Since when is 125 an anniversary?

The Munich Philharmonic is marking an anniversary with a performance of Mahler’s 8th.

It’s not really an anniversary since the orchestra had a different name and ownership 125 years ago – and, anyway, what kind of anniversary is 125?

A centenary I can celebrate.

150 years – just about.

But 125 is a symptom of all that is wrong with classical planning and marketing, clutching at numerical straws because they have run out of ideas.

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  • Why not?

    “But 125 is a symptom of all that is wrong with classical planning and marketing, clutching at numerical straws because they have run out of ideas.”

    What a nonsense argument….

  • Clutching at non-numerical straws this time, has anyone else seen the hollow and embarrassing YouTube videos Deutsche Grammophon has been uploading celebrating their 100th? Some featuring shallow and stupid mini interviews with the Netrebkos. Bereft of ideas does not begin to describe them. Sad.

  • I don’t mind as any excuse for performing Mahler 8 will do for me.
    As Mahler premiered his 8th symphony with this very orchestra it seems a great choice for a celebration.

    • But you are merely echoing the problem that Norman’s comment addresses: the feeling that classical programmers need “an excuse” for programming a particular piece of music. If their programming judgement is not sufficiently developed that they have artistic reasons for programming a piece of music, they might as well pick the names of pieces to perform out of a hat, as really on the totally arbitrary process of finding some meaningless anniversary.

  • Given the Munich Philharmonic’s history, I’m happy to see them celebrate Mahler’s 8th. The Munich Phil was one of the most Nazi orchestras, and even adopted the motto “Orchester der Hauptstadt der Bewegung (Orchestra of the Capital City of the Movement.) This was shortened in daily parlance to simple “Orchestra of the Movement.” Jewish members of the orchestra were purged. If I remember right, the Jewish concertmaster and his wife committed suicide.

    During the Third Reich, the orchestra stamped all of its music with the motto circumscribing an eagle holding a swastika in its talons. After the war, they blotted out the words, but left the swastikas untouched. So several times a year music would be used with the swastikas. I saw them on pieces ranging from Strauss waltzes to Einheldenleben.

    In 1992, I had to send two letters to the Cultural Ministry to ask them to have the swastikas removed. The orchestra responded by reporting to the ministry that there were no swastikas on the music. I knew they wouldn’t tell the truth, so I had already made a bunch of photocopies which I then sent to members of the city council. The orchestra responded by accusing me of just trying to embarrass them, but said they would remove the swastikas. I’m not sure they ever did, since my wife left the orchestra not long afterwards.

    Sergiu Celibidache, the orchestra’s most prominent conductor in recent decades who led it for about 17 or 18 years, refused to conduct Mahler Symphonies even though the orchestra (in an earlier incarnation) had the distinction of premiering the 8th.

    So this celebration of Mahler for the orchestra’s 125th anniversary is a statement that has meaning on many levels. I’m grateful for this gesture.

  • “125 is a symptom of all that is wrong with classical planning and marketing, clutching at numerical straws because they have run out of ideas”

    …what? Since when is 125 NOT a significant anniversary? Major anniversaries of organisations or events are generally celebrated at 25, 50, 75, 100… 125!

    It’s on an easy-to-find list of terms used to name major anniversaries, suggesting that it is a widely-recognized major anniversary
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anniversary#Latin-derived_numerical_names

    If you google “125th anniversary” (use the quotes), you will see many instances of 125 years being celebrated and noticed.

    And if you google

    “125th anniversary” orchestra

    you will see plenty of instances of orchestras marking their 125th seasons with public celebrations. Yay!

    Try the same search with museum – again, rich results.

    (Now try it with “classical music gossip blogger” – ha ha, just kidding!)

    And why shouldn’t an anniversary be used to draw an audience? Sometimes it is overdone (Bernstein, perhaps) but why on earth not?

    And of course an arts organisation can change names and have different leaders over time (duh!) but that does not mean it is not the same organization!

    Arts organizations come and go. Some last for decades, many fold and disappear after a few seasons. For a performing ensemble to sustain itself for more than a century is worthy of celebration. I have served on the boards of performing organizations, have spent years volunteering at same, and have had modest employment from a few. It is HARD WORK to keep an arts organization going and thriving, and for goodness’ sake, yes, it IS cause for celebration when one reaches 125 years and is still going and making music!

    There’s context out there in the big wide world!

    • The word — and there is one! — to describe a 125th anniversary is quasquicentennial. So someone out there thought it significant enough to coin a word for it.

  • My comment is awaiting moderation?

    It would be nice to know what triggers a review. Inclusion of links? Use of certain words? Length?
    Not complaining – the site owner has the right to make his own rules – just curious.

    Ah, good! – I found the rules posted in the “About” tab:

    Rules … 1 No abuse 2 No defamation 3 No personal attacks. 4 You may post anonymously or under a pseudonym, but only under one name. Rule violators will be spammed out.

    OK, I did none of those things. Maybe it’s just me 🙁

  • Hello Norman and all the other commentators,

    all orchestras in the third Reich were „gleichgeschaltet“, which means they had to howl with the wolves, unless they wanted to go out of business.
    Norman, please tell me how many orchestras there are in Britain that are older than 125 years Oldenburg. Would the fingers of one hand be enough?

  • Well,125 is a very common number for celebrating orchestras…or institutions…or what ever.
    The thing is,that everything that is related to Mr. Gergiev is an absolut no-go for Mr. Lebrecht…so simple! And this is narrow-minded,sorry to say that!

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