Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Your 'hot spot' for all classical music subjects. Non-classical music subjects are to be posted in the Corner Pub.

Moderators: Lance, Corlyss_D

Post Reply
THEHORN
Posts: 2560
Joined: Sat Jun 14, 2008 8:57 am

Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by THEHORN » Mon Feb 08, 2010 5:50 pm

Recently, Alan Gilbert gave a performance of Webern's 6 Pieces for orchestra at a New York Philharmonic concert. The reviews mentioned how he addressed the audience before the performance and pointed out the salient features of this rather esoteric work for them.
I wasn't there, but I hope his comments helped prepare the audience for the performance and made them willing to give it a chance.
Many years ago, Mitropoulos played the same work with this orchestra, and not only was the audience spooked by it, the orchestra was actually rebellious at rehearsals and were openly hostile to it.
According to one story, the harpist actually threw his part contemptuously at poor Mitropoulos !
I wonder if the situation would have been different if he had addressed the audience like Gilbert .
Some people say that this should be the function of the program notes. But unfortunately, there are widespread complaints by audiences that these are often much too technical and turgidly written. Possibly sometimes, but some orchestras have excellent and expert writers,often musicologists, who do a fine job of giving audiences valuable information about the music.
What do CMG people think about this issue? Is it a good idea for conductors to explain the music to audiences at times, or should they just let the music speak for itself ?
I suppose it often depends on whether the conductor is a good public speaker, which may not always be the case.




:?: :?: :?: :?:

diegobueno
Winds Specialist
Posts: 2420
Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2005 2:26 pm
Contact:

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by diegobueno » Mon Feb 08, 2010 8:41 pm

Yes, it all depends on the conductor. Unless they've got the knack, they should just shut up and conduct their orchestra.

Chalkperson
Disposable Income Specialist
Posts: 17647
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2007 1:19 pm
Location: New York City
Contact:

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by Chalkperson » Mon Feb 08, 2010 8:52 pm

I saw David Robertson talk about Morton Feldman's Crippled Symmetry at Carnegie Hall and it definitely was worth listening to him speak, I knew the work but I doubt many others attending did as it was coupled with a Mahler Song Cycle...he also had a Slide Show of Persian Rugs that accompanied the Music...
Sent via Twitter by @chalkperson

MarkC
Posts: 1630
Joined: Mon Nov 30, 2009 11:52 pm
Location: New York, NY

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by MarkC » Mon Feb 08, 2010 9:33 pm

I think it's good for any featured performer (conductor or otherwise) to talk to the audience, as long as he/she feels like it and is able to make a good connection with them.

Heck148
Posts: 3514
Joined: Sun Jul 06, 2003 11:53 pm
Location: New England

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by Heck148 » Mon Feb 08, 2010 10:11 pm

THEHORN wrote: What do CMG people think about this issue? Is it a good idea for conductors to explain the music to audiences at times, or should they just let the music speak for itself ?
I suppose it often depends on whether the conductor is a good public speaker, which may not always be the case.?
Generally, I think it can be very effective - if the comments are brief, and the conductor has a good talent for it...many of them do - they are used to yakking at groups of people, and trying to persuade them to see things their way!! :P :lol:

The audience does not want a dry musicology lecture - but comments that help them understand an unfamiliar piece can be quite effective.

Prometheus
Posts: 746
Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2009 10:34 pm

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by Prometheus » Mon Feb 08, 2010 11:56 pm

I have no problem with it. An extensive dialogue will be a bit much, but a simple introduction can explain why the orchestra chose to perform a certain piece and it can humanize the conductor as well.

MarkC
Posts: 1630
Joined: Mon Nov 30, 2009 11:52 pm
Location: New York, NY

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by MarkC » Mon Feb 08, 2010 11:58 pm

It doesn't even have to be restricted to that, does it?
How about just whatever the conductor (or other performer) feels will be interesting and/or amusing and/or will make a nice connection to the audience?

I don't disagree with what you said, just not sure why you said something so specific.....

Prometheus
Posts: 746
Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2009 10:34 pm

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by Prometheus » Tue Feb 09, 2010 12:11 am

MarkC wrote:It doesn't even have to be restricted to that, does it?
How about just whatever the conductor (or other performer) feels will be interesting and/or amusing and/or will make a nice connection to the audience?

I don't disagree with what you said, just not sure why you said something so specific.....
It was just the first thing that came to mind. Anything would suffice really as long as the general outcome is not boredom inflicted upon a mass portion of the audience. I have already seen many a person fall asleep inside a cozy concert hall without a speech to make them expedite the process. There is nothing wrong with injecting some humor into such a speech.

MarkC
Posts: 1630
Joined: Mon Nov 30, 2009 11:52 pm
Location: New York, NY

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by MarkC » Tue Feb 09, 2010 12:55 am

Prometheus wrote:It was just the first thing that came to mind. Anything would suffice really as long as the general outcome is not boredom inflicted upon a mass portion of the audience. I have already seen many a person fall asleep inside a cozy concert hall without a speech to make them expedite the process. There is nothing wrong with injecting some humor into such a speech.
Cool! :)

BTW.......When I perform I do that.
Sometimes I go on too long though. :lol:

John F
Posts: 19858
Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:41 am
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by John F » Tue Feb 09, 2010 9:31 am

Most conductors aren't much good at it, even if they prepare their remarks carefully, which many don't. They talk down to one part of the audience while going over the heads of others, and often wind up repeating the program notes or merely expressing their own appreciation of the music they're about to conduct, which hardly needs saying since they've chosen to conduct it.

Unless there's a real problem of appreciation and comprehension for just about all the audience, then - and Webern's symphony certainly poses such a problem - I think conductors would do better to keep their mouths shut and get on with the music.
John Francis

pizza
Posts: 5094
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 4:03 am

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by pizza » Tue Feb 09, 2010 11:38 am

Leon Botstein often gives pre-concert lectures and then takes questions. He's one of the most knowledgeable musicians I've ever encountered, and has excellent rapport with audiences.

maestrob
Posts: 5563
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2008 11:30 am

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by maestrob » Tue Feb 09, 2010 11:41 am

When I was a concert-going person, I went to hear the music and read the program notes (if the piece was new or unfamiliar).

I'm really not for speeches during concert time, although it seems to be the fashion in some quarters. I say let the music speak for itself.

A pre-concert lecture, for those interested, is not a bad idea, especially for new works, perhaps delivered by both the composer and the music-director.

Madame
Posts: 3552
Joined: Wed Apr 27, 2005 2:56 am

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by Madame » Tue Feb 09, 2010 12:08 pm

Indeed ... especially DURING P.D.Q. Bach ;)

DavidRoss
Posts: 3384
Joined: Mon May 30, 2005 7:05 am
Location: Northern California

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by DavidRoss » Tue Feb 09, 2010 12:33 pm

Absolutely, if they have anything interesting to say about the music that will enhance appreciation and help remove the barrier between audience and performer.
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either." ~Albert Einstein
"Truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it; but, in the end, there it is." ~Winston Churchill

Image

stenka razin
CMG's Chief Decorator
Posts: 4005
Joined: Tue Mar 25, 2008 7:59 am
Location: In The Steppes Of Central Asia

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by stenka razin » Tue Feb 09, 2010 12:45 pm

Yes, yes and yes. The more connected the musicians are to their audience the better it will be for the future. 8)
Image

Jared
CMG's Chief Resident Newbie
Posts: 3157
Joined: Fri Mar 06, 2009 3:50 pm
Location: Hereford Cathedral

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by Jared » Tue Feb 09, 2010 1:42 pm

THEHORN wrote: Is it a good idea for conductors to explain the music to audiences at times, or should they just let the music speak for itself? I suppose it often depends on whether the conductor is a good public speaker, which may not always be the case.
Robert, I think this is a really good question. Speaking personally, I am at the stage where anyone who wishes to give me a little historical background, or information about points to listen out for in a piece, is very welcome indeed. This is one of my principle reasons for listening to BBC Radio 3. That said, I can imagine that for regular concert goers, and those who have studied CM or grown up with it for many years, this could become irksome. I would just say however, that if we want concert hall audiences to grow in knowledge and loyalty for the future, this is by no means a bad thing.

RebLem
Posts: 9086
Joined: Tue May 17, 2005 1:06 pm
Location: Albuquerque, NM, USA 87112, 2 blocks west of the Breaking Bad carwash.
Contact:

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by RebLem » Tue Feb 09, 2010 1:59 pm

THEHORN wrote:Recently, Alan Gilbert gave a performance of Webern's 6 Pieces for orchestra at a New York Philharmonic concert. The reviews mentioned how he addressed the audience before the performance and pointed out the salient features of this rather esoteric work for them.

Many years ago, Mitropoulos played the same work with this orchestra, and not only was the audience spooked by it, the orchestra was actually rebellious at rehearsals and were openly hostile to it.
According to one story, the harpist actually threw his part contemptuously at poor Mitropoulos !
Was that when Mitropoulos started carrying a pistol on his person at all times?
Don't drink and drive. You might spill it.--J. Eugene Baker, aka my late father
"We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term."--Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S. Carolina.
"Racism is America's Original Sin."--Francis Cardinal George, former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago.

Heck148
Posts: 3514
Joined: Sun Jul 06, 2003 11:53 pm
Location: New England

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by Heck148 » Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:19 pm

DavidRoss wrote:Absolutely, if they have anything interesting to say about the music that will enhance appreciation and help remove the barrier between audience and performer.
Agree wholeheartedly...
for chamber music concerts we do this as a matter of routine, and we've received nothing but positive feedback...
for orchestral concerts, the problem is a little knottier, but I think if done well, by a music director who is effective, a good speaker, and not long-winded, it is generally most welcome...
breaking down the barrier is a key concept - in today's entertanment world, where orchestras are struggling for the ticket $$, and contributions, anything that increases the audience's enjoyment is worth considering.

our new music director does often speak to the audience. he's very good, and he's generally very brief.
he also has inaugurated a "meet and greet" routine in which orchestra members are out in the lobby, pre-concert, greeting the people as they come in. this has become very popular, and TMk, has received nothing but positive results. the audience loves to "rub elbows" with the musicians - they love the pertsonal contact, they cherish the personal connection with the orchestra..

Heck148
Posts: 3514
Joined: Sun Jul 06, 2003 11:53 pm
Location: New England

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by Heck148 » Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:21 pm

RebLem wrote:
Was that when Mitropoulos started carrying a pistol on his person at all times?
that was Rodzinski - he always carried a loaded rvolver to every concert and rehearsal...he once showed up 45' late to an LAPO concert because he forgot it, and, of course, had to return home to get it.. :roll: :roll:

Seán
Posts: 5333
Joined: Tue Dec 18, 2007 3:46 pm
Location: Dublin, Ireland

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by Seán » Tue Feb 09, 2010 4:52 pm

Heck148 wrote:
DavidRoss wrote:Absolutely, if they have anything interesting to say about the music that will enhance appreciation and help remove the barrier between audience and performer.
Agree wholeheartedly...
for chamber music concerts we do this as a matter of routine, and we've received nothing but positive feedback...
for orchestral concerts, the problem is a little knottier, but I think if done well, by a music director who is effective, a good speaker, and not long-winded, it is generally most welcome...
breaking down the barrier is a key concept - in today's entertanment world, where orchestras are struggling for the ticket $$, and contributions, anything that increases the audience's enjoyment is worth considering.

our new music director does often speak to the audience. he's very good, and he's generally very brief.
he also has inaugurated a "meet and greet" routine in which orchestra members are out in the lobby, pre-concert, greeting the people as they come in. this has become very popular, and TMk, has received nothing but positive results. the audience loves to "rub elbows" with the musicians - they love the pertsonal contact, they cherish the personal connection with the orchestra..
I was wondering what the real music-makers here might say in response to this interesting question. Heck, your answer neither surprises nor disappoints me I think that it is a very good idea for a conductor to talk to the audience.
Seán

"To appreciate the greatness of the Masters is to keep faith in the greatness of humanity." - Wilhelm Furtwängler

Donaldopato
Posts: 1900
Joined: Wed Jul 12, 2006 9:27 am
Location: Kansas City
Contact:

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by Donaldopato » Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:37 pm

I have heard the composers speak about new works receiving their premieres or early performances and that has always been enlightening. it is also helpful with rarely heard works. Anything else, I prefer to read the program notes.
Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. - Albert Einstein

diegobueno
Winds Specialist
Posts: 2420
Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2005 2:26 pm
Contact:

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by diegobueno » Tue Feb 09, 2010 7:05 pm

The most egregious example of a conductor talking to the audience I can think of was in a performance of Shostakovich's 14th given by the National Philharmonic a few years ago. The conductor made a point of stopping after every movement of the 11 movement work and explaining what the poems being sung in Russian meant (I should say after every movement in that work which comes to a stop. Some movements go directly on to the next), this despite the fact that the translations were in the program notes and there had been a pre-concert lecture on the work. His talking interrupted the continuity of the piece to such a degree that I just wanted to go up on stage and staple his mouth shut.

diegobueno
Winds Specialist
Posts: 2420
Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2005 2:26 pm
Contact:

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by diegobueno » Tue Feb 09, 2010 7:26 pm

On the other hand, there was a performance of the Shostakovich 13th at the U. of Maryland where they brought on Yevtushenko himself, who talked for at least a half hour about how he wrote the poem Babi Yar and how he came to collaborate with Shostakovich on the symphony, all this before the orchestra and male chorus came on to perform the hour-long work. I, for one, did not feel my endurance in the least bit taxed. It was a gripping evening from beginning to end. The first half of the concert consisted of the Sibelius 7th, also a favorite of mine.
Last edited by diegobueno on Tue Feb 09, 2010 7:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Donaldopato
Posts: 1900
Joined: Wed Jul 12, 2006 9:27 am
Location: Kansas City
Contact:

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by Donaldopato » Tue Feb 09, 2010 7:29 pm

^^The situation in your first post would have driven me to drink, the latter would have been an extraordinary experience.
Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. - Albert Einstein

Heck148
Posts: 3514
Joined: Sun Jul 06, 2003 11:53 pm
Location: New England

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by Heck148 » Tue Feb 09, 2010 9:30 pm

diegobueno wrote:The conductor made a point of stopping after every movement of the 11 movement work and explaining what the poems being sung in Russian meant (I should say after every movement in that work which comes to a stop.
Aaaaaarrrggghhh!! omigawd, that is awful!! :x I can't believe the whole audience didn't get up and leave. :roll:

Auntie Lynn
Posts: 1123
Joined: Wed May 21, 2003 10:42 pm

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by Auntie Lynn » Tue Feb 09, 2010 11:00 pm

Last week, SFS did the orchestration of Ives' Concord Sonata and I found MTT's remarks highly instructive. I know NOBODY wants to hear this, BUT we had done the piano version/score study in class at school a couple of years ago...squiggly barlines and all - I think Andre Watts is the only guy out there who plays this but I am not sure and you KNOW somebody out there will make all possible haste to correct me...

Chalkperson
Disposable Income Specialist
Posts: 17647
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2007 1:19 pm
Location: New York City
Contact:

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by Chalkperson » Wed Feb 10, 2010 12:14 am

Auntie Lynn wrote:Last week, SFS did the orchestration of Ives' Concord Sonata and I found MTT's remarks highly instructive. I know NOBODY wants to hear this, BUT we had done the piano version/score study in class at school a couple of years ago...squiggly barlines and all - I think Andre Watts is the only guy out there who plays this but I am not sure and you KNOW somebody out there will make all possible haste to correct me...
You mean not counting Marc-Andre Hamelin or Pierre-Laurent Aimard... :wink:
Sent via Twitter by @chalkperson

MarkC
Posts: 1630
Joined: Mon Nov 30, 2009 11:52 pm
Location: New York, NY

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by MarkC » Wed Feb 10, 2010 12:20 am

Chalkperson wrote:You mean not counting Marc-Andre Hamelin or Pierre-Laurent Aimard... :wink:
Nice post -- 1 sentence, 1 smiley.

That's just about the optimal ratio. :lol:

Ken
Posts: 2511
Joined: Thu May 04, 2006 6:17 am
Location: Düsseldorf, Nordrhein-Westfalen

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by Ken » Wed Feb 10, 2010 2:37 am

I find it irritating when a conductor addresses the audience without saying anything that most people did not already know, or just to try to 'break the ice', as it were. I also don't enjoy it very much when through his or her speech the conductor gives away a critical 'secret' in the music that listeners are meant to come across independently. I don't think that most people need to have their hands held as they listen through a work.

That said, sensibly-scripted and implemented pre-concert talks can be very special. I especially like it, though, when conductors address the audience after the concert---for instance, to thank them for a warm reception.
Du sollst schlechte Compositionen weder spielen, noch, wenn du nicht dazu gezwungen bist, sie anhören.

DavidRoss
Posts: 3384
Joined: Mon May 30, 2005 7:05 am
Location: Northern California

Re: Should Conductors Talk To Audiences At Concerts ?

Post by DavidRoss » Wed Feb 10, 2010 8:51 am

Auntie Lynn wrote:Last week, SFS did the orchestration of Ives' Concord Sonata and I found MTT's remarks highly instructive. I know NOBODY wants to hear this, BUT we had done the piano version/score study in class at school a couple of years ago...squiggly barlines and all - I think Andre Watts is the only guy out there who plays this but I am not sure and you KNOW somebody out there will make all possible haste to correct me...
MTT does this as well as anyone I know. His remarks tend to be brief and informative, and his personal warmth invites the audience into the performance arena as active participants, not passive observers.
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either." ~Albert Einstein
"Truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it; but, in the end, there it is." ~Winston Churchill

Image

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 31 guests