1. Greg, the Brooklyn Phil sure got a lot of favorable attention back when Robert Spano and Joe Horowitz were doing the (excellent) programming there. (It seemed like they were getting better reviews than the New York Philharmonic.) Do you know anything about how well or poorly the Brooklyn Phil was doing financially at that point?

    Hi, Matt. Good question to ask. First, the Brooklyn Philharmonic has been in financial trouble constantly. When I worked for the NY State Council on the Arts in the ’70s, they were badly run. Don’t remember what their finances were like, but they’ve been a perpetual problem child.

    Joe did programming that critics loved, but few people came to see it. Joe’s flagship programs — big festivals of flamenco, for instance, with all sorts of chamber concerts added to the main orchestra program — drew many people. And then the other concerts during the season would be half full. I saw that for myself. I’m always amazed — and I say this with full respect for Joe — that his seasons are regarded (by himself and others, including critics and the Knight Foundation) as models for what orchestras should do, because overall they weren’t successful.

    Under Spano, again, the Brooklyn Phil was the critics’ darling. But ticket sales, as far as I can see, were spotty. The problem the orchestra has had for a generation was this — is it Brooklyn’s mainstream classical orchestra, or NYC’s hipster orchestra? As time went on, there didn’t seem to be a large enough classical audience in Brooklyn to sustain the group, or enough adventurous classical music people willing to go to Brooklyn for concerts. So both models of the Brooklyn Phil didn’t do very well.

    At one time — when Lukas Foss was music director, back in the ’70s, and before that, there might have been a large enough mainstream audience in Brooklyn to sustain the group, or at least to keep it going on some level. But I think the overall shrinking of the classical audience eventually meant that there were just too few people willing to make the Brooklyn Phil the center of their classical concertgoing.

  2. All I can say is “wow!” This is a total re-invention of what has become a hackneyed formula for orchestral planning and programming. Would that I lived in Brooklyn instead of Iowa!

  3. This adventure smacks of desperation – a sort of dinner theatre..

    where the dinner is 2nd. rate and the theatre even more so . Lena

    Horne-Mos def ain’t Beethoven or Copland . To pretend that they

    can interchange is a farce and a deceptive game of musical chairs in

    which the participants can play the game of “feel good ” for bringing

    “culture” to the masses .Mr. Pierson will prevail for a while and when something more substantial comes along will be off like a shot . It all boils down to that word “culture ” and cultivation which is in short supply

    nowadays . To put Mos Def on same program with Beethoven is more

    than ridiculous it is pathetically laughable and speaks volumes on

    the desperation to get any audience however low on the scale

    of musical culture .

  4. “And the emphasis now shifts to new music. Aren’t we supposed to like that?

    And can classical music survive anywhere, in the long run, if most performances are old music? I’m not at all sure of that.”

    These are very valid points. I’m curious as to what we define as “classical” and is their a difference between classical adaptations of popular music and popular adaptations of classical music. And at what point do we just not care about classifications and just accept the fact that it’s music, and it’s awesome, and a lot of people have worked really hard to create it?

  5. It’s interesting and innovative but there really isn’t all that much orchestral music in this paradigm. Throwing Beethoven 3 into the mix as a nod to the history of the orchestra seems pointless if the rest of the season is lumped around Mos Def and “indie classical” stuff. Oh well. Will be interesting to see how long this lasts.