The Eschenbach years begin
In Friday's Washington Post: The National Symphony Orchestra audience directs its attention to Eschenbach, by Anne Midgette.
Here's one thing I didn't mention in my review (linked above) of last night's concert: it did a pretty poor job of functioning as as opening night of the NATIONAL Symphony Orchestra, unless the nation in question was Germany. They did start with the Star-Spangled Banner (I've written about that practice before); but after that came Matthias Pintscher and Ludwig van Beethoven, led by Christoph Eschenbach. Not even an Austrian to leaven the mixture a bit.
(read more after the jump)
However -- and I am a little nervous about saying this in public -- when I thought about it, I found that I really didn't care that much. Yes, it would be great if we played more American music, and its absence last night only underlines how meaningless the word "National" actually is in the names of this city's orchestra and opera company. But after all, the NSO's last music director made a laudable effort to emphasize the "national" aspect, and I'm not sure it actually changed the profile of the institution. (One of the most common complaints I hear from readers about the Slatkin era concerns all that awful new music he did.)
I do think that new music needs champions, and I'm glad to see that Eschenbach will put his money where his mouth is in that regard (as Slatkin did). But as I prepared to mount the "Give us American music" soapbox, I felt a sense of weariness, and not just because I had just written a review at top speed at the end of a very long day. Look: what I want to hear is interesting music, good music, music someone cares about. Eschenbach offered a personal view of a piece he likes, and it was the strongest performance of the night. I think that's a lot better than compelling the man to play something he's less excited about simply because we have to have an American piece on the program.
That's my two cents. But I would love to hear what others think. Should the National Symphony have included an American work on its opening program? Should Eschenbach be forced to do American works? Should the NSO have hired an American music director? Do we need to stay consistently focused on this particular message?
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