Bad promo: Which composer would you shoot dead?

Bad promo: Which composer would you shoot dead?


norman lebrecht

June 08, 2016

This is the new trailer from the London-based Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

Wrong, wrong, hopelessly wrong.




  • John Borstlap says:

    Completely idiotic, and populist, and profoundly embarrassing to watch.

    Players are not expected to love everything of the repertoire, but exposure of their limitations can hardly be a stimulus to buy tickets for their performances.

    • Brian B says:

      Right, John, and there is entirely too much of this kind of thing going on nowadays. Because I don’t like this or that, nobody else should be allowed to enjoy it.
      I wouldn’t even wish Luigi Nono or Stockhausen ill, though I wish they’d taken up other professions.
      Even taken as humor, this OAE ad is hopelessly egregious.

  • Robert Roy says:

    Oh dear. My wife and I are huge OAE fans but this is really quite dubious. Perhaps if they had used the analogy of ‘leaving out of the repertoire’ rather than shooting it may have been ‘quirkier’. Guns are not funny!

    And having two players ‘shoot’ Shostakovitch is in very poor taste since he came very close to being eliminated under Stalin. It also leaves the orchestra open to the criticism that, should they play Mendelssohn’s ‘Scottish’ symphony, at least one of the players is not giving heart and soul?

    Very disappointing!

    • Sven says:

      Shostakovich will be fine. We should be more concerned about the hurt feelings of his fragile fans.

  • Will Duffay says:

    I think people are being a little precious. It’s a bit of fun, shows the players to be human, and I doubt any composers were harmed in the making of the video.

  • Ulex Xane says:

    Graeme Koehne, who writes the most awful, populist pap… and ABC Classic FM gives him far too much airtime.

  • Robert King says:

    The concept of a “Room 101” to which musicians can banish their least favoured composers is an interesting one (the TV programme on wider subjects comes up with some really good points). But the idea of shooting anyone, even in jest (clearly here intended only as that), is pretty unpleasant to many people. The OAE has done seriously good advertising over many years, but this video may well be seen by more than a few supporters as being in distinctly poor taste.

  • Sixtus Beckmesser says:

    Year after year, the students in my music appreciation class tell me how much they detest Schoenberg. “Pierrot Lunaire” makes their skin crawl. I have no doubt who their choice would be.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The sympathies between composer and audiences were mutual. After one particularly riotous concert a friend met Schoenberg in a train, who angrily told him about the night before, adding: ‘I should have had a revolver with me!’

    • Will Duffay says:

      Crumbs, if they struggle with Pierrot Lunaire from 1912 they’ve got a long way to go…

    • Joel Lazar says:

      Odd, I’ve found that with ‘tabula rasa’ audiences and classes if you play a recent, witty recording of “Pierrot” and supply the texts/translations, they really get it. Play any of the early recordings (sorry about that, AS) and everybody wants to leave. A very performance-sensitive piece.

      • Sixtus Beckmesser says:

        Point taken, Mr. Lazar. I have a Cleo Laine performance that’s quite good, and there’s a bootleg version with Björk that’s supposed to be terrific.

        • Sixtus Beckmesser says:

          My students do love Pärt’s Tabula Rasa, especially the Silentium section. A lot of it has to do with it’s being grounded in d minor, which sets it apart from “Pierrot.”

  • Stephen Hunter says:

    John Boreslap, straight between the eyes. My three year old could write his derivative pap. Emperor’s New Clothes etc etc…

  • Rodrigo says:

    Slanted, very slanted. Shostakovich? What else would one expect from a group that specializes in early music on period instruments?

    This is how a lot of mainstream orch. players feel about early music composers, esp. now that the early music “police” have basically forbidden us to play anything written before 1700.

    Of course they have a hard time with Shostakovich. How can you play Shost at A 415? OAE should stick to what they do best, early music, and leave their period instruments and their bullets out of standard orch. repertoire.

    • Michael Smith says:

      OAE play 20th century music at 20th century pitch using 20th century instruments. Rather intrigued at the prospect of Der Rosenkavalier, which I understand is due for in 2018.

  • Bruce says:

    Hindemith. Something about his music always sounds a little bit “wrong” to me, like a cheese that looks fine on the outside but you cut into it and it’s moldy. Every piece of his that I hear for the first time makes me feel slightly nauseous. (This reaction goes away over time, if I am required to hear the piece over & over again, but it’s there afresh with every new piece.)

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Very enlightened views, indeed.

  • Bruce says:

    Oh, and I forgot Couperin. Have never heard an identifiable melody in any of his works, only innumerable mordents (with an occasional trill). He just makes me want to shout “STOP IT!”

  • Gerhard says:

    This mind game seems to have an amazing potential for embarrassment, both for the people who are ready to play it, as well as for the ones who comment on it. It seems to be better to stay away altogether.

    • Bruce says:

      Or the participants (and even the readers!) can view it as a bit of fun and no more embarrassing than a party game.

      It’s naïve for an audience member to require that a musician be passionately in love with every single piece of music they ever play. A professional does his best on every piece of music, like it or not, the way a doctor provides the best possible care to every patient (even the alcoholics who won’t stop drinking after a liver transplant).

  • Doug says:

    The real question is which unimaginative, so-called Arts Administrators would have been better shot dead?

  • Tessie Viola says:

    I think it’s quite cute.

  • Will says:

    I think it’s great. Most classical music promo videos are deadly dull. And the ‘guns’ clearly tie into their recent performance of Der Freischütz.

  • Whoever says:

    I’d have to use both of the dueling pistols, otherwise I’d be like Buridan’s ass: If placed midway between a picture of Boulez and one of Stockhausen, I would not be able to make a rational decision to shoot one over the other, and would thus become incapable of action (except, perhaps, to shoot myself rather than look at their portraits).

  • Barbara says:

    Well, I couldn’t get any sound so all these comments become very tantalising.

    • Alistair Hinton says:

      You didn’t miss much This exercise in taking “don’t shoot the pianist – he’s doing his best” to another level and recontextualising it is less funny than a bucket of cold sick and does the participants no favours whatsoever. Having not just one but two shots at Shostakovich (Shotsakovich?) makes an already deeply flawed idea even worse. Having the players credited with their names might come back to bite them in an uncomfortable place. If this is supposedly advertising for an orchestra, in what possible way is it likely to attract those who watch this video to buy tickets for their concerts? What next? An ad for the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra asking players which women composers they’d shoot? Sorry – I’m not short of a sense of humour – but this really is beyond absurd. Whoever came up with it ought to be…

  • Cyril Blair says:

    Einaudi !

  • Sarah says:

    I am afraid I am
    with the players who could do without Shostakovich and I am heartened by the knowledge I am not the only one – but not enough to shoot the poor fellow

    • Alistair Hinton says:

      …of which instrument? if I might ask (in the probably forlorn hope of understanding why you ould do without him)…

    • Sue says:

      I must agree here. I evacuate the building whenever I hear Shostakovich. Terminally dull, endlessly depressing and, well, just endless……. Wow: I think I just heard the faint cadence which followed lots of loud noise.