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Orchestras: April 2008 Archives

A Revolutionary Orchestra

Parkdale Revolutionary Orchestra by Susan Carey

Bold approach breathes new life into classical music

There's nothing so off-the-wall that somebody hasn't thought of it

By Nigel Hannaford
Calgary Herald

Mitzi's Sister is a small club in the Parkdale area of Toronto. Home cooking, a stage, it holds 150 people. Small as these things go. But, it was there just over three years ago, that Parkdale Revolutionary Orchestra first took the stage.

Big moment in the history of music? Too early to say.

However, a few weeks ago, this space dealt with the sort of music that can pay its own way, with no top-ups from the Canada Council. I jested that if classical music was to rescue itself from its socio-economic isolation – its audience shrinks, as it ages – it would have to rebrand itself as something risque, to be enjoyed in seedy little rock-clubs where it's best to sit near an exit, with one's back to the wall. Only when it could make it without a grant, could it once more be considered an expression of contemporary culture.

But, irony is hard these days. There's nothing so off-the-wall that somebody else hasn't thought of it, or done it.

Read more about this at the Calgary Herald website:

Montreal in New York

Kent Nagano by Hanya Chlala/Erato

Supercharged Solo Followed by a Cosmic Energy Riot

By Anthony Tommasini

That the Montreal Symphony Orchestra sounded so terrific at Carnegie Hall on Saturday night should reassure longtime admirers of this top-tier ensemble. The orchestra has had a rough few years.

In 2002 Charles Dutoit, the music director who had taken the orchestra to new realms of excellence, abruptly resigned over what he asserted were challenges to his artistic authority. In response, many players went public with stories of longstanding animosity between Mr. Dutoit and orchestra members. In 2003 it was announced that Kent Nagano would become the new music director, but not until 2006. Then in 2005, for the second time in a decade, the players went on strike, staging a five-month work stoppage.

But the musicians seem very content with Mr. Nagano, who began Saturday's program with a glowing, refined yet urgent performance of symphonic fragments from Debussy's "Martyre de St. Sébastien." This 20-minute, four-movement suite was drawn by the composer André Caplet from an elaborate score, including choruses and dance music, that Debussy composed for a play by Gabriele d'Annunzio in 1911.

Read more about this at the New York Times website:

Royal Opera House Orchestra

The quiet revolution:
musicians' exposure to noise
New EU regulations aimed at protecting workers from noise will affect orchestras dramatically

By Debra Craine
Times Online

As a professional dance critic, and a self-confessed ballet nut, I have spent my life in thrall to Tchaikovsky. I love the sound of a big orchestra in a big lyric theatre blasting out one of his big ballet scores. The louder the better, and The Sleeping Beauty best of all. So when I had the chance to sit in the orchestra pit during a performance of Sleeping Beauty at the Royal Opera House it was a fantasy come true. How better to experience the lustrous wonder of that majestic music than to sit beside the musicians who play it?

I knew the sound was going to be fantastic, and it was – Valeriy Ovsyanikov and 75 musicians of the Royal Opera House Orchestra saw to that – and it was indeed thrilling to be down there in the middle of it. But as the Rose Adagio unfolded, and Tchaikovsky's writing grew ever grander, another sensation began to worm its way into my consciousness – pain. My ears started to hurt, thanks to the short sharp shrieks of the flutes, the crash of the cymbals and the blare of the French horns.

Imagine, therefore, how you would feel if you were a professional musician and you were playing Sleeping Beauty every night, or indeed Strauss's Salome or any part of Wagner's Ring cycle? A wall of sound may be exciting for audiences, but it can also mean exposure to damaging levels of noise for musicians trapped in a pit like goldfish in a bowl.

Read more about this at the Times Online website:

End of the CBC Radio Orchestra

CBC Radio Orchestra

CBC needs to be saved from its supporters

By Kelly McParland
National Post

The CBC is going through one of its regular bouts of self-induced angst as it struggles to rationalize the money it spends with its inability to attract an audience significant enough to justify those expenditures.

This time the argument is taking place on two fronts, one the decision to shuffle the programming on Radio 2 to reduce the emphasis on classical music, the other to kill off the CBC radio orchestra, the last radio orchestra in North America.

The resistance to both moves has been both predictable and fierce. True believers in the CBC may be few in numbers – and becoming fewer, it seems, with each passing year – but they're passionate. And they don't keep their opinions to themselves.

Read the complete article at the National Post website: