At a recent performance of one of my string quartets, my piece was closing out the first half of the concert after one of the Beethoven opus 18s. The woman next to me was fussing with her program, studying it with her reading glasses with all the urgency of someone driving around lost might study a map, grasping in vain for landmarks.
The first movement of the Beethoven concluded, then the second. During this pause following the second movement—with no more than perhaps 10 seconds having elapsed—my seatmate turned to me and exclaimed, “That’s marvelous! That was your piece?!”
“No, ma’am,” I ruefully mustered, “that was still the Beethoven.”
The third movement was about to begin. “OH!” she exclaimed, adjusting her reading glasses and giving the program another glance. She nodded in an overly-affirmative way that let me know she was still lost.
“It’s in four sections,” I whispered, gesturing at the program, after which she set her program in her lap, apparently understanding.
My mischievous side still wonders what would have happened had I led her on, just a little bit. It’s not the first time I’ve seen someone totally lost at a classical concert despite the highly precise program booklet. Being that classical music is just about the only genre of music in which printed programs are the norm, then why is it also the only genre in which these kind of gross misunderstandings so easily flourish?