This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us
September 21, 2010
A few days ago, the rules that govern the selecting of repertoire for an orchestral season came up for discussion at a dinner party with a couple of friends, one of whom happens to be the music director of a symphony orchestra.
When the idea of performing the music of Mahler came up, the conductor looked horrified. "I would never program Mahler in this town!" she said.
The reason for this comment wasn't to do with the fact that she doesn't like Mahler's music. Quite the opposite: She loves the composer's works. But because a conductor in the same region is particularly known for his Mahler concerts and recordings, she balks at the idea of attempting the same repertoire.
It makes sense for a conductor to cleave their own path and champion composers' with whom they feel a particular affinity. And daring to program pieces that are considered to be the "territory" of another local maestro may be inviting harsh criticism.
But on the other hand, there's part of me that thinks that my friend should go ahead and schedule Mahler if she wants to. It's not like the other conductor owns the composer's works. And I think my friend's take on his music would be very different to her colleague's. Why not show some chutzpah and do it?
Audiences might respond warmly to the challenge and critics will at least have something to chew on. I doubt that it would amount to professional suicide. And it might make Mahler -- that most gutsy of composers -- proud.