Press Room

The Year in Review, 2020

The global pandemic of 2020 has presented the arts with unprecedented challenges. In response to the crisis, 21C Media Group’s clients have made creative and sometimes extraordinary efforts to keep making music and staying connected with their communities and audiences. We’re taking a moment to look back over the past year and salute our clients’ activities and enterprises, highlighting several of special note in the list below.


The New York Times reviewed a streamed concert by Grammy-winning pianist PIERRE-LAURENT AIMARD “under the decidedly nonideal conditions of 2020.” Zachary Woolfe writes: “Mr. Aimard’s overarching agenda, connecting Beethoven’s music, in his 250th birthday year, to strands of 20th-century modernism, came through with clarity, attesting to the strength of his vision and the savvy of his juxtapositions. … When he finished, this superb pianist bowed to the empty studio and walked offscreen, his footfalls echoing as his tones had. I didn’t hear him under ideal conditions, but so little is ideal these days. I heard him, is what matters, and he was very, very good.”

Between Europe’s first and second lockdowns, MacArthur Fellow MARIN ALSOP launched the new seasons of two major European orchestras, conducting live, televised opening-night concerts with the Orchestre de Paris and the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, where she inaugurated her tenure as Austria’s first female Chief Conductor last season. (See also GLOBAL ODE TO JOY below.)

Celebrated Norwegian pianist and festival founder LEIF OVE ANDSNES found himself forced to postpone Norway’s 2020 Rosendal Chamber Music Festival. However, he succeeded in presenting and filming a single, closed chamber concert. Combining the world premiere of a new work by Marius Neset with music by Beethoven and interviews with the artists, the resulting film recently premiered on Norwegian television as “To Hope”: Leif Ove Andsnes and friends in Rosendal 2020.

In July, superstar violinist JOSHUA BELL paid tribute to all the heroic healthcare workers serving tirelessly on the frontlines, many of whom are talented musicians themselves. He invited some of them to join him for a socially distanced performance of Bach’s Double Concerto, captured in a special video to express his thanks.

Honored as a 2021 Artist of the Year and “agent of change” by Musical America, classical singer JULIA BULLOCK gave a Tiny Desk (Home) Concert combining songs by Schubert and Weill with a traditional spiritual and Billy Taylor’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” in NPR Music’s special quarantine edition of the series; NPR’s Tom Huizenga characterized it as “among the most transcendent musical moments I’ve experienced this year.” Bullock also discussed identity, unconscious bias and the power of art in a recent episode of NPR’s new Amplify With Lara Downes series.

Now in his second season as Chief Conductor of Hamburg’s NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, between the European lockdowns Grammy-winner ALAN GILBERT not only led NDR’s opening week concerts and 75th-anniversary celebrations but launched the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s new season too. Watched by almost half a million viewers in total, Gilbert also hosted hourlong Facebook Live discussions with fellow conductors Karina Canellakis, Daniel Harding and Sir Simon Rattle; Marin Alsop, Sir Antonio Pappano and Esa-Pekka Salonen; Herbert Blomstedt; and Thomas Morris and Christoph von Dohnányi.

Composer MICHAEL HERSCH is collaborating with sculptor Christopher Cairns on “…thus far and no further…,” a series of concerts performed for an intimate audience amongst Cairns’s sculptures. Presented by Arezzo Music, the series’ fall programs presented Miranda Cuckson, Emi Ferguson and Daniel Gaisford in both new and Renaissance music, including the world premiere of Hersch’s own composition for solo flute, unwrung, apart, always.

Hailed as “a hugely successful show … that has resurrected the art of the house concert” (The Guardian), DANIEL HOPE’s live TV series Hope@Home has been streamed more than eight million times by viewers on five continents, raising tens of thousands of euros for artists in need and winning the 2020 Czech Crystal Prize. Now showcasing younger, freelance artists as well as more established ones, the hit show recently returned as Hope@Home – Next Generation, streaming daily on Europe’s ARTE TV website and the violinist’s own Facebook page.

Forced to re-think their season, CERISE JACOBS and her activist opera company White Snake Projects had “a hit on their hands” (Broadway World) when they deftly pivoted to present the world premiere of Alice in the Pandemic. Composed by Jorge Sosa to Jacobs’s own libretto, this ambitious virtual opera combined videogame animation and CGI with innovative new technology, custom-designed to enable singers in multiple locations to be heard in sync, without latency problems.

Cellist YO-YO MA was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2020, after his #SongsofComfort social media project – one of the earliest artistic responses to the pandemic – brought solace to more than 18 million people worldwide.

Tony-, Grammy- and Emmy-winning singer and actor AUDRA MACDONALD talked to CBS This Morning about Black Theatre United, the new coalition she co-founded in the week of Juneteenth this year to influence widespread reform and combat systemic racism within the theater industry and nationwide.

As Artistic Director of the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago (CAIC), tenor NICHOLAS PHAN celebrated the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution with a virtual masterclass and four concert broadcasts devoted to the past four centuries of song by women composers. These included Lili and Nadia Boulanger, the focus of Phan’s 2020 release, Clairières, with which the tenor just scored a second Grammy nomination (see below).

Israeli-American cellist INBAL SEGEV’s 2020 premiere recording of Anna Clyne’s new cello concerto, DANCE, was one of NPR Music’s “Favorite Songs of 2020.” Pairing Clyne’s work with Elgar’s iconic concerto, written 100 years ago in the wake of the 1918-19 pandemic, the cellist’s recording was an instant success that topped the Amazon Classical Concertos chart. Segev has also commissioned new chamber works from 20 of today’s most compelling composers for “20 for 2020,” her forthcoming album and music video series that will document this challenging year.

After making live appearances in Taiwan and Europe earlier this fall, Grammy-winning pianist DANIIL TRIFONOV released his newest album, Silver Age, prompting Slipped Disc to marvel: “Trifonov grows in emotional engagement and maturity with each successive performance. This recording … is an absolute must hear, one of the summits of this difficult year.”

MacArthur Fellow ALISA WEILERSTEIN cemented her status as one of the leading exponents of Bach’s six suites for unaccompanied cello. Released in April 2020, her Pentatone recording of the complete set became a Billboard bestseller and was named “Album of the Week” by the UK’s Sunday Times. As chronicled in a dedicated New York Times feature, she deepened her relationship with online fans in her #36DaysOfBach project, reaching more than 300,000 of them on Facebook, while her insights into Bach’s first G-major prelude, captured in Vox’s YouTube series, were viewed more than 1.6 million times.


As CNN reported, under the galvanizing leadership of General & Artistic Director Tomer Zvulun, THE ATLANTA OPERA transformed its costume shop into an “essential service,” making PPE for Georgia’s largest hospital; created personalized “Singing Telegrams” for frontline healthcare workers and others in need of emotional support; and brought opera to Georgia students with a new virtual show for schools. The company went on to reinvent its business model with a 2020-21 season of customized, open-air chamber productions in its acclaimed new “Big Tent” series, as seen on PBS Newshour.

The BARD MUSIC FESTIVAL presented “Out of the Silence: A Celebration of Music”: four free livestreamed concerts for string orchestra, piano and percussion. Available at UPSTREAMING, the Fisher Center’s new virtual stage, the series paired works by Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Dvořák and Bartók – all past subjects of the Bard Music Festival – with music by ten prominent Black composers, ranging from Classical pioneer Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, to contemporary Americans Alvin Singleton, Adolphus Hailstork and Jessie Montgomery.

Ideally placed to participate responsibly in New York’s re-opening process, CARAMOOR has presented a full range of virtual and live programming. Dashon Burton, Jeremy Denk, Amy Helm, Anthony McGill, the Aaron Diehl Trio and the Callisto Quartet performed without an audience in its “adventurous and excellent” livestream series (New York Times), filmed in the Rosen House Music Room, and in-person visitors to the idyllic 90-acre Westchester estate were able to explore the site-specific sound art installations of Sonic Innovations and attend two Beginner’s Ear meditations with live music.

Grammy-winning conductor Fabio Luisi launched his tenure as Music Director of the DALLAS SYMPHONY in concerts marking the first return to live performance by a major American orchestra, in its own hall, since the start of the pandemic. As the Wall Street Journal put it, “This orchestra’s example is certain to be a beacon for ensembles everywhere.” September also saw the debut of the orchestra’s new robotic camera and video studio, enabling it to capture future concerts for livestreams and on-demand viewing.

MARIN ALSOP spearheaded the “GLOBAL ODE TO JOY,” a crowd-sourced video project to celebrate Beethoven’s 250th anniversary. In collaboration with YouTube, Google Arts & Culture, and the leading arts organizations of five continents, Alsop invited the global community to share the call for tolerance, unity and joy of the composer’s Ninth Symphony in videos tagged #GlobalOdeToJoy. The project culminates this month with a star-studded Carnegie Hall webcast and a grand video finale: a GOTJ highlight reel, set to a performance of the “Ode to Joy” featuring the international Stay At Home Choir.

Teddy Abrams, the visionary young music director of the LOUISVILLE ORCHESTRA, brought together a host of local artists for “Lift Up Louisville,” a song to benefit the One Louisville COVID-19 Response Fund; composed and issued You Can’t Stop the Revolution, a single featuring sound samples from Louisville protests; and commissioned and conducted the livestreamed orchestral premiere of Davóne Tines’s VIGIL, a tribute to slain Louisville native Breonna Taylor, prompting Vogue magazine to conclude: “In Kentucky, the times are very much a-changing.”

Nimbly transitioning to become the Music Academy Remote Learning Institute (MARLI), Santa Barbara’s MUSIC ACADEMY OF THE WEST provided emerging young artists with six weeks of inspired distance-learning, combining teaching and mentorship from the Academy’s outstanding faculty artists with musical, technological and entrepreneurial challenges and a diverse array of artistic and educational video content. This “was no desperate pivot, thrown together as a placeholder” (Opera News), but “one of the web’s most impressive and joyous classical music experiences” (Santa Barbara Independent).

Following the enormous success of its online summer series “Bach at Home,” ORCHESTRA OF ST. LUKE’S (OSL) launched two livestreaming series: hosted by David Hyde Pierce, OSLive Streaming’s October programs presented Jeremy Denk, Stefan Jackiw and the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble in chamber classics, and the free concerts of “Composers of Note” showcased some of the composers championed in OSL’s “Music in Color” initiative.

Reaping the benefits of Taiwan’s extraordinarily effective response to the pandemic, in August the TAIPEI MUSIC ACADEMY & FESTIVAL (TMAF) brought together 35 outstanding young musicians and a stellar international faculty for a week of live orchestral performance, meaningful mentorship, intensive coaching, public masterclasses and more in the picturesque mountainside setting of the National Taipei University of the Arts. Click here to stream the final concert.

TRINITY CHURCH WALL STREET has continued its three-century role of bringing solace to New York’s downtown community and the world at large, with a full program of online “Comfort at One” concerts. Taking advantage of Trinity’s extensive archives and high-quality recording and film technology, the free streaming series comprises past “Bach at One” choral concerts, past “Pipes at One” organ recitals, and a mix of archived excerpts and new at-home performances from Trinity’s extended artistic family.

New Recordings Released in 2020

Alessio Bax: Italian Inspirations (Feb 7, Signum Classics)
Eleonor Bindman: J.S. Bach Cello Suites for Solo Piano (Oct 9, Grand Piano/Naxos)
Michael Hersch: I hope we get a chance to visit soon (May 22, New Focus Recordings)
Daniel Hope: Hope@Home (Aug 14, Deutsche Grammophon)
David Krakauer & Kathleen Tagg: Breath & Hammer (May 8, Table Pounding Records)
Nicholas Phan: Clairières: Songs by Lili & Nadia Boulanger (Jan 17, Avie Records)
Inbal Segev / Marin Alsop: DANCE (June 5, Avie Records)
Daniil Trifonov: Silver Age (Nov 6, Deutsche Grammophon)
Alisa Weilerstein: Bach: The Six Cello Suites (April 3, Pentatone)
Sarah Willis: Mozart y Mambo (July 10, Alpha Classics)

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