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Boston loses another classical asset

The symphony orchestra can’t sign a music director. The New England Conservatory is in all kinds of disarray. Now we hear that the radio station WGBH is losing one of its top classical broadcasters as a result of cutbacks and union standoffs. Read all about it here. Music in Boston seems to be presently blighted.

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  1. Daniel Farber says:

    WGBH’s track record–i.e. relegating BSO broadcasts to its weak-signaled outlet, WCRB, and eliminating the broadcasts on Friday afternoon–lead one to infer that whatever they elect to replace Mr. Bell with will not be as good as Mr. Bell. Of course they could, if they were really interested in saving money, revert to a practice that obtained in the 40′s and 50′s: doing nothing at intermission except broadcasting the sound of the hall. Dead air. Those at home could, say, go the bathroom, take the Clumber Spaniel for a walk, fix a new matrini, read some letters in the NYRB, any or all in the relaxation of knowing they wouldn’t miss anything. That’s probably the last best (and admittedly not very realistic) hope and not a bad one.

    • Aaron Z. Snyder says:

      Daniel Farber’s description of those halcyon days of WGBH’s minimalist intermission programming bring back some very fond memories of feeling like a blind fly on one of the walls in Symphony Hall. Even when the announcer (usually William Pierce) came on, he seemed like a fellow (but sighted) fly whose only intrusion was to read the program notes and tell us when the conductor came on stage. There was no editorializing, and no selling of the BSO to the listening audience. We already knew that we had a good product; otherwise, why were we listening?
      As for Brian Bell, he never stooped to flogging the BSO, either, nor did he dumb things down to appeal to the masses ignorant of all things classical. Yet, for anyone who was interested in the details of what was being played and who was playing it, Brian was a definite asset. Now that he’s gone, I have this awful feeling that we’ll soon have the “Gee whiz, kids!” style of announcing to intrude upon our attempts at enjoying music. Sure wish I could be a fly again!

  2. What Boston has lost is its base “classical ” audience. Once the Boston Symphony was the pride of
    the city now except for the die hards it means very little .

    • Daniel Farber says:

      It was in the midst of becoming “the pride of the city” yet again, Ariel, during James Levine’s tenure in a way that it not been since the end of the Koussevitsky era. The unfortunate result of Levine’s ailments for Boston is not that management is taking so long to name a new music director; it is rather that the one it will select will more than likely be “market driven” (like the deplorable Ozawa). I’m sure you remember when Cleveland selected a music director almost nobody in Cleveland had ever heard of: Christolph von Dohnanyi. The artistic results put that orchestra back on the map. The NY Philarmonic, unsccessful in wooing the overrated Muti, went in a completely different direction with Gilbert, and now their concerts are at least interesting and sometimes attract an audience under the age of 40. We can hope Boston will go the same way, but so far they seem not to be interested in either Robertson or Spano or in luring MTT, and Vanska has yet even to set foot in Symphony Hall.

  3. SAM MIHAILOFF says:


    ahhhhhh the good old days when one could listen to the bliss of Seymour DeKoven…”Super OTW”…is gone

    Montreal radio and Quebec radio can be picked up online…They have yet to succumb to this madness of American Commercial Dominance

  4. Well, isn’t this grim. And not a little misleading. Let’s remember: the BSO lost James Levine mid-contract and you don’t just go out to the Symphony Store on the corner and pick a new music director off the shelf. The Chicago Symphony spent four seasons without a music director between Barenboim’s departure and Muti’s arrival and, if anything, they were a better orchestra in 2010 than they were in 2006 because of the hiatus. Perhaps that’ll be the case for the BSO. They certainly have a decent line-up of programs this season, especially considering the artistic leadership vacuum they’re experiencing. What’s more, there are plenty of other ensembles in town that pick up where the BSO leaves off – the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Handel and Haydn Society, Boston Philharmonic, Discovery Ensemble, and A Far Cry, just to name a few. So is classical music in Boston blighted? By cancellations, sometimes; by WGBH (which you sometimes can’t even hear in Back Bay), perhaps – but it’s hardly the wasteland this notice suggests.

  5. David Leikin says:

    Other than the chaos involved with trying to protect Jordan Hall from any damage caused by Northeastern University’s expansion plans, what disarray are you alluding to?

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