schubert, dammit!


Edmonton Symphony music director Bill Eddins has another great post up today on his blog.  It concerns the still pervasive elitist attitude in the symphony orchestra world.  Here’s his opening salvo:

Strangely, I have lately run across a certain mentality in the orchestra business that I thought was heading into extinction.  Silly me.

With a heavy sigh I report a sighting of that creature that we had all hoped had died out – the Convince-sualist.  These are the people who believe that Classical Music is Sacred.  Our Music is obviously Superior to yours, and you need to come to the Orchestra to be Convinced of our Superiority.  As so, there should be No Talking Ever at an Orchestra Concert as it disturbs the Holy Concert.  Clapping between Movements is strictly VERBOTEN!  At no point should an Orchestra stoop to the level of the poor audience and actually Entertain them – Mahler Forbid – but we should Convince them of our Artistic Brilliance and the Genius which is the One True Music.  If we would just play MasterWorks at every Worship … uhh…… I mean Concert, and never ever EVER play anything that is remotely identifiable as having been influenced by those lesser noises (I even shudder to mention the word Jazz or, Mahler Forbid, Pops), then the Great Unwashed Heathen will flock ….. FLOCK I SAY!!! ……… to our doors and bow themselves down before The Brilliance which is our Sonic History.

Proof positive that denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.

I think that people who actually subscribe to the attitude that Bill so cleverly skewers should remember that a few hundred years ago, Franz Joseph Haydn was actually making orchestral fart jokes (or their closest musical equivalents) in his symphonies in order to — hold on, wait for it — ENTERTAIN his audience.

Along similar lines, Greg Sandow has a perceptive post about orchestras and ensembles trusting their audiences:

Now, I could even name advatnages we’d get from an active audience. If we want their attention, we’ll have to earn it. And it’s not at all clear to me that 18th century audiences didn’t pay attention. Mozart’s famous letter about the premiere of his Paris Symphony shows an audience apparently alert to what he compose. He teased them by starting the last movement quietly, instead of with the loud, resounding coup d’archet — stroke of the bow — that in Paris was traditional. They immediately shushed each other, taken by surprise, then burst into cheers when, a few bars later, Mozart brought in the whole orchestra, forte. They understood the joke that was played on them.

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