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Juilliard School Announces $20 Million Gift for Early Music

Juilliard School Announces $20 Million Gift for Early Music

Devotees of early music in New York may be experiencing whiplash. The year began in inspiriting fashion, with the Green Mountain Project’s superb annual presentation of Vespers music by Monteverdi, sponsored by Trinity Church at the Church of St. Jean Baptiste. Then, days later, a bleak midwinter seemed to settle in, when Trinity declared a hiatus in its own music program, suspending the activities of its excellent Trinity Choir and Baroque Orchestra at least until March. Now, on Tuesday, the Juilliard School is announcing a $20 million gift to endow its graduate-level program in historical performance. The sheer size of the gift is enough to make heads snap in the early-music world, whose practitioners typically struggle to stay a step ahead of poverty.

The donor is Bruce Kovner, the chairman of the school’s board, who recently retired as chairman of the $10 billion hedge fund Caxton Associates. Mr. Kovner, 66, has already financed the curriculum in period performance, which began in 2009, through its development and several academic years costing, he said in a telephone interview, $500,000 to $1 million each. The program, which is directed by the English violinist Monica Huggett and has attracted guest luminaries like the conductor-instrumentalists William Christie and Jordi Savall, has had a significant impact on the New York scene by presenting its own public concerts and furnishing performers for groups like Trinity’s.

Mr. Kovner, who also donated a priceless collection of manuscripts to Juilliard in 2006, has long been enamored of “the great literature of the Baroque,” he said, and he thought it an appropriate area for Juilliard to take on. He is not alone in thinking that — thanks in large part to the Juilliard program — early music now “has a center of gravity” and “serious levels of accomplishment” in New York.

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