>What I am wondering is: how widespread was the practice of opening with
>an overture, symphonic poem or other short work; when did this start;
>and when did it fade out, as it seems to have? And do any orchestras
>still allow latecomers to bring things to a halt?
The National SO under Leonard Slatkin frequently starts a concert with
an overture. I can remember at least a couple of Beethoven overtures
last season. This year, they have had Weber, Overtures to Oberon and
Der Freischuetz; Brahms, Tragic Overture; Rossini, William Tell Overture;
Sibelius, Prelude to The Tempest (does that count?); Bernstein, Slava!
A Political Overture (ditto); and Beethoven, Leonore No. 3. The NSO
does allow latecomers to enter after the overture or the first piece.