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Pinchas Zukerman, the Economy and the DSO


by Jerome Weeks 3 Mar 2009

KERA radio story: Expanded online story: The celebrated violinist Pinchas Zukerman is returning to Dallas this week — for the first time in three years. He’ll be guest-conducting with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and then he and his wife, cellist Amanda Forsyth (below), will tour with the DSO to Florida for three concerts. But what […]

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KERA radio story:


Expanded online story:

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The program for Pinchas Zukerman's concerts with the Dallas Symphony (in Dallas and on tour in Florida) features Brahms' Concerto for violin and cello, with Amanda Forsyth on cello, Stravinsky's Concerto for Strings and Schumann's Symphony No. 4.

The celebrated violinist Pinchas Zukerman is returning to Dallas this week — for the first time in three years. He’ll be guest-conducting with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and then he and his wife, cellist Amanda Forsyth (below), will tour with the DSO to Florida for three concerts.

But what was meant as a happy occasion has been marked by the financial troubles facing classical music these days. The Concert Association of Florida, which had booked Zukerman and the DSO, filed for bankruptcy last month. The Dallas Symphony’s concerts are unaffected, but some of the presenter’s other shows have been cancelled.

Zukerman has toured and performed with the Concert Association for decades; he knows its founder, Judy Drucker.  And he sees the loss of the Concert Association — “the premier presenter of classical, dance and Latin Pops concerts in south Florida” — as a sign of the financial fragility of our classical music infrastructure.

ZUKERMAN: “For me, it’s sad that what started some 40 years ago can actually be dismantled in such a short time. Things change, but when it changes to null, that’s not change, that’s death.”

In his career, Zukerman has made dozens of major-label recordings with artists such as Daniel Barenboim and Isaac Stern. He’s the music director of Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra and the principal guest conductor with the Royal Philarmonic.

This season, Zukerman has been marking his 60th birthday with 100 concerts in 17 countries. Yet he says that his own income is more or less back where it was 15 years ago. Zukerman sees these same stark facts everywhere in classical music – from the recording industry to non-profit arts groups.

ZUKERMAN: “The loss of endowment money alone is in gazillions, and that’s frightening. We worked very hard to establish a way of paying people what they deserve.”

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With the Dallas Symphony, things are hardly so bleak. Doug Adams, the symphony’s president, says that they have postponed hiring to fill some positions. But they have not laid off staff or reduced performances.

Zukerman sees our current financial crisis spreading into classical music, so he believes that everything should be up for reconsideration. He compares the situation with what President Obama has done with his budget package: Every constituency has something to gain, something to lose, so everything is up for debate and negotiation because small measures won’t be enough.

Zukerman even wonders whether there’s enough of an audience to support classical music 52 weeks a year. He points out that the previous generation of touring masters — the Arthur Rubinsteins and Nathan Milsteins  — did not perform in the summer. They took it off; it was not, Zukerman says, “year-round music 24/7.”

In the end, however, Zukerman believes classical music will survive for the simple reason that it answers a need.

ZUKERMAN: “To fill a void in people’s lives, to bring them beauty — because that’s solace, and that’s one of the reasons we go. In bad times, people come around. We know that from history.”

The musical excerpt used in the radio story is Vivaldi’s Concerto in F Major for Three Violins.

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  • Barbara Morrison

    Well, this is interesting, since the National Arts Centre and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra are proposing a huge amphitheatre, with the capability of seating up to 10 – 12,000 people outside on Parks Canada lands, within the Ontario Greenbelt designated land, within the historic tiny little town of Niagara on the Lake, and as well neither are going to contribute one red cent to the project, instead relying on the province and the feds to anti up two thirds of the cost and the rest from private donations. This is to occur in the busiest tourist months of the year in NOTL, July, August and September, 50 outdoor concerts over a period of 17 weeks. This in a town that has only three two lane roads into it and is already chock a block full of cars and people in those three months. Of course, the provincial and federal taxpayers as well as our Niagara Region and NOTL town will be on the hook for any deficits these grandiose planners occur. Just crazy and also insulting to anyone with any intelligence.