Monday, November 19, 2007

Levine and the lay listener

James Levine, who has treated Boston Symphony audiences to Milton Babbitt, Elliott Carter and other tough stuff, talks modern music with a layman, The Boston Globe's Observer columnist Sam Allis:

"The BSO has never sounded better," Allis observes. (The experts agree.) But he doesn't make the connection between the orchestra's performances of difficult contemporary music and the improvements in its sound.

The higher one's performance level, the more essential it is to face challenges, to be forced to detour from the routine. The lay listener may not enjoy the detour, but should be made aware of the payoff: Babbitt builds better Beethoven.