Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The "Huey's" return....AN INTRODUCTION

In Summer 2011, I began an ongoing series of posts rating the programming of local "regional" orchestras (those within a three-hour drive from the home office in Dubuque, Iowa). Originally, I wrote that,

The "Hughes awards" are totally arbitrary, based upon my own criteria which include possible thematic content, inclusion of both contemporary and American composers and overall creativity and originality.  The latter would imply programs that step out of the Overture - Concerto - Symphony box.  Also of important note is the presentation of works outside the standard repertory; i.e. why offer yet another performance of Dvorak 7 (or 8 or 9) or Shostakovich 5--regardless of my own love for those works--when there are hundreds of neglected works that may be favored by audiences (and surely the players).  Do we need yet another performance of Beethoven 5 instead of say, the Bizet Symphonie?  Or what about the Franck--long a staple of the repertoire that now seems to be rarely played?  I could make a long list of neglected works and that's just the works of the "masters."

That first year there was no total offering worthy of an award for creative orchestral programming. In subsequent years, however, the cream rose to the top:
  • 2012: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony
  • 2013: (In Jason Weinberger's first year as MD and CEO): Waterloo-Cedar Falls
  • 2014: WCF (Yes, again!)
  • 2015: Same old story: WCF.

This year I am introducing a scoring system that should provide a more accurate gauge of each orchestra's programming choices. It goes something like this:

  • + 20, starting score per concert.
  • - 5, no deviation from the standard "overture-concerto-symphony" format.
  • - 5, no works outside the "traditional" repertoire.
  • + 5, for each contemporary work or American work outside the "canon."
  • + 5 - 10, Judge's choice for a concert program of particular merit.
To determine the total score, individual concert scores are totaled and divided by the total number of concerts. This maintains equity among the ensembles, some of which may offer five "classical" concerts and others, many more.

As a reminder, the rated orchestras include:
  • Des Moines Symphony
  • Dubuque Symphony
  • Madison (WI) Symphony
  • Orchestra Iowa (Cedar Rapids)
  • Quad City Symphony (Davenport)
  • WCF Symphony (Cedar Falls)
Tomorrow: the Des Moines and Dubuque Symphonies square off: Giunta vs. Intriligator.