Stating the obvious

Here's something I found in the July issue of Food and Wine magazine, a quote from chef Graham Elliot Bowles: I'm inspired by artists who use a limited palette, like painter Piet Mondrian and The White Stripes, two musicians who create an incredible sound. And the moral of this story? Maybe it's not so obvious. Or at least it's not obvious in the classical music world. We tend to think that classical music is serious musical art, and that because of that, it has a very special status. Meanwhile, out in real life, people find musical … [Read more...]

Footnote to MUSO

In a comment on my last post, someone I respect says something that of course I should have expected--that MUSO, the magazine I praised, makes "classical music about the sex appeal of young performers." Now, that's not all the magazine does. As I pointed out, it supports new music, putting a composer and a new music ensemble on the covers of the two issues I've seen. But the comment isn't completely wrong. MUSO likes good-looking young classical musicians, which, when I think about it, is part of what I meant when I called it a "real" … [Read more...]

Lively magazine

Everyone should know about  MUSO, "the music magazine that rewrites the score," to quote its own line about itself. Or, more simply, "the magazine for the younger, more open-minded generation of classical music fans." It's smart, lively, and most of all, it looks and reads like a real magazine, not like a dowdy classical music ingroup publication, tarted up to look contemporary. (Not convincingly, of course.) Here's one recent issue: The cover boy is Mason Bates, a composer and electronica DJ (and former student of mine at Juilliard). And … [Read more...]

Don Giovanni, partly improvised

For the most recent episode of my book, I'd promised something about how the finale of Mozart's Don Giovanni was partly improvised at the opera's premiere. And then I forgot to put that in the episode. I'm going to add it, but because it's such fabulous stuff, I thought I'd put it here in the blog, too. It comes from Thomas Forrest Kelly's book, First Nights at the Opera, and should be filed under the heading "How spontaneous classical music could be, before it became classical." Here's what Kelly writes: The famous finale of act 2, … [Read more...]

Last book episode till fall

I'm happy to announce the ninth episode of the new version of my book on the future of classical music, online right now. In it you'll find some delightful details of performance practice in the past. Or maybe a better term would be performance non-practiced, since what I'm talking about is improvisation, which should sound spontaneous, rather than practiced (no matter how much work went into it). Here I'm continuing my portrait of classical music before the concept of classical music existed, and one key difference between then and now … [Read more...]

Classical recording — from the inside

The following comes from Klaus Heymann, the founder and CEO of Naxos. Klaus posted it as a contribution to the ongoing debate about Allan Kozinn's New York Times piece, and I'm crossposting it here. It's important reading, since it's so full of details -- including financial particulars -- about how Naxos functions. I'm grateful that Klaus took so much time to write all this out. Dear Greg, I have been following your book episodes with great interest and I have also been reading your comments on Allan Kozinn's essay in the New York … [Read more...]

Contribution to the debate

Here's a pithy and (I think) important comment from Joe Kluger, who ran the Philadelphia Orchestra for many years. He stepped down a year or so ago, and now works very happily as a consultant. He sent these thoughts to me as part of a private e-mail, and I'm posting them here with his permission. (I've also put it into the absorbing debate on Allan Kozinn's piece that's raging on one of my comments pages.) I agree with those on your blog who say that his premise and yours (or Noteboom's in Symphony?) are not mutually exclusive. I think … [Read more...]


We talk a lot about the age of the classical music audience. Generally people now assume it's always been (or at least for generations has been) more or less what it is now, 50 and up. That's what Allan Kozinn said it's been in the essay we're debating on one of my comments pages, and I can't blame him. After all, this is what everyone says. But is there any data to support this common view? I've never seen any. And in fact I've seen data that opposes it. Some years ago, I found a 1940 book that reports the results of a 1937 study of … [Read more...]