Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Tale of Two Orchestras

 I've mentioned both the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project here before, but I attended concerts by both in the span of three days and couldn't help but notice the occasional contrast and comparison.

The BSO concert I attended was featured Mozart and Haydn, a program which probably wouldn't have attracted me if not the promise of discounted tickets and my recent enrollment in a seminar on Haydn. The discounted tickets ended up not materializing, but providence struck when a scalper was berated by the box office for being too close and she surrendered her tickets to us rather than continue her business outside. What's with scalpers in Boston standing so close to the ticket window?

Clearly the mission of BMOP doesn't allow for a real analogue program, but the concert was as nostaglic as BMOP really allows themselves to get. All the composers have some connection to the Boston area (this can usually be narrowed further to an NEC connection, but I digress...) and have worked with BMOP before, but the program included two world premieres.

The suprising thing is that for both of these concerts I struggled with how I should be listening. I feel that most of this had to with the fact that I didn't really have a program to fiddle with and distract me, during the BSO concert I had pinkeye and couldn't read it (I could barely see the musicians) and the BMOP concert I simply didn't get one. In addition to actually listening to the music more, I noticed some really whacky things about the audience itself.

As a precursor, I dressed up to go to the BSO. Not a suit, I sort of half-assed it but definitely paid attention to what I looked like. Not a moment's thought of it going to BMOP. Accordingly, there were a lot of bluehairs at the BSO, perhaps the Mozart reminds them of their youth. The BMOP crowd was noticeably younger (albeit smaller), part of this is expected since an NEC prof and recent alum were soloists, but there was an extremely unexpected population spike.


I saw five or six kids with their parents at the BMOP show. I don't know if you could manage that at most concerts that don't have Peter and The Wolf on the dockets, and this was rather uncompromising modern music. Perhaps it was the more relaxed atmosphere of the BMOP show as opposed to the rigid structure of Symphony Hall? Greg Sandow has been ballyhooing the death of the classical music environment for some time, maybe I'll tell him about this and see how he responds.

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