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gvopedz

Where to sit for the best sound at an orchestra concert?

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Something I have suspected for a long time –

 

“At $21, the cheapest seats in Heinz Hall, Downtown, home of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, are high up in the Gallery, high at the top of the balcony where the air is thin and the stage is but a distant splotch of color and motion.  And believe it or not, these are also the best of the hall’s 2,675 seats…”

 

https://www.post-gazette.com/ae/music/2019/10/14/Heinz-Hall-best-worst-seats-orchestra-concert-pittsburgh-symphony-acoustics/stories/201910070104

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The Meyerson also has such seats. Sat close to them once for Beethoven's 9th, because that was all that was left. There were moments when I could close my eyes and hear the orchestra like it was a cloud of music surrounding me, like right THERE, on all sides. Ecstatically surreal experience.

Except - the Meyerson knows what those seats are, those exact seats, and they are priced higher than the regular balcony seats. They know what they got, and they know that the audience knows.

But that's only one way to hear a concert. For cost purposes, when we started subscribing to seasons, we got 3rd row, dead center. No more cloud effect, but what we lost with that, we gained in immediacy, more akin to sitting in the band. And we do like to watch the people playing, and the conductor conducting, there's music in that too.

Plus, the Meyerson is claimed to be one of those places where "there are no bad seats" sonically. I haven't sat everywhere, but in terms of acoustics, I might well agree with that, stipulating that "no bad seats" does not equate to hearing the exact same thing in all seats. It doesn't. But I've yet to hear the music in a distorted or unbalanced manner.

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I share Jim's opinion about the benefit of sitting quite close to the performers. Along with the musical sounds, the visual is something I find important. We like to watch the interaction between the musicians, the facial expressions, and the feeling of being right there where the music is happening.

Whether it is an orchestral concert, a classical chamber music concert, or a jazz performance in a club or concert hall, my wife and I always try to get seats up close. 

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The last concert I saw at Carnegie Hall was first row, center. It was the best experience I've ever had at a classical concert. In the past, I've always had orchestra seats, but they were way further back. I would've been better off listening to the record.

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"Where to sit for the best sound at an orchestra concert"?

Probably that place recommended in gvopedz's article, only during a rehearsal when there is no lung cancer ward level coughing audible. At this point in time you couldn't pay me to visit a classical concert hall again.

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I remember a few times sitting in the nose-bleed section of Powell Hall in St. Louis, when my wife and I used to go hear the St. Louis Symphony 4-5 times a year back around 1998-2003 (when we'd go home to visit my folks).

They would often have a pre-concert talk, or short chamber-music program, and after which we'd climb up to the very top and back of the hall (in one of the very last 10 rows of the top-top balcony).  And several times I was literally able to make out conversations between musicians WAY down on the stage, who were just setting up (before everyone started warming up).  Like I could literally hear a fair bit of what was being said in a regular conversational tone between two people who weren't more than 10 feet away from each other on stage, a metaphorical mile away from where I was actually sitting.

The acoustics of Powell Hall were amazing, and if you didn't care about the musicians looking like ants from so darn far away, the sound way the hell up in the stratosphere was really quite amazing too.

Edited by Rooster_Ties

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