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    Archive for December, 2009

    Make some noise!

    Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

    Composer and critic Greg Sandow discusses his ideas about the top 10 changes in the world of classical music in 2009.  I’ve only copied the top two here, but everyone interested in the evolution of music would be advised to read the entire post, plus comments. Anyone who still thinks that classical music is dying better think again. Sandow is one of our greatest advocates.


    You can read his post at:


     2. Alt-classical

    Or call it something else. But there’s a whole new classical music world out there, taking shape far outside the concert hall. Classical musicians play in clubs, play shows with indie bands, and — as I’ve seen more than once in New York — might sometimes attract an audience of thousands of younger people, especially to concerts where new music is played.

    Le Poisson Rouge, a New York club, has even become a top classical music venue, a place where even major artists now might play, and where major record labels showcase new releases.

    What we see here is the future of classical music — something brand new, something completely contemporary, something never dreamed of before — taking shape right before our eyes. If we figure out how to make it viable financially, so musicians can make a living from it, then the future will really have arrived.


    1. A movement for classical music change

    No, this isn’t tangible. There isn’t a Classical Music Rebirth League, which anyone could join, and which would publicly proclaim the bright new world.

    But the movement exists. It’s made up of many kinds of people, ranging from explosive music students to top classical music administrators, who in public can’t say everything they think, but who are working in their own way for major change.

    I hear from these people. I know they’re out there. They comment on this blog. They email me. They tell me all the changes that they’ve made. Some of them may think — and maybe rightly — that they’re the only person at their school, or in their town, or in their orchestra, who thinks in these new ways. So they take comfort in what others do, some of which they read about right here. They learn they’re not alone.

    This movement is a major reason why I think that change is now unstoppable. But this Top Ten list — along with so many other developments that there wasn’t room to mention — ought to show that change is popping up everywhere, at the BBC, whenever René Jacobs conducts, at clubs, and, not least, at standard concert halls.

    So the next step might be to draw this movement together. Maybe we do need an organization. I’m available to help to build it. Or maybe we just need some new but more informal ways to meet each other, and connect. I’m available to help make that happen, too.

    But that might be our new year’s resolution. Let’s make our movement stronger. Let’s connect, and make some noise.”



    Beethoven’s Birthday

    Tuesday, December 15th, 2009


    Today, December 15th, we celebrate the birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven.


    I’ll just pass on Ernest Newman’s beautiful quote about this great composer.


    “It is the peculiarity of Beethoven’s imagination that again and again he lifts us to a height from which we revaluate not only all music but all life, all emotion, and all thought.” (Quoted in the beautiful little book by J.W.N. Sullivan, Beethoven: His Spiritual Development)


    Pianist Anton Kuerti performs an all-Beethoven program in Portland on Sunday, February 7, 2010.  In addition to 33 Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli in C Major, Op. 120, Kuerti will play  two earlier works of the composer, the Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op 2, No. 1, and  the Sonata No. 16 in G Major, Opus 31, No. 1.


    You may access a podcast of Kuerti giving an almost hour-long lecture entitled “Beethoven’s  Late Piano Works”.  The lecture was given as part of a series at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.  It’s an excellent introduction to Kuerti’s Portland program, and includes references to the Diabelli Variations, which he calls “Beethoven’s greatest piano work”.


    Locate the McGill Podcast here


    For more information on his upcoming recital, check the Portland Piano website here.





    Best Classical Concerts of 2009

    Sunday, December 13th, 2009

    Oregonian music critic David Stabler has chosen the November Portland Piano International recital of pianist Jonathan Biss as one of the best of 2009.  See details of his selections here:

    On Manners in the Concert Hall

    Sunday, December 6th, 2009

    Yes, it’s different in every city and in every concert hall, especially when you factor in the flu season.  Whether it’s coughing or a ringing cell phone, every artist is aware of the sounds coming from the audience.


    Although stories abound in the press, this is one of my current favorites.  Pianist and writer Susan Tomes tells of a recent encounter with dancer and choreographer Mark Morris.  Morris had attended a recital by the great Italian pianist Maurizio Pollini.  Morris said that he simply ‘crossed his coduroyed legs’, “and about 20 people whirled round with one accord and glared at him.”


    For the whole story, check out her very entertaining blog here