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Do classical concerts work?

I am interested in getting a sense of how the way classical musicians present classical music ("art music") affects how audiences listen.

Mainstream discourse has circled around the lack of programming of music by women, non-binary, and composers of color and answers regarding this issue are of course welcome, but I am also interested in gaining an understanding of how the rules set in place for the audience by the concert or recital hall has affected your individual experience as a listener.

Things to discuss could be:
-What do you like/not like about classical concerts?
-Do you lose focus in classical concerts?
-Do you feel like you could be expressive as an audience member of a classical concert?
-Do you prefer to listen to classical music as an audience member or on headphones/earbuds?

Thank you for your input!
I love to hear classical music played well. As long as it is played well I mostly don't lose focus, but I find the presence of other members of an audience immensely distracting. I'm never really comfortable in the presence of large groups of people, and for this reason I much prefer to listen on headphones at home. This way, if I'm not satisfied with the way a piece is being presented I can just switch it off and make a cup of coffee without reducing anybody else's enjoyment.


Striving to play the changes in a melodic way.
Staff member
I love the drama of a good classical concert, the musicians getting in place, swapping doubles, and waxing poetic ... so to speak. I love dramatic arrangements, especially of classical pieces used in recent contemporary theater/movie productions that I have seen/loved. Sometimes a concert can just be too long and please, don't put a filler piece in that is of lessor quality. I do lose focus often in concerts because I have a tendency to daydream and have like forever. I could listen to music either live or on headphones and to which is better just depends on so many factors; weather, venue, what I'm doing etc.


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
I'm on record saying that I don't go to concerts because they're too pricey and, yes, I'd rather stay in my office and listen to (probably) a better orchestra/whatever with a (almost definitely) better sound system, fewer distractions, and more comfort. However, I like going to concerts. It immensely spoiled me when I was in university because I could go to something free or very low cost every night. I think this exposure influenced my rather eclectic taste in music. I fully believe in the words of professor Peter Schickele: "If it sounds good, it is good."

I will say, though, that Brahms does put me to sleep :D. I'm also not a fan of atonal music.

Mainstream discourse has circled around the lack of programming of music by women, non-binary, and composers of color and answers regarding this issue are of course welcome
Again, if it sounds good, it is good. I don't particularly care about the composer.


Tom Heimer
To be honest, I listen to classical music way too infrequently being that I'm a classical player. It's been years since I've played orchestrally, but enjoy the challenge of a good transcription for band, as we usually do one or 2 of these per summer concert. I do tape the concerts and listen to see how well we clarinets corralled those first violin parts.
I generally listen more to jazz/jazz rock or even pop (well, 1980s pop, not the crap around the last 30 years....). I can "play at" jazz fairly well, but do miss the symphony days. I do google the odd clarinet & orchestra/piano solo and have a listen, especially if I may play the piece.
My attention span is small however, whether it be listening to classical or any other genre.
If the symphony is one I like and the performance is great I don't lose focus at all but instead indulge myself in the music 100%.

I listen to all kinds of music and I play commercial music for a living. But for serious recreational listening, it's classical, actually post-classical from Romantic to the Present. Music for me starts with Beethoven's 3rd Symphony, Eroica (actually I like his 4 and 7 the best). I particularly like the Russians, Eastern Europeans, Jews, and Spanish if they are brooding enough. But there are good ones and bad ones from everywhere.

I do listen to classical at home but prefer it in concert. I've heard symphony orchestras here in Florida when they come on tour and in their own home concert halls in Prague, Budapest, Syndney, London, Montreal, and just about anywhere else I vacation. In fact we plan our vacation dates around orchestra concerts whenever we can.

We planned our vacation to the Czech Republic to hear this one - see if you can find us in the audience :D



Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
But for serious recreational listening, it's classical, actually post-classical from Romantic to the Present. Music for me starts with Beethoven ...
If we're talking about what period of "classical" I like best, I support this quote. I very much like Impressionist (Debussy, Ravel, etc.), but I also like folks like Respighi and Ralph Vaughn Williams, both of whom I wouldn't really call Impressionist. I think it does start from Beethoven on, tho.

If we want to go baroque or something, I do like Bach's cello suites, but that period of music isn't something I'm a huge fan of. As inoffensive background music, sure.
It's all good and it comes down to personal tastes.

I can appreciate the genius of Bach and Mozart, especially considering the state of musical evolution in their day, but I evolved past that for what I care to listen to.

Decades ago I took a vacation in Costa Rica. We stayed a couple of nights in a motel outside of the Monteverde rain forest (which is actually a cloud forest). They played recorded Mozart and Haydn instrumental music in a very nice dining room. I must say that for me it was the perfect setting for that. Not demanding your ears but a gentle fill in during gaps in conversation. It added some elegance to the meal as well, and the food was delightful.

Last year in Vienna I went to mass in a cathedral that featured pipe organ, classical sized orchestra and full choir. I'm not a very religious guy, I went for the music, and it was sublime. It featured works by Mozart, Randhartinger and Bruckner. We also went to a symphony and an opera during that vacation.

I go, listen, mostly with eyes closed, and enjoy the music. There is just something about hearing it live that no sound system can quite replicate.

Unfortunately there are fewer of them for me to go and enjoy.

Our local symphony has become more of a pops orchestra. I've had conversations with the conductor, they lose money on the "masterworks" so movie themes, broadway, jazz, and other pops concerts pay for the few serious music concerts.

One big auditorium quit having major symphony orchestras altogether. Another brings them in few and far between.

Often when they come, knowing their audience, they play the old war horses like Beethoven 5, Rachmaninoff piano concertos, Mozart symphonies, Dvorak 9, and so forth. Delightful music but what about Shastakovitch? Suk? Prokofiev (other than his classical symphony, another fine work)? Bartok? Saint-Seans? and so on.

I guess the public won't go if they don't feel safe.

I understand. I play pop music for a living (mostly to baby-boomer audiences - it's a secure market here in South Florida) and Wooly Bully, Brown Eyed Girl, Yakety Sax, and Mustang Sally are sure to work. But with short 3-5 minute pieces over the span of 3 to 4 hours, I do get to mix in some more challenging tunes. I'm not complaining, playing pop music is better than any day job I can think of and I truly enjoy it.

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