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Gershwin, Stravinsky, Harrison festivals

During my tenure as Executive Director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic at BAM, I was handed an opportunity to refashion the orchestra's mission. In the course of two years, it had been abandoned by more than two-thirds of its subscribers: there was nothing left to lose. I proposed making all the programming thematic and inter-disciplinary. Harvey Lichtenstein, BAM's mastermind, said yes. One of the Brooklyn Phil festivals I concocted was "Flamenco," in 1997. It proved a personal watershed. For one thing, I discovered that Manuel de Falla's El amor … [Read more...]

The Uses of Culture

A recent article on "Funding: The State of the Art" by my friend Andras Szanto makes for informative and depressing reading. "The search is on for a more compelling vocabulary" to rationalize and impel funding for the arts, Andras reports. The "latest linguistic developments" include applying "quality" not "as a mark of aesthetic sophistication," but "to denote a positive human environment." Good God, is it this difficult to make a persuasive case for the arts? A substantial portion of my professional life has been dedicated to studying, … [Read more...]

Ligeti, the New York Phil, and finding stage directors for opera

Alan Gilbert's first season as the New York Philharmonic's music director climaxed with a triumphant run of Gyorgy Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre - the New York premiere of a major late twentieth century opera (rare species), ingeniously semi-staged by Doug Fitch. The crux of this achievement, it seems to me, is a new ambience. Avery Fisher Hall, the Philharmonic's acoustically vexed home, is a formal and impersonal space. Or so it forever seemed during the tenures of Gilbert's predecessors Zubin Mehta, Kurt Masur, and Loren Maazel. Gilbert not … [Read more...]

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