Anthony Princiotti was on the podium Dec. 6 at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts to conduct the second MasterWorks concert of the 2008-2009 Season. It was a concert that covered music that was created by American-born composers or composers who created works while living in America during the last 75 years. The orchestra is in the midst of a two-year cycle of concerts celebrating their 74th and 75th seasons.
Princiotti is an incredibly gifted conductor. As one audience member said to me, he had the ability to communicate to the orchestra so well that even frequently heard works such as the Copland Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo and Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, A Symphonic Picture sounded fresh and new. Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra, the main work of the evening, was so transparent and so carefully articulated by the members of the orchestra under Princiotti's guidance that it held the audience spellbound.
In fact, when works such as the Bartok were programmed even as recently as three years ago, you would have seen a significant portion of the audience, say 5-10 percent, who left the theater at intermission and did not return for the second half. Those days are apparently gone forever, because the tenure of Princiotti and Music Director/Conductor Jaime Laredo has been particularly blessed with fewer orchestral chestnuts and more programming of contemporary 21st century and 20th century music.
Judging from the reaction of the audience, those days are now behind the orchestra. As Princiotti suggested during the preconcert interview, the board had initially been concerned with programming that looked as though it might cause negative fluctuations in ticket sales or in actual attendance. This last concert and the audience reaction to it should demonstrate to all concerned that the days of "safe" programming can be considered to be definitely past.