on the record: August 2009 Archives
I've written about this subject before, but the older I get the more baffled I am by the wall that seems to exist in this country between symphonic conducting and operatic conducting. It is not necessarily true at the highest level, where conductors operating at both major opera houses and major orchestras are not at all uncommon (James Levine, Andrew Davis, Donald Runnicles). But in smaller and mid-sized communities, there seems to be very little crossover, even in cities that have both an opera company and an orchestra. Furthermore, I have often talked with people involved in music director searches for symphony orchestras--not only lay people, but even orchestra musicians--who have said, "Oh, he's an opera conductor," with a tone of disparagement and an implication that the orchestra wouldn't be interested in him.
An absolutely delightful compact disc that was issued recently made me wonder whatever happened to the transcription. The disc (Naxos 8.572050) is José Serebrier's second CD with the Bournemouth Symphony of Bach transcriptions, and half of it consists of transcriptions by Leopold Stokowski of music by other composers: Palestrina, Byrd, Boccherini, Haydn, Jeremiah Clarke, and Johann Mattheson.
A variety of recent recordings have caught my attention, and they've made me think about the cliché that the classical-music recording industry is dead. It most certainly is not dead. It is changed.
I have written often about the various ways in which classical music has managed to distance itself from the public, including potential new audience members. Focus groups over many years now, when talking to people who go to the theater and to museums, and even opera performances, have found that those same people resist attending symphony concerts because they feel intimidated. Phrases such as "well, I don't know enough about that music to appreciate it" are repeated over and over again.