Great job!

I’ve complained often enough about classical music publicity and press releases. So it’s wonderful to see someone doing it right. Though as it happens, this isn’t a press release, but instead a newspaper item about an upcoming concert, printed today in the Times-Herald Record, the really fine local paper for New York’s Mid-Hudson region:

Beethoven and the yaks

There may be no greater musical treat this season than what’s happening at Bard College today.

The college’s Conservatory Chamber Orchestra will present a free program in the Frank Gehry-designed Sosnoff Theater at 3 p.m.

Michael Gilbert will conduct Rossini’s “Overture to Cinderella,” C.P.E. Bach’s “FluteConcerto in D Minor,” featuring soloist Tara Helen O’Connor, and — the piece de resistance — Beethoven’s glorious “Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Opus 92.”

Beethoven himself conducted the premiere of his work on Dec. 8, 1813. It was a hit, but subsequent judgments haven’t always (incredibly enough) been kind. Richard Wagner, knocked out by its lively rhythms, called it “the apotheosis of dance.” But composer Carl Maria von Weber, after hearing the first movement, said he thought Beethoven was “ripe for the madhouse.” More recently, conductor Thomas Beecham said “What can you do with it? It’s like a lot of yaks jumping about,” prompting the unanswered questions, “Do yaks ever really jump around? And if they do, do they really sound like Beethoven?”

Find out for yourself. It’s first-come, first-served. Call 758-7900 or visit

Isn’t this marvelous? Remember its purpose — it appeared in a regional newspaper, and the point was to get readers interested in the concert. Obviously a press release aimed at classical music connoisseurs would be different. But for general readers, most of whom wouldn’t normally plan to attend a classical concert, this is fabulous. Makes you want to hear the piece, and (this is the really great part) form your own opinion. You’re not bludgeoned with empty superlatives, killing all thought as they tell you how great Beethoven is. (There was one small problem. Can you spot it, especially after you read to the end of this post?) Kudos to whatever Record staffer wrote this. For comparison, here’s Bard’s own press release, not offensive, in any way, but completely bland, with eye-glazing empty bios of the conductor and soloist:


Free Program Features Flute Soloist Tara Helen O’Connor with Michael Gilbert Conducting the Orchestra

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. — The Bard College Conservatory of Music presents a concert featuring the Conservatory Chamber Orchestra on Sunday, December 3. The program, free and open to the public, begins at 3:00 p.m. in the acoustically stunning Frank >Gehry-designed Sosnoff Theater of the Fisher Center.

Michael Gilbert conducts the Conservatory Chamber Orchestra in performances of Gioacchino Rossini’s Overture to La Cenerentola (Cinderella); C. P. E. Bach’s Flute Concerto in D Minor, H. 425 (W22), featuring soloist and Conservatory faculty member Tara Helen O’Connor; and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92.

Conductor Michael Gilbert served for many decades as a member of the violin section of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. He retired from that position to pursue a busy schedule of guest appearances, especially with youth and conservatory orchestras, in the United States and abroad.

Tara Helen O’Connor received a Ph.D. from SUNY Stony Brook, where she studied with Samuel Baron, Robert Dick, Keith Underwood, and Julius Levine. In 2001, she was awarded the Avery Fisher Career Grant. She is a founding member of the New Millennium Ensemble, which won the Naumburg Award in 1995, and flute soloist of the renowned Bach Aria Group. O’Connor was the first wind player chosen to participate in the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s “Chamber Music Society Two” program for emerging artists. She continues to perform regularly with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Orpheus, Bargemusic, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Chamber Music Northwest, and Music from Angel Fire. She has recorded for Arcadia, CRI, Koch International, and Bridge Records.

Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. For further information, call the box office at 845-758-7900 or visit

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  1. David Cavlovic says

    Well, at least they know their history, never mind making it entertaining. I’ll never forget over a decade ago when I was a Production Assistant/Producer at CBC and received a brochure for the Vancouver Symph. Orch. season. Advertising a Christmas performance (when else? of Beethoven’s 9th, the blurb said, and I quote:

    “Beethoven wrote 9 Symphonies, 111 Piano Sonatas and 135 String Quartets”.

    Funny thing is, I’m the only one who noticed the problem.

    That’s priceless! And an orchestra did it!

    If only someone had told them the opus number of the Ninth. Then they could have said Beethoven wrote 125 symphonies…

  2. says

    Hi Greg,

    Last year I received a brochure from the Berkshire Choral Festival that said this (and only this) about Brahms’ Ein deutches Requiem:

    The German Requiem is a work of unusual significance and great mastery. With its Biblical text, its unforgettable melodies, and its warm and rich harmonies, it is simply one of the greatest pieces of music in all of music literature.

    I was angry for like three days.

    If you click on my name below this it will take you to a curse-filled rant I wrote in response.



    I’m with you, Eli. “Significance” (unless you say what the significance is), “mastery,” “unforgettable,” and “greatest” are empty words, which taken together add up to nothing. They reek of presumed significance, while actually signifying nothing.