It’s a joy to hear a live classics concert!

It’s a joy to hear a live classics concert!

Sadly, many classical music lovers have never made that connection

Dear Readers,

Alexander Mickelthwate Random Notes
Alexander Mickelthwate
Random Notes

This has been a great summer.

There is something about heading to the lake, leaving behind your regular schedule and committing fully to relaxation that cannot be beat. Itis also a time for reflection and contemplation, which, for me, tends to always revolve around concerts.

In my travels this summer I had the chance to meet a lot of people who share my love for classical music. What I found interesting was that some of them had never actually heard classical music performed live. They listen to it during their drive to work or put on a CD to relax at night, but they have never had the experience of being present at an orchestral performance.

To someone who grew up with a house hold full of music, this was very surprising. From an early age we were always performing. At school, at Christmas concerts – live music surrounded us.

This has got me thinking. What is the difference between the recorded and live orchestral music experience? With recordings, you can of course listen to the great orchestras of the world – Berlin, New York, Chicago – with superstar conductors like Bernstein or Karajan. Many of these recordings have become reference works, artifacts that we can measure ourselves against.

However, what I find missing in the recorded experience is the full sense of drama that is inherent in the great classical masterpieces. Part of a listening experience is the anticipation of how the orchestra will handle the next hair pin, the next transition; how successfully it can build to the next climax.

As the conductor, I am always trying to lose myself in the moment, lose myself in the sound itself. That transports me in a way that no recording can.

I felt this experience a bit watching the Olympics this summer. Did you notice how many of the athletes posted multiple personal bests in the semi-final and final rounds? They could completely focus, lose themselves in that moment and drive to what they had never accomplished before. It was remarkable and I think a very apt metaphor for what we try to achieve on stage.

I realize I may be preaching to the choir, and that many of you take advantage of the many wonderful performances to be had in Winnipeg. But I’ve also realized many of our friends are not aware of the difference between experiencing a recording and experiencing a concert. They do not realize that they are missing out. Ultimately, this is an art form that you need to experience live.

Perhaps you can help me spread the message that recorded music is one thing, but the live experience is where you can really achieve transcendental moments.

See you at the concert hall.


Alexander Mickelthwate is music director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

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