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Classical Notes: April 18, 2006 Archive

Talkin' Beethoven 3 Blues

Posted at 11:35 AM on April 18, 2006 by Don Lee (3 Comments)

“More music, less talk.” Radio stations have traded on that slogan for years. And the pitch makes sense: When listeners tune in wanting music, they tend to get impatient with lots of chat, no matter how personable or informative the announcer may be.

Noticing a trend toward more talk in the concert hall, London Financial Times critic Andrew Clark announces that he’s had enough. He prefers to have conductors immediately lift the baton and give the downbeat rather than take microphone in hand and speak to the audience. Clark makes a fair-minded argument, acknowledging the benefits of connecting to the audience in an informal and interesting way. But, as a believer in “the sanctity of a classical concert,” he comes down on the side of “all music, no talk.” “When performers start speaking,” he says, “they break the spell.”

I share Clark’s belief, to a point. The sense of apartness from the world, of sanctuary, is a concert hall experience I treasure. (And for that reason, I side with another writer who gave a raspberry to a BlackBerry at Carnegie Hall.) But the word “sanctity” also connotes a sense of inviolability that can be forbidding. To people outside the concert hall, the message can too easily seem, “You are not welcome here.” To undo the damage that kind of message has caused, much work still needs to be done. Talking conductors are doing some of it.

Clark says that, as a teenager, he didn’t need explanations to be “enraptured” by Ravel at a piano recital. But what did it take to get him inside in the first place?

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iNic for your iPod

Posted at 9:02 PM on April 18, 2006 by John Birge
Filed under: The blog

The Alex Ross blog today highlights Nic McGegan, conductor of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, now available for downloads with his other orchestra, San Francisco's Philharmonia Baroque. But you'll have to pay for these.

If you want a free stream, don't forget that Classical Minnesota Public Radio offers an archive of complete concerts by the Minnesota Orchestra.

Aren't we good to you? ;-)