At the New York Philharmonic, a new piano concerto by Timo Andres was performed. Andres is an American, born in 1985, and he is a pianist as well as a composer. He did not play his own concerto, however—Jonathan Biss did.

In our program notes, Andres was quoted as having said this to the press: “Being a composer is no good on its own. You need this sort of other person or other skill to be able to give life to the music. I feel like the separation of those things is just this really weird disconnect that exists in the classical-music world. But I feel as of late we’re sort of seeing that reversing. A lot more of my peers and people of my generation are doing both.”

I thought of Ned Rorem, a senior American composer, whom I interviewed about fifteen years ago, around the time of his eightieth birthday. In the eyes of the general public, he...

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