SLSO artistic adviser Tim Page has come a long way since his film debut at age 12

"One thing that is important to remember is that I have a lot of the prerequisites for the job, but I also don't have Music Management 101. It's an odd situation that way. I'm very grateful that I have everybody's ear, but I have no final say, especially while I'm getting to know the terrain."

Vonk and Roth provide the necessary "Great idea, but it ain't gonna work" to Page's least earthbound ideas, but he says, "I'm learning fast. I'm getting fewer and fewer of those ideas. But critics are utopian in a funny way. We get to sit back there in the audience and say, "Why wasn't it more this?' That's a real job, but it's not your job when you shift sides."

Some of what is emerging from the discussions between Page and the maestro will be heard very soon. "I have some composers I want us to do. For instance, we're doing a Rautavarra piece next year." Page is kind enough to spell the name, along with the composer's first name, Einojuhani. "It's a piece called "Countess Arcticus.' It's for orchestra and tape sounds of wild birds. It's very beautiful and strange and evocative.

SLSO artistic adviser Tim Page: "I love to share enthusiasms."
Jennifer Silverberg
SLSO artistic adviser Tim Page: "I love to share enthusiasms."

"One of the few things you're going to see on the schedule this year is, we're adding the Carl Orff children's music to go with "Carmina Burana.' First of all, because "Carmina Burana' -- everybody does it. It's like, "Let's do something a little different.' The children's music is never done, and it's wonderfully strange and beautiful. It's got the great tunes of "Carmina' with youthful voices. It's amazingly charming music.

"There are composers I want to do. I very much want to do the Alan Pettersson -- a Swedish composer -- the Seventh Symphony. A real masterpiece, frankly. I think we'd play the hell out of it.

"It's one movement that lasts almost 50 minutes. It's for a big orchestra. It's for a virtuoso orchestra. It's for an orchestra that can play both aggressively and tenderly. It needs structural guidance, which I think Vonk is terrific at. In my opinion, it's a real symphonic classic. I genuinely believe an audience listening to it will also respond to it. It's a step beyond Mahler, although it's not as difficult as some later Mahler.

"I've known the piece for almost 20 years, and I've always thought it would someday get people listening to it. This guy wrote 16 symphonies; most of them are Mahler at his most hysterical -- which is not one of my faves at all -- but this symphony has a haunted sadness. It's very, very beautiful."

Here is Page the enthusiast. An aside in the Powell biography, about Powell as literary critic, says as much about Page's own critical stance: "She was willing to allow herself to be unexpectedly carried away (one mark of a mature critic)." In a Post review he paraphrases the late drama critic George Jean Nathan: "There are two types of criticism -- subjective criticism and bad criticism."

"I really do think that's true," Page concurs. "You have to go out on limbs.

"I used to give my class at Juilliard, when I taught criticism there, an exercise. I'd play something strange and unfamiliar. Tell them to write about it. "Oh, we can't do that.' So they'd do it. I'd give them 10 minutes. Then I'd say, "That was the second movement of Sibelius' Fourth Symphony.' They'd go, "Oh.' I'd play it again, and they'd write something else. Then the third time I'd tell them the history of the piece, when it was written, how it was written, what people have thought of it over the years, and they'd write a third piece. The weird thing was, always the first pieces were the best, because there they were out there and they had no clichés to founder on. They were just swinging through the air and grabbing at what they could. The moment they found out it was Sibelius, they started getting these phrases like "the austere northern master' or "he shakes his fist at the gloomy sky,' that sort of crap.

"Obviously that argument can be used to suggest a know-nothing criticism. That's not what I'm doing. What a critic should be able to do is know all about a piece, know all about what has been written about it, the whole history of the piece, and then sit down and have a completely fresh experience. Put that all on hold. If someone says, "This is a great masterpiece,' you say, "Well, let's see.' If someone says, "This is a little, silly piece,' you say, "Let's see,' again. That's what I've always believed."

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