Monday, February 14, 2011

An American Tragedy

(One of the world's great orchestras playing Berlioz in their 1950's Golden Age under Paul Paray.)

Anyone who visits this blog, please read this. It's absolutely heartbreaking. The Detroit Symphony is one of America's great orchestras. The city of Detroit without the DSO is as unthinkable as the city without the auto industry or Motown.

If the Detroit Symphony goes under, then every orchestra in a declining city is in peril. Orchestras with unbroken cultivations and traditions that often span a century and a half will have to close their doors. Many of America's greatest musicians will be without a job or a pension. These orchestras were once the pride of their cities, they were symbols that showed to the world that you needn't be from Vienna to appreciate great music. Part of the reason that Europeans took so well to American music after World War II was because they saw how deeply Americans cared about European music in turn. But now, the Detroit Symphony, like Detroit itself, is in danger of extinction. If Detroit's orchestra can disappear from the city, any other business can too. If the Detroit Symphony disappears from the music scene, any other orchestra can too. Imagine a world without the Cincinatti Symphony, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the St. Louis Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra. This is the world we're facing if people can't face reality very soon.

There is only one thing more tragic for an organization than a resulting standoff after all parties come to the table in good faith and still find no common ground. And that is the realization that the disappearance of the organization may well be its only option. In order to revive classical music, we will probably have to demolish its ageing institutions. The resulting metamorphosis will be heartbreakingly difficult, but we may not have any other choice.

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