Live Performance vs HiFi - L.A. Symphony Organ

Today I was very fortunate to hear the L.A. Symphony play a trio of organ/orchestra symphonies live. Sadly, it's been the first time in a long time for me that I have went to listen to live music. But, it was extremely enlightening in terms of the ongoing 'audiophile debate' - at least for me. That is, can a home system capture the real sound that a live experience produces. The collective answer on that is 'no', but it is a fantastic experience to put into perspective the home audio experience. And since I have been listening at home for so long, in several homes and rooms and systems, especially for me on this day. I could make this a very long post, but I will keep to the take aways. First and foremost, the experience of hearing live humans and professional career musicians play real instruments UNAMPLIFIED (more on that later when I will expound a bit for those who care) in an incredible venue (Segerstrom Concert Hall) is exciting. I stopped at exciting, because it sums it up. While I have never had a perfect room or by any stretch a mega-buck system, I am confident that a home audio system could never capture the live experience that a whole orchestra and organ provides.
OK, enough background. Take-aways:
1) I was amazed that I heard treble that was 'fatiguing' (in terms of "audiophile" lingo). Had I heard some of this on a home system, I would have said it had 'fatiguing' treble. (I think this was due to the huge amount a treble energy from all the instruments - I was sitting the 12th row).
2) I was surprised to hear some of the bass information sound 'bloated' - again, in "audiophile" lingo. Not the organ-the pedal notes were succinct, level (no room nodes as we would hear in a room at home), and foundation shaking - very impressive. But the double bass notes (some of them) had so much energy that they seemed to reverberate and produce what at home I would hear as over ripe. Point is, on both points above, had I heard them at home not having the live experience in my head I would criticize my system and/or the room. So in a way it was refereshing, to hear the live event, to put into perspective what ill, pre-conceived notions I have from my home experience.
3) I've read this one often reported and so was not surprised, the sound staging we hear at home is not always realistic. That is, the live sound is more an amalgamation (more diffuse in terms of direction) than what I hear from a good two channel/stereo reproduction of a recorded event.
4) Bass. I've had some good sub-woofers, and interestingly I have to say that this area was the most similar between live and home stereo. That is, with a good subwoofer properly set up, the very low fundamentals (I'm an organ junkie) sound very similar.
5) This one is just gratutious, and obvious to anyone who goes to the opera. A human voice is very powerful. Tonight's premier of the Hartke Organ Symphony utilizes a solo soprano, and the ability of one solo (and beautifully trained!) soprano to integrate with an entire orchestra was impressive.
More on the amplified comment above. I have been to some performances where the venue is so large that they have to amplify the performance. This obscures the home audio/real event comparison entirely, in my opinion. Not that that's
why we are there - the whole idea is to hear live performers play live music. But since in most cases it is rare to hear unamplified music, unless you go to a good local concert hall, I believe these comparisons can not be made with much of a control. Lastly for those who follow the organ scene, Cameron Carpenter was the soloist for the night (not including the Hartke premier). This was the first time I heard him perform live, and I can provide no negative criticism - he was fantastic, albeit not on any relatively difficult music (Saint Saens #3), with the exception of parts of the Barber Toccata Festiva, where he showed tremendous virtuosity, notably on a pedal solo midway through. His registrations were excellent and appropriate to the music. You would expect that, but I mention it because I believe he played at least 2-3 performances of this music the previous nights but at the Disney concert hall, so presumably he did not have a lot of time on the Segerstrom organ.
Overall, I confirmed my suspicions that while I love my HiFi system I need to get out more...there really is no comparison. It was a great night.
I have heard, over the last 50 years, orchestras (some with organ or voice) in a fair variety of halls, both small (maybe 300 seats) and large (2000+ seats), and my experience of live vs. recorded has, on average, been the same as yours. I would point out that where you sit can have a large effect on important factors like harsh upper partials and perceived bass content. In general, the farther away from the stage you are, the less bright (or aggressive) the sound is and, it goes without saying, closer=louder, no small thing if you value the big sound.
The thing about live acoustic sound is that it is inarguably real. No matter if it is loud or soft, bright or mellow, what you hear is unmediated by equipment.The ability to reproduce accurately as complex a signal as that provided by a large symphony orchestra has yet to be demonstrated.
I think the biggest differences among the things that matter between good reproduced and live music are overall timbral accuracy and distortion. Live acoustic sound reaches your hungry ear undistorted. I believe that I have never heard a 'stereo' that failed to produce some audible distortion. It doesn't have to be 'measurable,' as we all know, to be discernible.
As far as timbre (the musical signature that differentiates a violin from a guitar), the first thing that strikes me at the downbeat is the almost overwhelming beauty and power of massed violins and the reason it always hits me first and hardest is that, before that moment, I have heard only electronic copies of it for some time and had forgotten the quality of the real thing.
On the other hand, As a former clarinet player, I have heard now and then satisfyingly lovely clarinets coming out of my speakers. Flutes can be close.
Bassoons and French horns, not so good. My point is that timbre is a mixed bag.

The improvement of reproduction has always meant to some people the ideal of the 'absolute sound.' The simple fact is that for the vast majority of music listeners, in this age when making one's own music is rarer and rarer, a live performance experience of acoustic instruments is not ever going to happen.
I suspect that is true for the majority of us 'audiophiles.'
There seem to be ever more folks, here and and other audio sites, whose primary focus is on electrified music and amplified voices. It is difficult to see how a system that sounds good to me will satisfy the guy who listens to The Who. I know my system, which does a fair job with the Berlin Philharmonic, is no match for a kilowatt of Stratocaster. (I actually like The Who and other rockers but I listen mostly to classical music and so I forego the joy of full ear destruction.
The point? I guess I'm saying I am not surprised your post has not had a response. I wrote this one mostly just to let you know that I hear you. You're not alone.