The Saturday, October 27, 2007 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published an article by Andrew Druckenbrod that reported Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) artistic advisor Andrew Davis would not return to conduct the orchestra this season, the last of his contracted tenure with the ensemble. Andrew’s article does an excellent job at bringing you up to speed on the details surrounding Davis’ time with the ensemble but looking ahead, the core of this situation will inadvertently test the PSO’s standing within he greater professional orchestra community…
Andrew’s article does a good job at framing this test by pointing out that finding suitable candidates to fill the sudden podium vacancy is the real challenge. Consequently, the ensemble’s artistic clout will be tested to the fullest extent with the final score reflected in which conductors they are able to hire on short notice.
In a round-about way, this situation serves as an extraordinary opportunity to serve as a quantifiable artistic benchmark for the PSO and in a time when the value of traditional artistic benchmarks have been questioned, how the PSO manages this challenge will ultimately influence the organization’s standing.
What the PSO has going for them is the ensemble. Musically speaking, it has been and continues to be an excellent ensemble. Ideally, the organization is going to be able to capitalize on relationships between its musicians and conductors who are artistically accomplished and have an equal amount of name recognition. If the PSO can manage to bring in name-brand conductors who also work well with the musicians to create an artistic product, then it will only expand on their already solid artistic reputation.
What the PSO has working against them is the recent appointment of a new Music Director. Although the appointment of a Music Director creates a great deal of internal stabilization, it does cut down on the number of conductors who might be willing to rearrange their schedule on short notice or cut the precious little time many of them have with their family. As there is no opportunity for a full time relationship in the near future, you have to fall back on the conductor’s existing relationship with the musicians and/or their respect for the institution.
Normally, this is one of those situations that would fade into obscurity; however, it should be precisely the sort of thing the business pays attention to. As such, it will be intriguing to see what develops.
You can likely find more on this issues as it develops at Andrew Druckenbrod’s blog, Classical Musings.
2 thoughts on “An Interesting Challenge In Pittsburgh”
An oddly circuler argument Drew; setting up paramaters for an orchestra to prove it’s artistic clout and then stating that those paramaters can’t be met because of the impending arrival of a music director.
I wonder whether the same questions would be asked in LA or New York given their recent MD announcements, or is there less need to prove artistic benchmarks for those ensembles because of pre-existent reputation?
I am disappointed that the measure of quality in guest conductor selection is their “name brand value.” This same misplaced logic is seen in local magazines or newspapers that select their best restaurants by readers’ choice. The sad result is that Red Lobster ends up near or at the top of the list. It is sad to think that a major orchestra’s artistic administrator and/or marketing director would be so ill informed.