Have you ever had a concert experience that just didn’t work out? I did on Saturday. Partly I think it was the result of having been to the opera the night before and then spent the afternoon listening to a bootleg of Norma, which is one of those things that is perhaps a questionable choice under any circumstances, and thus being a little worn out – but partly I think it was the fault of whoever decided on the programming for the New York Philharmonic’s concert.
The program seemed like a very good idea at the time. Or at least, part of it did. The first part, specifically. I had recently realized that I wasn’t going to be able to make Yuja Wang’s recital here in May because of another commitment so I was excited to find out that she was playing a concert with the New York Philharmonic and that I could go. She was the focus of the first half of the program – Mozart’s piano concerto no. 9. This was, for my money, the best part of the evening, even though I ended up not being able to focus as closely as I wanted to. You know how if you’re tired, or grumpy, or whatnot, audience noises tend to make more of a difference than they might otherwise? Well, someone behind me was apparently unwrapping the biggest cough drop this side of the Rockies, and it was wrapped up like a pass-the-parcel parcel because it had to be unwrapped about fifteen different times over the course of the first movement. Hearing Wang play Mozart was still worth it, but I half wished I had bought a ticket for a different day, so I could have done it more justice.
And then there was the second half, which consisted of three pieces about Rome by Ottorino Respighi (Roman Festivals, Fountains of Rome, and Pines of Rome). I am not against pieces about Rome by Ottorino Respighi, at least in the abstract. But putting three of them, all of which sound very much alike, on the program one after the next is enough to try anyone’s patience. Call me a philistine if you must, but I was getting fidgety by the time we got to the fountains, and when we bid goodbye to the last of the pines I was wholeheartedly relieved.
Also, having a member of the orchestra come on stage before the concert and let us know what hashtag to use on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook when discussing the concert struck me as somewhere between crass and trying too hard. (There was also a NY Phil backdrop for selfies in the lobby! Unfortunately, it was not the sort where you stick your head through a hole in a photo and pretend to be Alan Gilbert – missed opportunity there, I think. Just a plain background with their logo.)