Until this month, I never understood why people drink wine during the intermission of a concert. Why do people need more drugs when music itself is intoxicating enough?

Well, as it turns out, wine in the gallery is a great help to the atmosphere in the  auditorium. I firmly believe that the lack of alcohol was responsible for the subdued response to a superb TSO concert. May 8th’s performance of Mozart Violin Concerto No.3 with the soloist Stephan Jackiw was followed by  Elgar’s Symphony No. 1 under Andrew Davis. The Mozart seems to be an easy piece, but one needs a  touch of genius, as the young Jackiw has, to carry out its supreme subtly with both precision and spontaneity. The Elgar piece is hardly subtle, but it is uplifting in a very English way. Considering Toronto is an essentially English town, the indifference of the audience that night is even more puzzling.

The only explanation I can think of is that this was a so-called “casual concert” so there was no intermission, no chit-chatting, and no wine. Despite being highly formalized, music, or “classical music”, like many other forms of culture, is still very much connected to the physical needs of the people who listen to them. In other words, there’s a strong physical dimension to how music is accepted by the audience, not unlike rock-n-roll. At the same time, music is capable of triggering strong physical responses like no other.