a deadly banality at all cost

We'll be waiting for at least a few more years, and maybe we'll wait forever, but at least some of us know what we are waiting for.

The New York Philharmonic was 160 years old on Saturday, with more history than any other American orchestra and most European ones as well. Played before an A-list audience at Avery Fisher Hall, the anniversary program was a collection of music with the savory smell of comfort food: no initiatives, not much to tweak the imagination, instead an earnest recapitulation of the long-ago discovered and the well remembered.
This City deserves so much more. Inspired leadership could ignite this magnificent institution and those whom it has failed so miserably through the extraordinary banality and elitism of the programs and the direction it has pursued for years. NYTimes Reviewer Bernard Holland joins virtually every music critic in New York with his barely polite references to the new music director, Lorin Maazel (beginning a four-year contract with the orchestra) in an account which summarizes the current state of a Philharmonic pleased to be held in comfortable captivity by its handlers.
The New York Philharmonic is like an island that sits off the coast of the city's musical life. One looks back to Mr. Boulez's regime in the 1970's to find any real relevance, any true plan or purpose for this magnificent orchestra other than self-containment and survival. It is by nature a great shiny machine, although stubborn conductorial minds can force it to rise above itself. And deep within its collective psyche, I think, a shiny machine is what the Philharmonic wants to be. Mr. Maazel is like a mirror. This orchestra, its board, its administration and faithful subscribers look into it and see themselves. They find it a pleasing image.

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Published on December 9, 2002 3:53 PM.

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