On the Money: New Music Funding in the United States

The Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation was founded in 1943 by Koussevitzky, the conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1924-49, to honor his late first wife. Through this fund Koussevitzky commissioned many composers he championed, and the list of commissions from the 1940s and 1950s is breathtaking.

The commission to Bela Bartók helped him survive in America, and resulted in the Concerto for Orchestra. Benjamin Britten received the wherewithal to compose his breakthrough opera, Peter Grimes. A commission to Aaron Copland produced the Symphony No. 3. Olivier Messiaen‘s Turangalîla Symphonie, Douglas Moore‘s opera The Ballad of Baby Doe, Arnold Schoenberg‘s A Survivor from Warsaw, Igor Stravinsky‘s Ode for Orchestra, and Virgil Thomson‘s opera Lord Byron are also among the eclectic works created through Koussevitzky support.

Since Koussevitzky’s death in 1951, the foundation has continued commissioning, both chamber and orchestra scores, about 10 each year. A few from these latter decades:

George Crumb‘s Madrigals (Books I and II), Henri Dutilleux‘s String Quartet ‘Ainsi la Nuit’, Morton Feldman‘s Instruments II, Leon Kirchner‘s Piano Concerto, Harry Partch‘s Delusion of the Fury, Mel Powell‘s Quintet, Terry Riley‘s June Buddhas, and Roger SessionsSymphony No. 3. By 1999, the list stretched to 294 commissions.

The Koussevitzky Foundation moved to the Library of Congress on the conductor’s death, where it became the largest of several musical funds, including the Coolidge Foundation and the McKim Foundation. The Library recently began to partner with the Aaron Copland Fund, in New York, in administering Koussevitzky grants.

From On the Money: New Music Funding in the United States
by Theodore Wiprud
© 2000 NewMusicBox