Writing concert reviews

For the reasons I listed in my previous blog entry “why musicians attend concerts,” I don’t expect professional musicians (performers) to come to my concerts or any concert. If I tally the total time spent on attending a concert, including the round-trip journey, it’s quite a chunk out of someone’s normal day.

However, I do “force” myself to go to concerts to broaden my knowledge of music. What I mean by “force” is that I write and publish reviews of concerts. Writing a review may take anywhere from two hours to several days. If I work out the opportunity cost of teaching or giving a concert, clearly it’s not worth it.

Some years ago, I decided that I needed to go to operas so that I could compose one myself. I offered to write a review of the opera in lieu of paying for the expensive ticket. Then I decided that one opera was not enough. I needed to to see more operas. The more I saw, the more I’ve come to love operas.

Initially I reasoned that writing reviews would improve my writing. One cannot advance without doing it constantly and continuously. While writing does get easier, it’s through reading other people’s reviews that actually makes a difference.

By requesting a press ticket, I felt obliged to write a review. My reputation was at stake. I could not simply go to a concert and not share the experience afterwards. It became a way of life for me —- a hard habit to break.

I don’t scan concert listings to see which concerts I’d like to attend. I get told by composers who are having their works premiered, musicians who are performing in those concerts, and e-mails from various mailing lists I’m on.

At the last concert that I reviewed, I learned in December that a composer was going to be in town to work on a piece with the performers. This did not register immediately until I received e-mails from the ensemble and two other organisations. Then it dawned on me that I should make the time to go to that concert — a world premiere of works of winners of a composition competition. “New music from China in Amsterdam” was thus born.

Soloists of Chinese instruments in Amstelkerk

Soloists of Chinese instruments in Amstelkerk, 22 Jan 2010 Photo credit: R. Straver

Nieuw Ensemble with Chinese instruments, Amstelkerk 22 Jan 2010

Nieuw Ensemble with Chinese instruments, Amstelkerk 22 Jan 2010 Photo credit: R. Straver


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