Baroque Bonanza: Juilliard Gets $20 Million For Early Music

Monday, January 16, 2012 - 07:33 PM

Juilliard415 performs with conductor Ton Koopman in Alice Tully Hall Juilliard415 performs with conductor Ton Koopman (Nan Melville)

The Juilliard School has received a $20 million gift from Bruce Kovner, the hedge fund titan who co-founded the $10 billion Caxton Associates, the conservatory announced on Monday. The gift will endow its program in historical performance, which was founded in 2009 and trains graduate students in music from the 17th and 18th centuries.

"The big donation has been a great confirmation to the Historical Performance Program at Juilliard that we are doing good work,” said Monica Huggett, the program’s artistic director, in an e-mail from her home in England. "Bruce Kovner really likes baroque music."

Kovner, 66, who recently retired as chairman of Caxton Associates, is Juilliard’s chairman as well as its top donor. In 2005, he gave the school its largest gift in its history, a $25 million bequest that supported scholarships, salaries and operational expenses. The following year he donated a trove of 139 precious music manuscripts to the school that he acquired at auctions over a decade. Kovner has also financed the period performance program since its inception in 2009, giving an average of $500,000 to $1 million annually, according to The New York Times, which first reported on the latest gift.

A powerful figure in philanthropic circles, Kovner has also donated widely to conservative causes. He is the former chairman of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research group, and has given more than $100,000 to Republican candidates and causes since 2010.

Juilliard’s historical performance program is in its third season. The tuition-free program focuses primarily on instrumental music from the High Baroque era (Vivaldi, Handel, Bach) but it has also collaborated with Juilliard’s vocal arts program on fully staged operas. Guest lecturers have included luminaries like Fabio Biondi, William Christie, Harry Bicket, Nicholas McGegan and Jordi Savall. It recently announced it will add two new majors in viola da gamba and plucked instruments (lute, theorbo, Baroque guitar) starting in fall 2012.

Music critics and insiders have frequently complained about New York's early music scene, arguing that it lacks suitable venues for period performance, that audiences here prefer more modern fare, and that educational institutions that support period performance research and training are lacking. The latest gift may help dispel some of that criticism.

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Comments [2]

Juilliard's Historical Instrument Program is truly exceptional and we have been fortunate to have hosted two concerts featuring its charismatic students in Rye, NY at the landmark home of John Jay. We have been enthralled with the beauty of baroque music and will be privileged to hear a third concert this Sunday January 29th titled "A Minister in Spain" - it will draw upon the pieces that John Jay might have heard while he was Minister to Spain in 1783. There is nothing more immediate or exciting than to hear the music that our Founding Fathers enjoyed centuries ago in Europe as they navigated diplomatic circles for our young nation - this is our favorite way to connect with history!

Jan. 27 2012 09:28 AM
Michael Meltzer

Gustav Leonhardt died on Monday in Amsterdam at age 83.

Jan. 18 2012 07:41 AM

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