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NY Phil’s Contact Leans Away From US (Musical America)

My article today in Musical America reviews the NY Philharmonic’s Contact! Concert on 12/16 at the Met Museum. While I enjoyed the music – hearing HK Gruber perform Frankenstein!! was a particular treat –  I took issue with the announcement at the event of Alan Gilbert being awarded Columbia University’s Ditson Prize, which recognizes a conductor for his advocacy for American composers. This season, the Contact! series includes only one American: Elliott Carter. It’s a far cry from their inaugural season just two years ago, when they featured Sean Shepherd, Nico Muhly, Arlene Sierra, and others. Perhaps Maestro Gilbert will take the opportunity of being acknowledged for past programming decisions to reinvest future seasons of Contact! with a commitment to emerging American composers.


Comment from wharrgarbl
Time: December 21, 2011, 2:40 pm

Can we just face the facts. Classical music is a European tradition. While there are some roots of classical music here in America, the amount of history and passion for Classical music (including “modern” classical) in Europe is jaw dropping. People in Europe like and understand the tradition while as Americans can try to copy or are led into the music through our education system but will never be able to fully understand the spirit within the music. American composers will never be able to come out of the shadows cast over them by the titans from across the ocean as long as they choose to stand under those shadows. I don’t mean to say stop composing in the style that you may be or playing the type of music you do or listening to music you like and are interested in but know where it comes from and why a European leaning audience will prefer European composers. Schoenberg has a quote about how Jazz is in Americans’ blood. I say, be true to yourself and sincere in what you create. IF you are a Euro type person great but if not, don’t get upset that Eurocentric people will prefer Eurocentric music.

Comment from zeno
Time: December 21, 2011, 5:59 pm

In response to the first comment left above, alot of Eurocentric people apparently also like William Billings, Stephen Foster, Charles Ives, George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, Elliott Carter, Phillip Glass, Steve Reich, and many others.

In fact, some European Union opera houses seem to prefer operas by Philip Glass to more traditionally modernist Eurocentric operas.

(I believe that John Cage’s reputation is beginning to go into eclipse among Eurocentric peoples, although I could be wrong about this; as I don’t follow Cageian and post-Cageian music all that much.)

I agree with the basic thrust of Christian Carey’s brief op-ed, although I will take American composers (including Ruth Crawford Seeger and Gloria Coates and numerous underrecognized others) along with emerging American composers.

Comment from Christian Hertzog
Time: December 23, 2011, 2:20 pm

Maybe it’s a pre-emptive strike kinda thing like giving Obama a Nobel Peace Prize?

Comment from wharrgarble
Time: December 26, 2011, 2:34 pm

Christian, hahahahah you’re probably right. It just seems like American symphonies and opera houses traditionally try to be more European than Europe while not appreciating the fine music that is already being written in the good ol US of A. I think the NY Phil has identity issues.