Words of wisdom

Here are some excerpts from Philip Kennicott's Washington Post piece, linked from ArtsJournal today, which so wonderfully -- and justly  -- praises Sam Bergman's blog. And no, they're not about Sam, except indirectly. They're about the woeful state of orchestras, part of which is how woefully they communicate with…well, whom? Quite honestly, I don't know who most orchestra PR might be aimed at. The present audience? A new audience? The classical music press? The general press? The only thing most orchestras communicate that could interest … [Read more...]

Thrilling to read

I haven't been blogging, and haven't said how thrilled I am with Alex Ross's piece on the nature of classical music, which ran in The New Yorker in the issue dated February 22, and was linked here last week. This is surely the most important essay ever written on classical music's future, or maybe, more precisely, on what its future ought to be. As I wrote to him after I read his essay (it's called "Listen to This"), he leapfrogs all the usual debate, all the breast-beating, all the criticisms people like me make, all the cries of "whither … [Read more...]


Barenboim's announcement -- that he'll leave the Chicago Symphony when his current contract expires two years from now -- demonstrates two things. First, that music directors really are expected, in this new era for classical music, to do more than conduct. "After much soul-searching and reflection," Barenboim said (in the orchestra's official press release), "I have come to realize that the position and responsibilities of a music director in America are changing in that they require many non-artistic activities and I feel I have neither the … [Read more...]

Dotting Grammy’s eye

A reader writes to tell me that I'm wrong about the Grammys. There's no contradiction between the Boulez Mahler Third being named the best orchestral performance, while the Tilson Thomas CD of the same piece is named best classical album. There seems to be a problem here, of course, because if the best album is orchestral, as this one is, than you'd think it would be best orchestral performance as well. But not so, says my correspondent. The orchestral award is specifically for the music -- "best orchestral performance" is exactly what it … [Read more...]

Grammy entertainment

It's pointless to argue with award shows, but still there's something about the classical Grammy winners that makes no sense. The best classical album was Mahler's Third Symphony, with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting the San Francisco Symphony. And the best orchestral album was Mahler's Third, but this time with the Vienna Philharmonic, Pierre Boulez conducting. Which, as I said, makes no sense! The Tilson Thomas Mahler Third is of course an orchestral album. So if it's the best classical album of the year, then it also has to be the … [Read more...]

Classical record biz

Yesterday there was an ArtsJournal link to Anthony Tomassini's optimistic piece in the New York Times about the classical record business. In that piece, and in the ArtsJournal summary, was something that needs some qualification. Major record labels, Tony says, aren't doing so well, but Smaller labels like Nonesuch and Naxos, which once just filled in the gaps with records of specialty repertory and adventurous artists ignored by the majors, are proving that it is possible to release important recordings at midrange prices and still pay the … [Read more...]

Digital madness

I was tickled to see my Wall Street Journal piece on problems with classical music digital downloads linked both here on ArtsJournal, and on Musical America. I also got a tide of e-mail, maybe more than I've ever gotten about anything I've written, including my Boston Symphony/modernism post here. Clearly I tackled problems many people have been having, among them an executive from one of the major classical record labels, who's been terribly frustrated by all the things I wrote about. Of course I've written about these things here, too; in … [Read more...]

Blogging/Not blogging

The MyDoom virus must have hit Germany. This morning I've had well over 20 e-mails (I stopped counting) from German addresses, with the virus attached. But that's not what I want to write about. I haven't kept up this blog in the past week or so, for a blog-related reason -- I've been spending too much time living the blog in real life. And not just for the past week. This has been happening for the past month, and I've had to catch up on other work. What I mean is that people have been asking me to speak or consult on blog-related issues … [Read more...]

Great loss

It's a shock that Robert Harth died -- a shock and a great sadness. He was, first of all, a wonderful person, really strong and optimistic. And tough. There's a wonderful bit in Anthony Tommasini's piece about him in The New York Times, linked from ArtsJournal today. Tony would run into Robert, after writing something critical; Robert would greet him cheerfully, but with a glint of steel underneath. The same thing happened to me. Tony's piece is exactly right, in all of its praise. I'd add that, under Robert, Carnegie Hall was the best-run … [Read more...]