Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Is this the world's first binational orchestra in the making?

On each side of the border between Denmark and Germany lie the two cities with a symphony orchestra of their own. On the danish side, we have Sønderborg (pop. 30.000) and on the german side it's Flensburg (pop. 90.000).
Both cities are rich in history, and represent seperate parts of the old kingdom of Schleswig, divided and contested throughout several centuries, but since 1920 finally split into the danish Nordslesvig and the German Schleswig-Holstein. Both areas have a mix of danish and german 'expatriots', and both languages are spoken throughout the borderland.

Orchestras have it tough these days, and someone came up with the brilliant idea of combining the two orchestras; the danish Sønderjyllands Symphony Orchestra (SSO) and the german Schleswig-Holsteinisches Sinfonieorchester (S-HS). The fusion would result in a 'proper' size orchestra of about 110 musicians, instantly making it a decent match for its two nearest big cities, Hamburg and Copenhagen.

The orchestras that the SSO and S-HS normally compete with, such as the Philharmonisches Orchester Kiel or the Odense Symphony Orchestra have around 75 musicians, and so the proposed binational orchestra (the Schleswig Philharmonic?) would be a major player in the region, capable of attracting an altogether different league of soloists and conductors than their competitors.

The two orchestras bring different things to the negotiations; the SSO has a brand new concerthall - the "Alsion" - located on the waterfront in Sønderborg, and the orchestra serve an area of about 250.000 people. The S-HS has an old operahouse, temporarily closed over the summer for fear it would collapse, but serve a much larger area and thus has much more potential customers.
The danes bring a dutch chief conductor; David Porcelijn, the germans bring an estonian; Mihkel Kütson.
The danes play primarily symphonic repertoire, the german are an opera orchestra.

I find the idea fascinating. This fusion could be the perfect solution to many of small-orchestra-headaches these guys normally struggle with, but it will of course face many obstacles on the way, mostly related to funding and other practicalities.
I imagine most musicians would welcome the opportunity to 'upgrade' their orchestra, and thereby attract a substantially larger audience and a better caliber conductors and soloists.

Good luck, held og lykke, viel glück!


- Jesper

P.S. I'm not affiliated with any of the orchestras involved, but I am set to conduct the Sønderjyllands Symphony Orchestra for the first time next year. Hopefully the project will have moved forward by then.

P.P.S. A related article in danish on the Danish Radio website

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