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November 29, 2002

What Are We Supposed To Do Now? What are classical musicians supposed to do now that recording companies no longer want to record them? They can start their own labels, of course - but despite some admirable attempts, for the most part it's almost impossible to get your recordings in front of consumers. "As the industry contracts, music is steadily reverting to its natural state of ephemerality: hear it live, or it's gone forever." La Scena Musicale 11/29/02

Alberta Orchestras Struggle To Overcome Debt The financially-troubled Edmonton Symphony whacks down its deficit by a third with a gift from a longtime supporter. Meanwhile the Calgary Philharmonic, which suspended operations last month after failing under a $1.2 million debt, says it will announce next week its plans to reactivate. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/28/02

Back For Seconds New operas are so expensive that after a first production (where interest is highest because it's brand new) most never see a second. Yet, "a second run can be vital to the life of an opera. The established repertory is crowded with works that really took off only at their second airing." Now William Bolcom is getting a second chance with a Met Opera production of A View From the Bridge." The New York Times 11/29/02

Beyond Prodigy Midori has spent her adult life trying to live beyond being a child prodigy. "In many ways, she says, she has spent her adult life pushing to create the normalcy she missed as an international child star. Her image as a prodigy was carefully cultivated by those around her. 'They would tell me things like, 'You have to say you like classical music, you never listen to anything else'." Christian Science Monitor 11/29/02

November 27, 2002

De Larrocha's Last Public Concert Pianist Alicia de Larrocha, plays her final public concert at Carnegie Hall, and retires. "As departures go, Ms. de Larrocha's appearance was unusually low-key. Not much had been made of it publicly, although her retirement at 79 was not entirely unexpected. Like any musician who has enjoyed a long career, Ms. de Larrocha has seen performance style, and the tastes that drive it, move through cycles of change and reconsideration. In the Spanish works in her repertory she has remained peerless, but in Mozart, the expansion of the early-music world and the expectations it has created have been challenges for her." The New York Times 11/27/02

Sophie - A Surprise Choice Nicholas Maw's new opera Sophie's Choice has a star cast: "Sir Trevor Nunn to direct. Sir Simon Rattle to conduct. The dazzling Austrian mezzo Angelika Kirchschlager making her long-awaited London opera debut in the title role. Oh, and tickets so massively subsidised that the best seats in the house cost only £50." Still, no one expected Sophie to be a hit, so it's only playing five nights. And it's become one of the season's hottest tickets. The Telegraph (UK) 11/27/02

Watts Will Make Full Recovery Pianist Andre Watts has been released from the hospital after suffering a subdural hematoma just before a Nov. 14 concert in California. He's expected to recover fully and resume performing. "Hemorrhages like these are fatal in 50-60 percent of people. He was in the very fortunate 40 percent of people who make it through the event. The bleeding was on the anterior part of the brain, away from the fine motor area." Doctors describe Watts as "personable" and "Zen-like" during his hospital stay. Orange County Register 11/27/02

Spano Bows Out In Brooklyn Saying that "the energy and time the Brooklyn Philharmonic deserves are beyond my capacities anymore," conductor Robert Spano steps down as music director of the orchestra after seven years. Spano has recently renewed his contract leading the Atlanta Symphony and becomes director of the Festival of Contemporary Music at Tanglewood next year. "As a highly regarded interpreter of new music in particular, he has been mentioned as a candidate for the podiums of leading world orchestras." The New York Times 11/27/02

November 26, 2002

Toronto Symphony Recovers While other orchestras around North America post bad financial news, the Toronto Symphony has some good to report. Last year, the Toronto Symphony declared itself "on the precipice of complete collapse" after posting a $7 million deficit and seeing its subscription sales drop alarmingly. The orchestra's then-executive director quit. This year's been another story - the orchestra has reduced its deficit to $5 million and fundraising for the season was up 50 percent. National Post 11/23/02

Playing The Part What is it about the music of Arvo Part that makes its listeners become cultish in their devotion to hearing it? "According to the unsentimental evidence of record sales, Pärt's music reaches far beyond the conspiracy of connoisseurs who support most new classical music. He is a composer who speaks in hauntingly clear, familiar tones, yet he does not duplicate the music of the past. He has put his finger on something that is almost impossible to put into words—something to do with the power of music to obliterate the rigidities of space and time." The New Yorker 11/25/02

Seattle Bails Out Opera House The Seattle City Council has begrudgingly approved a loan of $27 million to finish construction of the Seattle Opera House. Fundraising for the $130 million project has fallen off, with expected contributions from county and state governments failing to come through. "We didn't plan on making that loan. It sets a bad example for future partnerships that might also keep coming back for more and more money." Seattle Post-Intelligencer 11/26/02

November 25, 2002

Adrift On A Sea Of Styles It used to be that music followed some sort of stylistic order of the day. Listeners might not agree with it, but at least there was some sort of guiding aesthetic at work. Today, there's no sense of direction. "A decade of hard listening has produced little evidence of a shared culture, let alone a common trajectory. What is disorienting is the smorgasbord of opposites - past and future, tonal and atonal, control and freedom - that these and other contemporary works collectively represent." Montreal Gazette 11/23/02

Anti-Piracy Measures Futile Say Engineers A group of Microsoft software engineers has concluded that digital anti-piracy measures are ultimately futile. They presented a paper this weekend that states that "the steady spread of file-swapping systems and improvements in their organisation will eventually make them impossible to shut down. They also conclude that the gradual spread of CD and DVD burners will help thwart any attempts to control what the public can do with the music they buy." BBC 11/25/02

Met Opera Attacks Web Fan Metropolitan Opera fan John Patterson started a website called Metmaniac.com to "celebrate and annotate nearly 70 years of Metropolitan Opera broadcasts. It featured nearly complete lists of broadcasts from the 1930s to the present, but the lists were not linked to anything. It also provided a message board for opera lovers to discuss shows and buy, sell and trade tickets." But last week, the Met sent Patterson a cease-and-desist order, which shut the site down. The company claims "the name MetManiac and the contents of the site violated their trademarks and copyrights." Wired 11/22/02

Classical Music's MTV? The UK's Classic FM plans to launch a 24-hour classical music video channel. "The channel, to be launched towards the end of next month, will feature wall-to-wall video clips of prominent classical music artists and movie soundtracks. Unlike other culture-oriented TV channels, there will be no documentaries or concerts. 'The manner and style we are adopting is of pop music TV'." The Guardian (UK) 11/25/02

November 24, 2002

Messing With Wagner A new production of Wagner's Die Meistersinger has sparked angry boos. The staging, by one of Germany's most progressive directors, includes an "on-stage disruption that breaks the score at a crucial moment and leads to an additional scene of dialogue." At one point, "the music grinds to a halt, and the cast start a debate on what constitutes 'German and genuine'. If you are a Wagnerite, this is blasphemy." The Guardian (UK) 11/23/02

Lukas Foss At 80 At 80 years old, composer Lukas Foss still commutes weekly from New York to Boston to teach. "Twenty years ago we had this club, the avant garde, and that's no longer really very functional. Now any style is OK. There was a time when you had to be a `12-tone' composer to be considered Now that's not the case. Minimal, aleatoric, 12-tone, these are all just techniques." Boston Herald 11/24/02

November 22, 2002

Music - Good For Your Neurons A new medical study reports that "the same neural clusters that process the seductive pleasures of sex, chocolate and even hard drugs also fire up for music. There is also persuasive evidence that the brain tends to prune these neural circuits for maximum pleasure the way a gardener cuts unproductive branches to make a rose bush bloom. Music, it seems, may make the brain bloom best because it literally electrifies, at lightning speed, a web of nerve paths in both hemispheres of our cerebral cortex that connect the neural clusters processing musical pitch, rhythm, harmony, melody, short term memory, long term memory, and emotions." Ottawa Citizen 11/18/02

A Matter Of Quality We'd Say CD sales are down because of pirating? Oh really? Maybe the downdraft is because most of the pop music out there isn't very good. "There was a time when the release of an album was an event, and you got a lovingly prepared, carefully compiled collection of songs that contained only a couple of instances of the drummer being given his head." Nowadays? Oh puh-lease! The Times (UK) 11/22/02

Mahler's First Shot A newly immigrated music professor only a few weeks on the job in Israel, finds an important manuscript of Mahler's First Symphony. It's not the final version that made it into print, but it reveals much about the composer's thinking process in composing the work. Ha'aretz (Israel) 11/21/02

More Than Just A Building The Los Angeles Philharmonic is a firmly establisheed orchestra, but its move into the new Gehry-designed Disney Hall next season will transform its existence. "Overall in 2003-04, the Philharmonic will present almost 50% more programming than in the past. It plans nine world premieres, a season record for the orchestra. It will present two major international orchestras, and a stellar lineup of guest conductors including Pierre Boulez, Christoph von Dohnányi, Valery Gergiev and Charles Dutoit. It will unveil five new music series from Baroque concerts to jazz and world music programs, and launch partnerships with such organizations as CalArts, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Getty Research Institute." And oh, want to get in on opening ceremonies? It'll cost you as much as $5,000. Los Angeles Times 11/22/02

  • Conductor Swap The Los Angeles Philharmonic and San Francisco Symphony will trade music directors for a program each next season. SFS's Michael Tilson Thomas hasn't led the LA Phil since 1985, when he was the orchestra's principal guest conductor. The LA Phil's Essa-Pekka Salonen will be making his SFS debut. "The conductor exchange is a rare event among American orchestras, whose music directors seldom guest-conduct other orchestras in this country." San Francisco Chronicle 11/22/02

November 21, 2002

Music Giant Gets Into The Download Business Music giant Universal Music Group, the world's "largest music company and a unit of French-based Vivendi Universal," says it will make 43,000 songs it owns available for downloading over the internet. Individual songs will be "available for downloading and recording to a CD for US99 cents, and albums for $US9.99. The company said it was the first major label 'to offer music fans such a broad catalogue of music tracks for preview and purchase'." The Age (Melbourne) 11/21/02

Berlin Smells Something Rotten at Staatsoper Daniel Barenboim's Berlin Staatsoper, the group that has supported the controversial conductor through his recent forays into Middle East politics, is facing a firestorm of its own in the wake of a bizarre and over-the-top production of Shostakovich's opera The Nose. "In an obvious bid to be daring and provocative, the nose was represented as a phallus, a main character was a transvestite... the orchestra was togged out in gold jumpsuits and helmets like massed C-3POdrones from Star Wars... and half the chorus were depicted as Islamic terrorists led by a high-heeled, gun-toting Bin Laden." Critics and audiences alike were unamused. Chicago Tribune 11/21/02

Dohnanyi Sounds Off Christoph von Dohnanyi, the recently departed music director of the Cleveland Orchestra, was in Boston this week to conduct that city's orchestra for the first time since he walked out on them in 1989. As it turns out, Dohnanyi has a lot to say about the music business: he insists the walkout was no big deal; says he enjoys "some" rap music greatly; and believes that classical music will revive in the U.S. when orchestras start hiring American music directors. Boston Herald 11/21/02

Mitchell Quits the Biz Singer Joni Mitchell insists that her new album, Travelogue, will be her last. "Calling the music industry a 'corrupt cesspool', the Canadian rages that: 'I'm quitting because the business made itself so repugnant to me. Record companies are not looking for talent. They're looking for a look and a willingness to cooperate'." The Guardian (UK) 11/21/02

November 20, 2002

Historic Music Archive Sold London's Royal Philharmonic Society music archive has been sold - and it'll stay in the UK after an emergency public appeal for funds. The library includes the score for Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (commissioned by the Society) "as well as original scores by Elgar and Vaughan Williams, it holds correspondence from Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Mendelssohn, Wagner, Berlioz, and Liszt, and, perhaps most poignantly, a letter from Beethoven announcing his intention to write a 10th Symphony to honour the society - eight days before his death in 1827." The Guardian (UK) 11/19/02

Opera's Newly Broad Appeal "Opera as a subject for film peaked during the silent era, when movies were accustomed to non-stop music and a kind of melodramatic posturing that's still taken as normal on many opera stages. But there's no current shortage of film directors willing to do opera in its usual habitat, or even to write and stage new works." And we're not talking about filmed versions of La Boheme, either, but new operas written by real composers in collaboration with the directors. Maybe there's hope for the mass appeal of the high arts yet. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 11/20/02

What's To Blame? Downloading? The Economy? Bad Music? Music recording giant EMI reports sales down 3 to 6 percent for the year. "EMI held back on new releases early in the year while it reorganized, eliminated 1,900 jobs and dropped some 400 acts from its roster, including a $28 million buyout of Mariah Carey's contract in January." The New York Times 11/20/02

  • Music's Betamax Making A Comeback? "For much of its two-decade long life, the CD single has existed as the music industry's latter-day version of the Betamax tape — technologically advanced, high quality — and a commercial flop... The industry is looking to change all that. As of last week, HMV stores around the country started heavily promoting singles in their stores, encouraged, no doubt, by an industry suddenly willing to supply a product it had once been hesitant about... So why the singles pitch? The short answer is crisis, says Brian Robertson, president of CRIA, which has been studying a marked downturn in music sales. File-sharing, music downloading and home CD-burning is bleeding revenue away from the music industry at an alarming rate, he said." Toronto Star 11/20/02

Orange In The Red Throwing a major festival of new and unusual arts and music is always a dicey proposition - throwing one in an upper-crust suburban county is beyond daring. But for the last four years, the Philharmonic Society of Orange County (California) has done just that, staging Eclectic Orange, a multi-disciplinary festival of music and theater. Unfortunately, the fest lost $434,000 on the latest festival after spending millions to bring in a French equestrian troupe, and will likely have to scale back such plans for future seasons. Los Angeles Times 11/20/02

Nashville's New Concert Hall Staid, traditional American symphony orchestras from sea to shining sea have been going all modern with the architectural designs of their new concert halls. So wouldn't you just know that Nashville, America's home of country music and gaudy glitz, would spend its $120 million on an old-fashioned neoclassical concert hall for its symphony orchestra. The orchestra hopes to open the hall in 2006, and has raised more than half of the money required to build it.
The Tennessean (Nashville) 11/19/02

They May Be Broke, But They're Good The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra might be struggling under mountains of debt (the orchestra's executive director recently threatened that that bankruptcy would be a possibility if local donors didn't step up the level of their fiscal generosity) and wondering how to replace outgoing music director Mariss Jansons, but out-of-town reviews of a recent East Coast tour seem to suggest that, artistically, the PSO has never seen better times. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 11/20/02

November 19, 2002

Selling Out? "Where once pop musicians and their fans were revolted at the thought of letting beloved singles be used to sell sports cars, software or beer, today's fans are largely accepting while many musicians are eager to sign on. To some degree, this change in attitude represents a shift away from the Sixties-schooled idealism of the Baby Boomers and toward the media-savvy cynicism of Generations X and Y." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/19/02

Strategy - Overwhelming the Download Business Recording companies have been fighting downloading services, trying to discourage (or sue out of existence) those who enable downloads. Now they're getting into the downloading business themselves. The "companies continue to use their financial muscle to slow the growth of file-trading networks and to acquire digital-rights management technologies that limit what people can do with MP3s and other files." The plan? take control of the download market and shove the competition out to the curb. Wired 11/18/02

Looking For A Saviour The English National Opera, leaderless, £3 million in debt and about to be ousted from its home because of a costly renovation, is looking for someone to save it. Could that savioor be Graham Vick, one of "Britain's few real world-class opera stars and a man not afraid of working with a large heap of manure?" The Guardian (UK) 11/19/02

Don't Copy, Don't Play Recording companies tired of seeing their new releases copied and released online even before they hit stores, are tightening security. They're not sending advance copies out, and limited pre-release copies are digitally marked so they can be traced if copied. "With certain releases, the record companies are much more careful. Record reps are now booking appointments with me to play certain songs. I either have to hear it in their cars or in my office, or somewhere else private, and they won't leave behind a CD." National Post (Canada) 11/19/02

November 18, 2002

San Jose Debut San Jose's new symphony orchestra to the stage this weekend. "Symphony San Jose's success or failure will go a long way in determining the course of symphonic music in the South Bay. Some donors, patrons and musicians are still bitter over the bankruptcy of the 123-year-old orchestra. And even those most enthusiastic about the new orchestra are limiting themselves to a cautious embrace. `If this doesn't happen, it's never going to happen in San Jose ever again'.'' San Jose Mercury-News 11/17/02

Vanska In The Wings What is it about Finland and music these days? Some the best, hottest young conductors are Finnish, and they're taking oversome of the world's leading orchestras. "There must be more conductors of international class per capita in Finland than anywhere else in the world." Is Osmo Vanska, recently appointed music director of the Minnesota Orchestra, the next Finnish star? Washington Post 11/17/02

Suing Over A Lost Strad The Dallas-based Cremona Society is suing a New York violin dealer after he lost a rare 288-year-old Stradivarius violin made in what is known as Stradivari's "Golden Period." The Society had consigned the instrument to dealer Christophe Landon in February, and in April Landon reported it missing. "I do not remember putting it back into the vault," Landon said last week. He said he has tried hypnosis to jog his memory for possible clues. Nando Times (AP) 11/17/02

Salonen Stuck On Freeway - Concert Starts Anyway With L.A Philharmonic music director Essa-Pekka Salonen stuck in freeway traffic as Friday night's concert was scheduled to begin, assistant conductor Yasuo Shinozaki donned a pair of tails and stepped in to lead the concert until Salonen could get there... Los Angeles Times 11/17/02

November 17, 2002

Andre Watts Stable After Emergency Surgery Pianist Andre Watts never made it to the stage Thursday night. Watts was preparing to perform with the Pacific Symphony in Orange County, California, when he collapsed backstage and was rushed to the hospital for emergency brain surgery. The procedure went well, but Watts is expected to be out of commission for up to two months. Los Angeles Times 11/16/02

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