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Decade in Review
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John von Rhein

If the 1990s were a time of confident expansion in the classical music business, the '00s were years of retrenchment and sober re-examination, as institutions large and small were forced to shed their complacency and take a hard look at their missions, their public, their funding, their role in the communities they serve and their place in the larger culture and society.

A decline in audiences and funding, especially as the nation entered the great recession, required new thinking, new business models. All bets were off.

The irony was that as the economics of the art form lingered on the sick list, the art of classical music itself was never in better shape. Perhaps more music was being produced by more artists, at the highest level, than ever.

Who would be there to listen to it was a more worrisome question.

Classical music was slow to embrace the decade's cornucopia of new electronic and other media. Part of that was in the DNA of a beast nurtured by centuries of European tradition, by nature leery of change. Another part of the resistance was generational, given the persistent 50-something average demographic of concert and opera-goers.

The smart organizations made systematic efforts to market their wares with younger, media-savvy listeners in mind. Orchestras like the Berlin Philharmonic began streaming live concerts on the Internet. By the end of the decade, you could download all the Mahler symphonies and even complete operas from iTunes and other online music stores. Special series and music-cum-social events pitched to under-30s were put into place. How successful such stratagems ultimately will prove to be is an open...........

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