Thoughts on the state of Symphonies and their place in classical music

I have a love/hate relationship with classical music. Or perhaps love/sleep with it. There are pieces of classical music that soar and take me in and hold me up to heights unrealized and other pieces that feel uninspired and tired.

And I wonder, is this just how the notes impact me or is it that these are pieces that were written without need beyond the need for a meal or a drink?

Are these the pieces written for patrons, for commission? For some Duke or Queen, to garner attention in the hopes that it will lead to a steady gig?

And, while I don’t begrudge an artist the means of making a living, should these pieces now be venerated merely because of provinance and age? Or should they be viewed with an eye which turns first inwards then with a heart looking for that precipice from which to leap and grow wings?

Playing it safe pleases donors. Pleases the modern patrons, but should this be the criteria?

Should we not be able to embrace the classical composer without also embracing the mediocre or culturally uninspired efforts that allowed them to put bread on the table?

Maybe that’s hard to do. Hard to see what is emotionally resonant when the pieces themselves are tied to names that echo with greatness. Hard to justify risk when the continued success of the players is dependent on donations.

Perhaps, instead of begging for donations the price of a ticket should reflect the cost of the performance. It’s an oft quoted figure that each performance is only half paid by ticket sales. Making up the rest with donations…makes art hostage to future generosity.

It’s probable that I don’t fully grasp the economics of it. But I’d rather hear a schedule that takes risks and plays with fire than one that is merely safe. Speaking as a lover of classical music, why must I choose to support staid selections to receive the hope of one or two truly moving pieces in a season.

Perhaps it’s too much to hope for. I’m not sure. But I do know that if you play music that makes my heart sing…when I am enraptured… Then you will have a patron for life.

We must all serve the beauty in our hearts.

Or maybe I just hate falling asleep at the Symphony.

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