Music and Vision homepage


Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

On the perils of programming,
with classical music agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH

Ask Alice

? ' Now, Ask Alice, tell us why the NSO three-person ensemble (different instruments each year) that visits McLean once a year for a free concert always plays mostly modern composers nobody wants to listen to? Is it because they promised their composer friends in conservatory that if they ever were in a position to pick pieces to play in public they'd be sure to play some by their friends?

We wrote to the organizer, who admitted that she shared our frustration at not knowing the program in advance, so even she is kept in the dark ...
John and Priscilla Taylor. McLean, VA

Ask Alice

Alice Dear John and Priscilla,

Well, I don't know, of course. There are several possible scenarios. Here is one:

FLAUTIST: Well, I'm pissed off with the Beethoven and I don't care who knows it!
HORN (ARTFULLY): The Beethoven's fine with me but there is a piece by my sister-in-law -- with, as it happens, rather a ripe horn part ...
FLAUTIST: I don't CARE what we play, as long as it's not the Beethoven. Now the Debussy flute, viola and harp piece --
CELLIST: -- does last a helluva long time. What I propose is the work written for my ex-teacher, who might get us that recital in Philadelpia, if we play our cards right.
ALL: (AGOG): Tell us more!!!!!!

And here is another:

LEAD VIOLIN: I know it sounds like several people being sick in strict alternation but I think it could get us a review.
ALL: (AGOG): A review????
LEAD VIOLIN: And even a grant from the SSIM society.
FLAUTIST: What does SSIM stand for again?
CELLIST: You know, the Society in Support of Incomprehensible Music.
FLAUTIST (IMPRESSED): Wow!!! You really think so? A real live grant?

And here is another, which probably you favour as the true one:

CELLIST: We're doing McLean again.
ALL: Not McLean!!! Not where they all think that music ended with Dvorak and write letter moaning about our concert choices!!!!
CELLIST: Yep, we're booked. So, whaddya think: Beethoven, Mozart and a little Schubert at the end?
LEAD VIOLIN: No way!!!! Isn't this where that couple -- Smith or Jones or Robertson --
CELLIST: Taylor.
LEAD VIOLIN: Right, Taylor, complained that we do too many twentieth century pieces?
LEAD VIOLIN: So listen. Here's the plan of campaign. We DON'T do twentieth century pieces.
CELLIST: (LUGUBRIOUSLY) Careful. Remember, no modern music, no grant!
LEAD VIOLIN: No listen, instead we pick 21st century pieces!!! And we don't tell the management until we're ready to play, so we've got a CAPTIVE AUDIENCE!!!
ALL: Genius!!!!!
FLAUTIST: I'm fed-up with the Beethoven, anyway.

Anyway, I suspect that one or more of these brilliantly conceived scenarios will be the reason for your frustration. However, you can always stay home and listen to your daughter's recording of the Dvorák cello concerto ...

Your daughter,

Copyright © 20 November 2009 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

Concert poster

Ask Alice



 << M&V home              Alice's previous columns >>