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All Rihm Program

from Wednesday, July23rd of the year2008.

First of all, don’t say “Rihm.” But having established the ground rules, everybody should read this article by Tony Tommasini in the Times. It’s a couple days old, I know, but I was in Vermont and I didn’t have Access. In it, Tommasini interviews Thomas Morris, an orchestra consultant:

Yet what exactly constitutes an adventurous program? The term is thrown around by critics who routinely prod stodgy American orchestras to be more challenging. Mr. Morris is probably right that in the public mind “adventurous” has become code for “contemporary music.” But the issue is more complicated.

Quite so. And, Tommasini goes on to articulate that programs of all contemporary music (All Rihm All The Time!) are actually less “adventurous,” because they don’t constitute, as it were, an exciting juxtaposition. I totally agree; I have to say that orchestral programs of entirely 21st century music are a little bit daunting to me; I like Classical Music because I like feeling the weight of all that history, both acknowledged and unacknowledged, lurking above and behind contemporary output. I wrote about this (and other issues) earlier this year for the National Performing Arts Convention’s Blog this year; it’s good to see these ideas in print every few months.

It’s not hard to program adventurously, just as it isn’t hard to eat adventurously. It’s actually pretty easy. Even the New York Philharmonic is doing it! May 14 2009: Lutoslawski: Concerto for Orchestra, Szymanowski: Violin Concerto No. 1, Sibelius: Symphony No. 5! Rock it out! None of that is particularly outrageous, those are all classics, but I like the juxtaposition a lot.

I’m even excited for October 2, 2008: J.S. Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, Bernard Rands: CHAINS LIKE THE SEA (World Premiere: New York Philharmonic Commission), Tchaikovsky: Suite No. 3. Bernard Rands, whose music I have heard piles of but never remember, wrote a piece for the Phil. On the season overview page, it is listed thus: Bernard Rands, chains like the sea. Then, on the specific concert page, it is listed in all caps, as we see above. What is up with the capitalization? Is it because it’s just a fragment of a Dylan Thomas line? People need to calm it down because inevitably it is not going to get listed right in one context or another, or it’s not going to fit into the design scheme of the presenting organization, or it’s going to look stupid in print. I know nothing about this Rands piece, for all I know, it’s the most genius thing since Caller ID, but I’m just worried that he gets his title printed in a way that is pleasing unto him.

The Phil is doing something slightly better with their website, too, even though the design scheme and copy still resembles a page of instructions for a suppository (“* Insert suppository (round end first) into the back passage * Wash hands”; “It is a season to remember. The kind for which Lorin Maazel and the New York Philharmonic are so justly renowned. A season like no other. And you’re invited.”) All kidding aside, pages like this are really, really good, with embedded wideo and more information than you’d need about the concert.

Anyway, I think what the Tommasini article is skirting around is that everybody is really excited for Alan Gilbert to come up in here and kick some ass vis à vis programming. It’s sort of an Obama-level Expectation, and while I’m sure it’s not going to please everybody, I’m totally excited.


  • Nico,
    Variety is my favorite way to go in concerts. I’m most entertained by the broadest possible range of styles that somehow thematically fit together in a musical – or any other – way.

  • great points. did you happen to catch cocorosie with the rco back in april? i thought that to be the most absurd programming–yet most rewarding–ever. ligeti, ives, part, and cocorosie?! i thought my head was going to explode.

  • I got into an argument with some folks (some very cool folks, I’ll add), today, about the merits of having a Festival of Contemporary Music dedicated entirely to Elliott Carter, and as an aside Julia Wolfe mentioned that there used to be these awesome scenes at the (Old) Kitchen back in the early ’90s, wherein all these Downtown people would give standing ovations for super-visceral performances of a to-them-unknown, perhaps even Outsider composer (Carter). Which is just to affirm your point about the relationship between “adventurousness” and context.

    Nico responds: Totally. Good performances of anything are really fun. You totally said “FOLKS” LOL.

  • Challenging and illuminating juxtapositions are one kind of adventurous programming, but surveys of the work of a single composer can also be adventurous — if the composer is adventurous. I would love to have been at Tanglewood for the Carter Festival.

  • why is “totally ” acceptable twice in a second if FOLKS is LOL ?

  • Bunny makes a point.

    Also, what do you make of the LA Phil’s new music series, worth going to see? I’m excited, even though I don’t know hardly any of the composers.

  • The article was really interesting & makes a great point in looking at adventurous programing moving out of just contemporary pieces. Going to hear a night of great programing can lift the soul for days, weeks, and even years after.
    What I like is the article and your introduction of what I would consider an exciting time for the NY Phil. Nico, I appreciate that you took this article to point out some great examples. I might actually reinstate my subscription to the Phil after so many years of just not really caring for the programing or sound. Thanks for giving me hope.

  • The NY Phil programming for next year is a change from recent seasons. When I received the season brochure, I was pleasantly surprised to see much more adventurous program than has been the norm during the Maazel directorship. For truly adventurous programming, however, look to the American Symphony Orchestra.

  • I tend to program single composer events around anniversaries but even then it’s nice to show some context.

  • Wait a minute, you can’t mention “cool folks” so as not to name-drop, and then drop the name! That’s like a double dribble or something. Unless you mean the folks in question were much cooler than Julie and then she just wandered in.

  • I really wanted to read a post about an all-Rhim concert, and was disappointed to learn that it had been cancelled and replaced by an all-Rihm concert. Been there, done that.


  • Don’t forget Philadelphia.;org_id=2;event_id=2896
    But only if Dutoit doesn’t try to tame the stallion and/or offer yet another prime example of stale conducting. Of course, there are those few moments he surprises me!

    In general, October 2008 in Philadelphia, will make my heart gush.