A bad day to release good news

A bad day to release good news


norman lebrecht

February 13, 2020

Over a couple of hours yesterday, the New York Philharmonic rolled out a headline-grabbing new season, Juilliard named Adam Meyer as its new Provost, the former LA Phil chief Simon Woods stepped in to rescue Grand Teton, Philadelphia gave details of Yannick’s Beethoven symphony cycle studded with four world premieres*, and Chicago’s Lyric Opera pushed out Sir Andrew Davis’s final season.

Do the PRs at these institutions never pick up a phone to each other to avoid rush-hour traffic on Slipped Disc and Michael Cooper’s desk?


*Each symphony will be paired with commissioned works by Composer-in-Residence Gabriela Lena Frank and a diverse group of composers from her Creative Academy of Music—Iman Habibi, Jessica Hunt, and Carlos Simon—who offer new pieces that challenge, inspire, and push boundaries, creating contemporary context and fresh perspectives on the relevance of Beethoven’s legacy today.


  • John Borstlap says:

    That last alinea gives me the shudders.

    • Miguel Cervantes says:

      These new commissions are usually paid for by grants from non-profit foundations. One has to multicultural and inter-sectional nowadays and not just play music by dead white males.

  • Jimbo says:

    If PR teams want Borstlap to know about their new season or appointment they can email him directly, they don’t need to go through SD.

    • John Borstlap says:

      I would think so, but most of them first check on SD whether they find something useful. The really clever teams are then always very forthcoming.

  • Tiredofitall says:

    These things are always more important to those in the know than to the public, for which the information is intended. If you’re interested, you’ll pay attention. PR types are very self-important people.

    Even among those who care, the majority are intelligent enough to walk and chew gum.

    • david hilton says:

      I think you’ve missed Norman’s point. You won’t “pay attention” if the press release of interest to you is never given any publicity due to the crush of competing news stories in the arts. There is hardly any press outlet now that does not seriously limit its arts and cultural coverage compared to the recent past.

      • Tiredofitall says:

        Thank you, but I understood completely Norman’s point. More to the point is that arts journalism is not quite keeping pace with contemporary audiences and media, still relying on “press releases” to disseminate what they consider news. Having worked for some of the largest arts institutions on the planet, not one has yet cracked that code of how to get audiences to pay attention. The existing audience, yes, but they are disappearing and fast.

  • Beethoven Is Relevant says:

    Hey Philadelphia, you know what gives Beethoven relevance today? The fact that he’s been around for 250 years. He is timeless. The naivete of this industry is mind-boggling. It diminishes Beethoven to be paired with nonsense which won’t be remembered in 250 years let alone five years from now.

    • Peter San Diego says:

      Gabriela Lena Frank writes beautiful music of substance, fully worthy of sharing programs with Beethoven or any other master. I haven’t heard of the other composers mentioned, but composers need to be heard to be evaluated, and if Beethoven brings in more listeners (as he always shall), the listeners just might be rewarded with an unexpected gift. One shouldn’t paint with too broad a dismissive brush.

    • Miguel Cervantes says:

      I agree. American orchestras love to shove new music down our throats. 99% of these world premieres are never played again and are quickly forgotten. The audience hates sitting through them.

      Why can’t they do four all-Beethoven programs? I don’t consider NZS a “new music” kind of guy but maybe he has drunk the kool-aid.

    • Bruce says:

      Nothing is going to diminish Beethoven, or make his music less important.

      It is, however, possible to have new perspectives on him even after all this time. (I don’t say any important new music is likely to come out of this project, but it’s possible someone will come up with something worth saying.)

    • John Borstlap says:

      With all due respect, but this entirely ridiculous comment is beneath contempt. Orchestras should always make an effort to explore new music, and however difficult it may be in advance to know what would be worthwhile, attention to what is happening in the field is not a nice bonus for the critics, but the basis of the performance culture: if music dries-up, that will be the beginning of the death of the art form itself, also in terms of performance. The real problem was modernism in the last century and it has already crumbled, many composers have begun long ago to seek new paths – progress in terms of improvement.

      If the new pieces at the NY Phil, when performed, happen to be disappointing, let it be a firing shot for discussion, not for unthinking general dismission. Only by trial something really good will appear. If pieces get enough rehearsel time, the good may emerge in due course.

      I am more worried about the link with Beethoven, since this composer represents an aesthetic and musical universe which is so far removed from our own times. B’s spirit is something entirely alien to our modernity. Writing something today that can stand comparison, is more difficult than it was for composers in B’s time who would write something comparable. And we know that did not happen, every composer contemporary with B or afterwards, felt thoroughly intimidated. But in this initiative, it is not the music of B which seems to be the focus, but his spirit: “…… new pieces that challenge, inspire, and push boundaries, creating contemporary context and fresh perspectives…..”, but that leaves untouched B’s thorough classical mind. He did two things: creating new musical and emotional experiences, and in the same time re-interpreting all the subtle and complex structural processes of the classical style as developed by Haydn and Mozart, Cherubini and Clementi, and including lots of Handel and Bach. So, B’s spirit is not comparable with the revolutionary spirit of the last century which has created so much havoc and misery and to which the quoted passage seems to refer.

    • Larry W says:

      Irrelevant, your comment is ridiculous. At one time, every piece by Beethoven was given its premiere. During those years numerous other composers had first performances. Some at the time were thought to be superior to Beethoven, some not. Only the perspective of time can make that determination. Consider this: During Bach’s lifetime Telemann was the more successful and admired composer. During Mozart’s lifetime Salieri was much more popular. What is their relative status now?

      Without new music, classical music will die, or at the very least, become uninteresting.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        “During Mozart’s lifetime Salieri was much more popular”

        Er…no, this isn’t true. Salieri was much older than Mozart, and there was a genuine friendship between the two. But Salieri’s music had pretty much fallen out of fashion by the late 1780s when Mozart was at his peak.

        • Larry W says:

          Really? History makes no secret of the fact that Mozart and Salieri were professional rivals. During their years together in Vienna, Salieri was greatly respected professionally. Emperor Joseph II liked him a lot, and Salieri held successive roles as court composer, director of Italian opera, and court conductor. Salieri died rich. Mozart died a pauper.

  • SMH says:

    Lyric Opera’s season seems virtually ossified from the start. What a snoozer……

    • Miguel Cervantes says:

      The Lyric Opera’s subscription brochure is yawn-inducing. Other than Radanovsky and Calleja in Tosca there is absolutely nothing to get excited about. Just like San Francisco Opera, the Chicago Lyric is way past its prime.

  • anon says:

    Like the classical music desks at American newspapers are soooo busy. Oh nooo, something just came over the news wire at 3 pm, how am I going to get dressed, eat dinner and make it to my concert at 8 pm?

  • Kolb Slaw says:

    Why do all the new projects have to “push boundaries, re-examine context, mix genres” and other destructive twaddle? Because that’s what gets grant money. That is how the foundations destroy art.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Indeed….. and it distracts the attention away from musical content, which is more difficult to talk about.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      “…that’s what gets grant money”

      These orchestras really are not applying for government grants to fund their activities.