The MacArthur Foundation today acknowledges what many of us have known for a long time: that nut's a genius. Kudos to Alex Ross, who certainly deserves this honor for his erudition, his energy, his imagination and his knack for setting the bar right where the rest of us can see it but not quite reach it.
It's not often that these prizes go in such a self-evidently correct direction. To my great shame, I'm not familiar with the work of local genius Walter Kitundu, but if M. C- feels the award is well-merited then I believe him implicitly.
But the award to Leila Josefowicz perplexes me, and not merely — or not solely — because I haven't heard her give a really great performance since she was about nine years old. It's more that the criteria for giving an award like this to performing musicians seem to be even blurrier than most. I would think this was an award for someone who's actively changing the shape of the musical landscape — which, yeah, by definition is going to mostly mean composers, but can also make room for someone like Dawn Upshaw or Marin Alsop, who've both won the thing, or Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, who should've got one, or Yo-Yo Ma [pause, search MacArthur website. . . wow, no, never won it. What an astounding oversight.] Josefowicz is a decent violinist and all, but really?
Update: There's a general feeling in comments that I'm talking out of my ass on this last point, than which assertion nothing could be more likely. OK, point taken. I wouldn't paint myself as convinced, exactly, but I'm persuaded at least that my reservations may not have been as well-grounded in, y'know, fact as one would wish, and might have been better left unexpressed. Than which, again, &c.