If I may–and I may, because I am the Blog Mistress–I’d like to steer the conversation toward classical music concert presentations. If I may–and again, I may—I’m going to quote my own blog entry from November:
I saw three excellent classical pianists last week: Jonathan Biss, who performed at the club (le) poisson rouge with my client Gabriel Kahane, Leif Ove Andsnes, and Pierre Laurent Aimard, both of whom played at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. I went in knowing two out of three would be “special.”
Let’s start with concerts that I was told would be special. The Jonathan Biss CD release concert (for this album)
featured an opening set of Gabriel’s original chamber pop-ish songs,
Jonathan playing Janacek, Kurtag and Schubert, and finally Jonathan and
Gabriel performing Schubert songs together. I would say the venue,
set-up of the concert, and repertoire choices were what “promised” to
make the evening special. What actually made it special, to me, was the
reverence of an audience that included Richard Goode, Gary Graffman and
my other client Eric Owens for all the music heard that night nearly
equally. In the Leif Ove Andsnes’ Pictures Reframed
concerts on Friday and Saturday nights at Alice Tully, Andsnes
performed Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition,” among other works,
accompanied by projections by South African
video artist Robin Rhode. What “promised” to make these concerts
special was six massive screens, the projections themselves, and
Andsnes’ reputation for not doing “crazy” projects like this one (and
yet, here he was). What made it special, to me, was how dark it was in
the theater and a story Andsnes told in the post concert discussion
about a Russian pianist who started playing recitals with just a desk
lamp on the instrument.
Is a pianist-on-a-bare-stage-playing-a-recital-with-regular-lighting special? I suppose you could end up sitting next to the person you’re going to marry, and then it would be retroactively special. But on its own, is it special?
My friend Christine from college had the same last name as the Dean of Admissions, and because of the way the Dartmouth e mail (ahem, “Blitzmail”) system autofilled names, she was the recipient of many amazingly inappropriate mails. Which naturally she forwarded to all of us. There was one e mail about some applicant with connections in which the dean wrote, “This is strong, but as we say, LMO: Like Many Others.”
How many concerts have you seen in the past month (week?) that were LMO? Similar looking musicians? Same repertoire? Same lighting, stage set-up, program book layout? Similarly dressed ushers? Same CDs in the gift shop? How do classical critics stand it, I often wonder.
So to our esteemed virtual panel I ask, whose responsibility is it to make a concert special? The artist’s? Their manager’s? The presenter’s? The PR and Marketing departments’? The production team’s? Or maybe we should all stay out of it and let concert-goers decide for themselves what’s special to them; perhaps our versions or what’s going to be special shouldn’t factor in at all. Should concerts even be considered special occasions, or would it be better for the industry if they were part of people’s everyday lives?