German Orchestra Chooses Its Own Path in Music and in Practice

Article excerpt

DK TOUR DATES

Aug. 16 - Tanglewood, Lenox, Mass.

Aug. 18 - Lincoln Center Out of Doors, N.Y.

ABOUT 15 years ago, a group of music graduates from the German Youth Orchestra in Frankfurt decided to take matters into its own hands.

Instead of seeking state-supported jobs in one of the union orchestras in Frankfurt, the musicians banded together to form their own chamber orchestra - a self-governed, democratic ensemble without a music director. The members would choose repertoire, guest artists, and conductors, as well as decide how things would be run.

Today, the 33-member Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie (DK) is one of the leading European chamber ensembles. The orchestra's tour and spate of recordings are bringing it into the international limelight as well.

The group is not the only such democratic ensemble to make a significant mark in the music world. The New York-based Orpheus, to name one, has a similar profile. The biggest difference is that DK has the support of an entire city. In 1992, the orchestra was persuaded to relocate from Frankfurt, where it was one of many groups struggling to attract and keep an audience, to the North Sea port of Bremen, where it has become the center of the city's cultural life.

The relocation has been a success for both city and orchestra. Bremen, though a democratic free state since the 16th century and a center of commerce for more than 1,000 years, had never been rich culturally.

The "acquisition" of DK has stimulated culture across the board. DK works with local composers, music educators, and students on a variety of projects within the local school system. Painters have been commissioned to create artworks for programs. And the orchestra's performance series as well as two summer music festivals have brought guest artists of international renown into Bremen.

In return, DK has gotten the opportunity and support it needed to do what it does best - cultivate and perform music. In the process, the group earns almost twice the income it was making in Frankfurt, yet the ratio between subsidy and earned income has remained the same (more than 70 percent generated by box-office receipts and recording contracts. …