Friday, February 24, 2012

In Tribute: The Philadelphia Orchestra

This post is in tribute to the extraordinary Philadelphia Orchestra, after yet another wondrous concert. The Philadelphia Orchestra, 112 years old and among the very finest in the world, has been treated very shabbily lately by its administration - shameful for a city with such a rich past and present in the performing arts. I know I speak for many when I offer applause for all the brilliant, hard-working musicians in the Orchestra and gratitude for their music. Last night's concert featured Emanuel Ax as soloist - he was charming and amazing but so were the regulars, many of whom are more than solo capable. Solo performers have always gotten the glory, but while it's great to have stars, without a good back up team they don't go far. Edgar Degas was, to my knowledge, the first to honor the 'back-up teams' in art. Influenced by the recent development of photography and by the asymmetrical, informal compositions of Japanese print makers, Degas created scene after scene of dancers and musicians before, after and during performances, and never from the viewpoint of audience to direct center stage. The spotlight is never on the star performer; in Degas's musical world, we are with the dancers backstage, in endless classes and with the musicians, fresh from countless hours of practice, in the pit. We lean over their shoulders reading the music on the stand, we hear the bassoonist huffing gently as the music emerges, feel the strength of the arm running the bow so
Photo by Chris Lee
skillfully and lightly on the strings. The dancers, delicate from a distance in their pastel tufted costumes, throw off sweat as they spin past, or sit next to us stretching their weary muscled backs and legs before the next demanding call. Please leave a comment in support of the Philadelphia Orchestra and as thanks for all highly skilled, hard-working, under-praised performers everywhere.