Sandow the blog -- and Sandow the individual -- are going on vacation. We'll both be gone almost a month, happily retreating to the countryside in the north of England, to relax and compose. Look for us again the second week of September. And thanks so much to everyone for making the first month of this so wonderfully stimulating! I'll still be getting e-mail, so if anybody wants to get in touch, I won't be completely gone. Just, perhaps, a little slow, relaxed, and wonderfully lazy… Have a good month, everyone. I'll look forward to resuming … [Read more...]

Two-way street

People reading me continue to write, sending thoughtful, interesting, provocative stuff. I want to post a lot of it, but for the moment only have time for a little. I'll post more (I promise!) when I get back from vacation. My apologies to people whom I'd asked for permission to quote, who haven't yet seen their comments here. I'd hoped to get more in now, but the last few days were pretty hectic. From Donald Clarke, author of a forceful book, The Rise and Fall of Popular Music (which you can find here): It always astonishes me when I go … [Read more...]

Not in every county

I wrote earlier about Gregory McCallum, and his project in North Carolina -- bringing his piano to every county in the state, to play concerts, give master classes, and work with schools. Unfortunately, he had to curtail his plans, as he explained in an e-mail to me: This project was to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the invention of the piano by a series of residencies in every county in North Carolina over a four-year period. To ensure that audiences would experience piano music at its best, I insured my Yamaha C7 grand with Lloyds of … [Read more...]

Car radio

I had to drive a lot over the past two days, and started out with CDs to listen to. All for a project I'm doing with the Pittsburgh Symphony. Pictures at an Exhibition, both the piano version and the orchestral one. Piano version: Evgeny Kissin (who plays the "Promenade" as something fiercer than someone strolling through a gallery; a triumphant army, maybe). Orchestral version: Gergiev (oddly restrained, though maybe I'm wrong, because for my work purposes I didn't have to hear much of his recording; or myabe he just seemed restrained … [Read more...]


Not everyone agrees with what I said about classical music on TV. My faithful correspondent Marla Carew writes: When I saw the PBS special on Turandot at the Forbidden City a few years ago it was instrumental in reigniting my interest in devoting more of my listening time and attendance to opera and classical music. I suspect that PBS broadcasts affected more than a few of us who don't live in cultural hot spots like NYC in this way. Too bad that we're losing that chance (in favor of middling programs like the History Detectives (I may have … [Read more...]


From Drew McManus (who's also shown up in Andrew Taylor's blog, and from whom we'll be hearing more), comes this, about classical music on TV: When I take a group of adult students to a rehearsal or talk to them about what to look for at the symphony, I mention many of the same things you mentioned in the footnote to "Opera troubles": I'd love to see an orchestra televised a different way. Instead of showing us the horns when they play, show us the horn players emptying spit out of their instruments, as they'll do several times during a … [Read more...]

Educating Greg

Reading ArtsJournal is indeed an education. (And let me say that I'd been reading this site daily, long before I was ever asked to blog this blog.) Today I hope you noticed the item about niche cable channels. Yesterday I carried on about the limits of niches -- how some niches were surely just too small to support themselves. And then today I read about the Puppy Channel. Only a proposal, so far, but who knows? Maybe it'll fly. And if it does, I give up. Bring on the Asparagus Channel, and the Godard Network. Yesterday I said they couldn't … [Read more...]

Why we care

From Gilbert Seldes, The Seven Lively Arts (1924): We have all had those days of halcyon perfection, when the precise degree of warmth was a miracle, when the aroma of a wine seemed to have the whole fragrance of the earth, when one could do anything or nothing and be equally content. In the presence of great works of art we experience something similar. We are suspended between the sense of release from life, the desire to die before the image of the supremely beautiful, and a new-found capacity for living. Our daily existence gives us no … [Read more...]

Alarming dip

My last item, about classical music on TV, has prompted some disagreement, which I'll soon reflect here. Meanwhile there's an alarming piece in The Independent about a dip in British classical CD sales. It wasn't just that fewer people bought classical CDs -- classical sales fell dramatically as a percentage of all CDs sold, from 10% in 1990 to 5% now. I'd love to know if the decline was steady, or just spiked recently, which might (thin ray of hope) mean only that the current crop of classical releases isn't very gripping. I'd also like … [Read more...]

Opera troubles

I want to thank my blog-brother Terry Teachout for finding something I squirreled away in my "Resources" section on the right, and recommending it so fervently. It's an Opera News piece about why PBS won't broadcast opera. But I don't read the piece quite the way he does. What registers for him is PBS rejecting art, refusing to show challenging operas because they won't attract a massive audience. For me what might be going on is different. I wonder if the problem isn't that PBS demands a massive audience (though perhaps it might), but that … [Read more...]


Slowly I'm adding to the fine print on the right. In the "Resources" section -- where I mean to build a list of references for anyone who cares about the state of classical music -- I've added a heading called "Useful Articles." It'll cite newspaper and magazine pieces, and starts with two entries, both of which can help explain unfortunate things we might not like, but need to understand. Soon I'll have a section on CDs I've been playing, currently a bewildering list, ranging from the new Annie Lennox album to a few dozen classical … [Read more...]

Classical music can do it, too

Just to show that pop singers have no monopoly on classy photos (see below), here's Anne Sofie von Otter, looking smart, glamorous, and interesting. How could you look at her, and not want to hear her sing? More here. … [Read more...]

Say it ain’t so, Renée

 This is Renée Fleming, as she appears in a Rolex watch ad, and on the cover of an upcoming CD. I think she looks awful. Ghastly makeup, overdone eyes…what was she thinking of? Let me quickly say that I don't mind classical stars doing endorsements. It's very likely good for classical music, since it brings these artists into the world most Americans live in. And if classical stars are tempted by the money, well, who can blame them? They're only human, and it might well be galling, seeing teen athletes getting all the cash, when you, the … [Read more...]

Good things

I might criticize the classical music world, but not everything is gloomy. All of us can help to make things better, even in small ways -- and here are three examples of people who did that. The American Composers Orchestra: We've talked here about the passive audience, but the ACO has a page on its website where the audience talks back. "Truly Dreadful," said one back-talker, about a controversial piece (Swirl, by Todd Levin, which combines classical music and techno; I myself like it): "An exercise in the composer's imagined … [Read more...]