Friday, September 21, 2012

The domino effect

The facts are hard and chilling but point to the fact that classical music--and the organizations that present it--are in dire straits.  While this calamity has been predicted before (see Time magazine, 1969), this time it is for real.  Some of the victims include the orchestras, musicians and--most of all--the communities served by:

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra:  musicians locked out; concerts cancelled.  This was after the musicians agreed to a 11% pay cut.

Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra:  ibid, after musicians agreed to a temporary extension of the current contract in order to avoid canceling concerts.

In Minnesota:

Minnesota Orchestra:  Running nearly $4 million deficit; announced 28% pay cut for musicians while engaged in a $50 million renovation of the lobby areas of Orchestra Hall.
St. Paul Chamber Orchestra:  In a "significant stretch" for the organization, has offered players a two-tiered system of minimum salaries resulting in a 15% pay reduction.

San Antonio Symphony:  no approved budget, no contract with its musicians and no date set to come up with a new plan.

AND, Boston is still without a music director.

AND, Philadelphia is crawling out of bankruptcy proceedings that benefitted few but the attorneys.


In Louisville, things still appear tense, but the show is going on.

Detroit Symphony: recovering from a six-month-long strike two years ago, has hired a new concertmaster, lured a principal flutist away from the "Dude's" LA Phil, and filled a number of the gaps brought about by musicians' exoduses.

The New Mexico Philharmonic has risen from the ashes of the bankrupt New Mexico Symphony.

The Hawaii Symphony (formerly the Honolulu Symphony) has no current program information on its website.

The Syracuse (NY) Symphony is dead, but former members of that organization (down to 40 players of the original 61) are attempting to revive an ensemble under the name Symphony Syracuse.  They face an uphill battle.

JUST IN FROM THE JACKSONVILLE (FL) SYMPHONY:  The Board has declared an impasse and will impose the stipulations of their most recent contract offer, which include a base salary decrease of 20% and a 45% decrease in health insurance coverage--in addition to a season that is four weeks shorter.

Sean Andrew Chen writes in the Next American City that the fate of the contemporary symphony orchestra may be tied to the community it serves:

Is it possible that the fate of our orchestras is tied more to the fate of our cities than to the preferences of our ears? While some cities have come back from the brink, bringing with them great orchestras like the New York Philharmonic (and raising new ones like the Los Angeles Philharmonic), smaller, regional cities have been left struggling along with their orchestras. And to survive, orchestras like Philadelphia’s will have to not only keep their heads above water, but reinvent themselves just as recovering cities have done.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A program of 20th century chamber pieces sells out!

Waterloo Elks Lodge
Some people are aware that I am the program annotator for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls (Iowa) Symphony Orchestra.  Therefore it may be inappropriate to place my imprimatur on the orchestra's programming as the most original and/or exciting in my immediate vicinity.  However, a writer is entitled to his opinions, but I will offer these few words with a grain of salt; I am an employee--albeit a very minor one--of the organization.  While they pay me for my research and literary knowledge, that is the end of it.

I usually complete the full season's set of notes in one sitting over the summer months, but that didn't happen this year.  So harm done; my first deadline arrived and I delivered on time.  (I am currently finished with the fall in toto and about 30% finished for the spring; once I get working on these projects, I get more than a bit of tunnel vision and simply want to get it done so I do not have to think of it anymore.)  But as I was preparing the copy for the November concert, I really became enthralled with the program.  It includes:

  • Walter Piston:  Divertimento:  written in 1946 for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, string quartet, and contrabass, this piece marks Piston's departure from his earlier works.  Joseph Stevenson writes,  “It is not a change of style or technique; the music remains contrapuntal and chromatic. It is a question of tone and mood: There is more optimism, less cynicism.”
  • John Harbison:  North and South, a six-song cycle based on the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979).  The author herself had wished that someone would set her poetry to music and Harbison has done an amazing job, crafting six evocative poems into a set written for the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson.
  • Morton Gould:  Benny's Gig, a set of duos for clarinet and double bass, written for the legendary Benny Goodman.
  • Bohuslav Martinu:  the wacky ballet score, Le Revue de Cuisine.
  • Samuel Barber's popular (and rightly so) Knoxville, Summer of 1915, written on a commission from soprano Eleanor Steber (performer of the title role in the 1958 Met production of Barber’s Vanessa) who premiered it in 1948, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Serge Koussevitzky. Barber’s compositional imagery has been described as rhapsodic as the music is such a poignant accompaniment to the text.
Now comes the hard part.  The concert, slated for November 16 at 7:30 p.m. at the Waterloo Elks Lodge 290, is sold out.  Even I can't get in!