Bass Blog

Michael Hovnanian formerly played bass with an orchestra located in a large midwestern city.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Bite this

The concert Thursday evening was a little more than half full, an optimistic way of saying it was almost half empty. There is something to worry about when a concert with both Johann and Richard Strauss sells so few tickets. The temperature in Chicago that night was about 6 degrees, which may have had something to do with it. On Saturday the turnout was somewhat better – maybe two thirds full.

The program of Strauss, Ligeti, Strauss was almost your classic shit sandwich. (My apologies for the language – s.s. from now on.) For those unfamiliar with the lingo, s.s. refers to a distasteful modern piece served up between two more palatable audience favorites. The classic construction is an overture or concerto, followed by the modern piece, ending with a beloved symphony or tone poem. The s.s. may also come open-faced, where the modern piece is first, or upside down where it is last. But the savvy reactionary audience member easily foils these schemes by arriving late or leaving early.

My definition of the terminology shouldn’t be taken as acceptance of the underlying narrow-mindedness. There is a tiny minority of us in the orchestra – I can think of two others who would dare express their views openly – who like 20th (and even 21st) century music and think we ought to play more of it. At some point, the audience has to be led kicking and screaming out of the 19th century, hopefully some time before the 21st century ends. After this week I wonder if 93 years might not be long enough for the task.

On the other hand, the Friday night concert – Film Night – was well attended. For a change the concert was entirely classical music – Mendelssohn Italian Symphony, Bizet Carmen, Rossini William Tell, etc. etc – so those hardy souls who braved the cold to come to Film Night at least got to hear something like what we normally play.

All in all, considering the amount of time I spent practicing Zarathustra (or should have), not the best of weeks.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I read about the s.s. on another blog. Great! Here's one more variant: the "shit calzone." It comes stuffed INSIDE the concerto, usually with a big-time soloist. So here comes Josh Bell to play. . . WHAT??? (That's the typical audience reaction - a real canundrum since they paid for Josh Bell, but he ain't playin' Tchaikovsky!)