robert levin’s fierce urgency of now for classical music

Robert Levin, the acclaimed pianist/scholar who appeared with the Oregon Symphony a few seasons ago, gave a commencement address at the Curtis Institute of Music this year.  I found it to be a very inspirational message, one given with urgency – describing the countdown clock on classical music as being at “two minutes to midnight”.  Several points resonated with me very strongly.  First, he takes issue with the supposed “niche market” of classical music, where business people describe 10% of the population not being worth the risk, by illustrating the situation in Beethoven’s time, where it took months to get approval and funding for a premiere, and when it was given 400 people heard the work, and that was considered a success.  Levin asserts that can what we have now be argued to be a failure by comparison?  The second point concerns the need for commissioning and performing new music from composers of one’s own generation.  He says that this is vital to prevent classical music from becoming simply a “museum”.

It’s a great address, and is quite brief, less than 10 minutes – you can listen to it online here, at

One Reply to “robert levin’s fierce urgency of now for classical music”

  1. Robert Levin is great. He came to Buffalo for a week of concerts & lectures last September. He and his wife did a 2-piano concert that was unbelievable, marvelous. But I get sick of having new music shoved down my throat like a bad-tasting medicine. Maybe if it is not grabbing the public it is not the public’s fault.

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