The Symphony, Part 2: Soon and Very Bassoon

Previously, I wrote about how an unclassy audience conspired to ruin a very respectable Groupon-fueled concert that my wife and I attended at Carnegie Hall.

However, it seems that the audience had an accomplice. Onstage next to the pianist was a man with one of the most classy and dignified professions that I just learned existed–a professional page turner. His sole function is to follow along in the piece and, when the pianist graces him with a slight nod of the head, turn the page of the pianist’s sheet music. Fantastic. There are few things in the world I wouldn’t give to have a guy professionally follow me around and turn the pages of a book that I’m reading. Man, that’d be sweet. BUT. Midway through the second piece, I noticed the pianist turn the page of his own sheet music. The guy standing right next to him whose only job is to turn pages apparently found something more important to do in that moment than to do the one thing that he gets paid to do. Interesting.

So the audience has lost its gentility, the orchestra has lost its class, and then. And. Then. They had the audacity to bring out a bassoon. Now let me be clear here; I think the bassoon can do some beautiful things. But it’s also hard for me to enjoy it because I’m constantly dissociating it with my previous experience with the bassoon–as the principal instrument featured in every terrible educational video produced in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, especially if there was some sort of mischievous person or creature (I’m looking at you, slinking octopus in that ocean science video). It’s like every school had a bunch of excess bassoons lying around, and people were like, “What do we do with these things?” “I dunno, give ’em to the guy making that movie about how to have good posture.”

Those goofy, short, staccato notes haunt my nightmares sometimes. Thankfully, this bassoonist kept himself to long, flowing, beautiful notes, but every once in a while, he got to a part where his head started to bob back and forth and he belted out those short, vile blasts, and I was forced to straighten up and glare at him until he cut that garbage out. Then he’d go back to the flowing stuff and then–no–he’s back to that staccato goof-trash, so I’d have to glare at him again until he stopped. Look, I’m all for musical expression, but I just don’t think the refined recital halls of Carnegie Hall are the place for bawdy woodwind fart songs.

Overall, I felt cheated by Carnegie Hall. I had come expecting to rub shoulders with the extravagant, and all I got were lies. And I guess Beethoven’s Piano Quartet in E Flat Major and Brahms’ Piano Quartet # 2 in A Major were sublime and some of the most moving pieces I’ve heard to date.


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