devoted to charity" (read: wearing expensive clothes, drinking champagne and being photographed) but wouldn't know the difference between Tchaikovsky and Riverdance.
Yes, they do go to be seen, especially in this area. Go to the Kennedy Center sometime. See all the fur coats and fancy dresses. See them all hang out in the same area and gossip. Every performance gets a standing ovation no matter if it is good or bad. This is is a Friday and Saturday night I will confess, but interesting to watch from a distance. Baltimore is not as bad but very similar on Saturday. I am out of place not being in a suit, especially in the box seats.
Gentlemen, who cares if some go to be seen. The arts have always attracted some who go "to be seen". Look at it as a compliment to your good taste. Not much different than the audiophile who buys the most expensive gear while being clueless as to what good sound is all about; in fact they are probably the same folks. I frankly don't understand the preoccupation with this, or are we looking for excuses to not support the arts. I assure you that most arts organizations (and high end audio for that matter) can use every single ticket sale. So if some attend for less than noble reasons; again, who cares. Maybe the experience will educate them on some level. By the way, a fur coat does not necessarily brand an attendee a clueless snob. Enjoy the music!

I think Ikarus is onto something, but it seems there's a point here no has touched upon: this rude behavior is symptomatic of a general debasing of our culture, from the mosh pit devotees to the concertgoers. You could debate for hours they whys and wherefores, but the pattern seems obvious to me. I share some of Ikarus' frustrations - the coughing, late arrivals, chatterers, the cell phone addicts, and uninspired readings of great music. Doubly annoying since we have a superb orchestra in our city, but it at times ain't easy to hear it for the noise in one form or another. Civility is indeed a dying art.

Re the point on the mechanical nature of the performances - it can't be easy for the musicians to be on fire for every performance. That is not to excuse a run through of a Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart, what have you. But we all have our flat days. One poster here mentioned a conductor who chose Baltimore, citing its collective desire to improve. That strikes me as an extremely astute observation by this gentleman. Complacency, whether manifest in the Cleveland, New York, or the Frog Creek Lower Symphonic Orchestra and volunteer fire department, is not conducive to inspired musical production. I guess the trick is to pick your concerts on the days when the musicians are "up" :>). (Don't know how you'd do that, of course.)

That's why I go to few concerts these days; it's also why I've made a substantial investment in home theater. Can't take the Philistines in the concert halls or the theaters.

Diatribe is over.