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‘Classical music isn’t dead! It’s just too expensive.’

January 20, 2015 by norman lebrecht

49 comments.


Chicago pianist Lori Kaufman, rebased after a period in Asia, is keeping a close eye on her home town music scene. In her first report for Slipped Disc, Lori wonders why the Symphony audience is so…. advanced in age. She makes an important point. Let’s hear your views.

lori kaufman1

photo: Amy Gelb

Classical music isn’t dead! It’s just too expensive.

Last week, Chicagoans were able to hear Tchaikovsky’s first symphony played live by not one but two exemplary ensembles, the youthful Civic Orchestra of Chicago and its benevolent sugar daddy, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

While both halls were close to 99% full, the demographic was shockingly different. One audience was much older than the other. Why? The Civic show, accompanied by pop culture superstar Yo Yo Ma was free, while the CSO charged $70 to over $200 for seats. Sound the trumpets, Classical music isn’t dead! It’s just too expensive.

Monday night, Lane Technical High School hosted an exuberant overflow of  high school students of a wide range of ethnicities, but also young children, parents, multi-generational families, excited band students and their friends, teachers, school staff members, and even one mother who listened just outside the doors with her toddler so the music could caress the brainwaves of her developing child.

The energy in the hall was electric.  I was sitting next to a woman with her two daughters, the oldest was seven and was excitedly scanning the musicians warming up onstage trying to locate the esteemed soloist.  “Mommy, is THAT Yo-Yo Ma? In the purple sweater? Where IS he? When is he coming out??”  I asked the young music lover if  she has ever heard Mr Ma play in a concert, and she said “No, but my mom has a recording of him.” Glancing around,  the rest of the lucky ticket holders seemed just as charged up watching the young musicians surfing their fingerboards onstage.  I can’t remember attending a concert where there was such a buzz of anticipation in the hall.

The Lane Tech showing proved that there are a lot of Chicagoans who would leap for a chance to hear world class music played live.  Indeed, we were treated to a thrilling evening of wall-to-wall Tchaikovsky, interspersed with words of wisdom from miked-up Ma and charismatic boy-next-door conductor Scott Speck. Maestro Speck recently endeared himself to Chicago Tchaikovsky lovers by showing off in a much-lauded Nutcracker run at the Joffrey Ballet, where the musicians of the orchestra almost stole the limelight by playing every bit as gracefully as the dancers.

Tchaikovsky’s first Symphony is a perfect ideological fit for this group of talented young people,  Civic Orchestra is a virtuoso “training” orchestra, with players who will soon be principals in the world’s top ensembles. Everyone onstage delighted in the spontaneity and whimsy of the young Tchaikovsky. Maestro Speck wanted to take us on a sleigh ride through a wintry Russian landscape, and though high school auditoriums are notoriously overheated, he recreated the imagery perfectly.  Next, Mr Ma left the cello section and went up to the front for one of his signature concerti, the Rococo Variations.  Here, the orchestra members responded with cheekiness and enthusiasm to every coy gesture of Mr Ma, making the concerto more like an affectionate foray into chamber music.  Naturally, the ovations were stunning, and the attendees were blessed with a superbly delivered 6th Symphony after the break.

 

yo yo ma chicago

 

Later in the week, downtown at Symphony Hall, the audience entered in a more staid manner.  They were largely of a certain, rather distinguished age group, and no children to be seen.  One of the youngest members of the audience might have been 18 year old Kathleen Mills,  a freshman at the Unversity of Chicago.  “I was so fortunate to be able to attend the concert on Thursday.  For the Muti and Bronfman concert, I paid $15  for a (student-priced)  ticket that would have otherwise cost me five or ten times the price. I also think that people my age would enjoy classical music with more exposure.”  While the CSO generously provides such affordable tickets for students, how many college and high school students actually know about this boon or take advantage of it?  And what about families who cannot afford multiple high priced tickets?

On Thursday night, the CSO “warmed up” by playing the Brahms second piano concerto with powerhouse soloist Yefim Bronfman.  Riccardo Muti’s direction was, quite simply,  a masterclass in how to accompany a soloist.  He parsed through the score assigning everyone’s role a particulate timbre, volume, and character.  The balance was so astonishingly perfect that the musicians allowed Bronfman to alternate between a colossal Incredible Hulk and gentle David Banner, every single note carrying like a carrier pigeon straight into the audience, whether a finely woven texture of pianissimo  or the most trenchant fortissimo-plus.
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photo: Todd Rosenberg/ChicagoOnTheAisle.com

After the intermission, Muti brought us a wholly different Tchaikovsky than the one we heard four days earlier. Where Civic played the First Symphony like an amuse-bouche, the CSO gnawed into it like a Porterhouse steak. Here we saw the grandeur and tortured pain of this symphonic work, the depth and breadth and anguish of a troubled composer washed over us like tumultuous waves. Here we saw even  more of the orchestra’s precision and commitment, yet also their delight (and frequent smiles)  in every gesture of their Director.
While violin bows danced up and down in perfect synchronization, Muti knew just how to highlight the gifted members of each wind section, in particular, four horns whose timbre so completely melded to each other that it sounded like one person breathing into a turbo-charged horn.   In our digital age of striving for perfection, this is it, folks, perfection on a plate.  You can’t get this from listening to itunes, you must see it up close, 100 artists putting their hearts and brains together to create a flawless work of art.  Certainly, they earn their salary every night.  The CSO is currently running on a $60 million budget and they need every cent of that to keep to such a dizzyingly high artistic standard.  But how can we get more people inside to experience what they have to offer?
YoYo Ma said from the stage Monday night: “You can’t think about self-doubt when you are onstage showing someone how absolutely passionate you are about this thing you are doing, this thing that you think is just so completely amazing that you must share it with the world.” I know that Maestro Muti is committed to bringing great music to EVERYONE in the community, not just those who can afford it.  How can we help to accomplish this? And to keep more US orchestras in business with a vibrant operating budget? What is the answer? I don’t know.  But I sure would like to tell it to that seven year old girl sitting next to me earlier last week.


Comments (49)

  1. Milka says:

    A more inane review cannot be imagined.

    1. avi says:

      …Apart from the review of Muti’s Cso.

      I am a young person; without much money, etc., and maybe because of it, I could tell you that 29 USD is nothing. 29 USD and to say that the problem is money…? A stupid Barbie costs more…certainly, it “costs” less than one evening out of a young person!

      Saw the other day K. Zimerman. I had very good seats for 80 Euros. Had to fly from Israel though, and yet, I think that it was an embarrassingly low price for such an evening.

      After all, hearing Zimerman’s Beethoven, could you put a price on it?

      ONLY for reference, enters into the CSO’s radio, where you could listen freely to the CSO.

      Or take this evening- a movie.. R. Muti’s comments…for free…

      ALEXANDER NEVSKY
      Tuesday, January 20, 2015
      There was a free screening of Sergei Eisenstein’s 1938 film Alexander Nevsky on Tuesday, January 20 at 7:30 p.m. in Orchestra Hall. Riccardo Muti, CSO Music Director, and Phillip Huscher, CSO Program Annotator, made introductory comments about the film and its relationship to Prokofiev’s cantata, followed by the screening at 8:00 p.m.

    2. Andrew says:

      Exactly, Milka. Thank you…

  2. Mark Glanville says:

    This from Simon Keenlyside (taken from an interview I conducted with him a few years back): ‘The old warhorse that we can’t afford it. You can afford it. You went to the David Bowie concert, you got your season ticket to Man United, and that costs a great deal more than going to the theatre. It’s about prioritising, and it’s just not fashionable for young people to go to the opera or to the theatre. What are we going to do about it, which is a different issue?’

    1. MWnyc says:

      You got your ticket to the David Bowie concert or to Man United?

      Who is this “you” Simon speaks of?

      All too many middle-class people can’t afford rock stars’ concerts or major-league sports tickets any more than they can afford symphony or opera tickets.

      The only exception is that a middle-class couple might splurge on a David Bowie (or whoever) concert once every five or ten years. That would not be considered at all unusual. But I don’t think opera houses or major orchestras are going to be saved by more people buying tickets once or twice a decade.

  3. Tim Parry says:

    I actually think it’s outrageous, yet the accusation against classical music is often heard. I have an eight-year-old son who really wants me to take him to a Premier League game. If I select a fixture very carefully, I can get us both in for about £60 (not to a “glamorous” fixture). I could take him to a whole range of classical musical events more cheaply … but at the moment, he wants to go to football. Is the older demographic of classical concerts really because of money?

    1. MWnyc says:

      Certainly some of it is because of money.

      Your son is an eight-year-old boy. Most eight-year-old boys (not all, but most) wouldn’t choose the National Theatre or Sadler’s Wells or Shakespeare’s Globe over a sports match, either, any more than they would ENO or the Southbank Centre. Most eight-year-old boys prefer sports to other live entertainment at just about any price point.

  4. Mark Glanville says:

    Or a more inane comment than yours.

  5. william osborne says:

    Thank you for looking at these problems. I hope you’ll keep it up. If prices came down, demand would increase and one professional orchestra for such a large city would be insufficient. London has 5 orchestras, Berlin 7 or 8, Munich 5, and so on for Europe’s big cities like Chicago. And they all have one or more full time opera houses. Berlin which has 3 full time houses, Munich 2, Paris 2, Vienna 2, and so on. Chicago has one halftime opera company struggling to maintain its short season.

    We see that price is just one symptom of the more fundamental problem that we are the only developed country in the world without comprehensive systems of public arts funding. A private funding system leads to art by and for the wealthy. In that case, one orchestra and a half time opera are all that is needed, and so that’s what we have.

  6. Dave says:

    “…the CSO charged $70 to over $200 for seats”.

    Even it it were fashionable, that’s still not cheap.

    1. Erin says:

      I don’t know if the prices were raised because of high demand (which is possible and happens with basically all ticketed events), but you can usually get cheap seats starting at $29. Yes, those are nosebleed balcony seats, but at less than twice the price of a student ticket, that’s still not bad. And you can sit on the main floor for $45. Try making it into a professional sporting event (besides the Cubs) for less than that.

  7. Anne says:

    The assumption is that there’s one problem, and it’s the same one everywhere. Maybe it isn’t.

    Just a thought.

  8. Mark Glanville says:

    Aimed at ‘Milka’.

    1. Milka says:

      Aimed at Milka and missing the point as usual

  9. Anon says:

    There’s also the problem for those of us who don’t live in major cities. We have to commute, sometimes in horrible traffic; maybe our friends across the Atlantic forget how horrible public transportation is in this country – can’t always just hop on a train and be there. I was stuck an hour in DC traffic trying to get to Strathmore last week. (whine whine whine – I know, but this is how the “entitlement generation” thinks.)

    Anyway, yes, it is expensive, especially for the young students who would be most interested in going. A friend wanted to hear Trifonov at the NYPhil, prices starting at eighty (80) dollars, and the student tickets were STILL 30 a pop. Contrast that with Berlin where anyone under 30 can buy a pass for the year, and get the best seats at major venues for 10 euro a pop.

    1. MWnyc says:

      Doesn’t the D.C. Metro or MARC train go to Strathmore?

    2. Erin says:

      The “entitlement generation” owns fewer cars, drives less and uses alternate transit more than their elders. (Studies show this again and again.) I’m not even sure what you were trying to indict in the “entitlement generation’s” thinking–that sitting in traffic isn’t worthwhile? Because many of us “entitled” kids (who are, by the way, now in our mid-twenties to mid-thirties) *would* rather our infrastructure mirrored that of Europe, with less reliance on cars and more easily accessible trains available for everyone to use. How dare we.

  10. Gary says:

    After seeing the salaries of Deborah Borda and Gustavo Dudamel, I switched from being a friend of the LA Phil to being a Friend of the Colburn School.

    When just the music director and the executive director of an orchestra pull in $3 million per year, the tickets have to be expensive. I’d much rather attend free or inexpensive concerts and recitals and leave a good donation than subsidize millionaires.

    1. MacroV says:

      I know it seems like a lot of money, but Deborah Borda has probably been worth her money and more. The LA Phil was in a financial mess when she took over, and in the dozen or so years she has been in LA has brought it into the Disney Hall era, pulled off the Salonen-to-Dudamel transition, and has the LAPO considered arguably the hottest (if not necessarily the best) orchestra in the U.S.. She’s probably covered her salary just in fundraising.

      Dudamel probably earns a salary commensurate with others in similar positions. Too much, perhaps, but consistent with the market.

    2. Alex says:

      There’s this sick notion that being financially succesful is somewhat ‘wrong’. This is ludicrous. If you actually valued this art you would want your top exponents to be celebrated public figures – and paid accordingly.

      Yes, they might have $3 million more than you, but in the spectrum of society? Deborah Borda is not particularly in the Forbes richest persons in the world. A moderately decent Lawyer or Doctor will make MORE than the MOST succesful classical musician in the world? What does that say of the profession. IT SUCKS!

      Dr.Dre – the Rapper – just sold beats to Apple for 3 BIllion, yes BI, so dont give me the “they are too rich” argument. Its retarded. If we had a Billionaire classical musician, maybe kids would look at classical music with other eyes. Sad but true in this society, and no ‘after school program’ is going to change that.

  11. Gregory Nigosian says:

    To say that low end ticket is $70, is a sign that the person does not know 1) how to plan ahead, 2) how to work their way around the seat map on their computer (and knowing that sometimes a direct phone call will yield a better deal), and 3) how to be flexible with dates.

    I’ve sat in the most expensive seats. They are very nice. But if you’re insisting on those, you have shifted into a very different discussion. How many students and newbies expect to sit in the first balcony?

  12. Mikey says:

    I wonder if Ms. Kaufman sells tickets to her recitals or if she does them all for free?

    Symphony concerts are not “too expensive”. In fact, they are often quite a bit less expensive than shows with major recording artists. Tickets to hear Cher, or Madonna, can easily run you multiple hundreds of dollars per ticket. “Young people” don’t balk at the cost.

    “Young people” don’t want to go to symphony concerts because of the pathetic state of arts education in our times. It has nothing to do with cost. It has everything to do with culture being assassinated by philistine capitalists and greedy, uncultured, cost-cutting, politicians.

    1. Anne says:

      “philistine capitalists and greedy, uncultured, cost-cutting, politicians.”

      I would also include class obsessed, anti-elitist, aggressively philistine socialists of the type I grew up with.

  13. Elly Winer says:

    Yes. Classical music is so elitist. Blah, blah, blah. Have you seen how expensive professional sports events are now? Top tickets into the thousands. Even movies cost more then many concert tickets when you include the buckets of popcorn and soda.

    As for age, stop worrying about it. Older people with more discretionary cash are a renewable resource.

  14. NYMike says:

    From 2011 orchestra budgets: CSO’s for that year was $65 million, not $30 million. Research, PLEASE!

  15. Bob M says:

    When you pay performers exorbitantly, the cost of the tickets go up.

    Begin the debate over the “worth” of a performer in 3…2…1…

  16. Robert Holmén says:

    I just looked at the CSO’s tickets page for an upcoming subscription concert, “Muti conducts Prokofiev and Scriabin.”

    A cursory look showed tickets on sale from $29 to $212, although the highest priced ones seemed to be sold out.

  17. Linda L Grace says:

    Looks to me like the grey heads are turning over. I have seen most weekly offerings of the Philadelphia Orchestra since 1982, unless ill or out of town, and many visitors as well.
    In 1982, I was one of the younger in the audience; more desirable ears, I imagine. Now I am grey haired and maybe less desirable ears, and I am sick of being singled out as an undesirable audience. I suppose I will eventually have to stop going, but dollars to doughnuts I will be replaced by another subscriber entering or past middle age.

    Here is the real issue: when parents who can afford to go to the orchestra (and one of my series is just 35$ a seat) is when their children no longer need a babysitter and are on their own.
    My only problem with getting a season ticket to every concert is that tickets are not offered like that anymore. In the guise of “marketing” we have all sorts of little series broken down for imagined tastes so that getting a season ticket to all the concerts requires special handling. This season I would have missed 3 and had to get extra tickets, although
    I was able to exchange 2 of the duplicates.
    There seem to be plenty of $25 seats for the season for students, and mostly the line for the 100 tickets which are $10 is filled. That is plenty as far as I am concerned, counting the free neighborhood concerts and special concerts like the Martin Luther King free concert yesterday.
    Let them eat that. Someone has to buy tickets.
    In the absence of support from elsewhere.

  18. Erwin Gomez says:

    A reasonable seat to a Chicago Bulls game set me back $80 (actually more since I went through a ticket agent). And this did not include overpriced beer and hotdogs or pizza. I had great seats for Ravel’s piano concerto wonderfully performed by Yuja Wang and China NCPA orchestra for $40.

    Watching Derrick Rose zoom to the basket was great fun, but I thought I badly underpaid for Yuja Wang’s music.

  19. Paul Kelly says:

    This report from the USA actually sounds quite positive. In the UK I think the problem is far worse. I recall a wonderful story from 20 years ago where a leading UK orchestral administrator looked out from the balcony at his audience at an orchestral concert. He saw a sea of grey heads and turned to his colleague and said “Look! Legacies on the hoof”. I am in my late 50s and often feel that I am one of the younger audience members when I go and see my local orchestra – The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

    Price may be a factor in failing to attract a young audience. But there are also several other factors to take into account including the range of cultural opportunities on offer; the nature of the classical music programme – mostly 19th century, I would argue so some people might see symphony orchestras as sort of musical museums . Other factors include the comparative lack of classical music in the mainstream media and the erosion of music making in schools.

    Perhaps the most interesting reason was set out by the arts consultant Graham Devlin in 2006 in a paper titled “19th Century Artforms at the Dawn of the 21st” and published by Mission, Models, Money here:
    http://www.missionmodelsmoney.org.uk/resource/19th-century-artforms-dawn-21st-graham-devlin-2006

    Devlin quotes a well-known (UK) Henley Foundation report of 2000 that people were facing “an unacceptable level of stress and resentment that work commitments take up too much time. As a result, their principal aspirations are less to do with material possessions and more concerned with time, sleep, holidays and ‘a rest’. Overall, Henley found that potential arts audiences were cash rich and time poor.” Devlin argues that “In a world that is strapped for time, many will not voluntarily commit themselves to a long evening in the theatre or concert hall.” This, he says partly explains the comparative growing success of contemporary visual arts.

    Devlin suggests that the most significant reasons for the rise in interest in the visual arts are “are free entry and the related capacity to spend as much or as little time in an exhibition as you wish. If you walk into a gallery and see nothing there to engage you, you are able to turn on your heel and leave immediately. Positioned in the middle of a row in the theatre, you do not – without making a very public statement – have that opportunity, at least until the interval.”

    Perhaps therefore a mix of repertoire, length and format – unchanged for a hundred years? – are also as much to blame as price. The logical approach to this might be to take a Classic FM approach to concert Hall programming – which to my mind sounds completely hideous. The other more radical step would be to back the ‘Slow’ movement and think about how we can work less, possibly earn less, and appreciate life more and therefore devote more time and attention to lengthy and demanding artistic work. That requires a significant change in social and political outlooks – or emigration to a country who have managed to avoid the worst ravages of “I consume therefore I am”.

    1. Anne says:

      I don’t want to be rude about Bournemouth, or rather Poole, if that’s where you go, but perhaps the demographic is older. Nobody has mentioned the Proms, which seems to do very well.

      I was under the impression from previous coverage on Slipped Disc that the problem in the US is quite serious once you get away from the obvious centres of excellence.

      1. Paul Kelly says:

        Anne, interestingly in the case of Bournemouth, that’s an urban myth. They used to say that Bournemouth was the place you came to die. But look at the 2013 population data here http://www.bournemouth.gov.uk/PeopleLiving/BournemouthStatistics/Themes/PopulationMigration/Population/Population-Trends-in-Bournemouth-2014.pdf (and scroll down to Figure 5) It’s crystal clear that Bournemouth has a far higher number of young people than the national average. I suspect that is before you count in the 28 foreign language schools and the thousands of young people they attract and who won’t be picked up by the census. I can’t find a similar table for Poole. I suggest the data there may be more the way you suggest. And other data sets show that Dorset and Poole have a much higher number of people aged 65+ – Dorset overall 10% higher than Bournemouth in this category.

        1. Anne says:

          Fair enough. Thanks.

  20. MWnyc says:

    “Music is something people can get along without – and if it costs too much, they will.”

    When I first encountered that quote, it was attributed to Thomas Beecham. But I can no longer find the source for that attribution. Anyone here know?

  21. ML says:

    My subscriber tickets for Thursday night concerts come at $31 apiece in the gallery. The sound is fantastic. With subscription I get many benefits, such as free ticket exchange as long as I do it more than 24 hours in advance (so that I can opt out of concerts I do not like or do not feel like to get out). I added another ticket this Saturday for $31, as Scriabin sym. #1 is rarely performed. Nowhere as expensive as the article alleged.

  22. Ben Ordaz says:

    I’m a Chicagoan and I learned the trade of classical music in the city. I am familiar with all of the problems of getting people to Symphony Center (price, commute,relevance to Chicagoans), and I am also familiar with all the ways people and the CSO have gotten around them (student tickets or high tier seats, Metra trains into and around town, and free concerts in Millenium Park).

    I am going to echo the NY critic Alex Ross in identifying the main problem as the time it takes to experience this music. Literally right across the street from Symphony Center is the Art Institute Museum, as world class in its collections as the CSO in its performances. I go to that museum twice a year (I don’t live there anymore) every year, and TRUST ME, it is not hurting for patronage from young adults, working adults, middle age adults, and older adults. That is, of course, because a person can experience it at his own pace, and not have to sit through, as silently and still as possible, the pitch collections of Elliott Carter and the sonata forms of Beethoven for 90 minutes.

  23. Mike Hansen says:

    You are clearly not up on the classical music scene in Chicago. It has several professional orchestras although the CSO is the 800 pound gorilla. The Chicago Sinfonietta, one of the other orchestras, is not only first rate but it Is reflects a diversity of orchestra members seen in few if any American orchestras. It is exceptional. Chicago also has three professional opera companies and on and on. If you’re going to be critical at least get your facts straight. When you routinely get 15,000 people for free Grant Park Symphony concerts during the summer at Millenium Park, you realize classical music is amply available in Chicago in a variety of venues and price points.

    1. william osborne says:

      The organizations you mention are very small with very limited seasons. They do not compare to the multipe full time orchestras and opera companies I mention in my post above. So yes, facts are facts, and let’s get them straight.

  24. Geoff Radnor: says:

    As an 80 year old on a slim pension I have to depend on the lack of demand for some events that make the venue offer some good deals. If the lack of subscription buyers at the beginning of the season leave lots of seats unsold I hope to pick up some cheap seats in the gods (very close to heaven) at bargain prices like $15 or $20 each. When I see seats at $200 and more I can see trouble ahead except for concert goers in the very wealthiest cities. And are they a bit younger and no so into classical music like us old grey haired ones.

  25. SVM says:

    There is no silver bullet to getting more young people; like all demographics, we are a diverse one.

    Certainly, price is a consideration, but, as others have mentioned, one also has to remember the costs of travelling to the venue — for me, the rail fare, even with a Young Person’s railcard discount, for a return journey from where I live to London Zone 1 usually outweighs the cost of my concert ticket. Given that, as Osborne notes, the density of professional ensembles on the other side of the Atlantic is far lower than in the UK, the travel issue would, if anything, be even more significant there.

    Another factor worth mentioning is that, to be able to obtain cheap tickets and/or tickets for the more popular events, you need to book a long way in advance: I was fortunate to have a ticket to each of the two recent LSO concerts conducted by Simon Rattle, for which I paid £8 per ticket, and for which I booked in February 2013 (that is, about eleven months in advance). When booking so far in advance, it is difficult to be 100% sure that you can definitely make it. Without meaning to stereotype, I suspect that this uncertainty is, in general, a bigger issue for younger people (who do not tend to plan so far in advance) and for those who are not regular concert attenders.

    This may be one reason why the bargain day tickets available at the BBC Proms have such a big following. However, the danger with eroding advance booking is that it would severely discriminate against those who do not live locally (because they would want the certainty of already having a ticket before travelling). Besides, a lot of people do like to plan ahead, especially the most loyal audience-members (some of whom attend every concert of an orchestra’s season), many of whom are older.

    Notwithstanding all the practical considerations mentioned above (many of which are beyond the scope of individual organisations to change), I think we just have to accept that many people are not amenable to classical music until they become middle-aged/elderly — our tastes are not set in stone at 21. I quite like being surrounded by older people who are likeminded in their appreciation of classical music.

  26. John Borstlap says:

    When ‘serious art music’ liberated itself from the patronage of nobility and church, it got into a market situation and became, apart from an art form, a business too. The contradiction of art / business created a problem that cannot be solved as long as we live in a free society. Maybe it is the price to be paid (in both senses) for our freedom? Would we want classical music as an undertaking entirely run by the state? We know that, even with the best of intentions, that would lead to a Soviet-Union situation where everything and everybody would be politicized and music would go under in the turmoil of infighting and quarrels about power.

  27. Lori Kaufman says:

    Thanks to each and every one of you for your erudite and helpful comments.
    I especially agree with Paul Kelly, who claims that we are all overworked and lacking the necessary balance that would allow us to blithely take a night off for musical pursuits. Wishing you all a lovely conclusion to your week!

  28. william osborne says:

    The organizations you mention are very small with very limited seasons. They do not compare to the multipe full time orchestras and opera companies I mention in my post above. So yes, facts are facts, and let’s get them straight.

  29. MacroV says:

    Yes, orchestras (and operas) are expensive. When you have 100 musicians on the stage who have to earn a decent income, and only 2,000 or so seats to generate revenue, you can do the math.

    It’s interesting that Yo-Yo Ma is included in the “affordable” concert, since he’s part of the “problem.” He probably works cheap or free on occasion, but he’s one of the highest-paid classical performers, commanding fees of as much as $90,000 per concert, so I’ve heard (perhaps Mr. Lebrecht knows better). Never understood how that can work.

    Unfortunately, we’re likely to see a solution to this only when orchestras can generate substantial income from electronic media that could subsidize the cost of tickets to the live event.

    As for why you see a lot of old people at concerts, I can tell you why you don’t see me (age 49) very often: I have kids at home. I don’t have time to go out to concerts very often. When I’m 65 I’ll have time and money, and so will go more often.

  30. Nydo says:

    Perhaps some clarification on ticket prices is in order. This is the 2 post in the thread talking about the ticket prices for the NY Phil starting at $80 for a regular concert. They start at $30.
    The cheaper seats just may have been sold out by the time you looked. With few exceptions for a few programs with very popular soloists (and Trifonov isn’t this popular, at least at this point in time), you should be able to get the $30 seats if you plan ahead. The same thing applies to the Met, and to Carnegie Hall, though the latter can run up into the $70 to $80 dollar range for cheapest seats for Vienna and Berlin when they visit.

    In the end, you just have to plan a bit more, and a bit earlier.

  31. Kevin says:

    Price is an issue for older folks too, depending upon where one lives. In our town some of the seniors begged off when the price went up to $25. Ours is a small semi pro(some paid, some volunteer musicians) that pwrforms 4 times a year in a city of 45K but with a surrounding population of about 100K. If I wanted an evening performance of the Toronto Symphony, I’d not only be shelling out the cost of the tickets but also travel and a room.
    Bright side – the college I just started attending hosts concerts with free admission for students for most performances. Most of the artists I recognize from the classical station CFMX, who is a sponsor. Not too bad for a town in the sticks of the Kawartha Lakes.

  32. Laura says:

    I would go to every concert I could if I had the money. I loved being in college, we could get student rush tickets, or free tickets (professors would give their comp tickets to the music office). It also doesn’t help that you have to spend a fair amount on parking, on top of the tickets. In my area of the country, you don’t have to pay for parking most places, but you do at performance halls.

  33. J. Hortman says:

    At least in my experience in my city (Houston) it’s not quite as simple to splurge on tickets to the Symphony or Opera because you pretty much have to be a subscriber. Yes you might be able to get tickets for $15 or $20 per performance, but that’s for each of the performances they’ve chosen for you ahead of time as a package deal. I’m trying to take my daughter to an opera performance but I don’t want to take her to six operas over the course of the year. The leftovers after the subscribers have had their pick are single seats with obstructed views — and sitting at two different edges of the balcony isn’t really what I had in mind. The symphony won’t even let you look at tickets unless you’re a subscriber.

    The cost is an issue but so is the fact that meticulously planning months in advance is just not really how the “younger” generations work. Student rush tickets worked great for us but now that we’re no longer students it’s hard to transition into being subscribers when we have jobs and kids and a lot of other stuff going on in our lives. We also don’t respond well to the idea of not being able to pick and choose which performances we want to go to. It’s hard to justify spending the time and effort on a mediocre live performance when I can watch world-class performances on Youtube. I realize it’s not the same but it’s free and on my schedule. We’re used to immediacy and customization because of the technology we’ve been raised with. Older people may look down on us for this but it’s reality, and I suspect that it’s going to be an issue for arts organizations in the future.


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