Two recent articles from music critics in Detroit and Pittsburgh caught my attention this week as they made the strikingly similar observations about their respective orchestras…
The first article appeared in the June 4th edition of the Detroit Free Press and was written by Mark Stryker; the second appeared in the June 7th edition of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and was written by Mark Kanny.
Both articles lamented the fact that their respective ensembles were moving along without the sort of artistic leadership they deserved. In Mark Stryker’s article, he shows some home town spirit by writing that the Detroit Symphony is every bit as good as the ensembles in St. Louis and Atlanta but because Detroit is without a music director the organization isn’t getting invited to perform at Carnegie.
In Pittsburgh, Mark Kanny bemoaned the organization’s decision to implement a trifecta of conductors to cumulatively serve the role that would normally be filled by a single music director. He goes on to write that only one of the conductors, Yan Pascal Tortelier, really delivered a performance worthwhile of his position.
Although it’s interesting that both writers are located in cities barely separated by 200 miles, it’s even more interesting that they had very similar opinions about their respective ensemble’s artistic merit. They both go on to state that, if anything, the artistic leadership situation at both organizations is a far cry from ideal but that hasn’t degraded artistic output or potential.
In Pittsburgh, Mark Kanny points out that all of the first stand players among the winds, brass and percussion are proving that they are not only world-class good but they continue to demonstrate regular improvement. He singles out PSO principal horn Bill Caballero as having an “astonishing” level of artistic development. Having head Bill up close and personal as well as within an ensemble setting, I concur (brass musicians have a phrase they use to describe players like Bill but it’s not something one uses in general public).
Back at Detroit, Mark Stryker makes similar statements by declaring that the DSO is “perched on the brink of greatness” and that they have “all the ingredients for glory are present except one: truly inspired artistic leadership.”
One fascinating observation from Detroit Mark is that the DSO has been slack in programming music from living composers. He goes on to write that he feels establishing a composer-in-residence might be just the thing to help give the ensemble the right artistic spark while it searches for a new music director. The issue of composers beginning to serve a larger role within orchestras as an artistic catalyst is a popular topic this month. You can read more about that subject here, here, and here.
In the end, it just goes to show that the artistic resolve among many orchestra players is stronger than ever. Hopefully, managers will be able to capitalize on this by seizing opportunities to spark organizational growth.