Saturday, June 19, 2010

I keep missing birthdays

Thursday, June 17, was the birthday - 128th, I believe - of Igor Stravinsky, another of my favorites. Unfortunately, I have not had time to listen to any of his music, though WPRB Princeton, my classical station of choice, played his second suite for small orchestra that morning, which is what reminded me. Over the next couple of years, we'll celebrate the centenaries of the three big ballets, so there will be plenty of time for listening.

The Philadelphia Orchestra, my hometown band, announced this week it has selected Yannick Nézet-Séguin as its new music director. This makes only eight, I believe,in the past 110 years. But the tenures are getting shorter. The days are gone when a Stowkowski would stay for twenty years or an Ormandy for forty. Jet aircraft simply make it too easy to fly off to other gigs, and anyway, who really wants to live in Philadelphia if he doesn't have to? I suppose this kid will be a bright young presence, but don't expect him to stick around very long. He doesn't even start full-time until 2012.

Gone, too, are the days when the orchestra was a source of civic pride supported by private fortunes. Industry in this city has declined, educated listeners have fled to the suburbs, and subscribers are dying off. The orchestra's very days may be numbered.

In any event, I must confess I'm one of those indifferent listeners who have given up their subscriptions. Some have stopped coming because they say there's too much modern music. I stopped because there's too little. After 40 years of waiting for them to toss me a bone and program some Ives or Elliott Carter, I have gone elsewhere for my fixes.

In fairness, I should say that Ingo Metzmacher conducted the orchestra in a terrific performance of Ives' Second Orchestral Set a few years ago, before Verizon Hall opened. I mentioned to him then that the Philadelphians have never pplayed Ives' Fourth Symphony, and he could be the first to conduct it here. Nothing has come of the suggestion.


Dough said...

It's encouraging that there is a great population growth of educated people in the Center City area, which may translate into renewed interest in the Orchestra. But clearly the loss of great industry and its support of the orchestra is a challenge. I am in the suburbs, but do get to the Orchestra several times a year. Recently I attended Mahler's Third and was absolutely transfixed and whelmed by the scale and beauty. It was a sold-out house. Yes, I would love to hear more Ives and others of that era, as well as some Steven Reich and the young Turks of that generation, along with the great classics. Anyway, happy birthday to Igor! Thanks for taking notice.

Joe Barron said...

Thanks for your insight. Your comments about the Mahler Third would indicate that there's still an appetite for great, live music in this city. In any case, I wish the orchestra and its new music director every success. I might even start attending concerts again to hear what all the fuss is about.