Will the symphony orchestra survive? A different outlook

Will the symphony orchestra survive? A different outlook


norman lebrecht

July 24, 2020

Yesterday, Ivan Fischer warned the orchestra was doomed if it did not embrace fundamental reform.

Today, at 3pm UK time (10am NY), I’ll be looking at the post-Covid options for orchestras in a conversation with the European Union Youth Orchestra director Marshall Marcus.

It’s live on Youtube and Facebook. Click here and here.



  • Rafael Enrique Irizarry says:

    Overwhelmed by Mr. Lebrecht’s intellect and enviable facility with the Queen’s English, I must wholeheartedly disagree with this latest fad of advising/counseling that music should not be at the absolute center of an orchestral musician’s life and that orchestral musicians should have other -to put it succinctly- “worldly concerns.” That is most unfortunate: the astronomically high standards that we now enjoy with the world’s greatest performers are directly linked to their missionary zeal with music. I do not care much for how the principal trombone (for example) of the Berlin Philharmonic would feel free-climbing El Capitán or cleaning-up grafitti vandalism in a Berlin barrio. I care for what he sounds like (again, for example) in Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony and how that affects the audience. His prowess in other aspects of life, though commendable, is only tangential to the excellence he should personify in his chosen profession. That excellence demands total commitment, absolute dedication. And, by the way, many of these exalted artists teach formidable students. The excellence of those educational endeavors is confirmed in ensembles such as the European Youth Orchestra, the Gustav Mahler Orchestra, the Verbier Festival Orchestra or the Tanglewood Music Festival Orchestra, to mention just a few. Stay safe and healthy, Mr. Lebrecht. We need you; we really do.

    • Nurhan Arman says:

      Aren’t musicians and artists capable of having “worldly concerns” and still show “total commitment, absolute dedication” to their art? There are far too many examples of artists doing both things very well. I sure wish more of us would do the same.

  • Dennis says:

    You should have a caption contest: What does the photo decorating this post signify? Abject submission to fear, paranoia, and hysteria.

    • Haydee says:

      I’d like to be able to understand the message in few words, either keep on going or quit

    • Bruce says:

      Why bother with a caption contest now? You’ve obviously submitted the most wittiest, pithiest comment comment possible.


  • Cubs Fan says:

    Interesting listen. Lots to think about, but boy am I glad I’ve held on to my CDs!

    FYI: in the US, orchestral touring started long before Mahler toured. As early as 1885 the New York Symphony Orchestra, led by Walter Damrosch, was touring out west and in the south. His biography My Musical Life gives a particularly funny story about the Raff 5th and a young, drunken cowboy in Fargo.

    • Peter San Diego says:

      Time to hunt down that Damrosch autobiography!

      • Edgar Self says:

        Walter Damrosch’s biography or memoir is readable. His full-bearded patriarchal lconductor father Leopold and brother Frank, a New York oratorio chorus conuctor, were musicians. Walert led the New York Symphony Orchestra before its merger with the New York Philharmonic. an earlier instance of orchestral shrinkage unlamented in these pages. For years the result was called the New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra.

        In 78 rpm days I had a single 12-inch Columbia laminate with Walter Daamrosch playing piano and “explaining” with theatricality worthy of a Barrrymore the Roica funeral march. Sample: “One last onvulsion, and all is o’er.” ˆuheard him often on AM radio.

        He is heard in a charming introductory speech to Master Josef Hofmann’s goldenn jubilee coneert at thr Mrtropolitan Opera House in 1936.

      • Cubs Fan says:

        If I knew who you were I’d be glad to send you my copy. Alas, no private messaging on SD.

    • Old Man in the Midwest says:

      I believe Mozart did several tours of Europe well before Damrosch.

      My guess is that there was some cave man who played a bone flute at the village a few miles away and who was considered to be the Elvis of his time.

    • Henry williams says:

      Music at home is now a lifeline. Even before the virus i have always kept on buying cds. It is great when you have a big selection.

  • anon says:

    If memory serves me correctly, Marshall Marcus used to work in a managerial capacity at the Southbank, and Lebrecht’s disdain for that institution is legendary. Or is Lebrecht’s disdain only for Jude Kelly?