It is fair to say that, given the orchestra’s dwindling audiences, no one with either artistic or marketing insights is minding the programming needs of Cincinnati’s largest musical organization.

In the 2023-2024 season lineup of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra there are approximately thirty composers, of which more than half are 21st century ones, and of which more than 90% are of white European extraction.

Of those composers less than 10% are artists of color, and maybe one composer of Latinx ethnicity is represented therein. Things at the CSO appear to be somewhat one-sided.

Pondering how neither Britten, nor Holst, nor Vaughn Williams, nor any other British composers is included in nearly fifty performances of some 25 programs presented over a 32-week, September to May season, even the lay of the White European land appears to be most uneven.

As is the case with many other American Orchestras, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is having earned income issues, compounded with attrition to its subscriber base due to a greying-down audience. Add to that no significant increase in single ticket purchases and, paraphrasing The Music Man‘s Harold Hill, you got trouble in Queen City.

Lacking a conductor with the charisma and energy of a younger artist – think of a Gustavo Dudamel, for one – the soon to retire Louis Langrée appears to have resigned himself to leading the kind of programs that rely on others in the CSO administration to map things out.

Now hoping to fill the 2289 seats of the 1994-renewed 1878 Springer Auditorium for the remainder of a contract that ends at the closing of the 2023-2024 season, there seems to be no change in sight in the 62-year-old maestro’s main gig.

The whole classical music industry is undergoing major changes as it suffers from the effects of dealing with a new audience that can comfortably sit at home and listen to a CD or view a DVD and or watch concerts and operas on large TV screens and or listen to radio broadcasts and or enjoy online podcasts of concerts from all over the world at no cost, or for a fraction of the price of a ticket to a symphony concert or an opera.  

There is no question that the experience of attending a live performance of an opera, or a concert is like no other, but that consideration is often superseded by the harsh constraints of time and convenience and the pocketbook.

Rafael de Acha © 2023

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