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DVORAK’S PROPHECY on NPR — Are the Arts Still a “Fit Topic” for Historians?

At the conclusion of the National Public Radio feature I’ve produced about “The Fate of Black Classical Music,” Jenn White – who so graciously hosts the daily newsmagazine “1A” – asks me: “In the Foreword to your new book Dvorak’s Prophecy, George Shirley – the first Black tenor to sing leading roles at the Met -- writes: ‘Because of our current conversation about race, we now observe a seemingly desperate effort to make up for lost time, to present Black faces in the concert hall. But if it’s going to become a permanent new way of … [Read more...]

Dvorak’s Prophecy — A Two-Hour Webcast

My brand-new book Dvorak’s Prophecy and the Vexed Fate of Black Classical Music (already a best book of the year in The Financial Times and Kirkus Reviews) proposes a “new paradigm” for the history of American classical music.  Replacing the modernist “standard narrative” popularized by Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein, it begins not ca. 1920 but with the sorrow songs so memorably extolled by W E. B. Du Bois and Antonin Dvorak. Emphasizing proximity to vernacular speech and song, it privileges Charles Ives and … [Read more...]

Dvorak’s Prophecy, the CIA, and More My two-hour conversation with Kirill Gerstein, who hosts an indispensable weekly “webinar” dealing with musical issues, mainly focused on my new book Dvorak’s Prophecy and the Vexed Fate of Black Classical Music. But – as in my book (yesterday named one of the best of the year in The Financial Times) – many other topics were broached. If you’re interested in sampling our exchange, here’s a handy Listener’s Guide: 8:00 – The saga of Aaron Copland as a parable about the fate of the American … [Read more...]

Dvorak’s Prophecy — Online Wednesday

It’s my pleasure to be Kirill Gerstein’s guest this Wednesday for his “Kronberg Academy” online seminar – that’s at noon ET and you can register here. To my knowledge, this series is unique. It dives deeply – for two hours – into musical topics. It attracts a distinguished international audience. I will be discussing my new book Dvorak’s Prophecy and the Vexed Fate of Black Classical Music, and also sampling the companion Dvorak’s Prophecy films I’ve produced for Naxos in collaboration with PostClassical Ensemble.  As many of you will … [Read more...]

“Die Meistersinger” in Covid Times

Lise Davidsen, Michael Volle, and Klaus Florian Vogt in the Met Meistersinger Like every lifelong Wagnerite, I regard any opportunity to experience Die Meistersinger as  special. It was my first opera at the Met, in 1962 – and also my most recent, last night. There have been half a dozen other Met Meistersingers in between. I’ve also encountered Die Meistersinger in San Francisco, Bayreuth, and Munich, and at the City Opera (in English). These performances have varied greatly in certain details, but the sensation of Meistersinger uplift … [Read more...]

Charles Ives’ America “'Charles Ives’ America' is very likely the most important film ever made about American music” – JoAnn Falletta, Music Director, The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra My forthcoming book, Dvorak’s Prophecy and the Vexed Fate of Black Classical Music (WW Norton, Nov. 25) links to six documentary films.  Of these, “Charles Ives’ America” attempts a landmark feat of advocacy. It argues that Ives not only deserves to be situated at the center of American classical music, but that he should become as generally … [Read more...]

Arts Myopia

Here's my piece in today's "American Purpose," Jeff Gedmin's daily online magazine which valuably charts a centrist position not only with regard to government and politics, but also pays due attention to the arts. The condition of the arts in the United States has never been more chaotic or confusing. The pandemic revealed – if such revelation was necessary – a general indifference to “saving our cultural institutions.” This priority was swiftly heeded in Europe with respect to orchestras, opera houses, theaters, and museums. Meanwhile, a … [Read more...]

On the State of the Arts Today: An Emergency

Nicolas Bejarano Isaza is a young trumpeter, born in Colombia, living in LA. He specializes in new music. He also hosts a podcast: The Arts Salon. I had the pleasure of meeting Nicolas via the trombonist David Taylor, aptly described in the New York Times as a “killer” virtuoso. Nicolas is no killer – but his cultural base and depth of inquiry are exceptional among young musicians today. He interviewed me for 90 minutes and 22 seconds – and if you have 90 minutes and 22 seconds, you won’t find our conversation boring. The topic is the … [Read more...]

BURIED TREASURE: Farwell’s Forbidden “Hako” Quartet — Take Two

My most recent blog was yet another plea that the music of Arthur Farwell – America’s most important cancelled concert composer – become known. I posted the world premiere recording of Farwell’s amazing Hako String Quartet. In response, I have received an amazing comment from Curt Cacioppo. Since it’s buried in the comments section of my blog, I’m reposting it here so that it has a blog of its own. Cacioppo himself is a formidable American composer. A substantial portion of his output absorbs his profound knowledge of Native American music … [Read more...]

BURIED TREASURE: Arthur Farwell’s “Hako” — Will String Quartets Have the Courage to Perform It?

In the world of classical music, it sometimes happens that a major work lies dormant, undiscovered and unperformed, for a very long time. Consider the case of The Trojans, today known as a peak achievement in Romantic opera. Berlioz finished composing it in 1858. The first complete performance took place in 1890. Not until Colin Davis championed and recorded The Trojans in the 1960s did it become widely recognized as something more than an intriguing anomaly.  In the world of American classical music, Charles Ives is … [Read more...]

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