Terrific discussion

Here's something wonderful. There's now a spirited and very civilized debate about Allan Kozinn's New York Times piece, in the comments to my last post -- with Allan himself taking part. Allan's piece, if you haven't seen it, was the cover story in the "Arts & Leisure" section this past Sunday, and says that classical music has never been healthier. Obviously, that's not the view I take. I weigh in a few times (well, maybe more than a few times), in comments to the comments. But the best thing is Allan's own participation, which makes me … [Read more...]

New book episode — and Allan Kozinn’s essay

A new episode of my book is online today. Again it's about classical music history, the part they might not teach in music school. I'm trying to establish that classical music wasn't always classical. And in this episode, when I get to Baroque opera, things get a little crazy. The next episode goes online on Monday, June 12. That one might be crazier still. Vivaldi went to extremes, improvising as he led performances of his operas! Mozart's singers improvised part of the Don Giovanni finale! Isn't scholarship wonderful? On June 26, I'll post … [Read more...]


I'm gratified by how many comments are coming in, and by how interesting they are. I have to say, with regret, that I'm not able to reply individually to each one, as I've tried to do with the comments on my book. I may not be able to respond to every book comment in the future, either. Precisely because I do much work on the future of classical music, my time is getting squeezed. I'm responding to many of the comments, though, if not most of them. And I'm grateful for all of them. I always learn a lot from everything that people say to me, … [Read more...]

The future is here

It’s too late to stop pop and classical music from interbreeding. There’s just too much of it going on, and it goes way beyond the obvious, well-publicized crossovers (Ofra Harnoy putting out a CD of Beatles songs, Michael Bolton singing opera arias, etc., etc., etc., etc.). The good stuff has a real artistic edge. I’m thinking of Capital M, a New York rock band, which commissioned seven pieces from seven classical composers, and premiered them in March. I’m thinking of the Steve Reich remixes, by dance music DJs, that came out on Nonesuch … [Read more...]

Hitting a nerve

A lot of people want classical concerts — both on stage and in the audience — to be livelier. Here’s some recent e-mail I’ve gotten on this subject, all of it wonderfully written, passionate, and of course quoted here with the writers’ permission. From Karen Pinzolo: I'd be very interested to understand, from a historical viewpoint, why I sit as an unembodied soul at a concert where the only hint of life is my chest rising and falling with each unconscious breath. When I listen to any other kind of music I can't help but sway, bob, and … [Read more...]

Good CD cover

Mitsuko Uchida and Mark Steinberg play Mozart Violin and Piano Sonatas. The image says: Something’s going on here. These are people with something to say. Doesn’t matter whether the image evokes Mozart or not. The playing in fact is focused, inward, individual, sometimes sharp (with an edge), sometimes ferocious, not untroubled. So the image is accurate. It really does tell you — without words, without any thoughts it might be easy to name — why you want to hear this CD. … [Read more...]

This blog…

…now happily accepts comments. If you'd like to post one, just click on the "comments" link at the end of the entry you want to comment on. You can post anonymously, if you like, simply by leaving the "name" and "email address" fields blank. To read comments, first look to see if there are any; if the number in parentheses is zero, then there aren't any comments. (And yes, I know that many of us know all this already, but trust me -- there are people reading this who don't know it.) If there are comments, click on the "conments" link to read … [Read more...]


Last Wednesday I taught the last class, for this year, in my spring semester Juilliard course, “Classical Music in an Age of Pop.” I had a marketing specialist as a guest, and he asked the students some useful questions. How did they decide which concerts to go to? Because they’re professionals, they actually look at listings, ads, and websites, to find out when there’s music that might interest them. They might be looking for a piece they like, or a piece they’ve never heard live, or something with an important part for their own … [Read more...]

New book episode

Episode seven of my in-progress book on the future of classical music is now online. After some introductory stuff, it goes in a new direction (well, not so new to those of you who read the first, now discarded version of the book). Everything up to now has been the introduction to the book. Now I've embarked on the first main section, which will give chapter and verse, in considerable detail, of how classical music is in trouble. But I start with a look at the distant past — at the days when Bach and Mozart were composing, but classical … [Read more...]

Just say hello

From Jon Farley in Britain (and posted here with his permission) comes something worth thinking about. Jon says, “I studied music at school and though I loved the music I found the stuffiness overbearing.” And then this: I went to a [classical] concert last week and the thing that struck me was that nobody talked to the audience and that's really weird! I listen to a wide variety of music and it's only the classical world that does this. Even a hello, how are you? would do. I went to a contemporary music concert the next night - … [Read more...]

Terrific press release

Here’s a really good classical music press release. Faithful readers will remember how exasperated I’ve been at bad ones (and, sadly, the vast majority of classical music press releases I see are really bad). <b SONY CLASSICAL PRESENTS THE ACCLAIMED COMPOSER/INSTRUMENTALIST EDGAR MEYER IN COLLABORATION WITH PERHAPS HIS MOST PROVOCATIVE PARTNER YET - HIMSELF <b CDS IN STORES TUESDAY, APRIL 25, 2006 Three-time Grammy Award winner Edgar Meyer has won remarkable acclaim both for the music he has written and for an inexhaustible … [Read more...]


There’s been a lot of talk in the past couple of years about the intrinsic value of art, as opposed to its economic value. Here’s a really lovely statement about that, from Mary Pat Mombourquette, the Managing Director of Symphony Nova Scotia, from testimony before the Canadian parliament: Also, we give people something to aspire to. There is more than what's down in the trenches. There is something to crawl out of the trenches for, and when you get out, you can see something. It sort of inspires people, it broadens them, and it allows them to … [Read more...]


From Dan Walter, who’s 30, says he grew up with heavy metal, rock, pop, and rap. Lately he’s been buying and downloading classical recordings, and says he’s “a little bit upset with myself for not discovering and continuing to follow this great form of music much earlier in my life. I have been reading biographies of composers and doing research on the web about all the music I am interested in and continue to discover something new on a daily basis. I have a pretty big CD collection of popular music and have decided to start a collection of … [Read more...]

Rock & roll joy

Not long ago I wrote two posts here about why classical music organizations should embrace pop music. I gave many reasons — that we need to embrace the world outside us, that we’ll never attract a new audience unless they know we live in the same world they do, and of course that many people in the classical world like pop music, and many classical musicians play it. Later I added one more thought, that a concert of pop and classical music together might be fun, and stimulating. But talk about missing the obvious! This weekend, I joined many … [Read more...]

No leadership

…which leads to a less happy followup. I found myself late one night in a discussion with a dozen or so orchestra people, mostly musicians, from a variety of orchestras, both large and medium-sized. When I joined the discussion, they were talking about why orchestras don’t move more on stage, why they don’t smile, why they don’t acknowledge the audience, and even (when appropriate) perform to it. Everyone in the room, without exception, wanted these things to happen. But everyone, again without exception, didn’t think it would be easy to … [Read more...]