L.A. vs. Chicago?
Ambition, muses and Olympic games.

Dudamel to LA.

The hot 26 year old Venezuelan conductor believes he’ll find happiness in L.A.

Meanwhile the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is still looking for a music director since Daniel Barenboim stepped down ten months ago. Critic Andrew Patner, in this passionate and well-reasoned article and review of Dudamel’s debut last Thursday with the Chicago Symphony, wanted the CSO to go after the Venezuelan.

“Let’s hope that they (the CSO board members) are carrying pens and contract paper to share with Dudamel before he leaves town.”

Well, either they didn’t take the caps off their pens fast enough, or they weren’t interested, or, once again in the arts, L.A. beat Chicago.

They took the film industry away from us years ago, then the title of “second city;” is their orchestra going to eclipse ours? In architecture, leaders who 100 years ago would have probably lived in “wild west Chicago” today live and work in the exciting and still-defining-itself city of the angels.

Looking for a music director, it doesn’t hurt L.A.’s orchestra at all that they perform in

the new and fabulous Disney Hall designed by Frank Gehry.

That’s a much better place to work (and to listen to music) than is

Chicago’s Symphony Center, (Daniel H. Burnham, 1904), a place many of us put up with to hear great music, but don’t love.

Chicago needs to be more ambitious to stay near the top in culture. We need to realize more projects like Millennium Park (with its own fantastic Gehry-designed outdoor music venue.) I wish that rather than renovate Orchestra Hall as the CSO did a few years ago, we’d have built a new one.

L.A. is ambitious today, competing with New York, the way Chicago was in the very late 1800’s, when Chicago built Adler and Sullivan’s Auditorium Theater.

Speaking of Adler and Sullivan, cultural historian Tim Samuelson tells the story that not long after Symphony Center, ne’ Orchestra Hall opened and the acoustics were less than hoped, they brought in Louis Sullivan to see if he could improve the acoustics. Dankmar Adler, the real acoustician in the firm was already gone to the great echo chamber in the sky. The Orchestra officials asked Louis Sullivan, “What be the cost to improve Orchestra Hall?” To which he replied, “What would be the cost of six sticks of dynamite?”

– + – + – +

And speaking of L.A. and ambition, in a week we’ll find out which US city gets to compete worldwide for the Olympics. The USOC officials were taken to Chicago’s very ambitious Millennium Park, and all around town. On Saturday they’ll let us know how impressed they were.

Chicago is competing against — Los Angeles.

“I am an American, Chicago-born.”
-Edward

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