Home

BSO 2008-09 schedule: yawn.

When Marin Alsop took over from Yuri Temirkanov as music director of the BSO this past season, there was a huge ruckus. She was bringing in huge names in modern classical like John Adams, Tan Dun, and fairly renowned fiddler/composer Mark O’Connor (who delivered a hell of a performance for the America program a few weeks ago).

It seemed like Alsop had a very clear vision for programming which has been lauded in some circles, and vilified in others. They played some titans of the genre like Mahler’s Symphony No. 10, and Beethoven’s Fifth while also embracing more modern classics like the Americana classic Copland’s Appalachian Spring. Nonetheless, I had faith in her strategy. But with the 2008-2009 season, I wonder if the Alsop engine has lost some of its steam.

In my opinion, classical has reached a critical stage. Overall, aging audiences call for canon while younger listeners yearn for wider exposure to modern works; but you gotta go where the money is, and that’s in canon. There is a stifling pall of stagnation that hangs over the genre, and the schism between the two camps of listeners is huge. Classical needs to reassert its relevance and vitality. The perfect way to do this is to pair works of past giants with those of modern composers, showcasing both classical’s impressive past and its vibrant present/future.

The press release for the 2008-09 season hit my inbox, I was giddy. Then I started reading. Yo-yo Ma. OK, big name, opening weekend, I get it even if I don’t like it. Holst’s Planets. Quality, nothing edgy, but good stuff. Mahler’s Titan follows. Not my favorite by far, but Mahler is Mahler…

Mozart Violin Conc. No. 11 and Schubert No. 4…OK. Maybe an off week.

Bernstein’s Mass…ummm…OK, I love Bernstein as a conductor, but compositions not so much. Then a pattern emerges. Unfortunately, it is one of predictability.

The season degenerates into a sea of many less notable compositions from standard names: Dukas, Dvorak, Mozart, Mahler, Tchaikovsky and Brahms. Compared to her inaugural season, the upcoming one is a let-down, with few, if any, modern names represented. In fact, with the appearance of multiple Mahler pieces, the Copland Americana focus and multiple Messiahs on the calendar, things feel really similar to the current season.

Don’t get me wrong…there are some interesting spots such as the return of Yuri Temirkanov, Leonard Slatkin‘s guest conducting for a weekend and the relative rarity in current times of a professional brass ensemble performance (from the Canadian Brass). But this season lacks any punch for my classical palate.

And now, I wonder, what exactly is Alsop aiming for? Or if there are other influences impacting the season’s direction. Hopefully, we’ll be getting some time to sit down and talk about next season’s programming. In the meantime, view the season here.

Related posts

  1. Yuja Wang & the BSO Review (26.04.2008)Yuja Wang & the BSO’s performance program of Yardumian, Prokofiev...
  2. 2008 Wrap-Up (Alex) – Live PerformancesLuckily, my editor is on in-between semester break. Otherwise, I’m...
  3. Starscape 2008: Nothing you haven’t seen beforeStarscape, Baltimore’s electronic music festival, will celebrate its 10th year...
  4. Whartscape 2008 Venue News[Audio clip: view full post to listen] MP3: Blood Baby...
  5. Whartscape 2008 Day 2 ReviewWhartscape 2008′s Friday show was at the 2640 Space, a...

Leave a Reply