Friday, March 15, 2013

saved by the strike

I can hardly believe my luck, or the bizarre and distressful way it's being communicated to me. The musicians of the San Francisco Symphony have gone on strike, and, as deadlines pass, one by one, the performances of this week's concert program are being canceled.

My editors have now thrown in the towel on coverage of the week's program altogether. This means that I will not have to review Mahler's Ninth Symphony after all. "You know I'm not a Mahler fan, don't you?" I told my editor when he'd assigned the program to me, two weeks ago. "But I've covered difficult music before, so OK."

In the interim, I've actually been listening to various recordings of the work, and studying the score and musicological analyses. I'd gotten a handle on its structure, which was something; and I was actually bracing myself to finding out if MTT could make any coherent sense out of its emotive mess, or create any moments which touch my soul or move my heart, as composers like Brahms or Bruckner or Sibelius do routinely. Some conductors, I find, make Mahler's Adagio finale sound like Bruckner, which helps, a little; others emphatically don't.

Now I won't have to know; I won't have to sit through this garrulous, crapacious thing again; and I won't have to find a sympathetic and understanding way to write about it. You go, strikers.

(As for the strike issues themselves, anyone minded to say that musicians earning $150,000 a year are coddled and pampered whiners should think of how much you'd sound like the cretins who said the same thing about schoolteachers and their munificent three-month vacations. Do you know how much the symphony administrator makes? Do you know how much the conductor makes? He's a great conductor, to be sure, but he'd be nothing without great musicians. Do you know how much work beyond paid rehearsal time it takes to keep up this level of proficiency, and how expensive worthy instruments are to purchase, and how much the necessary schooling cost? Do you know how much, beyond money, a supportive working environment is worth to any employee of any organization? SFS's timpanist is leaving, a critical blow to the orchestra's unity, because he's sick and tired of having to fight management for the simple requirement of practice space in the hall - a timpanist, unlike a violinist, cannot tuck his instrument under his arm and go practice any old where. Workers don't want to strike; they lose pay and self-respect when they do; so, if they do, they're trying to say something worth paying attention to.)

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