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Leisure: Best Less-Than-Obvious Classical Venues

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Even when tickets to the Metropolitan Opera are not an option and Carnegie Hall is sold out, New York offers several not-so-classic classical-music venues. The city's other Met is one of the first places to consider. Among the groups to look forward to during the Metropolitan Museum Of Art's (1000 Fifth Avenue, at 82nd Street; 570-3949) upcoming season will be the Guarneri String Quartet, the Musicians from Marlboro, and the Beaux Arts Trio. But caliber of performers aside, it's the setting that makes the experience. Says jazz great Dr. Billy Taylor, who performs there frequently, "When people come to listen to music, they have to pass through a visual exhibit. It puts them in a different frame of mind." The museum holds concerts in both the 700-seat Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium and in the art galleries, including annual performances by flutist Paula Robison in the Temple of Dendur and a yearly series of Christmas concerts in the Medieval Sculpture Hall.

Farther uptown is the Miller Theatre at Columbia University (Broadway and 116th Street; 854-7799), which, under the auspices of George Steel, puts together one of the bolder classical-music series in town. "My motto is: Remove any sense of apology from programming," says Steel. The Miller Theatre will never hide less-well-known compositions behind standards by Beethoven and Mozart but presents full evenings of pieces by a modern composer that give the audience a complete picture of his or her work. Included in the upcoming season's series of living composers will be concerts highlighting John Zorn and Peter Maxwell Davies.


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