Saturday night, on our way to the finale of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Rachmaninoff Festival, my wife and I ate dinner at Christos, an excellent Greek restaurant in downtown Pittsburgh. The food is good (try the Jackie Onassis cake for dessert), but the most interesting part of the place in my view is how close the tables are to each other. At the beginning of our meal, two men sitting at the next table were having a lively and seemingly informed conversation about Rachmaninoff and other Russian composers of the twentieth century. Since we were nearly sitting in their laps, I couldn't help but overhear the conversation and wondered who they were. As one got up to pay the bill, I casually asked the one sitting down whether they were on their way to the concert.
It turns out that our (near) table companions were the artistic consultant and curator for the festival, Joseph Horowitz, and the classical music reviewer for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Mark Kanny.
Joseph Horowitz asked us--innocently and out of curiosity, I suppose--whether we were subscribers. We responded with guffaws. In fact, as we explained, we are subscribers, but have been debating whether to renew our subscription for next year. I pushed us to subscribe this year because I love orchestral music and despite our best intentions we just weren't getting organized to go to individual concerts. Three Fiddlesticks concerts (for kids) and two weekends at Tanglewood just wasn't enough for me. My wife--who has a much deeper classical music background than I do, by the way--likes orchestral music but prefers chamber music and also has felt that 6 or 7 classical concerts will crowd out other cultural events given our limited babysitting budget (she has been correct, actually). And we haven't even made it to all the concerts this year--we missed one because of a last-minute babysitter cancellation, another because of a last-minute kid illness. So in the last few weeks we have been close to a decision not to renew.
Then Joseph Horowitz, formerly of the New York Times and the Brooklyn Philharmonic, and leading American musicologist, asked another simple and presumably innocent question: how much were subscriptions? Well, we answered, our 7-concert series in the Heinz Hall bleachers (excuse me, the gallery) is about 200 for two tickets. It was at that moment that we realized that each concert was about $14 a person.
After Messrs. Horowitz and Kanny left us for the pre-concert talk and we dug into our spanakopita and stuffed peppers, we revisited the matter and concluded that a) we can spend $200 on a single shopping trip at Costco, Target, or Giant Eagle; and b) that even if we don't make it to every concert we can donate the unused tickets to the orchestra. We could also relieve my guilt feelings about not renewing the subscription during a recession.
Dear reader: on Monday I sent in the renewal form.
In other words, Joseph Horowitz not only put together an excellent Rachmaninoff Festival for the PSO and its audience, but also convinced at least two subscribers to renew.