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Kennedy Center, 2011-12 Season Disappoints
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Can the Kennedy Center push classical music beyond its limits?

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 12, 2011; 7:30 PM


Michael Kaiser, the president of the Kennedy Center, says there's something wrong with the arts. In his Huffington Post column a few weeks ago, he averred that in "the classic arts" - nonprofit ones such as like opera, theater, dance and classical music - there simply isn't enough excellent art being created. He blames "the institutional nature of our arts ecology," in which "groups of people are now more responsible for making art than the individual."

This is certainly a problem at the Kennedy Center. Its classical music programming for 2011-12 reflects exactly what we have come to expect. There are big names (Joshua Bell, the Takacs Quartet, even the Vienna Philharmonic). And there's middlebrow taste.

Classical music programming at the Kennedy Center is hampered by the fact that the Kennedy Center, which claims to be a world-class arts institution, doesn't have a world-class orchestra (as of this season, it will be encumbered with a second-tier opera company as well). True, administrators have taken what they see as steps to help by engaging Christoph Eschenbach as music director, giving them a marquee name, a conductor once known as an orchestra builder and someone whom the players seem genuinely to adore.

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