The Well-Tempered Ear

Want to kill classical music? Talk too much talk and use the wrong kind of program notes

August 29, 2010

By Jacob Stockinger

I’m all for artists discussing the classical music they are about to perform. It helps to educate listeners and often seems to relax the performers. Even seasoned listeners can find remarks about interpretation both illuminating and entertaining.

In Madison, I am particularly fond of pre-concert remarks by UW pianist Christopher Taylor, early music specialist Trevor Stephenson (below, explaining a fortepiano action) and Token Creek Festival co-director and composer John Harbison. All are incisive and witty presenters and well as first-rate performers.

Leonard Bernstein was perhaps the model of The Explainer.

But a good thing can be overdone — and is.

You can, in fact, kill classical music with too much talk. Or with esoteric and jargon-filled pre-concert lectures, radio commentary and program notes designed more for musicologists than for the general public.

Here is an interesting story and analysis I found on the Huffington Post web site:

Read it and see if you agree or disagree.

And let me and other readers know your opinion about the story and about what makes for good pre-concert remarks.

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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