The Air America / WCRB Problem

Laurence Glavin
Wed Dec 20 16:21:19 EST 2006

>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Barry Cabbage" 
>Subject: The Air America / WCRB Problem
>Date: Tue, 19 Dec 2006 10:23:52 -0500

>I don't think 
>Mazza would have allowed this defeatist tone that came through on 
>the air, but then he's scorned by the "true" classical music crowd 
>because he thought 'CRB should programmed like what it is -- a 
>commercial radio station, not a private listening auditorium for 
>self-styled sophisticates.

Criticism of "self-styled sophisticates" is usually uttered by 
UN-sophisticates who never buy classical CD's (I wish I could; Virgin
and Tower are now closed, and Border's "Classical Department" needs work...
I guess is my only option now) or attend classical concerts to get
a feeling for what's really out there.  Just days ago, I mentioned the WCRB
ad in the Boston Syphony Orchestra Program that still gives the 102.5
frequency...I came across it because I go to an enormous variety of 
concerts throughout Greater Boston, ranging from solo recitals (I just 
celebrated Beethoven's birthday by attending last weekend's performances
by the Boston Chamber Music Society,  )
to fully-staged live operas.  Guess what: the people in charge of these 
organizations have to put fannies in seats and can't afford to go off 
any deep ends with programs that repel rather than attract ticket-buyers.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra may be a special breed with thousands of
subscribers who have held tickets for generations...but the smaller 
players, professional, semi-professional and amateur have to offer fare that
would induce people to go out on what may be a winter's night in New England
to hear them play, and almost without exception, they violate all
the Taliban-like strictures of dumbed-down commercial "classical" radio.
Just a few examples (and these are ensembles I heard in person over the
past few years):  The Wellesley Symphony Orchestra is playing Sibelius 
after the holidaze, no not "Finlandia" but the Violin Concerto, a
popular, beloved but scorned-by-the-likes-of-Mario-Mazza-for-no-apparent-reason;
The Lexington Symphony (which I heard do Gustave Holst's one-act
opera "Savitra" last month) has scheduled Prokofiev's Second Violin
Concert later in the season...too modern for WCRB, but perfectly acceptable
and accessible for the self-styled sophisticates in suburban Boston;
residents of the Cape Ann can hear another 20th-Century concerto
because the Cape Ann Symphony has scheduled Samual Barber's work in
that genre (Barber was the composer of the ubiquitous "Adagio for Strings);
on the Cape of Cod, their Symphony Orchestra apparently plays in an
auditorium with a pipe organ because they've scheduled Francis Poulenc's
"Concerto for Organ, Strings and Tympani"...Poulenc was the greatest
composer in France in the period after Debussy and Ravel and his works
in several styles and genres are widely played, except on WCRB (or WGMS and
KDFC for that matter); ok enough concertos (until we get to the Concord
Massachusetts Symphony Orchestra)...the Longwood Symphony Orchestra,
made up of many medical peofessional in that area, will be doing a
symphony by Leonard Bernstein and two shorter orchestra pieces by the
aforementioned Samuel Barber;  and a group that uses the generic name
of New England Philharmonic and is based in Newton, is tackling an opera
by the penultimate bete-noire of modernism, Alban Berg, his opera 
"Wozzeck"!  Ok, that's radical for a community orchestra, but they
apparently know their audience and what they'll accept AND BERG IS NOW
Oh, one more organization: the Concord (MA) Symphony Orchestra...that's
the semi-pro/amateur group whose concerts I've attended more times than the
others, and they have offered a fine jambalaya of the off-beat and 
conventional over the years.  Every spring, they present the winner
of a significant instrumental competition, usually performing a 
concerto for his or her instrument.  Last spring, a young Asian woman
played the Prokofiev 3rd Piano Concerto to great acclaim.  All of
this is to give you a mere sample of the fare that's available to
the concert-going audiences in Eastern Massachusetts, and I haven't
even mentioned the choral groups and chamber music ensembles.  As I
stated, these organizations don't have a death wish...although it's
possible they have their pianos moved by Deathwish Piano Movers (a
real company name) and they have no desire to play before empty seats.
So the fact that so many of them schedule real 20th-Century pieces
that Mario Mazza claimed would empty the room; vocal and choral pieces
even though the above-mentioned groups are principally instrumental;
and underrepresented pieces of famous composers while still selling
tickets on a regular basis year after year belies any assertion that 
such fare is for the cognoscenti alone.

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