Saturday, September 15, 2007
Mind the Gap
Went to opening night at the symphony yesterday, where my presence in the audience helped bring down the average age considerably. But that was in the audience only. Our conductor, (see photo) who is starting his 3rd season with us, is considerably younger than me. (His new wife was there tonight. She looks about 22). The first piece was by a composer younger than me by several years and the guest artist was a good bit younger still. Being the opening night, the conductor (who is not only young, but hot) introduced new members of the orchestra. The new oboeist looks approximately 13.
So, the audience made me feel young. The musicians made me feel old.
The first piece, Rainbow Body, by Christopher Theofanidis, won an international competition for new compositions when he was about 35. (He's an old man at 40 now and working on a new opera.) It was a lush, lovely piece. Jennifer Frautischi played Tchaikovsky's violin concerto in D to a standing ovation (two actually). She played with energy and drama. (And her dress was fab -- showed off her toned body very nicely, as she seems to spend almost as much time at Pilates as on her violin. Maybe that's what got all those old men to their feet). The second half was Elgar's Enigma Variations, which I found charming and beautiful. Mom said that was not her favorite Elgar, so I'm going to have to find some more of his stuff. We went to the pre-symphony talk -- always helpful for listening, I think -- and I was a little worried when I heard the Elgar was 33 minutes. I get restless with long compositions or long sermons. But the time flew.
Back to the age gap. Classical musicians have been worrying about graying audiences for a long time. And for those of us who have grown up moving to our music, it is such a different experience to sit very still for all that music. In fact, we didn't grow up sitting for much -- church, school, all the places a previous generation would have been expected to sit very still and quiet for long hours -- all changed in the 70s and beyond. A young couple sat in front of us -- he in the torn jeans and tee -- and were very affectionate with each other. You could see the uncomfortable responses on all sides as he sensuously kissed her fingers during the Tchaikovsky. My mom said after the first piece, "They need to get a bedroom."
It cracked me up, but brought to mind this whole audience age gap thing. At a rock concert touching would be not only fine, but expected. At the pre-talk the young conductor and guest artist joked about how some music gets old and boring for them after they've done it several times. Mom thought they were airing their dirty laundry and didn't like it. I thought it was authentic and interesting. But then, I'm part of the therapy generation where we talk about what we feel and think. My mom is of the "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything" school.
A final thought: I was startled by the abrupt beginning of the concert with the National Anthem. Has that always been done and I just don't remember? I could never afford going to the symphony in DC, where I would have expected the stars and stripes, but back in Rochester, I don't remember the Philharmonic starting its concerts that way. Can anyone enlighten?