Killing classical music in the US .....
The following comment was posted by the irrepresible Henry Holland on my recent A shuttle maestro for the IPod audience, but it is well worth a post to itself:
<< "Playing the same old 19th century rep over and over is part of what is killing classical music in the US (that and no music education anymore)" - Oh, that again. *sigh* Where's the PROOF --I mean, actual rigorous stats, not wishful thinking-- for that view? I guarantee the bean counters on Grand Avenue rejoiced when Sariaaho's Passion of Simone got cancelled recently because of Dawn Upshaw's unfortunate breast cancer situation and was replaced by the Mahler 2nd. I was bummed, I love her music, but then I'm a distinct minority.
Having been to more concerts than I care to remember of concerts featuring contemporary fare that drew 1/2 full, heavily papered houses in the old Dot, I don't think your claim is true at all. I've been saying for years that orchestras should market themselves to people in their 50's and above, people whose kids have left home, which means they'd now have the time and money to explore classical music. But, no, that's not "cutting edge" or "pop culture friendly" or "reaching out to the youth of today".
Everyone went nuts over the Minmalist Jukebox last year but I couldn't see the relevance of a one-shot festival to the ongoing programming of the orchestra. Fans of minimalism do NOT automatically equal fans of the orchestral rep, though, of course, there's overlap. I'm a maximalist, I loathe minimalism, I love Birtwistle, Ferneyhough, Boulez, Murail type stuff, you'd have had to have paid me thousands of dollars to go to one of those concerts. And Salonen dropped out of the Shostakovich symphony cycle early on because he discovered after, what, 3 concerts in the first year of the five (4 symphonies in total) what me and my friends have been saying for years: his music isn't very good.
Look at concerts the LA Phil has done with contemporary pieces. They are almost always surrounded by crowd pleasers from....wait for it...the 19th century rep because it's been shown time and time and time again that that's the only way to keep people from fleeing in droves. In cities like Philadelphia, they don't even really bother with new stuff. Eschenbach is leaving partly because they don't like his conducting, but also because of complaints that he programs too much modern stuff (see: Boulez, Pierre; New York Philharmonic). Their audience has made it crystal clear what they want: Bach, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, Wagner bleeding chunks, orchestral showpieces by Rimsky and Holst and maybe, just maybe some pretty Debussy or Ravel.
From what I understand, orchestra attendance is steady or even slightly up in the US, as it is for opera. If you're talking about "relevance to the wider culture" and "speaking to our times" all that Greg Sandowian stuff, I couldn't possibly care less, it would be impossible. People seem to forget that there's always going to be people for whom the Beethoven 5th or La Boheme is a brand new experience. >>
Now, for more on reaching new audiences with new music sample the New music lunch box
The header photo is not of classical music in the US, it is my own shot of the first night of the 2006 BBC Proms season, see BBC Proms - summer in the city. The lovely Boulez photo is by Murdo MacLeod via an interesting Guardian article. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk