Even if…

secretive blog

I have to thank my friend Eric Edberg for some pushback in the comme#nts. Pushback to my last post, in which I quoted Deborah Rutter — the new head of the Kennedy Center, who used to run the Chicago Symphony — about how she felt orchestras could improve their standing in their community, and objected that her suggestions really only touched on minor points. The key to classical music's future, I said, isn't outreach, education, or advocacy. Instead we need an explosive new audience. Then everything turns around. And I said my next post would … [Read more...]

What we should do

excited audience 3 blog

Here’s something I feel passionate about. When I think about the future of classical music — about how it can, should, and will be restored to the place of honor it used to have in our culture — there’s only one measure of success that, in the end, seems to matter. And that’s full houses. If big and small orchestras, opera companies of all sizes, chamber music groups, soloists, early music groups, choruses, everyone who performs classical music were overrun with people buying tickets, and if these people were a new, younger audience…well, … [Read more...]

Speaking of Music

ear blog

That's the title of the course I'm teaching at Juilliard this semester — a graduate course in how to speak and write about music. It began life years ago as a course on music criticism, but that seems to be a subject that engages students less and less. Speaking and writing about music, on the other hand — that the students think is greatly important. We had the first class in the course on Wednesday, and all but one of the students there said they were interested in the course because they'll have to reach out to people, and get them … [Read more...]

Things I’m thinking about…

rafa me england better

Hope you all had a restful, productive summer! I got back from vacation just over a week ago. Many trips, to see family, then a retreat for two weeks in a very remote and peaceful spot in England. A lot of traveling not just for us, but of course for Rafa, who’s about to turn three, but he’s a trooper. Pulls his little wheelie suitcase after him in airports, like a seasoned flyer. Plus, once in England, he walked three miles into town with us. And walked back. Well, got carried in a backpack, sometimes sleeping, for part of it. But he did … [Read more...]

The Peter Gelb furor (3)

rising costs blog

I first thought I'd write this post on Peter Gelb's two big failures. Or actually three: -- a prickly personality -- failure to look at things other than productions to make the Met lively -- and then, of course, the failure to make even the productions exciting Which last, as I now see it, maybe shouldn't have been a surprise, because in his previous position as head of Sony Classical, the big record label, his artistic initiatives weren't successful.  But I'll save all this, because as I sat down to write, I thought it would be good … [Read more...]

The Peter Gelb furor (2)

ticking clock blog

Deadline approaching, as most of us know — July 31. Armageddon day. If Peter Gelb and the unions can’t come to an agreement, Peter says he’ll lock them out. How much of next season could that kill? Since rehearsals have already started. My first thought is that they’re acting like kids at a playground. Not that they’re the only big-time players doing this in our world. Politics. Cable companies/networks. So my second thought is that Peter and the unions should just cut it out. Like when CBS and TimeWarner Cable were feuding. For quite a … [Read more...]

Managing expectations

expectations blog

I very much enjoyed being on the Diane Rehm show this week, with Alex Ross, Orli Shaham, and Fred Bronstein. And I'm grateful for all of you who said you'd listen, or who commented on the show on Facebook and Twitter. Certainly I understand anyone who wished the discussion had gone deeper, or that the cast of characters had been different. If I were putting my own show together about the future of classical music, I might well do it differently. And I'm sure Alex, Fred, and Orli would, too. But that doesn't concern me. It's Diane's show. She … [Read more...]

Me on the Diane Rehm show

rehm blog

This is happening tomorrow, Tuesday, 7/22. The Diane Rehm Show is a top NPR offering, broadcast from Washington, DC. I'll be in the studio, talking about the future of classical music with quite a distinguished group of colleagues — Alex Ross, the pianist Orli Shaham, and Fred Bronstein, who as CEO of the St. Louis Symphony helped pull the orchestra out of some difficulty, and now runs one of the leading US conservatories, the Peabody Institute in Baltimore. I think that guarantees four good points of view, coming from four kinds of … [Read more...]

The Peter Gelb furor

thinking blog

So much fuss about Peter Gelb, so many accusations flying! And not just from the unions he's locked in battle with. I'm late to this discussion, but what got my attention was Norman Lebrecht saying that Peter was not only wrong, but was lying — outright lying — when he says that attendance at opera performances (and at classical music events generally) is falling, both in the US and in Europe Lebrecht: This is untrue, and Peter knows it is untrue. The Lyric has just reported record results. So have Vienna, Amsterdam, Dresden and more. … [Read more...]

Sitting in a tree


I use an app called TalkTo. Which, when I need it, is one of the most valuable apps I have on my iPhone. With it, I can text stores, to ask questions. Does the supermarket nearest me have a garlic press in stock right now? An answer comes within five minutes. Invaluable! Once, out at our country place, I needed to buy a MacBook Air in a hurry. Ten minutes with TalkTo told me that I needed to drive an hour to an Apple Store, because neither of the Best Buys in the area, which were closer, could configure the computer as I wanted it. Why am … [Read more...]

Come down from the mountain

mountain blog

Last week I went to a party, where I met a lot of people who are (1) precisely not the classical music audience, but (2) precisely the people we need to have in it: Smart, educated, intellectually curious people in (I'd guess) their 30s. The creative class, if you like, of Washington, DC, in 2014. I talked the most with a couple who were very savvy, and very involved musically, involved enough to go (even though they have a two-year old) to New York for a music festival. Of course the music they went to hear wasn't classical. But later in … [Read more...]

Links are fixed

podles blog

A thousand apologies. My last two posts, on ornamentation, had bungled links. Due to my misunderstanding of a feature in my FTP software. Very unfortunate, to offer you what I think are stunning examples of ornamentation, and then not let you hear them! But now the links are fixed, including my favorites, which go to Eva Podles's vocal fireworks, showing how an 18th century singer might have ornamented the da capo repeat in a Handel aria. And to three versions of "Ecco ridente" from the Barber of Seville, recorded in 1963 (by Luigi Alva), … [Read more...]

Making the old new (3)

backhaus blog

NEW VERSION — LINKS WORK! I bungled many links in this post, for which I give so many apologies. Not helpful, to set out to show what ornamentation was like, and then block you from hearing it. Now it's all fixed. I also bungled the link to Eva Podles in my last post. And then bungled it again, trying to fix it here. Here it is correctly. Podles is singing "Or la tromba" from Handel's opera Rinaldo, giving a stunning display of go-for-broke virtuosity. And of how to properly ornament a da capo repeat in true — extravagant — 18th century … [Read more...]

Making the old new (2)

baroque opera 3

Continuing my thoughts about how to make old masterworks sound contemporary. In my last post, I said what I think the problem is. At most classical music performances, the old works don't immediately sound like they come from the time when they were written. (Compare reading Dickens: One paragraph and you know what century you're in.) But they also don't sound like they fit anywhere in our current world. Or at least not in the world outside classical music. So one way to fix this — such a wonderful paradox — is to go back to the past. … [Read more...]

Making the old new (1)

classical masters library blog

One of my recurrent thoughts is that classical music (you've read it here) has to become a contemporary art. And in two recent posts — here and here — I've blogged about concerts that seemed to do that. But they did it largely by playing new music. How can older classical music — all those familiar masterworks — sound contemporary? Because most of the time they don't. Or let me qualify that. Most performances of works from the classical canon live — or at least I think so — in temporal limbo. They don't sound like music of the past, not … [Read more...]