The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music poll: New York Times’ Anthony Tommasini says orchestras and audiences are bolder in embracing the modern and the new. So — would you rather hear Schubert or Bartok? Or both?

December 17, 2011

By Jacob Stockinger

The New York Times’ famed senior classical music critic Anthony Tommasini — who will be in Madison in late March to give FREE  lectures commemorating the Pro Arte Quartet Centennial — last weekend had an excellent review of a concert featuring music by Schubert and Bartok by conductor Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra (below) with pianist Andras Schiff, all performing  in Schiff’s “Perspectives Series” at Carnegie Hall.

In addition to a review of that specific concert, Tommasini (below) used the occasion to praise orchestras and – surprise, surprise – audiences for having a new and emboldened appreciation of modern and new music. He went on to give a brief survey or overview of how various big-name ensembles and individuals are doing – how they rate on his scorecard for promoting new music.

I myself wonder if it isn’t a question of great modern or new music versus pedestrian or so-so modern or new music, which isn’t – and shouldn’t be – favored just because it is new. I think that Tommasini is himself a composer, so of course it is understandable that he wants all new music to get a wide ad prominent hearing.

But should the second-rate be given special attention just because it is “new” second-rate? Or should it languish the same way a lot of second-rate music from the 18th and 19th centuries does?

Audiences want to hear, and I suspect musicians want to play, good or great music – no matter what era it comes from — especially if it is performed well. On that score, both Schubert and Bartok have proven track records, and the program that combines Hungarian and Austrian ethnic roots now seems a natural.

In any case, here is a link to the review and commentary by Tommasini:,%20Anthony?ref=anthonytommasini

Would you rather hear an encore by Schubert (below)

Or by Bartok (below)?

Or both?

Leave your preferences and opinions in the COMMENTS section.

Schiff, Fischer and Tommasini all want to hear.

And The Ear also wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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