Encounter with reality

So, after all the Orchestra Forum blogging, all that writing, and even more striking for me, all that reading of everyone’s exciting thoughts…I went to an orchestra concert. The Baltimore Symphony at Carnegie Hall.

My first reaction? “My God, why are they dressed like that?” Now of course this isn’t a criticism of the Baltimore Symphony. Any orchestra on that stage would have been dressed the same way. And this wasn’t a considered reaction. It came right from my gut, and took me by surprise. I wasn’t taking a posiition, intellectual or ideological, on how orchestras should dress. I was honestly surprised. Of course I know they dress like that, but…after all those discussions, I’d started to picture orchestras differently.

And at intermission I noticed something else. Many people in the audience were wearing casual clothes. At the Carnegie Cafe, at least, maybe only one out of every three men was wearing a tie. So the formality on stage seemed even weirder.

The program also seemed too long. Maybe that was because it was really two programs — a tender, wry, and yearning new Giya Kancheli piece and the Shostakovich first violin concerto, both with Gidon Kremer as soloist, and then La Mer and La Valse. The first half was so good, the music so strong, Kremer so completely convincing, that at intermission many people (including even someone from the Baltimore staff) said, “Why do we need to hear anything more?”

So if we think concerts should be shorter, here we had a concert that was really two perfectly programmed smaller concerts. I could imagine doing each separately on a single evening, one at 7:30, say, and one at 9:30. You could sell separate tickets, with a discount to anyone who wanted to see both programs. Over a weekend, you could change the order of the two programs on different days.

I’m sure there are many practicalities to work out. But isn’t it worth thinking about?

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