Dreams of the Philharmonic future

fashion week blog

What the New York Philharmonic needs in a music director…I laid this out in my last post, though maybe without fully focusing on it. The Philharmonic needs someone dynamic, someone who can be the face of an orchestra that comes alive for as much of New York as possible. And since NYC — my home town! — is a very particular place, one with a highly developed sense of itself, this music director needs to be seen as a New Yorker, whether born or made. Leonard Bernstein, even if he came from Boston, is the obvious example, since he was (to use … [Read more...]

Heft and excitement

new york excite blog

About Alan Gilbert leaving the New York Philharmonic: Rightly or wrongly, he wasn’t perceived — at the very least by influential people in the orchestra field, and (from what I’ve heard) by many of the Philharmonic musicians — as someone with heft enough to be music director of such a big orchestra. Here’s an insider’s word about that. A few years ago, before the Philharmonic hired Matthew VanBesien to succeed Zarin Mehta as the orchestra’s CEO, I talked to someone who runs another major US orchestra. Hiring Zarin’s succeessor, this person … [Read more...]

Useful questions (2)

other people 3 blog

As I said in my last post, I ask the students in my Juilliard course on the future of classical music special questions online. I do this to supplement what we do in class, and — in this very complex discussion — to touch on things we might not otherwise get to. In my last post, I quoted the first question I asked, about what classical music will be like in 20 years. The question after that was more personal. It was cued to what we talked about in class this week (follow the link and scroll down to February 4). Which was how classical music … [Read more...]

Useful questions (1)

questions.blog

Each week, in my Juilliard course on the future of classical music, I email a question to my students. Something to get them thinking, something to take us a little beyond what we talked about in class. Or to go deeper into it. The question I asked two weeks ago was simple, but very basic. It could even have been a way to start the course. And, for everyone reading this — I’d love to know your own answers! Here’s the question: Imagine the classical music world 10 or 20 years from now. What do you think it will be like? How will it be … [Read more...]

Orchestras, engage your audience!

musicians moving blog

So last week I did a post I called “Excited audience,” about how the crowd at the National Symphony’s recent club performance shouted in excitement at some exciting music. The music happened to be mixed classical and pop, based on Bach, but with a beat. But the passage that made the audience shout happened to be pure Bach. This led me to ask if we could ever get the normal classical audience reacting like this, in the concert hall. Well, there are many reasons why that’s not happening tomorrow. The main one would be the airless blankness … [Read more...]

Let’s help this happen

SXSW blog

The Go-Go Symphony — which plays some of the most exciting music in Washington, DC, a perfect fusion of classical music and funk — is in line for a great honor, and a great opportunity. I’ve blogged about their first triumphant performance with a full symphonic ensemble, and their founder, Liza Figueroa Kravinsky, has done guest posts about how she developed the group. (She talks here, for instance, about the group’s big breakthrough into the heart of the go-go world, go-go being DC’s iconic funk style, dating back to the ‘70s, and still going … [Read more...]

Excited audience

excited audience blog

Here’s a followup to my last blog post, about music, excitement, and another frontier for classical performance . The post was about an exciting performance the National Symphony did in a Washington, DC club, for an audience of around 2000 people who don’t normally go to classical concerts. Younger clubgoers, to judge from how they looked. On the program were classical pieces, and also some marvelous things — which easily held their own with the classical works — aimed at the club audience. One of them was a take on the prelude to the … [Read more...]

A triumph and a question

echostage blog

The triumph The National Symphony Orchestra played in a very large club, attracting so many people — more than 2000 — that they had to turn people away. And they didn’t just play classical music. The program did began with the Candide overture, and included the onrushing second movement of the Shostakovich Tenth, plus “Montagues and Capulets” from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, and, to end the evening, the “Mambo” from West Side Story. All of which the crowd — young, white, hip — cheered. But what they seemed to cheer even more was … [Read more...]

What I do

rafa me england better

Happy new year! I thought I might start 2015 with a few words about myself. Of course this is my online home, and many of you know me. But maybe it’s good to be a little bit comprehensive, partly to sell some of the things I do, but also to have a more me-like presence here. So… The basics I live in Washington, DC, with my wonderful wife Anne Midgette, chief classical music critic for the Washington Post, and our three-year old son Rafa. A smart, enterprising, funny, affectionate kid, and growing into a good family citizen. For 18 … [Read more...]

Holiday wishes

rafa xmas

Happy holidays to all! The photo shows my son — three years old in October — in front of our Christmas tree. Speaks for itself. Though it can’t tell you how thrilled he was when he learned to hang ornaments: “I did it!” Or how, while we were decorating the tree, he’d walk away and sit facing it in a chair on the opposite side of the room. ”I looking at it!” Or how I suggested we turn out the lights to look at the tree in the dark. And how he turned them off himself, saw the glowing lights of the tree, and just about danced. Or how he … [Read more...]

Music in the midst of life

tendler blog

Here’s a book by Adam Tendler, 88x50: A Memoir of Sexual Discovery, Modern Music and The United States of America. And here’s a well-meant quote, from Kirkus Reviews, which picked this as Indie Book of the Month: "An honest, searching exploration of the artist as a young man." Which is a safe, conventional description of what’s going on. It’s accurate enough: The book definitely is what the quote says, or rather fits into the category of books like that, since the words describe many books. But what sets this book apart — and makes me … [Read more...]

Conundrum

fine blog

Here’s a question I asked myself, at one of the recent Irving Fine memorial concerts at the Library of Congress in DC. Fine, I’ll say in passing, is one of those entirely respectable but not memorable composers whom — in a festival or retrospective — we all more or less pretend was more important than he was. But I don’t want to go into that here. Instead I want to ask the larger question that occured to me. Fine began as a neoclassicist, and then, in the 1950s, started writing 12-tone music. Why? Other American neoclassicists did the same. … [Read more...]

Another hot book

roseliep blog

WARNING: THIS BOOK CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE ABOUT CLASSICAL MUSIC. *** Srini Kumar, genius sloganeer and counterculturalist, used to sell a bumper sticker that read “Destroy what bores you on sight.” I suggest orchestras heed this advice. Why belabor it? Players are uncomfortable. Audiences are visually bored. Nobody knows what's going on. Can we all agree to move on? Okay. Enough. The first quote comes from the Amazon page for a book by Will Roseliep, The Libertine's Guide to the Classical Music Revolution. 3.99, only for Kindle. It’s also … [Read more...]

Useful, fun, important book

sarah book blog

Clubbing for Classical Musicians: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Working in Alternative Venues, by Sarah Robinson, the codirector of Classical Revolution: L.A. Since she co-runs an organization that fosters playing in clubs and is a veteran club player herself, her book is beyond authoritative. And in fact you couldn’t find a more helpful guide, to something that more and more classical musicians are doing these days. It’s so helpful, in fact — and so thorough — that I’d reccommend it to any performing classical musician, even people who don’t … [Read more...]

The soul of a city

berlin techno blog

Picking up now from one detail in my last post, about some Atlanta Symphony realities… When people say the Symphony is the soul of Atlanta, what do they mean? They can't be saying that any large part of the town dances to the Symphony's beat. Or that entire neighborhoods define themselves by what the Symphony plays. Or that whenever there's a performance, thousands of people — tens of thousands! — ask themselves if tonight they ought to go. Because those things clearly aren't happening. But the Symphony’s supporters, I might guess, don't … [Read more...]