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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

ORCHESTRAS AND AGING CITIES

Posted By on Tue, Mar 2, 2010 at 11:32 AM

Cleveland is not Berlin, of course, but big old cities around the world do have a lot in common—like major arts institutions, deteriorating finances, diverse neighborhoods, and vacant old industrial infrastructure.

In a recent interview with Richard Morrison for the Times of London, the eminent British conductor Simon Rattle, lately principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, had this to say about Berlin:

“A few years ago Berlin was technically bankrupt,” he points out. “It’s still far from a rich city. But everyone there recognises that the jewel in its crown is its culture — museums, opera houses, orchestras, theatres. And so, despite the lack of wealth, they look after us. Mind you, the players in the Berlin Philharmonic haven’t had a salary rise for five years. But with so many people in the city struggling, we count ourselves lucky to have a pay freeze!”

All of which is especially relevant here, considering the Cleveland Orchestra's recent strike . . . though funding for the two organizations is vastly different.

Whether it's due to that funding environment and municipal support or not, Rattle has a view of Berlin that resonates here:

And under Rattle’s leadership the Philharmonic has embraced Berlin — all the city, not just the plush western suburbs — in a way that never happened before. One of his first acts was to take the orchestra to Treptow — a grim eastern suburb — and give an unforgettable performance of The Rite of Spring, danced by hundreds of ethnically diverse children, in a disused tram depot. By such bold initiatives is he redefining what 21st-century orchestras can, and should, be doing.

Will we ever see the Cleveland Orchestra performing in the old Richmond Brothers factory, or some other vacant industrial cavern here? Maybe in one of our soon-to-be-vacant churches? Here's rattle talking about other spaces:

“Oh, we’ve found another great space now,” he says. “A factory, also in East Berlin, that was built in the 1870s and looks like a cathedral that’s been destroyed — the ideal set for Parsifal, you might say. But it’s got magnificent acoustics! And did you hear about our excursion to Tempelhof Airport? We did Stockhausen’s Gruppen in a vast, Nazi-era aircraft hangar there.

Read the whole article: http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/music/classical/article7044416.ece

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