But as this commenter on the New York Times pointed out, modern orchestras are not lean, mean musical machines. They're bloated, with far more musicians on the regular payroll than are required by most classical works. They have a limited repertoire. They play the same concert three to five times a week. And let's not even get into the aging audience for this music.
On the other hand, I like this quote from Arts Beat's Daniel Wakin:
Some have argued too that there is nothing wrong with orchestras serving — in part — the function of museums, keeping the classics on view.That's an argument for the status quo. Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart aren't writing any new music, and there's a good reason orchestras keep programming Beethoven's Fifth Symphony: people will pay to hear it. No one complains when Bruce Springsteen sings "Born To Run" in concert for the 10,000th time. And regardless of whether you listen to classical music, it's a link to our shared musical past. It's important to keep this art form around, just as we wouldn't throw out a Picasso painting or a Giacometti sculpture.
I do hope the Philadelphia Orchestra finds a way through its current financial problems and comes out the other side stronger than ever. But I think it will take some serious re-evaluation of the presentation and performance of classical music to get there. Other orchestras should keep a close watch on developments in Philadelphia before their organizations reach the same state.