No more Mostly Mozart

No more Mostly Mozart


norman lebrecht

June 01, 2023

New York’s most anodyne music festival is to be rebranded after this summer’s event at Lincoln Center.

Louis Langrée will end 21 years as music director and his successor, Jonathon Heyward, plans to junk the name.

Mostly Mozart has been running every summer since 1970. Heyward is 30.

Time for a change.


From the PR release:

The next chapter for the orchestra doubles down on these successes and aims to further Shanta Thake’s broader artistic vision in service to all of New York City—continuing to break down traditional artistic silos, and introducing classical and contemporary music to wider audiences—all to forge deep and lasting connections with returning audiences and those who’ve not historically seen themselves at Lincoln Center.

Starting in 2024, aligning with Heyward’s first summer, the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra will be adopting a new name that illustrates the orchestra’s integration within the broader summer festival, as well as with campus-wide initiatives and artistic explorations.

The new artistic vision and name for Lincoln Center’s summer orchestra starting in 2024 will be developed in close partnership between Heyward and Thake. One component already being collaboratively explored is the integration of repertoire that previews artists featured by the resident organizations across Lincoln Center’s campus in the coming season, helping provide an entry point and encouragement for audiences to experience music on campus year-round.


  • Andrew says:

    The appointment of a young, highly accomplished African-American conductor as Music Director of such a major institution should be celebrated. The rebranding is inconsequential compared with the significance of Jonathon Heyward’s appointment. This article and its clickbait headline is deeply disappointing.

    • Emil says:

      Also, is there any indication he is behind the rebranding? Could it at all be possible that the board/execs decided to rebrand and hired an MD with that in mind (rather than the other way around)?

      Blaming him for a decision made by completely other bodies, for other reasons, seems odd.

    • Wolfgang says:

      After all, why should two mixed-race people, Jonathon Heyward and Shanta Thake, work in a white “artistic silo” when they can take the resources and use them for mostly something else?

    • Helen says:

      You refer to the headline as “clickbait” and then feel obliged to refer to his race?

      Whether the appointment should be celebrated surely depends on his suitability for the job and what he does with it in due course.

      Seems to me you just wanted to register your high-status values.

  • Desk jockey says:

    Gosh please yes! Mostly Mozart sounds like a snooze of a festival. Rebranding is way past due

    • MWnyc says:

      It was often vey interesting indeed while Jane Moss was programming it.

      • Don Ciccio says:

        As were the first few years of Gerard Schwarz’s tenure. And even before that: the last New York appearances of Karl Richter were at the festival.

      • Ludwig's Van says:

        Well, it got old, period. So Jane injected new life into it – to the point where it made no sense to call it Mostly Mozart anymore.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      “Mostly Mozart” actually meant something to concert-goers in New York City. A brand is a brand for a reason.

      Honestly–and I’ve lived in the neighborhood for 45 years–I now have no idea what Lincoln Center (Lincoln Center Inc.) presents, apart from the constituent organizations (including some truly exciting summer presentations of foreign ballet and opera companies at the Met Opera House). I used to know what to expect from Great Performances, Mostly Mozart, and the Lincoln Center Festival. The brands most often signified quality.

      I’ve now lost interest and travel to other locales for classical music and theater. The classical music, dance, and theater scene in NYC is greatly diminished.

      • tramonto says:

        It seems they didn’t bring back the White Light Festival after the COVID hiatus, is that right?

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Why not ‘No More Festival’?

  • Sad ex-NYer says:

    Another nail in NYC’s musical coffin. But is anybody surprised?

  • Itsjtime says:

    This is BULLSHIT!
    I don’t care who he is or will be.
    Why? Why should Mozart suffer? How about someone to bring something special to Mozart? Perhaps bringing the best parts of the historical movement to modern interpretation?
    This is SHIT and will continue to kill music in New York.
    The Mostly Mozart orchestra Is HIGHLY Suspect—-just another gig orchestra with questionable artistic leadership in NY.
    What is killing classical music is the way it is being played.
    Dumbing down is the epidemic…. If you ram Missy Mazzoli, Caroline Shaw and this other “modern” crap down people throats they will get a taste for sh-t and we will see the continuation of the denigration of Art.

    • Morgen says:

      Agreed; if you are going to ram something “new” down people’s throats at least it needs to have quality, enough of “women”, “of color” “non-binary”for their own sake—those criteria for selecting rep have zero to do with quality.

    • Tyrone says:

      Because Mozart was White and he needs to suffer despite having past away hundreds of years ago and having nothing to do with slavery…just because…it’s 2023.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Not that I disagree with your sentiments, but you really ought to invest in a thesaurus. You will improve your arguments exponentially.

    • Desk jockey says:

      You can put on your favourite recordings of Mozart if you’re so upset. Meanwhile I’ll have a great time going to see jazz fusion tuba at my local club.

  • Reinhold Behringer says:

    Rebranding something that is highly successful is not a good idea. It is understandable that a young newcomer wants to put his own mark down, but why not then create something completely new?
    Abolishing something that people have enjoyed and have had during their lives is somewhat cruel towards them.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Rather dismissive than cruel. A lesson LincInc no doubt learned from the marketing genius, Peter Gelb. We’ve seen those results.

    • Desk jockey says:

      Meanwhile, aren’t you grateful that Apple’s logo has evolved from what it used to be? Imagine having that eyesore on your phone today

  • R. Brite says:

    Note that it’s just the orchestra that is rebranding now. The Mostly Mozart festival itself was renamed Summer for the City last year.

  • Rara Avis says:

    Make no mistake about it: The rebranding is the frilly part of this piece of news. Heyward’s appointment is the ripe (and welcome) peach!

    Having said that, as rebrandings go… Glory, glory hallelujah. Fracking finally! Been clamoring for this since the 80s! Mostly Mozart, as a name, was something to bait (and something which, alas, ended up fostering) a complacent, unsophisticated, and unadventurous audience.

  • Guest Conductor says:

    I’ll allow it. Mostly Mozart is a terrible name.

  • Claremonter says:

    I attended “Midsummer Serenades: A Mozart Festival” in Lincoln Center’s Philharmonic Hall in August 1967… so there was a summer Mozart festival at Lincoln Center even before 1970.

  • William says:

    for those crying in the comments: “mostly mozart” in 2023? really? it’s not the end of the world yall, we’ll still have plenty of mozart shoved down our throats somehow!!

  • Robert Holmén says:

    It’s like in the corporate world… when they don’t know what to do, they change the logo.

  • Wise Guy says:

    The reason Mostly Mozart has been going strong since 1970 is that they played mostly Mozart. There’s a clue hidden in this statement of the obvious. Inserting talentless composers and allowing them to ride in on the coat tails of Mozart is yet more counterproductive DEI social engineering.

    • Thornhill says:

      Fact check: False.

      For the last decade or so, the Mostly Mozart Festival has been the Mostly NOT Mozart Festival. There’s usually several all-Mozart programs, but the bulk of the season are works for chamber orchestra spanning the last several centuries, through the current date. Mozart pops up here and there, but the overwhelming majority of concerts feature nothing by him or his contemporaries.

      • Don Ciccio says:

        True, but sometimes those all-Mozart programs turn ouut to be the pick of the crop. For example, Ivan Fischer’s productions of Figaro and Don Giovanni.

    • Scarlet Pimpernel says:

      Yes, but we must appease the woke or be cast aside. You know how it goes

      • Desk jockey says:

        Glad to do away with the likes of you. I’m going to assume that you’re an arthritic boomer, and I prefer audience members who can stand

  • Gerry Feinsteen says:

    You think they might name the festival:

    Ewell’s Least Favorite Works

    Forgotten Mediocrepieces

    Not So Manly Mozart

    Trans Figure Knights

    Anything but Bach

    Better than Beethoven

    Brahms Bros


  • Karden says:

    Reinhold Behringer: “Rebranding something that is highly successful is not a good idea.”

    I favor giving consumers what they want or rating market demand as very important. So if “Mostly Mozart” was doing well, then: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    But I also admit that Mozart makes me think of when Emperor Joseph II supposedly told Wolfgang (whether apocryphal or not), “too many notes.”

    Today’s culture is perhaps becoming increasingly too “woke,” but “Mostly Mozart” has a sense of being just the opposite extreme of that. YMMV.

  • Marcus says:

    is that available in an English translation?

  • Tokkemon says:

    In recent years there was hardly any Mozart programmed in the first place. Which is ideal, if you ask me.

  • Evan Tucker says:

    The new name is the “We’re keeping the seat warm for him Orchestra of Lincoln Center.”

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    I don’t care about the race or gender of the music director. What’s more pressing is why there is even a Mozart festival at all. Surely that’s so last century. And the one before that!!

    • Robert says:

      It could be because conductors like conducting Mozart, singers and players enjoy performing Mozart, and audiences love hearing Mozart. Other than that, Mozart is completely pointless.

      • Desk jockey says:

        Hmmm no. Musicians tolerate having to play Mozart to indulge soloists and certain octagenerian conductors. The rest of the world wishes we’d move on.

  • DontFixWhatAintBroken says:

    About time Berlin Phil rebrands itself too… perhaps to Mostly German Orchestra?

    Why rebrand? How about just continue excellence?

  • MMcGrath says:

    Pardon my ignorance, but who is Heyward?
    And does Heyward even know Mozart?
    Sounds like the renamed Mostly Mozart is going to lecture us in politically correct but irrelevant music.

    • Guest says:

      You can do a Google search. Or you can revel in prejudice and ignorance. Your choice!

    • Desk jockey says:

      Played under Heyward in a program of romantic era unfinished works. Amazing conductor, very precise and has an incredible ear for balance. Honestly it’s a big get for the festival. We thoroughly enjoyed having him.

      • MMcGrath says:

        Thank you. A helpful perspective. Personal experience with a conductor outweigh googled facts.

  • Random Musician says:

    This is mostly as a business decision more than anything else to expand the audience. As much as I love Mozart the name has negative connotations with young Americans, albeit for misconceptions regarding perceived elitism. Hopefully the rebranding doesn’t change them playing brilliant music.

    • Desk jockey says:

      Not as much elitism as it is just… lack of imagination and pandering to retirees. One day they’ll all be dead and then you’ll have no more audience, and certainly the new generations don’t enjoy being preached upon about the cultural
      Glory of the Great German Masters. We know what that entails, and it ain’t fun.


      Interesting remark, I say. The Mozart name has negative connotations for most young Americans? I cannot subscribe that to “social awakening.” It is a tragedy, plain and simple. The abject failure, top to bottom, of an educational system, by the way, a very expensive one.

  • Mr. Ron says:

    This is a big mistake.

  • When Will it End says:

    Heyward is a decent stick-waver. Nothing more. Another sign of the times. I feel sorry for the Baltimore musicians. Two consecutive MD’s shoved down their throats in a row!

  • Not British says:

    Is Heyward going to keep up his FAKE BRITISH ACCENT now that his main gigs are in Baltimore and NYC? What a charlatan. Will he acquire a Brooklyn accent? Or will it be Queens? Or maybe a Baltimore “Hey Hon” now and then, just to keep us guessing. Good luck.

  • Judy says:

    As a retired former member of the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra (for 36 years), and as a rostered member of 12 different freelance orchestras, I can say that MM rarely had a performance that wasn’t sold out. In addition, the orchestra members were told that the MM Festival was the only production of Lincoln Center that was “ in the black”. In other words, MM didn’t lose money.

    I can’t help but wonder, because it’s always about the money, maybe LC is able to draw greater and different funding from something new?

    I’m rambling but the most important observation I made from the stage was that there were more kids in the MM audience than in the audience of any of the other ensembles with which I played. We have lost generations of kids who don’t even know what a violin looks like.

    I am heartbroken.