A tale of two orchestras
Last year, the New York Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Philharmonic both introduced new, young music directors, Alan Gilbert and Gustavo Dudamel, who were going to bring a new face to their respective organizations. This year, as if to emphasize the similarities, both orchestras held their press conferences for their 2010-11 seasons yesterday at exactly the same time.
It’s easy to see them as a comparison between tradition and the new: between the “old money” of the august New York Phil and the funky arriviste of the orchestra in L.A., which even before Dudamel had established its hip quotient with the tenure of Esa-Pekka Salonen and the spectacular Disney Hall. Now, though, both orchestras are moving on parallel tracks in what appears to be an attempt to put their money where their mouths are in terms of bringing each organization into a more active role in the life of its city -- and into the 20th century. It’s fair to say that the New York Philharmonic has farther to travel to attain this goal.
(read more after the jump)
There are certainly marked similarities between the two seasons. Salonen will conduct two weeks in Los Angeles and three in New York (where he will lead a mini-festival called Hungarian Echoes); in both New York and L.A. he will conduct Bartok’s “Bluebeard’s Castle” in a video/staged production. The British composer Thomas Ades is curating five programs in L.A. for a festival called “Aspects of Ades,” which will include both orchestral and chamber concerts; while in New York, Gilbert will conduct his piece “In Seven Days,” written to celebrate new halls in Los Angeles and London.
Both orchestras have contemporary music festivals, though L.A.’s “Green Umbrella” series, overseen by John Adams, is more extensive than New York’s “Contact.” Both orchestras are going to Europe; the New York Philharmonic, which just got back from a European tour in January, is going twice. Some of these things are simply part of the way that a certain kind of forward-thinking musical institution seeks to reach out to audiences and keep itself moving forward; the programming wouldn't be out of place at Carnegie Hall.
The biggest differences lie in the way that each season reflects its music director. Gilbert has from the start clearly had big plans for the Philharmonic and is actively going about implementing them and putting his stamp on the place. He launched the “Contact” series, brought in Magnus Lindberg as composer-in-residence (new works by Lindberg and Aaron Jay Kernis are on the program), and is clearly pushing for more multimedia and staged opera; before we’ve even seen this season’s “Grand Macabre,” he’s planning a fully-staged “Cunning Little Vixen” by the same director, Douglas Fitch. He’s also keeping up the bread-and-butter fare: Mahler’s 5th and 6th Symphonies and Mendelssohn’s Elijah are other 2010-11 highlights, reflecting a certain conservatism present in his musical approach
Dudamel is less of a thinker: he is a musical animal, with ineffable star power. While I imagine that he welcomes what is going on in L.A.’s lavish cornucopia of a season, I doubt he initiated much of it himself; Deborah Borda, the orchestra’s president and CEO, is the stronger voice, in the press release, in presenting it. There’s nothing wrong with that: not every conductor wants to be the main idea man, and there are plenty of exciting ideas flying around Los Angeles (9 world premieres; the
new position of “creative chair for jazz,” filled by Herbie Hancock; Baroque orchestras; the continuation of a youth orchestra modeled on El Sistema, the Venezuelan system that fostered Dudamel). It's perhaps less expected that Dudamel projects a certain conservatism as well; he's a brilliant conductor, but not a break-the-rules one, though his tremendous charisma sometimes makes it look as though he were more of a wild child than he actually is.
The announcements also come as a reminder that the relation between a music director and his or her orchestra is not a sprint but a long haul, and the real benefits tend to reveal themselves slowly over time. It will be interesting to see how Gilbert and the New York players develop; I've heard some promising accounts about this relationship from others who shared my disappointment with opening night. And it will be really interesting to see whether Dudamel becomes someone who does think of new initiatives, new projects and plans. But the fact that we're interested at all is already, itself, a big step in the right direction.
Posted by: LisaHirsch1 | February 17, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: MidgetteA | February 17, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: BobTatFORE | February 17, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: cicciofrancolando | February 17, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: cicciofrancolando | February 17, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: MidgetteA | February 17, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: snaketime1 | February 17, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: LisaHirsch1 | February 17, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: cicciofrancolando | February 17, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: LisaHirsch1 | February 17, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: clarkson_hammond | February 17, 2010 10:23 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Thehorn2 | February 18, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: snaketime1 | February 18, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.