Thursday, December 31, 2009


Seated Ovation will be on break for the rest of the week, as I celebrate the new year and travel back to Chicago. Tune in next week for thoughts on Louis Armstrong, Richard Strauss, and maybe even the beginning of our multi-part series on what's wrong with the Chicago Symphony.

In the meantime, some food for thought:

Richard Brody, one of the New Yorker film critics, writes a passionate review of Peter Serkin's performance of the Brahms First Piano Concerto. I wish more music critics injected this enthusiasm into their writing. See Allan Kozinn's relatively tame Times review in comparison.

Jeremy Eichler takes a strong stand against Levine's artistic failings in the last year. Paul Wells defends the BSO. I completely agree with Eichler--it's not the issue of strength of playing, which Boston has in spades, but of programming and artistic vision, which implies more than just Levine's mixed bag of classics with a not-so-friendly modern work thrown in. Yes, Levine was absent this year because of illness, but there was nothing exciting particularly about the programming to begin with (a Beethoven cycle is not inventive). I would love to see Levine bring in one of his buddies--Gunther Schuller, or even the dreaded Charles Wuorinen--as an artistic/creative advisor to program festivals, just as Dudamel has done with John Adams in L.A and Gilbert with Lindberg in New York. The gist of Eichler's argument (and mine), which he doesn't spell out completely, is that in New York and L.A., they have realized that the role of the orchestra is not just to play a bunch of high-quality concerts in their hall and expect people to attend. Orchestras now have to seek out audiences, which means good marketing, a visionary and daring artistic agenda, living composers, local outreach programs, and even celebrity cameos (Alec Baldwin!). And as Alex said in his Dudamel article, most of this was already established in L.A. by Esa-Pekka, and Dudamel is just continuing his great work. Gilbert, though, has to make up for Maazel's failings.

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