I’m a low brow

The other evening I went to a concert at Wigmore Hall.  I go there quite often, mostly to hear baroque music.  I’m blissfully happy with baroque music: nice tunes, nothing discordant, non threatening.  I’m also perfectly happy with anything Schubert wrote and I like listening to a good pianist.  However, a concert given by the acclaimed pianist, Igor Levit, was my downfall.  I’d been to a few of his concerts before and enjoyed them.  So, I trusted him and bought tickets without checking the programme.  What a mistake!

My heart sank as soon as I looked at the programme notes and saw the words ‘world premiere’.  I have never heard a piece of music labelled ‘world premiere’ that I enjoyed. Never.  Not ever. If I could pass a law I’d ban all world premieres.  I quite understand that every piece of music needs to be played for the first time but I want that to happen in the privacy of the composer’s bedroom.  Anyway, Igor Levit ‘played’ an excruciating hour-long piece by the composer Frederic Rzewski.  I’ve put ‘played’ in inverted commas (and was tempted to do the same with ‘composer’)  because this was no normal piano recital.  It started with the piano lid being slammed shut (soon I was wishing it had stayed shut) and then, after various discordant notes, Igor Levit stopped playing the piano to activate noise-making toys, such as whistles and rattles, that vaguely imitated birds and cows. 

You may think this sounds like fun but the whole thing was, in my opinion, incomprehensively loathsome.  When the end came (at least 50 minutes too late for me) the composer was invited onto the stage to take a bow. There was polite applause (it was his 80th birthday and this was Wigmore Hall).  I felt like booing but didn’t have the nerve. I just sat there quietly fuming. 

I met a kindred spirit during the interval who whispered to me, ‘They were taking the piss weren’t they?’  I could only agree.  

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