To G. Schirmer with love-

The plucky little chamber orchestra is a labor of love for the musicians, who started it themselves so they would have a chance to do interesting repertoire with conductors they wanted to work with.

One project they’ve latched onto is performing all of the major arrangements of the Society for Private Musical Performances founded by Arnold Schoenberg. We’ve already done Schoenberg’s magical arrangement of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde and the chamber version of Debussy’s L’apres midi d’un faune. This time, it was to be the 10 player version of Bruckner’s Symphony no. 7.

For those of you lucky enough not to deal with music rental, here’s how it works…. Music that is under copyright is availably only from one distributor in any country. You call the rental company or fax them and ask for a quote. Getting an answer might take a week or so (more than once I’ve called for a quote and just had the music show up weeks later without ever having gotten a response or having actually ordered it). Often at this point you gulp and change the program. Then you order the music via both fax and email. Then you wait. Sometimes you get a contract back, sometimes the music just shows up with a contract in it. In this case, nothing happened. However, once an order is shipped, the rental company usually won’t respond to emails- I suppose they assume that we don’t need the reassurance if the music is on the way. Still, absent a response, we start calling and writing. The silence remains deafening.  

Finally, two weeks before the concert, we get though. Oops, they haven’t done anything with our order in over a month. They didn’t “get” our emails, or the original fax. There’s more, but I’ll skip it…

After much discussion, it’s agreed they’ll fed ex to Portland. Music arrives on Friday…. Hooray!

Here’s where it gets good.

It’s the FULL ORCHESTRA VERSION edited by Haas. They’ve sent Bruckner’s glorious original work, replete with Wagner tuben to the Rose City CHAMBER ORCHESTRA.  Can people not read?

Of course, we re-checked the contract- yes, we did have a contract for the right piece. Our poor librarian on Friday emails the distributor for the gazillionth time on Friday- can they call us first thing today at let us know if the correct parts can be sent to arrive by tomorrow? Well, it’s noon on the West Coast, which means its 9 PM in Germany. I don’t think they’re going to be sending any music today….. Hmm, what else can we pull out of our library ten days before concert for strings, clarinet, horn, piano four hands and harmonium????

There’s a reason why we got rid of monopolies over 90 years ago. I’m sure if there was more than one place you could get this piece, both would have adequate numbers of staff to cope with their orders. 

So, next time you’re listening to the 100th performance of some hackneyed old warhorse, thank the publishing industry and the copyright laws for making it not only ridiculously expensive and cumbersome, but apparently ACTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE in this case, to do interesting and unusual repertoire.

c. 2007 Kenneth Woods

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

Learn about Kenneth at

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