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The future of the Classical Concert?
Tue 9th Feb 2010 - 13:33

David Lister writes in the Independent.

"Last Tuesday I think I saw the future. At least, I hope I did. In a sensational evening at the Royal Festival Hall, I watched Daniel Barenboim play Beethoven's third piano concerto and conduct Schoenberg's notoriously difficult Variations for Orchestra Op 31. That in itself was stunningly good, but it was the third element of the evening that turned it into a sensation.

Before conducting the Schoenberg piece, Barenboim gave what was described as an "illustrated talk" from the podium, introduced the various themes from sections of the orchestra, explained how they fitted together and how the motifs were subtly altered and repeated. This prelude to a 21-minute piece lasted nearly half an hour. The audience was rapt, partly because this was a master showman at work, with a sense of comedy and timing to be envied by many a stand-up comedian. By the end of the talk he had the audience, not quite whistling Schoenberg as he had promised, but at least learning to love him, which is quite an achievement.

But Barenboim's charisma was only part of the reason that the audience was rapt. I also think it was because it was a treat to be addressed at all by a conductor at a classical music concert. It made the occasion memorable. Why does it not happen more often? Conductors are some of the greatest personalities in the world of music, and by virtue of what they have to do with an orchestra, some of the greatest communicators, yet we never hear them speak or even see their faces. Would not a brief talk about the music enliven a concert and help to bring in that much needed "new audience"?

To read the whole article in the Independent click here

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