on the record: March 2008 Archives
I try hard not to use this space to review or recommend specific items, but I must make an exception here. I have been listening recently to some genuine miracles of audio restoration - the work of a company called Pristine Audio. Pristine Audio uses digital technology to, in essence, re-create the frequencies that are missing or diminished on early recordings, thus coming much closer to a full sonic spectrum on recordings that have always, prior to this, sounded somewhat dim. In some cases, the transformation is truly great - bringing to life some extraordinary recorded performances that can now be appreciated much more fully than ever before. Three of these recordings are classics led by Willem Mengelberg, the great Dutch conductor.
In the 45 years that I have been professionally associated with symphony orchestras in America, I have lost count of the number of times an alarm has been sounded about the state of crisis in which they exist, sometimes with warnings of the imminent demise of the industry. So far, at least, those alarms have proven to be false ones - and for the most part, symphony orchestras are more vibrant, healthy, and vital now than they have ever been. That does not mean that they don't have challenges, much like the entire non-profit field, but it does mean that they have learned how to address them.
We at the League of American Orchestras constantly look for examples that might inspire orchestras to think about community engagement in new ways - we call it "achieving civic stature," meaning that it makes the orchestra important to your whole community, not just your main-series audience. While visiting Houston, I learned of a remarkable project of the Houston Grand Opera that struck me for its boldness and the depth of its impact, and I thought I would share it.
It continues to amaze (and please) me to see orchestras flourish in small communities, even with the presence of other orchestras not far away. It underlines the fact that communities want something of their own, something to point to with pride.