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Feedback 6/11 

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What's ahead for the RPO?

To quote Jake Clapp's recent profile of Jamal Rossi, RPO board chair Dawn Lipson told the New York Times: "The concert hall with the two-and-a-half hour concert is not what's going to appeal 10 years from now, 15 years from now." And: "Lipson advocates reducing the main-stage (i.e., classical) season to less than half its current size. 'The rest should be concerts that deal with what our community needs,' like lunchtime appearances at local company headquarters of chamber ensembles made of up orchestra members, she said at a pre-concert donor's reception."

The season that just ended had 14 classical concerts; next season has 12; she wants to reduce that to 6 or 7. Is she out of her mind?

Meanwhile, next season the Buffalo Philharmonic is expanding from 14 to 15 classical concerts. Also, the BPO has been in the black since 2007 (yes, even during the recession); the RPO, which had been in the black for a decade, has been in the red since current management took over in 2007.

Michael Christie, who conducted the RPO at Carnegie Hall, was dumped as music director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic in 2011 when it became a community orchestra by replacing its classical format with the kinds of ideas Lipson advocates. By 2013, the orchestra was out of business.

James Judd quit as music director of the Florida Philharmonic, the state's premier orchestra, in 2001 when management publically stated its intent to solve its financial problems by turning the ensemble primarily into a pops orchestra. Two years later it too was out of business.

What a contrast to the vision of the RPO's last music director, who attracted the largest, youngest, and most enthusiastic audiences I've seen here in 17 years. How? With coherent programs that felt like revelations, exciting plans (woman composer followed by black composer, Mahler and Beethoven cycles), and, above all, powerful interpretations from a highly disciplined orchestra that made those programs work. 

And now the RPO is headed toward "Video Games Live" and "Halo." Wake up, Rochester! The RPO is headed for ruin.

GIL FRENCH

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