Franz Liszt at a concert in Berlin, 1842

Published on - Luc Vermeulen

7 clichés about classical music concerts

You have never been to a classical music concert? To help you get an inkling of this fascinating but sometimes intimidating world, we will tackle some common misconceptions.

1. Classical music is expensive!

It’s true that the cost of premium category tickets might in some cases condemn you to eat plain pasta until June. But there are different ticket categories and even discounts. If you’re under 30, you are eligible for a 50% discount, and if you come 30 minutes before the concert, you can get a ticket (possibly excellent seating) for only 10 euros – less than a cinema ticket! They might not let you in with popcorn and soda, but you’re still in for a wide range of emotions. Isn’t life great?

Meme Too expensive

2. You have to be an expert to appreciate it.

Classical music is a universe in itself. Just like electro, rock or hip hop, it is vast. The difference between a work by Igor Stravinsky and a Gregorian chant from the Middle Ages, is probably as great as that of Black Sabbath and the theme song from Frozen. Over the past thousand years, music has evolved and taken many forms. So, when you pick a concert, start with something you’re familiar with. If you like the piano, go for a piano recital. If you like Mozart, then choose Mozart. Take a chance and see it where it takes you. One way to get started is to listen to one of the Bozar playlists.

3. Concerts are really long.

You don’t have to be attentive to every note. Simply abandoning yourself to the music is a way of listening. You can gradually develop an ear and discover new pleasures. As for length, this season the Belgian National Orchestra is launching hour-long Friday night concerts just for you: a short, pre‑night-out format to relax before partying until the wee hours (if that’s your thing). For early risers, Sunday morning concerts — chill-mode, coffee, mini-croissants and orange juice — is also an option thanks to the Bozar Next Generation series.

meme Too tired

4. There’s a dress code.

Sure, some people like dressing to the nines. But you don’t go to a concert to be seen, but to be moved. A space suit or your birthday suit might not be appropriate, the world may not be ready for that quite yet. Jeans and a T-shirt will do just fine.

Maitre Gims Sapés comme jamais
Maître Gims - Sapés comme jamais © Sony Music

5. Shhh … be quiet!

Silence is required. There is actually more to it than that. Since classical music is rarely amplified, the audience and the artists appreciate silence so everyone can enjoy the best possible listening experience. Imagine if the person in front of you at the cinema was standing up during the movie. You would probably ask them to sit down. Right? Well, it’s a bit like that at a concert. The acoustics in concert halls are sometimes so good that you can hear every single little noise (a crinkling wrapper, a beeping ringing, a Facebook notification, etc.). And surely a bit of silence in our hectic 21st century lives is no bad thing, a first taste of the slow life…

Meme Silence Lord of the Ring

6. You need to know when to clap.

Generally, applause is reserved for the end of the work (a piece is sometimes made up of several parts, known as ‘movements’, which can vary from five to several dozen minutes). This is a tradition that dates back to the 19th century, when composers began to endow works with a quasi-sacred dimension and silence was gradually introduced into the concert experience. Most importantly, it allows the musicians to remain focused and better prepare for the rest of the work. A small tip to make sure you don’t go out on a limb: just wait for the rest of the audience to start applauding. At the end of the concert, you’ll realise that the applause will continue. The soloists and the conductor will leave the stage, come back, leave, come back... If you’re lucky, they might even treat you to an encore!

meme applaude

7. Coughing is mandatory.

Instead of applause, silence is sometimes broken by a strange series of coughs. One word of advice: don't add your own coughing to this germ fest. Relax, think of something else. Throat lozenges are available for free at the cloakrooms to soothe dry throats. Another technique is to save your cough for the orchestral climax, but this is risky... Let’s just say it requires a little practice or a good knowledge of the score.

meme cough

Have these few lines tickled your curiosity? Here are a few suggestions for a first concert experience: