Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
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The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (CMS) is one of eleven constituents of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the largest performing arts complex in the world. The Chamber Music Society has its home in Alice Tully Hall. Through its performance, education, and recording/broadcast activities, it brings chamber music to more people than any other organization of its kind.
CMS presents a wide variety of concert series and educational events for listeners of all ages. The performing artists constitute a revolving multi-generational and international roster of chamber musicians, enabling CMS to present chamber music of every instrumentation, style, and historical period. Annual activities include a full season in New York, an equally full season of national and international tours, nationally televised broadcasts on PBS’s Live From Lincoln Center, an international radio series, and regular broadcasts on SiriusXM and American Public Media’s Performance Today. A selection of New York performances are available through live stream on the CMS website.
In 1965, as plans for Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts were in the final stages, the distinguished American composer and President of Lincoln Center, William Schuman, first conceived of an organization dedicated to performing chamber music. This organization would have its own chamber music hall, and take its place among the ballet, symphonic and opera companies at Lincoln Center. Charles Wadsworth took on the challenge of the creation and artistic direction of the organization. With the patronage and leadership of Alice Tully, the first Chair of The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the plan came to fruition. On September 11, 1969, Alice Tully Hall opened with the first performance by the Chamber Music Society, beginning a new era for the art form in the United States. 
In 2004, CMS appointed cellist David Finckel (cellist for 34 years for the Emerson String Quartet) and pianist Wu Han artistic directors. They succeeded founding director Charles Wadsworth (1969–89), Fred Sherry (1989-93), and David Shifrin (1993-2004). Among their many accolades, in 2012 they were named Musical America’s Musicians of the Year.
The Chamber Music Society’s numerous activities—from concerts and education programs, to commissioning projects and young artist development programs—are informed by this vision, which was articulated in 1969 when the Chamber Music Society was founded. The purposes for which The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center is created are to stimulate and support the appreciation, performance and composition of chamber music:
- By presenting chamber music concerts at which the public may hear works deemed worthy of performance and performed by artists selected by the Chamber Music Society
- By commissioning and performing for the public and by sponsoring or arranging for the publication of new chamber music works written by composers selected by the Chamber Music Society
- By sponsoring or arranging for the reproduction, by mechanical, electronic or other means, of chamber music performances presented or chamber music works commissioned by the Chamber Music Society for television, radio, recording and other like means of public presentation and dissemination
- By presenting, sponsoring or providing for programs and activities designed to stimulate and encourage exposure to and understanding, knowledge and appreciation of the literature, history and performance of chamber music
- By acquiring and maintaining collections of material pertinent to the performance and appreciation of chamber music, including literature, manuscripts, scores, recordings, tapes and to other forms of reproductions, and by making any or all of the foregoing available to others by whatever means deemed appropriate by the Chamber Music Society.
CMS performs a wide range of repertoire, dating as far back as the Renaissance and continuing through the present day. CMS actively supports composers’ efforts. In its history, CMS has commissioned over 150 new works from a wide variety of composers, including Bruce Adolphe, Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, William Bolcom, John Corigliano, George Crumb, Lukas Foss, John Harbison, Alberto Ginastera, Morton Gould, Keith Jarrett, Oliver Knussen, Frank Martin, Gian Carlo Menotti, Darius Milhaud, Peter Schickele, Bright Sheng, Joan Tower, and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. Many new works are brought to life each season in partnership with co-commissioning organizations throughout the world, including Wigmore Hall in London; the Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ in Amsterdam; the Moritzburg Festival in Dresden; and Music Accord, a consortium of top U.S. presenting organizations. CMS also supports the work of living composers by awarding the Elise L. Stoeger Prize, a cash award given every other year to an outstanding composer of chamber music.
The Bowers Program
An opportunity for young artists in the early stages of major careers, The Bowers Program selects individuals and ensembles from an international pool of candidates through competitive auditions. The competitive three-season residency integrates Bowers Program Artists into every facet of CMS activities. More than half of the current artist roster at CMS is alumni, current and incoming members of The Bowers Program, who perform as equal colleagues alongside CMS musicians of all generations. Formerly known as CMS Two, the program was renamed in 2018 after philanthropist Ann S. Bower donated $5 million to the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the largest individual donation in the organization’s history. Alumni of the program include Inon Barnatan, Lang Lang, Anthony McGill, Alisa Weilerstein, and the Escher String Quartet.
Season Programming and Venues
- Alice Tully Hall hosts CMS' mainstage performances, including the annual Baroque and Winter Festivals. The complete Brandenburg Concertos are performed each December, and have been called a "New York holiday staple" by The New York Times.
- The Daniel and Joanna S. Rose Studio is a 115-seat venue which hosts the Rose Studio and Late Night Rose concerts. The Rose also hosts the Art of the Recital series, which features programs curated by the performers, the New Music series, featuring contemporary compositions, Inside Chamber Music, a series of lectures by education director Bruce Adolphe, and frequent master classes by CMS artists. All Rose Studio Events are also live streamed online to a worldwide audience and available on demand up to 72 hours later.
CMS offers a number of learning formats and experiences to listeners, and provides educational opportunities for early career chamber musicians: school-based programs for elementary school students, family concerts, teen-centered programs, master classes throughout the United States and internationally, pre-concert composer chats, and lectures for adults on the season’s repertoire.
Chamber Music Beginnings introduces New York City elementary school children to chamber music. Meet the Music! concerts introduce families to live chamber music through humor and entertainment. Middle and high school students who audition successfully for the Young Ensembles and Young Musicians programs receive coachings from CMS artists and perform on the Alice Tully Hall and the Rose Studio stages at Lincoln Center. Middle and high school students also attend Music Up Close! working rehearsals where they interact with CMS musicians. The Student Producers provides a mentorship program in which high school students from tri-state area schools meet regularly with CMS staff and learn the inner workings of arts management through hands-on activities. The program has received accolades from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Strings Magazine. Bruce Adolphe’s Inside Chamber Music lecture series offers explorations of season repertoire. CMS artists and guest artists give Master Classes with the next generation of chamber musicians. The CMS online publication Building a Chamber Music Program: A Teacher’s Guide, provides advice and resources to help teachers launch and grow chamber music programs at their schools. A partnership with LG Chamber Music School brings CMS artists and young Korean musicians together annually in a week of chamber music coaching, culminating in a concert in Seoul or New York.
CMS presents more than 80 concerts per season outside of New York City, including concerts in North America, Europe and Asia.
The current international tour schedule includes performances in China, Korea, Taiwan, Germany, and the United Kingdom (as part of CMS’s annual residency at London’s prestigious Wigmore Hall), with additional performances to be announced. CMS is represented in North America by David Rowe Artists, and in the Far East by Wei Zhou of Weiber Consulting.
The annual CMS season now includes several residencies. These encompass a summer festival home at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, in Saratoga, New York, featuring six concerts over three weeks; and annual multi-concert residencies at the Harris Theater in Chicago, Illinois; the Performing Arts Center, Purchase College, SUNY, in Purchase, New York; the University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia; Drew University in Madison, New Jersey; Shaker Village in Pleasant Hill, Kentucky; the St. Cecilia Music Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts. In addition, CMS acts as a partner to the newly founded Chrysalis Chamber Music Institute at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.
Since 2010, CMS has partnered with Travel Dynamics International to provide chamber music performances as part of their cultural cruise itinerary. Recent cruises include voyages to the Mediterranean, Alaska, Southern Caribbean, Baltic Sea and Greek Islands, with private performances both at sea and in venues on land. Recent land tours to Prague and Vienna, presented in collaboration with Music@Menlo, have included performances by CMS artists in the Eroica Saal in the Lobkowicz Palace in Prague, and Schubert’s Birth House and Schlosstheater Schönbrunn in Vienna.
Media and Livestreaming
Through its live streaming capabilities, its website, annual radio series, and additional radio programming, CMS events are available to audiences everywhere. CMS live streams a broad selection of events including concerts, lectures, and master classes on its website and mobile app, and also archives selected material for on-demand viewing. Listeners can hear its weekly radio series of live recorded performances hosted by Co-artistic Director David Finckel and including commentary from the featured artists, throughout North America, with additional broadcasts of select programming in Europe and China. In addition, CMS performances are featured on SiriusXM, and American Public Media’s Performance Today. Online, the series is available on the CMS website and CMS mobile apps. The Chamber Music Society’s performances on American Public Media’s Performance Today program are sponsored by the MetLife Foundation.
Through its own label distributions, and in partnership with many of the industry’s finest labels, CMS offers recordings that span its entire 46-year history.
In 2007, CMS launched its first ever in-house recording label, CMS Studio Recordings, with a mission to capture selected CMS performances under optimal recording conditions using the latest audiophile technology. The most recent release under this label features works of Schumann and Mendelssohn and was the April 2014 Cover CD in BBC Magazine.
In April 2015, Deutche Grammophon released a live-concert recording of the piano quartets of Mahler, Schumann and Brahms, recorded at CMS and featuring CMS Artistic Directors David Finckel and Wu Han, with violinist Daniel Hope and violist Paul Neubauer.
In addition to its long history of studio recording, CMS also offers live performances on the CMS Live label, readily available for download through iTunes and Amazon. Most recently CMS recorded Simple Gifts, featuring Copland’s Appalachian Spring and other American-inspired works, distributed by Naxos of America. Prior to launching CMS Live, The Chamber Music Society partnered for several years with Deutsche Grammophon to produce live performance recordings which are now available for download on the DG Concerts label.
The repertoire of CMS’s historical discography ranges from Baroque, including a performance of Bach’s Complete Brandenburg Concertos through masterworks of every period, that include the Grammy nominated Complete Chamber Music of Claude Debussy, produced in partnership with the Delos label; and into contemporary premieres that CMS has performed and commissioned.
- The Wall Street Journal