December Letters: Lost passion for boxing….

Readers respond about boxing, the Orchestra's "Sound of Christmas," Krapp's Last Tape, Christmas carols for nonbelievers, DownBeat at 75, Swan Lake, George Steinbrenner, worshipping Steve Jobs, New Yorker critic David Denby, suburbanites and the Philadelphia Orchestra, Margin Call and Picasso, Christopher Hitchens, Florida A & M's band hazing scandal, Joe Paterno's moment of truth, saving the Philadelphia Orchestra, choreographer talkbacks, a mother's death, Samuel Hsu's legacy, Scot Borofsky, Robert Zaller on Beethoven's 'Eroica,' feminist heroines, Maroons, Penn State's scandal, and medieval make-believe.

Passion for boxing, R.I.P.

     Re “The day I lost my passion for boxing,” by Bob Levin—
     What memories Bob's article on boxing revived. I remember watching my first fight: one man covered in white lathered-up sweat, the other in red blood. I was a very little girl. I loved it.
     I also remember hunkering over the radio with my dad and uncle listening to a Joe Lewis fight. Racists though they probably were, they cheered him on.
     Top of the line fights used to be televised. No more. Now men get their heads beat in professional football games. It's their choice. I guess it's better than going to war.
Carol Alice
Vancouver, Wash.
December 21, 2011


     Bob, you and I are about the same age and seem to have followed the same path in our fascination with the fights. Perhaps the closest my father and I ever became was watching the Pabst Blue Ribbon fights on Wednesday and the granddaddy of them all, Gillette's Friday nighters.
     I've covered many fights over the years and am currently working on a documentary about my friend, the Wildwood light heavy Chuck "The Professor" Mussachio, who earned both a B.A. and a master's in guidance counseling through boxing scholarships. He was knocked out in the last round of a fight he was winning last month in Atlantic City. No fighter is immune to such brain-rattling defeats and, indeed, every punch taken is a potential step down the road to pugilistic dementia.
     There are plenty of modern-day Charley Scotts— Meldrick Taylor comes to mind, and Joe Frazier came close— and there will always be, because of the less-than-rigorous physical testing in the sport and the less-than-moral attitudes of many managers, matchmakers and promoters.
     Howard Cosell never called another fight after witnessing the virtual destruction of Randall "Tex" Cobb by Larry Holmes. That was Cobb’s Charley Scott moment.
     I still write about the fights. Maybe my moment will come. Everyone must make his own decision, as you did, and I certainly respect that decision.
     Boxing will always contain an element of brutality, but it also contains an element of purity, and, yes, art, that I’m sorry you have missed over the years. But I can understand it.
     Your story was masterful and moving.
Bob Ingram
Burleigh, N.J.
December 21, 2011

Orchestra’s ‘Sound of Christmas’

     Re Tom Purdom’s review of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s “Sound of Christmas” program—
     I wasn't there, but I think this review hits the essential issue for all of us in the arts: Be who you are and trust who you are. Ultimately, that's the only hope for real success.
Allen Krantz
Mount Airy/Philadelphia
December 20, 2011

     Re the paragraph regarding the "serious mistake," I thank you, the Philly Pops thanks you and those players of the Philly Orchestra with whom I spoke would thank you as well.
Peter Nero
Music director and conductor
Philly Pops Orchestra
Center City/ Philadelphia
December 21, 2011

Krapp’s Last Tape

     Re Carol Rocamora’s review of Krapp’s Last Tape at the Brooklyn Academy of Music—
     I thought the performance over the top and self-indulgent. Different strokes.
     John Hurt milked each moment with faux profundity. It was an actor’s elaboration of a 30- or 35-minute piece. For instance, the squeaky clown shoes done over and over, the banana moment going into an essay-length elaboration of gesture (for what? Why?), a clown play with the spotlight done again and again.
     This is not the character of Krapp. This is an actor being "inventive" exterior to the essence of a play. When an actor intervenes in this way, elongating moments for questionable meaning, the rhythm goes off, especially in a subtle word rhythmic maker, which is masterful Beckett.
     Partly for this reason, I think, the discovery that is the crux of Krapp's Last Tape doesn't happen: Krapp's discovery that his postponement of living means, ultimately, that he's missed out on making his life happen.
Dennis Moritz
Germantown/ Philadelphia
December 23, 2011


Christmas carols for nonbelievers


     As an atheist, I can always appreciate songs for nonbelievers, so thank you for posting your “Christmas carols for nonbelievers” (Editor’s Notebook) . I recently uploaded one of mine to YouTube, and I thought you might just enjoy checking it out.
Burnell Yow!
Center City/ Philadelphia
December 21, 2011

     As a certified eggnostic, I need no second guessers who believe that the Christian myths of 4,000 human years and their stranglehold on "salvation" are a credible use of reasoning. These very Christians have greedily replaced the permanent everyday love of a Jesus figure with the grossest commercialization of their myths imaginable. Their history of persecuting unbelievers demands that thoughtful people oppose their ignorant objectives.
     As for our editor's innovative rhyme schemes, yuck. Being funny about serious issues is no joke, or worse, a bad one. Until Christopher Hitchens's candor becomes commonplace, we're paralyzed by their stupid "truths."
Patrick D. Hazard
Weimar, Germany
December 24, 2011

     Editor’s comment:
So we must remain serious until all the world’s problems are solved?

     I should warn Patrick (above) that his judging of Christians because they've been bad, and his railing against the commercialization of Christmas, single him out as a prime candidate for ordination.
     The name-calling I don't take personally, as I've noticed he's quite catholic with that. But I do wonder where in the world he got the idea that Jesus was loving. Did he read that somewhere? Good for him!
     As for Patrick’s being agnostic— hey, that's where Augustine got his start.
Kile Smith
Fox Chase/ Philadelphia
December 27, 2011


     Please don’t call Max Schmeling a Nazi. He was a good man and supported Joe Louis after Louis became destitute in old age.
     Also, Max’s agent was a New York Jew— a further indication of a non-political stand.
     An apology would be in order.
Eberhard von Auenmueller
Center City/Philadelphia
December 30, 2011

     Editor’s comment:
You’re absolutely right, and of course I knew better. I just couldn’t resist the challenge of finding a word that rhymed with “Nazi.” Besides, while Schmeling wasn’t a Nazi himself, the Nazis promoted him as their exemplar of Aryan superiority vis a vis the inferior races.

DownBeat at 75


     I just wanted to thank Patrick Hazard for referencing Pure Jazz Radio in his tribute to DownBeat magazine.
     Every once in a while I do a Google search on our station to see if anyone is saying anything nasty or nice about us. Always better to see nice.
Rich Keith
General manager
www.purejazzradio.com
New York
December 23, 2011


Swan Lake dissent

     Re Jim Rutter’s review of the Pennsylvania Ballet’s Swan Lake (March)— Rubbish, as they say in soccer. Lauren Fadeley was the most beautiful swan I have ever seen.
Joan Zylkin
South Philadelphia
December 23, 2011


George Steinbrenner in peace and war

     As a die-hard Yankees fan from New York (from about 1965, when there was precious little outside of Mickey Mantle to root for), I could not agree with you more in your assessment of George Steinbrenner (Editor’s Notebook, July 2010).
     I always did find ridiculous the comparisons of sports to war in general. Especially ridiculous when the comparisons are made by someone— whether fan or owner— who has neither fought in combat nor played the game. You will notice that most ballplayers rarely make these analogies.
     Like many kids who grew up in New York in the 1960s, I idolized Mantle. The man accomplished more in excruciating pain than most other ballplayers did with relatively healthy careers. To this day he remains an inspiration to me.
     However, Mantle was never mortally wounded on the field of play, nor did he ever drag another battered player to the safety of the Yankee clubhouse while under enemy fire. And the great thing about Mantle: He would be the first to admit that.
     Whitewashed away after Steinbrenner's death was the fact that he was a convicted (and pardoned) felon; was banned for life from baseball at one point; drove as many good people away from the Yankees as he attracted, and was an impossible man to work for.
     And, his most grievous crime: The destruction of the original Yankee Stadium.
     To be sure, Steinbrenner did some wonderful charity work, financed the resurgence of a great organization (the baseball people did the actual rebuilding of the team) and tried to rehabilitate many players whom no one else would have touched with a ten-foot pole. All of which, as a Yankee fan, I do appreciate.
Rich Keith
Pure Jazz Radio
New York
December 26, 2011


On worshipping Steve Jobs

     Re “On worshipping Steve Jobs,” by Robert Zaller—
     One of the mistakes common to this and other similar essays is that, to support their argument, the authors tend to employ at least one bad example. In this case, the author's choice of Thomas Edison as Jobs's antithesis ironically undermines the point he is trying to make.
     Anyone familiar with Edison's history, including his relentless marketing of the products he created (such as the direct current electric chair as a "humane" means of executing criminals), will immediately see the similarities with Jobs. As for taking credit for or exploiting the inventions of others, Edison's ruthless treatment of his employee, Nikola Tesla— arguably a far superior scientist and inventor— is a notorious example. The indictment of Jobs and his works is valid, but the same criticisms apply equally, if not more so, to Edison.
Ann C. Davidson
Spring Garden/ Philadelphia
December 17, 2011


     One way to combat the ill effects of "Robert's Rule of Technology" is for individuals, organizations, societies, and the world to adopt a "systems thinking" approach to problem solving.
     The late Penn professor Russell Ackoff pioneered the idea of systems thinking to address the long-term effectiveness of organizations and society as a whole. For an introduction to his work, click here or here.
Victoria C. Skelly
Wayne, Pa.
December 13, 2011


     I met Steve Jobs at La Terrace one evening in the early 70's. He was promoting the Black box; Ira Einhorn was his rep at the time. He loved doing psychedelics, which must have proved lucrative for Ira.
     The Occupy Wall Street flash mob that condemns the rich and powerful financial elite (like the SDS Weathermen before them), gives special dispensation to a certain cadre that Jobs represents.
Profit and greed were cornerstones of Jobs’s success. His mantra was: Be ahead of the curve with the best idea built into the slickest product, and eliminate knock-offs and competition.
Jason Brando
Bella Vista/ Philadelphia
December 14, 2011


     Editor’s note: To read my response, click here.

New Yorker critic’s confessions

     Re “The confessions of David Denby,” by Dan Rottenberg (Editor’s Notebook)—
     Oh me, oh my. The poignancy of our master's curt burial of his fellow alumnus is marvelous. Would that he now go full speed ahead on his too slowly emerging autobio. At 84, I'm afraid I'll miss the main act. Drat that!
Patrick D. Hazard
Weimar, Germany
December 16, 2011

     The Malcolm Gladwell parody referenced in "Confessions of a New Yorker Film Critic" is side splittingly funny! Thanks for reprinting it. I somehow missed it before.
Victoria Skelly
Wayne, Pa.
December 16, 2011


Suburbanites and the Orchestra

     Re “Suburbanites and the Orchestra,” by Victoria Skelly—
     We attended a concert in Amsterdam this past spring and were delighted to learn that a concert ticket allowed you to use public transit for free! For such an idea to work here, I would suggest adding a jitney to shuttle concertgoers between Suburban Station and the Kimmel.
Jim Donohue
Center City/ Philadelphia
December 14, 2011

Margin Call


     Re Robert Zaller’s review of Margin Call—
     Holy Moses: Our house polymath Zaller moves easily from Picasso's innovations to Wall Street finagling in 24 hours!
     I must say Zaller’s indictment of our banksters is more credible to me than his airy generalizations on our so very vendible esthetic pranksters. Sounds plausible, but I don't in fact "see" it.
     Could it be that gaming also thrives in the schticks our modernist geniuses have inflicted on a gullible public? Bankruptcies, perhaps, in both bizzes.
Patrick D. Hazard
Weimar, Germany
December 14, 2011


Christopher Hitchens

     Re “Christopher Hitchens, right or wrong,” by Robert Zaller—
     Hitch's grandstanding about his imminent death reveals a self-satisfaction I find offputting.
     Heh, he liked to duel. And mostly his objects deserved a sword. But picking on Mother Theresa was tacky. And as one who agrees with Hitch’s disbelief in Original Sin, I forgive him most of his trespasses. Amen.
Patrick D. Hazard
Weimar, Germany
December 18, 2011


Hazing at Florida A & M

     Re “A great college band, if its musicians survive”—
     Thank you, Maria Corley, for this insightful article. I am graduate of Florida A & M, Class of '73. It really saddens me that this sort of barbaric behavior continues unabated, not only at FAMU but also at many other institutions. This includes predominantly white institutions as well. We can all only hope that our universities return to the core values that made them great and sustainable for many years.
     I cannot find words appropriate enough to express to the family of Mr. Champion. Keep looking up.
Mack Byrd
Chicago, Ill.
December 19, 2011

     Maria Corley replies:
I was told that the reason Champion was pulled onto Bus C and beaten was that he dropped his baton during the Classic, which is the showcase battle of the bands with archrival Bethune-Cookman. It was to discipline him. FAMU has long hired alumni to work with the band. In other words, it's an incestuous thing that keeps the secrets buried, because the people who come on board came up the same way.

Paterno’s moment of truth

     I greatly enjoyed “The verdict on Joe Paterno,” by Dan Rottenberg (Editor’s Notebook). I have always felt that anyone can behave well when things are going his way, but the true test comes when adversity hits.
Diane Richardson
Germantown/ Philadelphia
December 7, 2011


     You really nailed it. Paterno's moment of truth came, and he chose his ego.
Faith Paulsen
Norristown, Pa.
December 8, 2011


     I’ll leave most of your Paterno analysis to the sidelines and just tackle your red flag on Paterno’s age.
     I do hope that when you’re 84 you don’t punt and stop running the Broad Street Review. I hope you don’t take a knee and stop writing your wonderful books. I hope you don’t pass on following the blocks and leads of Supreme Court justices on the 80- and 90-yard lines of life – ditto lawyers, musicians, artists and scientists who enjoy practicing into the final minutes of their fourth quarters.
     To quote William Wordsworth: “But an old age serene and bright, and lovely as a Lapland night, shall lead thee to thy grave.”
Joseph Glantz
Levittown, Pa.
December 7, 2011


     Your summer camp reference reminded me of a related experience I had as a camper—and, I believe, the kind of thing for which camps of that era were notorious (but, like sex abuse, not openly discussed).
     When I was about 11, I had a camp counselor named Bob who was a stickler about manners and punctuality. An unfortunate bunkmate, Joel, was very slow getting up in the morning and often caused the whole "bunk" to arrive late for breakfast. The more Bob leaned on Joel, the slower he moved.
     One morning after breakfast Bob led us into a woods clearing behind our cabin and announced that I was going to fight Joel because he was holding everybody up. Not being exactly eager for a fight (and feeling in my gut that something was very wrong), I just stood looking at Joel (who was clearly afraid).
     â€œHit him,” Bob yelled at me. I did. Joel looked like he was about to cry. "Hit him again!" Bob screamed. I did. Bob then asked Joel if had had enough, and was ready to hustle out of bed in the morning. "Noooo," Joel wept. Three more rounds of this and Joel agreed to Bob's demand. Joel never caused us to be late again.
     About a week later, I tried to apologize to Joel. He looked at me rather sorrowfully and said nothing. From time to time in subsequent years I’ve thought about Joel and hoped that his post-camp life had gone well.
In retrospect I'd say that camp counselor positions (at least among males and in my experience) tended to draw a disproportionate share of bullies.
John Erlich
Sacramento, Calif.
December 8, 2011


     I spent one pre-teen summer at one of those camps— run by a famous basketball coach (the "big deal" every summer occurred when the owner came out to the basketball court and, with all of us kids sitting around, would sink a shot from way out there. He didn't need a net or backboard— swish).
     I remember what, to me, seemed benign homosexual behavior among the campers, and I kept my distance. I wasn’t aware of any camper-counselor activity– perhaps because I kept my distance. But now I wonder— what was really going on there?
Bob Rottenberg
Brattleboro, Vt.
December 7, 2011


When choreographers talk too much

     Re “Here’s what I meant to say”—
     Jim Rutter underestimates the audience when it comes to having a conversation with an artist. They have already formed opinions and have pointed questions as to why the artist made certain choices. These are not lectures or one-way conversations but critical discussions of the work.
     In my experience, the artists get feedback that surprises and enlightens them. And access to the artist can provide context and insight to those audience members who visit the theater infrequently. Then again, you can always leave to mull all by yourself.
     A major study on engaging and building a dance audience reported that audiences want to participate in the experience. For many, sitting through a performance and going home isn’t enough.
Randy Swartz
University City/ Philadelphia
December 7, 2011

     Editor’s note:
The writer is artistic director of Dance Affiliates, which presents dance programs at Penn’s Annenberg Center.

     Rutter's perceptive putdown of excessive explanations reminds me that Modernism, now a hoary century old, justifies any/everything in its gropier moods. The Higher Goofy is an esthetic misdemeanor, whether in architecture or ballet. Methinks they explain too much about too little. Good art is its own explanation. Unlike hard science, weak art too often gets an undeserved pass.
Patrick D. Hazard
Weimar, Germany
December 10, 2011

     I'm torn. Having heard one composer after another drearily explaining a piece about to be played, I agree with Jim Rutter. If you have to explain it, it's a good bet that I don't want to hear it. So early on in my career as a composer I resolved that my work would stand on its own.
     Consequently, early on my wife told me to get over myself: People don't often meet creators and like to know what they're thinking, she told me, so say something that will interest them.
     All composers are asked, a lot these days, to talk about our music. Sometimes it's three minutes before the piece, sometimes 20, before the concert. I go through the same elaborate process each time: 1, I have no idea what I'm going to say; then 2, I go up and talk. I've toyed with the idea of doing my best Charlie-Callas-doing-George-Jessel, "Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, ng, ng...," but a little voice tells me it works best if Dean Martin and Foster Brooks are on stage, too.
     So I'm torn. I have to do this five times in January, before performances of Vespers and a new piece, The Nobility of Women. I have no idea what I'm going to say.
Kile Smith
Fox Chase/ Philadelphia
December 21, 2011

Death of a mother

     â€œWhen a mother vanishes,” by Bob Levin, was sweet and touching. As another adult orphan, I feel your pain. My father is gone now 11 years, my mother eight. I still think about what else I could have done to help them be here longer.
     Old age and everything that goes with it— not a foe I could successfully fight. Not a day goes by where I don't want to talk to my mother or father. Still.
Arlene W. Leib
Wynnewood, Pa.
December 7, 2011


Samuel Hsu’s global classroom

     Thank you, Kile Smith, for “A polymath’s giant shadow.”
     I couldn't put into words what a treasure Samuel Hsu was to me and to this world, but you have made a worthy effort. Sam also set me down the path I am still on, and I am grieving with you.
Jedidiah Slaboda
Chicago, Ill.
December 7, 2011


     I feel a similar connection to Dr. Hsu, for it was he who directed me into the life I live as piano teacher in Germany. Looking back on Sam's understanding of German, I realize that if he couldn’t enunciate like a native speaker, he could still pull more meaning out of Dahlhaus or Hindemith than any German pianist I know.
     Knowing that I was on my way to Germany, Sam challenged me to find my place in life. He pulled out a napkin at the lunch table, scribbled something on it, and slid it over to me, saying, “Russell, discover this for yourself." On the napkin were these words, "Sitz am Leben."
Russell Bird
Efringen-Kirchen, Germany
December 7, 2011
     Editor’s note:
The writer was Samuel Hsu’s teaching assistant at Philadelphia Biblical University in 2002-03.

     With all his brilliance, Sam Hsu was such a humble man. He was also a lot of fun. Our whole family loved him. He was God's beloved servant. We will see him again. In our grief, this is the joy of the Christian. Perhaps we could all be more loving as he was.
Fran Emmons
Penndel, Pa.
December 7, 2011


     You may have forgotten one really important part of Sam: He was a people person! In spite of his brilliant mind, he had an open heart to people everywhere. That is a rare quality, and a gift to us.
Cheryl Rowley
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
December 7, 2011


     I heard of Sam's death as I was playing continuo for the Messiah here in Pittsburgh, and remembered my first Messiah with the Philadelphia College of Bible orchestra and choir with my new friend Sam Hsu— almost 40 years ago!

     I wonder if they play the Messiah in heaven— maybe he was needed!
Anne Martindale Williams
Pittsburgh, Pa.
December 7, 2011


     I am so saddened by Sam's death, but proud to have known him, to have heard him play the piano, and to have conversed with him in the intimacy of my parents’ home. I always loved his quiet and gentle presence.
John-Mark Larter
Boulder, Colo.
December 7, 2011


     I remember telling our daughters about Dr. Hsu. How we would play "stump the professor" in music history by asking him if he knew various piano compositions, which he promptly proceeded to play, his passion for Christ and music, his humility, and his availability.
     My daughter Emily, who is studying trumpet performance in Vienna, especially enjoyed Dr. Hsu. He accompanied her at Cshey Summer School of Music one summer. She had hoped he wouldn't begin the piece too fast, but he did and pushed her to play much faster than in rehearsal. Later she thanked him for "pushing" her and making her realize just what she could do.
Barb Waltz
Cinnaminson, N.J.
December 8, 2011

     A brilliant description of and paean to someone who reached maximum capacity for a life on Earth (I'm convinced).
Rocky Leplin
Richmond, Calif.
December 9, 2011


     Sam was uniquely brilliant. But when one thinks about Sam, the last thing that comes to mind is his academic prowess. The first thought is always joy. He exuded it every minute of his life.
     You managed to capture his joy and his brilliance. To quote Walt Whitman: Joy! Joy! All over joy!
Barbara Hull
Fairport, N.Y.
December 11, 2011


     I had the pleasure of working with Sam Hsu on Claude Debussy As I Knew Him, and Other Writings of Arthur Hartmann, a book that Sam co-edited for a series that I edit (“Eastman Studies in Music”). This book consists of the memoirs of the great American violinist (and composer) Arthur Hartmann, and his surviving correspondence with the great French composer Claude Debussy.
     The book has received rave reviews
and is now available in paperback.
     Sam Hsu was a treasure himself, and I feel privileged to have known him.
Ralph P. Locke
Rochester, N.Y.
December 12, 2011


     With these words, Sam Hsu began his eulogy for my late husband, Dr. Andor Kiszely, in 2006:
     "I first met Dr. Kiszely more than 30 years ago. Andor and I became instant friends when we discovered that we both had studied with Erno Daniel, who was a pupil of Stefan Thoman, who was a pupil of Liszt, thus making both of us the great-grandchildren of Liszt." These words serve perfectly to express my feelings about Dr. Sam Hsu five years later.
     Sam and I collaborated in holding a memorial recital each of the last five years in honor of Dr. Kiszely. It will be my sorrowful duty at the sixth memorial recital on February 5, 2012, to give a tribute in addition to Dr. Samuel Hsu. The recital will be held in Rock Hall, Temple University, at 2 p.m., sponsored by the Philadelphia Music Teachers Association.
Joy Miller Kiszely
Ardmore, Pa.
December 14, 2011


     Sam was never "Dr. Hsu” to me. He was a classmate and a treasured friend. He always had a smile and a good word for everybody. He will be sorely missed.
Rev. George R. Block
Ridgewood, N.Y.
January 10, 2012


     As a student at Philadelphia Bible University years ago (1993), I was known for being loud, crude, proudly ignorant and obnoxious. Yet the first time I had to assist Dr. Hsu in turning a page while he tutored a visually challenged young man, I immediately felt that I was in the presence of absolute intelligence, dignity and sophistication. Not a hint of judgmentality was felt from his demeanor.
     I can't wait to get to heaven and jam with Dr. Hsu!
Nicholas Fratelli
Penndel, Pa.
January 10, 2012


Scot Borofsky replies

     Re “The newest art venue,” by Andrew Mangravite—
Thank you for your reviewing my work and for making me a part of your history of art writing. Please enjoy my central website and the sites you can visit from it: Scotsart.net.
Scot Borofsky
Brattleboro, Vt.
December 10, 2011


Saving the Orchestra

     Re “How to save the Philadelphia Orchestra,” by Clarence Faulcon—
     In the past quarter century, the Philadelphia Orchestra has not had a continuing relationship with the Temple University Choir, nor did it attempt to form its own chorus.
     What it did do was form an exclusive relationship with the Philadelphia Singers for a time, ending its former practice of dividing the choral work between several local choirs and the Westminster Choir. In recent years, the Orchestra has resumed its relationship with the local choirs, and this year, it performed with the Westminster Choir for the first time in a number of years.
     I am not sure where the author got the idea that the Philadelphia Orchestra ended a relationship with the Temple University Choir that to my knowledge never existed in the first place. While I can remember many memorable performances with several excellent choirs in my 25 years with the Orchestra, I honestly don't remember us ever performing with the Temple choir.
Eric Carlson
Collingswood, N.J.
November 29, 2011


     Clarence Faulcon's suggestions for digitizing the Philadelphia Orchestra archive and repairing some community relations are sensible, but they are hardly panaceas, nor are they a sufficient explanation of a 40% loss of audience base.
     His analogy of the Orchestra's plight to that of General Motors is strange indeed. GM was bailed out by massive taxpayer subsidies, without which it would almost certainly have failed. No such largesse is available to the Orchestra. And GM "restructured" by cutting starting pay for new workers from $28 to $14 an hour, thus pushing the coming generation of workers out of the middle class and into the penumbra of the so-called near poor, whose pay is less than 50% above the federal poverty level.
     The Orchestra has already cut base salaries for its musicians by nearly a quarter. Its quality will be unsustainable in the long run at that level.
     The Orchestra Association's problem is, indeed, in treating some of the world's finest musicians as if they were as easily replaceable as workers on an assembly line. It will find out they aren't.
Robert Zaller
Bala Cynwyd, Pa.
November 30, 2011


     Thanks for tonight’s interesting panel discussion on “Saving the Philadelphia Orchestra.” One of the most salient points I took away from it is how important it is to introduce children early to music.
     I know how important it was and is in my life. Marketing starts early but I disagree with Clarence Faulcon. He totally disregards that there is a sports culture in America and therefore it is easy to make money in sports. Music, the arts, are something totally different if they’re not nurtured at a young age.
     When I grew up in Germany our provincial theater had a Sunday afternoon subscription series just for young people. It started at age 15 or 16 and was affordable for high school students. The series consisted of five (maybe six) performances: two symphonies, two operas, one ballet, one or two dramas. That's how I started.
     My parents did not attend the theater or play an instrument. Yes, they played classical music on the radio and the phonograph, but that was it. So I agree with your panelist Juliet Goodfriend of the Bryn Mawr Film Institute: That's were we need to start.
Hans Hartleben
Center City/ Philadelphia
November 30, 2011


     The only common thread that seemed to unite Broad Street Review’s sophisticated and disparate panel on “Saving the Philadelphia Orchestra” (Nov. 30) was disdain for and even hatred of the Inquirer music critic Peter Dobrin. There must be a reason for this reaction.
     My personal feelings are:
     1) Dobrin is being credited with far more power than he actually possesses. He is not Craig LaBan, whose single opinion can literally doom a restaurant. I imagine that very few of the Inquirer's readers pay much attention to Dobrin; it amazes me that in these hard times the Inquirer employs two full-time classical music critics at all.
     2) Dobrin has done quite well, I think, as a journalist covering the Orchestra's business problems. He doesn't seem to have an axe to grind and presents the issues in a lucid manner. And his current three-part series on Curtis Institute seems to be off to a good start. (To read it, click here.)
     Nevertheless, powerful or not, Dobrin hasn’t acquitted himself well as a music critic. Time and time again over the past several years, I have attended concerts that I thought were wonderful, concerts that received standing ovations and many curtain calls, only to have Dobrin tell his readers in the Inquirer why the experience was second-rate.
     As some BSR panelists pointed out, this pattern was especially apparent during Christoph Eschenbach's tenure with the Orchestra (2003-08), especially when Eschenbach conducted Mahler. In his campaign of innuendo, hinting broadly on several occasions that he had sources within the Orchestra who disliked playing for Eschenbach, Dobrin abused whatever power he does possess as one of the Inquirer's music critics.
     Dan Rottenberg’s position that a critic isn’t doing his job if he simply reflects the majority view of the audience is, in general, unassailable. But Dobrin's minority views and his ability to make them public because of his position are not in themselves an indication of his competence.
Dan Coren
Queen Village/ Philadelphia
December 4, 2011


     Dare we learn from socialist Venezuela's remarkably successful establishment of children's orchestra? The old Main Line arrogance toward our underwashed masses probably doesn't help either. Heh, Bach to Brubeck ain't that long a hike.
Patrick D. Hazard
Weimar, Germany
December 9, 2011


Gardiner and Jurowski

     Re “Gardiner and Jurowski: Two period pieces“—
     Congratulations to Robert Zaller for a magnificent assessment of both John Eliot Gardiner's work in general and of the significance of Beethoven's "Eroica."
     This sentence, "What the Eroica did, as no work has done before or since, was to change the sense of the moment’s possibilities, the horizon of what might now be said," is particularly felicitous.
Dan Coren
Queen Village/ Philadelphia
November 30, 2011


Feminist heroines

     In his column about five feminist heroines (Editor’s Notebook), Dan Rottenberg has finally fully redeemed himself.
     To mythologize and celebrate his enlightenment, let me paraphrase Villon: Where are the feminist playwrights of today?
Robert Liss
San Francisco, Calif.
December 1, 2011

Maroons by Iron Age

     Thanks, Steve Cohen, for the great review of Maroons. We appreciate the recognition of the exceptional production at the Centre Theater. The collaboration between Iron Age Theater and the Centre Theater always produces a wonderful production.
Fran Doyle
Executive director
Centre Theater
Norristown, Pa.
November 30, 2011


Joe Paterno


     â€œJoe Paterno and his media enablers,” by Bob Ingram, is so right on. The Happy Valley situation seems to have been a bit like Wall Street (see Margin Call)— you go with the rules (don't ask, don't tell) or you're out before you get a toehold.
     This scandal will get a lot nastier before it ends, and implicate more and more Happy Valley folk. So it should. With luck it will produce— eventually— a better, less incestuous institution with accountability and transparency (where have we heard those words before?). Well, we can dream, can't we?
Ellen Kaye
Society Hill/ Philadelphia
December 2, 2011


Medieval make-believe


     Re “Pennsic’s medieval make-believe,” by Kristen Eaton (July 2010)—
     I have never been to Pennsic but I hope to go some day. Pennsic is merely the largest of our wars: Potrero, Lilies, Gulf, Estrella, and many more are scattered throughout the USA and the entire world.
SCAdians— members of the Society for Creative Anachronism— are found at international medieval symposia, international heraldic gatherings, national and international onomastic congresses and on university faculties and lists of published authors--fiction and non-fiction alike.
The dream lives in many formats worldwide.
Prof. Norman Scott Catledge
Orlando, Fla.
November 27, 2011