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May 12, 2005
Vol. V, No. 11


"Pander to Me, Please!"
Last Saturday I went to a New York Philharmonic Young People's Concert at Lincoln Center. Avery Fisher Hall wasn't packed but the generous applause after each selection seemed to indicate an enthusiastic and satisfied crowd. However, between the last note of the concert and the bows, at least half the place was on its feet but not to ovate. They were streaming out of the place. It was embarrassing for the conductor and performers but I can't say they didn't deserve it.

What was the cause of this veritable stampede? The program:
Musorgsky/Rimsky-Korsakov: Night on Bald Mountain
Ives: "Putnam's Camp, Redding, Connecticut" from Three Places in New England
Honegger: Pacific 231
Popper: Hungarian Rhapody
Rimsky-Korsakov: "The Story of the Kalendar Prince" from Scheherazade

Now, that's a tough program for an adult let alone a kid. Bald Mountain was actually a good choice but Ives? Are you kidding?? Honegger isn't even covered in Music History 101 and extra points if you've ever heard of Popper. If you know the final piece of the program then you realize that people were applauding because the concert was over.

Aside from the program, there were other complications. First of all, the kids that are brought to these concerts are way too young which is not the fault of the orchestra but it is something that they need to be sensitive to when programming their concerts. There is such a thing as music for all ages and I can think of at least a dozen composers that would have been more suitable for the program. There's a difference between introducing people to music and beating them over the head with it.

Secondly, there's always too much talking at these kinds of educational events as if the longer they talk about the music the more kids are going to like it. It's true to a limited extent but they need to learn to let the music speak for itself, especially when dealing with kids.

Pop musicians understand the necessity of having to please their audiences. After all, they owe their existence to them. If they don't play their hits, they're likely to have a riot on their hands. Do they get tired of it? Some do, and they find ways to make it interesting for themselves without denying their fans. They'll put a new spin on it. Others just gratefully play it over and over without changing a thing.

That doesn't mean the audience should never be challenged but finding the correct balance between the familiar and the new is both tricky and important. We sometimes forget that the audience's level of familiarity with the music is different than ours and so we wrongly assume that they don't want to hear "overdone" pieces. A good example is Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. I don't believe I've ever heard it performed live because it's one of those pieces that no one ever performs because it's so "overdone." It's so popular that it never gets played. I believe that Bach's organ music, especially the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, often suffers from the same affliction.

It all boils down to needing to be sensitive to the audience. The audience is the performer's friend and it's important not to alienate them. Why create a hostile environment by choosing music based on what YOU think the audience SHOULD hear and like. This is as true for an orchestra as it is for organists planning a recital or choosing hymns for a Sunday service. I'm sure the Philharmonic had good intentions but there's this road...

Click this link to read comments and offer your own:
http://www.BACHorgan.com/Feedback.asp

CONGRATULATIONS TO ME!
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My Weekly Rampage of September 29, 2004, entitled "Bach Turns Over In His Heaven" has been accepted for posting on the "Marek Vit's Kurt Vonnegut Corner" website. It's a small honor but an honor none-the-less and I'll take what I can get. Follow the link below and then click on Essay Collection. Currently mine is third from the top:
http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/4953/vonn.html

NEW FEATURE
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Rampage Flashback:
As a way of introducing new BACHorgan.com community members to previously published Rampages, I am starting the Rampage Flashback, which will take readers back in time to what was bugging me four years ago. The first entry is the very first Rampage I sent out four years ago on May 10, 2001, welcoming everyone and introducing the BACHorgan.com website. Here is a blurb and a link to the full Rampage:
"Welcome to the launch of BACHorgan.com! This new website is dedicated to building a community of people who love the organ music of Johann Sebastian Bach. In the future, this column will contain a handful of hard opinion served up in plain talk. But this being the launch, I'll take the opportunity to briefly introduce you to BACHorgan.com...."
http://www.BACHorgan.com/Rampage-010510.html

Updated Pages
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Articles Library:
Added is "Buxtehude" by Stephen Rose, Goldberg Magazine, Dec 04-Jan 05. "In 1705 the young Johann Sebastian Bach walked to Lübeck to hear Dietrich Buxtehude play the organ. Bach was twenty at the time and holding his first full job, as organist in the small Thuringian town of Arnstadt. He asked for four weeks' leave but stayed away for almost four times as long, much to the annoyance of his employers. The travelling--nearly three hundred miles each way--would have taken a few weeks, but there were several further reasons for Bach to stay in Lübeck."
http://www.BACHorgan.com/Articles.asp

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WHAT I'M READING..."J. S. Bach's Great Eighteen Organ Chorales" by Russell Stinson. This book is a great reference book but it is also a good read. Chapter 1, which I've just completed, covers the compositional models and musical styles of each chorale. Click the link below for more information on this book:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0195116666/bachorgancom-20
Click this link to see all selections in Dan's Book Club:
http://www.BACHorgan.com/DansBookClub.html
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Have a great week!

Dan Long
Editor, BACHorgan.com


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