Orchestras: The Elite Eleven

ORCHESTRAS The Elite Eleven

When the Ford Foundation awarded an $85 million grant to U.S. orchestras five months ago, it was paying tribute to the nation's richest and most underrated cultural asset. The symphony orchestra has long been a mighty factor in the creative life of U.S. communities, but most Americans, cowed by a self-consciousness about European culture, have never acknowledged it.

Actually, when it comes to making symphony music, the Old World is not only inferior to the U.S., it isn't even old. The New York Philharmonic, for example, was founded in 1842,...

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