Lennie, what are you thinking?

I’ve been meaning to write about this article I found, “Change is in the Air”, but my laziness and procrastination has found better things for me to do.

Alas, my mind has been running circles around this article, just trying to get a grasp it and to understand if it’s a joke or not. Allow me to highlight a few of my favorite parts:

The articles starts off with how Slatkin intends to change to orchestra seating around. The article reads:

“…the orchestra will be seated with their backs to the audience. Music Director
Leonard Slatkin said at a press conference yesterday, “I feel that the listeners are distracted by seeing the faces of the musicians. By turning around, people will tire of looking at backsides and focus purely on the music.””

While, I think that this might be an interesting experiment, I can’t see this working out to better ones musical experience. Secondly, these performances are as much an aural experience as a visiual experience. As a musician, I want to see the performer’s face and how they emote. Do they smile during the scherzo of such-and-such piece? Are they grooving along, moving their head a little to the latin rhythms in Roberto Sierra’s symphonic works? That’s just as much an element for me as the music itself. If you want people to enjoy the music for purely music’s sake, then put a recording on in the concert hall. I’m sure they’ll get rave reviews.

Besides that, doesn’t one take into account the acoustical properties of each instrument and how sound travels from the stage to the audience. Aren’t these multi-million dollar concert halls designed, by some of the greatest architects and sound engineers, to achieve the most sublime aural and acoustical nuances from an orchestra…that faces forward?

Here’s another good one:

“Beethoven’s 5th will get a trimming, but with a different rationale.

“Many years ago, I did a production of Tosca in Hamburg. The director told me that since everyone knows the opera, he wanted to eliminate many of the traditions that have bogged the work down. So there was no church in the first act. The heroine did not leap to her death at the end. Yes, we were roundly booed, but I started wondering whether the same rationale could be applied to symphonic music.”

So for these performances of the overly familiar Beethoven score, the opening five bars will not be played, since everyone knows how they go. It will be straight into the 6th measure. In fact, every time the four-note motto comes in and is played loudly, the passage will either disappear or be performed softly.

Most of the soloists will be surprised to learn that the tuttis that usually herald the first entrance will go away. So no more three minute intro for either the Brahms 1st piano concerto or Violin Concerto.

Slatkin has a reason for this as well.

“We are not paying them to sit or stand around.””

I’m not certain you really need to explain this one, I think his rationale is flawed. How can you eliminate motivic ideas in a composers work that he develops later on? Beethoven is the king of motivic ideas – that’s like taking out the peach in the peach cobbler. Makes no sense.

And the intros to these concertos? What?

On the one hand, I can understand how you could promote these changes for one concert and make it an enlightening experience for the audience and orchestra alike. But for every concert? I just don’t think the rationale justifies the means here.

I just feel like he’s taking the lower joint of my clarinet from me, and telling me – okay, now play Beethoven 6.

This one made me laugh…

“Other emendations include orchestration changes. The opening of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, played by the bassoon in a high register, will now be intoned on the tuba, two octaves lower than printed.

“Tubists at the beginning of the 20th Century were not as facile as today’s artists. Bassoonists have plenty of solos. Why not let someone else have a chance at it?””

Your justification for changing the opening is based on the fact that bassoonists have plenty of solos and that we should be fair and give someone else “a chance at it?”

But…I’m just…so confused.

I’m honestly and truly shocked about this article. I can’t decide whether it’s a joke or not. April fools – in September?

If you’ve been to a DSO concert lately – please inspire us with what you’ve seen. Is this true? And if so, how has it affected your listening experience?


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