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Best place to sit for a concert (piano recital in a large theater)? (Read 10643 times)

Offline ffchopinist

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Hi Piano Streeters!  I'm about to buy a ticket to go see a pianist perform in a large hall (has multiple balconies) and was wondering what the best place to sit is.

My considerations:

-Would be nice to see both facial expressions and the pianist's hands if possible
-Would like to be closer rather than farther (ie: front row seats are available that don't break the bank)
-Acoustics need to be decent (don't need to be the best in the hall, since I don't think this particular concert hall has a truly bad seat acoustically anywhere per reviews)
-Cost is not a real issue because all tickets are relatively affordable as far as classical concerts go -in the $25, $30, $50 range... even in the orchestra section. (Not sure how this is possible. Mezzanine seats are $90, though.)

QUESTIONS:

1) Are box seats in the orchestra section ever a good idea for a piano recital?  (Pro: Never sat in a box; could be cool. I think they let you bring in drinks? That's a tiny side benefit.  Con: off to the side - may be watching the pianist's back if on the left and may only be able to see his face if on the right due to being blocked by the piano itself?

2) Is it better to be: A)  farther back (rows 18+) in the Center orchestra or, B)  in the very front row(s) but all the way off to the side?   Note: the center orchestra seats row 18+ cost $15 more than the front row right side seats.  Cost may not necessarily be an accurate reflection of "better" or "worse" seats, though.

3) Is sitting on the right side of the Orchestra Section better or left side if not in the center?  (See face vs. see the pianist's back...? Can you see hands if on the left side?) 

--

Any advice on how to pick the best seats for a piano recital in a large venue would be extremely helpful and welcome. Thanks in advance!




Offline dogperson

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Re: Best place to sit for a concert (piano recital in a large theater)?
«Reply #1 on: September 22, 2015, 05:20:39 AM »
This is so personal, but if I am attending a concert, I want to see hands, and maybe face, and be close enough to see  every detail.  Even for a symphony, I want 'up close and personal' rather than further back which may be a better orchestra full sound. 

Given your choices, I would reject the box and 'off to the side' first row. 

Offline pencilart3

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Re: Best place to sit for a concert (piano recital in a large theater)?
«Reply #2 on: September 22, 2015, 05:30:14 AM »
I paid 20 dollars to hear Krystian Zimerman from the back of an enormous recital hall. The acoustics were fine as it was a well-designed room. It sounded like I was up front. I simply brought a pair of binoculars and sat right in the center. I don't know if that's what you want, but just some food for thought. My eyes started to hurt after a while, so it certainly wasn't ideal, but it was better than forking out $200 to sit up front. I just put down the binoculars every 10 minutes or so. But I really really loved the concert and it worked just fine!!!!!!!! But in your case it's not very much more to sit in the front so maybe this was just unhelpful. ;D

Who's the pianist, BTW?
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Offline bronnestam

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Re: Best place to sit for a concert (piano recital in a large theater)?
«Reply #3 on: September 22, 2015, 09:56:36 AM »
Recently went to the Concert Hall in Stockholm for the piano festival there. At first, me and my friend sat on ... um ... sixth row or something. People were coming and going, it was a "marathon" that went on for ten (10) hours and when we after a break wanted to go back in the hall, there were only free seats available up on the balcony. Far back in the hall, but it turned out that the acoustics was waaay better up there than down on the floor.

When I want to study the pianist's hands, I always try to get a seat far to the left in the middle section, row 3-8 (depending on the size of the hall). Well, when I went to the Gothenburg Concert Hall I got rather disappointed, as the stage was so HIGH. When meant that I, sitting on the fifth row, could study the bottom of the piano (!) and the inside of the pianist's hands ... and the sound kind of flew over my head so it was not a good seat at all.

On the other hand, I have also been to the concert hall in Malmö, where the acoustics is very good, and we could only get seats on the first row, close enough to almost touch the violinists. The stage was not high at all (and the seat rows where in a high slope instead) and the experience of being almost INSIDE the orchestra and just three metres behind the pianist's back was ... wow. One of the most exciting concert experiences I have ever had. It was the Tjajkovskij 1st piano concerto too, rather mighty at that distance. I remember how the piano swayed ...

So, it very much depends on the size and architechture of the venue so it is hard to give general advice!

My friends in the rock fans sphere have a total different opinion on what are the best places: the closer to the artist, the better. They always strive to be as close as possible, as the highest win is to get a personal smile from the Artist and maybe even touch him ...
Well, this idea is not very good when it comes to pianists, as they tend to be too occupied by their piano keys to smile and flirt with their audience. (And you are there for the music, I suppose ...  ;)  ) On the other hand, it is quite thrilling to be very, very close to someone who really can play the piano. It is like they are surrounded by an energy field. 

Offline ffchopinist

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Re: Best place to sit for a concert (piano recital in a large theater)?
«Reply #4 on: September 22, 2015, 04:00:16 PM »
Great tips so far, everyone! You guys are awesome.

To answer pencilart's question, the pianist is Marc-Andre Hamelin.  (I can't believe this is not sold out and that orchestra seats cost the same amount as balcony seats essentially for this concert! Perhaps not enough people have seen his epic cadenza to Hungarian Rhapsody 2 where he looks as though he's trying to hold back a huge, gleeful grin the entire time because he's having so much fun with the music while absolutely killing it with inhuman technical feats?)   Also, re: pencilart - Wow, you saw Zimerman! That must have been incredible... I'm so envious. :) What did he play?

Good point on stage height being a factor! This may be an unknown.. it sounds like center orchestra but near the back (row 20+) may be better than front and to the side perhaps from what I'm seeing in the responses?  Hopefully the orchestra section at this hall is angled enough so a short-torso-ed person like me won't be blocked in terms of view. ;)

If anyone has other tips on seat selection in a piano concert, feel free to share.... and hope this thread is helpful to others, as well!

Offline pencilart3

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Re: Best place to sit for a concert (piano recital in a large theater)?
«Reply #5 on: September 22, 2015, 05:04:53 PM »
To answer pencilart's question, the pianist is Marc-Andre Hamelin.  (I can't believe this is not sold out and that orchestra seats cost the same amount as balcony seats essentially for this concert! Perhaps not enough people have seen his epic cadenza to Hungarian Rhapsody 2 where he looks as though he's trying to hold back a huge, gleeful grin the entire time because he's having so much fun with the music while absolutely killing it with inhuman technical feats?)   Also, re: pencilart - Wow, you saw Zimerman! That must have been incredible... I'm so envious. :) What did he play?

Hamelin isn't my personal favorite, but it's always awesome to see a famous pianist! Zimerman played Brahms concerto in d minor. Unfortunately he only played for the first half of the concert, then the orchestra played for the second half. But it was still really cool to see him, even if it was only for 1 half!!! :D
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Offline ffchopinist

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Re: Best place to sit for a concert (piano recital in a large theater)?
«Reply #6 on: September 22, 2015, 07:05:01 PM »
Cool! Hamelin isn't in my all time favorites list either (though he may turn out to be after this concert - who knows!)...but Zimerman is one of my favorites, particularly his interpretation of Chopin's G Minor Ballade.  I agree that it's always cool to see a famous pianist perform regardless of length and format. :)

A seat opened up in the center section of the first row (orchestra pit - hope that's not too close) for just $35 usd, so I just reserved it. Fingers crossed that the stage won't be too high to see anything! I figured it was better than being all the way off to the side in the front or in the box (can't see hands, can't see face) or in the center but in the back of the orchestra section (too far, too small).  Guess we'll find out if it's good or not! I shall try and report back on my findings on optimal seating afterward in case anyone is curious or trying to make a similar choice.

Offline pencilart3

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Re: Best place to sit for a concert (piano recital in a large theater)?
«Reply #7 on: September 22, 2015, 07:07:40 PM »
Zimerman is one of my favorites, particularly his interpretation of Chopin's G Minor Ballade.

Yes, ballade 1 is complete heaven. Do you have the CD recording or just the one on youtube? The CD one is SO much better. Really he's a beast for all the ballades, concerti, and the fantasy in f minor.
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Offline ffchopinist

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Re: Best place to sit for a concert (piano recital in a large theater)?
«Reply #8 on: September 22, 2015, 07:10:06 PM »
Yes, ballade 1 is complete heaven. Do you have the CD recording or just the one on youtube? The CD one is SO much better. Really he's a beast for all the ballades, concerti, and the fantasy in f minor.

Ooh, I don't have the CD recording, and I was literally just contemplating last night whether or not to buy a CD for either better sound quality or to "support the artist." Is it the sound quality that's better in the CD or his interpretation? Which CDs of his would you recommend in particular? :D (since I realize he may have several different recordings of the same works from different live venues or studios)

Offline pencilart3

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Re: Best place to sit for a concert (piano recital in a large theater)?
«Reply #9 on: September 22, 2015, 07:17:51 PM »
Ooh, I don't have the CD recording, and I was literally just contemplating last night whether or not to buy a CD for either better sound quality or to "support the artist." Is it the sound quality that's better in the CD or his interpretation? Which CDs of his would you recommend in particular? :D (since I realize he may have several different recordings of the same works from different live venues or studios)

Sweet I love discussing this. Hmm... let's see... definitely buy the CD. I did some extra work last summer so I could get the "Chopin complete edition" without taking any out of my savings haha. So, I'm not sure which CD just the ballade is one. But anyway, the complete edition features every piece by Chopin.

The Concerti and Ballades are Zimerman, Etudes, Scherzi, and sonatas are Pollini, Waltzes and Mazurkas are Ashkenazy, and the nocturnes are terrible (the only bad part). Other than that, it's AMAZING. Everything. It's perfect. So I just have the Ballade 1 from that CD.

Here's what I'd suggest to start: go to iTunes, type in "Chopin complete edition", then click "view full album". Then scroll down to "Ballade 1 in G minor", then pay 99 cents for it. You will not regret those 99 cents. ;)
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Offline ffchopinist

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Re: Best place to sit for a concert (piano recital in a large theater)?
«Reply #10 on: September 23, 2015, 02:19:21 PM »
Sweet I love discussing this. Hmm... let's see... definitely buy the CD. I did some extra work last summer so I could get the "Chopin complete edition" without taking any out of my savings haha. So, I'm not sure which CD just the ballade is one. But anyway, the complete edition features every piece by Chopin.

The Concerti and Ballades are Zimerman, Etudes, Scherzi, and sonatas are Pollini, Waltzes and Mazurkas are Ashkenazy, and the nocturnes are terrible (the only bad part). Other than that, it's AMAZING. Everything. It's perfect. So I just have the Ballade 1 from that CD.

Here's what I'd suggest to start: go to iTunes, type in "Chopin complete edition", then click "view full album". Then scroll down to "Ballade 1 in G minor", then pay 99 cents for it. You will not regret those 99 cents. ;)

Awesome! I love discussing / discovering pianists and recordings, too. Wow, thanks so much for the album rec.  The Chopin Complete Edition sounds like a truly epic collection (what a roster!)... I have just added it to my personal wish list.  I just saw on Amazon that Martha Argerich is on there, as well.

I haven't bought a lot of music lately, sadly (due to everything being streamable online for free), but the last CD I bought was Yundi Li's recordings of Chopin's Sonata 3, Grand Polonaise Brillante, an assortment of etudes, nocturnes, Fantasie Impromptu, etc.  I liked the Sonata, Polonaise, and the Winter Wind Etude from that one. I bought it at his concert earlier this year and have had it on repeat.  Incidentally, I started caring more where I my seat was due to that concert - I sat in the last row (oops, bought too late), and the acoustics weren't that good.  If you ever have other pianist/recording recs, feel free to share whether on this thread or another. :)

Offline pencilart3

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Re: Best place to sit for a concert (piano recital in a large theater)?
«Reply #11 on: September 23, 2015, 03:20:40 PM »
Awesome! I love discussing / discovering pianists and recordings, too. Wow, thanks so much for the album rec.  The Chopin Complete Edition sounds like a truly epic collection (what a roster!)... I have just added it to my personal wish list.  I just saw on Amazon that Martha Argerich is on there, as well.

Yes, it is a true gem! Martha is only featured in 4 pieces, and I don't like her interpretation of any of them. ;) But that's just me haha

I haven't bought a lot of music lately, sadly (due to everything being streamable online for free), but the last CD I bought was Yundi Li's recordings of Chopin's Sonata 3, Grand Polonaise Brillante, an assortment of etudes, nocturnes, Fantasie Impromptu, etc.  I liked the Sonata, Polonaise, and the Winter Wind Etude from that one. I bought it at his concert earlier this year and have had it on repeat.  Incidentally, I started caring more where I my seat was due to that concert - I sat in the last row (oops, bought too late), and the acoustics weren't that good.  If you ever have other pianist/recording recs, feel free to share whether on this thread or another. :)

Yundi is a fine pianist! That's too bad you had to sit in the back, but you can check him off your list of "people to see before I die" LOL I've got a long way to go on mine. ;D I'll PM you with some Rec's a little later.
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Offline ffchopinist

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Re: Best place to sit for a concert (piano recital in a large theater)?
«Reply #12 on: September 23, 2015, 04:07:03 PM »
Ooh, I'll have to listen to those... I've actually never heard Martha play Chopin, but I love some of her interpretations of Schumann.  

Yundi played well live (despite a few wrong notes in the Chopin Nocturne Op 9 No 1 ... ack!), but he sadly refused to give any encores despite a standing ovation that lasted the longest out of any I've ever been a part of and left a fan signing after the concert after only a few short minutes (leaving hundreds of sad fans who had just purchased CDs but didn't get them signed in a long, unhappy line).  I like his playing overall, but I wish he'd be a little more fan-friendly sometimes (though I imagine famous pianists sometimes get sick of having fans).  I actually haven't had a chance to see that many famous pianists live yet either... my bucket list keeps growing.  :)

Thanks in advance for any other recs! Yay! I'll let you know if I happen to think of any other recordings I particularly like when they come up, too.