Not so passive

Today in the New York Times -- a business-section piece on TV commercials, yet another threatened institution in the rush of current changes in our culture. Companies now divert some of their TV advertising dollars to cell phones and the Internet; many people record shows with DVRs, and skip the commercials; many people go onnline during commercial breaks, and don't watch the commercials at all. (The Times business section, by the way, is a good place to find out what's changing in our culture. Anybody trying to sell anything has to know how … [Read more...]

Performance of my music

I'm happy to announce a performance of a recent piece of mine. This is a piece for cello and piano, called A te; it's an unpredictable and (if I say so myself) rather sly set of variations on "A te o cara," a tenor aria from Bellini's opera "I Puritani." These performances are happening on a series called Second Helpings, produced by the St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble. Here's the data: April 1, 2 PM: ChelseaArt Museum, 556 West 22nd Street, in New York April 2, 2 PM: Dia Beacon. This is a museum in Beacon, NY, where the Dia Foundation shows its … [Read more...]

Orchestras and new music

The following comes from somebody in the business who wants to be anonymous. It was sent as a comment on my book, but it's worthwhile putting it out for everyone to see: Permit me to offer a real-world perspective re your comment that "orchestras should try to find people who really like the modernist works." That's very true, but the cold, hard fact is that, at the present time, it's a small audience. The research I’ve seen says somewhere between 5 – 10% of the current orchestra audience likes modern or contemporary.And the other 90%+ … [Read more...]

Cleveland again

Once more I'll be going out on stage at Severance Hall in Cleveland, to lead short musical discussions during a Cleveland Orchestra concert. This coming Sunday, March 26; the concert starts at 3 PM. … [Read more...]

Yesterday’s panel

Small audience, good discussion. I was very struck with the passion that began to come out. This subject -- the future of classical music -- gets people going. It doesn't only stir up peoples' love of music; it stirs up everything they care about in current culture. So one woman got up and passionately said it was "naive" to think that a more informal presentation could attract newcomers to classical music .The music's too complex for that, she said. Someone else declaimed for some time on the theme that popular culture makes everybody … [Read more...]

Episode three

The third episode of the new version of my book on the future of classical music is now online.  Gradually I’m making my way through what will be the book’s first introductory chapter (or maybe simply the introduction), in which I set forth, in general terms, what the book’s going to say. When I’m through with that, I’ll launch the first main section, which will be about the measurable side of the classical music crisis—aging audience, declining ticket sales, and all the rest. The next episode goes online two weeks from today, on April 3. If … [Read more...]

Another panel

This coming Thursday, March 23, I’ll be speaking on a small panel about the future of classical music. 6:30 PM, at the Dahesh Museum, 580 Madison Avenue, in New York. One reason this will be fun for me -- I get all of five minutes to state my position. There's nothing like brevity to focus my thoughts; this should be a big help in organizing my ideas for my book. Composer Stefania de Kenessey will moderate, and my co-panelists will be the very lively composer Paul Moravec, winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in music, and two people I don't … [Read more...]

Milwaukee radio

The Wisconsin Public Radio broadcast I thought I was doing — during my visit to Milwaukee, to talk about Brahms for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra— fell through. But I had a lively time on Milwaukee’s classical station, WFMR. I was talking to Steve Murphy, the station’s program director, and Samantha George, the associate concertmaster of the orchestra, on a weekly show they do called MSO Backstage Pass. I couldn’t imagine two better people to talk to. Samantha asked most of the questions, and I loved, really loved, talking about music as one … [Read more...]

Brahms footnote

As I studied various Brahms scores, I was forcefully hit by something I'd thought about before, but never noticed this clearly. You can gush about great composers all you like -- their magical inspiration, their matchless flights of musical creativitiy -- but it's hard to keep doing that when you study details of their orchestration, especially if you've ever orchestrated yourself. Yes, there are times when some orchestration idea strikes like a ray of light out of nowhere (that final chord in Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms, the famous flute … [Read more...]

Appearing in Milwaukee

I'll be in Milwaukee this coming weekend, speaking about Brahms for the Milwaukee Symphony, along with my old friend Tim Page. We'll be doing preconcert talks at 10:30 AM on Friday, and at 7 PM on Saturday. That's right, 10:30 AM; the concert's at 11:15.. Tim and I will also be on Wisconsin Public Radio at 9 AM on Friday. And so now you know why I've been blogging recently about Brahms. Just doing my normal overpreparation, which in this case has been a joy, partly because Jan Swafford's Brahms biography is one of the most deeply satisfying … [Read more...]

More on Peter Gelb and the Met

After I blogged on Peter Gelb's turnaround plan for the Met, Joe Kluger e-mailed. Joe used to run the Philadelphia Orchestra; now he works with AEA Consulting. I asked Joe if I could share his thoughts, and he agreed. Very interesting thoughts here, about what has to happen -- in very practical terms -- for the Met to truly turn around: Greg: I read your ArtsJournal blog on the Met, which I thought was a great synthesis of all the positive things about Peter’s plans. The initial reaction that some of us at AEA had when we read the first NYT … [Read more...]

And speaking of Brahms…

I love the ending of his Op. 1, the first piano sonata, in C major, which he wrote when he was in his teens. http://www.gregsandow.com/music/brahms_ending.m3u Listen to it…doesn’t it just radiate teenage exuberance? I can almost hear him shouting, “I finished it! I finished it!” (And yes, I know that, despite the opus number, this was really the second piano sonata he wrote. But still I can’t believe he wasn’t thrilled to finish it.) … [Read more...]

Brahms and the canon

From Jan Swafford’s deep and compassionate biography of Brahms comes this little tidbit. At one point, at the height of his fame, Brahms attended the opening of a new concert hall. Above the proscenium were the names of three composers from the classical canon — Bach, Beethoven, and himself. What an amazing experience for any living composer! But the historical meaning of this is very important. The idea of a classical canon — the idea, in fact, of classical music — didn’t exist before the 19th century. In general, music from the past wasn’t … [Read more...]

Parsing the numbers

My friend Julia Kirchhausen — VP, Public Relations at the American Symphony Orchestra League — gave me another view on trends in orchestral ticket sales. I’d said they’ve been declining steadily since 1990, and she said the League’s figures give a different picture, showing a peak in 1996-97, as follows:   season                        attendance           # of concerts   1990-91                      27,198,563                 25,210 1993-94                      30,742,252                 27,484 1994-95                     … [Read more...]