Atlanta Symphony: The lasting damage of lock-out

Atlanta Symphony: The lasting damage of lock-out


norman lebrecht

November 16, 2014

Reviewing the tumultuous return concert of the Atlanta Symphony after ten weeks of lockout, Mark Gresham found them rusty and under-powered. Not surprising, since there were 31 substitutes on stage.

The real players were away, fulfiling outside engagements that they accepted during the lay-off. The remainder had not played together for four and a half months, since before the summer. It will take a while for them to tune up to each other. The damage of closure is lasting.

Critic Mark Gresham writes:

robert spano returns


The main event of the evening was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. Sorry to say, what the audience got in this work was not what the ASO sounds like under normal circumstances. But these were not normal circumstances. Although the collective bargaining agreement was successfully wrapped up in time for this concert, many of the ASO’s musicians are still committed to temporary engagements with orchestras elsewhere. It will take several weeks for the musicians on stage to become essentially regular members of the ASO roster.

Of the 71 musicians onstage for the Beethoven, 31 were contracted substitutes. Of those, only one had not previously played with the ASO (the sub principal oboe). Only two of the brass players, one French horn and one trombone, were regular ASO musicians.

The apparent musical consequence seemed to be a choice by Spano to take relatively slow tempos throughout, versus his normal pacing of the work. Perhaps that was a matter of trying to keep together an ensemble in which 44 percent of the players were substitutes.



  • Steve Reed says:

    Now we dig deep and get back to our real business of Being The ASO and C, and US at Christmas. I’m grateful for the chance to work this hard again. Bravo for the ASO and C and our beautiful subs who made this weekend possible.

  • Amy says:

    Well, WAC board chairman Doug Hertz can no longer claim it’s his “impression that our symphony orchestra got the same artistic reviews over this past year as they have had in previous years. We had 116 separate musicians that played with our orchestra (who were) not part of our (88-musician) complement — 116 additional musicians who sat in just last year. Yet no one’s told me that artistically that we were any better or worse.”

    (from the October 4 interview with AJC’s Howard Pousner, in which is found this gem:
    “It makes you wonder, you know,” Hertz said, “are we supporting a bunch of crazy people.”)

  • NYMike says:

    Beethoven’s Ninth with just 71 musicians, half of them subs????

  • Gerhard says:

    How many orchestra players are required for this piece in your opinion?

  • Jones says:

    There has been some good news in recent days: the ASO will receive a multi-million dollar grant which should go a fair part of the way in subsidizing several orchestra positions.

    And then there are the two Grammy nominations……..