Joseph Horowitz

 Joseph Horowitz
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Joseph Horowitz is an author, concert producer, and teacher. He is one of the most prominent and widely published writers on topics in American music. As an orchestral administrator and advisor, he has been a pioneering force in the development of thematic programming and new concert formats.

Horowitz’s forthcoming book, Dvorak’s Prophecy and the Vexed Fate of Black Classical Music (W. W. Norton), proposes a “new paradigm” for the history of American classical music. It will be published in November 2021 in tandem with a series of documentary films he has produced for Naxos. In addition, Naxos will concurrently release a new CD, “Arthur Farwell: America’s Forbidden Composer,” produced by Horowitz in alignment with his new book. The film series, also titled “Dvorak’s Prophecy,” has generated a pair of 45-minute National Public Radio documentaries (on Dvorak as a “lens on the American experience of race” and on Aaron Copland as an exemplar of American populism). 

Horowitz’s ten previous books mainly deal with the history of classical music in the United States. Understanding Toscanini: How He Became an American Culture-God and Helped Create a New Audience for Old Music (1987) was named one of the year’s best books by the New York Book Critics Circle. Wagner Nights: An American History (1994) was named best-of-the-year by the Society of American Music. Both Classical Music in America: A History of Its Rise and Fall (2005) and Art- ists in Exile: How Refugees from Twentieth Century War and Revolution Transformed the American Performing Arts (2008) made The Economist’s year’s-best-books list. 

Horowitz's books-in-progress include The Propaganda of Freedom (a study of the Cultural Cold War), The Marriage (a “non-fiction novella” about Gustav and Alma Mahler in New York), and Understanding Wagner (arguing that Richard Wagner was not a “monster”). 

Horowitz was a New York Times music critic (1976–80) before becoming executive director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra. During his 1990s tenure, the BPO was reconceived as a “humanities institution,” producing thematic, cross-disciplinary festivals in collaboration with schools and museums. In 2003, Horowitz cofounded PostClassical Ensemble, an experimental chamber orchestra based in Washington, D.C.; he serves as executive producer. 

From 2011 to 2020 he directed Music Unwound, a National Endowment for the Humanities–funded national consortium of orchestras and universities dedicated to curating the American musical past; the topics in play were “Dvořák and America,” “Charles Ives’s America,” “Copland and Mexico,” and “Kurt Weill’s America.” The consortium members included the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Pacific Symphony, the North Carolina Symphony, the Louisville Orchestra, the El Paso Symphony, the Austin Symphony, the Las Vegas Philharmonic, the Brevard Music Festival, and the South Dakota Symphony (which brought Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony to an Indian reservation).

Horowitz is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, New York University, and Columbia University, as well as a Certificate of Appreciation from the Czech Parliament.” In 2015 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by DePauw University. 

During his tenure, the Brooklyn Philharmonic was a national leader in forging collaborative programming relationships, sharing its thematic weekends with the Chicago, New World, and San Antonio Symphonies, and with Houston da Camera. Horowitz was also the editor of six 35- to 70-page Brooklyn Philharmonic program books, of which “The Russian Stravinsky” won an ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award. The Philharmonic received the 1996 Morton Gould Award for Innovative Programming, awarded annually to a single American orchestra by the American Symphony Orchestra League, as well as five ASCAP/ASOL awards for Adventuresome Programming.

Alex Ross wrote in The New Yorker (Nov. 1997): “When Joseph Horowitz became its executive director, in 1993, [the Brooklyn Philharmonic] more or less went off the grid of American orchestral culture. . . . In Brooklyn, the subscription-series template – overture, concerto, symphony – has been thrown away. Programs have become miniature weekend festivals; often, an afternoon chamber concert takes the weekend’s theme further.” Another critic, Linda Sanders, wrote in Civilization Magazine (May 1998): “The Brooklyn approach essentially redefines the symphony orchestra from purveyor of the canon to community center for music and musical knowledge. . . . If one could distill the current progressive thinking about an orchestra’s purpose in the 1990s, Brooklyn comes closest to embodying it.”

Pursuing a programing template he developed at BAM, Horowitz has treated PostClassical Ensemble as an “experimental symphonic laboratory.” PCE has produced “immersion experiences” exploring such themes as “Stravinsky and Russia,” “Charles Ives’s America,” “The Mexican Revolution,” and “Interpreting Shostakovich.” The orchestra’s recordings include three highly acclaimed Naxos DVDs featuring the 1930s films The Plow that Broke the Plains, The River, The City, and Redes, with new recordings of the Virgil Thomson, Aaron Copland, and Silvestre Revueltas soundtracks. PCE’s recent Naxos CD, “Dvorak and America,” featuring the world premiere recording of a 35-minute Hiawatha Melodrama co-composed by Horowitz and Michael Beckerman, was named one of the best CDs of the year by Minnesota Public Radio. 

PCE has often exported its programing as PostClassical Productions; these have included the American stage premiere of Falla’s El Corregidor y la Molinera (at BAM), a PCP production of Falla’s El Amor Brujo, presented by the New York Flamenco Festival, and “Finding Spain in Music,” a concert series at New York’s Guggenheim Museum. 

Since 1999, Horowitz has served as a free-lance artistic consultant for orchestras throughout the United States. For the New York Philharmonic, he inaugurated the orchestra's multi-media "Inside the Music" series in 2008, writing, hosting, and producing programs on Dvorak and Brahms (both with Alec Baldwin), and on Tchaikovsky's Pathetique Symphony. He has also served as Artistic Advisor to the New Jersey Symphony, curating an annual Winter Festival, and for the Pacific Symphony, curating an annual American Music Festival. His other clients have included the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the National Symphony, and the Nashville Symphony. All told, he has conceived more than five dozen thematic inter-disciplinary music festivals for a variety of orchestras, performing arts presenters, universities, and conservatories.

From 1999 to 2002, Horowitz was Director of Historical Projects for the American Symphony Orchestra League (whose former president, Charles Olton, has called him “our nation’s leading scholar of the symphony orchestra”), in which capacity he was Project Director for a three-year NEH National Education Project on “Dvorak in America.” In addition, he directed an NEH “Dvorak and America” Teacher Training Institute and wrote a young readers’ book, Dvorak and America. With Peter Bogdanoff, he is creator of a “visual presentation” for the New World Symphony that has been used by more than two dozen orchestras in the US and Europe. He is the recipient of a Commendation from the Czech Parliament for his “exceptional explorations – both as a scholar and as organizer of Dvorak festivals throughout the United States – of Dvorak’s historic American sojourn.” With the bass-baritone Kevin Deas, he has presented a “Harry Burleigh Show” in numerous middle and high schools, colleges and universities, churches and concert halls, taking part as pianist and commentator.

Horowitz has taught at SUNY Purchase, Colorado College, the Eastman School, the Manhattan School of Music, the New England Conservatory, the Mannes College of Music, and the Institute for Studies in American Music at Brooklyn College. 

Of Horowitz’s books, Conversations with Arrau (1982), published in six languages, won an ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for excellence in writing about music. (Andrew Porter of The New Yorker called it “one of the best books about a performing artist ever written.”)  

Horowitz’s Understanding Toscanini – How He Became an American Culture-God and Helped Create a New Audience for Old Music (1987) was named one of the most distinguished books of the year by the National Book Critics Circle.  (According to Robert Craft in The New York Review of Books: “No one concerned with the fate of the arts in our jingoist and dangerously confused society can afford to ignore Joseph Horowitz’s courageous, necessary, and for the most part irrefutable cultural case history.”)

Horowitz’s The Ivory Trade – Piano Competitions and the Business of Music, the first book-length study of music competitions, also explores issues in piano pedagogy, career preparation, and the fading centrality of the piano as a musical icon. (According to Richard Dyer in The Boston Globe: “Joseph Horowitz is the best current analyst of the awkward dance of commerce and culture in our musical life. The Ivory Trade, like Understanding Toscanini, is a case history and a disturbing one.”)

Horowitz’s Wagner Nights: An American History (1994), the first history of Wagnerism in America, received the Society of American Music’s Irving Lowens Award, regarded as the highest honor for books about American music. It concentrates on the cultural life of New York City in the 1890s; its central characters include Antonin Dvorak. (According to Edward Rothstein in The New York Times, “Historical excavations can sometimes be news in themselves, altering our understanding of the present. Such is the case with Joseph Horowitz’s fascinating new book.”)

Classical Music in America: A History of Its Rise and Fall  (2005) was named a best book of the year by The Economist.“The rise and fall that Joseph Horowitz brilliantly describes here brings life and shape to an arena of American music, and music in America, that has hardly seemed capable of such reconstruction. Through historical research, artistic understanding, human empathy, and shrewd critical perception he has identified a cast of heroic figures who managed to enlist "the queen of the arts" in our nation's democratic adventure. –Richard Crawford, author of America's Musical Life: A History

Of his Artists in Exile: How Refugees from War and Revolution Transformed the American Performing Arts (2008) was named a best book of the year by The Economist and was a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice. "Joseph Horowitz has taken on a job which very much needed doing, and which needed doing specifically by him. He has made a thoroughgoing analysis of that special European emigration in the last century which so deeply influenced, and was influenced by, American culture. Bringing his superbly cultivated, coordinated interdisciplinary approach to bear on the largest possible scale—from the harbinger Dvorak to Stravinsky and Balanchine; from Paris, Berlin, and St. Petersburg to Hollywood and Broadway; from the Russian Revolution to the Cold War— he gathers dozens of extraordinary lives into a chronicle of epic force." – Arlene Croce

“On My Way” – The Untold Story of Rouben Mamoulian, George Gershwin and “Porgy and Bess” (2013) rewrites the history of Gershwin’s opera. “Remarkable … vitally important” -- Ted Chapin, The Wall Street Journal

For a decade, Horowitz regularly covered American musical affairs for the Times Literary Supplement (UK). Currently, he frequently writes for The Wall Street Journal. He has contributed, as well, to The New York Review of Books, The American Scholar, The Journal of the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era, American Music, The Musical Quarterly, 19th Century Music, Opera News, The New Grove Dictionary of Music, and The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. He is the author of the articles on “classical music” for both The Oxford Encyclopedia of American History and The Encyclopedia of New York State. He is a frequent lecturer at music schools, universities, and music festivals throughout the United States. He has participated, as a speaker, in the Salzburg Seminar, the Bayreuth Festival, and in the annual conventions of the American Musicological Society, the Society for American Music, and the American Symphony Orchestra League. As the Gardner Lecturer in the Humanities at the University of Utah (Feb. 2007), his topic was how the history of American music illuminates the history of America.

Horowitz has produced or co-produced numerous programs for national radio syndication, including treatments of Ives and Transcendentalism, Dvorak in America, and (with Bill McGlaughlin) the history of the American orchestra. For six years he served as Artistic Director of an annual Columbia University music critics institute sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Horowitz is included in Marquis Who’s Who in America. His website is www.josephhorowitz.com. His blog is www.artsjournal.com/uq