A week ago, the Los Angeles Philharmonic rolled out its centenary season, by far the most ambitious, forward looking, socially progressive and egalitarian program the country has ever seen. The season had been planned down to the last detail by the orchestra’s former president, Deborah Borda, before she left to become chief in New York.
Last night, Deborah unfurled the new season at the New York Philharmonic with the incoming music director, Jaap Van Zweden. Once again, the season had Borda’s career hallmarks – political awareness, social justice, new music and lots of roles for women.
These two launches set a clear blue ocean between the two Borda orchestras and the rest. The LA Phil and the New York Philharmonic are looking resolutely to the future, searching for broader audiences, determined to fill the hall and challenge the mind.
Most of the rest are doing same old music, same old faces, same old audience.
The Borda pill will either galvinize or terrorise the sector, it’s too early to tell. But America orchestras now have a clear-cut choice. They can adopt the Borda blueprint and try to sell it to their blue-rinse board of directors, or they can carry on regardless, booking seats in God’s waiting room.