If It’s Broke, Don’t Fix It
And here we are. Can we finally have a revolutionary discussion? Or are we going to pretend, in the face of all contrary evidence, that the system still works?
The Minnesota Orchestra absorbed two body blows late this week in quick succession. First, their brilliant Principal Clarinet Burt Hara was offered the Associate Principal Clarinet position at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and it must be said that Burt’s departure would be an outsized and dramatic loss. Burt has been a star with this orchestra for 25 years, choosing to live and play in Minnesota when he could have had just about any job anywhere. An orchestra is supposed to be more than the sum of its parts, but Burt’s playing has perhaps been the most signature sound of this last generation of the M.O.
The next day we discovered Osmo Vänskä’s line in the sand. The response by M.O. Board chair Jon Campbell can only be summed up using that most expressive language Yiddish – “Meh.” If that’s the Board’s response to the most public artistic figure in the organization then what little shred of hope that they had the artistic health of the organization in mind has fluttered away in this cold and nasty Minnesota spring. These twin salvos have actually prodded the editorial board of the Star Tribune, Minnesota’s largest paper, to get off the fence and pass the prodding on to Governor Mark Dayton. The current Board of the M.O. is getting pounded in the press and the blogosphere, making it clear that the musicians have won the PR battle. Actually, it was never much of a battle – it has been a slaughter. The collateral damage, though, is where this war hurts the most.
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