Are we living in a classical music golden age?

Posted on: July 21, 2010

In the Summer 2010 issue of the City Journal, Heather MacDonald writes, “Anyone inclined to lament the state of classical music today should read Hector Berlioz’s Memoires. As the maverick French composer tours mid-nineteenth-century Europe conducting his revolutionary works, he encounters orchestras unable to play in tune and conductors who can’t read scores. … Berlioz’s exuberant tales of musical triumph and defeat constitute the most captivating chronicle of artistic passion ever written. They also lead to the conclusion that, in many respects, we live in a golden age of classical music. Such an observation defies received wisdom, which seizes on every symphony budget deficit to herald classical music’s imminent demise. But this declinist perspective ignores the more significant reality of our time: never before has so much great music been available to so many people, performed at levels of artistry that would have astounded Berlioz and his peers. … However vibrant classical music’s supply side, many professionals worry that audience demand is growing ever more anemic. … The number of Americans over the age of eight who attended a classical-music performance dropped 29 percent from 1982 to 2008, according to the League of American Orchestras.”

Posted July 21, 2010