The Philadelphia Orchestra at 100

The Philadelphia Orchestra at 100

2. Are There Two Different 20th Centuries?

FRANK J. OTERI: Getting back to this idea of traditional audiences, I think what’s interesting is that there’s a lot of repertoire that we don’t normally associate in our minds as being 20th-century repertoire.

EDWARD CAMBRON: Marketing-wise, one of the biggest challenges is the label “20th century.” And it’s hard, people have ingrained in their soul a definition of what that means.

FRANK J. OTERI: Where does that come from?

EDWARD CAMBRON: I’m not sure. I think it may come from the fact that culturally there is a divide in the century that it’s almost like there are two centuries in one.

JOSEPH H. KLUGER: I think it comes from the experience of listening to music written between 1955 and 1975 or 1985, a lot of which is perceived by audiences to be harsh, dissonant, and something to which they can’t relate.

SIMON WOODS: I also think that if you look at this from a historical perspective, there are two quite different strands going through the century. One strand is the one that runs through Rachmaninoff, Sibelius, Copland, and Samuel Barber. On the other strand, there’s a strand that starts with Schoenberg and runs through Webern and Elliott Carter. One of the big problems is that I do think we have been brain-washed by the intellectual establishment to believe that somehow the Schoenberg-Carter strand is somehow culturally more valued than the other, and I don’t think that I would want to say that either of those strands is more valuable. I don’t think I would particularly like to put a value judgment saying that Rachmaninoff is a composer of greater or lesser importance than Elliott Carter. I think it’s important that both of those strands are given the weight that they deserve. In the past, that hasn’t been the case.

FRANK J. OTERI: It’s interesting to me, talking about the strands perhaps having equal weight rather than one ruling over the other, but in the season, if I may make one comment about the season, there is no Elliott Carter.

SIMON WOODS: There are two reasons for that. One is that we’re trying to play music that’s associated with our orchestra. So you will see works by Stravinsky and Shostakovich and other composers, Samuel Barber, and more recent works which have a particular association with our orchestra. We have not put in there works which we haven’t already played. This orchestra has hardly played any Elliott Carter. We don’t have a relationship with Elliott Carter. He’s not somebody who figures in a season that aims to make a meaningful retrospective of our music.

JOSEPH H. KLUGER: It’s not designed to be a retrospective of the 20th century.

SIMON WOODS: The biggest omission that you’ll find in the season, which actually I’m a little upset about, but it just didn’t work out that way, is that there is actually not one note of Messiaen, who is one of the giants of the century. If you look at it as an overview of 20th-century music, that’s kind of the wrong way to look at it.

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