Sunday, 17 April 2011

Philadelphia Orchestra files Ch 11

The Board of the Philadelphia Orchestra has decided to file for Chapter 11,  which in US Law is  is a step towards bankruptcy. It doesn't mean they're going to stop performing just yet, but it gives them protection against creditors' claims. They will probably make their Proms appearances in September. How Yannick Nézet-Séguin will fit into these plans is another story. Rumblings have been floating around for ages, it's no huge shock.

A few years ago it was fashionable for some orchestras, and not only in Philadelphia, to  decide they didn't need conductors who had ideas. "An orchestra's sound must never change" said some at the time. It's crazy logic as players change, audiences change, music changes. You can't turn live performances into a facsimile of recordings made decades ago. In many orchestras there are Powers That Be who can be very underhand indeed.  Remember the vicious personal abuse Franz Welser-Möst got 30 years ago when he tried to change some London players?  In Philadelphia much was made of the fact that some players taught at the Curtis Institute.  But lots of players elsewhere teach high level too, and the very best of course don't need to teach at all.  An orchestra exists, not to serve vested interests but to serve art. A good conductor isn't doing it for himself or herself but for artistic vision. It's a rare orchestra where everyone is so good that the conductor is first among equals (though they all say that! ). No businesss keeps afloat if it resists development. Nowadays, the market is no lonnger based on one-orchestra, one-newspaper cities with relatively little interchange. Audiences now have choice. Thanks to the Digital Concert Hall, the Berliner-Philharmoniker is now everyone's local orchestra whether they're in Berlin or Timbuktu. Now that's how you raise standards. Small-town empires can't hold out.

Since writing this last night this has popped up on Huffington.  Anything between the lines? And if this is what the local newspaper writes, "Mahler was edging toward modernism and Berg away from it." it figures, too. Definitely "news".

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