I recently came across this article in the NYT about the guest conducting of Mahler’s 2nd by Gilbert Kaplan. I was quite surprised at the public nature of the criticism against Kaplan by members of the NY Phil, particularly the blog post by David Finlayson. The controversy is about Mr. Kaplan having created a reputation for conducting Mahler’s 2nd with, in my opinion, only limited qualifications as a conductor. The deeper controversy is about funding for the arts. Should a patron like Mr. Kaplan (who donates around $10K per year to the Phil) be able to “buy” a shot at conducting for a night? I guess it depends on the priorities and resources available to the orchestra. However, I think this sets a bad precedent. While I’m in favor of trying to make classical music more accessible and attracting larger audiences, allowing an individual to “play conductor” at an actual performance seems a bit disrespectful to the musicians who have honed and rehearsed their parts. Who will the next donor/conductor be? What will the next major donor ask for in return for their monies? If I give some money will the NY Phil play one of my pieces?
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