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Giving for greatness

Wuhan&DavidAn interesting story in the Wall Street Journal explores the history of patronage in music. The story is tied to David Finckel and Wu Han -- pictured at left -- the husband/wife, cello/piano team who head up the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

Lincoln Center is playing host to three concerts by the Jupiter Quartet paying tribute to the Lobkowicz legacy -- Prince Joseph Franz Maximilian Lobkowicz was a noted patron of Beethoven, giving him money so he could write music.

David Finckel and Wu Han gave a concert on Buffalo's Ramsi P. Tick Memorial Concert Series last spring. On stage, they are a quirky and fascinating team.

Their program here included a piece that Lincoln Center had commissioned -- for $25,000, Wu Han said in a charmingly ditzy introductory speech. I loved how she freely named the amount.  She introduced the piece rather apologetically, and sure enough, it was nothing anyone would remember.

That incident, and this recent story, gets me to thinking that a lot of commissions today offer the opportunities that, for the most part, Mozart and Beethoven could only dream of.  While I have not exactly done the math, I do not think Mozart or Beethoven ever got anywhere near $25,000 for, say, a string quartet. They got stuck also because of copyright laws back then, too. Royalties in many cases did not exist.

Imagine what Mozart could have done with a MacArthur Genius Grant.

I am just saying.

Meanwhile there is a cute detail in the Journal story about David Finckel shaking the hand of William Lobkowicz, descendant of Beethoven's prince.

"I just have to thank you for helping Beethoven!" he said.

That must have been quite a moment!

-- Mary Kunz Goldman



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