"Emotionally involving" music and your system...

I recently attended a concert performance of Brahms' 1st Symphony and found the experience, quite frankly, overwhelming. I had previously heard this piece at least a dozen times on my system. I had also attended roughly a dozen live concert events over the last several years. While I found each of these listenings on my system enjoyable and each of these live performances interesting, none had any real emotional impact. On this occasion, however, I felt swept up by the music. By the time the last few chords came crashing down in the final movement I felt emotionally drained and had shivers running down my spine. I still cannot explain my reaction. Perhaps I felt that same sense of exhilaration that Brahms must have felt as he composed those last few bars, casting off the great shadow of Beethoven for at least a few brief moments. When I returned home I put a copy of this same work on my system. It had none of the emotional involvement of the live performance.

My question, then, is this: What pieces of music have you heard performed live that have had this effect on you? Have you been able to duplicate this effect at home via a recording? (I am sure some of you might think my system needs an upgrade, and I agree, but I will save that for another post.)

Yes, Tim Mahoney and Alice Peacock. Two midwestern regional performers. I have heard both live and have their works on CD. My system does give me an emotional experience with these artists, but admittedly, not quite like the live performances.
A number of years ago I go a good reminder of what a good concert can do (I hadn't been to one in a long time, who needs to with a good stereo!). I was invited to a concert which included Tchaikovsky's 4th by a local (provincial) SO. I thought I had outgrown Tchiakovsky but I "condecended" to go. What a great toe tapping experience by an enthuiastic orchestra.!! Nothing can beat live classical concerts for scale and the immediacy of the music - but not all performances are great and thats why I still listen to my system.
Over the past 40 years, I've heard a lot of performances / concerts, and six that stand out in my mind for their emotional impact are:

1. 1957: Louis Armstrong and his All-Stars (with singer Velma Middleton), sharing a twin billing with the Count Basie Orchestra. The concert was held in the Carter Barron Ampitheater in Washington DC (an open air venue), and was my introduction to live jazz. Louis' group played first for about 90 minutes, then Count Basie and his Orchestra played for about 90 minutes, and then the two groups played together for another 90 minutes. What an evening!!
2. 1972: Roberta Flack in concert in Frankfurt, Germany. Flack appeared in an intimate hall built for chamber music that had terrific acoustics, and she delivered a superb performance.
3. 1973: Three Dog Night, also in concert in Germany (I was stationed there with the Army). This was, quite simply, the most enjoyable rock concert I've ever attended (I know, my age is showing...).
4. 1978 or 1979: the complete Wagner 'Ring' Cycle done by the Seattle Opera. The cumulative effect of the total 'Ring' cycle is nearly overwhelming, and far more compelling than hearing each of the component operas separately. If you like opera, you should experience the 'Ring' cycle in its entirety.
5. 1987 or 1988: Sonny Rollins did a concert in Seattle at the re-furbished Paramount Theater, and absolutely blew his ass off that night. On one tune (not sure, but it might have been "St. Thomas") he soloed for nearly 20 minutes in one of the most amazing virtuoso performances I've ever heard on any instrument.
6. 1994 or 1995: Jon Jang and his Pan-Asian Arkestra performing his composition "Tiananmeng Suite", dedicated to the Chinese people who were killed in Tiananmeng (sp?) Square. The performance was part of Seattle's annual "Earshot Jazz Festival". The Arkestra included some stellar performers, such as David Murray and James Newton, as well as some of the most extraordinary Chinese musicians playing traditional Chinese instruments. An absolutely riveting performance!
Two pieces have left me feeling overwhemlmed as you describe, and they're both by Shostakovich. The first one was the 2nd Piano Trio, performed by the Borodin Trio at Parry Sound, Canada in about 1992 or so. The other was a performance of the 14th Symphony done by the National Arts Centre Orchestra under Pinchas Zuckerman in Ottawa about a month ago.

Both performances compelled a total involvement with the emotions of the music, and left me feeling drained. But while the Trio gave me a feeling a bleakest despair, the symphony left me with a sense of paradoxical hope. Both were wonderful experiences that I'll always treasure.
The Grateful Dead, 10/9/89 Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA. The show was billed as "Formerly, The Warlocks". That night the band broke out Dark Star for the 1st time since 1984, Death Don't Have No Mercy for the second time since 1970, and Attics of My Life for the first time since 1972. The show was monumental and moving, but the best part was when the lights went on immediately after the show. Everyone suddenly saw everybody else and we all let out a collective scream at the top of our lungs for what we had just seen. It doesn't get any better than that, and if my system ever comes even close I'll be very scared.
Live music is almost always better because, I believe, you pick up the energy and dynamics of the musicians. That can't be done at home. For me, the following concerts hit home the closest regarding your question:

Bela Fleck (2001, Greensboro, Carolina Theatre) -- the live cd is great but can't approach the immediacy and energy of the live performance

Vladamir Horowitz (1977, Iowa City Hancher Auditorium) -- I sat to the left at eye level with the piano so could see him stroking the keys. Wow! A recording cannot duplicate that.

AC/DC (1995ish, Cleveland Colliseum) -- what can I say? The energy of that band has to be seen live to appreciate them.

Dave Brubeck (1998, Boston, Sanders Theatre, Memorial Hall) -- I sat on the stage itself. Holy moly! It was absolutely incredible.

Paul Sprawl (2003, the Garage, Winston Salem) -- this guy does stuff with his guitar you have to see to believe. His hands drum the acoustic guitar while he plays -- very complex, very musical. The cd is just not as much fun, though very good.
Live music and reproduced music are two different things.
The former is a time art;it exists on a time line and once performed,can never be duplicated. Perhaps that is part of the reason music is the most abstract art. The interplay among minds,of musicians and listeners,is unique to its moment.
Recorded music can be reproduced over and over but does not have the immediacy of a live hearing. Upgrading a system will not change that fact.

Two come to mind.

--Charles Mingus with the "Changes" era band at a small club.
--The Cleveland Orchestra playing the g minor Mozart symphony.
I have attended some very emotionally moving concerts over the years. I have been moved to tears by the beauty of the music on quite a few occasions. I guess I am lucky, or maybe just happened to be in the right places at the right times.

That said, I have been fortunate and lucky enough to be able to put together audio systems which have come very close to duplicating the live experience and have literally moved me to tears with many of my recordings.

I know that many audiophiles think this can't be done in the home, but maybe it's just that you haven't achieved it personally.

It's not voodoo or bending the laws of physics at all; it's mainly common sense and paying attention to the myriad of variables in system setup. I tend to favor speaker and amp combinations that will produce a wide dynamic range over a wide bandwidth, with very low distortion. I pay close attention to the proper "tuning" and positioning of each component. Everything must be compatible, including the system wiring, and the room acoustics must allow the sound to bloom, or the magic is just not going to happen. The recordings must be excellent, as well, and on a highly resolving system you can easily tell when things are just as they should be. Overlooking the details will kill the delicate balance in the blink of an eye. Those overly concerned with WAF, and their decor usually never achieve very good sound quality (although the gear sure looks pretty sitting there).

Of course if you adopt a defeatist attitude before you start and tell yourself you can never achieve live sound, your odds of ever having it happen are, well, slim to none... Although the percentage of people who can consistently dial systems in to deliver this high level of sound is small, I have been fortunate enough to know a few of them in my many years as a music lover and audiophile.

Hey, maybe I should team up with Rives Audio, and after Rives fixes the room acoustics I could fine tune the system itself... What about it Rives?!
After reading Plato's post, I can confirm that I have attended several emotionally moving concerts right there in his home listening room. We've covered just about every genre of music, and what we didn't actually "hear" as the system produced a wide dynamic range over a wide bandwidth, we certainly "felt" its impact over a rather large sensory area of the human body. I feel very lucky to have had this kind of "emotionally involving" experience live by attending a concert and in the home after paying attention to detail in every aspect of the system's set up!
I saw a perfomance of Mozart's "Requiem" which was so beautiful. This is a piece of music that I truly love, but the live element added to the emotion.

It may sound corny to some, but I really enjoy many of the Broadway musicals. A recording is the next best thing to being there, but for me the connection with the music isn't quite the same.

Great thread!
Fab4fan, you make a good observation. Attending a live performance one does get to see the performers and the instruments being played and certainly that adds more sensory input and makes for a more emotional connection to the performance. When listening at home you have to visualize (if you can) the performers and musicians in your head.

I also find that when I'm watching and listening to my home theater setup that I'm not nearly as critical of the sound as I am when listening to music on my 2-channel systems. So the effect of adding the visual component cannot be ignored. And I've enjoyed a few Broadway performances myself. I don't find it corny at all. It's very visual there, as well, with the bright costumes, makeup, and choreography. It can be just about overwhelming, and of course, that is the intent in many cases.

Fairconn, I appreciate your kind remarks and feel fortunate to have shared so much good music with you. I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge Dan Fanny's (American Hybrid Technology) contribution to my (any your) audiophile education. HP, of TAS thought very highly of Dan's Non-Signature phono stage; and as many who know him can attest, he does the best and most comprehensive mods to Acoustat Servo-charge amps known to mankind. Happy Listening!
I think the differences between recordings can be major, although the added interaction of audience and musicians can be much better.

Friends & I have been sitting down on Friday evenings to listen to and compare many different pressings of an agreed on piece of music (this past Friday it was Stravinsky's Firebird.) Some conductors have an affinity for the music in a way that the emotion comes through easily, and others produce a recording that is the musical equivalent of "white bread" or cardboard. I like the way Boulez brings new vitality to 20th century composers, while von Karajan or Bohm breathe life into Beethoven and Mozart. When you are listening to 8-10 versions of a piece in the same evening, the differences are immediate.

The best examples of "live" for me are a Mahavishnu Orchestra concert at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago about 1970-71? I met someone years later and we talked about greatest concerts we were ever at, and it turns out that he was sitting in about the same row and position on the same night. His experience matched mine exactly!

Another memorable performance was hearing Solti & the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in rehearsal at Orchestra Hall for Beethoven's 9th Symphony. A week later they recorded it at the Kraennert Center in Urbana, IL for Decca's 25th Jubilee Anniversary (it was Georg Solti's 25 anniversary of recording with Decca.)
Pbowne, I heard the Mahavishnu Orchestra in Chicago in 1971 and was absolutely blown away! They performed at an outdoor venue and I ran out to buy an album the next day. Thanks for the reminder -- they must have been on a real roll that year.
Thanks all for your interesting posts. Keep them coming!