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 is that performers improvised — they changed the notes the

composers wrote, sometimes drastically. And that’s what the composers and

audience expected. It’s fascinating that musicologists know about this (what I’m

reporting is hardly my discovery), but even so, we rarely hear performances that

show anywhere near the amount of improvisation common before the 19th century

(and, in Italian opera, well into it).

You’ll see that I’ve used musical notation in this episode,

once very briefly, and the other time. …well, check it out. The notation is so

vivid that you don’t need to read music to know what’s going on.

As I’ve said, this is the last episode until September. I

need some time off, and I’m beginning a badly-needed vacation at the start of

July. In August I’m likely to take some of the material I’ve written for this

book, and work at improving it.

On another note, I again want to mention the debate

that went on in my blog about Allan Kozinn’s brave

and controversial piece in The New York

Times. After I ventured a disagreement, Allan wrote a comment,

understandably defending himself. This developed into quite a wonderful

discussion, very civilized, focusing on issues, not personalities, with

comments from many, many people, including some notable figures in the

classical music business. Some of these people had to post anonymously, since

they’re not authorized to speak for their institutions. But two were happy to

post openly: Joe Kluger, who used to run the

Philadelphia Orchestra, and Klaus Heymann, the

founder and CEO of Naxos. This, I’m proud to

believe, is one of the rare debates that actually illuminates its subject.

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