Sir Norman Foster's Hearst Building, a skyscraper of stacked triangles on Eighth Avenue at 57th St., still hasn't quite shed its scaffolding tower, but it's already gorgeously aglitter. I said my piece about it in Newsday, but I keep chewing over Paul Goldberger's remark that Foster is "the Mozart of Modernism" - by which he means the Mozart of modernist architecture. Who, then, is the Mozart of modernist music? György Ligeti, with his dark humor and inspired lunacy? The formerly precocious and still briliant Thomas Adès, who draws modernism out of his quiver of styles when he's in need of something learned (much the same way Mozart armed himself with Palestrina)?
None of these analogies really works, because while lots of architects managed to make modernism variously useful, graceful, severe, whimsical, effective and populist, modernist composers remained by and large stranded on their beanstalk. Look at the new Bronx Library Center, where a plain glass box wears a jauntily swooping roof like a rakish cap, all so that regular Bronxites can have a nice place to read and check out books for free. Modernism for the People! Now try imagining the New York Philharmonic regaling Central Park picnickers with a dab of Elliott Carter (or Ligeti, for that matter). I don't think so.
JDavidson8 at nyc.rr.com