Taking a survey

Okay, I’m taking a survey, so please respond via comments.

I have the following (wonderful) program coming up in a couple of weeks. In chronological order

Haydn- Symphony no. 60 “In Distratto”

Beethoven- Symphony no. 4

Sawyers- Symphony no 2

The question is- what order would you like to see us present this program in? My original thought was




Then I got to thinking that Andras Schiff is right- Haydn is too sophisticated for people to take in when they’re still digesting dinner. Better to start wtih something they know.




But, why not finish with the new piece? Philip’s symphony is thrilling music- deeply crafted but also something that will really grab, involved and move the audience. Could be




Or, wake everyone up with the new piece, which is the loudest, and work our way back through history?




What do you think??? Let’s try to get more than the usual 2 pity comments I get from my mates who know how depressed I get when nobody responds to these things. Make your voice heard, planet earth…



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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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22 comments on “Taking a survey”

  1. Charles Latshaw

    Lately, I’ve been playing with the idea of “Start with a Bang, end with a chuckle”
    My last BSO concert started with Dvorak’s “Carnival Overture,” but ended with Shostakovich’s silly little Waltz from the Jazz Suite #1. I love to hear a “tee hee” at the final cutoff.

    So my vote is

  2. Paul H. Muller

    Well I think the Beethoven should follow the Hayden, so the only choice is whether to put the (newer) Sawyers piece first or last.

    I lean toward putting the Sawyers at the end of the concert – people will sense the historical dimension and hopefully remember the contemporary work.

  3. Elaine Fine

    I think that the Haydn should go first. If I am thinking clearly, “Il Distratto” is the piece that has the scordatura G string (tuned down F#) in the first fiddle part of the last movement, and the act of the fiddles tuning mid-movement is a great sensitizer. I may be wrong, however (I’m not at home at the moment, and don’t have access to my library).

    I’d put the Sawyers in the middle, but since I don’t know the piece, it is only because I think Beethoven 4 is a great way to end a concert.

  4. Joe M

    Hard choice.. I really like the idea of ending the concert with the Beethoven. A conductor once told me in rehearsal that the audience always expects the second or middle piece in a program to be the one they like the least, which makes me think that putting the Sawyers there would mean it makes less of an impact as a new work. But if the Haydn went second, it would be more than enough to keep the audience engaged while being late enough in the evening to not interrupt their digesting with its sophistication!

    So my vote is:

  5. Christopher R

    I like:

    Sawyers… Read More

    Something about ending with the new …that’s quite pleasing. Then the break would be after Beethoven?

    Solid opening (I’m massively in love with the first moment of Beethoven 4).
    Intelligent/comical middle.
    Loud/moving end–(from what I found on Youtube, I imagine that the Sawyers is very accessible and moving!)

    hope it’s a great one!

  6. James D

    Problem with the above suggestion maybe that you possibly lose some of your audience before the Sawyers?

  7. CB

    Everyone will leave before the Sawyers if you dont put it in the middle. Leaving with Beethoven? I’ll have heebie geebie fragmentated thematic materials in my head all night and wont come back…nonono…start with the Beethoven – a welcome in all its fanfare. Sawyer 2; leave with the friendly Haydn and I’ll be back next time

  8. Keith F

    As a composer, I hate to say it, but Sawyer (whose work I don’t know) should be somewhere on the first 1/2. If it’s on the second 1/2, or ends the concert, people simply will not stay and therefore far fewer people will hear it. The traditional spot is right before the break, but that also depends on its length. Btw, I LOVE “Il Distratto”! Good luck!

  9. James D

    Open with the freshness of the new work followed by a little palette cleanser in the Haydn, ending with Haydn’s natural successor! Perfect!! 🙂

  10. CB

    you are all insane. I am the only sane one on the planet

  11. Steve B

    Sawyers, Haydn, Beethoven. That way, if they don’t like the Sawyer, they have something more familiar to look forward to.

  12. Josh S

    I’m with Reinhardt. B-S-H. . . which would also make a cool chord.

  13. Ann V B

    I like Haydn-Sawyer-Beethoven, but I can see the logic in the Sawyer-Haydn-Beethoven order. I agree that Sawyer should be in the first half. And I think you should end each half with something rousing.

  14. Emi K F

    I can see it lots of ways, but I agree heartily with Ann. So maybe Sawyers Haydn Beethoven.

  15. Reid K

    To think I thought Ken was overthinking something. I’m with Ann. Maybe posting the Sawyers time would change my mind. Is it bulky enough to demand a half, balanced out by the Haydn and Beethoven? Otherwise, I’d say Sawyers, Haydn and skip the Beethoven, but that’s only because I play the bassoon. I say:
    Haydn: Remind audience why they’re here… Read More and love symphonic music.
    Sawyer: Show them something new and flashy and give them something to talk about during intermission.
    Beethoven: Send them home with the warm fuzzy. Which is plenty energetic

  16. Kenneth Woods

    “The program of Strauss, Ligeti, Strauss was almost your classic shit sandwich. (My apologies for the language – s.s. from now on.) For those unfamiliar with the lingo, s.s. refers to a distasteful modern piece served up between two more palatable audience favorites. The classic construction is an overture or concerto, followed by the modern piece, ending with a beloved symphony or tone poem. The s.s. may also come open-faced, where the modern piece is first, or upside down where it is last. But the savvy reactionary audience member easily foils these schemes by arriving late or leaving early.”

    From Michael Hovnanian’s blog

  17. Erik K

    The Haydn is the best piece on the program, so it can’t go in the middle. That much I know. Beethoven 4 is “light” enough (which is to say not as heavy as 5 or 7, for example) to open, but it’s also engaging enough to close.

    The majesty of a Google search led me to the Modesto Symphony performing the Sawyers as the middle piece in the following program: Tombeau de Couperin, Sawyers, Brahms PC1. Cue the shit sandwich thing. Makes one think you could plug the Haydn in where the Ravel is on that program, but obviously Beethoven 4 is not nearly the massive ball of wax the Brahms is.

    I’ll go with this as my final answer…if you want to be as conventional as possible, go with Haydn, Sawyers, Beethoven. If you want to give the Sawyers its just due on the program with two of the 5 of greatest composers to ever walk the Earth, go with Sawyers, Beethoven, Haydn. If you want to keep your sound worlds aligned with the stars, go with Haydn, Beethoven, Sawyers.

    If I were to describe you, conventional doesn’t spring to mind. Neither does astrology.

    Sawyers, Beethoven, Haydn for the win.

  18. Bill in Dallas

    To me, personally, the order does not matter…

    I don’t know what your prospective audience is like, however, as a long-time observer of audience behavior, “new” music seems to flush out the audience if they have already heard “what they came for”.

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