Friday, March 15, 2013

An orchestra that can afford cojones

It's always interesting to compare programming in different cities. Music director Christopher Warren-Green has rightly said that Dmitri Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony, which he'll conduct tonight and Saturday along with Brahms' Violin Concerto, lies near the edge of the comfort zone of his Charlotte audience.

So what are we to make of Saturday's concert by the Asheville Symphony? Conductor Daniel Meyer and soloist Tim Fain will combine for Philip Glass' Violin Concerto #2, known as "The American Four Seasons." (Fain played on the soundtrack of the movie "Black Swan.") Meyer will conduct one of Handel's "Water Music" suites, Copland's "Latin American Sketches" and Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #2 -- where the orchestral instruments will combine with Moog synthesizers. (Very apt, as Robert Moog died in Asheville eight years ago.)

Direct comparisons are impossible. The orchestras have vastly different budgets, thus different needs to sell a certain minimum number of tickets. Asheville's a city unique to the Carolinas; despite its small size, the potential audience is well-educated and cosmopolitan, maybe more so than ours.

But I can't help being envious of a group that has the luxury of choosing such a rare concerto as its centerpiece. (In a strange twist, Adele Anthony -- who is playing the Brahms here -- is a specialist in the first Glass violin concerto, should we ever want to raise a Glass.)

The Charlotte Symphony does do cool things in its KnightSounds concerts; as I've said before, the one on April 19 will contain seven American works premiered in the last 85 years, and that's impressive. But the mainstream Classics series that plays Fridays and Saturdays in the Belk remains musically conservative.

I can't blame the programmers, as long as the orchestra continues to struggle with budget deficits. I can't blame the musicians, who play new music enthusiastically when they get it. The responsibility lies with those of us who buy tickets -- or, when presented with the unfamiliar, often don't. We get what we're willing to pay for.


Anonymous said...

What percentage of the respective orchestras' funding comes from public sources? What is the average salary of each orchestra's musicians?

I'll bet crunching those numbers provides the answer as to why Asheville can afford such indulgences. I doubt it's because the topless women of Buncombe County want to hear some Philip Glass during their hooka bar crawls.