Quarter notes: institutions

Who was that little German speaking fellow?

However, the aversion to change has become so institutionalized, the concert hall of today might be one of the few places where something 100 years old is still called ‘modern’, where, if somehow miraculously reincarnated, a dazed Schubert could probably wander the halls for a week in his tailcoat and spectacles without drawing any attention (who was that little German-speaking fellow, the new violist? Shrug). The past, obsessively glorified, with its stranglehold on the present, is in no serious danger of being forgotten any time soon. For the sake of the future, the bonds might need to be loosened a bit.

From Michael Hovnanian’s Bass Blog. The entire post, titled A Country for Old Men, is a fascinating and thought provoking read on age and the modern orchestra. I found it especially fascinating because last night I read Alex Ross’s latest New Yorker column: Schubert on the Beach. Ross writes about the New World Symphony’s new hall in Miami, but he also says about Michael Tilson Thomas — the New World Symphony’s founding music director — “no other conductor today seems so alert to the entire cultural landscape around him.”

Age is at play in both pieces.  In Florida, young musicians led by their young at heart music director are trying everything in their power to enliven the concert experience.  They aren’t pandering to the audience with tricks, gimmicks, or other diversions.  Their experiments are an essential part of the concert experience.  Yet, in far too many concert halls, Hovnanian’s observations are the norm and Schubert can roam free.


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