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In Search of Creative Programming, and a Bailout

The Minnesota Orchestra has agreed to contract modifications amounting to savings of $4.2 million dollars. The Houston Symphony is on furlough next week, representing a savings of $900,000. And those are just the latest entries on the recession watch list. Let’s hope the bleeding stops soon.

As for my plaint that arts organizations are too quick to cut creative artistic programming when faced with financial difficulties: of course, this isn't true across the board. A commenter earlier this week pointed, rightly, to the Baltimore Symphony as a good example of an organization in financial trouble that's responding with a strong program next year. I agree, though I think they remain an exception to the rule; I wish more groups (particularly opera companies) would follow their lead. But I’d be happy to collect here examples of groups that are following their artistic mandates, despite the recession, and lead off the list with the BSO. Other suggestions?

By Anne Midgette  |  August 6, 2009; 6:31 AM ET
Categories:  national , news  
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Comments

Here's one formula: great music making. It worked for the Dallas Symphony which reported increased attendance following Jaap van Zweden's appointment, and in spite of recent troubles, for the Minnesota Orchestra whose attendance is still bigger than what it was before Osmo Vanska was appointed conductor (though, from what I understand - someone please correct me if I am wrong - the non-Vanska concerts are not as well attended in Minneapolis...)

Posted by: cicciofrancolando | August 6, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of artistic mandates, if you have a moment, I’d be curious to hear what you think is the mandate of the Washington National Opera. I heard it referred to the other day on local public radio as ‘Plácido Domingo’s international Washington National Opera.’ I thought that this might cause confusion in listeners’ minds, especially those who don’t follow the arts that closely.

As to your question, I think that the San Francisco Symphony is following its exceptionally well thought out artistic and educational mandates. That Symphony’s Mahler cycle, which started on September 12, 2001 – the day after the 9/11 tragedy—with Mahler’s Sixth Symphony (the “Tragic”) will continue on schedule (and conclude) in September with Michael Tilson Thomas leading and recording Susan Graham and Thomas Hampson in two remaining Mahler song cycles, as part of a three-week festival of that composer’s works.

Even more importantly for American culture as a whole, I think, the Symphony is continuing its “Keeping Score” television and DVD/Blu Ray distribution project by introducing documentaries and concerts on PBS on Berlioz, Ives, and Shostakovich. The programs are accompanied by an exciting web-site and extensive materials for public educators – something sorely needed, I believe, in post Proposition 13 and Reagan-Bush America.

http://www.keepingscore.org/

The Mahler song-cycles, this fall, will not only be recorded but also filmed as part of the “Keeping Score” television and DVD/Blu Ray project, and will comprise – as I understand it - a separate, even more in-depth “Origins and Legacies” documentary and concert program series on Mahler. The “Origins and Legacies” project will also explore lesser-known Mahler works.

The San Francisco Symphony has also invited cellist Yo Yo Ma and composer George Benjamin as guest music curators for the upcoming season. (The NSO has invited composer John Adams for this season, and hinted that composer Oliver Knussen will be returning in a later season. But the NSO has no public media educational component matching that of the San Francisco Symphony).

Posted by: snaketime1 | August 7, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

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