Pappano: It’s time to rethink the orchestra model

Pappano: It’s time to rethink the orchestra model


norman lebrecht

April 08, 2021

The incoming chief conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra has told a reporter from Le Figaro in Rome that Covid should be seen as an opportunity to rethink how orchestras go about their business.

‘The crisis invites us to rethink the orchestral model,’ he says.

Article here (in French, behind paywall).

It may cause a few tremors in the LSO.


  • E Rand says:

    At least he didn’t say “reimagine”. Thats a popular word here in the States for politicians about to destroy everything they touch.

  • Anon says:

    I like the old model. And when things open up again, it will have been nearly two years. Please program my old favorites.

  • A.L. says:

    To rethink the orchestral model? I have a suggestion. What of shutting up and playing? And playing great music, the tried and true, greatly. In about 10 seconds I figured it out without drawing a couple-of-million-plus-£ commission.

    • Guest says:

      You realize that commissioned works have been around for centuries, yes?
      The great, tried, and true Beethoven 9? Commission.

      Also, a number of ‘tried and true’ works were not well received when they debuted, but have become significant works (brahms Piano concerto 1 premier was received ‘coldly’)

      If you’ve already decided new commissions are crap, of course you aren’t going to like any of it

      Let’s give some new talent a chance, shall we?

      I suggest you have a listen to Rebecca Dale’s Requiem for my Mother, and The Shaman by Vincent Ho, commissioned (Gasp!) by Dame Evelyn Glennie

      • Anon says:

        A lifetime of going to concerts, or playing concerts, is how people have decided that most commissions are crap.

        • John Borstlap says:

          Which has nothing to do with the process of commissioning, but with the bias of programmers and performers, going for what is considered ‘relevant’ within the entirely outdated and limited circles of new music, instead of letting their ears and heart decide.

      • There wouldn’t be calls to stop commissioning new work if the new works getting commissioned were not so consistently disappointing.

        • John Borstlap says:

          The people commissioning don’t listen or have no taste or think that ‘progress’ in music and being ‘up to date’ is more important than musical quality. The standards for commissioning are, most of the time, not musical at all – except for some extraordinary occasions we consequently hear nothing about – because they are not welcome.

          It is very simple: if a truly good piece of music would be commissioned, and were a success with players and audiences, it would be neither film music nor hip music nor modernist or portmodernist music, nor sound art, – it would be traditionally-rooted, like Bacri’s or David Matthews’. Not because only ‘conservative’ music is good but because in former times there was a higher musical standard, using natural tonality systems and good taste and a feeling for expression and beauty. Very simple facts, but very unwelcome facts because they rub against wide-spread ideas about ‘modernity’ which is supposed of only one version – the one of half a century old.

          Nothing is more conservative and conventional than the average commission stragegies in the classical music world.

  • Nik says:

    This is just titillation.
    Can you not give us two or three salient bullet points, at least?

    • Marfisa says:

      If you zoom into the image (on a laptop) you can just about read it, though it is fuzzy. Here is the relevant bit: “La crise nous invite à repenser le modèle orchestral dans sa globalité. La distanciation des musiciens, par exemple, interroge. Ce qui s’est parfois avéré un cauchemar a créé espace différent, pour le son, qui peut donner dans un certain répertoire, une ampleur nouvelle, une plénitude. Sans parler du fait que les musiciens sont obligées de plus s’écouter.” (Google translate is there for non-Francophones.) He also talks about the impications for touring.

      • Nik says:

        Ok thanks, my French is ok, the problem is the paywall.
        So in fact the main points are about how an orchestra inhabits a space when the musicians can’t sit close together. But this is a mid-pandemic rather than a post-pandemic view. From Norman’s opener I thought Pappano was talking about changes to the way orchestras operate (programming, touring etc.).

    • John Borstlap says:

      I’m not going to pay for an article about rethinking the orchestral model in a wrong language, so for a moment I give my (mostly correct) prejudices free reign:

      – making the symphony orchestra more relevant to modern times, through relating it to social justice problems, anti-racist initiatives, the needs of immigrants and refugees, and the plight of women of any culture and ethnicity;
      – reshuffling the repertoire away from the canon and include more music written by women, blacks, Chinese, Hispanics other than De Falla, and more modern works which audiences can recognize from the cinema and the pop music of their children;
      – creating special series with sound art for audiences who wish to better connect with the misery of modernity, combined with medical and psychiatric help on the spot;
      – making the concert experience more interesting by adding visuals like big video screens with appropriate movies, or real time views of players and audience members in close-up, or real time views of the foyers or streets surrounding the concert hall; or combining the performance with ballet dancers, acrobats or mime performers;
      – changing concert behaviour ritual into something closer to contemporary life experience: jogging attire instead of evening dress, chatting during the performance, free admission for toddlers and babies, the freedom to walk in or out a performance, and eating, drinking and discussing the music while it is being played;
      – extending the concert experience with restaurant facilities, swimming pool, a corner for computer games, and a sporting hall with the appropriate machinery.

      No doubt many more people than ever will want to be introduced to this noble musical tradition, and the art form will be preserved for the future, including its star performers.

      • microview says:

        I give my (mostly correct) prejudices free reign

        Free rein actually – horses and carts not kings and queens

      • MGEC says:

        How is French a „wrong language“?

        • John Borstlap says:

          Because nobody understands it. And they also write it wrong, you cannot make-up any sense of it.

          • Brettermeier says:

            “Because nobody understands it.”

            Speak for yourself.

            “wrong language”

            You make a good point here. 🙂

            (Still better than Swiss German, though.)

          • John Borstlap says:

            Well, take the nouns for instance: they gender the nouns, in male and female, while everybody knows that words don’t have a gender, it’s people and animals which have a gender. Or, they have 285 words for cheese, like eskimos have for snow. Also there are many letters which are not pronounced at all. For hundreds of years they have a special academy that tries to sort-out the problems and still they couldn’t get it done. Even the French themselves struggle with their language, hence they ‘talk’ with their hands, to compensate for all the inadequacies.

      • Couperin says:

        Bortslap strikes again!

        • John Borstlap says:

          You don’t know what a misery it creates for me with all those angry phone calls and people with banners at the gate etc.


  • Peter says:

    It might be also time to rethink if it was normal for Pappano to have his full (6 zeros) monthly income in a pandemic, without actually conducting an orchestra… probably not.
    Or just for the LSO to rethink if he is the best option for them… probably not as well.

  • Mario says:

    “The crisis invites us to rethink the conductor’s pay structure”.

    • Andrey says:

      which sounds like you are accusing Pappano of something. But he waived his salarey famously. So maybe disavow your comment. He is a good person.

  • I have always liked Pappano,no strutting ego or slave like submission to german repertoire.Rattle is very talented but it could be said is now more of a social politician than musician.LSO will be ok under Pappano.

    • John Borstlap says:

      There is the genius CD of Wagner ‘Love Duets’ with Domingo and Voigt, and the ROH orchestra under Pappano (EMI Classics 2000). While the singers are rather disappointing (Domingo vulgar and Voigt empty), the orchestra and the entire interpretation is superlative Wagner playing as you almost never hear it.

  • christopher storey says:

    Rattle the prattle talented ?