On Conducting 13

I was rather amused by this article in the San Diego Tribune from 13 August 2023 entitled, “Projections, props, dance and spoken word poetry are expanding the boundaries of classical concerts.”

I knew this wasn’t going to go down well when I read, “I truly feel like we’re seeing an artistic renaissance,” said La Jolla Music Society Artistic Director Leah Rosenthal. During the pandemic, many artists were sad, scared and frozen. But people are feeling inspired again, happy again, and free.”

So this statement is erroneous on a number of levels. Certainly, there were many orchestral musicians in the USA who suffered horrendously through the COVID lockdowns – not least the orchestra members of the Metropolitan Opera, or Opera Australia for that matter, and numerous other orchestras and chamber orchestras throughout the USA and the world – but that is another story for another time. Orchestra musicians, contrary to Ms. Rosenthal’s expressed view are a pretty inventive and disiciplined lot, so, to suggest that many of these artists were sad, scared and frozen is both hyperbole and sophistry in respect to her idea of cause and effect. They coped – we all coped – and we all helped each other during COVID and carried on the best we could, beause that is what we do thank you very much.

However, the underlying assertion behind this exaggeration is that COVID is responsible for the declining interest in, and attendance at, orchestral music concerts. Moreover, the fix according to this article is to play Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals reimagined as Carnival of the Animals – A Political. Jungle.

At which point, I ask you does re-inventing a work; a composition Saint-Saëns personally detested, reconfigured as social commentary on the deplorable events of 6 January 2021 at the Capitol, re-inivgorate audiences to Classical Music? Yes, it might invigorate or inspire the curators of such an idea – and cross-collaboration in music is nothing new – but, surely, the critical aspect of undertaking any concert experience in the orchestral music genre is to FOCUS ON THE MUSIC!

If you stop doing that then orchestral musicians, as an ensemble, become nothing more than conduits to satisfy one or two people’s personal response to, in this case, an abhorrent event further dividing the people of the United States.

IT’S MEANT TO BE ABOUT THE MUSIC. Carnival of the Animals is just froth and bubble, so how does performing this whimsical light-hearteded fare of Saint-Saëns’ (however clever) correlate to a disgusting protest by an aggressive crowd of individuals?

What about designing an experience that allows an audience to get deeply inside – well, what the heck – let’s say Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78 or the marvellous Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 33 by M. Saint-Saëns?

As I said in my previous post, come on folks, we’re (meant to be) smarter than this.

Kevin is now represented in North America by: