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Giorgio Vasari: Six Tuscan Poets

It is a common criticism today, as it was in 1341, that to look “backwards” is to look upon something old and decrepit, outdated and dilapidated. Time for us moves only forward, and so paradoxically, while our civilization grows old, it is our past that we label as aged and the day itself as eternally young.

Het Concertgebouw. Image credit: Jean-Paul Opperman.

“Our mission is to enrich and connect people with a sublime musical experience – that’s what we do. What this means is that it’s not only the music that should be sublime, but everything about Concertgebouw should be sublime.”

A symphony concert somewhere near Potocki Palace, Warsaw, in 2011. Image credit: Les Panchyshyn.

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.

Engraving of the Bayreuth Festival Theater, 1875.

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.

Wilhelm Schreuer: Das Konzert im Schlossgarten

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.

Château Fombrauge 2008 magnum nestled in an original Stradivarius case.

There is a natural harmony between the principles and values that describe classical music and those that define meta-luxury. Even more significantly, those principles and values resonate most deeply in our human nature, transcending all the boundaries that so worry us when we contemplate the problem of luxury.

Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall

We asked our major donors directly if we could count on their continued financial support for the downsizing plan to become a regional orchestra. The results were unanimous: nobody would give us the same amount or anything close to it for a lesser orchestra. Most wouldn’t contribute anything at all. We were built on excellence and that’s what we needed to be.

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