Saturday, November 03, 2007

More on the Oregon Symphony

Yesterday, I posted a rant about an article lamenting the decline of the Oregon Symphony. The original article makes a number of claims that too easily try to explain the decline of an otherwise fine regional orchestra. The blog of one of the orchestra's violists also has worthwhile thoughts on the direction of the band.

In response to a comment, pianist Jeffrey Biegel offered his own thoughts on the subject of contemporary/new music and the playing of the Oregon Symphony. The comment was helpful in explaining how, a conservative Midwest orchestra like the South Dakota Symphony got around to programming new music. Jeffrey has his own thoughts on what makes a healthy orchestra. I certainly appreciate his long view of new music. His original comment follows below.

I notice the inclusion above of the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra programming Lowell Liebermann’s Third Concerto, written for me. Before Delta David Gier arrived as Music Director of the South Dakota Symphony, the SDSO did not program as much new music as they do presently. David introduced new music during his first season by including a work by a Pulitzer Prize composer for each concert of the season. This allowed him to bring the South Dakota Symphony into the Liebermann project, and introduced new music to the audiences in a slow progression. We are now exploring having the South Dakota Symphony in the 2010-11 William Bolcom ’Choral Fantasy’ project for piano, orchestra and chorus. The Oregon Symphony is one that Mr. Bolcom suggested to me with my project team, and they are indeed aware of the project. They have included new music in concert, and I have heard fine things about their progress under the baton of Maestro Kalmar. I also believe that it is not just the Music Director’s presence that makes or breaks an orchestra, but the community support, and the internal groups of people that stir activity and enthusiasm in the organization. Volunteers, Women’s Leagues, Visiting Guest Artists throughout the community, etc, are what keep the spirit of the organization in motion. Although I have not yet been a guest artist of the Oregon Symphony, (though hope to be sometime soon), they have a national presence and high reputation and it is the hope of many that they will progress as time moves forward. Of course, one cannot deny that we live in the 21st century, and what was new music 20-30 years ago will inevitably be accepted in the standard repertoire during the course of this century--providing it is accessible and audience-friendly music.


Anonymous said...

Yesterday I wrote: "The author failed to include the fact that, in addition to the standard rep and a novelty here and there, the absence of world-class soloists (aka stars) with the Oregon (and others) is contributing to the decline. Personally I couldn't get paid to hear an unkown, provincial newbie. Sorry. Where are Anna Netrebko, Renee Fleming, Cheryl Studer, Angela Gheorghiu, for example and to stick with renowned sopranos, in the Oregon programs?"

And the list goes on. But the question remains unanswered. So, where are the world-class soloists, where are the world-class conductors?

Z. Carstensen said...

I wish I had an answer for you. There is no question quality guest artists are a draw - but not the only draw. I do find myself buying tickets to hear a certain soloist or hear a conductor ply his/her trade at Benaroya Hall. But, just as often, I find myself buying a ticket for what's on the program.

Jeffrey Biegel said...

Many orchestras cannot afford the high price tags on certain soloists, and if they cannot, it gives false hope to the audiences in those communities that they will get them. Hey, it's about the music man. I wouldn't have the schedule I have this season if it were not for the 20 years of orchestras booking me in all kinds of situations--big orchestras, regional orchestras etc. I say 'go for the piece'--if the orchestra can get some name you like, great. Go for the world-class music--you never know, you may like what you hear when someone you don't recognize comes to town and 'wows' you. They're out there too. You'll focus on the music, and not the person.