Saturday, March 21, 2009

Troubles at the Philadelphia Orchestra

It is sad to read that the venerable Philadelphia Orchestra, which appeared in and played Disney's "Fantasia" film and developed a justly famous lush string sound under the legendary Eugene Ormandy, seems to be in some trouble just now. It doesn't have a permanent board chairman, chief executive officer or music director -- the lack of a music director being the biggest problem. It had to cancel a planned European tour for this summer, reduce salaries and cut some administrative staff.

The Philadelphia is hardly the only classical music institution hit by the recession. Opera Pacific in Orange County had to close not long ago. But many of its troubles seem to be unique to it. I think Christoph Eschenbach, who served as conductor five years until last year, had a good deal to do with it. I was never impressed by his musicianship and apparently he was unable to establish much chemistry with the players. Charles Dutoit, a fine conductor, is filling in temporarily. Don't know if he would be considered for the job permanently or not.

I hope they get their act together and reestablish the orchestra's preeminence. The first classical LP I ever bought, longer ago than I care to remember, was the famous Serenade for Strings with Ormandy conducting album, with Tchaikovsky, Mozart, and, of course, Samuel Barber's magnificent and moving Adagio.

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