Anthony Tommasini’s piece in today’s Times about the NY Phil’s programming of American music touches on a tricky subject. I’m glad, of course, to see the Philharmonic doing new music at all, and particularly glad to see American composers Marsalis, Rouse and Kernis on the bill for next season. And it does seem reasonable of Alan Gilbert to say that a longer view of the programming over a couple of seasons is necessary to get an accurate sense of his priorities. (Of course that point cuts both ways – he can’t exactly take credit for programming the Kernis which has been in the pipeline for some time.) The Philharmonic is a global citizen, and has a responsibility to bring the work of top composers like Adés and Lindberg from other countries to New York. That is an important service that nourishes our cultural life.
And yet – the Philharmonic also has a responsibility to be a cultural leader in this country and in New York City. Consistently commissioning and presenting a substantial amount of music by American composers is an essential part of that leadership. Here’s hoping that the next composer-in-residence with the Philharmonic will be an American, someone who can give an American face to American music at the Philharmonic.