from Sunday, October12th of the year2008.
Well! I seem to have set off a little blog froth about this whole Orchestra Programming issue. Essentially, my argument was a simple, local one, which is to say: I think the New York Philharmonic could do a better job representing living, American composers on their concerts while maintaining their commitment to performing the old warhorses at the highest possible level. This got me to thinking in a slightly more meta way about it, inasmuch as New York is a unique place where you can have something like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has a lot of “Mad Famous Ott” in it, and that’s as accessible to us as New Yorkers as a performance piece in which a genderqueer Ukranian-American adheres hamentashen to her nipples and plays burlesque songs on her accordion. You want to be able, as a consumer of art, to have access to things you know you want to see (Old Warhorse! Beethoven 9! Starry Night!), and then you want access to whatever funky things your friends are doing, and then you want this Third Thing, which is the thing that you didn’t know that you wanted that some genius-ass curator set out for you. For instance, check out this concert:
Copland: Appalachian Spring
Britten: Violin Concerto
Revueltas: La Noche de los Mayas
Ligeti: Clocks and Clouds
Salonen: Violin Concerto (LAPA commission)
Beethoven: Symphony No. 5
Each one has a Warhorse, a Secret Delight, and Something you Probably Didn’t Know. It’s good programming not because it’s adhesive hamentashen or a trip to the Met, but some judicious combination of the two. Those were both L.A. Phil concerts from the 2008-2009 season, by the way. You know who else is doing a shit-hot job? The Boston Symphony. A few years ago, when JimmÃ½ first took over, you got the sense that he was programming New Music in the way my dentist tells me to floss; the tone seemed the same. Now, check out their season overview and see how artfully handled it is. The result is some delicious combinations: Messiaen, Boulez, and Berio: TEXTURE QUEENS! Tchaikovsky, Kirchner, & the Schumann Piano Concerto: THE SSRI SISTERZ!
Check out some of these other blogs and their reactions to all of this. Most interesting to me is this one here, in which an homosexual in Portland engages with the PR Director of the orchestra:
PRDúd SegÃ°i: If you look at the orchestra’s entire performance history of Beethoven 9, you’ll find that, on average, it’s performed about once every five years. Many times throughout its history, this orchestra has gone a decade or more between performances. Is that too much for Beethoven 9? Debatable, I guess, but consider this: Portland’s population is growing at a rate of about 40,000 a year. That means today there are 200,000 people in Portland who weren’t even living here the last time the Oregon Symphony did Beethoven 9. If we could capture 1 percent of them, we could fill an entire concert hall with people who’ve never had the chance to hear this orchestra do Beethoven 9 before in their lives ““ and that’s just 1 percent of the newcomers. That doesn’t even take into account all the other people who’ve lived here their whole lives and still never heard the Oregon Symphony do Beethoven 9. How many of those are there? Another 1.8 million?
Now, I actually totally agree with him. This is a completely good way to think; you want to make sure that people have access to the warhorses! Especially Beethoven 9, which is one of those things that can really change your shit right up when you hear it live. But what you need to do is take Beethoven 9 as a starting point and ax yourself, what is the
More gossypp: check out this interview with Emmanuel Ax. Manny say that, basically, the New York Press has been ragging on the Phil for being boring programmers for decades. I’m not sure that I like the whole discourse of “the mainstream media is on my case,” but the last thing that you want is an aggressive relationship between the press and the local orchestra. Nobody wins there. Anyway, the rest of this post has an interesting analysis of the rest of the orchestra’s season, concert by concert.
I think there is a way to do it so that everybody wins. If you make it your mission as an orchestra to do a complete Beethoven cycle in the fall and a complete Sibelius in the spring, it’s the best kind of design challenge.