They always do it; they do it every time. And I always fall for it.
Advertisements for the concert said, “Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.” I love that piece of music, and so quickly bought two tickets, and anxiously awaited the date of the performance.
I remember the first time I heard that concerto. I was a teen-ager, watching the Johnny Carson show on television with my parents. A pianist, not a violinist, was a guest on the show, and played that beautiful piece of music. I was mesmerized! It was one of the most beautiful themes I had ever heard. I hummed it for days afterward.
Dah DAH duh Da DAH duh, Duh DAH-Duh-DAH-Duh DAH. Can you hear it?
Then came the day that I heard the piece actually played on its rightful musical instrument, The Violin.
The Violin Concerto by Mendelssohn has been a favorite since that moment. So when I heard that the theater in my own town, The Mayo Center for the Arts, was going to perform it I immediately bought tickets. We waited and waited for the night of the performance, and then waited some more.
Finally, as is usually the case, the date arrived. My husband and I excitedly arrived at the theater door, tickets in hand, excitement and anticipation spilling over.
The musicians trickled out onto the stage and took their seats on stage, accompanied by their instruments. Then came one of my favorite sounds: the tuning of instruments. Each musician plays his instrument to the same note as the others, creating a wonderful blend of tuneless sounds. They then exercise fingers while awaiting the arrival of the First Violinist and finally, The Conductor.
The conductor was a charming gentleman from Russia. He began the program by addressing the audience and warning them that the first piece they had chosen to play might be difficult to understand. “If you are the kind of person who tries to understand music,” his advice was, “Don’t! Because if you do, you’ll be wrong anyway!”
If I thought the Mendelssohn piece was about to be performed I was wrong. As wrong as those in the audience trying to interpret the conductor’s message and understand the selection we were about to hear.
First we sat through strange, indecipherable sounds which were quite grim. The introductory remarks were: “This piece takes place on an island off the coast of Finland. Many years ago an insane asylum existed on that spot, which was later turned into a hospital for terminally ill patients.”
What an uplifting scene he created! He warned, “if you would like to visit the island and enjoy some sunshine, plan your trip for the two days a year that the island actually has some sun!” Naturally, after the conductor’s charming introduction, we knew we would not be treated to a cheerful, happy and uplifting piece of music.
The lights dim. The audience quiets. The inevitable warning to shut electronic devices and unwrap noisy cellophane wrappers is delivered. The concert is beginning and we think we are ready for the performance. Then the auditory assault begins.
The music is insane! Cymbals crash, drums roll, horns screech. Is there a theme to this music? It sounds like an atonal, dyspeptic conglomerate of noise. What happened to the beautiful violin concerto we paid to hear?
No wonder the organizers of the evening’s program put that piece on the program first. A captive audience such as the one there that night might be the only audience willing to sit through such a headache-inducing, noisy, unpleasant sound fest.
The moral of the story must be that a little suffering is necessary before receiving the rewards of hearing what you paid to hear. Is that a philosophy of life or the reality of marketing? Is it a way to present unpopular music to unsuspicious music lovers?
As the beautiful strains of music of the Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto filled the theater, I took a deep breath of pleasure. Then I thought, “ This is so beautiful: exactly what I was looking forward to hearing.
But still, I thought that there was an enforceable law against false advertising.