Tchaikovsky is Boring: Talking Over the New York Philharmonic in Prospect Park

07/11/2013 1:02 PM |

New York Philharmonic Prospect Park

Despite the pessimistic forecasts—and a 10-minute afternoon downpour—the rains held off yesterday evening, allowing the New York Philharmonic’s annual concert in Prospect Park to go on. While the sun was still out there were more dragonflies than usual, almost reaching horror movie-level saturation. (“Daddy, what’s that?” one little girl asked, pointing at one. “That’s a moth. A bee. A firefly. A dragonfly, I think,” he answered.) And it was too cloudy for starlight. But considering that the Long Meadow could have been swampground, who’s complaining?

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The evening began with Dvorak’s “Cello Concerto,” a fine work but perhaps not enough to hold the audience’s attention: during the second movement, the girl in front of me started checking a TMZ (!) app. But, hell, as the last movement quietly wound down (before a big finish), a firefly hovered for a moment in front of my face, fluoresced, then flew on. Who cares what they’re playing?

Well, I do; after intermission, they played Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, his sad and angry and ultimately jubilant masterpiece. But even this failed to hold the audience’s attention, leading me to believe it wasn’t the music but the crowd; there was a lot of chattering, getting worse as the piece reached its final-movement climax. When it ended, everyone applauded (the talkers louder than everyone else), and then everyone shut the fuck up as a light show began overhead, captivating the audience in a way Tchaikovsky never could. “Everyone shuts up for the fireworks,” one guy said loudly, “but you talked all through the music.” Laughter. Otherwise, only the dogs, terrified, made any sound.

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart

New York Philharmonic Prospect Park

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