The orchestral repertoire is vast, and it reaches all the way from the 18th Century to the brand new works being written right now by a young composer who might become the next Beethoven or Tchaikovsky! Choosing which of these thousands of works to present on any given concert is a daunting task for any music director. Over the past several decades, a formula was arrived at by major orchestras to address the issue. The formula was, in a nutshell:
Famous Overture by Famous Composer
Famous Concerto with Famous Guest Artist
Famous Symphony by Famous Composer
This formula was extremely successful for most orchestras around the world for an extraordinarily long time. It seemed to satisfy the public, as well as the governments and foundations that supported the arts. Orchestras were thriving, concert halls were full, and the future seemed rosy. But no one saw the coming shifts in society that would radically change population demographics, available free time for arts events, and the public’s taste. A revolution was underway, and orchestras began to fold, reorganize, and even to question their relevancy in the modern world.
I am convinced that symphony orchestras are an indispensable part of a healthy society, but that they must also actively participate in that society. In the next installment I will share with you my views on how a fresh approach to concert programming can help.