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Losing his composure!

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A composer is suing the Brooklyn Philharmonic for abruptly cutting short his environmentally themed symphony in mid-performance at a concert almost five years ago — a show that left the songsmith fuming and critics appalled.

Composer Nathan Currier is suing the cash-strapped Brooklyn Philharmonic for $250,000 because it lopped off the climactic finish of his “Gaian Variations” in a ballyhooed concert at Avery Fisher Hall on April 21, 2004.

Currier claims that the philharmonic trimmed the work in order to avoid paying overtime to its unionized orchestra.

“The meaning of the piece was utterly lost,” he griped to The Brooklyn Paper.

“Gaian Variations,” with orchestra, soloists, vocalists and dancers rhapsodizing on the Gaia theory that the Earth is a living organism, had an approximate running time of two hours and five minutes. But when two 20-minute intermissions were factored in, Philharmonic officials feared their musicians would earn overtime for more than three hours of serenading, the suit contends.

The complaint, filed in Kings County Supreme Court on Monday, depicts a hasty and harried scene backstage to shorten the “contemporary classical” piece to avoid the orchestra’s self-imposed three-hour limit.

“During the second scheduled intermission, [Brooklyn Philharmonic CEO] Catherine Cahill called [Currier] backstage for an emergency meeting,” the court papers claim.

Cahill demanded that Currier personally pay the overtime wages or trim the work, which took him five years to compose and had already cost him $72,200 to stage. Currier claims he removed several sections of the piece to comply with the “outrageous ‘eleventh-hour’ demands.”

But the biggest shock was yet to come.

Instead of playing the abridged version, the orchestra simply stopped playing at the first proposed cut and walked off stage, approximately with 15 minutes left on the clock before overtime kicked in.

“As a direct consequence of [the Philharmonic’s] arbitrary, capricious and inappropriate ‘butchering’ of the performance, … the audience in Avery Fisher Hall was deprived of an appreciation of the totality of the creative work,” the lawsuit charges.

The New York Times, a Manhattan newspaper, clearly agreed. About a week after the amputated artwork was staged, the Gray Lady weighed in with a scathing review that called Currier’s piece “dreadful” — though it’s unclear if the newspaper’s critic was reacting to the fact that the piece was cut, or that it was staged at all.

“[At the end], I felt liberated,” critic Allan Kozinn wrote. “About half an hour earlier, during a disquisition on daisies, black-clad dancers gyrated down the aisles and onto the stage, and I wondered if I had died during the afternoon and this was hell.”

The Brooklyn Philharmonic declined to comment, saying it had not yet been served with the complaint. Ironically, given that the orchestra has just been sued for trimming a composer’s work, the Philharmonic announced two weeks ago that it would trim its own spring season to save money.

Currier’s attorney, Alex Roshuk, said his client, whose career highlights include teaching at Juilliard and receiving a Fullbright grant and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, would be willing to settle the suit if the Philharmonic agreed to play the piece in its unadulterated entirety

Updated 5:00 pm, April 16, 2009
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Reasonable discourse

Steven Black from Chelsea says:
This guy is a gripper and moaner- nothing is ever enough for him and he always wants a little more. Enough is enough Mr. Currier - so many composers would be thankful for the opportunity to write for orchestra and here you are with the possibility of destroying one of our few orchestras that actually performs American music. Shame on you!
April 15, 2009, 5:06 pm
Xill from Bronks says:
I totally disagree with you Steven Black.

It is the orchestra that have the privilege of playing the music of the composers. Seeing it the other way around will ultimately lead to the end of real authentic new-music.

Give the creating artists the respect they deserve, while they still live; Because they wouldn't have done this in the middle of a Beethoven Symphony. They are simply abusing the system and the modern composer as always. Anyway, a commission was made, he worked is part of the contract, the orchestra didn't.

It is not an honour to be played by an orchestra in America, they never rehearse new music and are sight reading the piece in concert. No balance is done they only work the transitions and end up screwing up the piece pretty much every time.

BTW, He will not "destroy" your pathetic Orchestra, there is a minimum quota on how much new American music has to be played by each orchestra, that is what needs to be improved. And there is no point being jealous that he got the commission and you didn't. What would you have done in his place after 2 years of work? Swallowed the non-performance and hide yourself in the press glamour and the wonderful "critics"?

If you want to know what is destroying the orchestra simply look at the limited mind of the conductor in his yearly program choices.
July 22, 2009, 1:51 pm

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