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Sing Along With Solti

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To the editors:

I very much enjoyed Dennis Polkow's interview with Georg Solti [February 3]. It was a pleasure to join mentally with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in this way, since actually attending CSO performances to hear the music is out of the question. People talk to each other and sing to themselves, crunch on cough drops (to prevent them from coughing), and rustle the pages of their programs in order to read about the music being played, thus turning the music into a species of conceptual art, especially for them. At 9 p.m. electronic watches go beep-beep. Beep-beeps not on the hour are doctors' pagers. At least one neighbor falls asleep, snores, and falls over against my shoulder. A lot happens at the parochial level around my seat; the cosmopolitan level of the music is hard to reach.

At least those were my recent experiences at Orchestra Hall, before I came to a personal policy decision not to return there. In the interview, Solti himself expressed annoyance at his amateur competition. So why doesn't he or the management, as he mentioned, make an announcement to the audience before the start of a concert? Anyway, why do people attend CSO concerts if not to hear the music? The symbols at work here seem social rather than musical--to be in the presence of that divine fluid: celebrity. Perhaps some of the hype about the CSO, though it helps fund the orchestra, cancels out its only value.

James Bennett

N. Halsted

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