Classical music braces for a fall in the flow

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You might have thought that an institution as powerful as Carnegie Hall would want to come back with a vengeance. It says a lot about this still risky moment for classical music, in terms of financial and public health, as the venue is calming down and keeping its fall season relatively light. His opening night on October 6, offers Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who conducts the Metropolitan Opera and the Philadelphia Orchestra, in a program that is both a gala and a declaration of intent.

The program, starring the Philadelphians, opens with Valerie Coleman’s new “Seven O’Clock Shout”, written during the pandemic, followed by Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2, with the dazzling Yuja Wang as soloist . Next comes this gala standard, Bernstein’s Overture to “Candide”. “Jeder Baum spricht” (2019) by Iranian-Canadian composer Iman Habibi, commissioned by the orchestra for Beethoven’s 250th birthday last year, was written in dialogue with Beethoven’s fifth and sixth symphonies. Here it will lead to Beethoven’s Fifth Story, triggering a full Beethoven symphonic cycle with Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra, originally scheduled for last year.

These classic symphonies will be interspersed with contemporary pieces – which, while not a new idea, is a good idea. It sounds too familiar for a complete Beethoven symphonic cycle to dominate Carnegie’s season.

But will it be in practice? It may well be that for some time to come, hearing even standard works performed beautifully will feel restorative, almost miraculous.

Yet, given the crises we have been through and the pressing challenges that remain, I hope my wish will prevail as institutions do more to connect and engage, to foster living and new composers. generations of artists. I have long thought that many classical ensembles, especially large orchestras, spend too much time thinking about how they play and not enough time what they play and why they play it. We all love the standard repertoire. But an ensemble puts more on the line and promotes classical music as a living art form when it presents a new piece, defends an older neglected work, or takes a risk with unconventional programming.

These things have always been central to my thinking, now more than ever. If that translates into what some may see as a gradation on a curve – giving extra credit, in a sense, to artists who reach out and take risks – so be it. The status quo will no longer be enough.

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