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 ten books -- including Understanding Toscanini: How He Became an American Culture-God and Helped Create a New Audience for Old Music (a finalist for the 1987 National Book Critics Circle Award) and Classical Music in America: A History (named one of the best books of 2005 by The Economist) -- offer a detailed history and analysis of American symphonic culture, its achievements, challenges, and prospects for the future.
His latest book, “On My Way” – The Untold Story of Rouben Mamoulian, George Gershwin and “Porgy and Bess,” rewrites the history of Gershwin’s opera. “Remarkable … vitally important” (Ted Chapin, The Wall Street Journal).
Horowitz's books-in-progress include Understanding Wagner, an apologia for the most maligned of all Western creative geniuses.
For the NEH, Horowitz directs “Music Unwound,” an orchestral consortium now in its second phase. The participating members produce festivals in collaboration with academic institutions; the programs (scripted and produced by Horowitz) are “Dvorak and America,” “Copland and Mexico,” and “Charles Ives’s America.” The consortium members, past and present, are the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Pacific Symphony, the North Carolina Symphony, the Louisville Orchestra, the El Paso Symphony, the New Hampshire Music Festival, the Austin Symphony, and the South Dakota Symphony (which will bring Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony to two Indian reservations).
Horowitz was a New York Times music critic (1976-1980), and later Artistic Advisor to the 92nd Street Y’s annual Schubertiade. In the 1990s, as Executive Director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic at BAM, he oversaw a new direction, defined by cross-disciplinary thematic programming in collaboration with the scholarly community.
During his tenure, the orchestra 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.”
In 2003, Horowitz co-founded PostClassical Ensemble, a chamber orchestra in Washington, D.C.; he is Executive Director and Angel Gil-Ordonez is Musical Director. 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.” Pursuing a programming template Horowitz developed at BAM, the orchestra’s concerts regularly incorporate popular/vernacular music, dance, and film. The orchestra’s first recordings were a pair of Naxos DVDs (produced by Horowitz) featuring the classical American documentary films The Plow that Broke the Plains, The River, and The City, with new recordings of the Virgil Thomson and Aaron Copland soundtracks plus ancillary material on the New Deal. PCE’s most recent Naxos CD, “Dvorak and America,” features the world premiere recording of a 35-minute Hiawatha Melodrama, co-composed by Horowitz, combining text by Longfellow with music by Dvorak. PCE regularly exports its programming to New York City as PostClassical Productions; these have included the American stage premiere of Falla’s El Corregidor y la Molinera (at BAM), and a PCP production of Falla’s El Amor Brujo, presented by the New York Flamenco Festival. Next season in DC, PCE presents a Bernard Herrmann festival, premieres a new pipa concerto by composer-in-residence Daniel Schnyder, and produces “’Deep River’: The Art of the Spiritual.”
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 since 1999 served as Artistic Advisor 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, Columbus Symphony, the New Jersey Symphony, the Nashville Symphony, Stanford Lively Arts, and the Universities of Texas (Austin), Maryland (College Park), and California (Davis), among many others. All told, he has conceived more than four 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 has directed an NEH “Dvorak and America” consortium and written 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 20 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 schools, high schools, and colleges, taking part as pianist and commentator.
In Spring 2001, Horowitz was a Senior Fellow at the Arts Journalism Program at Columbia University. He was subsequently the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and two NEH Fellowships.
Horowitz has taught at Colorado College, the Eastman School, the Manhattan School of Music, the New England Conservatory (NEC), the Mannes College of Music, and the Institute for Studies in American Music at Brooklyn College. He was Director of the 1999 NEC Spring Festival, a series of 10 concerts exploring “Musical Boston a Century Ago.” Also at NEC, he helped to create a program of “guided internships,” bringing NEC students into Boston public school classrooms.
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.”)
Of his Artists in Exile: How Refugees from War and Revolution Transformed the American Performing Arts (HarperCollins, 2008), Arlene Croce has written: "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." (Artists in Exile was named a best book of the year by The Economist, and was a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice.)
Horowitz has contributed articles to Words on Music, edited by Jack Sullivan (1990); Wagner in Performance, edited by Barry Millington and Stewart Spencer (1992); Dvorak and His World, edited by Michael Beckerman (1993); Cultivating Music in America: Women Patrons and Activist since 1860, edited by Ralph Locke and Cyrilla Barr (1997); The Philadelphia Orchestra: A Century of Music, edited by John Ardoin (1999); and Wagner and the Jews, edited by Dieter Borchmeyer (2000).
For a decade, Horowitz has regularly written reviews and articles about American musical affairs for the Times Literary Supplement (UK). 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 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. In May 2015 he will receive an Honorary Doctorate from Depauw University. His blog is www.artsjournal.com/uq.