Does the orchestra have a 21st century future?
October 27, 2010 by Norman Lebrecht
This post comes to you live from Madrid, where the association of Sapinish orchestras is holding its first concerence. There are 27 professional orchestras in Spain and, despite economic vicissitudes, there is no immediate threat to their existence from what we have heard here.
Yet, brightly as the sun might shine in autumnal Spain (and it does, it does), the clouds of cutbacks in Holland and Britain keep intruding on everyone’s thoughts and presentations. An awareness is dawning that an orchestra is something that needs to be justified – to politicians, to bureaucrats, to the public at large. It must appear to be socially useful and economically sound. It must innovate to survive.
Not all of these intrusions are negative. The better an orchestra confronts reality, the more likely it is to attract public interest and attendance. I sense no air here of defeatism and despondency. Several speakers, from Berlin, Porto and London, are sharing experiences of extending their reach.
One of the most interesting revelations, from a London research project which I will discuss at length in a future post, is that the largest part of the audience comes to hear a particular work or composer, regardless of who might be performing it. Loyalty to an orchestra and fandom for an artist are negligible considerations at the point of purchase.
If that is the case, what is the point of paying a supposedly famous maestro as much as an entire orchestra. Might this be a turning point for orchestras in the 21st century?
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