Hot on the South Bank’s announcement of a London residency by Gustavo Dudamel and his Venezuelan ensemble, the Barbican is introducing annual residencies by no fewer than four major-leaguers: the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam, the Gewandhaus of Leipzig and the philharmonic orchestras of New York and Los Angeles.
This is a bold diversification for a multi-disciplinary arts centre that depends heavily on the London Symphony Orchestra for its music. The visiting orchestras will spend a week there each year, giving three concerts and some chamber music recitals and doing a good deal of outreach and community work in needy districts to the east of London. The scheme is being engineered with no extra sources of funding and is the first big feather in the cap of Barbican boss, Sir Nicholas Kenyon.
It looks so good on paper that I hate to raise a quizzical eyebrow about the necessity of having Dudamel, MD of the LA Phil, at both London venues.
And I guess some folks back home might wonder why the New York Phil is doing social work in Bermondsey, Barking and Bow when they are not seen much in the Bronx.
It could be interesting to see how players who don’t get out of bed for less than $120,000 a year interact with Somali immigrant kids who are lucky to get a full bowl of rice at night for supper. If the scheme is more than mere window-dressing, stand by for spiritual awakenings in the band.