What are the prospects for live orchestras? You know, a full stage of classically-trained musicians, filling stately halls with robust, dynamic music.
As more and more symphonic orchestras wobble or die one has to wonder how many will survive.
Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa may be better insulated than most. It’s a national flagship cultural institution, so it ought to be among the last ones standing. Still, most orchestras are probably wrestling with bedrock questions of audience and relevance.
The NACO’s current conductor needs no introduction to classical music listeners. Pinchas Zukerman is an acclaimed conductor and a world-famous solo violinist. Zukerman announced his planned departure back in 2012, though he would stay up to the 2015 season. By then he’ll have lead the NACO for 16 years.
This past week the NAC announced Zukerman’s replacement will be 34-year-old Alexander Shelley. Shelley is an English conductor and musician (cello) who currently heads the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra. Shelley will take over at the NACO as of September 2015. He’ll be the NACO’s seventh (and youngest) music director.
You can read more about Shelley’s selection and his views on the job in this extensive article by Peter Robb for the Ottawa Citizen. Here’s a small sample of Shelley in his own words:
“One of my first wishes is to get out there and engage with people. I would say in my professional persona, one of the things that I thrive on is a sense of collaboration and not just with other musicians, but with audiences.
“I find the experience of being in a concert hall is about sharing. It’s not for no reason that there is a similarity in the scale between concert halls and churches. People go there not just to hear the music but to have a shared experience. You can read liturgy at home, people do, people pray at home. But it’s very important for it to be shared.”
Now, the example of reading liturgy doesn’t sound very trendy. But Shelley is partially known for being innovative in ways that may appeal to a younger demographic. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with an older audience. But long-term survival is at stake if older audiences cannot replace themselves.
As reported by the CBC:
Shelley was selected following a Canadian and international search.
“Alexander is the ideal choice to lead our orchestra. He will bring a fresh perspective to our core repertoire and a broad vision for our future,” said principal bassoon player Christopher Millard, a member of the search committee. “We are all looking forward to an energetic and imaginative collaboration.”
This blog’s main geographic spread may not include many NACO concert goers. But I invite those with that experience to add their own comments about Maestro Zukerman, the orchestra, or this selection – good or bad.
Meanwhile, to everyone else, if you are a classical buff, are you worried about the health of that genre of music?
If you are not really “into” classical music, is there anything that would bring you into that scene?
I suspect not, but I am curious if it’s even possible.