Ivan Hewett writing in The Telegraph about the fetishization of premieres over subsequent performances of still-new works:
The system is geared to produce premieres, not to fund second performances. … Sally Cavender, a long-standing director of Faber Music, bemoans the obsession with first performances. “A premiere is really a lazy and ineffective way of creating an appreciation of new music. You don’t have to programme the other pieces carefully because you don’t know what the new piece will be like. If it turns out to be dud you can just shrug and say ’well, never mind, we did our duty’. Also the audience doesn’t have time to get the sound of the music in their ears, so it’s incredibly wasteful.” Stephen Maddock, Chief Executive of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra agrees, but points to the practical problem. “There are plenty of sources of funding for new pieces, because organisations want the prestige of being associated with a premiere. But there are very few sources of funding for second and third performances.”
Compounding the problem, of course, are that many (most?) orchestral premieres are underprepared. Not because the musicians are bad or don’t care, but because rehearsals are wicked-expensive. You’re paying the same world-class players as you are in a concert, but nobody is buying tickets to the rehearsal. Nobody who hears a half-assed premiere is going to ask about renting the performance materials for a second time around.
Simon Holt, a distinguished composer, points to another problem. “Most premieres are winged after too little rehearsal time and as a consequence we too often only get some kind of passing superficial sense of what a piece is really all about,” he says. [Composer Colin] Matthews puts it more tartly: “Orchestras know they can get away with giving the minimum time to the new piece, because no one yet knows how it’s supposed to go!”
And lastly, this innovative and compelling new project described by Vanessa Reed of the PRS for Music Foundation:
That’s why we’ve launched the Composer Fund, which aims to help composers at mid-career, and a new scheme, Resonate. It’s a database of all orchestral pieces composed by British composers since 1990, and there’s a fund to help orchestras with the costs of performing these pieces.”
Can we have something like this in the U.S. please?
- Performing Rights Society is the UK’s version of ASCAP or BMI. Like most non-US countries, they only have one PRO. ↩