January 22, 2012

Last night we went to a concert and heard music by Tchaicoughsky, Procoughiev, and Cough Debussy.

No, I'm kidding. Somehow the coughing didn't happen during the Prokofiev, when Augustin Hadelich joined the Madison Symphony Orchestra. Is Hadelich some kind of magic healer? Did paying closer attention keep people from coughing? Do they cough when they get bored? Please tell me. If they're capable of not coughing, which they demonstrated, it only intensifies the sense that there is an obligation not to cough. I was seated next to one of the main coughers, and she assured me, between numbers, that she was "not contagious." Not contagious!

Anyway... the crowd loved Hadelich, who's only 27. He played an encore, which was this Paganini...



ADDED: That Paganini piece is chosen for its difficulty so the musician can show off. "It's just like a Metallica concert... but you're forced to behave." I IM that to my son John, who immediately sends me to this metal version of Beethoven's 5th Symphony — supposedly Metallica (is it?) — and over there in the sidebar I see a metal guitar version of the very Paganini piece that Hadelich played last night.

68 comments:

David said...

Very cool that Madison has its own symphony orchestra. The depth and scope of musical talent and accomplishment in America is wonderful. The last two symphonies I have heard live were played by the New Trier High School orchestra and Duke University symphony. Both great. New Trier blew me away, they were so polished and professional.

Pogo said...

Asthma, postnasal drip, and reflux are among the causes of cough that would be non-contagious.

The symptom may not have been controlled by willpower during the first two sections, but by medication, which then failed. or the reflux only began mid-concert.

Options for those afflicted are few. You quit going to concerts because you bother other people, or leave after paying, because there is no quiet room.

I went to an old theater last night showing Gone With The Wind, which I had never seen before.

Behind me sat a 90 year old woman who talked continuously, mostly because her hearing was so bad. (What did she say?)

It was hard to be mad at her. She said she saw it when it first came out. The theater had no options for the hearing impaired, and the sound system was poor.

Sometimes being physically human makes beauty impossible to enjoy. Yet it makes me think of heaven, for this hunger, unlike others we feel, cannot be sated here. Yet still it calls.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I've got a cough, sore throat, and exhaustion. I've spent ~55 of the last 60 hours in bed, where I'm disturbing ( and exposing ) nobody but my wife.

Craig said...

Has anyone confirmed that it wasn't a ring tone?

madAsHell said...

It's the season.

(...and this is not a penis joke)

Pogo said...

A cough being intermittently suppressed is not evidence it is always possible to do so.

Think of stammering, facial tics, and similar disorders.

Yes, they should leave. And yes, some are ill and shouldn't be there. She said 'not contagious', which suggests a chronic problem.

Life is a pain in the ass sometimes. What did Pete Townshend say?
Hope I die before I get old.

The you get old and you don't hope that anymore.

I don't begrudge you the annoyance at a performance diminished by rude coughing, but it makes me wonder about my own many failings.

Ann Althouse said...

"I went to an old theater last night showing Gone With The Wind, which I had never seen before."

It's one thing to go to a movie, quite another to go to a concert with unamplified instruments and many quiet sequences.

(We paid $41 each for our tickets, which isn't really that much for a live concert, but still. And we have subscription tickets, so we're sitting with the same people every time. The cough is a permanent feature. Then there's the slow unwrapping of the hard candy. And the rattling of the programs. Really, it's a miracle we don't all stay home and listen to recordings... when we're in the mood.)

Crimso said...

"Then there's the slow unwrapping of the hard candy."

I would recommend Pez dispensers. Though there are certain hazards there as well...

rhhardin said...

Spare us violin virtuosos. These are Obama voters.

There's a cough in this too but I like the music better (BWV 1018).

Gould has an interesting take.

wiki: On October 27, 1917, Heifetz played for the first time in the United States, at Carnegie Hall in New York, and became an immediate sensation.[7] Fellow violinist Mischa Elman in the audience asked "Do you think it's hot in here?", whereupon Leopold Godowsky, in the next seat, imperturbably replied, "Not for pianists."[8] The reviews by the New York critics were rapturous.

GMay said...

The slow death of concert etiquette is sadly just another sign of the slower death of this music.

Jason said...

I thought I was studying Paganini, but I was only on page nine.

Ann Althouse said...

"I would recommend Pez dispensers. Though there are certain hazards there as well..."

Ha ha. That's my favorite episode of "Seinfeld."

Jason said...

Ah, Glenn Gould. The Mavis Beacon of classical music.

Pogo said...

I apologize. I meant not to admonish so much as to ponder my own human failings and need for constant forgiveness.

The unwrapping. I know the sound, when it becomes as a dagger, nearly obscuring all other input.

Like the cry of child not one's own, or the lover's annoying laugh you used to find endearing.

I am grateful there remains One who forgives me for being relentlessly human; my cry -every cry- recognized as His child's.

edutcher said...

I'm in a similar boat. The damned drip is going to stay with me for a while and I'll have a few bad fits.

For this, God invented Life Savers and, in recognition of this, I always have a few handy.

So, I suppose a lot of people pulled out the Life Savers when the cough wouldn't go away.

David said...

Very cool that Madison has its own symphony orchestra.

Be glad you have it. The Cleveland Ballet folded because of the Foodstamp President.

Ann Althouse said...

(We paid $41 each for our tickets, which isn't really that much for a live concert, but still. And we have subscription tickets, so we're sitting with the same people every time. The cough is a permanent feature. Then there's the slow unwrapping of the hard candy. And the rattling of the programs. Really, it's a miracle we don't all stay home and listen to recordings... when we're in the mood.)

You're feeling awfully cranky. Milton losing must have really ruined a good Saturday.

GMay said...

The slow death of concert etiquette is sadly just another sign of the slower death of this music.

No, it's just winter in the northerly climes.

Jason said...

Here's a tremendous high school orchestra playing Bernstein's Mambo:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWs9G-c_pcs

Michael said...

Glenn Gould (and our own Palladian) preferred recorded music to that of the concert hall. Gould famously hummed along as he played.

I can take the odd cough but the goddamn candy unwrapping is going to send me over the edge one day and then we will have a very big disruption.

I think there are way too many symphony orchestras in dinky cities that are staffed with mediocrities that cannot be found out by the unsophisticates in the audience. It would be better for these third and fourth tier towns to nurture (and pay) a very few very good musicians for excellent Chamber music.

Pogo said...

I believe this is why Palladian eschews live concerts.

Craig said...

I'll miss Joe Paw. He's one of the reasons I bothered to earn two degrees in English Lit.

David said...

Jason,thanks! What a wild and enthusiastic scene.

(Take a look at Jason's link, people. No cough issue there.)

David said...

"I think there are way too many symphony orchestras in dinky cities that are staffed with mediocrities that cannot be found out by the unsophisticates in the audience. It would be better for these third and fourth tier towns to nurture (and pay) a very few very good musicians for excellent Chamber music."

Michael, have you listened to these orchestras, or are you just displaying a prejudice. In my (admittedly limited) experience, they are very good.

Pogo said...

Again, we hunger for perfection.

Whence that drive, and why?

'Good enough to survive' is all that evolution requires, and such excess is frowned upon by that ruthless master, begging its origin.

David said...

Nice point, Pogo.

HT said...

In theory a great time to attend concerts is the winter, but I guess in practice, it's summer.

Pogo, you are not always contagious with a cold or flu. It's usually just at the beginning (and before you have symptoms).

Ack! Gotta see GWTW in the SUMMAH!

EDH said...

He played an encore, which was this Paganini...

"That's page nine."

ricpic said...

I was in a movie theater watching Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a film in which you have to hear every bit of dialogue to get who done it (in this case who was the mole), and a particularly loud cough at a particularly vital moment made me lose the thread. That kind of coughing is inexcusable in that anyone who isn't terribly ill can control his coughing, especially in a theater, if only as a common courtesy.

GMay said...

"No, it's just winter in the northerly climes."

Nah, you get this stuff at all times of year in any region these days.

Back when this music was more popular, even the these minor orchestras had a public that understood basic etiquette. Even these audiences knew the difference between the end of a movement and the end of a piece. Some might still, but ironically these days too many in them don't seem to grasp their own noise footprint.

There's no way I would go to a concert with a persistent cough or even a sniffle.

Pogo said...

"Ack! Gotta see GWTW in the SUMMAH!"

Minnesotans need mid-winter reminders that that brief season exists at all.

garage mahal said...

Paganini may have been the world's first rock star, a freakish virtuoso Ozzy type figure who made a lot of money from his performances. What it would have been like to see him play live, coughing and candy wrappers probably would go unnoticed. My kids are watching Glee right now. Sigh.

EDH said...

Did paying closer attention keep people from coughing? Do they cough when they get bored? Please tell me.

”Because he don’t brush his teeth, lady.”

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Ann, you lucky dog. I think Hadelich is the most interesting young violinist in a long while, but I've never heard him live.

The most, um, impressive bronchial accompaniment I've ever heard is at the beginning of a live recording of Schubert's Winterreise with Peter Schreier and Sviatoslav Richter. Then again, that was Moscow in the middle of the winter, so it's understandable.

HT said...

I suppose, Pogo. But me, now here in the mid-Atlantic, my favorite winter film of COURSE is Dr Zhivago. Great to watch in either November or February.

I have not had my annual viewing yet. Usually they put it on PBS, on a Saturday and then show it a couple other times.

john said...

David - Simon Bolivar National youth orchestra are largely older than high school age, but there are some youngsters there. Conductor Dudamel was hardly any older than his charges during those Proms concerts. Still, a wonderful group; bu all means check out their Danzon No 2 by Marquez.

Also, if you him sometime at the Disney Hall conducting the LA Phil you will be caught up his exuburance.

Phil 3:14 said...

Life is a pain in the ass sometimes. What did Pete Townshend say? Hope I die before I get old.

Can we assume he doesn't feel that way anymore?

Pogo said...

Dr Zhivago played mid-winter in Minnesota brings coals to Newcastle, reminding one that just outside, where your windshield must be scraped again, it's gonna be cold, it's gonna be grey, and it's gonna last you for the rest of your life.

Steve Austin said...

Ann, instead of the amateur metal guitar player you linked, you should link to Yngwie J. Malmsteen playing this.

Yngwie is he original Paganini guy from the 1980's and is considered the gold standard on rock guitar playing classical music. He invented the genre.

HT said...

Well then, barring global warming, it would seem that the best time to view DZ in Minnesota would be November, when you can get excited about/fooled into believing the romance of winter. At least, that's why I like the film. It's an indoor picture, isn't it? I just get swept up by the romance of it all. Totally. It's not necessarily balmy in the mid-Atlantic either.

In 1995 or 96, we had an epic snow (was it three feet?), and that was PERFECT. But yeah, it was perfect because it was not an everyday occurence.

Walker Percy talks about this in the Moviegoer.

David said...

Joe Paterno is dead.

God is merciful sometimes.

LarsPorsena said...

HT said...
I suppose, Pogo. But me, now here in the mid-Atlantic, my favorite winter film of COURSE is Dr Zhivago. Great to watch in either November or February.

I have not had my annual viewing yet. Usually they put it on PBS, on a Saturday and then show it a couple other times.
----------------------------

Best bet to catch it is on TCM. It seems they run it once a year.

ricpic said...

So the curse of the midwestern winter continues, huh? Here in the northeast we haven't had a significant snowfall yet, simply amazing, and the cold hasn't been all that bad either. Yes, definitely better to live in the northeast where all the knowitall elites abide heh heh heh.

Pogo said...

Walker Percy is a god.

I still think about Love in the Ruins once in awhile.

HT said...

No tengo cable, Lars.

pm317 said...

Coughing is a nervous reaction to the austere atmosphere in a concert hall. What is the worst that can happen? a fit of unrestricted coughing, right. Some people start thinking about that and have to clear their throat or something.

David said...

They looked a bit past high school, John. Sort of like Cuban and Dominican shortstops.

chickenlittle said...

Cough Debussy sounds like a real hack.

HT said...

Wow, a Walker Percy fan! Great!

The Moviegoer blew me away. I re-read once a year. I am not in a re-read of The Second Coming. This kind of had more of an impact on me personally though the writing is less tight and powerful than the Moviegoer.

Is he the last of the great (Southern) writers, I wonder?

Michael said...

David. Both. I have listened to many small city symphony orchestras and i have a prejudice in favor of higher quality smaller ensembles. We routinely read of financially struggling orchestras that are not, and cannot, be self sustaining. They do not have the audience support and they do not have the money to attract first tier musicians. It is my belief that these communities would be better off with very good chamber ensembles.

That said, if i lived in a small town and they had a symphony i would do my best to support it and i woud do that by my presence and financial contributions beyond ticket buying. But i would know what i was getting into and would argue for downsizing at the first hint of failure.

HT said...

"Not" should be now.

I am now in a re-read of The Second Coming. Or, better, I am now re-reading TSC.

edutcher said...

Heard about Joe last night. Seeing the edifice he had spent his life building torn to shreds literally killed him.

ricpic said...

So the curse of the midwestern winter continues, huh? Here in the northeast we haven't had a significant snowfall yet, simply amazing, and the cold hasn't been all that bad either. Yes, definitely better to live in the northeast where all the knowitall elites abide heh heh heh.

Yes, but Valentine's Day is coming and, with it, the all-but-inevitable blizzard that buries everything from Charlotte to Baa Haabah

Jason said...

Yngwie didn't quite invent it, but he did strip away more of the rock/blues structures than others before him. But Randy Rhoads - Ozzy's first guitar player - was prominent a few years earlier. And there was the vastly underappreciated Ulrich Roth.

Ritchie Blackmore, as well, was dabbling in it, off the top of my head. Blackmore was Yngwie's guitar hero, growing up, and Yngwie got a lot from both Roth and Blackmore, but added an astonishing level of technical prowess to it.

Yngwie was/is an amazing improviser, in some contexts, and wrote some outstanding music. His debut CD is still one of the best guitar albums ever, I think. Unfortunately, he didn't seem to move much beyond it with later records.

Another guy, a little bit later, who really added some twists to things, is Marty Friedman. Astonishing player. I knew him pretty well when he was living in Hawaii, and the Megadeth stuff he's best known for just doesn't come close to doing him justice. Now Marty's living in Japan and is kind of the Tokyo hometown hero.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

ricpic said...

I was in a movie theater watching Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a film in which you have to hear every bit of dialogue to get who done it (in this case who was the mole)


ricpic--ever heard the term "spoiler alert?"

Michael said...

HT. Try Ellen Gilchrist. Great southern writer.

Percy died of prostate cancer, too young. A few years later and he would have been routinely given a psa test and lived another decade or so. Young Walker Percys today will be urged to forgo psa testing. To save money

Ann Althouse said...

"You're feeling awfully cranky. Milton losing must have really ruined a good Saturday."

You need to read my new post. My Newt post.

David said...

Michael, thanks for the response. I far prefer a full orchestra to chamber music, so that influences my pov. Those failing (and downsizing) orchestras are freeing up a lot of very fine musicians, especially since the layoffs are usually in inverse order of seniority, not of talent. Overall the talent pool is wonderfully large.

Ann Althouse said...

"Again, we hunger for perfection."

That's not my point at all. I'm saying... you pay a lot of money and go out on a cold dark night because you already paid that money and so you have to go. And you commit to sitting there in self-imposed bondage, listening to all that music as it happens, because it's live music. And you end up spending a lot of time -- I do, anyway -- wondering why am I doing this? Why is this worth the money, the effort, and the physical restraint? I've sacrificed to be here! I could have kept my money and my freedom and selected the pieces of music I wanted to hear at the precise moment when I want to hear them. But supposedly there's something wonderful and magical about the live in-person experience. And now I'm sitting next to a stranger who is hocking a loogie and continually looking up crap in the rattly program. It has an effect on the calculus. Should I be here?

Pogo said...

"Should I be here?

Ah, a different question, but no less existential.

You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?

Beta Rube said...

Interesting that you would ascribe healing powers to that certain piece of music.

I went to Carmina Burana in Milwaukee last night, and there was only one brief audible cough throughout. I wondered if the music was so intense and enrapturing that the cough reflex somehow forgot to kick in.

It was a spectacular performance made better by the lack of audience noise.

rcocean said...

That's why we rarely go to concerts anymore. The drive, the parking, the money, the time, the uncomfortable seats, the sometimes annoying people, all to listen to music which we listen to at home on our fancy smancy audio system.

We continue to go to the occasional concert and Opera - but otherwise have cut way back. Maybe we'll go more when we retire.

Bob_R said...

I'm a musician and love live music, but find it unpleasant to be confined in large crowds. I'll volunteer to be a roadie or run sound rather than be confined to a seat in the crowd. I only go to church if I'd in a choir or band. I much prefer concerts at bars, restaurants, or coffee houses. Is there less coughing in places where silence is not expected, or do we just not notice it?

On the subject of semipro mediocrity vs. professional excellence, I think that mediocre music can be a lot of fun. (I can attest that it's fun to make.) Too much professionalism can be the enemy of fun. Pro classical orchestras sometimes sleepwalk through classical top 40 compositions that a high school or community orchestra are thrilled as hell to play.

Bob_R said...

If I can be so bold as to ask: why are you subscribing to these concerts? You certainly don't seem to enjoy them (especially after reading the next post). Is this something that Meade really likes? Do you know a lot of the musicians and want to support them?

traditionalguy said...

That was very good.

The fiddlers sure are better these days. Last night before the Beethoven's Eroica, we got to hear violinist James Ehnes play a piece that was new to me.It was Benjamin Brittain's violin concerto opus 15, written in 1939.

That was the most beautiful music that I have ever heard...until Beethoven's #3 was played. If they appreciate their concerts in Heaven, then many Angels came down to hear that one on earth last night.

traditionalguy said...

Practice tips: get front orchestra seats centered behind the conductor 4 rows from the front.( they count 20 seats from the lft orch and 20 from the rt, so you order the 20 seat lft orch and the 20 seat rt orch).

The sound is perfect, and you are on eye level with the musicians who are watching the conductor.

Dont smile too much until it is over, because the musicians react to that signal.

When people are around people, there are continual signals both conscious and subconscious going on. That is why it's better live.

Beta Rube said...

I have been to roughly a zillion high school, youth orchestra, and college concerts, having raised two aspiring musicians. Sleep walking or not, the gap between a major orchestra and a youth or semi-pro group is about the size of the grand canyon.

Jim in St Louis said...

...supposedly there's something wonderful and magical about the live in-person experience.....

I'm struggling to find words but the performance is only half the show the audience is the other half. And coughing or candy unwrapping is a part of the show. Yes mostly its like church and trying not to figet, but sometimes---sometimes it works.
But never---never do you get that from listening with headphones alone.

Jason said...

You don't need 200 world-class musicians to have a good orchestra. If you put 200 world-class musicians in a room, they tend to become 200 world-class egos. And they cease to become world class musicians.

That's why we pay conductors so much, and why so many of them are raging asses - you have to be a raging ass to beat down musicians in their place.

In the orchestral/concert band performance, the most important thing for a musician, once they have a basic technical competence on their instrument, is the ability to subvert their egos and blend.

Once you have that, then the next step is repertoire selection. You pick pieces that employ your orchestra in accordance with its capabilities - accentuating your strengths and avoiding your weaknesses while working to develop them.

You don't need virtuosos all over the place, except maybe your first chairs and your soloist.

You need mature adults.

The other variable - some musicians are willing to put in more time practicing their parts at home. Others just want to do one or two rehearsals sight-reading and then off to the races. Most good ones can get away with it, too. Sort of.

The ones at the top of the field practice like demons. That's why they're at the top of the field.

Some orchestras are surprisingly good, though, even in cities you wouldn't normally expect. The Cleveland Symphony Orchestra's an example. Not every great musician wants to bring up a family in New York City. Cleveland pays very well for an orchestra, and you can have a normal life, and your money goes a lot further there than if you were playing at the Met.

Palladian said...

Paganini? Debussy? Prokofiev? The coughing was merciful, the noise of which at least spared you from hearing every last note of that overblown Romantic drivel.

The only thing worse than listening to a violin virtuoso playing that hateful, whorish repertoire is listening to one playing it live in a concert hall.

Stick with the recordings.

Palladian said...

I'd rather have Mavis Beacon type a perfect manuscript of The Sonnets on crisp laid paper than have a trashy romance novel scrawled by a sloppy drunk with a felt-tipped marker on cocktail napkins.

Tastes do differ, though.

BJM said...

@traditionalguy

You might enjoy Michele "Dr.Viossy" Vioni playing Beethoven's Sonata in C#m n° 14 "Moonlight" - 3rd movement...or not.