Dear Mr. Pereleman,
A couple of months ago I had the great fortune of scoring 2nd row tickets to see one of my favorite performers, one Ian Anderson, lead singer and driving force behind the great band Jethro Tull. This was perhaps the fifteenth time I have seen him in concert, and in the past I’ve taken advantage of backstage passes to have a long and hilarious conversation with him.
I’ve notice that one thing he always mentions in his between song monologue is the famous concert in 1970 when Tull played Carnegie Hall. It was obviously a highlight in his long career, and if you don’t know the performance I recommend that you check it out. Here’s a little taste. I smiled knowingly when he mentioned it this last time I saw him because I, too, have had the chance to stride onto the main stage at Carnegie. My orchestra, the Edmonton Symphony, was fortunate enough to participate in the Spring for Music Festival. To headline at Carnegie is a feeling like no other, and I am incredibly glad that I had the opportunity to do that at least once in my life.
Despite Mr. Anderson’s recollection I read with total horror your interview in the NYTimes today. I find it profoundly depressing that Carnegie Hall, the one true place in this hemisphere with a history specifically inculcated by the art form that I practice, will now be in the hands of someone who, in their first major interview as Chairman, has just managed to disparage and antagonize every single classical musician on the planet.
You can diversify your audience all you want, but the bottom line is that Carnegie was built for classical music. There is a backstage tradition – before a conductor walks on stage it is mentioned to them that the first person to conduct there was Tchaikovsky. That, Sir, is history. That is a major reason why Carnegie Hall exists today. Isaac Stern and a determined bunch of people saved it from the wrecking ball precisely because they understood the importance of this venue to our art form.
Carnegie’s importance is not only historical. It was designed for what we do, with some of the best acoustics in the world. The other art forms (and yes, I do call them art forms) that you mention – pop and country – frankly, acoustics is not their bailiwick. They are electric, as we say in the business. What, are you going to get Kanye to do an unplugged set? I think not. Bieber? As for Jazz – they have a tremendous venue just up the street dedicated full time to that art form. That should be a hint to you. They think enough of their art form to build and maintain a grand venue.
But we, we classical musicians, we have Carnegie Hall. What would you do to have more pop or country in Carnegie? Will you add rows of lights into the proscenium? Fly banks of speakers? Is this your vision for a hall built on natural acoustics? This is most certainly not what Carnegie Hall is about, and if you take the time to go season by season to see what it is this hall has offered in its glorious history you will be forced to come to this conclusion as well.
Having just turned fifty I hope I will have learned a little more patience in life, and so I must contemplate the idea that perhaps you were misquoted, or in the rush to publication your vision was truncated. If this is not the case I would desperately hope that you reconsider your ideas. If not, I hope at the very least that the artistic leadership of Carnegie has enough sense to try and minimize the damage that this vision will do to Carnegie Hall specifically and classical music in general.
If you want a younger audience, a more hip audience (and again, you’ve denigrated most of those who set foot in Carnegie already) why don’t you offer the same kind of programs that Jazz at Lincoln Center offers? Outreach to the schools, workshops, an academy, and a resident ensemble that plays the music their venue is designed for! If you offered that it would be truly enlightened leadership.
If, however, you’re just interested in less silver hair topping those butts in seats – well, Sir, when it comes to your vision you have most definitely not made a Belieber out of me.