The 4/14/2009 edition of The Brooklyn Paper published an article by Mike McLaughlin that reports composer Nathan Currier is suing the Brooklyn Philharmonic for making him cut sections of his piece, Gaian Variations, during the 2004 world premiere. According to the article, then Brooklyn Phil Executive Director, Catherine Cahill, approached Currier during the concert-length performance’s second of two intermissions to talk about overtime issues related to the work’s length…
The article reports that Cahill “demanded that Currier personally pay the overtime wages or trim the work, which took him five years to compose and had already cost him $72,200 to stage.” Apparently, Currier capitulated and added some cuts to the final act but to add insult to injury, communication problems resulted in the ensemble thinking the first cut was actually the revised end of the piece. Needless to say, the article reports that Currier was furious and his work ultimately received scathing reviews.
These events are so bizarre that in a different time or place, you might think this was a sitcom treatment; nevertheless, something as wacky as this almost certainly has more to tell than what was reported in the newspaper. On the other hand, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and if the basic information in McLaughlin’s article is accurate then it begs the following questions:
- Why on earth didn’t the Phil’s ops personnel realize the length of Currier’s work hovered around the overtime red zone before the last of two intermissions?
- Just how bad was the Brooklyn Philharmonic’s cash flow at that time to prompt the Executive Director to risk the quality of artistic offerings of a world premier over something as relatively benign as overtime? (does anyone else smell beans?)
- How could a conductor mistake a cut for an ending?
The article reports Currier’s lawsuit claims that “[a]s a direct consequence of [the Philharmonic’s] arbitrary, capricious and inappropriate ‘butchering’ of the performance, … the audience in Avery Fisher Hall was deprived of an appreciation of the totality of the creative work.” As a result, Currier is suing for $250,000 but his attorney indicated the composer “would be willing to settle the suit if the Philharmonic agreed to play the piece in its unadulterated entirety.”
Hell hath no fury like a composer scorned…