I was invited to attend a “house concert” one evening last week. The concert, presented by two rising young stars, was held in the “music room” of a private home. About 20 of us made up the audience. The ambitious program of music for violin and piano included major works by Schubert, Stravinsky and Beethoven. We audience members were able to enjoy an “up close and personal” experience, getting to know the performers first-hand.
House concerts seem to be coming back in vogue all over America. In Bach’s time, of course, music was mostly performed in churches, as part of a religious service. During his later tenure in Leipzig, Bach supposedly had an apartment large enough to keep six claviers and many other instruments. He, his sons and visiting musicians would give private concerts in the living room there.
Also in Leipzig, for nearly a decade, Bach led a Collegium musicum, consisting of his family members, local students and amateur musicians. They would give weekly concerts at Zimmermann’s Coffee House. During the summer months, these casual concerts moved outside to the patio.
I, for one, certainly approve of the house concert format. Another successful modern-day format is the one begun in San Francisco in 2006: Classical Revolution. Today, there are Classical Revolution chapters in cities all over the U.S. and Europe. The musicians and their audiences gather in non-traditional performance venues such as cafés, pubs, art houses and bookstores, offering audiences the chance to connect more closely with the musicians than is typical in concert halls and more formal venues.