Why I won’t be going back to concerts

Why I won’t be going back to concerts

Comment Of The Day

norman lebrecht

October 15, 2021

Comment of the Day from Reader MSC:

‘My wife and I go to a lot of concerts and have done so for a very long time. Perhaps half the time I walk away feeling that overall the cost and time spent was not worth a particular performance. They are not often bad, just a bit too often ordinary. Concert going had become a bit of a ritual in some ways. I have always been a keen collector of recorded music, and over the last few years of decent employment have built a stereo system I am relatively happy with. I’m not close to creating the acoustic experience of a live concert in my home, but most of the time I am very happy with the sound I do achieve. And at home I am guaranteed of good perfomances. If I want, I can hear broadcasts or streaming of concerts from all over the world. All this means that I have been listening to more music at home than ever before, enjoying it immensely, and will probably never go back to attending as many concerts as we did before COVID.’



  • This is the equivalent of saying you’ve just realized you can have everything you need delivered by Amazon or other services, so you may never visit a physical store again. Inevitably, the effect, if many adopt the same attitude, is that physical stores will shut down.

    It’s the same with performing arts organizations. If enough people opt to stay home and watch streaming services, well, it will be the end of an era.

    • Phil Lieberman says:

      I think it should end (and I’m not sorry at all). Once it all ends, all I would say is this: “Justice served!”

      It’s a very corrupt, life-ruining industry that obviously cannot deliver quality products like it could back in the day. What do you expect when the parents of non musical “robots” use big money to buy the spotlight and get their kids significant positions through whatever means possible? Teachers/professors/mentors are just as guilty because they know for a fact that the robots will destroy the industry but never hesitate to take their money for lessons, etc. However, the robots have absolutely NO magic to offer, so the public will simply decide not to come to concerts anymore because they have that choice. Very simple situation.

      • Alexander T says:

        The only problem is: a lot of people do think that these robots have magic to offer.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Nonsense, there is enough excellent music making around. One just has to listen to the music and make distinctions, develop some good ears.

        But that does not mean that there is not much corruption in the music world or amateurism or posing and ego trippery. There should be reforms, not cancellation, which would be something like ‘let the entire field of dentistry disappear because my dentist extracted the wrong tooth!’

      • Antonia says:

        This happened at my church. The church allowed an outside piano teacher to teach in its sanctuary. The teacher arranged for her son and other piano trio members to present a piano trio concert there. It was disgustingly robotic and when it came time for myself and another instrumentalist to present a duo concert, Harley anyone came, although the trio concert had been heavily attended. On Sunday, the asst. pastor raved like crazy about my concert with a sense of surprise it had been so great (although he didn’t use these words). The robotic players ruin it for the rest of us among the public and give classical music a bad name. My family was the opposite of what you describe; we were quite poor, but my parents and teachers recognize a talent for communication of the human spirit through music and sacrificed for me to received the training needed. More should be done to encourage students who are impoverished yet gifted. Less should be done to encourage students who are wealthy yet not gifted. But to enable this to happen, music schools need more donors and scholarship creation.

    • Novagerio says:

      This is the equivalent of saying “I’m perfectly satisfied with PornHub, and I don’t need the real-life ritual of wooing and mating” – Well, Congratulations Mr.Reader MSC, enjoy as long, as you are plugged!

    • Tiredofitall says:

      The (sad) fact is, we CAN receive everything we need from Amazon–generally cheaper, in-stock, and free delivery. Or one of the many grocery or restaurant delivery services. COVID has just accelerated what had already been in place. Physical stores with high overhead cannot compete.

      Do we not think that live music streaming is the same? Let’s not fool ourselves.

      The future is now, whether we like it or not.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Physical retail will, indeed, shut down. I’ve no hesitation in suggesting that. The world has changed and, as we know, a change isn’t necessarily an improvement (are you listening, progressives?).

      • K says:

        Don’t worry Karen. You’ll still be able to find the commemorative “I wasn’t there for the Jan 6 attempt to overthrow our democracy, but I sure wish I had been!” T-shirt and matching beer can holder. Are you listening red-hat MAGA traitors?

    • Mecky Messer says:

      And I hope you are right. We have a hyperinflated number of redundant organizations that only seem to regurgitate the basic fads of a dying dinosaur “industry” that rewards mismanagement and lives bailout after bailout.

      Time to put these institutions to rest so the few surviving ones can actually do music.

      If not everybody will have to lower the standards. The Philharmoniker just had John Williams debut…a sign of ultimate desperation for relevance.

      Or perhaps this whole group of stakeholders should all pack their bags.

      We have enough good recordings to last thousands of years.

      • John Borstlap says:

        ‘Relevance’ is the main problem indeed. But that does depend upon the civilisation as a whole. Chinese people for instance love it and find it extremely relevant. How come? For them it was something from the other side of the planet, but no longer so.

      • Piano Lover says:

        “””We have enough good recordings to last a thousand years””
        I would add that it is not necessary to listen to the same work played by a million other “artists” who mostly copy/paste the work.
        COmpare with paintings:do we search for a Monet-or Rembrant equivalent by “some other artist” …there aren’t any who can match these “for ever treasures”.

        The old recordings by Richter,horowitz and you name your favourite can never be matched.
        Now that robots are making some beethoven music(for example)…should we go to concerts to watch them?
        No thanks!

    • Althea T-H says:

      The era had become ossified.
      Therefore, it did it to itself.

    • Tamino says:

      …and it will be the end of the streaming service as well, since streaming of live performances only happens, if said live performances are happening, lively, attended and paid for by many ticket buyers.

      • Antonia says:

        And donors and grants. A typical performing arts organisation’s costs aren’t covered at even 50% by ticket sales

    • Piano Lover says:

      “”The physical stores will shut down”””
      So what!There are not many left around anyway and when there are some,they sell basics and no genuine -document recording .

      Youtube offers wide musical recordings.
      Everyone knows that copyrights is a business that favours more the musical industry than the interpreters.
      Everyone knows than the conductors earn more(far more) than the artists themselves.
      A slipped disc article by NL explains why so many yongsters rush into conducting.
      Why would I have to go on site while I can get to watch it freely??
      And so on
      I am not ashamed of buying at AMAZON or elsewhere on line.

      What I can I do to stop that kind musical-business anyway?
      Ok-will everyone do as such?
      I doubt it !

    • Piano Lover says:

      It is already the end of an era so why bother!

  • Prof says:

    Well, concerts before CoVid were boring — the range of repertoire being programmed at Carnegie Hall has been so narrow that you almost never hear a work by Honegger, Schmitt, Roussel, Koechlin, Dutilleux, Henze, Dutilleux, Chavez, or other excellent composers from the mid century. And now it seems it will be wall to wall Tchaikovsky and Brahms, with Jessie Montgomery and the Chevalier to round things out, forever. I’m surprised anyone buys tickets.

    • SMH says:

      You may just have to look beyond the confines of large concert halls to find such works. They are out there……

    • The View from America says:

      You forget Florence Price. Her Symphony #3 is right up there with Bruckner’s, Sibelius’ and Copland’s!

    • Larry Goldman says:

      So the general listening public ought to be so sick of Tchaikovsky and Brahms that they would not buy tickets anymore? There’s a reason those composers have stood the test of time, and not all listeners are as jaded as you seem to be. Of course I’m in favor of performing those other composers too, including the two of them named Dutilleux.

    • Gerry Feinsteen says:

      Equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome.
      Carnegie Hall, like any great art museum, attracts visitors by way of the best of the best, not “giving anyone whoever composed” a chance.
      That’s not the way it works.
      Before 1795 well over 16,000 symphonies were composed (see Taruskin OHWM, if I recall)—among the 104+ by Haydn, how many are regularly performed?
      There’s a reason why not everything survives the test of time.
      This nonsense that Brahms 1, a work that he spent over twenty years composing, is overplayed, or that Beethoven 5 is overplayed, diminishes the artistic significance of these works. There’s a reason why Monet attracts visitors to museums. A museum should not give up a Monet exhibit just so Pierre Undeuxtrois gets displayed.

      There are many artists, few great artists, and among the greatest not every work is an equal masterpiece.

      • John Borstlap says:

        All very true.

        (Although I hear my PA muttering she loves Undeuxtrois to bits.)

      • Luca says:

        How many times a year should a museum have a Monet exhibit, and how many times a year are you going to visit it? More than once? If the exhibit changes to something you haven’t seen before though, then you might make your way back to the museum…

        • Gerry Feinsteen says:

          Likely a considerable number of concertgoers to Carnegie Hall, during normal conditions, are not from NYC.

          Most people who know anything about Monet, for example, only know a handful of his works.

          Bring the Berlin Phil in to play works by obscure 18th C composers, a soloist on stage with no particular name recognition, and some new works by fresh grads; fund it yourself and see how it goes.

          • luca says:

            But an exhibit is used to the draw people in, while exposing them to the rest of what they have to offer.

            I agree that having a classic on a program is good for everyone, but more thought can go into the other half of the program (and if it’s an obscure 18th century or recent grad, fine by me as long as the performers are passionate about their music).

            There are enough standard repertory composers to fill a season without programming each composer more than once or twice. There are more than enough neglected masterpieces, old and new, to fill the other half of the program and expand our definition of standard rep.

    • Dr. Keith Paulson-Thorp says:

      Not so in Mexico City. The arts scene is vibrant, imaginative and of extremely high quality – very different from in the states.

      • Gerry Feinsteen says:

        Mexico City is a nice city (helps if one has armed guards). The funding of a museum in Mexico City cannot compare with the funding of arts institutions in the US. People don’t travel to Mexico City to see Monet, they travel to NYC, Paris, or London; Mexico City has vibrant arts right along the streets. No need to compare something new with something that has survived the test of time.
        If it is worthy, audiences will pay for it.

  • K says:

    Glenn Gould made a similar statement about listening to a good quality recorded performance at least 50 years ago (Concert Dropout). I know many dedicated concert goers (sp?) who, between prices, parking, routine performances, and now Covid, will not be returning to live concerts. Some of these factors have been around for a while; Covid, at least the Trump administration’s handling of it, are self inflicted. Thanks anti-vax s**theads!

    • Curvy Honk Glove says:

      Yeah… Stupid tRumpers just messed everything up for the rest of us. If it weren’t for those troglodytes, everything would be just fine. Everyone just needs to shut up and take the vaccine already!

    • J Barcelo says:

      Why, oh why, do you have to try to blame Trump for this? It was his administration that got vaccines made in record time. You might notice that this is a pandemic – world-wide, ya know?? NOTHING anyone could do would prevent it. And you should also note that the senile Biden hasn’t done much to help; in fact, things are getting worse: inflation at high level, supply chain issues, record deficits, low jobs numbers. Kamala Harris is to blame in part for the anti-vax mentality: she was the one who said that if Trump had anything to do with it, she wouldn’t recommend anyone take it.

      • Antonia says:

        Trump is largely responsible for the 700,000 who died as well as for this ongoing pandemic misery in the U.S. because he constantly downplayed the harm that could be engendered by the virus, concealed that he and Melanie had been vaxxed till long thereafter, deliberately sold millions of N95s to China at the beginning of the pandemic when he was told it would come here and then we experienced a shortage of masks, refrained from ramping up supply of Covid-19 tests and discouraged states from testing, complaining that if more testing is done, “the numbers go up” and he might be held accountable at the box office (well, he was, anyway!), resisted wearing a mask and ordered all White House staff not to wear masks, oh he is completely responsible for creating pandemic catastrophe among his base. He’s been a disaster. No matter how low Biden’s star sinks, it’ll never go below Trump’s in my book. P.S. I’m an Independent and vote whatever way I want, not clinging to “party” at all. If my views on Trump are now mirrored by those of other Independents, Trump’s in trouble in 2024.

        • LMFAO says:

          You mean CHINA “is responsible” Antonia.

          The left remains entirely too fixated on President Trump.

          What’s amusing is the fact that the Democrats were completely blindsided by both Trump’s victory as well as a major, global health crisis in spite of being so……..educated. What a total disgrace to academia each of you are!

        • K says:

          Antonia –

          Good for you; rational and factual. I’m sure you’ll get blowback from the MAGA blowhards.

      • Larry Goldman says:

        What Harris actually said was that she wouldn’t take the vaccine just on Trump’s say so, not that she wouldn’t take it because he had something to do with it. You’re not the first Trump defender I’ve seen distort her words in this manner.

      • Dan says:

        Are you delusional? Trump did everything he could to obstruct a quick response and is personally responsible for a couple hundred thousand deaths, probably mostly Rep. voters. And yet, you keep blaming Biden.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      You seem to have a lot of ‘enemies’. That’s the trouble with democracy; people vote the way they want to, not according to what you think.

      • K says:

        Since they don’t know the connection between them, MAGA red-hatters shouldn’t use the words “vote” and “democracy” in the same sentence . And to the best of my knowledge, you, SWK, are Slipped Disc’s favorite “enemy”.

    • Maria says:

      There are other countries of the world besides gping on about Trump and his America! He was never a concert goer.

    • Bone says:

      We are doing just fine down in GA. Attended a musical last night: packed house, very few masks. Let’s Go Brandon!

    • FP says:

      What started as an ordinary comment suddenly went political. Very unfortunate that’s when many are in this hyper partisan world.

      • K says:

        FP – you have a point and I’m guilty. The red-hatters, however, ALWAYS make it political. Go back 3 to 6 months on this site and read some of the comments. The regular MAGA-heads don’t miss an opportunity to stray from the main music conversation. Just want to let them know we won’t let them say whatever emanates from their tiny little craniums without a response.

        • Bone says:

          This probably passes for accepting responsibility amongst your ilk.

          • K says:

            No, unlike MAGA red-hatters, my ilk knows how to take responsibility for their actions. But since your ilk wouldn’t know accepting responsibility from a cumquat, I’ll chalk your comment up to inhaling too much bronzer thru your nose. (Yes, he even bronzes that!)

    • Simon says:

      We ALL miss beloved President Trump!

      The left simply can’t embrace Biden and Harris enough to focus on what THEY have accomplished along with their cabinet. The media outlets all still cling to President Trump whenever they can. Since the left even needs him back, he should run again. Biden and Harris aren’t even worth their precious time.

      • Anne Cerulean says:

        Lots of buyers remorse by my American colleagues. They’re unable to afford to move out of their parent’s home, stuck in student loan debt and either in low-wage work or STILL unemployed.

        So the Biden administration has done exactly what?!?!

    • Tanya says:

      People are already returning to the live concerts. I witnessed it myself.

  • Anon says:

    And add to all this you have to listen to a PC piece or two on most concerts. The NY Phil just did a work by Hannah Kendall, and it was dreadful.

    • Rob Keeley says:

      Oh, but feel the dIVERSITY….

    • K says:

      OK, maybe it was dreadful. Why do you have to label it PC? Plenty of awful music is available from composers of all political flavors, stature, motivations and commissioning agencies.

    • Doug Grant says:

      Going to the concert gives you the opportunity to boo!

    • Anton Bruckner says:

      Oh yeah, all this unbearable PC music which GOD forbid may have been written by colored people. And the conductor is a woman. What on earth is that supposed to mean? I could do with a half naked Yuja Wang on the stage but a Woman Conductor? And wait a moment – when I look through my binocoluars I can see women of color in the orchestra and some of them as leaders? What next? Gay conductors? Korean singers? Transexuals on stage? The world has gone crazy! If I had belived in that liberal crap on climate change I would think it is somehow connected.

      So thank you Anon for your enlightening views showing again that the comments section on SD is a safe haven for middle aged white males who long for the days when pinching the bottom of their female colleague was as common as a hand shake.

    • John Borstlap says:

      This is an example of PC music – ‘The spirit of Beethoven’ (hilarious):


      The problem with such framing is that people don’t listen to what the music ‘says’, but are only aware of wrapping paper.

    • Anon2 says:

      The NY Philharmonic is doing its best to drive away the audience.

  • Jobim75 says:

    Please give us something else than a brilliantly empty symphony of Mahler time to time… I completely agree with this point, nothing happens anymore in a concert 75% of time in my experience….No risk is taken, conductors are nowadays good technicians but really interchangeable, not much of a personality or a sonic ideal or signature, weak general culture, no or very little knowledge of oldest interpretations. It’s rare I think after the concert “I am glad I came”….

    • Doug Grant says:

      Ignore the big names. The talent lies elsewhere!

    • Maria says:

      Well, that’s another reason not to go. We haven’t got any Mahler here as the cost can’t be met, and a large orchestra can’t be socially distanced. But that was one thing about the BBC Proms in London – there was new music as well as unknown old music, and very, very well played in such circumstances, and at an affordable price to get in.

  • Anonymous says:

    “… have built a stereo system … very happy with the sound I do achieve … at home … ”

    They saw this coming in the ’60s:

  • SMH says:

    How sad. I feel sorry for this reader. Why highlight such a narrow, limited opinion regarding the live concert experience on a site that is ostensibly about the PERFORMING arts, not the recording arts.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Where does Mr. Lebrecht say that this site is solely about the experience of live performance? The site is about classical music. Period. Live, recorded, or thoughts about the art form. All are valid for news and discussion.

  • Stan says:

    Lots of dull programming out there. But not everywhere: Last weekend’s concerts in UK for me were Nielsen Helios Overture, Arnold Viola Concerto and Tchaikovsky 5 in Ealing; Haydn64, Eine kleine, Weber Clarinet concertino and Beethoven 4 in Worthing – both programmes drew enthusiastic audiences.

  • BRUCEB says:

    “Not as many” clearly means “none.”


  • Paul Dawson says:

    I feel much the same, although I suspect that my issue is simply satiation. After 50 years of (largely) orchestral concerts and operas, I became aware of just not getting a great buzz any more.

    I doubt that the orchestras and conductors have deteriorated in quality.

    The opera enthusiasm has certainly been impacted by producers trying to dominate proceedings by (often) absurdly provocative productions.

    I have some great memories: Ole Schmidt conducting Nielsen 5, the Goodall ENO Ring, Ida Haendel playing the Beethoven concerto, Miller’s Rigoletto etc and I am content with those.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    I’ve looked over the 2021/22 schedule for the S.F. Symphony, which is 75 miles from where I now live. As always, some programs look more enticing than others – a matter of taste, of course. But I notice a couple of things that are bothersome.

    First is the almost endless lineup of safe, vanilla programs (Tchaik., Brahms, etc.), that are coupled to a ‘premiere’ work by composers you’ve never heard of. Often times, it’s the concerto – meant to spotlight the incredible virtuoso and musical talents of generally well known travelling musicians. I can’t imagine many people look at these and saying, “oh goodie, a concerto by somebody I’ve never heard of!”.

    Second is the reappearance of chief conductors from the not distant past, repeating repertoire they’ve done many times already. Mind you, not the more challenging rep. that they have under their belt, but the good-old ‘safe’ vanilla stuff. Yawn.

    It’s been said that the hardest thing about being a composer these days isn’t getting a first performance, but getting the second one. I don’t see one piece programmed from the well established and well received American composer, Jennifer Higdon. I could also plug in other familiar names such as Michael Daugherty, Mason Bates (granted, a tad overplayed in S.F.), Christopher Rouse, etc. Instead, we get world premieres; American premieres, or S.F. premieres of works from no-names. Most of those will be predictably forgettable.

    The third point has already been covered, which is the inevitable cost and hassle of getting to and from a live concert. S.F. at least has BART and the Muni Metro near by, but that involves a lengthy commitment (and getting home late). However, the stressful prospect of driving into the city is even more off-putting.

    It could be worse – we could not have have music in our lives altogether. Then we wouldn’t have anything to belly ache about, would we? . . . . I’ll go warm up the stereo.

  • ChiLynne says:

    Nothing beats live music! Of course, not every concert will be thrilling, but the ones that are – sometimes, unexpectedly so – make it well worth the expense and effort. Streaming has made it possible to experience music-making in other countries and distant US cities – wonderful, but never quite as satisfying as being in the audience in the hall.

  • Algot says:

    Ingmar Bergman once said in an interview (Expressen early eighties): ” When I listen to music, it doesn’t matter how good your stereo equipment is, it still feels like making love with a thin layer of plastic between you and your partner.” Now, I realize that some of you might find this appealing, but he’s absolutely right. Nothing beats live music!

    • John Borstlap says:

      It is always the case that live music is the real thing. Everything else is a simulacrum where live music is not possible or not accessible.

  • Ricky Tafoya says:

    My partner and I have subscribed to the Berlin Philharmonic’s Digital Concert Hall for several years. We built a home theater with high end equipment (British made, btw). Dim the lights, crank up the sound and it’s an extremely exciting experience. It’s not like actually being there, but it’s close enough, convenient and inexpensive enough. There are several orchestras that have done the same, but the BPO does a spectacular job; the sound engineering is superb. I don’t have to drive downtown (or fly to Berlin), no parking, I don’t have to dress up and I can have a few pints while I’m listening. If this is the future, bring it on! I just wish that some of London’s orchestras and the Covent Garden opera and ballet would start streaming.

  • Steve says:

    Absolutely. Who needs to hear Beethoven’s Erioca, Schubert’s Unfinished and Dvorak’s New World for the #$!%&! time?

  • Rob says:

    The Machine Stops

    Staying at home and relying on audio and video devices sounds very much like the dystopian world E. M. Forster envisioned with his short story, “The Machine Stops”, written in 1909, where most of the human population of the world has retreated into individual cells, and no one ventures out any more, as all communication needs are managed by instant messaging and video conferencing machines!


    How could anyone, 120 years ago, have foreseen in so much detail, so much of what life has become like in 2021?

    • Paul Dawson says:

      Thanks for this. I’ve had very limited exposure to Forster, but I’ve downloaded the short story and I shall read it accompanied by a glass of Merlot.

      • Rob says:

        A brilliant antidote to “The Machine Stops” is another of E.M. Forster’s short stories, “The Celestial Omnibus” because of its celebration of imagination. It also features the English polymath, Thomas Browne!

        • Paul Dawson says:

          You motivated me to search Amazon. For a mere $0.99, I have acquired “The E.M. Forster Collection: 11 Novels and Short Stories” for my Kindle, including both the titles you reference. I have a long list of books waiting to be read, but I’m sure I can find time for a couple of short stories in short order.

  • SlippedChart says:

    I, too, have a really fine audio system and hundreds of CDs. (I still like the “physicality” of discs, in the same way that I still enjoy my library of actual books.) It has been a godsend during this prolonged period where Covid has forced our household’s life to be primarily domestic.

    But I am looking forward to attending live concerts again. When a really fine performance is taking place, there is an “energy” of shared experience in the hall, of being in the same space as the players making the music, and even if all the audience members are otherwise strangers to each other, this is something which, for me, can’t be replaced by listening to even the finest recordings on excellent equipment, even if the home listening is actually shared with a spouse or friends.

    And then, of course, there is the visual pleasure of actually SEEing the musicians as they perform, of watching their faces and how they produce the sound, of watching dozens of string players moving in unison, of watching the way the conductor conveys what he wants the orchestra to do and, in some cases, almost “inhabits” the music with his/her own body language.

    However, in the years just preceding Covid, I began making one consistent exception: I no longer buy tickets to concerts which, in my judgment, give “poor value for money.” Example: A couple years ago our local orchestra gave a concert in which Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite,” about 20 minutes of music, was the entire second half of the program. The concert began at 8:00 and, even including the interval, the audience was on their way home by 9:30. I don’t of course mean that more minutes automatically equals more value, but I now buy tickets only if the evening’s repertoire “has some meat on its bones” and isn’t just a collection of orchestral bon bons. (And I wrote a friendly letter to the orchestra management about this: “We would attend even more concerts if . . .”)

  • Tim says:

    Having attended many, many symphonic concerts and operas over the last 10 years I can’t agree with this analysis.

    In recent memory I have heard concerts with Yamada and MGT with the CBSO, LSO concerts with Rattle and operas at ROH and Garsington that have been undoubtedly very special.

    Not every concert can be one for the ages, but often enough a cast will click, or the chemistry between a particular conductor and an orchestra will light up and something special will occur.

    We should (more now than ever) be celebrating our arts sector. Not many countries can compete with ensembles like the Philharmonia, LSO and CBSO – they not only have character and history but are also dynamic, inspiring and forward looking ensembles.

    Beyond this, I’ve seen wonderful performances in Leeds at Opera North, and with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, the English Chamber Orchestra and at Glyndebourne.

    I’m afraid I just don’t recognise what your reader has outlined. We are so, so lucky to have such wonderful companies doing marvellous work across the UK and we should be celebrating and supporting them.

  • pjl says:

    attending 2 Proms and then MIDSUMMER MARRIAGE, Rite of Spring, Symphonie Fantastique, and a truly wonderful Gurney concert at the Oxford Lieder Festival with Robert Murray & Robin Tritschler makes me believe that LIVE music is life’s greatest experience. Never mind the living room (I have many thousands of cds and an £18,000 hi-fi system): I am much more excited about train journeys to Liverpool to hear Andrew Manze & RLPO in Sibelius 5 and to Glasgow to my favourite acoustic for Kalinnikov’s 1st symphony (yes…not enough of these rare pieces doen, but i have heard this twice in London and also Portsmouth in the last 10 years

  • PeterB says:

    As someone living in Brussels I don’t recognize this at all. I can hear anything here at any time in a dozen concert halls at an hour’s travel max: Mahler and Beethoven, Dutilleux and Glass, creations of new works and revivals of forgotten ones, bland stagings of new operas and subversive stagings of old ones… You name it. Is the programming in the USA really that narrow-minded or do you guys don’t know where to look?

  • Nathaniel Rosen says:

    I prefer live boxing matches and live concerts. I like the excitement.

    • John Borstlap says:

      ‘The best concerts are those which are like boxing matches, combining high culture with bloodlust.’ Oscar Wilde

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    A sentiment shared by a great many other people.

  • Laurence Tucker says:

    How sad
    Being at a live concert with others is magical. No, not every concert is special or transformative, but it is experiential. Listening at home is great, but a different experience.

    • Antonia says:

      Not to mention, if o e always listens to the same recording of a particular piece, one may become less accepting of alternate interpretations of it than if one heard it in the concert hall or via streaming.

  • Freewheeler says:

    If you want to authentically recreate the live concert experience at home, you’ll need to include that idiot who coughs during the quiet bits.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Always when we have a house concert here, I’m not allowed to attend, in spite of having done the preparation work! Because I cough at the wrong places.


      • John Borstlap says:

        She does not caugh at the wrong places, she specifically waits until a very soft passage, preferably in an adagio, to release her demons. We cannot tolerate this thing.

  • MacroV says:

    So what’s the insight? This could have been written any time in the last 60 years. Yet live performance persists because there is still something to hearing live music-making and sharing the experience with a hall full of strangers.

  • Monty Earleman says:

    I don’t know what concerts he has been going to- or if he perhaps only went because his wife dragged him- but my experience is that there has never been a more exciting time for programming and for a huge number of brilliant, interesting performers.

  • Monty Earleman says:

    PS- and of course, there is NO substitute for live performance.

  • Bernard Von Herrmann says:

    I stopped attending live concerts long before COVID. Simply was not enjoying them anymore – difficult to get to, overpriced, bad parking, obnoxious audience, have to sit in rapt attention without moving, and worst of all, the orchestra generally played the same works over and over again. Did not matter who the latest hotshot conductor was they were promoting, as I can already listen to the standard classical repertoire by the great conductors and soloists of the past on my car and home audio systems, in mint quality sound, in performanes that generally cannot be bettered. Perhaps it’s just me, but as I get older, I find that recorded music provides the stimulating relaxation that live concerts mostly don’t. Fortunately, there are wonderful record labels like CPO, Capriccio, Dutton Epoch, Naxos, etc., who fearlessly explore unjustly neglected composers, mostly from the late 19th and early 20th centuries (such as those noted by another commenter above), and record their works in superb sound and fine performances, for all posterity to enjoy, usually by lesser known but still immensely talented musicians. And by purchasing their CDs, I am supporting those artists. In closing, may I recommend a CD released last year by Quartet Records of Bernard Herrmann’s score to the 1971 film Endless Night, superbly performed the the Basque National Orchestra under Fernando Velazquez. You will never hear that in concert!

  • Avid patron says:

    Add to covid … the noise from rude and inconsiderate patrons, Albert Hall sauna, having to pay for an overpriced usually useless printed programme… I too will be investing in and building on my extensive collection and fabulous sound system with noise cancelling headphones and the occasional live streaming of more interesting repertoire rather than yet another piece of Mahler or contemporary squeaky springs music …

    • henry williams says:

      you are right. the albert hall have
      no air conditioning in the summer.
      most uncomfortable.
      lucky i have good audio at home

  • Doug Grant says:

    Sad. Listening at home is great. But going to a concert and listening with another 2,000 or so music lovers makes it a totally different experience. Just choose the concerts carefully to ensure that the performers are not going to be on auto-pilot!

    • Antonia says:

      The problem with this is it doesn’t make room for other wonderful but lesser-known musicians to be granted some opportunity. Maybe the solution is for the pessimists among us to go to the “guaranteed good concerts”, which only maintains the careers of a select famous few, and the rest of us continue to explore new names and find new musicians we would love to follow.

  • Maria says:

    Covid has just changed people’s lives out of all recognition, and this is a case in point about going to live concerts. Depending on where you live, your age, and the levels of Covid protocol in place – ie sitting with masks and with social distancing and the bars closed – can make going to a concert such an unsociable experience for some, and then the cost for such a night out.

  • Steve says:

    A more accurate headline for this story would be, ‘Wealthy man with expensive hi-fi says he will probably attend fewer concerts’. But that wouldn’t sound very interesting. Come to think of it, it isn’t, really.

    • Henry Rabin says:

      You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get very enjoyable sound at home. I have a pricey main system but for COVID I set up a full home theatre for under $1k which I enjoy just as much. This site would be far more enjoyable without the stereotyping, generalizations and other forms of misinformation.

  • Paul Sekhri says:

    For many of us, nothing can recreate the magic and spontaneity of a live concert. So please, by all means, stay at home listening to your recordings. I can be found in myriad concert halls…

  • People realizing that classical music is in many respects a dead art form. It’s not enough that the body in the casket wears a nice suit and comports itself with a dignified, if static, posturing. It has a wonderful legacy, hence the memorial services in our concert halls. If only there were an equally worthy music to replace it, something that could once again be a living culture. Apologies in advance to classical music’s necrophiliacs.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Classical music has experienced a revival recently, it is just not noticed by the musical establishment who is too busy with their own problems.

      The death of classical music is one of the art form’s oldest traditions.

  • John Borstlap says:

    It’s a serious problem, suddenly brought into sharp relief by the corona crisis.

    ANY recording technology is a mere simulacrum, it is not ‘the real thing’. With the increased luxury of listening at home to the best recordings available, it is the live concerts where the experiments should take place: exploring unknown or underrepresented repertoire of past and present, and not the restaurant programming (‘we serve what clients want’) and the despiccable lowering of standards with offering film music (which can be much better consumed under a movie in the cinema).

    We have to get back to the type of concert life as it was at the beginning of the 20th century, when both the classics and new music formed a stimulating mix which lured audiences to the concert hall, and when premieres were eagerly awaited and debated – Debussy, Ravel, Stravinksy, Mahler, Strauss, Scriabine, etc. etc. – a wealth of musical experiences in a pluralist context. Classical music concerts were so popular that both Schoenberg and Debussy advocated hermetic music societies where only ‘the initiated’ had access, to protect the music from mass interest. Ridiculous, but it says something about the allure classical music had.

    Programmers, conductors, composers, soloists should mobilize their fantasy, inventiveness, and improve their musical perception. There’s enough exciting stuff around, like the new tonal composers everywhere: Bacri, Matthews, etc. who don’t get the exposure their music deserves and who are being passed-over for mediocre or simply bad PC music, ‘progressive modern’ music that nobody wants to hear, ‘avantgarde’ with its aesthetics of half a century old, or gravely underdeveloped ‘hip’ music for minimal musicality and perception. The lack of distinction in the concert world is astonishing, and the lowering of standards shocking – where top orchestras turn to film music under the delusion that this will attract younger audiences.

    If orchestras are funded sufficiently, and staff take-on a more enlightened policy, the fantastic medium that the symphony orchestra is, can blossom again, also in the context of a troubled world – ESPECIALLY in a troubled world.

  • Cornishman says:

    I‘ve a lot of sympathy for what the contributor says, and I certainly think I will probably end up going to fewer concerts in the future. But to give up entirely? That can be as much of a self-defeatingly cautious approach as that of a concert promoter who only ever programmes ‘safe’ crowd/pleasing works. For every (say) ten or twenty decent but unspectacular concerts, there will be one that’s exciting, riveting and memorable in a way that a recording, how good, can never approach. Maybe concert-going is increasingly a gambler‘s activity; but you just occasionally get a fantastic, unforgettable win that changes your life.

  • Don Antonio says:

    The distance is growing, at a time when the need for art and music is at its highest. But maybe that’s just my need, not your need? Ultimately, a concert should be a life-changing experience that, all too often, lacks imagination, or an element of personal investment, or even brilliance. Looking at the new paradigm, the Chopin competition, and wondering where that is taking us. I’d love to watch the ARD or Indianapolis competitions. Van Cliburn-2022, or Tschaikowsky XVII, anyone?

  • Anthony Sanderson says:

    I don’t know MSC’s circumstances, but from my experiences I don’t agree. I have been to three concerts CBSO conducted by Mirga Gražinytė‐Tyla. I have never been a great fan of Brahms’ symphonies, but her performances of the second and third symphonies completely changed my attitide. That was mainly because I was there in the concert hall.

    In terms of just having safe programmes, look at the following:

    In Mirga’s programmses were Ligeti’s “Concert Românesc”, Prokofiev’s 5th paino concerto, Ruth Gipps’ second symphony, Thomas Adès’ new Exterminating Angel symphony, none of which are concert regulars.

    Coming up on 6th November in Birmingham, are

    Adès O Albion , 4′
    Casey Bailey Poem
    Pärt Fratres for Violin, String Orchestra and Percussion , 11′
    Casey Bailey Poem
    Purcell (arr. Britten) Chacony in G minor, 6′
    Casey Bailey Poem
    Barber Adagio for Strings, 8′
    Fauré Requiem, 35′

    A fair amount of the programme is hardly known or new.

    Coming up in London is a Khatia Buniatishvili recital featung works by Ligeti this coming Wednesday. Sir James MacMillan’s Christmas Oratorio is receiving its UK premiere at the Royal Festival Hall this December.

    Hilary Hahn’s concert with the Philharmonia in November includes Gabriella Smith’s “Tumblebird Contrails”.

    At the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s concert at Northampton’s Derngate yesterday evening, the conductor Jamie Phillips encouraged us all to support the live arts. The RPO’s concerts in Northampton are usually on the safe side, but yesterday we had Delius’ Irmelin: Prelude, a rare piece.

    So, I certainly support Jamies’s encouragement, “Support the Live Arts!”

  • Guillermo says:

    So sad to hear. I understand and respect this, but this is the same as substituting human relationships with robots.

  • IP says:

    I have a decent stereo system, a carefully selected CD collection, and a subscription to qobuz, but reproduction beyond chamber music is obviously imperfect. What could keep me away from the halls after Covid are the increasingly extramusical criteria in the business.

  • Pierre-Andre says:

    You didn’t get the difference between recordings and concerts. Every concerts are different from one another. And I mean from the same artist with the same program. The artist will not repeat exactly the same performance at every concert. They are not robots. The performance of the artists depends on many details as wells the experience lived by the audience, that is the reception of the performance, will depend on many parameters. It is the beauty of it. 

    Moreover, by what you write, you might be going to too many concerts…

    • John Borstlap says:

      This is very true: that live concerts are never repeated. It is the magic of the occasion and the tension in the air that – with a good performance – creates a wonderful experience: something is born again but for the first and last time.

      Live music is like an ever rising and dying phoenix. It is listening to your CD collection which is the repetition experience.

  • Christoph says:

    I can think of many other reasons not to attend concerts right now: I don’t trust my fellow concertgoers and their willingness to play by Covid protocols; the classical atmosphere is stuffy and rule-bound; concerts are generally too long.

    Classical music is slowly dying as a result of people like you and me.

  • Alexander T says:

    Very rarely went to live concerts before Covid. Too much mediocrity.
    On a slightly different note: there are far too recordings being made of no-more-than-average performances.
    That’s tens of millions of CDs that will one day end up as planet earth-trashing landfill.
    IMO this issue is every bit as important, I not more so.

  • Michael P McGrath says:

    Whatever is wrong with humanity if we no longer wish to be at a live performance – where, if things go right, it is spine-tingling? Is this an American thing, where repertoire is anything but adventurous and is now overshadowed by people sitting in the audience and counting how many of all genders and nationalities and ethnic backgrounds there are (irony!)? Residing in Germany, France and Austria, the breadth of repertoire is fine and offers numerous very enjoyable evenings every year. Alone or with friends. Often followed by drinks and dinner over which to discuss, argue and compare the performance. How could one walk away from this package in favor of an evening with a CD?
    PS: Are guest comments taken seriously, respected and published? If they are, I will join.

  • Sanity says:

    This person might as well bury himself alive, for he is half dead already. I really don’t understand why so many media vehicles/blogs find it so important to give that much space to this minority within the public; these people who think that the experience of a live concert is something worthless – and that staying home, trapped in their own little world, is the best thing in this planet. Honestly, they have given up on life, but don’t realize it!

  • Helen says:

    Streaming services, recordings and the radio are invaluable for anyone who lives a certain distance from concert halls.

    They are even more invaluable when you have a young child and the cost of baby sitting is prohibitive, on top of an already expensive night out.

  • Doctor No says:

    Love it when Norman goes fishing. Oops! I also bit!

  • geoo says:

    Now at 87 years old, but I do not remember hearing every piece composed by Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, Sibelius and all those other old dead white composers, so I have still something to look forward to by going to a concert again. Then there is all those sonatas by Scarlatti.

  • MER says:

    Glenn Gould and the Beatles grew to prefer creating music through the medium of recordings, finding live performances antithetical to their personal artistic evolution. Western classical music, traditionally referring to Europe, Russia, and North America, is a most fickle, living emanation. As such, it is most sensitive to the world it exists in, oftentimes anticipating what is to come, including our technological age, despite what seems a growing population that disdains science, as if science and spirituality were antithetical, something that isn’t true. For myself, speaking of Western classical music, and not other vibrant traditions like Indian classical music, which is based upon improvisation, I will confess that sometimes traditional concerts seem like pantomimes of the past. My personal preference for composition and performance is music performed purely by a computer, without any human interference, other than the composer and programmer, a medium that would appear to best lend itself to recordings, even if the sounds I use sound spectacular in live settings. One of the Beatles, John Lennon, encountering an early synthesizer, envisioned a music of the future being exactly that. I personally love being able to compose for, to use but one of myriad examples, a Middle Eastern kemanche using just intonation as opposed to a violinist or cellist using equal temperament tuning, oftentimes finding equal temperament itself no longer speaking to the present of Western classical music given how our collective consciousness expanded through welcome exposure to musical cultures outside the realm of who we were in the past. Yet another dimension is unveiled when just intonation and tunings from different cultures are used for traditional Western classical instruments such as piano, organ, trumpet and clarinet. To be clear, I believe we should continue with traditional concerts of Western classical music, similar to how art of the past is exhibited in museums. Simultaneously, we should not turn our backs on musical evolutions for this diminishes our sensitivity, intelligence and spirituality, leading to such things as a collective and self-defeating aversion to science. Some of the musical concepts mentioned here are elucidated in Meruvina: Composition and Performance Coalesce.

  • Marina says:

    Sad that this thing went political, but so is the music industry. I’m a performer and teacher with DMA, and I agree with this article. I’ve been to too many dissatisfying performances advertised as great artists, and seen real great musicians being not able to make their way to the concert stage. And now adding the segregation of the vaxxed and unvaxxed where many people are not allowed to attend the concerts bc of their health choices. This is utter discrimination, as it was with black people in 1950s, and I would never attend a concert requiring a vaccine pass, although I’m fully vaccinated. I love live music, but I absolutely will not support discrimination on any basis. And there are plenty of good recordings to listen from the comfort of my home.

    • Karen says:

      I respect your choice but you cannot get a disease from sitting next to a black person….that analogy is discriminatory.

      • Marina Veiler says:

        You can get the disease from a vaccinated or non vaccinated person, black or white, there is no difference. Isn’t the vaccine supposed to protect you? This whole thing about the vaccines is an utter nonsense made for people who lack common sense.

        • K says:

          Instead of listening to the MAGA red-hatters on this site, who, based on their comments, know nothing about the vaccine, transmission of the virus, or, just about anything else, check this out.


          The more people who don’t get the vaccine will just prolong this ordeal which, germane to this site, means that live concert performances will take that much longer to resume to pre-COVID levels. And for all the MAGA heads whose panties are in a bunch, just read the facts from a science-based perspective and not from someone who is so white he had to apply two layers of bronzer to his forehead, most of which came off on his shirt. This means you, Karen!

    • K says:

      There’s no discrimination, especially as compared with black segregation, etc. ; it’s a PUBLIC HEALTH ISSUE. Enjoy the recordings. Oh, and discrimination of blacks has lasted well beyond the ’50s.

  • Nicholas Ennos says:

    I will not be returning to concerts until all the Covid 1984 measures are dropped

  • Tanya says:

    Those people who say that the live music is finished are mistaken. May be in North America, but not in Europe. The pandemic is not even close to ending yet, but people in France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany are back to the concert halls, they can’t wait to hear their favorite musicians. A few days ago Victoria Hall in Geneva was packed with the public for sold out performance of Khatia Buniatishvili. A few days earlier Auditorio Nacionale in Madrid and Theatre des Chans Elysess were packed for a concert version of “Radamisto” with Jaroussky, Lemieaux, Barath… Yes, we could losten to them in recordings and streams, but nothing can replace the excitement of a live concert, at least not for everyone. As for the North America, yes, I am afraid, it has a potential to trun into a cultural desert.

  • Eduardo says:

    I do understand your mood but you are only damaging yourself. There is no HiFi equipment in this world (or any other) that can reproduce the sound one gets in the concert hall. Also, and this depends on how you appreciate your live concert experience, it makes a tremendous difference to watch the players, the conductor and sometimes even the bowing. Your CD’s or streaming, or black records come to you already set up for your speakers. You have no choice in the matter. A recording engineer (however good) cannot do your ears and eyes job, each of us is an individual.
    Yes, you can appreciate your CDs, and good luck to you if that is enough, but by definition music is a live experience. Did Purcell have a HiFi equipment? Do you want dead music? OK. but let the rest of us (please Norman defend us) defend what we believe in for the sake of hard working musicians of all kinds.

  • This guy is conflating Music with recordings of Music. If he doesn’t know the difference then to hell with him.

  • Larry Goldman says:

    I have nothing against listening to recordings or watching broadcast or streaming performances. I have nothing against programming new and adventurous works for live performance. And I have nothing against performing tried and true masterworks (which somebody might be hearing for the first time). Why can’t we do all three?

  • Maya says:

    Been to few concerts / productions recently at ROH, Festival Hall and Wigmore.
    Never felt so inspiried. It seems ears got more fresh and hungry for the LIVE sound and LIVE communication.
    I guess it’s like reading a book – one would always find something interesting should “they” look for it.
    There are a lot of unrobotic, unperfect and real live music making happening these days.