On Tuesday the people at Bell Shakespeare sent me off to The Australian with a provocative quote: “I personally probably don’t need to see another Shakespeare.” This turned out to be from an interview with Robyn Archer. She said something else too (I’ll include the journalist’s intro for context):
Archer qualifies this by saying that enlivening the classics and preserving heritage is important: “If a great piece of Haydn or Mozart in the hands of Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra drums into you in a way that is so fresh you feel like you have never heard it before, go for it, but never at the expense of fresh ideas, because in the end, that is the heart of the creative country.”
And my instinctive reaction to that was: How I wish she’d said: “If a Haydn symphony in the hands of Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the SSO drums into you in a way that is so fresh you feel like you’ve never heard it before…”’
I saw the comment as a genuine compliment, and as the expression of an unimpeachable piece of advice: go for the classics when you can find them in vital performances but don’t turn your back on new ideas.
My only gripe was the way the ACO has become the cited-orchestra-of-choice whenever it comes to summoning up an image of fresh, vital performances of the classical canon. This is not all that surprising. But the cliché skews things, as clichés do, because the ACO does not in fact have this particular corner of activity completely sewn up in a bag.
It turns out, though, that the ACO, or rather one writer responding for the ACO, doesn’t see it as a compliment at all. Archer’s comment has been held up as some kind of negative alongside a glowing concert review from Vincent Plush that appeared the day before.
First the link. http://www.aco.com.au/Default.aspx?url=/blog
And the date, which you’ll need to find the post: 14 July 2010. It’s called “Response to The Australian”.
Now I sympathise with the frustration around this newly fashionable (and indeed pernicious) idea of “heritage” art. I wholeheartedly agree that there is absolutely no justification, in principle, for setting it up as the polar opposite to anything new and fresh as if they are mutually exclusive. And it’s true the interview as reported doesn’t make the point that the ACO programs old repertoire alongside new music in admirable ways.
But I challenge anyone reading the interview to interpret Archer’s comment as lambasting preservers of heritage. She’s saying that – although she personally never needs to see another Shakespeare – the classics are important, and she then singles out the ACO, not as “guardians of the old” but as an exemplar of an ensemble that interprets those classics in ways that make you feel like you’ve never heard them before.
And in my book that’s a serious compliment.
Previously the ACO used the blogger service. Just this week they’ve moved their posts onto their website at the address given above. At this new location there isn’t a feed that you can subscribe to or follow; it’s no longer possible to link to a specific post url; and it’s no longer possible to comment on posts. Whatever you want to call it, the ACO is no longer blogging.