New York professes to be the cultural capital of the United States, yet its live classical fare leaves a good deal to be desired. Now WNCN has stepped into the breach with its own concert studio, from which live concerts will be broadcast regularly. Plans right now include weekly noontime events, and one two-hour recital once a month. This is something few classical stations around the country have dared to do of late, though live concerts used to be the entire raison d'etre of radio.
The gala kickoff affair gave a taste of what to expect - a potpourri of inventive programming with some of the finest musicians New York has to offer. There was the world premiere of a Phillip Ramey piano work, music by Ned Rorem, Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, performances by Ruth Laredo, Eleanor Steber, Stanley Drucker, Erik Friedman, and so many others. The message I hope I read is that not only will fine performers be invited, but a good blend of music, including contemporary works, will be expected.
New Yorkers will be able to keep up with this series by reading WNCN's magazine Keynote, a thorough program listing married to fine reviews and articles about music as it involves the local scene. Residents of other cities should encourage their stations to pick up the gauntlet, perhaps have them look in on WNCN to get some ideas. Live in-studio concerts are neither unique nor new. But if WNCN begins a trend, it will be a pioneering step whose time has re-arrived, so to speak.