I read here that the NY Phil is including estimated timings of the works in their program notes now. I’m trying to understand why they want to do this. I’m sure they have a reason.
I remember when Paul Hertelendy used to review the San Jose Symphony (RIP) and would often inform us of just how long a work was, and whether this was typical of that work. I never understood why that mattered; works can vary depending upon conductor, soloist and orchestra. That’s the way it is. I like hearing works at varying tempi … it can cause me to hear new things, and/or to listen differently. Of course there are times when the tempo must be commented on; sometimes a conductor chooses poorly. I do understand the need to remark on that. I’m not saying that tempi don’t matter!
Anyway, we musicians can be a bit annoying about time, too. I’ll confess that right here. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a member of the orchestra turn around to look at our large clock, checking to see how many more minutes until break or the end of the rehearsal. (During symphony rehearsals there is usually a large clock placed somewhere so that the conductor can see it.) We look more frequently when we have a conductor we don’t care for. (We had one of those this year. He was patronizing. He was annoying. And he wasn’t very good. The review came out and basically implied that we finally found a conductor who could get us to play well. Go figure.)
Anyway, I just wonder about why the timing is so important. Maybe so the audience knows how long they have to wait until they can get to the bathroom? Or get a beer.