Best Federal Building to Hear Free Music

The Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave. SE
@librarycongress on Twitter
The Kennedy Center’s Millenium Stage and National Gallery of Art may be more familiar destinations for budget-friendly concerts, but the Library of Congress’ Jefferson Building has been a haven for freeloading music lovers nearly as long as it’s been one for archivists. What’s more, the Library of Congress boasts a long-standing tradition of commissioning newly composed chamber music that continues today. Béla Bartók’s “String Quartet No. 5” debuted there. So did Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring,” long before the gay composer’s ode to America was used as a backdrop for an anti-gay TV ad by onetime presidential hopeful Rick Perry. This season will see a posthumous premiere of a piece for violin and piano by John Cage; the next will feature works by George Crumb and George Walker and a residency by John Adams. There’s also more familiar classical fare—this spring, that means Bach, Bach, and more Bach—but also a good mix of jazz, folk, and country. The library draws some marquee names, including pianist Leon Fleisher, but even relative nobodies are surely worth the price of admission.