V.com weekend vote: What is the best length for a classical concert?

September 3, 2022, 6:48 PM · How long should a classical concert last?

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While I understand that this depends on a lot of different factors such as repertoire, I would like to start a discussion and share thoughts about this topic.

The temporary restrictions brought about by COVID changed people’s practices and expectations, when it came to concert length. Concerts were shorter, with fewer people in attendance. Now that those restrictions are lifted in most places, a lot of arts organizations are planning longer concerts, more in line with the typical length of concerts before COVID.

How did you feel about that? Did you like the shorter concerts, or are you happy to have them getting longer again? Do you feel differently, if it's a symphony concert vs. small ensemble vs. recital?

For the vote, please pick the concert length that comes to mind for you, without thinking about it too hard. Then in the comments, let's talk about a few things: What makes a concert feel like it is too long? What makes a concert feel like it is too short? What, for you, is the ideal length for a classical concert?

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Replies

September 4, 2022 at 12:29 AM · My feelings are mixed on this. I certainly appreciated getting home sooner after a shorter, no-intermission concert! But a longer concert allows for a more varied program, and an intermission is an opportunity for musicians to visit with members of our audience.

September 4, 2022 at 12:59 AM · As a result of shorter concerts during Covid, I have become a fan of the one-hour concert with no intermission. But Mary Ellen makes two great points, and intermissions can definitely have a greater purpose. I will say that if concerts are longer than an hour and have intermissions, I'm really happy for an earlier start time. In my community, we've moved from an 8PM start time to either 7:30 or 7:00, which is much better for me! (Ugh, I'm getting old!)

September 4, 2022 at 01:32 AM · In general, I prefer about 1 hour for recitals, and 1.5-2 hours (including intermission) for ensembles. Ensembles tend to be more able to change up timbres, so the ears don't get tired of hearing the same instrument all the time.

To my knowledge, none of the ensembles in my area ever went to shorter formats in the last two years. I only saw them in online-only concerts streamed from other cities, which I assume was mainly because the streaming format is not conducive to having an intermission. My community orchestra's concerts kept the same full-length overture-concerto-symphony format. The first concert of the 2021-22 season was the shortest in my 10 years in the ensemble, but still had a solid 55 minutes of music (almost 80 mins elapsed time including intermission and other things), and from the second concert onward we were playing normal-length programs.

September 4, 2022 at 06:32 AM · I voted for two hours, from an audience perspective, but that definitely includes an interval. That length is good for me for recitals and chamber music, again, with an intermission. For amateur/community performances, however, 55-70 minutes seems about right, as audience expectations and tolerance are different.

September 4, 2022 at 12:00 PM · I voted 1-1/2 hours. Back when I could fit concert-going into my schedule, this was about how long the programs took, counting intermission.

In my experience, what makes a concert seem too long is not overall length but the frequent stops and starts when there are a lot of short pieces on the program. This problem is even worse in opera than it is in symphony concerts. Opera is musical drama, not a voice recital. Yet audiences routinely break up the musical and dramatic flow by applauding individual numbers that have become popular hits, thanks to voice recitals, recorded albums, and cartoon shows.

In this regard, the Puccini scores are especially problematic. By contrast, in the later Wagner works, each act is a continuous flow of music and drama. You can't stop the show. I know. I took in three of his long music dramas in my Chicago days. I didn't feel restless or bored and eager to leave.

Of course, a program can also feel too long if it's packed with scores you're not familiar with. If I hadn't done my homework well in advance on Wagner, those three long evenings would each have been an ordeal and a half for me. Tristan and the Ring are, well, not exactly the kind of fare you'll get at the typical pops concert.

September 4, 2022 at 08:13 PM · I prefer Anna Russell's version of the Ring. It takes you through it all in twenty minutes.

September 4, 2022 at 09:47 PM · I don't really care how long a concert is. After all, they publish the program before I buy my ticket, so I'll know whether it will be 90 minutes or 2 1/2 hours. If I choose to go, I'll know how to pace myself. That's secondary to other concerns. Will my seat be comfortable? Is there going to be someone near me who is always checking their cell phone or eating candy? Can I find good parking for my car? How early do I have to get up in the morning? Is it snowing outside? (I used to live in Minneapolis. That was a big concern.) Are the bathrooms efficient enough so I won't spend the entire intermission standing in a line outside the mens room? (A hint to women - I always see your lines are way longer than the mens. If I were you, I'd just walk right into the mens room and do what you need to do. Seriously, I've seen this happen. Just skip the line and walk right in. It freaks out the men so much you'll be in and out faster than anyone else. Try it some time.) Anyway, length is secondary to these other concerns, since I'll already know how long the concert will run .

September 5, 2022 at 01:53 PM · It is not the length so much, but rather if you can get home by public transport at the end. If wigmore concerts end at 9:30 I often went tube train bus home, too many encores and I had a long walk instead of final bus journey.

September 5, 2022 at 07:47 PM · There has been a long term trend towards shorter concerts. Internet-induced attention deficit? Some of Beethoven's concerts were very long, with multiple premieres. When I was younger the standard was 8:30--10:00, 2 1/2 hours. I remember a concert at Hollywood Bowl; All Beethoven; overture plus the Violin concerto, plus Eroica Symphony. The conductor took really fast tempos to avoid union overtime pay.

September 5, 2022 at 09:38 PM · Beethoven's marathon concerts were difficult for audiences of his time.

I don't think it's internet-induced attention deficit, seeing as the longest concert programs I've heard about in the past few years from my friends and acquaintances have all been played by university orchestras. Earlier this year, I heard about one university orchestra putting Mahler's 3rd Symphony and Strauss's Alpine Symphony in the same concert. That orchestra seems to routinely program concerts in the 2.5-3 hour range. I know of another university orchestra that plans to play Shostakovich's 5th Symphony and Holst's Planets in the same concert next year.

A little over a decade ago, I think the Cambridge University orchestra did a Beethoven cycle marathon; they had orchestra members rotate in and out between symphonies so that no one played more than half of the cycle, but it was presented as one continuous concert.

September 6, 2022 at 01:04 PM · I didn't vote because I think the determining factor should not be duration but rather the program, and whether it feels complete as a coherent session. Time would thus vary.

September 6, 2022 at 07:13 PM · I voted for 2-hour concerts; that's about right for your typical overture/concerto/interval/symphony format. Our community orchestra's concerts tend to be shorter, though - between 1 1/4 and 1 1/2 hours with no interval. One advantage to this is that I can fit an entire recording onto a single CD (for the dwindling number of people who want recordings that way).

September 6, 2022 at 08:46 PM · As from, Carrier of the Heifetz-Milstein Violin Playing/Mentoring Legacy {#13}

Fascinated reading the Replies thus far, and a Hello to Email Friend, JQ, I think his IAD recent Med Condition valid yet may be possibly not the over-riding factor or at least not yet! A tiny thought just did occur to tailor make Symphony Orchestra Programmes according to 2 major Factors ~

No. 1 ~ Love of Repertoire by Orchestral players/Audience Lover's

No. 2 ~ Serious consideration to Mus Union Rules/Contractual Agreements

Not one to involve myself in 'business' of Union Contractual Agreements, it must be taken into serious consideration re Length of Concerts & fusing easily into pre-Union Contractual issues If orchestral players in Musician Union Contracts are required to go Overtime, as evidenced in the Reply of Andrew Hsieh re Cambridge Univ Orchestra switching on/off & in rapid tempi to save £Pounds, yet this seems very restrictive to #1 Love of Repertoire by i.e., LvB Audience Enthusiasts coming away with many complaints/questions/agitation of Why's of so Fast, Etc. & Etc.! Therefore, my newer thought is to possibly think of a restructure of symphonic orchestral Programmes according to those known Lover's of specific Composer's in specific Time periods during 9 month or tailored to lesser amounts of Time = 7 month or 6 month Seasons and building orchestral repertoire according to a To-Be Developed Survey of Subscription Concert Audiences about which Composer's They would most prefer or Love to hear, i.e., Brahms; LvB; Mozart; Bach; Mendelssohn; Schumann; Ravel; Chausson; Faure; Cesar Franck; Schubert; Lalo; Debussy; Saint Saens; Rimsky Korsakov; I. Stravinsky; Prokofiev; Shostakovich; Khachaturian; Borodin; Walton; S. Barber; Verdi; Vieuxtemps & Vivaldi; Webern; Schoenberg; Astor Piazzolla; Ades; Boulez; Korngold; Goldmark; Sibelius! & hosts of other beloved adored Composer's not thought of at this exact moment! Then tally up votes & RX the Programme Committee or Music Director/s of each symphony orchestra to determine all favourite repertoire for just One Concert Season to start which will reveal much about Audience true blue preferences of most admired and most loved Composer's Compositions, which, in the overall Scheme of Things will determine Time Limits of & for new Specific Concerts as Mozart Night or Nights/LvB Nights/ All Brahms Nights/Tchaikovsky Nights-Weeks/Khachaturian Exotic Nights/Ravel Slinky Night/s! and Etc.!! The Length of such Audience fused w/Orchestral Players 'Fav's' will then surely reveal some common denominators of Time Length, overall, to determine best Concert Time Lengths of Specific Favourite Concert Nights ~

Maybe this might prove time demanding to design a Survey suited to individual city/town/regional/university/combo of both city/university orchestras & Major's but it could be simple and less Is More!!!

I think Mary Ellen Goree, here on this Discussion, now newly heading the San Antonio Philharmonic, might be a superb musician & savvy person to try this idea out After their new Newly formed San Antonio Philharmonic Season 22/23!!!

Hoping my ideas have not upset anyone, it seems we, in core classical music, must adapt to the changing rapidly so, Times of the Internet and all sorts of digital music configurations now available to very young music liking and Loving Audiences, & Globally!! No Town or City or Village in America or across the Globe is anymore isolated so we must Step Up to this nearly

into The First Quarter of the Twenty First Century Time in the Classical Music Field now Expanded whether we like it or not!

A Word: 'Quiet peaceful Enjoymant in one's own home', is a legal phrase used in Leases across our Land in America, but the advent of the Internet now forces each and All to discern more & very seriously so that which we allow or cannot allow {nor tolerate} in our own home sanctuaries of 'Peaceful, Quiet Enjoyment minus noise in our own homes' or Apt's or Flat's/ + Condo's/ and for the very wealthy, Co-Ops and/or Penthouses! Most Professional Musicians don't usually achieve Artist Fees allowing purchase of Co-Ops or Penthouses, but beware! You could be Next! LOL, Guys!

~ Yours musically from Chicago ~

..... Elisabeth Matesky .....

Fwd dg {Tuesday, September 6th, 2022}

September 6, 2022 at 10:46 PM · Thank you so much for your thoughts, Elisabeth!

I must clarify one thing. I am not heading the newly formed San Antonio Philharmonic; other colleagues are taking that on. I am a supportive musician willing to do what I’m asked to do, nothing more.

September 7, 2022 at 02:30 PM · {#15} Dear Mary Ellen ~

After all you and your Colleagues have experienced it's more than perfectly understood you are now doing what is asked of you at this time yet no more ~ It's been a non stop 'Trudge' Up and you're in need of being back in the closest touch with the violin and the music to be performed in this new '22-23 SA Phil venture!! Please accept my apology for suggesting that folks contact you yet I still believe you have immense abilities to negotiate and convince hardened {I've sensed throughout} minds with frozened hearts ...

Congratulations are in order for steering your SAS colleagues forward from their 'titanic' experience to smoothed out 'waters' now and moving forward! You are a Leader in the truest sense of the word ...

~ With warm colleaguial admiration for You ~

.......... Elisabeth (Matesky) ..........

composed Wednesday, September 7th, 2022

Fwd dg

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