Andras Schiff: Let’s never go back to concert intervals

Andras Schiff: Let’s never go back to concert intervals


norman lebrecht

May 21, 2021

From a JC interview with Jessica Duchen:

“Even before Covid, I was a great champion of concerts without an interval because, let’s face it, the interval is a commercial entity,” he says. “The bar can still make its profit but afterwards instead. I think this solid block of, say, an hour and a quarter of music is a very good format. It will be a long time before we get back to full houses — I think that will be a nostalgic dream — so if we have a limited audience, we can do shorter programmes and repeat them two or three times to reach the capacity of the whole.”

Read on here.





  • NotToneDeaf says:

    I guess a shorter program means a smaller fee for the artist and a lower ticket price for the consumer?

    • V.Lind says:

      It should certainly be the latter, but if it is being performed two or three times, the artists’ fees should not change. But would three performances count as three services for an orchestra? That could get tricky.

    • Angela says:

      The average orchestral program (with interval) contains 75 to 85 minutes of music. Removing the interval for a concert duration of an hour and a quarter or so won’t necessarily result in a “shorter” program.

    • Maria says:

      Ha, ha, that would never happen unless a lunchtime that happens anyhow.

  • J Barcelo says:

    Absolutely correct! No more intervals or intermissions as we call them here. Of course, many patrons are older and that restroom visit is important! But keep the intervals for opera. Can you imagine Twilight of the Gods without one?

    • Howard Dyck says:

      With the Wagner music dramas, you need to do what Bayreuth has been doing for years – an hour long interval breaks so everyone can go to the washroom and enjoy a snack. It truly makes a 4 hour opera go by much faster.

  • Andy says:

    Was anyone else at Schiff’s Wigmore Hall recital in October 2018 when someone coughed before Schiff had lifted his hands from playing the last chord of the final piece of the evening. He was absolutely raging! I thought he was going to get violent!

  • DRehur says:

    Smart idea.

  • drummerman says:

    Maybe yes for a solo piano concert but for orchestras if we “repeat them two or three time” we have pay the orchestra three times!

    • 18mebrumaire says:

      Well, yes, because they will have worked 3 shifts or do you expect them to do it for free?

  • Guglhupf says:

    wonderful interview.

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    I loved this ==[the audience] know by now that they will not be hearing me play an evening of Liszt or Stockhausen.

  • Paul Dawson says:

    It’s not just refreshments and a toilet break. With a concert of a decent length, one wants time to digest the first half of a performance.

    My early days of orchestral concerts had an almost fixed format: Overture, Concerto, Interval, Symphony. The interval served an important role.

    If he’s suggesting shorter programmes, then he needs to consider the travel time an audience member puts in. In my early days it meant the tube from Ealing to RFH and back. More recently, it involved nightmare LA rush-hour traffic.

    The game may not be worth the candle for a truncated concert.

    • Brian says:

      I’m all for shorter concerts, frankly. If classical music ever hopes to attract more young people, the field needs to acknowledge that attention spans just aren’t what they used to be (sorry, diehards, but it’s the truth).

      • Saxon says:

        The interval is there for those with a short attention span.

        And the claim that young people have a shorter attention is just a myth.

  • Bonetti Micaela says:

    Sorry, I do love long recitals (when performer is excellent!)

  • JohnB says:

    To hear András Schiff, one of the most money-hungry and best-paid (but of course also one of the best) pianists on the classical circuit, say that “… the interval is a commercial entity,” makes me somewhat doubt his self-perception.

    I have experienced some of these intermissionless concerts, and in the truest sense of the word they lack a centre. Whether it is ultimate and unalterable I cannot judge conclusively, but in programming the interval is an important element to structure programmes and to give audiences another chance to catch their breath (or whatever else) before the main work / climax, I would not want to do without it!

  • MacroV says:

    I must admit I’m not a huge fan of intermissions, and I especially hate the overture/reset-the-stage-for-the-piano/concerto/intermission/symphony format that probably accounts for 90% of orchestral concerts. It might be useful for concerts with particularly long works – most of the Mahler symphonies, some Bruckners, Turangalila, etc. – where the one work is a sufficient meal for the evening.

    Though I do enjoy the occasional 2.5-hour affair.

  • Eyal Braun says:

    I heard many live Schiff recitals during the last 20 years or so. Always fascinating- but usually very long (and I love it …) Heard him doing all six Bach Partitas in one evening . Heard him doing Goldberg AND Diabelli variations in the same recital (and playing the complete Tempest Sonata as an encore !) – You must have an interval during such a long evening.

  • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

    Most concerts are too long if one is really paying attention and listening with care.

    I think a concert of a bit over an hour is great. And it can be repeated on the same day if needed.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    The bar is a commercial entity? Not like Andras Schiff, though, aye. That musician just needs to get out more!!

  • IC225 says:

    Andras Schiff showing a total lack of concern for, or understanding of, his audience. Well, what a surprise!

    • Ashu says:

      [Andras Schiff showing a total lack of concern for, or understanding of, his audience. Well, what a surprise!]

      Yes, no intervals, unless he himself suddenly has to take a shit.

  • Marg says:

    While many of us in Australia loved having a concert minus the interval (and I might add, the concert tix were the same price as pre-Covid days when we did have intervals) now some six months later we are back to having intervals as we have basically no covid. So rather than starting a concert at 7 and being out by 8.30 and going to dinner, we’re out around 9pm or a bit later and too late for dinner. Lets face it, the venues want the income from the bar sales in the interval. Too bad.

  • Jan Schultsz says:

    Great idea! Mostly for recitals und ensembles. does exactly this way, with great succes. Dinner before or after!

  • Sheila Novitz says:

    A wonderful interview, I agree. Sir Andrâs Schiff is, in many ways, a peerless musician and person.

  • Maria says:

    He’s just thinking of himself and not the economics of the hall or anyone else. Fine if you’re doing Book 1 of the 48 or similar in one piece. The interval also creates employment, and gives an opportunity to talk to others, particularly if you go on your own, unless you’re an anti-social person. Certainly it is an integral part of the concert in Britain outside of snobby London, and creates income. No decent singer would watch to do a song recital wthout an interval.

  • andrew.little says:

    A shallow comment worthy of such an insightful painist

  • msc says:

    Hough has written convincingly on the subject, too. I agree for the most part. Some particularly emotionally draining programs could use a short break while the audience stays in its seats.

  • Nick says:

    A shorter program (60-70 min.) might be fine. The question is not only in bars making money but also in people who have a need to use a rest room after a very short period of time, (40-45 minutes). Most of the audience is over 60 y.o. and there many who need this convenience.
    Thus, an intermission is not only for drinks. On the other hand a 45 minutes concert is not really good for anybody: not for artists, not for managers, not for the public, not for the business, and last but not least, not for Music!! Mr. Schiff has to think a little further!

  • Greg Bottini says:

    What an absurd idea, to categorically eliminate the interval!
    In the case of orchestra concerts, the interval is often used to reseat the orchestra, say in the case of Mozart or Beethoven being played in the first half and Mahler or R. Strauss being played in the second half.
    The income generated by the bar is a significant part of the total proceeds of the night. Ordinarily the bar is not open after a concert because the people who run the hall want to clear out the audience, not have them hanging around drinking. So the bar’s proceeds would be slashed if the interval was eliminated.
    And people DO need to use the restroom – if one goes to a concert directly after the evening meal, one simply cannot sit comfortably through an uninterrupted hour-and-a-quarter. Better to have the overture and/or a shorter work before the break, then continue with the heavier item(s) on the program afterwards.
    In the case of piano recitals, the same principle applies: set up the program so the shorter work or works are before the break, the longer work or works afterwards.
    Schiff is just being lazy: “we can do shorter programmes”, he says – less work for him if there’s less music to play.