Adventerous Programming

It seems to me that this article in the New York Times is very close to making an important point when we talk about the future of the orchestra. Sure, orchestras shouldn’t measure themselves by how many “new pieces” they play a years–especially when most of these pieces are simply sandwiched between a flashy overture and a lovable symphony. So I appreciate the sentiment that as we begin to think about “new music” (shouldn’t it just be called “now music”?), we really need to completely restructure how we think of the orchestra concert in general.

But as composers are boldly rethinking even the most basics of music, it seems like orchestras are missing the boat and need to start thinking from a clean slate again. Chamber music has been the vehicle for new music in the last century mostly because it isn’t trapped within a the expensive infrastructure of donors, the limitations of mammoth physical spaces, there are just less people to deal with overall..

So I have to give props to my hometown orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, for their thoughtful Chamber Music series planning. They put together each ensemble using members of the orchestra, and even superstarscandinvaivan music director Osmo Vansa grabs his clarinet. But in the midst of their fairly typical summer festival programming, there are a handful of chamber concerts that probably are missed by most. But the programming is fresh and exciting–along the lines of pairing traditional composers with unexpected contemporary composers.

For some reason I felt like this rant would be warranted, and I think it has to do with my thoughts on opera. It’s sometimes discouraging that what makes an orchestra concert AND an opera performance so exhilarating is also what limits it. I wont go into all of this now, but lately I can’t stop thinking about what happens if you could blend these two worlds. All of the creativity and flexibility of the smaller scale with the resources (and i’m not talking organizational/financial) of the larger scale.


~ by ohactually on July 21, 2008.

2 Responses to “Adventerous Programming”

  1. Glad you like the chamber series! For the record, the diversity of programming is due to the fact that the orchestra allows the musicians to choose nearly all of the repertoire we play on both our winter and summer chamber music series. (I suspect that the willingness to allow us this leeway is due to the assumption that chamber music appeals mainly to hardcore classical fans, who are less apt to balk at new music…)

  2. You’re probably right that new music works in chamber music settings because of the audience and not necessarily because of the setting. It seems that if a big institution like the orchestra can commit to integrating these chamber efforts (and treating them as equally valid), then eventually the lines may start to blur.
    Thanks for the note!

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