Last night Valarie and I attended an Oregon Symphony performance with British conductor Paul Mann as part of the “Front Row Center” series, which combines music with lecture, dramatic readings, etc. to tell stories about the making of classical music. The music of the evening was by Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms, two of my favorite composers. And the story of their both loving the same woman, Cara Schumann (Robert’s wife), was pretty interesting. But ultimately the performance was kind of ruined for us by so much talking. In between pieces performed there would always be a good 5-10 minutes of discussion by the conductor, Mann, and he even stopped the orchestra in the middle of a couple pieces to make another point about what we were hearing. Mann was especially giddy about a couple hidden allusions to Clara in their music. It was kind of like having Beatles songs interrupted by someone who wants to talk about the Paul-is-dead publicity stunt. It really made me realize that I go to the symphony to lose myself in the music. I find that more than any other live music, it’s classical that, to varying degrees (depending on how much I like the composer or the individual piece), really pulls me in to a degree that I filter out virtually all else—except when someone’s cell phone is ringing, of course (as happened twice). Too bad it didn't happen last night, because these composers kick some serious 19th Century classical ass.