During the recent global financial crisis, businesses once accustomed to hefty profits were suddenly reporting unprecedented losses. Not surprisingly, nonprofit performing arts organizations faced an even grimmer reality, facing untenable funding cuts that threatened to deplete an already fragile resource base. The challenges facing symphony orchestras are particularly acute. In the last decade nearly a dozen orchestras have filed for bankruptcy, while countless more have grappled with the day-to-day realities associated with producing and presenting symphonic concerts. Nevertheless, many of these organizations continue to exceed artistic expectations, overcoming financial constraints to create art of remarkable breadth and quality. Robert Flanagan’s new book explores the paradox between these artistic triumphs and economic shortfalls, shining an analytical light on the challenges facing orchestras in the twenty-first century. His argument — that this is not a new phenomenon caused by a sputtering economy, but instead the result of an outdated organizational structure — challenges musicians, administrators, policy makers, and audiences to rethink the role orchestras play in contemporary society.
Mauskapf, Michael. Review of The Perilous Life of Symphony Orchestras, by Robert J. Flanagan. MLA Notes 69, no. 3 (2013): 559-563.
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