We have become used to concert halls that make big bold statements: the looming sculptural forms of the Philharmonie in Paris, the metallic sails of Disney Hall in Los Angeles, the giant glass barrel vault of the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts in Philadelphia. The Kleinhans is curiously elusive.
What do amateurs – all fairly serious ones, but also people who make their living outside of the music world – glean from a week spent inundated by one piece of music?
Postwar modernism and its hip progeny, in combination with the expensive cost of operation for orchestras and opera houses, created barriers which hinder renewal of the repertoire – a self-destructive mix, pushing classical music into the corner as a “museum culture.”
Selling music in wrapping paper which belies its nature will inevitably lead to disappointment: potential new audiences – especially the younger generations without much exposure to classical music – will feel cheated when they find out that a Mahler symphony does not sound at all like heavy metal or hip-hop.
Organizations wanting to extract immense, even disproportionate, value from their brands must, like Wagner, work as polymaths; they must be great storytellers, impeccable orchestrators, innovative designers, consummate engineers, as well as uncompromising perfectionists.
In a time where all the parameters of our civilization are shifting, and especially considering the current rise of populism everywhere in the Western world, it is of the greatest importance that the nature and purpose of classical music be articulated and argued – that it be protected from erosion and attacks based upon ignorance and misunderstanding.
There has been a drumbeat of naysayers who prophesy the doom of symphony orchestras, telling us in somber tones that only rich, old folks go to concerts these days. I’m sorry, but that’s not how I’ve seen things.
Dave was one of my very first supporters and not only encouraged me, but backed me in the hard work of establishing FSI. He was rooting not only our home team, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, but for orchestras all around the country.
To dismiss Latin and Greek, for example, because they are not “relevant” is to imagine that one learns another language in order, as Matthew Arnold put it, “to fight the battles of life with the waiters in foreign hotels.”
Music, as a living presence that comes to us, offers itself to us, assures us that we are not alone: that there is something out there in the world that knows our hearts and may even teach us to know them better.