HSO- Awake or Asleep?

I see that Hans Graf is leaving HSO at the end of the 2012-2013 season. Hopefully, HSO will get a Music Director.

Yeah, I know that that’s Graf’s title but has he really filled that role? If one follows Graf guest conducting gigs (www.instantencore.com) he appears to spend as much or more time conducting away from Houston as he does in Houston. Generally, the local out-of-town reviews are pretty favorable. So, there’s no complaint about his music skills.

He is a good musician but like a ship with very good sailors, there still needs to be a ship’s captain and I have to question Graf’s performance in that role.

Reading the NY Times review of Alan Gilbert’s first night a Music Director on the NY Phil, Maestro Gilbert was out in the lobby greeting concert-goers. Just like here in Houston? NY knows Gilbert! (The Chronic-ill’s then music critic didn’t give Gilbert a very good review. He did go ga-ga over Graf.)

In San Francisco, mention MTT and people know it’s Michael Tilson Thomas.

Los Angeles is going wild over Gustavo Dudamel, the 28 year old new music director of it’s orchestra. They had 18,000 people attend a free concert with Dudamel conducting a variety of music types (read pop) as well as Beethoven’s 9th.

And, what’s happening here in America’s 4th largest city and America’s biggest hick town. Nothing! It’s business as it’s always been; don’t do anything new and unusual, other than doing Holst’s The Planets twice in 3 years. There really is more to English music than The Planets and Elgar’s Enigma Variations.

Who is Graf? Reading the Calgary papers, he wasn’t missed when he left When someone complained that Graf didn’t get involved in fund raising, Graf’s comment was that he wasn’t asked!

What has been Graf’s role in Houston? Apart from the obligatory society events, Graf is below Houston’s radar. He’s leading HSO into invisibility.

Let’s talk about programming. There is the recognition that a symphony needs to sell tickets but, is it attracting new listeners or programming the “golden oldies” for the gray-haired crowd. It’s called programming-out-of-fear. Eventually, they’ll all die and then what? Generations of American composers, from 1880-1950 have been ignored. Our exposure to English and Nordic composers (other than the occasional Sibelius symphony and a Rautavaara work) has been dismal. Even the mittel Europa Romantic era composers, other than Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms and Mahler(?) have been ignored

Graf conducts more exciting programs with other orchestras than here. This week, he’s conducting a work by Giya Kanchelli in St. Paul. I guess that HSO doesn’t want to expose us to anything that isn’t mundane.

Let’s hope that HSO decides to create some excitement instead of “we have a tradition of not changing anything to uphold”

Yes, we do have two really innovative and exciting arts organizations. I’ll get to them shortly.


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