Cycles and Anniversaries


It already seems to be a theme within my blog, but the following are further thoughts rather than solutions to a perceived issue.

Cycles or, to use a word that for some will have negative connotations, completism - the act of competing a set for the sake of completing the set - and celebrating composers anniversaries (annism? -ennialism?) have long been a common feature of concert programming within classical music.

Cycles can be rewarding:

  • For programmers it is a straight-forward way to create continuity over a larger parts of a season or seasons.

  • For musicians it can be a platform to better understand a composers practice across their lifetime or a specific period.

  • For orchestras it can serve as a means to work on their 'sound' for a particular composer or period.

  • For audience members it can be a way to become more familiar with a specific composer.

Concerts celebrating anniversaries can also be rewarding:

  • For programmers an anniversary can 'justify' the performance of almost anything.

  • Some seldom heard works and composers are given an outing.

But one cannot help but see so many cycles of overly familiar composers and wonder why. And why do we - for some composers - only listen to their music on an anniversary? If their music is good enough to be programmed, then why not create more innovative programmes throughout the season that include their work?

In 2015 I wonder how many major orchestras haven't programmed a Sibelius anniversary concert?

A cycle or anniversary concert/s can sometimes be absolutely fantastic.

But at other times the lack of artistic enlightenment on the part of the programmer is astounding. Sometimes it is clear that a cycle is merely an act of completism, too often in the name of ticket sales, and 'ennialism' a vehicle to draw interest in music that would perhaps not be otherwise programmed.

As mentioned at the start this is more an observation that a direct criticism, as both cycles and anniversaires can be programmed intelligently.


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