Pärt of the trouble

I was hoping to bring you a review of last Friday’s concert at the Musikverein by the Bruckner Orchester Linz conducted by Dennis Russell Davies, performing two pieces (including the highly acclaimed Symphony No.4) by Arvo Pärt – after Philip Glass, my favourite living composer of classical music. Having only been to the Musikverein once in my life before, I felt like an injection of high culture for once, and the fact that Pärt was attending the performance whetted my appetite even more. However, I missed the concert due to an unbelievable scheduling fiasco. The running order was billed as something by Stravinsky and something or other by Rachmaninov in the first half, with the Pärt kicking off after the interval. Since I have no interest in either of those Russian guys, and since a 7.30pm start feels pretty alien to a Rhiz regular like myself, I cleverly – or so I thought – rolled up at 8.45 or thereabouts, all ready to claim my Stehplatz after the break. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I glanced up at the screen helpfully provided in the foyer to see beardy composer and baldy conductor engaged in a touching embrace, prior to exiting stage left along with the entire orchestra. A quick ask around confirmed what had happened. The running order had been changed at the last minute, with Pärt unceremoniously shunted to the first half and Rachmaninov moved to the second.

What the fuck? What kind of venue is it that switches the running order of a concert around and then expects audiences to accept this kind of behaviour as the norm? It’s hard to avoid drawing a comparison with the rock venues I normally frequent, where something like this would never happen. As a confirmed hater of most support bands, wherever possible I time my arrival at the venue in order to avoid the opening act’s invariably mediocre contribution to the evening. I do this secure in the knowledge that I’m not going to miss the part of the concert that I actually want to see. Any venue that decided on a whim to switch the headliner and the opener would swiftly receive very short shrift from the paying audience. I think Throbbing Gristle may have done this once or twice, but that was probably done to “subvert the expectations of the audience” or some such. I do realize that the running order of a classical concert is different, in that it lacks the hierarchy implied by the headliner/opening act binary. But it’s still a pretty shoddy way to manage an event, no matter how much gold leaf is on the walls.

I’m planning to have another go at the Musikverein for a performance of Philip Glass’s Symphony No.9 in June. I guess I should get there early.

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