By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Symphony orchestras do most of their programming two or three years in advance, to fit in with the schedules of touring soloists and visiting conductors; thus, most of the Los Angeles Philharmonic's 1998-99 season, which begins this weekend, was already set in place during the last two years of Fleischmann's leadership. There are exceptions, of course, due to inevitable dropouts of one kind or another. This weekend's program, for example, was to have included the second of the "Film-Harmonic" projects: short new films with scores played by the orchestra, commissioned for inclusion on the orchestra's regular concerts. But Renny Harlin, the scheduled director, took on another assignment and had to postpone his Philharmonic stint; it was Wijnbergen, then, who had to marshal his local forces to come up with a substitute. The result: a film not new but old - Victor Seastrom's silent classic The Wind - with music also old, chosen by Salonen from some of Jean Sibelius' windswept tone poems, with additional brainstorming by director Peter Sellars. Thus, this weekend's concerts, which inaugurate Wijnbergen's first season as the Philharmonic's managing director, inaugurate his prowess as a musical planner as well.
Already there are reports of other innovations on Wijnbergen's drawing board. Upon arrival last March, he immediately waded into musical matters at the Bowl, reorganizing the management of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, installing himself at the head, tearing up plans for a scheduled complete performance of Puccini's Turandot as being outside that orchestra's rightful territory, tromping on a few toes in the process, which have since healed. Now the reports point to a considerable expansion of Bowl fare starting next summer, with increased attention to jazz and the addition of world music to the summer fare. "I had the feeling," Wijnbergen explains, "that the Bowl needed my attention at first even more than the Philharmonic. For one thing, the Bowl programs are usually planned only a year in advance, not three. What little time I've had for musical programming up to now, therefore, has gone into the immediate problem of next summer at the Bowl. We need to book more conductors and more soloists, and, frankly, we haven't always made the best choices along those lines."
Leaving Amsterdam's orchestra, recognized as one of the world's half-dozen greatest, to take on America's Wild West: Does that suggest a bravery verging on the foolhardy? "What attracts me the most about coming here," says Wijnbergen, "is the scope of the possibilities. I know this can sound like public-relations bullshit, but I mean it seriously. My biggest problem? It's the same as nearly every orchestra manager's biggest problem right now. It's to renew our relevance - to the musical world, and to our own community. Three orchestras in the world can exist beyond concerns about relevance: the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics, and the orchestra I left in Amsterdam; they are the fact of life in their cities, like every stone monument. The rest of us face the daily need to lead the musical life of our cities, and to prove to more audiences every day why that life is important."
Willem Wijnbergen pours another cup of coffee, and looks straight ahead into the next century. "It can be done," he says.
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