Live-blogging SMP Concert III

It seems a bit of a bum deal to be the first piece on a program. If I was an overture, I would have serious jealousy issues. Often, the overture ends up being the best played piece on the program, and if it is a piece like Leonore 3, it might well be the best piece on the program no matter what you put after it.

Sadly, though, overtures tend to get lost on the audience- everyone is still gabbing away about fining a parking place, or realizing they shouldn’t have guzzled that wine so fast before the downbeat. Ten minutes of music really is rarely enough to get the audience fully engaged, so often you finish the overture thinking “shit, they played that well!” and the audience just gives you a bit of polite applause before they finish their conversations.

On the other hand, not matter how the symphony goes, you’ll always get a nice cheer, because everyone is glad it is over and celebrating the fact that they can race to the parking lot and get home.

This system is fine if you are doing Leonore 3, because everyone knows it is a masterpiece, and its reputation won’t suffer simply because nobody remembers that it was first on the concert when you finish with a Bruckner symphony.

However, when you’re doing something like the Schumann Genoveva Overture, it seems a bit unfair to stick it at the top of the show. Nobody in the audience will have ever heard it, and by the end of B5, they’ll have forgotten we played it. Next time, I’m doing Beethoven 5 first, then after the intermission, Sibelius Violin Concerto and finish with the Schumann. It seems much more fair and reasonable. In fact, maybe I’ll do all my concerts backwards from now on.

On the other hand, if it all goes brilliantly with Beethoven tonight, why not do the Schumann again as an encore????? BTW- I’d forgotten just how hot the Electric is on stage. I suppose it is one of those things you have to block out or you would never come back again. Anyway, it makes it twice as tiring- I’m already shattered and the concert hasn’t started. Thank heavens for espresso bars in the theatre.

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

Learn about Kenneth at www.kennethwoods.net

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1 comment on “Live-blogging SMP Concert III”

  1. Bill Brice

    The boilerplate Symphony concert program tends to reinforce a strange hierarchy of taste. “Overture – Concerto — intermission — Symphony — maybe encores”. We’re implicitly told that the Symphony is the meat of the concert, the part to be taken seriously and reviewed. Virtually any orchestra concert that does not follow the pattern must — almost by definition — be a “pops” concert (or perhaps a “new music”, or “early music” concert?). Yes, the “symphony” definition can be extended to include such really ambitious dance pieces as “Le Sacre”, but, you get my drift.

    I’m not familiar with the Genoveva Overture, but I believe there must be a large repertoire of “non-symphonies” out there that deserve pride of place in the concert program. I wonder how you’d put together a program to address this.

    Off-topic, I recently attended a performance of Fidelio”here in West Palm Beach. They used the 3rd Leonore Overture as a sort of intermezzo in Act 3. Much as I love that overture, it really did not work as an interpolation into the drama. It was my first Fidelio. Is this the common practice?

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