Composers: The Way to Write Music

All week, the rotund, grey-haired man in the rumpled brown suit guarded the decrepit-looking envelope as if it were stuffed with gold. "It's always on my mind," he said, quietly aware that the envelope contained what everyone hoped might prove a musical triumph. An evening or so later, Carlos Chávez, Mexico's top music man and a major composer in any hemisphere, joined some 2,600 concertgoers to hear his Symphony No. 6 performed by the New York Philharmonic and conducted by Leonard Bernstein in its world première. Nearly everyone was disappointed.

A latecomer among ten works commissioned to mark the opening of...

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