Tag Archives: Carnegie Hall

happiness is … an expectant concert audience





“As soon as I enter the door of a tavern, I experience oblivion of care, and a freedom from solicitude. There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn. — Samuel Johnson

“There is nothing like the pure felicity and sense of pleasurable anticipation of an audience arriving for a concert. — Roger W. Smith


— posted by Roger W. Smith

  February 2018

dressing for dinner? (orchestral attire)


Something I have been thinking about off and on for a while is the following: Why do performers and orchestras in classical music concerts always have to be attired as if they were dressing for dinner in Downton Abbey?

It creates, in my mind, a stuffy atmosphere that is unnecessary.

Last night, December 28, 2017, I saw a concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City that included performances by the New York String Orchestra of a Mozart piano concerto and Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 (“Scottish”).



Note how the orchestra is attired. Neatly, but casually. (The sort of attire which, when I worked for a corporation, was called “business casual.”)

Why couldn’t performers in classical musical concerts dress this way — if not always — at least often, or usually? Especially, but not exclusively, for chamber music, say. (Actually, this kind of dress is more often seen in such performances.)

I’m not saying that everyone should be, or could be allowed to be, dressed scruffily (as was the case in classes when I was in college), or that a certain degree of uniformity in attire is not desirable.

But look at the performers in the above photos. They are neatly, in fact spiffily, attired. There is a certain uniformity. Their dress does not call attention to itself. I am not an authority on fashion, but there is something cheerful and “smart” about their attire. They look youthful. It creates what I would term a more relaxed and “open” feeling.

Am I right?



A couple of amusing details.

Last night’s concert began with a brief orchestral piece by the contemporary American composer Gabriela Lena Frank. At its conclusion, a piano was wheeled onto the stage for the Mozart concerto, which featured the pianist Richard Goode. In the first photo, a female violinist — standing, front left — is shown. When the piano was wheeled out, she was sitting in her chair prior to the commencement of the next piece. Three men were wheeling the piano to the front center of the stage. They did not quite notice the violinist, and she had to move her chair and shift her position, leaning back to get out of the way.

At a concert which I attended on Christmas Eve, December 24, one of the orchestra members, the continuo player, exited the stage after the first piece, a Vivaldi concerto. He walked to a door at the rear, stage right. He was unable to open it, despite trying several times. He finally gave up and walked back the other way and exited from another door stage left.

Not so stuffy, scripted, or predictable, the classical music world! At least not always.


— Roger W. Smith

  December 29, 2017

a Carnegie Hall concert


I attended a concert yesterday evening at Carnegie Hall in Manhattan. It began with Beethoven’s symphony No. 1.

I felt like I was lifted off the floor. An experience not unlike what Walt Whitman describes in Leaves of Grass: “The orchestra whirls me wider than Uranus flies, / It wrenches such ardors from me I did not know I possess’d them.”

It’s good to hear music performed live. Too much listening to recorded music can produce, in effect, what is called “stereo ear.”

Every Beethoven symphony is compelling and can stand on its own; there are no inferior ones (meaning inferior to another symphony of Beethoven’s). Beethoven’s symphony No. 8, for example, is equal to any of the others, though not that often performed.

Beethoven’s Fourth is a gem and probably equal to his Fifth.

Each symphony is unique, different – e.g., the Pastoral and the Seventh each are equally interesting, yet totally different from one another and from Beethoven’s other symphonies.

The Eroica and the Ninth are each completely original. Monumental works unlike no other symphony of Beethoven’s or any other symphony in the classical canon.

A question: I’m sure Beethoven had good teachers; no creative genius emerges ex nihilo. But, whose works are Beethoven’s modeled after?

Answer: no one. They’re completely original.

I will admit that in the first symphony, one can see indebtedness to Haydn’s late symphonies, but it already is definitely, unmistakably Beethoven.



The second work on the program was Mozart’s “Great Mass” in C minor (K. 427). The Kyrie of the Great Mass is better, I would say, then the Kyrie of Mozart’s Requiem.

Listening to a soprano singing the Laudamus te of K. 427 is to experience ecstasy. It’s like what Whitman experienced in 1855 during a performance of Verdi’s “Ernani”: “A new world — a liquid world — rushes like a torrent through you” is how he described it.



Carnegie Hall. What a venue! To think that they were going to tear it down in in the late 1950’s. There are no bad seats; you can hear perfectly and have a great view of the stage from the second tier.

I have never liked Lincoln Center. It’s a sterile “arts center” with worse seating and acoustics than Carnegie Hall. The architecture is typical 1960’s (think Shea Stadium), functional but uninspiring. Lincoln Center ruined a neighborhood; the surrounding streets have no street life. There are hardly any restaurants, watering holes, cafes, or places of interest, other than one or two rip-off restaurants on the other side of Broadway, across the street from the main entrance.

The audience at Carnegie Hall yesterday evening was a typical New York one. Rapt. Totally attentive and focused. (And, one can sense, knowledgeable.)

You could not hear a SOUND in the audience. I know there are some hacking coughs that a cougher can’t prevent or control, but, at the same time, it is my belief that most coughs by audience members at concerts are nervous coughs brought about by impatience or boredom or whatever. I swear I did not hear a single cough yesterday, not one.


— Roger W. Smith

   October 13, 2017