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Better than expected?

Alex Ross gives a rundown of upcoming seasons at both the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestras. There’s a fair amount of contemporary work on the bills from both coasts, though I can’t help feeling the “biggest” events have a somewhat buddy-buddy feel.


Comment from Richard Mitnick
Time: February 17, 2010, 1:31 pm

Alex Ross’ article is especially interesting after Anthony Tommasini in the NYT on Feb 12,, Ann Midgette’s response, , and Kyle Gann’s response,

Comment from zeno
Time: February 18, 2010, 1:04 pm

Thanks Steve. Without implying criticism, would you care to expand on what you mean by “buddy-buddy” (or the “biggest events”)? And, are you basing your comment on Alex Ross’s summary, or the full brochures of each orchestra including the full NYC CONTACT! programming? (Personally, I found it difficult to read the brochures clearly on-line.)

Are you referring to the programming of a large number of works by the British and Irish composers Thomas Ades, Richard Ayers, Gerald Barry, and Julian Anderson? Or to the programming of works of Rihm, Gubaidulina, or Marsalis? Or to Lindberg and Grisey? Or to the fact that Artistic Administrator John Mangum worked in Los Angeles before coming to NYC or that LAPhil CEO Deborah Borda worked in NYC before coming to LA? (Here locally, the powerful artististic administrators of both the National Symphony Orchestra and the so-called Washington National Opera are much more firmly European-rooted at the professional level – in London, Munich, and Hamburg — at the major recording companies, publishing houses, and state-funded opera houses).

Are you implying that you saw more American contemporary classical music programming promise in former NYPhil artistic administrator Matías Tarnopolsky, who recently decamped to Berkeley?


Comment from Steve Layton
Time: February 18, 2010, 1:24 pm

The Contact! and Green Umbrella concerts are great, no problem (special shout-out to Jay Alan Yim, nice to see him on there!). But on the “main event”– the actual orchestra, big stage stuff — even though there’s plenty of newer work, a lot of it perfectly interesting, there’s a feeling of a lot of the usual suspects.

Comment from Herb Levy
Time: February 18, 2010, 9:27 pm


I understand what you mean here, and even, sort of, why you wrote it, but it really seems no less “buddy-buddy” (though with a significantly different group of buddies), to make this kind of criticism.

The big five or the big ten or whatever the number of “major” orchestras is nowadays haven’t programmed any new music by other than usual suspects on their main concerts series’ for I don’t know how long. This is so unlikely to change, that I find it difficult to imagine how work by any composer could be programmed in this context without that composer already fitting whatever other qualifications of suspicious usualness may apply.

In fact, the main qualification for being one of the usual suspects probably IS being programmed on the main series of one or more of the “major” orchestras.

Comment from Steve Layton
Time: February 18, 2010, 10:25 pm

You’ve pretty well nailed it, Herb. It’s kind of a very-slow-shifting pack, that mostly moves in a circular web feeding off itself. Like most any “celebrity”-driven, big money art/media, not really surprising given the cost/risk balance.

I’m not really antipathetic to the composers listed for both orchestras; it’s just that almost nothing I’m seeing makes my brain sit up and go “Boy howdy!”… I do like the two smaller series names quite a bit, though once again it just cements chamber music as where 99% of the pay-off is.

Comment from Christian
Time: February 18, 2010, 10:41 pm

I think you’re really onto something here Steve. There does seem to be a very familiar cast of characters in both the NYPO and LA Phil’s programming.

Conversely, who do you think should be programmed more by American orchestras?

Comment from Christian
Time: February 20, 2010, 9:59 am

My big orchestra playlist wishlist:

It’s a bit of a ‘ trad avant’ list – just my mood this AM- but these works by household names are seldom performed by big name US orchestras.

Babbitt: Concerti, Piano Concertos 1&2 – terrific pieces – very few performances.
Cage: Sixteen Dances (check out my review of BMOP’s new recording this weekend)
Elliott Carter: Oboe Concerto
Charles Wuorinen: Symphony 7, Piano Concerto 1, River of Light (suite)
Lukas Foss: Symphonies