The Concert Experience

Last night I attended a Utah Symphony concert for the second time. This one I was particularly excited about: a program dedicated to Russian music! An especially attractive menu item was Shostakovich’s popular Fifth Symphony, which followed exciting performances of Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto and Liadov’s The Enchanted Lake, conducted by Andrey Boreyko. I had never before heard of Liadov, and as I read in his biographical information, his apparent indolence despite intelligence relatively hindered much output. The piece itself was gorgeous, a very imaginative and atmospheric tone poem. Then Conrad Tao, a child prodigy in piano, violin, and composition – and still younger than me – performed the famous piano concerto. Watching his virtuosity and talent was awe-inspiring (as is the case with seeing all such things live) and was so well-received that he came back out and encored with Liszt’s Sixth Hungarian Rhapsody. Symphony 5 was saved for last, which was fantastic to hear in its entirety for the first time with all the brilliance that it deserved. I’m still amazed at Shostakovich’s ability to develop the same themes with such contrast between movements.

This is why I love listening to concerts live! In essence, all of the mere humans on-stage work together to create something in time. They each make it their own, and you get to be there, watching it all take place, watching a feat that has never in time been done before. And with such refined skill, while remembering that these are people, as you and I are, they reinforce the truth in exhibiting the hard-earned rewards of lifetimes of practice and perseverance. But the importance of the energy and passion that the performers express through their instruments, and the conductor through his gestures, makes the live experience truly worthwhile. Because that’s when music really comes alive. Every note played is brand new; surely even a mistake made here or there is excusable in its reminder that the challenge in producing the output that you receive is real and is happening in real time. Any studio recording cannot hold a candle to this experience; multiple takes and digital manipulation does no justice to the talent of the performers. Indeed, recordings are useful in bringing a product to those who have no other means of being in the audience, among other things; however they are meager substitutes in comparison.

To poor college students, it is indeed a handful of more money to be an audience in a professional concert than the free concerts you may not even want to see. But especially to you who study music, you are denying yourself a future career when you do not support the organizations in which you may hope to end up in the future. You cannot refuse to support that which you have even the slightest hope in being supported later, especially in jobs that hold little value to a majority of your peers. And along with that, it’s a rewarding experience each and every time, so if you haven’t made use of the ticket booth, go check it, I’m sure there’s something waiting for you there.

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