Slipped Disc editorial: What kind of anniversary is 125th?

Slipped Disc editorial: What kind of anniversary is 125th?


norman lebrecht

January 29, 2015

Clive Gillinson’s new season at Carnegie Hall is built around an anniversary. With considerable imagination, he has arranged to commission 125 new works of music to mark the date. That’s a lot of work for a lot of composers in 2016. Much to be commended.

But beyond the razzle-dazzle, what the numbers betray is a fatal lack of imagination. What kind of anniversary is 125? It smacks of clutching at numbers, any number, no matter how insignificant, to grab a shred of public attention before the lights go out.

Music is desperately dependent on anniversaries. We promote jubilees, centenaries, 150ths, 250ths, to highlight past glories and make them relevant to our own times. We cannot afford to cheapen the anniversary concept. Carnegie’s 125th is a step towards devaluing the numbers game.

carnegie hall interior


  • Has been says:

    I think anniversaries are an acceptable opportunity to highlight programs or events that need attention. Endless Mozart anniversaries have not hurt and often bring attention to obscure works. This week is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviet army. An anniversary highlighted on TV and in the print media. It serves as an opportunity to keep the atrocities of the Nazis in the public eye. What is wrong with that ? Congratulations to Carnegie for an adventurous program of new music.

  • Brian says:

    I don’t really agree with the “lack of imagination” argument. On the contrary, as marketing strategies go, it’s an innovative thing to do!

    The Concertgebouworkest recently celebrated their 125th anniversary – in style, as usual, and with a sensational 152-CD double box set.

  • Clare Stevens says:

    I do hope the 300th birthday of the Three Choirs Festival meets your criteria for being worthy of celebration! Wish I could say we’d commissioned 300 pieces but there are a few in the pipeline for Hereford this summer. Highlights on our new website, though our full programme won’t be announced until March.

  • CDH says:

    If the odd anniversary is the hook on which to hang 125 new commissions, it is a sensational idea. What would be silly would be marking things like a composer’s 160th, or even 125th. This seems more about the result than the occasion, as it were.

  • Eric says:

    Worth noting: the announcement makes it clear it’s 125 new works over 5 years. Not all in 2016. And so what if they’re celebrating this anniversary? It’s an occasion to celebrate a place that is still living and breathing at 125, and inventing anew at that.

  • Tutti Musica says:

    Not to worry, Norman: When you reach 125 years of age, the entire music world will celebrate your birthday in GRAND style ! ! !

  • Jimbo says:

    A 125th Anniversary is a “Quasquicentennial”.

  • JAMA11 says:

    I can almost guarantee you that any institution in the past few decades that has passed the 125-year mark has certainly planned a big event to mark it. Why celebrate 25 but not 125? If they were throwing a party like this every 10 years I would understand the complaint.

  • Daniel Farber says:

    I hope that this anniversary celebrates, in one way or another, the valiant efforts of Isaac Stern, roughly 50 years ago, without which Carnegie Hall would have been destroyed.

    Since Peter Gelb, the Metropolitan Opera, and James Levine are apparently not directly involved in this anniversary celebration, I’m not certain I can grasp NL’s logic in denigrating the celebration of an anniversary that will benefit living composers.

    • JAMA11 says:

      Every time someone at Carnegie Hall takes a breath, they acknowledge the valiant efforts of Isaac Stern. I don’t think you have to worry about whether this event will recognize his work.

      • Daniel Farber says:

        “Every time someone at Carnegie Hall takes a breath” The snideness seems uncalled for, given the difference between the existence of the Hall and the rubble that would have resulted, but for Stern.

  • Barbara Wall says:

    This year is the 175th Anniversary of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the oldest U.K. Orchestra. They are at present nearing the end of a hugely successful celebratory Japan tour with Chief Conductor Vasily Petrenko. An Anniversary well worth of recognition and celebration in many ways.