Klinghoffer’s Unheard Silence

The Death of Klinghoffer

“Here, this will change your life.” And, with that phrase, a gifted choreographer tossed a paperback book by James P. Carse toward me. As it fell into my lap, I saw the title, Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility, and the first passages of the book printed on the cover. There are least two kinds of games. One could be called finite; the other, infinite. A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play. If a finite came is to be won by someone, it … [Read more...]

Bach in a Bar

Francis Yun

For the customers having a beer at the end of a workday it must have been a surprise to see the music cases coming through the door. When the flat screen TV’s normally displaying baseball games broadcast on ESPN switched to an in-house streaming camera focusing on the musicians that must have raised an eyebrow too. We all know that live music has its place, including in such establishments. It wouldn’t be uncommon to listen to musicians in a bar over light hors d’oeuvres and a glass of wine, but it wouldn’t usually be with an orchestra … [Read more...]

Robert Mann on Making Music

(Photo: Brian Hatton)

Elsewhere I have written about Robert Mann’s extraordinary gift for teaching. At 93, he remains the indefatigable teacher, still smiling and joyous. Indeed, if you didn’t know who he is, when he walks into a room, your first thought would probably be, “Why does this man seem so happy?” Soon it becomes obvious that there is a rare kind of balance at play here: accomplishment, family, and continuing curiosity about what is happening right now, especially as it relates to music. All of this was on display this week at Manhattan School of … [Read more...]

Diva on Detour

Photo by Scott Wall

Most people know soprano Patricia Racette as one of the reigning operatic divas of our time. She appears around the world singing signature roles like Jenufa, Madama Butterfly Violetta, Desdemona, Tatyana, Liu and Micaela – to name just a few. With such a career in the opera house, it might surprise many to hear that she is currently engaged in a project recording cabaret songs in a live studio setting. The CD, which will be titled Diva on Detour, will be released on the GPR label later this spring. With songs by Stephen Sondheim, Cole … [Read more...]

Mingus Lives

charles mingus

Charles Mingus was recognized in his lifetime as a virtuoso bassist, accomplished pianist and bandleader. Today his enduring legacy may be as a major 20th-century composer. To grasp some sense of his growing importance, consider the fact that his entire body of work has been acquired by the Library of Congress.  This is not only a first for jazz, but also for an African-American composer. At this death he left behind more than 100 albums and over 300 compositions - music that is still considered far ahead of its time. In the field of jazz, his … [Read more...]

Masur on Beethoven

Kurt Masur

At the beginning of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony the entire orchestra begins with an enormous stroke of an A major chord. As it dissipates, a quiet, single oboe emerges, outlining a lovely melody, gently supported by strings. Conductors see such a passage in myriad ways. You ask so many questions as you imagine the music. What does the tempo indication really mean? How short is the staccato of that opening chord? When should the oboe appear from the decay of the chord? How should we shape the oboe melody? Should the oboe line LEAD to the chords … [Read more...]

Field Trip!


Throw a stone in a lake and watch the rings dance. They last a long time. Ray Sommerfield threw a stone over fifty years ago. Back in 1960 he loaded up nine of his students from Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania and drove them off to hear a concert by the Philadelphia Orchestra. There wasn't a school bus available, so he borrowed a hearse. Yes, a hearse. Not the most elegant way to go to a concert, but it would do. It seems that Mr. Sommerfield was a man of strong convictions. He thought his students, even though they lived in a small … [Read more...]

“Must See” Streaming Internet


This afternoon I watched as a great master passed on everything he could leave to the next generation of musicians. Robert Mann, at 91 years old, was teaching a master class in Miller Recital Hall at the Manhattan School of Music. The founder and first violinist of the Juilliard String Quartet for over fifty years, Mann has been a driving force in the world of music for more than seven decades. He is on the faculty at Manhattan School of Music and has been president of the Walter W. Naumburg Foundation since 1971. He received the Lifetime … [Read more...]

Penny for your thoughts


In a Q & A session at the end of a presentation I made to arts leaders not long ago, a question came up about getting feedback from audiences in real time. Many of the participants said that their audience members wouldn't fill out surveys that were inserted in the concert programs. Nor would they go online after the event. How was anyone to get timely and accurate feedback? How could you initiate a conversation if no one would talk BACK to you? I thought for a moment and came up with an inexpensive, low-tech idea. Later, I found out … [Read more...]

After the Last Kiss


I met Julia Kurtyka in winter. She had worked to invite me to guest conduct an orchestra that she was involved with, the Birmingham Bloomfield Symphony Orchestra, just outside of Detroit, in a special concert that would feature her protégé, violinist Caroline Goulding, in a performance of Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5. Julia had been the concertmaster of the Adrian Symphony Orchestra long before I became its music director. Since then she had moved on to other projects, but we shared mutual friends and that led to the invitation to guest … [Read more...]