The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Reading during a live concert is rude and disrespectful — like knitting, texting or checking email. Don’t do it.

April 26, 2012
36 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

So there I was last Saturday afternoon, in the small and intimate Morphy Recital Hall listening to the three winners of the 27th annual Beethoven Sonata Competition – the Bagatelles also can be entered — at the University of Wisconsin School of Music.

Three talented students – one undergraduate and two graduate students – were playing three difficult and famous Beethoven sonatas. They had some slips, but each played very well with fluency and an understanding of the music.

Aelin Woo (below) played the dark and dramatic  Sonata in D Minor, Op. 31, No. 2 “Tempest.”

Jonathan Thornton (below) played the Sonata in E Major, Op. 109, with its sublimely soulful theme-and-variations final movement.

And Sung Ho Yang played the mammoth “Hammerklavier” Sonata, in B-Flat Major, Op. 106, perhaps the Mount Everest of the piano repertoire because of its length and its gnarly fugue in the last movement.

Mind you, these were students — not seasoned or veteran performers. They needed all the focus, concentration and calm they could muster. And they needed attentiveness from the audience.

But they weren’t getting any help from one woman who sat right in front of me.

For most of the 90 minutes of actual playing, she carefully read an issue of The New Yorker Magazine, folding the pages and underlining passages with a ballpoint pen (below).

That shows good taste in reading.

But it also shows bad taste – very bad taste – in concert manners and etiquette. She should know better – and probably does.

Not only might she have distracted the performers who were close by on stage. She also clearly distracted several people in the audience sitting near her who commented to me—but not directly to her.

I understand their reticence. After all, I too did not talk directly to her, even though she was only a row in front of me.

For the same reason, you will see in the photo below that I did not show her face but just her companion — who also induced the rudeness and didn’t apparently say anything to her about the offensive behavior — looking at an ad in The New Yorker during intermission. And I did not try to get her name.

I am more interested in correcting or, better, preventing the behavior than in embarrassing the violator.

Now, this is not the first time such intrusive rudeness has caught the attention of The Ear.

Quite a while ago, I wrote a blog posting that was critical of a woman who sat in the front row of a concert and knitted. Then I did the same thing about people who checked e-mail and texted during a theater performance.

I think they should be kicked out – that is, politely but firmly asked to leave – unless they are willing to pay attention and be polite.

I think most readers agreed with me that such behavior is indeed rude and out-of-place.

If you go to the concert, you should listen to the music.

If you want to use music as background, stay home, put on a CD and knit or read your magazine.

And if you don’t want to go to a concert to hear the music, then stay home or go somewhere else.

Period.

But, with a few exceptions — such as the outdoors Opera in the Park, which is loud and asks audience members to text in donations, or a vocal or choral concert where you follow lyrics or text — you do not read books or magazines at a concert. It is rude to the performer and to the audience. It is also demeaning to yourself.

Even program notes should be read before or after the concert or during intermission. Reading program notes at the wrong time—when it is quiet during the performance or when you make a noise folding the page – is also rude.

My post about knitting drew a lot of reader comments, both pro and con, including comments about some special disorder or disability that makes people need to knit during a concert.

Sorry, I’m not buying that baloney. Just stay home.

Anyway, here are links to those posts about knitting and about texting during performances. Be sure to pay attention to the many comments about knitting:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/?s=knitting

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2009/11/03/classical-music-etiquette-kick-texters-out-of-concerts-plays-movies/

And let me know what you think about reading magazines or books during a concert.

And what you think should be done?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music notes: Knitting during a live concert is rude, very rude

February 4, 2010
33 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Last Friday, I attended to the weekly free Noon Musicale at the First Unitarian Society in Madison.

It was a fine performance of rarely heard string trios by Schubert and Beethoven by three members of the quartet Quartessence.

The performers dug into the music, and the audience was big and enthusiastic.

But there was a problem.

The knitters.

As soon as the three string players – a violinist, a violist and a cellist – started playing, one woman in the front row and another in the second row start to knit.

Maybe there were other knitters behind me, but I couldn’t see them.

Sure, the knitters were quiet. No loud click-clicking of needles or turning book pages to follow a pattern.

And true, the atmosphere at the musicales is more casual and relaxed than at a full-length evening concert.

BUT:

Does anyone else find it just rude and unacceptable to knit during a live musical performance?


To me, it seems like the older person’s equivalent of texting during the show.

It shows a lack of courtesy and etiquette.

If knitting is what you want to do or have to do, then stay home, put on a CD and knit to your heart’s content.

But you have no business distracting the performers or the other audiences member with your knitting. Either pay attention to the music or don’t go or else leave.

But don’t turn the music into Muzak.

Disturbing others, those playing or those listening, is just plain rude.

In fact, in some ways it is worse than coughing because coughing is usually involuntary.

Before a concert begins, to we really need to announce there should be no knitting along with no texting, no cell phoning and no wristwatch alarms?

Am I being a fuddy-duddy?

Does anyone think knitting during a live musical performance is OK?

The Ear wants to hear.


Posted in Classical music

Classical music: The great British conductor Sir Colin Davis is dead at 85. Here is a round-up of stories and remembrances, appreciations and obituaries.

April 21, 2013
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

In case you haven’t already heard, the great British conductor and longtime music director of the London Symphony Orchestra  Sir Colin Davis (below) died last Sunday at 85 after a brief illness.

Sir Colin Davis conducting

The news came unexpected to The Ear as Davis seemed actively involved in conducting almost up to the end. He seemed to have the stamina that would take him well into his 90s – especially since the aerobic act of conducting seems conducive to conductors have long careers and lives.

But then again, the obituaries make it clear that he suffered deeply from the death of his wife.

I never heard him live. But I loved his recorded performances –- and he recorded prolifically with some 250 albums to his credit. In the works of Sibelius and Berlioz he was a stalwart champion and acclaimed master. He also championed British composers such as Edward Elgar, William Walton and Benjamin Britten.

But I also liked his complete command of the Classical era-style in Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven – symphonies, concertos, operas, oratories and other choral works. (Below is the cover of his recording on the London Symphony Orchestra‘s own in-house label LSO Live of the Berlioz Requiem.)

Sir Colin Davis LSO Berlioz

Sir Colin earned fame and a fine living early on (below) in the 1950s and 1960s. But I especially liked that his career seemed to peak late in his life –- a good riposte to the cultural tendency today to worship prodigies and young achievers. He was never better than when his hair turned white.

Sir Colin Davis

There is also something endearing and Britty eccentric about Davis who liked to sit in a chair and think about musical interpretations while he was puffing on his pipe and knitting.

Yes, knitting.

And in his stage performances and touring, and it sounds to The Ear as if Sir Colin led a very good and very full life. Which may help explain why Sir Colin’s music-making sounded so healthy and robust and natural rather than neurotic or forced. (Below is a photo of Sir Colin at his home.)

Sir Colin Davis at home

Anyway, here are links to some of the best stories, remembrances and obituaries I found along with a fitting YouTube video of Sir Colin conducting Mozart’s Requiem at the bottom):

Here is a comprehensive and compassionate overview of Sir Colin’s life and career from NPR’s always outstanding blog “Delayed Cadence”:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/04/14/177257680/remembering-colin-davis-a-conductor-beloved-late-in-life

And here is a story from Sir Colin’s native UK:

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130415/classical-music-world-mourns-legendary-conductor-sir-colin

Here is a column, with some details of Sir Colin’s personal life and turmoil, by Anne Midgette of The Washington Post:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/music/colin-davis-celebrated-british-conductor-dies-at-85/2013/04/15/7fd2d87a-a5df-11e2-b029-8fb7e977ef71_story.html

Here is a link to BBC report:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22148334

Here is a link to report from The New York Times:

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/14/sir-colin-davis-british-conductor-dies-at-85/

And here is a story from another UK source, The Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2013/apr/14/sir-colin-davis-obituary

Here is a report from the UK wire service Reuters:

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/04/15/uk-davis-idUKBRE93E0BJ20130415

And here are two more from the Los Angeles Times and The Huffington Post:

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/culture/la-et-cm-colin-davis-dies-conductor-20130415,0,5286281.story

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/15/colin-davis-dead-london-symphony-conductor-dies-at-85_n_3083817.html

Did you hear Sir Colin live? What did you think?

Do you have a favorite recording?

A word of tribute about Sir Colin to leave in the COMMENTS section?

The Ear wants to hear.


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