Tomorrow Juilliard launches it’s six-concert-long Focus! festival devoted to the work of Milton Babbitt and friends. Organized by Joel Sachs, it will present a fascinating cross-section of the much-misunderstood Babbitt’s creative interests and his wide-ranging circle of associates. I had the pleasure of editing the entire set of programs for this festival. Here’s the opening program, including Sachs’s introductory essay on Milton Babbitt:
This Focus! festival, the 32nd, revisits the world of the distinguished American composer Milton Babbitt in commemoration of his centennial. For me, the event is particularly special: I had known him since the 1970s and retain extremely fond memories of our endless chats. His great sense of humor, his remarkable ability to attend seemingly every new-music concert, his love of schmoozing, and his triple role as artist, intellectual, and Southern Gentleman were always a source of joy. His passion for old popular music often surprised the uninitiated. I shall never forget a Columbia Music Department Christmas party in the 1970s when he sat down at the piano and spun off cocktail music with incredible elegance.