Béla Bartók delivered a ten minute talk and a piano recital of his music. Maurice Ravel played solo piano pieces, accompanied a singer performing his songs and directed an ensemble of musicians from the Detroit Symphony in his Introduction and Allegro.
They set a standard and a tradition that the officers and members of Pro Musica have been dedicated to maintaining for nearly 92 years. The 40 composers and hundreds of artists appearing for this unique concert society have ranked consistently among the finest in the world.
The second season brought Ottorino Respighi and Arthur Honegger, the third Alexander Tansman and Sergei Prokofiev and then Dr. Ernst Toch. Future seasons were to see Aaron Copland, Henry Cowell, Paul Hindemith, Nadia Boulanger, Francis Poulenc and Darius Milhaud. In recent seasons more American composers have appeared including George Crumb, Ned Rorem, Michael Daugherty and William Bolcom.
The roster of performing artists is equally illustrious. Among the many who made their first recital appearance in Detroit with Pro Musica are the Budapest and Guarneri String Quartets, violinist Joshua Bell, soprano Jessye Norman, and pianists Leif Ove Andsnes and Benjamin Grosvenor.
Pro Musica has had the special distinction of being able to recognize talent early in its career and bring artists just before they become world famous. The particular benefit is that this small concert society can then afford to present these superb artists in the intimate ambience of a small concert hall. It is one of the factors that makes Pro Musica concerts exceptional experiences.
The society has also demonstrated a remarkable talent for survival. It has faced financial crises, depression, wars, civil upheavals and dramatic changes in audience tastes and attendance habits and never abandoned its remarkable mission even though it satisfied audience taste by including great traditional works along with new music. Actually, the society’s creative approach to programming has always been a major attraction.
The ability to survive was established early. During the bank holiday of 1932, at the depth of the great depression, the New York office of the national Pro Musica went bankrupt. All the 20 chapters across North America closed their doors, except Pro Musica of Detroit. The first few seasons had brought so much pleasure to the group that they decided to continue on their own and have done so ever since.
There is a high degree of congeniality at a Pro Musica evening. The acoustics are superb in the Peter D. and Julie F. Cummings Cube, the 400-seat recital hall at the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center — The Max, home of Orchestra Hall and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. The artists describe the audience as exceptionally discriminating and appreciative and find themselves very comfortable with the society’s tradition of encouraging the artists and composers to talk to the audience from the stage. The members are a particularly friendly and congenial group which becomes most evident at the afterglow when everyone can enjoy light refreshments and meet the artists or just chat with friends. It is possible to dine before the concert at the Paradise Lounge in the adjacent Orchestra Hall. Patron members enjoy the convenience of Valet parking with their season subscription.
Pro Musica is special as well in that it is run by its members. Anyone who wishes can take part in the governance of the society, help elect its directors, recommend artists for future concerts and any of the other tasks necessary for the survival of a high quality arts organization.
Members recall many great concert experiences over the years with great chamber orchestras, choral groups, opera stars and solo instrumentalists. One of the most recent was the presentation of concert pianist, Dr. Richard Kogan, M.D., who is also a psychiatrist. He explained the personality and character of George Gershwin and gave a capacity audience a brilliant performance of the great American composer’s popular music. Highlights were Gershwin’s own solo piano transcription of Rhapsody in Blue and the Earl Wild Suite based on Porgy and Bess. Pro Musica billed the evening as Gershwin by Proxy. It proved to be a brilliantly successful example of the society’s approach to the presentation of highly original and extremely successful programs and a creative variation on the mission of presenting composers.
The history of Pro Musica Detroit is so rich and fascinating, in fact, that the Society has commissioned the writing and publication of the story. It is rich in anecdotes and personal recollections of concerts, artists, mishaps and great successes rescued from near catastrophes. Please, join the society. Discover its unique appeal. You will be anxious then to read the inspiring story of a small concert society that has made really big achievements in presenting the world’s greatest composers, performers and music in a highly personal atmosphere. Pro Musica of Detroit was created for all people who genuinely love and appreciate great music.
‘The Witness of Music: 80 Years of Pro Musica of Detroit’ penned by Alexander Suczek
Detailing programs and performances from composer’s Béla Bartók pre-concert talk in the first season of 1927 to the concerts by baritone Thomas Meglioranza and the other artists in 2006, the remarkable work is a treasure chest of memories for all who appreciate fine music.
Published in 2006, copies of “The Witness of Music” may still be available. If you would like a copy, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.