The world’s orchestra musicians to rally in Montreal

The world’s orchestra musicians to rally in Montreal


norman lebrecht

January 19, 2017

The programme has been released for the 4th International Orchestra Conference, which will take place in Montreal, May 11-14, 2017, with Yannick Nézet-Séguin as official ambassador.

Click here for details.


  • John Borstlap says:

    There are quite a few of these sort of conferences around, like the last Spektrix in the UK:

    However well-meaning they are, and certainly helpful in many ways, the danger is that the focus is on management, funding, audience building through marketing and promotion, the use of IT media to reach new audiences, how to get delinquent teenagers and reluctant husbands to the opera, etc. etc. but the central issue: the value question, is mostly avoided because it is too difficult, too subjective, too vague, and such theme sounds suspicious anyway in our egalitarian society. And indeed it is a difficult subject: value as what? for what? Artistic, social, political, philosophical, practical, economical? Nobody will doubt the militaristic value of military marches or the revolutionary function of the bloodthirsty words of the Marseillaise in the French revolution period (this scandalous national hymn). But classical music in the concert halls? And opera, even where there is a plot, words, and stage action?

    And yet, without the value question solved, all debates about practicalities and issues like audience building will be mere wrapping paper, window dressing, labelling the bottles without examining the wine. As long as relevance in terms of content is not somehow described, or indicated, let alone defined, such debates if successful (i.e. with a real effect in society and on a political level) merely stimulate dumbing-down the art form and contribute to cultural illiteracy (which will bring-in new audiences, attract funding, fulfil political engineering programs, etc. etc.). In short: if the underlying problem of value and relevance is not addressed, such conferences can be harmful, quite unintentionally.

    But addressing the value question brings inevitably the necessity of distinctions and hierarchy with it, with the ‘threats’ of exclusion, lack of diversity and inclusiveness, etc. etc. For many people in the arts, and especially in the musical world (i.e. classical music), it would be ideal if concerts would be accessible to anyone and presented by a fair representation of modern, mixed immigrant society, preferably a cosmopolitan orchestra conducted by a young, inviting and reassuring star like David Afkham or Marin Alsop, symbols of the modern world rather than representing their artistic capacities – which would do grave injustice to such performers).

    If addressing the value question: 1) where is classical music for and 2) what is its value and 3) which repertoire does represent these values best and 4) how could performers work in the best way in the modern world? the clichées of the last century about art, its meaning and its social function first would have to be shelved to be able to think anew, and assess the realities of existing culture and ask: how could this culture come to us from a past which was so different from our own period? And: how is it possible that works of art, in this case: musical works, can speak to us, citizens of the Brave New World? What was its value in the past and what could it be today?

    Fasten your seat belts.

    • Jamesay says:

      John your sentiments and very cogent thoughts are welcomed. A breath of fresh air. Why don’t you offer yourself to such enterprises ?

      • John Borstlap says:

        It is never nice to contribute a message which seems to undo most of the other contributions, in a format which suggests already a general approach which wants to avoid the content and value question. Better is a separate event, and indeed that’s what I am thinking about just in these days….