The Dude abides. Not for long, though.
After spending a fortnight with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, opening the season with his usual aplomb, Gustavo Dudamel is in Milan this week to begin a nine-performance run of Bizet’s “Carmen” at La Scala. After that he’ll be in Gothenburg, Sweden, conducting his other orchestra in three concerts in late November, then, according to his web site at least, take a few weeks off before end of the year performances with the Berlin Philharmonic.
Over the summer, he conducted the Vienna Philharmonic at the Lucerne Festival, then, just before the L.A. Philharmonic opener, took the Viennese to the U.S. for high profile performances in Kentucky and at Carnegie Hall.
He records for Deutsche Grammophon with the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, his old and current mates. Their latest recording, released in June, features “The Rite of Spring” and “La noche de los mayas” by Revueltas.
In other words, Dudamel is in demand the world over. He visits us when he can.
In all fairness, he conducts the L.A. Philharmonic as often as most music directors do these days, and I do not question Dudamel’s devotion to the local cause. The difference, I think, is in the long gaps between his performances here.
Last season, his first as music director of the L.A. Phil, he didn’t conduct the orchestra between the end of November and April. This year, the gap lasts from mid-October to January.
Last season, after the gap, he took the orchestra on a U.S. tour. The critical reaction was decidedly mixed. A case could be made that Dudamel and the orchestra went on tour too early in their relationship, before a true and distinctive musical bond had been cemented.
This season, after the gap, he’ll take the orchestra on an extensive European tour. Dudamel and the orchestra will perform the tour programs here in L.A. first, but the same question arises. Have they spent enough time together?
When he’s on the podium, there’s no question that the orchestra plays with tremendous energy and commitment for him. But is there a Dudamel sound, a personality, that the orchestra and conductor are forging together? And, if not, is that even important?
Last weekend, the Philharmonic gave performances of Berlioz’s complete “Romeo and Juliet” with guest conductor Charles Dutoit. On Friday, when I heard it, the orchestra sounded uncomfortable, and perhaps unmotivated, and displayed little evidence of a distinctive “Dudamel sound” just one week after the maestro’s departure.
For me, the jury’s still out. I have almost invariably enjoyed and been inspired by Dudamel’s performances here. But where is it all headed?
It will be interesting to hear the orchestra again in a few weeks, when Esa-Pekka Salonen returns for the first time as conductor laureate to lead two sets of concerts. Will the old Salonen sound make a reappearance with him? And if so, what does that mean?
Having heard Stock with the Chicago, Rachmaninoff play Haydn, every LA conductor since 1947 and Dudamel with the Simon Bolivar, I guess I’ve heard many of the sounds. True, some conductors seem to over emphasis different orchestra choirs or instruments, and that is a different “sound”. However, to me the important thing is “how would I conduct the same piece?”, is the music being performed as to how the composer intended, is there a good balance, are the tempi solid and compatible with each other. There have been some performances (conductor and/or orchestra) that in retrospect I wouldn’t have gone if I’d known beforehand. There are some pieces that are indestructible (one is a favorite Dudamel encore). I’ll attend now only if the program has something unique (like the Nielsen works with the Finnish Radio orchestra in Edinburgh) so maybe I’m not a good commentator or been around too long.
I’m so with you on this one. I’ve been decidedly less dazzled with Dudamel’s performances with both the LA Phil as well as other ensembles. I agree with you about how last weekend’s Berlioz came off as well. I’m worried that the orchestra has entered a period of artistic decline on many levels by throwing their lot in with a maestro who may have talent, but was and is not at all ready for prime time musically.
Worse yet, the LA Phil seems to be losing many of the things that made them stand out in the classical music world with little to show for it. One of the world’s premiere ensembles in 20th century and contemporary music is now under the direction of a maestro who seems to have only cursory interest and little experience with it. Dudamel has taken on the Messiaen and other relatively contemporary works put on his plate, but as the second concert of the season showed, he isn’t exactly sure what to do with the material which was severely lacking in clarity and precision.
As for time spent with the orchestra, he will certainly have more of that this Spring before the upcoming tour. But if my math and what I read in the papers is true, his extended stay in L.A. in the spring will likely also coincide with the birth of his first child. Congratulations are certainly in order, but whether such an event benefits the above-mentioned time crunch and its effect on the orchestra is debatable.
What we are experiencing is the way the new big-time stars of the classical music world are going to make their careers. Dudamel may be the LA Phil’s principal conductor, but he has much greater aspirations. Worldwide aspirations. He is not gonna be the LA Phil conductor period. He will grace us with his presence when it pleases him to do so, and we should be grateful for that.
If you are willing to settle for a lesser talent who will dedicate more time to local performances…like Carl St. Clair out here in Orange County…then you get a lesser talent.
“It will be interesting to hear the orchestra again in a few weeks, when Esa-Pekka Salonen returns for the first time as conductor laureate to lead two sets of concerts. Will the old Salonen sound make a reappearance with him? And if so, what does that mean?”
Ye Gods, I hope not. That sound, pessimized for the 20th Century stuff E-PS loved (especially his own), caused me to avoid his concerts whenever possible. After many long years, he left. If only he would stay gone and not come back. Good for Dudamel if his musical sights are elsewhere. I heard Turangalila at Disney Hall, I watched it with Rattle and Berlin through the Digital Concert Hall. I think it is the piece that is less than meets the ears, not the interpreters.
I’ve liked Dudamel since the two SBYO concerts in 2007, I like the way the Phil sounds when he’s in front of them. His webcasts with other groups have also been quite impressive. I don’t think it is going to last here in LA and bet that Borda is already searching for his successor. He is being pulled in many directions, many potentially more lucrative. If the European tour gets slapped around like the American tour did, it will be the beginning of the end. And when Dr. Abreu steps down in Venezuela, Dudamel is the most obvious choice to keep El Sistema going. It is year two of a five year contract and it takes a couple of years to get the next person on board.
I’ve been attending LA Phil concerts since 1963. I’m not close to buying into the hysterical adulation of The Dude! However, hopefully he will grow with the orchestra and they will eventually produce their own personal sound, as Mehta, Giulinini, and especially Salonen have done.
Contrary to what RN writes, having EP Salonen here for all these years made our orchestra one of the worlds finest. And his constant attention to contemporary music has brought the staid LA sudience kicking and screaming into the world of the 21st century. Now we have audiences who come to Disney Hall looking forward to hearing new music often, and performed well. I love Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart. But hearing them over and over again is what’s killing symphony orchestras across this great land of ours. Thank God for the resurgence of Mahler with Bernstein leading the way, but Mahler was not a revolutionary, just a great composer.
Let’s hope there will be others to join the ranks of our favorites… Many others! The RIte of Spring was written in 1913 and now Stravinsky, Bartok, Prokofiev, Schoenberg should, no, must be our “classical” composers.
Older music listeners (including ME!) won’t be around forever and there is a strong need to build new repertoire for our future audiences. How about more American composers, not just Copland ballets, or countless Adagio for Strings? There are some fine modern women composers like Ellen Taffe Zwillich and Jennifer Higdon who don’t get performed here often enough. Modern music needs more great composer/conductors like Salonen. His compositions are incredibly complex, yet brilliant and stimulating. Bravo to Essa Pekka; long may he conduct “his” orchestra, and “his” music. The more often, the better!!! The Dude hopefully will grow into the conductor we need here at the helm of the LA Phil, someone to continue on the path Salonen has shown can succeed. But Dudamel is not nearly there yet. He’s practicing his craft, just as Essa Pekka did. I hope it turns out as well.
I agree with you totally! I think EPS was a wonderful leader and really helped to promote the LA Phil into the very top rank of orchestras. But it was time for him to move on. Dudamel is a work in progress, as you say. We have been fortunate in the past to have had Mehta and Salonen…young relatively unknown when they came here…grow into world-class maestros. Will Dudamel be another? Only time will tell.
I would like to respectfully disagree on Salonen. Before I moved to LA in 1994, I had heard very good things about the Mehta and Giulini orchestras. Did Previn do that much damage that Salonen’s accomplishments amount first to a resurrection and then to an elevation? I attended a few concerts ad hoc until ~2000 when I heard Rattle lead them in a knockout Mahler 4 at the Chandler. I couldn’t believe it was the same group of musicians. That’s when I started subscribing. Since then I’ve had that same experience a number of times in both the Chandler and Disney Hall – the orchestra sounded better under other conductors, von Dohnanyi, Deneve, Conlon, Bychkov, Alsop, and yes, Dudamel than under E-PS in similar repertoire. I thought Salonen’s Beethoven fest was nothing special including a 6th that was just awful. He did better with Shostakovitch but not as well as others. As far as his own compositions, tastes of course differ. Apart from the music, it seems a flat out conflict of interest for a music director to program and thereby promote his own compositions. I’m sure it is legal much like Wall Street double dipping is legal but it smells just as bad.
I don’t know what to say about the the new music events that everyone is supposedly flocking to hear. There was LA Phil hype long before Dudamel appeared on the horizon and I’ve learned to mistrust it on general principle. I went to a few Green Umbrella concerts early in the life of Disney Hall before giving it up as a bad job. Sections of the hall were blocked off and there were empty seats even in the smaller house and the orchestra has always been accused of papering. I’d also like to hear Higdon and Taafe Zwilich of whom so much has been written but I doubt that’s going to happen. I may not like their stuff either but I’d take the opportunity to try it.
I can agree that Dudamel’s best years are probably ahead of him, as good as he may be now. I hope he’ll be here for the long haul but as I wrote earlier, I have doubts we’ll be that fortunate.
RN, Just a couple of points … Yes, Previn did that much damage, imo.
As far as Salonen programming his own music. He was reluctant to do so. But any orchestra that has as distinguished a composer as Salonen as its music director would have (and has) done the same. The Chicago Symphony played music by Martinon and Kubelik when they were there. Boulez conducts Boulez everywhere. Stravinsky and Copland did the same, etc. There’s no shame in it.
What’s more — and few people know this — Salonen would accept NO money for his commissions when he was music director of the LA Phil. So your claim that he double-dipped is way off base.
The Green Umbrella concerts are wonderful, and very well attended compared to most new music concerts. They’re not designed to fill that hall. They’re designed to expose audiences to the very latest and best in new music. They are a local treasure.
Since we’ve been giving props to Alex Ross in this thread, I figured I’d quote him regarding Green Umbrella:
” In the early days, it drew modest audiences, but in recent years attendance has risen to the point where as many as sixteen hundred people show up for a concert that in other cities might draw thirty or forty. The Australian composer Brett Dean recently walked onstage for a Green Umbrella concert and did a double take, saying that it was the largest new-music audience he’d ever seen.” (Alex Ross, The New Yorker, April 30, 2007)
Tim Mangan writes
“As far as Salonen programming his own music. He was reluctant to do so….Salonen would accept NO money for his commissions when he was music director of the LA Phil. So your claim that he double-dipped is way off base.”
First I’ve heard that he had any reservations about programming himself and I’ve heard otherwise. There’s also more to the financial equation than the commission, especially when a work is performed repeatedly. Boulez, Copland, Stravinsky… if they were MDs of the orchestras they were leading at the time, I’d have the same questions.
“The Green Umbrella concerts are wonderful, and very well attended compared to most new music concerts. They’re not designed to fill that hall.”
Noted. Various reviews (not yours) and press materials hint that Disney Hall is SRO for these.
Well, RN, some of us here are still waiting for you to name that wonderful composer-conductor who has never performed his own pieces (whether as a music director/principal conductor or a guest – it doesn’t really matter). Just name one, please. Or, actually, any composer who was also a performer but never performed his (or her) own pieces. As far as i know, such animals do not exist and have never existed before. You might have a shadow of a point if you are talking about a “composer” whose works are not performed by anyone else but himself (Lorin Maazel comes to mind). But that is not the case with Esa-Pekka, so he is absolutely fine in that regard.
As for the Green Umbrella concerts, you haven’t named a mysterious source that “hinted” at SRO. The fact is they are attended better than any new music series anywhere in this country and in most other places as well – that statement is based on comments by the composers and performers who appeared in the GU concerts at the Walt Disney Concert Hall during the last few years.
I’ll comment on what I wrote vs. some interpretation of them. Since there is some snarking about references, I’ll provide them where possible. Setting aside whatever royal patronage composers may have had in the past, I believe Mozrt, Beethoven, Berlioz, and others organized subscription concerts of their own music including hiring the performers and auditorium and paying for them.
I believe Mahler performed his own works in Vienna but the VPO, as it is fond of pointing out, is a private organization.
It is possible to hire the London Symphony and other British orchestras for various projects.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICp-1YLKegM et. seq.
My comment was about Salonen and his compositions was in relation to the LA Phil being a modern public institution. Seems to me that E-PS does benefit by having his works performed at the LA Phil beyond any remission of composition fees. Christopher Knight has written about a related blurring of the public/private boundary in a recent LAT article:
Regarding the Green Umbrella attendance: I remember the quote offered by CKDH. I also remember reading Alan Rich commenting on admirably large audiences
http://www.soiveheard.com/2008/11/still-at-it/, at least one or two references in Sequenza21, and I think Mark Swed, as well, along with LA Phil materials I get as a subscriber. I’m now not sure what to make of the differing numbers – whether GU now draws as well as a subscription concert (my original inference) or if the numbers are in relation to some other average based on other cities not specified in the responses.
In summary, the Salonen Kool-Aid tasted bitter to me so I didn’t chug it. I understand that others think differently.
Tim, thanks for writing this. As a subscriber since 2000 or so, and a sometime donor to the LA Phil, I almost didn’t resubscribe to this year’s season after a disappointing 1st season with Dudamel. I let myself get talked into resubscribing, and so far I’m regretting my decision. During E-PS’s tenure, there’d be something exciting to look forward to every season, and there were always pleasant surprises. Last year, the only really interesting program was the West Coast Left Coast Festival, and the best program was conducted by Adams. It seems like the programming is getting more conservative, and taking steps backwards from what E-PS built. If you know better, please let us know! (FWIW, I found my way here through Alex Ross’s blog.)
Andre, Thanks for your comment. From what I know, I would keep subscribing to the LA Phil, but perhaps we’re talking about matters of taste here, not knowledge.
It seems to me that Dudamel’s programming is only slightly more conservative than Salonen’s. Dudamel is a little more into the standard 19th century repertoire; he is also more interested in American and Latin American music. Much of their interests in 20th and 21st century music overlap. The difference in programming is mainly due, I think, to the fact that Dudamel is a conductor and Salonen a composer.
FWIW — thanks, Alex Ross.
So composers shouldn’t conduct their own compositions? I guess that means Beethoven, Mozart, Mahler, Stravinsky and Bernstein were all just self serving hacks.
This isn’t the first time the Los Angeles Philharmonic went on tour with a brand new Music Director and experienced “mixed” reviews. Don’t believe me? Let me refresh everyone’s memory:
Salonen’s first tour with the orchestra was in 1992 the month BEFORE he officially became MD — and at the Salzburg Festival, no less. Once there, the orchestra was lauded for its opera pit performances of Messiaen; however, Salonen had the – oh, I don’t know, let’s call it “gumption” – to program a good old-fashioned waltz by Johann Strauss to open an orchestral concert . . . André Rieu would have been proud. What happened? As it turned out, Salonen was roundly skewered for it by the critics.
. . . . . . . . . .
The NY Times wrote:
“While most of the European press and even the local paper, Die Salzburger Nachrichten, praised the Sellars production and especially the playing of the Los Angeles orchestra under Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Viennese, and particularly Franz Endler in Der Kurier, brushed off the Angelenos as unworthy of serious comment. Mr. Endler had been especially exercised a few days before by the Los Angeles orchestra’s opening its first concert here with Johann Strauss Jr.’s “Emperor Waltzes.” While innocents might have seen in this a friendly gesture toward the host country, the Viennese perceived it as an act of presumptuous provocation.”
. . . . . . . . . .
Even more interesting were the words written by Scott Duncan, Tim’s predecessor at the OC Register, who wrote in October 1992:
“[The program] had raised some eyebrows in LA before the festival. Some questioned the wisdom of taking such quintessential Viennese music to Austria. But Salonen was adamant. “That music is in the public domain,” he said last July shortly before the Salzburg Festival. Yet the concert was received poorly, even laced with some boos. Today, Salonen admits, “I was expecting some reaction, but it was rougher than I expected. I learned a lesson and have a few scars to show for it.”
Are there more scars ahead in LA?
“It’s a concern of mine,” he said. “This whole thing is about whether people can trust my judgment. I can’t pretend to be somebody else. I’m the guy I am, and I have my beliefs and aesthetics. If it ultimately doesn’t work out, then it will be the end of the road. ”
. . . . . . . . . .
I think that most people will agree that it ultimately DID work out in the end. So now, fast forward back to 2010 . . .
At least this time, the LA Phil management gave Dudamel and orchestra most of an entire season together before going on tour. Mixed reviews or not, I didn’t read about a single audience booing at any of this tour’s concerts – on the contrary, almost all reviews discuss how audiences applauded enthusiastically.
I think Tim raises good questions and concerns (with which I can agree) without being alarmist, in contrast with some of the other more Chicken-Little-like opinions expressed in this thread. I say: Let’s keep an open mind and give Dudamel a little time before we start declaring that the sky is falling and searching for his successor. If he is as talented as everyone says he is, and he combines it with the courage of his own convictions instead of trying to copy anyone else, the odds are good that LA Phil and those of us who follow them should all end up fine.
While all this historical insight is of some interest, ironically both RN and CK Dexter Haven seem to ignore the most significant historical fact of all: that the LA Phil inherited by Dudamel in 2010 is not the same orchestra Salonen inherited in 1992. Without question, the organization has a much bigger profile now and is held in much greater regard internationally than two decades ago (due to the work of Salonen). And just to refresh everyone’s memory, this happened not due the orchestra’s chops in the standard repertoire, but in its unparalleled skills with 20th-century and contemporary music.
Taking risks is important in the life of any organization if it is to grow over time. But there are daring risks, and there are foolish ones. The LA Phil has a lot more to lose with a brash untested conductor now than it did before. Sure, give Dudamel all the time you like. But I wager convincing the rest of the world that the orchestra is as important with a mix of 19th Century favorites and Latin/American hits as it has been over the last 5 to 6 years will be a tall order in any estimation.
The sky may not be falling, but the onset of a new-found mediocrity doesn’t need to make a lot clamor.
“Sure, give Dudamel all the time you like.”
Why thank you, I think I will. Are you going to do the same or is your mind set on this matter?
“While all this historical insight is of some interest, ironically both RN and CK Dexter Haven seem to ignore the most significant historical fact of all: that the LA Phil inherited by Dudamel in 2010 is not the same orchestra Salonen inherited in 1992. Without question, the organization has a much bigger profile now and is held in much greater regard internationally than two decades ago (due to the work of Salonen)”
Profile and performance. Related but different.
“…unparalleled skills with 20th-century and contemporary music.”
This sounds like they staked out a niche. I don’t know how many other top-ranked orchestras care to ‘compete’ in it.
Then again there are reviews such as this that swipe at both Dudamel and the orchestra:
“The L.A. Phil has itself an enormously gifted but incomplete musician, and Dudamel has inherited a lively and willing group that has still not graduated to the top rank of American orchestras. Like its hometown, the L.A. Phil is exciting but diffuse. It suffers from a thin, generic sound, a casual approach to coordination, and a tendency to let shades of color get washed out in the sodium glare. One hopes it won’t be long before orchestra and conductor start bringing out the best in each other, but they’re not doing it yet.”
The flutenist from Chicago left saying the same thing. That was in Dudamel’s inaugural campaign so one would think that he was commenting on the E-PS bequest.
“But I wager convincing the rest of the world that the orchestra is as important with a mix of 19th Century favorites and Latin/American hits as it has been over the last 5 to 6 years will be a tall order in any estimation.”
5 or 6 years? With programs and guest artists engaged three or more years in advance, that puts the programming decisions well before any offer to Dudamel. As far as the new music, Adams et.al. have larger roles than before and those who like that sort of thing will certainly get their fill of it. Given some of the brilliant visual and stage work coming out of the Spanish-speaking countries to the south of us and from Europe, I’m interested in hearing if that carries over to their composers as well. Apart from Golijov, anyway.
I’ll take the Phil playing under Dudamel (or others I’ve mentioned) over the numerous evenings I’ve sat through with E-PS on the stand, whether it was conducting music he liked that I didn’t or vice-versa. I’ll leave importance to others.
No matter what the financial details are, composers have been performing (including as conductors) their own music for centuries. Of course they benefit from it – why shouldn’t they? – but the audience benefits also, and maybe sometimes even more so, by hearing music being interpreted by its creator – from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. This is not going to change and it shouldn’t, because there is nothing wrong in it. If the music is bad, the audience will stop coming, the orchestra will resist – and the perpetrator is going to lose his or her position and reputation, probably forever. Nothing even remotely close to that ever happened in Esa-Pekka’s case. Some do not like his music at all, others love it – that’s all normal. Same goes for his music-making as a conductor – some including RN do not like it, but others admire it a lot. That’s all there is to it. The same, by the way, was always true about Zubin and is now just as true about Gustavo – he already has plenty of fans and many detractors too, in LA as well as around the world. This is natural and will probably stay that way for a while.
As for the remarks attributed to the “flutenist” (Mathieu Dufour is a wonderful flutist but i don’t think he can play flute and lute simultaneously), there are three points to make about that. First, in a letter published by the LA Times and other media, he categorically denied making those statements, and the journalist who claimed otherwise offered no proof of their veracity. Second, if Mathieu did say those things, then he lied in denying them and is therefore a liar which means that what he said is not necessarily what he thought. Third, even if he did indeed say it and meant it, the most negative part of what he said essentially was that in his opinion the LA Phil musicians did not have a tradition of commitment to excellence that the Chicago Symphony had – which is as valid as any personal opinion and may even be partly truthful, but does in no way contradict the prevailing opinion of musically educated and astute observers which is that when Esa-Pekka left the orchestra, it was performing on a higher level than when he arrived two decades ago, when no principal player from the Chicago Symphony would have even considered comparing the LA band in any way, shape or form, to their great Windy City ensemble of which they are justifiably proud.
Brian, your point about Dudamel inheriting a very different (i.e. better) orchestra in 2009 than the one Salonen joined in 1992 is certainly true and is notable. My bad for not acknowledging that myself.
A few points to follow up:
1) While I clearly do not share your bleak assessment of the LA Phil’s future under Dudamel, I do share your admiration of EPS’s tenure and similarly lament his loss. That said, his departure was inevitable, and as such, he would have to be replaced with someone. You have gone on record that Dudamel is not your preferred choice, and that you’d rather have someone who would have nurtured the orchestra’s “unparalleled skills with 20th-century and contemporary music.”
While I would have wished the same thing, my question is this: if Dudamel is not this person, who is? At first glance, there are some conductors who could possibly, theoretically fit the bill . . .
— David Robertson seems to be the ideal fit on paper: So Cal native, impeccable new music credentials, now with experience as MD of a major American orchestra (St. Louis); however, I would surmise based on his irregular appearances in front of the local band that, for whatever reason and perhaps through no fault of either party, there isn’t the same chemistry between the orchestra and him as there is between the orchestra and many of the other, more frequent, guest conductors.
— Pierre Boulez would have been nice, but he doesn’t even visit anymore, and I don’t think he’d want a job as MD of an American orchestra
— Kent Nagano hasn’t been on the podium of the LA Phil in a while, he just left LA after a relatively short stint across the street from WDCH, and he just took a new MD job in Montreal
— MTT? Another potential candidate on paper, but there is mixed history between the orchestra and him, and who knows if he’d want another MD job anywhere in the US
— Robert Spano?? Not a bad guest conductor, but for my taste, not who I’d want for MD
— Simon Rattle? Yeah, right . . .
. . . . and I’m done. Can’t think of anyone else who comes close, let alone is the ideal candidate who would fit the bill of (a) champion of 20th/21st century, (b) who also happens to be someone with whom the LA Phil already has a relationship, let alone a strong one (c) who has the administrative skills — not just the musical ones — needed in a MD, (d) actually wants the job, and (e) whom the orchestra would want to have the job.
Perhaps I am missing someone, and if I am, I’d genuinely love to hear who you think it woulda, coulda, shoulda been.
2) Looking at Dudamel’s 12 programs he is conducting for the regular season, only two seem like concerts that Salonen would have been less-than-likely to conduct himself: the Weber/Beethoven/Schumann concert to start the season, and maybe the Tchaikovsky-meets-Shakespeare night coming in March . . . though I remember attending a DCP concert of Mendelssohn’s complete incidental music to “Midsummer Night’s Dream” complete with actors reading lines from the play, with Salonen conducting, so even that one seems possible.
The other ten seem easily in-line with what we would have seen from the LA Phil’s MD anytime in the past 10 years.
3) By my observation, you seem to give Dudamel none of the credit for any modern or contemporary music he programs (describing them as being “put on his plate” rathern than something he’d choose himself) but all the blame for the “conservative” works on the programs (not just here, but in your other writing as well). If I misrepresent your point of view, my apologies in advance.
“No matter what the financial details are, composers have been performing (including as conductors) their own music for centuries.”
Ok. Per request, I provided details and references to support the point I was making about curators of public institutions. If the answer is that it doesn’t matter because it has been done that way for hundreds of years under vastly different social, political, and economic realities, so be it.
“As for the remarks attributed to the “flutenist””
Yep. Just trying to keep it light.
Dufour/All Cretans are Liars: This just made my head explode.
I would have jumped in here long ago, but I’m on vacation. Besides, you guys seem to be doing just fine without my help.
But RN, I have one question. I don’t quite know why you keep calling the LA Phil a public institution, and what you mean by that.
From my perspective, that doesn’t seem like a good description. It is supported not (in the main) by public funds, but by donors and foundations, as well as ticket sales, which are voluntary, not government sanctioned. If donors or ticket buyers don’t want to hear Salonen conduct his own music, they can stop donating or stop buying tickets. Seems pretty simple to me.
“But RN, I have one question. I don’t quite know why you keep calling the LA Phil a public institution, and what you mean by that.”
I am thinking of a non-profit that receives public support, tax exemptions, etc. I view the Phil as similar to LACMA in that regard. Knight’s LAT article contains similar, though perhaps not exact, concerns. Should someone who has a curatorial role in such a place promote his/her own work or collections? To me it is a conflict of interest if the value of an art collection, performance royalties, and such are on the line. Salonen’s admirers view the frequent performances of his music as being justified by the intrinsic merits of his compositions and his skill as a conductor. The “we are lucky” and “everyone else did it” arguments. Being wholly underwhelmed by Salonen in either capacity, I see it differently. This is now past the point of diminishing returns.
The point is, it has been done under ALL social, political, and economic realities – including those present during Esa-Pekka’s tenure in LA. If ever a day comes when performing their own music by composers is no longer possible, that will be a very sad day for music.
What’s so “light” about a “flutenist”? Have you ever tried to play flute and lute simultaneously? Good luck!
As for the “liars” comment, if you read what is actually written instead of what you are apparently imagining, your head will have a much better chance of remaining unharmed.
It’s pretty common for dance companies to present their artistic director’s own work. I don’t think it is a conflict of interest for a non-profit arts organization to do so. As Tim says, the public can vote with its money and attention.
A listener “A” may dislike the music and interpretations of a composer-performer “X” as much as A desires, but it doesn’t give A the right to create the rules for X that are different from those that apply to every other composer-performer in the history of humanity, especially when A has failed to articulate why such different rules are needed. The kind of logic that says “it is wrong because i don’t like it” is far more faulty than “it is not wrong because everyone everywhere has always done it this way and it has never been considered wrong before”. Precedent is a strong legal argument, you know, and in this case the precedent is overwhelming. All the other arguments cited by Tim and the rest of the commenters here apply as well, of course.
Listener A has articulated the reasons with references and links to unseeing eyes/deaf ears. Since 8×10 color glossies with or without circles and arrows are hard to include in a blog comment , Listener A thinks that if Michael Ritchie writes a play, it would be odd if he put it up on the CTG’s main stages. He’s perfectly free to rent some other theatre on his own dime and produce, direct, and star in it if he likes. If Michael Govan created a painting or a sculpture, it would be odd if he put it in a LACMA gallery. Exhibiting it elsewhere doesn’t present the same problem. And on down the line. Precedent appears to be that the Beethovens and Berliozes of times gone by organized subscription concerts of their own music, rented the halls, and hired the musicians, and took whatever reward came against the risks. It is done hundreds of times a week in recital halls, churches, and theatres all over Los Angeles.
Beyond that, Listener A has hit the wall with regards to explaining what he sees as a conflict of interest.
Another key difference between Michael Goven and Michael Ritchie vs. Esa-Pekka Salonen is that the LA Phil hired Salonen knowing full well that he was/is a composer. It’s one of the reasons he was hired.
If LACMA hired Gronk to run their museum or Christopher Durang was put in charge of CTG (to use two random examples), part of the reason they would presumably be chosen is that they are active creative participants in their respective artform; as such, I doubt anyone would be shocked for feel that it was inappropriate if their works appeared on their respective organizations’ schedules once every few years.
“I am thinking of a non-profit that receives public support, tax exemptions, etc.”
RN…If you want to hold non-profit tax exempt institutions to a higher standard than privately funded ones, then what about the churches and religious organizations who openly campaign for right-wing candidates? Off-topic, I know, but our government has granted tax exemptions to many egregiously unworthy organizations. The LA Phil is far above most of those in that it is totally nonpolitical and non religious-agenda-driven. Far more worthy of tax-exempt status.
As Tim said, much of the LAPhil funding is private anyway.
But all of this is such a tempest in a teapot! What it comes down to is: Does the LA Phil under its present conductor provide a musical experience that is worthwhile to its subscribers?
If the answer is yes, they what you are saying about EPS programming his own works or what other say about Dudamel not being adventurous enough is moot.
In my opinion, there is nothing “odd” or “inappropriate” about a playwright staging his own play or an artist exhibiting his own painting. If the play or painting is good, then it is a good artistic decision; if not, then it isn’t. Just like with any other decision made by the artistic leader of a cultural organization.
Normally i don’t like having arguments with links and references because they can’t respond and it becomes a one-way “lecture” which is much less interesting than a conversation with living human beings. But since we all had an extra hour during this past weekend, i took a look at the links provided by RN to see how they would support the notion that Esa-Pekka’s conducting his music at the LA Phil was “wrong”. As i suspected, there was very little that would be particularly interesting in terms of our discussion there. What i found in those webpages was either not even remotely relevant to our subject or actually at odds with RN’s statements. That in itself is quite telling in my opinion because i think that with a little bit of effort one can find just about anything on the internet including such possibilities as a “perfectly reasonable” explanation that the Earth is flat and a “completely reliable” report of several UFOs landing somewhere in Arizona very recently.
The first two links were to the history and organization of the Vienna Phil and had not a single word about anything related to the subject of our discussion. Then there was a link to the text explaining why and how the London Symphony could be hired to perform whatever is needed. So what? What does that have to do with anything? There was also a link to a post by the late Alan Rich that mentioned good attendance of a Green Umbrella concert, as well as references to several other instances of such mentions in the media. But “SRO” appears nowhere and there is no boasting anywhere that the GU performances are attended by the same number of people as regular subscription concerts. The obvious point of comparison is to new music programs in other cities and to the attendance of such concerts in LA before Esa-Pekka’s arrival here in early 1990s – and both these comparisons are in favor of recent GU concerts.
Then there is a link to an article by Christopher Knight where he explains his dislike for art exhibitions that showcase nothing but private collections. The question is, what do large displays of art chosen by people who are rich but may have no taste in art and no professional knowledge of it have to do with an internationally recognized composer – and conductor who is regularly being invited to lead most of the world’s greatest orchestras – conducting his music once in a while? The only possible answer is – absolutely nothing whatsoever. And besides, as correctly pointed out above by CKDH, Esa-Pekka was hired for the LA Phil with complete understanding of everyone involved that he is a composer interested in performing his own music. In fact, he never made a secret out of it, reminding on numerous occasions to everyone willing to listen that composing was always his first love and that he initially studied conducting only because he wanted the opportunity to perform his music without waiting for others to do so.
Apparently, all this worked out quite well in LA – Esa-Pekka’s contract was renewed several times and on leaving in 2009 he was named the orchestra’s first ever conductor emeritus. One sentence that was truly related to the topic of our discussion in the Knight’s article (thank RN for the link) said the following: “Nonprofits, free of voters or stockholders, are meant to provide an alternative: New or untried ideas, even unpopular ones, might be knocked around.” That is precisely what was achieved by hiring Esa-Pekka and throughout his tenure as the LA Phil’s music director.
Correction: Esa-Pekka’s true title with the LA Phil is Conductor Laureate. His tenure as the music director was the longest in the nearly century-long history of the orchestra and he is indeed the first ever to be named Conductor Laureate of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Just a guess … but I would imagine that EPS may be the youngest conductor ever to be named Conductor Laureate for any orchestra. Certainly one of the youngest …
Without a doubt, he is the youngest-looking CL!