Philadelphia is missing out on international artists

Philadelphia is missing out on international artists


norman lebrecht

May 19, 2015

Powerful piece today by Peter Dobrin, arguing that Kimmel Center’s financial targets have made it impossible to invite the Vienna Philharmonic and Lang Lang to play in the city. Read Peter here.

kimmel center philly


  • Olassus says:

    Since when has Lang Lang been a “major recitalist”?

    • V.Lind says:

      He has tended to be a popular one. I daresay he comes more expensive than a boy band or whatever, but he has often been a big seller, so he would conceivably be either profitable or revenue-neutral.

      • Olassus says:

        Have heard him several times in concert, where a smart conductor can help him get through. But in recital? Can’t imagine how he would fare, lacking insight and stylistic integrity and so on.

        If “major” means money, as you suggest, then why is Peter Dobrin citing him as an example of what’s missing in Philly. Lang would be an example of the “entertainment” side he is railing against, no?

  • bluepumpkin says:

    Should the failure to get Vienna and Lang Lang really be such a catastrophic disaster? All that brouhaha in London when the BPO appears – and the expense! There are all sorts of good other world orchestras out there and they come without the same price bracket. A certain type of Classical music lover gets fixated on just a very few and – I suspect – not for simply musical reasons. I dare say there’s the kudos of having got ‘that’ ticket for the big show everyone is talking about.

  • Musicmatters says:

    Philadelphia is missing out on Lang Lang? May other cities be so cursed, and may they never recover.

    • MWnyc says:

      Lang Lang studied at Curtis and continued to live in Philadelphia for a time after he graduated and started becoming famous. The city has heard plenty of him over the years.

  • Anon says:

    Forget Lang Lang: they’ve taken until the 2015-2016 to get Trifonov, and that is a problem.

  • Peggy Sweeney says:

    Why did this turn into an anti Lang Lang rant? I suspect the author was making the very valid point that both orchestras (the ones he names and others) and soloists (Lang Lang was only an example) are no longer invited to perform — and that is, indeed, very sad.

  • John Kelly says:

    I’ve lived in the US for 33 years, can’t say I can ever remember the Vienna Phil playing in Philly.

    • Olassus says:

      Probably due to restrictions from “Vienna Philharmonic Week in New York,” which began in 1989.

  • PhilOrchFan says:

    Kimmel Center still sees its share of world-class soloist and chamber recitals. It does miss out on other world-class orchestras, that’s true.

  • MacroV says:

    While I can appreciate the prudent management that seems to have profit-making ventures helping to subsidize the non-profit, I agree it seems a little skewed. And I’m sympathetic; The Vienna Philharmonic will sell out the house, but for $250K there’s no way for the presenter to make money. OTOH get the very fine North German Radio Orchestra or such, at a much lower fee, but Kimmel might lose as much money there because name-conscious listeners won’t buy tickets – not without Lang Lang or Yo-Yo Ma as soloists, which then increases the cost and kind of undermines the reason for featuring the group.

    As for solo recitals, if a big-time performer can’t generate a profit, then he/she is being overpaid, because ultimately you’re worth the revenue you can produce. Unfortunately, many other great performers simply don’t sell tickets.

    • MWnyc says:

      The Kimmel Center did present a series of visiting international orchestras for the first several years it was open. The Vienna Philharmonic was the only one that could reliably fill the house – Gergiev and the Mariinsky did sometimes, but not consistently. The Philadelphia audience just wasn’t inclined – well, not in sufficient numbers – to buy tickets to hear orchestras they didn’t already know about.

  • Daniel Farber says:

    The author’s talk of international orchestras leapfrogging over Philadelphia between appearances at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and New York City is faintly delusional, since NO international orchestras have played at the Kennedy Center in the three years I have lived in the D. C. area. People who run the show down here do not want the dreary National Symphony shown up definitively as a second-rate band. At least music lovers in Philly have only to travel 90 minutes by train and two hours by car to catch all those orchestras in New York.

    • Wut says:

      Dude, what are you talking about – “NO international orchestras”? The Washington Performing Arts has an entire SERIES of international orchestra concerts; this coming season includes appearances by the Orchestre National de France, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Symphony, Montreal – last year the IPO came, I can remember off the top of my head.
      What Kennedy Center are you attending?

      • MacroV says:

        And sometimes you get terrific orchestras out at George Mason University, too; I’ve heard the Gewandhaus Orchestra there, and a few years ago Lorin Maazel conducting the Toscanini Philharmonic (a part-time all-star, mostly Italian group that was extraordinary).

        But I will admit one of my most deflating experiences was going from the revelatory experience of hearing the Berlin Philharmonic at the Kennedy Center, followed by the NSO later in the week.

  • Daniel Farber says:

    The author’s comment about international orchestras leapfrogging over Philadelphia on their way from the Kennedy Center in D.C. to New York is misinformed. International orchestras do not perform at the Kennedy Center–at least not in the three years since I’ve lived in the D.C. area. The only visiting orchestra to visit last year were the Philadelphians. For the rest, we get only the dreary National Symphony under the self-loving Christoph Eschenbach. When the great Osmo Vanska comes to guest-conduct (every other year), it’s like the Lone Ranger and his great horse, Silver, come to do justice.

    • Brian from Washington says:

      Great international orchestras do in fact perform at the Kennedy Center in DC quite often. In the past three years I’ve seen the Royal Concertgebouw, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, Vienna Phil, Leipzig Gwandhaus, Budapest Festival Orch, Mariinsky Orch, Orch de la Suisse Romande and Philadelphia, among others — all courtesy of the Washington Performing Arts Society. As for the National Symphony and Christoph Eschenbach, I’ll just say Mr Farber’s opinion is not shared by any of my concert-going friends.

    • Olassus says:

      Washington Performing Arts Society?

    • Max Grimm says:

      While I am aware that the Strathmore sees quite a few artists and ensembles, I was under the impression that the Berlin Phil, the Staatskapelle Dresden, the Gewandhausorchester, the LSO, the Vienna Phil, as well as soloists like Anne Sophie Mutter and Lang Lang have performed at Kennedy Center in recent years (and/or will be performing there in the near future).

  • Joel stein says:

    Boston no longer gets the Vienna, Berlin, LSO, etc either.

  • Will says:

    Possibly the reason the above poster was unaware of the visiting orchestras in DC is the fact they are barely publicised by the Kennedy Center, being WPAS events. I’d suggest you don’t need exotic orchestras to show up the NSO’s dullness – the Philadelphia Orchestra does that well enough.