Unanswered Question | The Lou Harrison Centenary

If you asked me who composed the best American violin concerto, and who composed the best American piano concerto, I would answer with the same name: Lou Harrison. And yet, except on the West Coast of the United States, Harrison is not a brand name. The present Harrison Centenary year can help to change that. […]

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Unanswered Question | New Musical Venues for a New National Moment

With classical music under siege, many are rethinking audiences and venues. Here in Manhattan, Geffen Hall – previously Fisher Hall, and before that Philharmonic Hall – has never been an inviting place in which to hear music. The acoustics are defective, the ambience is nothing special. One cannot blame the hall for the New York […]

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Unanswered Question | Rethinking “Classical Radio”

When commercial radio was new, the airwaves were saturated with classical music – not just recordings and live concerts, but highly produced pedagogical programs. You could tune into Abram Chasins for tips on playing Chopin’s E-flat major Nocturne. What today passes for classical music radio is a different species of broadcasting. You can spend an […]

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Unanswered Question | Arts Leadership in the Age of Trump

In 1966 the New York Philharmonic undertook an 18-day Stravinsky festival as a kind of try-out for Lukas Foss, whom Leonard Bernstein favored to take over as music director. The conductors included Foss, Bernstein, Ernest Ansermet (who had conducted for Diaghilev), Kiril Kondrashin (a major Soviet artist), and Stravinsky himself. George Balanchine choreographed Ragtime for […]

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Unanswered Question | Are Orchestras Better than Ever?

Are orchestras better than ever?  Riccardo Muti thinks so. Recently, dedicating a bust of Fritz Reiner at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall, he said: “The level of the orchestras in the world – especially in the seventies and eighties — has gone up everywhere.” What is Muti talking about? I suppose he’s applying the criterion of perfection. […]

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Unanswered Question | Music and the National Mood

PostClassical Ensemble – the DC chamber orchestra I co-founded a dozen years ago – produced a concert at the Washington National Cathedral last Saturday night that seemed to address the national mood. These are fractious times – times in which the arts can acquire a special pertinence. Times in which music can be a provocation […]

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