What would you change about classical concerts? One conductor has his say
21 October 2014, 13:10
A young conductor has created a list of 10 changes to make classical concerts more accessible and modern, including 'You should be able to take your drinks inside the hall'. But do you agree with his hard-line list?
For some people, classical concerts are boring
Conductor Baldur Brönnimann is one such man, and he has compiled the list of suggestions for new classical concert rules.
Brönnimann's new rules range from being able to take drinks into the auditorium to audiences being able to use their mobile phones (in silent mode).
He also suggests that orchestras should tune up backstage, and that each programme should contain at least one modern work.
Here's the full list
1. The audience should feel free to applaud between movements
"Gustav Mahler introduced the habit of sitting silently until the end of a piece and I think after some 100 years, it’s time to change that. I love it when people clap between movements. It’s a spontaneous expression of enjoyment and people should feel free to show their feelings in a concert."
2. Orchestras should tune backstage
"There is something really exciting about hearing a great orchestra in a great hall. We shouldn’t spoil the impact of the first sounds of a piece by giving away so many of these magical sounds in a random way at the beginning of a concert. Works like the Lohengrin Prelude, Gigues or Lontano do sound strange after tuning onstage. They should emerge from complete silence."
3. We should be able to use mobile phones (in silent mode)
"I don’t mean making phone calls, of course, but rather than switching phones off, people should be able to tweet, take pictures or record concerts silently. If people buy tickets, they should have the rights to record what they see and share their thoughts with others."
4. Programs should be less predictable
"The encores are often what sticks most in people’s mind and I think programmers should take the risk and not always print the whole program, but just certain key works. There must be an element of unpredictability about a concert – if it’s a piece, a different location, a little item of chamber music or anything else. Just something unexpected."
5. You should be able to take your drinks inside the hall
"You can do this in a pop concert and I don’t know why you shouldn’t in a classical concert if the hall allows it. I like to feel relaxed at a concert, have a good time and not having to empty my glass in one after the interval."
6. The artists should engage with the audience
"Many of us do: we speak to the audience before, after or during the concerts. But this can’t be an option, it must be mandatory for every artist to at least be able to introduce a piece, greet the audience or to sign a program. On that note, I think it is a shame that the public is often prevented from going backstage after a concert. Everybody should be able to talk to the musicians and share their thoughts and opinions, if it’s backstage or in the bar. We don’t live in an ivory tower and we have an obligation to talk to the people who love music as much as we do."
7. Orchestras shouldn’t play in tail suits
"That’s an old and easy one. But I think it’s still true. I don’t think the perception of an orchestra changes by simply playing in coloured shirts, but tail suits are definitely out. Too 19th century. There are classy and much better looking suit options around."
8. Concerts should be more family friendly
"People with small kids want to go to concerts too, but they have to be able to leave the hall quickly and silently when the little ones get bored. Just as airlines, concert halls should do more to think about families with small kids and offer priority seats near the exits. I have never minded if a baby starts to cry during a piece, but one should be able to come and go, because some concerts can be long even for adults. Playing areas, interactive content, even child-minding facilities – concert halls need to think about families."
9. Concert halls should use more cutting-edge technology
"Part of the excitement of live classical music is to see people play it up close. Nowadays we have a different visual perception than a hundred years ago, so why do concert halls not use screens to show details of a performance to people who can’t see it from the back? Or why are we not using more physical enhancement for acoustically difficult concert halls? Or offering more contents to download before and during a performance? There is an unnecessary purism about technology in concert halls, but we should move the concert experience into the 21st century. As creative artists we should be at the forefront of using technology creatively."
10. Every program should contain a contemporary piece
"Along with the unexpected element, there is often a lack of relevance or cutting edge to classical programs. Every piece was once new and unexpected and we have to reconnect the classical repertoire with our contemporary lives, we must play the music of our time. This is not to say that we shouldn’t play the historical masterpieces, but classical music has become a kind of “fetishizing of the past”, as Alex Ross calls it in a great article about Beethoven’s influence on classical music for the New Yorker. Programming the great works of the past alongside the music of our own time will shed a different light on the musical past as well as the musical present."
Do you agree with Brönnimann's ideas?
You can see his thoughts on each point here. Will these ideas turn classical concerts into something resembling this?