WQXR to Broadcast New York Philharmonic's 9/11 Anniversary Concert

Monday, June 27, 2011

On a weekend that is sure to be packed with commemorative concerts and cultural events, the New York Philharmonic is taking a large-scale approach to marking the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

The Philharmonic announced Monday that Alan Gilbert will lead a free performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection” on Saturday, Sept. 10 at 7:30 pm in Avery Fisher Hall. WQXR will broadcast the concert live on 105.9 FM and WQXR.org.

“Mahler‘s Second Symphony, Resurrection, powerfully and profoundly explores the range of emotions provoked by the memories of 9/11,” said Music Director Alan Gilbert in a statement about the 90-minute symphony. “This great masterpiece has a very special place in the history and psyche of the New York Philharmonic, but its message of renewal and rebirth is universal.”

The concert, which features soprano Dorothea Röschmann, mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, and the New York Choral Artists, will also be broadcast on WNYC 93.9 FM on Sunday, Sept. 11 at 8 pm. A PBS broadcast will take place that evening at 9 pm.

The Philharmonic also said Monday that its annual free Concerts in the Parks will return to New York’s five boroughs on July 11-17, 2012. An announcement about the conductors, repertoire, and specific locations will come next season. The orchestra canceled this summer's concerts because of scheduling conflicts that stemmed from a free concert with the tenor Andrea Bocelli on Sept. 15 as well as the free Sept. 10 memorial concert.

The Sept. 10 concert will be projected on a screen in Lincoln Center’s plaza, echoing a similar event that took place on Sept. 20, 2001, when Kurt Masur led the Philharmonic in Brahms's Ein Deutsches Requiem.

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Comments [6]

Jesse Joseph

How about the terrible distortion from the various speakers and amplifiers in the park. If better audio equipment can't be used, there should be no classical music concert. Perhaps light Boston Pops music is more suitable.

Aug. 11 2011 09:11 AM
Aaron Liskov from Houston

Sorry to take over this thread. To clarify, I have two posts below because QXR has a character limit. The one that appears at the top is actually the second half of the post. Sorry for the confusion.

Jun. 28 2011 09:44 PM
Aaron Liskov from Houston

The same inference that it's fine to talk and not listen during the quiet parks is made by all the surrounding blankets, and the Philharmonic is now playing background to the conversation of the lawn. Is this deep musical outreach? Does the City really need the Philharmonic to spend millions of dollars on an evening of pleasant dinner music? Far from symbolizing any meaningful cultural bond, this state of affairs only brings home the troubled gap that exists between classical music and modern life, even in a place as cosmopolitan as New York.

The solution is actually quite simple. The way to make these concerts serve the purpose of bringing *music* (not short clips and ambience) to a wider audience is as easy as the volume control. People will take the music seriously if it is audible enough for them to hear and follow it. Unfortunately, this suggestion needs some clarification because the Philharmonic's notion of "audible" is clearly different from the average patron of a concert in the park. How loud is audible? Loud enough that anyone on the lawn can hear and follow even the softest pianissimos even if the blanket next to them decides to talk for a bit. You might think that would be really loud. First, this is somewhat true; it will be much louder than the current volume at parks concerts. But second, if the Philharmonic shows that it is serious about making these concerts and not glorified picnics, then people might want to listen and they won't talk as much and it won't need to be as loud as it might have to be if they did not have this impression. But why would they want to listen instead of talking with their friends? Because by hearing the music and following it, they will be able to see that the music is actually good - relevant and powerful and enjoyable.

To crystallize what I am envisioning for these concerts, it might help to look at two counter-examples. The first is Shakespeare in the Park. At these sold-out events, the audience is entirely quiet and listens to very difficult dialogue. They leave with some appreciation for why Shakespeare deserves such a huge investment as the one required to sponsor free performances in the park. Second, consider the Met's Live in HD series on Lincoln Center plaza every August. All of the music is audible, the audience is attentive, and everyone can follow the opera. Of course, the visual element of these events helps make them more engaging (though giving the NYPhil parks concerts this element is certainly possible too), but the point is that both of these events are produced in a way that makes sure the bottom line is the art work being shown or performed. This has not been the case for the Philharmonic's parks concerts. Rather, the concerts have confirmed for newcomers the bias that classical music is irrelevant background music. Until this changes, I cannot join Mr. Tommasini in lamenting the absence of these concerts at the park.

Jun. 28 2011 09:36 PM
Aaron Liskov from Houston

Note this is the first half of a post the continues the below.

One side effect of this news needs a comment. It's been reported that one impact of the 9/10 concert is that the summer parks concerts had to be canceled. In today's NYTimes, Anthony Tomassini has a long lament over this outcome. He argues that the parks concerts are essential to the Philharmonic's outreach efforts and its relationship to the city. I regret having to say this, but his position is unfounded. If the parks concerts had actual significance for the Philharmonic's status in the city, that would be fantastic. And they certainly could have this significance if they were handled properly, but the reality is that they are consistently squandered opportunities, and I hope the Philharmonic will take this gap year to reflect on how they can reach the potential of these concerts.

This is the representative account of what happens at a Concert in the Park. A group of friends brings a blanket and a picnic. They have food, beer, and wine. When they arrive two hours before the downbeat, they are likely to be setting their blanket 5 football fields away from the stage. The group starts talking and all the groups around them start talking. Now, I do not mean this to be another screed against talking at classical music concerts. This is to be expected in such a congenial setting as the great lawn, but one thing must be admitted. The music that the philharmonic is playing has to be heard and *comprehended* in order for it to have any impact on the people there. By "impact,' I mean that the people (and here I mean those who do not regularly see the NYPhil at Avery Fisher) leave the concert more persuaded of the relevance, power, and/or entertainment-value of classical music. When I say that the Philharmonic mishandles these concerts, I specifically mean that they have failed to account for this fact, which, again, is that for the intended impact to happen, people need to hear and comprehend the music being played at the concert.

What do you mean, "hear and comprehend?" I'm not saying that they have to mastered the inner meaning or logic of a piece, but just they have to be able to follow the piece and to hear the primary lines in it at all times, no matter how soft or how loud. If this doesn't happen, they didn't see a concert. They had a picnic with background music.

And that's precisely what these concerts have become: picnics with background music. Let's go back to our representative people at the concert. They put their blanket down and started talking and eating and drinking. At 8pm, the music starts, and maybe the opening is loud, so they all decide to quiet down for a minute. But most classical music has a wide spectrum of dynamics, and after a few minutes it gets quiet. Here's the problem: it's so quiet that our picnic talkers make the reasonable inference that they don't need to be listening.

Jun. 28 2011 09:34 PM
Bernie from UWS

@Frank you took the words out of my mouth. That's one I can do without hearing for another ten years. I must say, I don't know anyone who's particularly excited about more 9/11 stuff. Time to move on.

Jun. 28 2011 06:52 PM
Frank Feldman

Thank heaven they're not playing that godforsaken John Adams' piece.

Jun. 28 2011 02:17 PM

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