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Orchestras: July 2008 Archives

More Adventurous Programs Please

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Thomas W. Morris by Fred Rothenberg

Adventures in Concert Programming

By Anthony Tommasini
New York Times

Thomas W. Morris, a former executive director of the Cleveland Orchestra and now a consultant to orchestras, is hardly naïve about the tradition-bound field of classical music. He realizes that conductors of American orchestras face many pressures to play it safe in choosing programs.

Still, it exasperates him that so many conductors seem so wary of taking chances with unconventional or challenging programs.

"When I'm on a consulting project and I encounter a boring program," he said in a telephone interview, "inevitably I'm told, 'The marketing department made us do it.'" But to him hewing to the timeworn three-part program (an overture, a concerto, a popular symphony) makes as little sense financially as it does artistically.

Read more about this at the New York Times website:

   http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/20/arts/music/20tomm.html

An Organization Reinvented

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Symphony Silicon Valley

Symphony Orchestra 2.0

By David Bratman
San Francisco Classical Voice

San José, as its boosters like to point out, is now the largest city in Northern California. But if it's the leader in population, it has a ways to go to catch up to San Francisco in cultural influence. Still, San José is far from the cultural desert that its flat sprawling landscape might suggest to residents of hillier, more congested parts of the Bay Area. The lively downtown has a flavor to it that you could find, perhaps to your equal surprise, in places like Sacramento and Santa Rosa. And there are musical performances well worth hearing here, enough to enthuse the locals and perhaps even draw audiences from outside the city and its suburbs.

San José's leading concert ensemble is Symphony Silicon Valley. Born in 2002 out of the ashes of the old San José Symphony (see a story recounted by SFCV here), it has grown cautiously over the years, with surprising and gratifying success. The orchestra was artistically mature from the beginning, drawing most of its personnel from its predecessor. Where SSV has really grown is in scheduling.

Read more about this at the San Francisco Classical Voice website:

   http://www.sfcv.org/2008/07/01/symphony-orchestra-20/

Leonard Slatkin, by Steve J Sherman

Conductor Comes to A Coda

NSO's Leonard Slatkin Leaves on a Note of Regret

By Anne Midgette
Washington Post

Leonard Slatkin is temperamentally nervous. When he takes the stage to conduct, he walks out rapidly, slightly hunched, his head thrust forward, as if moving through a gauntlet and trying to protect himself from the needling arrows of thousands of watching eyes. In person, in his office at the Kennedy Center, he sits back in a pose of assumed relaxation, his soft Muppet face marked with thick white eyebrows and a sharp line of a mouth, and chats.

But he skitters across topics, anticipating the criticism that may be lurking behind every question, mentioning it, steering away from it, then returning to it to show that he is not steering away from it, until one is left with the impression that outside criticism, despite his protests to the contrary, matters to him very much indeed.

The general impression is that conducting is a difficult metier for a man who describes himself as having been chronically shy in his youth. The particular impression, as Slatkin talks about his 12-year tenure at the head of the National Symphony Orchestra, is of encountering someone in the final throes of a failing marriage, going over ground that has been trodden many times before, prodding the scars of old wounds that still have a tired ache.

Read more about this at the Washington Post website:

   http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/26/AR2008062603240.html

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