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September 30, 2004

Minnesota Orch To 'Play And Talk' The Minnesota Orchestra has become the latest major ensemble to extend its current musicians' contract so that negotiations may continue without a work stoppage. The contract was set to expire on October 1. In stark contrast to the acrimonious tone surrounding some other negotiations, the orchestra's president characterized the talks as "warm" and "collegial," and the musicians have agreed to "play and talk" indefinitely, rather than setting a new end date for the current contract. [Disclosure notice: ArtsJournal's assistant editor is a musician with the Minnesota Orchestra.] Minneapolis Star Tribune 10/01/04

Back In Black "The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra has undergone a remarkable turnaround from its recent financial troubles, as its board announced this week a balanced budget and an operating surplus following the 2003-2004 season. Last year, at the end of the 2002-2003 season, the symphony had a debt of more than $3 million. It has now retired that debt and recorded an operating surplus of $111,538... The symphony board also announced a commitment to restoring lost income to its staff and musicians, who took a pay cut last year to help the company regain its financial footing." CBC 09/30/04

Sacramento Symphony Bounces Checks To Musicians The newly formed Sacramento Symphony played its season premiere this past weekend, and issued paychecks to its musicians. Monday morning, the checks bounced. "Although the checks cleared on Wednesday, the situation raised questions about the financial position of the symphony and its parent organization, the Metropolitan Music Center." The MMC is reportedly operating in the red, and still owes money to a Los Angeles-based chamber orchestra from a concert in 2001. Still, the orchestra is insisting that the rubber checks were merely a banking error. Sacramento Bee 09/30/04

How About Proving That Celine Dion Causes Nausea? The Ig-Nobel Prizes were handed out this week, and the top prize went to a researcher from Auburn University in Alabama, for a groundbreaking study which proved that suicide rates among white men are demonstrably higher in areas saturated by country music. The Independent (UK) 10/01/04

Cleveland Inching Towards A Contract Despite all the fireworks coming from Philadelphia and Montreal, there are a number of major orchestras making a real effort to negotiate a new musicians' contract without a lot of public sniping. In Cleveland, where the musicians and management recently agreed to extend their current deal in order to keep negotiating without a work stoppage, both sides say that progress, while slow, is definitely being made. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 09/30/04

Virtual Cathedral Music On Computer "While great cathedrals survive majestically from the 15th century into the 21st, most of the music heard within them has slept in libraries, and would continue to do so unless kissed back to life by an unlikely mechanical prince: a MIDI synthesizer." Now some of that music not only lives but is accessible via the Web, thanks to an associate professor at Princeton University, who "has translated 50 unheard scores into an ethereal though artificial sound - completely out of personal curiosity." Philadelphia Inquirer 09/30/04

September 29, 2004

Surviving The Wagner Marathon Everyone loves a good Ring cycle, right? Well, maybe not the musicians in the orchestra pit, who have to play for 16 solid hours to get through the four Wagner operas. Wagner's music is as physically demanding as classical performance gets, and injuries are a very real concern. In Australia, where the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra is gearing up for its first Ring, organizers have gone as far as bringing in physical therapists and other specialists to assist the musicians in completing the cycle without injury. Adelaide Advertiser 09/29/04

Downloading Confusion "Rival technologies that baffle consumers will run more companies out of business in the nascent music download market than will head-to-head competition, one of the lead creators of MP3 playback technology warned Wednesday... Consumers nowadays can store thousands of songs in a pocket-sized device, play music and videos on their mobile phones and buy albums at the click of a button. But to their chagrin, a bewildering array of competing playback compression technologies and anti-piracy software options determines which songs play on which devices." Wired (Reuters) 09/29/04

Or We Could Just Keep Forcing It On Unsuspecting Audiences Art students are, as a rule, fairly well engaged with the world of contemporary art, and a serious knowledge of current masters is considered as essential as being able to distinguish between French Impressionists. So why are so few music students conversant with new music? An outspoken official at the UK's Royal Academy of Arts thinks that the answer may be that no one has ever bothered to make new music as accessible as modern art has become. A "rigorously and cruelly curated new-music festival in London, like a Biennale" might help, and while we're changing the world, why not make new-music concerts free to the public, since they never make any real money anyway? The Guardian (UK) 09/30/04

A Sudden End For Georgian Orchestra An overhaul of television in the former Soviet republic of Georgia has spelled the end of the Television and Radio Symphonic Orchestra. "As part of the reduction processes underway at the state-owned 1st Channel, the television management disbanded (the) symphonic orchestra that was formed in 1937 and basically has been recording compositions of Georgian composers and created a 'gold fund' - high quality collection of records for Georgian television and radio for the last 70 years." The Messenger (Georgia) 09/29/04

Not Innocent, But Essential: "Smile" "Schubert's 'Unfinished' Symphony, Coleridge's 'Kubla Khan,' Dickens's 'Mystery of Edwin Drood': These are all works of art left incomplete by their creators, works that have invited speculation and fantasy for years. Those with a love for American popular music would immediately add 'Smile' -- the legendary, lost Beach Boys album, begun and abandoned in the mid-1960s -- to this list. ... So what are we to think of 'Brian Wilson Presents Smile,' a new CD released yesterday?" Washington Post 09/29/04

Less Airtime For David Hasselhoff? "Germany should have quotas for the radio airtime to be dedicated to pop sung in the native language, industry officials say. They estimate only 10% of German radio's play lists is sung in German, falling way short of France, Italy and Spain's 50% native language ratio." BBC 09/29/04

September 28, 2004

The Worst-Reviewed Opera Ever (Take Two) It isn't often that a production of a Mozart opera can inspire critics to foam at the mouth, and yet, the English National Opera managed it three years ago with Claixto Bieito's mounting of Don Giovanni. "A crude, anti-musical farrago", a "coke-fuelled fellatio fest", and a "new nadir in the vulgar abuse of a masterpiece" were but a few of the barbs hurled ENO's way. So what does a company do after such a spectacular critical failure? Bring it back for an encore, apparently, and the reviews ("I should sooner poke my eyes out and sell my children into slavery than sit though it again") aren't looking any better the second time around. The Guardian (UK) 09/29/04

Who Can Save Israel's Orchestras? (The Russians Couldn't.) In the early 1990s, following the fall of the Soviet Union, Russian immigrants descended upon Israel in droves, and no industry was more affected than that of classical music. Initially greeted with skepticism, Russian musicians quickly became the backbone of the Israeli orchestral scene, and swelled the ranks of the nation's music schools as well. "The assimilation of the Russian musicians is now complete, but not for the better. Now the problem of classical music in Israel is their problem too, because the society turns its back on all musicians, and pushes them to the bottom rung of the ladder when it comes to priorities." Haaretz (Israel) 09/29/04

September 27, 2004

LA Opera Picks Conlon "James Conlon, who stepped down in June as principal conductor of the Paris Opera, was hired Monday as music director of the Los Angeles Opera starting in July 2006." Conlon succeeds Kent Nagano, whose contract runs through next spring. He will conduct as many as five productions per season, and intends to spend nearly half of each year in Los Angeles. The appointment has to be considered a major coup for L.A. Opera, which has been gaining prestige in recent years under the artistic leadership of Placido Domingo. Contra Costa Times (AP) 09/28/04

Montreal Symphony Taps Ex-Premier Former Quebec premier Lucien Bouchard has been elected the new chairman of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, succeeding Jacques Laurent. Bouchard inherits an organization in turmoil and on the verge of a musicians' strike. The MSO has been in flux since the abrupt and angry resignation of music director Charles Dutoit nearly two years ago, although the recent appointment of Kent Nagano to succeed him had led to speculation that the orchestra was beginning to regroup. CJAD 800 09/27/04

  • All About The Benjamins The ongoing conflict between the musicians and management of the Montreal Symphony is intensifying, even as both sides continue contract talks. The dispute couldn't be more basic: the musicians believe that they are grossly underpaid compared with comaprable North American orchestras, and the management insists that it simply cannot afford significant raises now or in the near future. CBC Montreal 09/27/04

Scottish Opera Chief Ready For A Fight The music had not even subsided at the gala concert opening Scottish Opera's new season last week when the company's artistic director, Sir Richard Armstrong, mounted a furious challenge to the fiscal reorganization plan being forced on the Opera by the Scottish government. "Armstrong’s words suggested that the cuts forced by the Executive will, after the initial shock, be increasingly challenged... The structural underfunding which caused the gradual descent into debt has not been addressed, although clearly the hope is that there will be some future rectification." Scotland On Sunday 09/26/04

The Musician's Steroid? Music is probably not the first profession that springs to mind when one thinks of the problem of performance-enhancing drugs. And yet, the use of an anxiety-reducing drug called Inderal to get an increasing number of classical musicians through stressful auditions and solo performances is a hot-button issue in the industry. The drug is legal, non-habit-forming, and has no serious side effects, and yet, many musicians believe that using it amounts to a kind of cheating every bit as serious as an athlete's use of steroids. The Partial Observer 09/27/04

Orchestra Bumped From Weekend By Touring Shows The Florida Orchestra is hoping that audiences in Tampa enjoy the music enough to attend concerts regardless of what night they're held. "In a risky move, the orchestra has switched all 12 of its masterworks programs during the upcoming season in Tampa from Friday to Monday night. It is an attempt to bring some consistency to the orchestra's schedule at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, where the preferred, 2,500-seat Morsani Hall isn't always available to the orchestra because the center gives priority to lucrative Broadway tours and other presentations." St. Petersburg Times 09/25/04

September 26, 2004

Watching The Music (Finally) Classical music has never really found a home in the world of home video. Aside from a brief flirtation with the laser disc (the bulky, expensive, LP-sized predecessor to the DVD), there has been almost no way to enjoy both the sights and sounds of a classical performance other than to actually attend one. But with the advent of the DVD, and advances in video transfer technology, the classical market is rapidly growing. "Sales [of classical DVDs] regularly hit 5,000 units, the standard break-even figure for classical CDs, and go as high as 40,000 worldwide." What's the attraction? Here's a hint: "Even the most expensive DVD operas cost less than sound-only, full-price CD sets." Philadelphia Inquirer 09/26/04

Trading Short-Term Debt For Long-Term "With debts mounting and its future on the line, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has drafted an unusual proposal to take out the equivalent of a 30-year mortgage on its house in order to fund new programs that it hopes will boost revenue and finance a deficit that is expected to grow to $12 million by 2008. The BSO's board has agreed in principle to sell Meyerhoff Symphony Hall to a newly created nonprofit subsidiary, which will finance the purchase by issuing as much as $30 million in tax-exempt bonds, under one scenario presented to directors. The orchestra would then lease the concert venue back from the subsidiary for an amount to be determined." Baltimore Sun 09/25/04

Tracking The Audience Nearly every American orchestra is in search of a larger core audience, and the question of where the classical music audience has gone is a subject that has filled books, magazines, and countless seminars within the industry. "No one-size-fits-all answer to the dilemma exists, but orchestras around the nation are trying different approaches - and some of them seem to be working." The American Symphony Orchestra League has been studying the marketing techniques that work, and the ones that don't, in an effort to provide its members with a concise and (dare we say?) simple strategy for getting butts in the seats. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 09/26/04

Three's Company An American music director is increasingly expected to be all things to all people, and when a major orchestra loses one of the good ones, as the Pittsburgh Symphony unquestionably has with the departure of Mariss Jansons, it can be difficult to know what course to follow next. That's why the PSO's decision to hire three well-regarded conductors to handle the various duties with which a music director would ordinarily be saddled is "a refreshingly honest response to difficult and conflicting realities," says Mark Kanny. "Here is a trio that has the potential to excel in a broad range of repertoire few other orchestras will be able to match." Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 09/26/04

  • Previously: In Need Of A Conductor, Pittsburgh Hires Three The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, in the early stages of its search to replace departed music director Mariss Jansons, will fill the leadership void with a triumvirate of conductors in supporting roles. Sir Andrew Davis will take the title of Artistic Advisor, and will program most of the orchestra's concerts. Yan Pascal Tortelier will become principal guest conductor. And Marek Janowski will be a guest conductor with a specially endowed chair. The arrangement is already being compared with the innovative (and controversial) leadership model adopted last year by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 09/22/04

La Scala Alleging Dirty Tricks in Muti Flap The war of words between Milan's La Scala and London's Royal Opera House ratcheted up considerably over the weekend, with La Scala releasing a raft of correspondence which, it claims, show that conductor Riccardo Muti was not out of line in withdrawing from an ROH production. Meanwhile, the London house has announced that Antonio Pappano has agreed to cancel several U.S. engagements to replace Muti on the podium. The Independent (UK) 09/26/04

  • Previously: Muti Quits Touring Production Conductor Riccardo Muti has withdrawn from a touring La Scala production of La Forza del Destino set for London's Royal Opera House, in a dispute over, of all things, scenery. The argument centers on several small chunks of wall used in the Milan production, which the ROH had deemed too large for its stage. After several weeks of argument, Muti had had enough, and abruptly quit the project. The Independent (UK) 09/24/04

Silk Road's Next Stage "Over the last four years the Silk Road Project has brought traditional music from distant countries and cultures -- from countries along the old trade route between Italy and China -- to Western audiences, performed by masters of ancient arts, instruments, and vocal techniques and by a floating ensemble of freelance virtuosos on Western instruments." Now, a new series of workshops aims to "take the project to the next level by bringing a new generation of performers and composers into the process." Boston Globe 09/26/04

Downloading Music Without Context Is digital music distribution threatening the complex history of jazz? That might be overstating it a bit, but it is a fact that the new generation of digital downloads, portable MP3 players, and track-by-track purchasing habits is creating a musical universe nearly devoid of context, which could be seen as antithetical to complex forms such as jazz and classical music. "Millions of young listeners are buying music that is sold without liner notes, correct recording dates and session information. Even the musicians' names are often removed from their performances... The information that has been removed from jazz albums can still be replaced. But consumers probably will have to demand it first." Newsday (NY) 09/26/04

Come For The Buzz, But Stay For The Quality San Jose's beautiful new California Theatre has been generating plenty of excitement in Silicon Valley and beyond. But a full house is dependant on much more than buzz, and for the California to be a success in the long run, it will be necessary for it to mount consistently high-quality presentations. That's asking a lot of a city which recently saw its symphony replaced with a decidedly part-time ensemble, and which features an opera company which is still just beginning to come into its own. San Jose Mercury News 09/26/04

The Next Great Tenor, Part CLXVI Whatever one may think of the Three Tenors phenomenon, there is no doubt that Messrs. Pavarotti, Domingo, and Carreras significantly upped the popular interest in opera. Now, the 'next great superstar tenor' has been anointed, and he is Juan Diego Florez, "described by Pavarotti as the singer who could replace him." Florez, like so many other great tenors of the new breed, has built his reputation on substance rather than flash and dash. But will the allure of superstardom prove too strong to resist? The Guardian (UK) 09/25/04

Warming Up For The Cliburn This year's jury has been named and the rules have been set in the runup to the 12th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas. "This time, the competition will present only two categories of medals. Up to four medals will be awarded, in any combination of gold and silver. Both gold and silver medals will carry $20,000 cash awards, concert management for three years and a compact disc recording on the Harmonia Mundi label." Another change will require the finalists to perform a 50-minute solo recital in addition to playing concertos with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. Dallas Morning News 09/25/04

Is "Austin City Limits" Too Successful? "Austin City Limits" used to be the name of a nice, genteel little television program presenting live music to a Texas-based studio audience. But these days, ACL is an institution, and a wildly successful festival that is rapidly outgrowing its capacity. "ACL got huge in just three years, and the growing pains are obvious. Last Saturday, when the attendance passed 75,000, ACL felt like rush hour in a subway station with people walking in all directions, cellphones pressed to their ears, oblivious to the music... Monstrous crowds may generate excitement and boost the local economy, but they can just as easily turn a festival into one big drag." Dallas Morning News 09/24/04

September 24, 2004

Dumbing Down, Or Just Sparing The Audience? It would be easy to blast the Toronto Symphony for its decision to segregate all the new music it will play this year into a few specialty concerts, rather than to intersperse it within its programming of classical warhorses. But "suppose the mainstream classical audience and the new music audience just aren't the same people. Then new music might do better by itself, where it could draw the audience that wanted it... Does anyone actually know how many people in the orchestra audience like to hear new music? Some orchestra professionals I know, perhaps with better data than I have, think the number is very, very small." Sandow (AJ Blogs) 09/24/04

Build Me An Opera! You've Got Five Minutes. "Writing a full-length opera for a major company is like running for president: Blow it and you'll never get a second chance." As a result, many composers are understandably cautious about even approaching the form, and many opera companies that want to put on new works can't find anyone willing to write them. But a program at Toronto's Tapestry New Opera Works has been churning out new material for a decade, although admittedly in five to ten-minute chunks. The composer-librettist labs, in which participants must create a new short operatic work every day, are designed "to discover as quickly and cheaply as possible who is cut out to make operas and who isn't." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/24/04

Making Sacrifices To Keep The Music In The Black The Houston Symphony is trimming expenses, cutting concerts, and delaying auditions for two key positions in an effort to exceed budget goals for the current season. With ticket sales soft, the orchestra decided to cancel planned performances of Beethoven opera set for next March, and is also postponing a recording of a Beethoven symphony. Three other recordings will go ahead as scheduled. Houston Chronicle 09/24/04

September 23, 2004

Montreal Musicians Authorize Strike The musicians of the Montreal Symphony have authorized their negotiating committee to call a strike at any time if a new contract is not agreed to soon. The MSO players have been working without a deal for more than a year, and their pay scale is currently 34th among North American orchestras, despite being recognized as one of the world's elite orchestras. In response to the strike authorization, the MSO management issued a statement blasting the musicians for their rigidity and refusal to accept fiscal realities. CNW Telbec (Canada) 09/23/04

Muti Quits Touring Production Conductor Riccardo Muti has withdrawn from a touring La Scala production of La Forza del Destino set for London's Royal Opera House, in a dispute over, of all things, scenery. The argument centers on several small chunks of wall used in the Milan production, which the ROH had deemed too large for its stage. After several weeks of argument, Muti had had enough, and abruptly quit the project. The Independent (UK) 09/24/04

Those Who Can't Play, Listen Actor Stephen Fry was never much good with a musical instrument in his youth. "At school, one of my greatest regrets was my inability to produce any two notes, in order, that could be said to resemble a tune. One note? Fine, I could produce one note with the best of them, possibly not a very nice note, admittedly, but nevertheless, a note all the same. It was only when I had to produce two or more notes, in succession, in tune, that I had any problems." Still, Fry's inability to play music never inhibited his love of the classical form, and his new book on the subject of listening to the stuff is a true labor of love. The Guardian (UK) 09/24/04

Ambitious Minds Shape Daring Canadian Opera "It was just over a decade ago at the Edinburgh Festival that the Canadian Opera Company mounted a radically new production of 'Bluebeard's Castle/Erwartung' that has since emblemized the next life of the COC. And as the $181-million Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts continues to rise as Canada's first purpose-built opera house at that prime (Toronto) corner, some part of its foundation can be said to have been laid by the international breakthrough the company achieved overseas." The Globe and Mail (Canada) 09/23/04

Nagano To Leave L.A. Opera "Kent Nagano has announced that he will step down as Los Angeles Opera music director in June 2006, when his current contract expires, and the same year in which he will assume music directorships of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich and of the Montreal Symphony." Gramophone 09/23/04

Anti-Semitism In A Prague Choir? "Charges of anti-Semitism have rocked Prague's cultural elite following allegations that the head of the philharmonic choir has pursued a vendetta against a tenor with Jewish roots. But it is far from clear whether the nature of the conflict between the choir director, Petr Danek, and the tenor, Michal Forst, is based more on personal animosity than on actual anti-Semitic slurs and behavior." The Prague Post 09/23/04

The Hollywood Cliche, Opera-Style On Saturday, when Finnish soprano Karita Mattila was too ill to sing the role of Donna Anna in the Lyric Opera's "Don Giovanni," her 28-year-old understudy, Erin Wall, gave a performance opposite Bryn Terfel that has vaulted her into an elite circle of young opera singers. Chicago Tribune 09/23/04

September 22, 2004

Speaking Up For The Truly Underpaid Orchestras The orchestra world is obsessed with wondering whether musicians in some of the top U.S. orchestras will be forced to accept wage reductions this fall. But times are tough throughout the industry, and Drew McManus wonders why no one seems to care about the musicians who really can't afford the cuts. "It’s those [smaller] ensembles that employ the majority of professional orchestra musicians and bring classical music to that largest segment of the population. If those musicians begin to slip below the waterline of financial sustenance, they’ll need to find a life preserver of non-performance income just to keep from drowning. And if we see that come to pass then it’s a sure sign that the industry is devouring itself from the inside out." Adaptistration (AJ Blogs) 09/22/04

Edmonton Posts Another Surplus Only two years removed from a CAN$1 million deficit and a monthlong musicians' strike, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra has posted its second straight surplus. The ESO also reported a 9% uptick in subscription sales, and announced a new three-year agreement with its musicians, which includes an 8% salary increase over the life of the deal. CJAD Radio 800 (CP) 09/22/04

Making Contemporary Classical An Optional Side Dish Under its new music director, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is about to abandon, at least temporarily, one of the more persistent beliefs guiding orchestral programming: that audiences will embrace contemporary music if only they are taught to understand it. "After this week's concerts, during which the orchestra will play a short new piece by Canadian composer Matthew Whittall, the old and the new will be kept well apart from each other." The Globe and Mail (Canada) 09/22/04

CRIA Gets A New President After two years of searching, the Canadian Recording Industry Association has found its new president. "Graham Henderson, an entertainment-industry lawyer, who was managing Universal Music Canada's digital-music business and helped to launch the on-line music service Puretracks, will assume the top job at CRIA on Nov. 15." The Globe and Mail (Canada) 09/22/04

September 21, 2004

In Need Of A Conductor, Pittsburgh Hires Three The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, in the early stages of its search to replace departed music director Mariss Jansons, will fill the leadership void with a triumvirate of conductors in supporting roles. Sir Andrew Davis will take the title of Artistic Advisor, and will program most of the orchestra's concerts. Yan Pascal Tortelier will become principal guest conductor. And Marek Janowski will be a guest conductor with a specially endowed chair. The arrangement is already being compared with the innovative (and controversial) leadership model adopted last year by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 09/22/04

The Australian Orchestral Crisis Australian orchestras are mounting a major push for increased government support in the face of overwhelming deficits and draconian budget cuts, but so far, their efforts are finding few sympathetic ears. A new report commissioned by the government may help in the long run, but the situation for many orchestras is growing worse by the day. Sydney Morning Herald 09/22/04

Playing Musical Chairs (The Grown-Up Kind) "The competition began with 56 cellists. After two days, the field narrowed to 15. A day later, there were five. On the fourth day, there are just two." All were vying for a single opening in the Minnesota Orchestra. St. Paul Pioneer Press 09/21/04

Accessible? How 'Bout Your Place? A new program is offering live music for fans who can't leave the house: The players will come to their homes. "A total of 1,500 musicians from 30 orchestras are taking part in the Musicians on Call scheme, including members of the London Symphony Orchestra and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic." BBC 09/21/04

At Major Orchestras, Talks Keep Strikes At Bay "By extending its contract negotiations, the Philadelphia Orchestra has joined three other top American orchestras working on borrowed time, all four struggling to navigate issues in an economy less generous to nonprofit organizations and less conducive to growing endowments." Philadelphia Inquirer 09/21/04

Phil Orch Musicians' Novel Strategy: Dialogue With Board Seeking to avoid a strike, the players of the Philadelphia Orchestra tried an unusual but seemingly effective tactic. "Convinced that management's negotiating committee had no real authority to change the parameters of the deal, orchestra musicians wisely cut out the middlemen and -women and went directly for those who hold the orchestra's pocketbook: the board." Philadelphia Inquirer 09/21/04

  • Previously: Phil Orch Extends Contract After a weekend of ominous noises from both sides, the musicians and management of the Philadelphia Orchestra have followed the lead of several other U.S. orchestras, extending their contract for 30 days in order to avert a strike. Both sides have also agreed to a media blackout, which would be a marked change from the nearly continuous potshots that flew back and forth over the summer. Philadelphia Inquirer 09/20/04
September 20, 2004

And Musicians Get What Percentage, Again? So much for the recording industry's claims that the culture of digital music would be the end of its profit margins. "Apple Computer, the dominant legal download business in Europe and the US, retains just 4 cents from each 99-cent track sale while 'mechanical copyright' holders - generally the record labels, who own copyright in the song's recording - take 62 cents or more. Music publishers take the rest - about 8 cents. With the sites, the copyright owners have doubled their share of royalties, even though the marginal cost of manufacturing has fallen to almost zero." The Independent (UK) 09/21/04

eMusic To Focus On Indies eMusic, one of the oldest legal music download sites (it was founded in 1999,) is launching a redesign this week, and with it, a revised definition of its mission. Lagging well behind the subscriber numbers of downloading juggernauts RealNetworks, AOL, and MusicMatch, eMusic has decided to focus on the grossly underserved independent music market. The new eMusic catalog will offer 500,000 tracks from 3,700 indie labels, and will give the small-timers front page treatment. "The aim is to help fans locate the small, the obscure and the eccentric; help musicians find their fans; and grab a chunk of the more than $2 billion in revenues generated annually by independent music labels." The New York Times 09/20/04

Fighting Over The Money Pool The San Antonio Symphony's strategy of bypassing the city's arts board and lobbying City Council directly for funding appears to have paid off, as the SAS was awarded a $400,000 allocation last week. "But other cultural arts groups were left looking for answers — and more money. None of those 30 agencies received as much money from the city as they had requested, and some felt slighted by a council willing to break the rules for a high-profile, politically connected organization." San Antonio Express-News 09/20/04

And You Thought Job Interviews Were Tough? Last fall, 56 of the finest cellists in the U.S. descended on Minneapolis to audition for a single open position in the Minnesota Orchestra. Some would flame out on the first phrase they attempted, while others would cloak their nervousness behind a veneer of professional calm perfected at countless other such tryouts. They would have less than ten minutes each to show what they could do... St. Paul Pioneer Press 09/20/04

Phil Orch Extends Contract After a weekend of ominous noises from both sides, the musicians and management of the Philadelphia Orchestra have followed the lead of several other U.S. orchestras, extending their contract for 30 days in order to avert a strike. Both sides have also agreed to a media blackout, which would be a marked change from the nearly continuous potshots that flew back and forth over the summer. Philadelphia Inquirer 09/20/04

  • Previously: Philly Players Authorize Strike Following a week of increasingly public recriminations between musicians and management, the Philadelphia Orchestra has voted to authorize a strike if an agreement is not reached by midnight Monday. Musicians' representatives walked out of a bargaining session on Friday, citing management's unwillingness to budge from a proposed list of cuts to the musicians' salaries and benefits. The orchestra has a history of acrimonious negotiations, and was last on strike for 64 days in 1996. Philadelphia Inquirer 09/19/04
September 19, 2004

They Can't Be New The classical music industry is awash in reissues these days, with the aim of marketing to the nostalgia of an aging audience that can still remember learning a Brahms symphony at the business end of a phonograph. But all the remastered CDs in the world can't replicate the enjoyment those old records brought, writes Bernard Holland, and it's not the snap, crackle, and pop of analog recordings that's missing, either. "We still love the Schubert symphonies, perhaps more than ever, but the excitement, the stabs of discovery, have modulated into a broader, slowly rising plane of experience, drawing on the many recordings and concerts heard since, and with a lot more room for thought." The New York Times 09/19/04

Chicago Lyric At 50 Lyric Opera of Chicago turns 50 this year, and stands as one of the world's most successful companies, and as one of Chicago's most enduring arts institutions. When Lyric began presenting opera in 1954, Chicago had been without opera for eight years, and had never been host to a company of national stature. But a combination of good timing, top-notch staff, and high demand catapulted the company to national prominence almost immediately, and it's been in the spotlight ever since. Chicago Sun-Times 09/19/04

Philly Players Authorize Strike Following a week of increasingly public recriminations between musicians and management, the Philadelphia Orchestra has voted to authorize a strike if an agreement is not reached by midnight Monday. Musicians' representatives walked out of a bargaining session on Friday, citing management's unwillingness to budge from a proposed list of cuts to the musicians' salaries and benefits. The orchestra has a history of acrimonious negotiations, and was last on strike for 64 days in 1996. Philadelphia Inquirer 09/19/04

  • Why Not Play And Talk? A strike by the Philadelphia Orchestra could cripple the organization and severely hurt other Center City businesses. Moreover, a work stoppage seems purely unnecessary, given the other options available. "Neither side need surrender - simply stay at the table and hammer out what they both say they want: a financially responsible future that preserves the artistic integrity of one of the world's most beloved institutions... But management cannot expect players to absorb a combination of new rules, pay and benefit changes... without putting something beyond job guarantees on the table. These people aren't making widgets... They deserve more respect." Philadelphia Inquirer 09/18/04

  • Is Montreal Next? The musicians of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra have been playing without a contract for over a year, and have announced that they will skip the first two rehearsals of the season in protest of the lack of progress in negotiations. The action, which will not cancel any concerts, has led to speculation that a strike may be looming if an agreement is not reached soon. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/18/04

Apple Ignores Indies Apple's wildly successful iTunes service, from which consumers can download music cheaply and legally, is still the industry standard, despite ever-increasing competition. But Apple has yet to make available the music of a raft of independent record labels based in Europe, despite having signed licensing agreements with them. Since much of the most popular music in Europe and the UK is property of such labels, this is a major problem for music fans, but Apple seems to feel little sense of urgency about making the tracks avalable. The Guardian (UK) 09/18/04

COC Opens With Atwood The Canadian Opera Company has never before opened its season with a contemporary work, but that changes this week, with the Canadian premiere of Poul Ruders's The Handmaid's Tale, based on the darkly horrifying novel by Margaret Atwood. Canadians love seeing art made by other Canadians, of course, but Handmaid, full of violence, rape, and the unceasing degradation of an entire nation of women, is quite a gamble. The production won raves in Copenhagen, but was roundly panned in London. The COC has gone out of its way to insure that Toronto audiences will embrace the show. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/18/04

  • From Page To Stage "When an opera company produces something by Verdi or Puccini, there isn't quite the excitement of staging something based on the work of your own most celebrated living novelist. Subscriptions are on the rise, and single tickets are hard to come by. This could mean Atwood is the greatest marketing opportunity Bradshaw and the COC have ever had." Still, the story, which sees the U.S. replaced by a brutal theocracy, is hard to take in print, let alone on stage, and Atwood has always had reservations about allowing her work to be adapted in any way. Toronto Star 09/18/04

America's Most Secure Opera Company (No, It's Not The Met) By current classical music standards, the Lyric Opera of Chicago is a wildly successful operation, selling 98% of its seats and projecting a surplus of $700,000 for the current season. The enviable culture of philanthropy in Chicago helps, as does the city's huge population and the willingness of certain patrons to pony up $12,500 for a ticket to this weekend's season-opening gala. In an era when serious opera is becoming a luxury unavailable to denizens of most U.S. cities, the Lyric is the shining example of how to build a serious company outside of New York. Financial Times 09/17/04

September 17, 2004

Which Website Wins? Websites are an easy and (usually) cost-effective way of promoting symphony orchestras, which got AJ blogger Drew McManus wondering which American orchestra website was the best. He looked at a lot of them - 70, in fact - and he has declared a winner... Adaptistration (AJBlogs) 09/17/04

September 16, 2004

Atlanta Symphony's Gains The Atlanta Symphony closed out its fiscal year with some progress: "A balanced $28 million budget. Increased ticket sales. A 23 percent rise in annual-fund contributions. An 18-month wage freeze for musicians and staff." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 09/16/04

Philadelphia Orchestra, Musicians Far Apart On Contract The Philadelphia orchestra and its musicians appear to be very far apart in their negotiations for a new contract. Under the orchestra's latest proposal, "Philadelphia players would not achieve their goal of keeping pace with colleagues in the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Philadelphia players are making a minimum of $105,040 in the contract about to end, while the Boston musicians' minimum salary will reach $108,160 in the season about to start, and $112,840 in 2005-06." Philadelphia Inquirer 09/16/04

September 15, 2004

Renegotiating The (Major) Orchestra Contract "It is contract negotiation time at some of the nation's most important orchestras, when the world's most exquisitely trained musicians go into hard-hat mode and artistic administrations act like cost-cutting bosses. But this year is unlike any other. In an extraordinary alignment of the stars, four of the so-called Big Five orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, coincidentally have multiyear contracts expiring now, precisely at a moment of serious economic hardship." The New York Times 09/16/04

Philadelphia Orchestra Contract - More Than Money The Philadelphia Orchestra and its musicians are locked in new contract talks, and of course money is an issue. "But on another level, more enduring than money, these talks and other forces at play seek a change in orchestra culture that would alter how musicians view themselves as employees. For the music-listening public, and the extent to which the orchestra is perceived as a responsible cultural citizen, the results could be profound." Philadelphia Inquirer 09/15/04

September 14, 2004

High-Level Churn At The Baltimore Symphony Yuri Temirkanov's departure from the Baltimore Symphony is only the latest leaving by senior leadership. "When some of the most seasoned and effective employees left, the blithe word from on high was, 'No one is irreplaceable.' Management expressed no concern for the drain in institutional memory or community and patron connections that those resignations signified. Losing Temirkanov, whose guidance has generated a higher technical level and remarkably communicative spirit within the orchestra, may likewise be shrugged off as an inevitable, not-to-worry development. But only those who have never truly recognized what this conductor had to offer could be feeling blase today." Baltimore Sun 09/14/04

The Endangered Instruments UK youth orchestras have a record number of auditionees. But there's a big shortage of players for some instruments - the bassoon, oboe, double bass, viola, harp, trombone and tuba. Youth Music have recently called these instruments “endangered species” The Scotsman 09/15/04

Sample Ruling - The Big Chill Last week's court ruling requiring artists to get licenses for clips they sample could have a big chilling effect on creativity. "In the long run, this will lead to mediocrity in the music. People may say, `Well, why is [Sean "P. Diddy" Combs] just sampling Rick James, that's not very creative.' But if you sit down and talk to him, he'll break it down that he could have done more creative stuff -- a Rick James riff, a James Brown beat -- but it would have cost him an arm and a leg." Boston Globe 09/14/04

The Classical Decline Tom Strini enumerates the decline of the classical music business and wonders if classical music will "regain the standing it had in society in the first half of the 20th century?" He concludes: "No. Classical music and new music rising from that tradition will remain marginal. We can take comfort in the fact that almost every cultural commodity is marginal these days - marginality is a matter of degree." Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 09/11/04

September 13, 2004

In Pittsburgh - The 95 Percent Solution The Pittsburgh Symphony finished this past season with its budget balanced. But its ability to do that in the future will depend in part on new contracts negotiated this year at Big Five orchestras. As of next season, Pittsburgh musicians are guaranteed a contract tied to 95 percent of the average wage paid at Big Five orchestras. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 09/13/04

Curtis Institute Expands Search For New Leader The prestigious Curtis Institute is widening its search for a new director to include orchestra managers, arts presenters, and a wider swath of school administrators. "Previously, the elite music conservatory had been looking for a leader who was both a strong administrator and a musician with a major performing career - someone in the mold of current Curtis director-president Gary Graffman." Philadelphia Inquirer 09/13/04

Classical Merger - What Does Recording Merger Mean? What is to become of the classical operations of Bertelsman and Sony, which have announced they're merging. "The vaults of each company hold a priceless trove of master tapes that document the work of many of the greatest musicians of the last century. More broadly, these recordings offer an overview of American musical life through the late 1970's, when both companies began to lose interest in recording the top American orchestras, and European labels like Decca and Deutsche Grammophon moved in to take up the cause." The New York Times 09/14/04

Helping Musicians, The Uchida Way Pianist Mitsuko Uchida doesn't believe in competitions. But she has a foundation to help musicians. "I don't teach because I hated being a student myself." So how does she get involved in a practical way? "Well, I make music with them, of course! Isn't that the only way to learn? When I really like a young player, I invite him or her to rehearse with me, and then maybe if things go well, we give a little concert somewhere not too important." The Telegraph (UK) 09/14/04

Hip-hop Goes To Church Music has always played a role in church. But hip-hop hasn't penetrated much. Still, "from the church side, a growing number of ministries are adopting both the rhythms and the bluntness of hip-hop culture." In the New York area alone, at least 150 churches or ministries use hip-hop in some form. These include many storefront churches or campus ministries." The New York Times 09/13/04

Pittsburgh Symphony: On Our Own The Pittsburgh Symphony is without a music director this season. "Most significant will be how the orchestra fares as it steps out on its own for the first time since Mariss Jansons arrived seven years ago. This is not the first time the PSO has been without an active music director. It happened from 1948 to 1952, when Fritz Reiner left for the Chicago Symphony, from 1984 to 1987 after Andre Previn departed and in the 1996-97 season before Jansons arrived. In each of these cases, the PSO survived, and even benefited from the exposure to new conductors." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 09/12/04

St. Paul Chamber Orchestra Gets A Home For the first time in its history, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra has a home of its own. "The center is a symbol of transformation for an orchestra that, in a labor agreement last year, handed more power to its musicians and replaced the position of artistic director with a diverse field of artistic partners." St. Paul Pioneer-Press 09/12/04

September 12, 2004

Australia's First "Ring" The first-ever full Australian production of Wagner's Ring cycle is being mounted by Adelaide's State Opera South Australia... The Age (Melbourne) 09/13/04

Who's In Line To Lead The Dallas Symphony... Who will succeed Andrew Litton as music director of the Dallas Symphony? "One thing's clear: The field is wide open. At least at this point, there's no leading contender." So here's a list of the possibilities... Dallas Morning News 09/12/04

A Phoenix In St. Louis It was only four years ago that the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra faced the very real prospect of bankruptcy, with the best-case scenario seeming to be a drastic cutback in the ensemble's artistic quality and national profile. And yet, as the SLSO prepares for its 125th season this fall, it has raised $80 million for its endowment, appointed a new high-profile music director (David Robertson) to replace the late Hans Vonk, and generally sent out word that it is as viable an organization as any in the U.S. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 09/11/04

Change Coming In Detroit, But Don't Hold Your Breath "Neeme Jarvi says his impending exit as music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra wasn’t strictly his idea. He also declares he’d be happy to spend several weeks a year with the DSO while a search committee headed by Anne Parsons, the orchestra’s new executive director, looks for his successor. With Jarvi starting his final season at the artistic helm and Parsons just settling in, the landscape around the DSO might appear to be shifting. But don’t expect sudden upheaval." Detroit News 09/11/04

Temirkanov To Leave Baltimore Yuri Temirkanov has announced that he will step down as music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at the end of the 2005-06 season. "He left his imprint on the BSO early during his tenure, replacing several principal players, including the pivotal position of concertmaster, with musicians who greatly enhanced the ensemble's overall tone... Temirkanov has been on a year-to-year contract since his initial three-year contract with the BSO expired at the end of the 2002-2003 season." Baltimore Sun 09/11/04

Subtracting The Superstars It's opening week for many American orchestras, and a new trend is emerging in response to the years of deficits plaguing so many ensembles: less star power, more homegrown talent. Research shows that a vast majority of the modern orchestra audience decides whether to attend a concert based on what's being played, not on who's playing it, so it hardly makes fiscal sense to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a big-name soloist who will only marginally increase the gate. In Minnesota, both of the Twin Cities' major orchestras have bought into the idea of showcasing the ensemble rather than some traveling star, and the upcoming season will be an acid test of the attendance theory. Minneapolis Star Tribune 09/12/04

Lucerne's Glory If the BBC Proms are the People's Choice Awards of orchestra festivals, then the Lucerne Festival must surely be the Oscars. Presented in one of the finest modern concert halls in the world and featuring a lineup that most critics would agree amounts to the very best orchestras the world has to offer (Cleveland, Concertgebouw, Vienna, etc.), Lucerne has risen in recent years to become the festival for people who are serious about music. More than that, though, the festival has boosted the profile of the city, and now, the fest's director has built a unique orchestra just for Lucerne, "drawing together outstanding orchestral musicians and soloists... from across the European continent." Toronto Star 09/11/04

Behind The Fraud, Some Very Nice Instruments The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra opens its season after a summer of turmoil surrounding the ensemble's purchase of millions of dollars of possibly overvalued instruments from now-imprisoned financier Herbert Axelrod. And while the controversy is far from over, James Oestreich says that it's nice to see the music once again taking center stage in Newark. "Whatever the collection may be worth beyond the smoke and mirrors of expert appraisals, no one questions that these are marvelous instruments and a boon to the orchestra." The New York Times 09/11/04

  • Previously: Did Axelrod Sell NJ Symphony Fakes? Five of the 30 rare violins sold by Herbert Axelrod last year to the New Jersey Symphony might not be what he purported them to be, suggests an investigation. "They are old instruments, certainly, dating at least to the 19th century. But, the experts say, it is likely they were crafted by someone other than the famed violin-makers to whom they are attributed. In short, the experts say, they are probably fakes, worth a fraction of their appraised value." Newark Star-Ledger 08/01/04
September 10, 2004

Schwarz's Troubled Tenure At The Seattle Symphony Gerard Schwarz has been music director of the Seattle Symphony for 20 years. But his hold on the orchestra has been troubled in recent seasons. "The reasons are many and complex, including increasing conflicts between influential members of the symphony's board of trustees and Schwarz over artistic and administrative policies and doubts about his future value as music director..." Seattle Post-Intelligencer 09/10/04

Grokking The Club Talkers Why do some people go to clubs to listen to music, then spend the performance talking away? "Talkers embody the raw Darwinism of popular music. The harshest public trial for any unknown musician occurs on the night she opens for somebody else, to an entire room full of people prepared to ignore her. She's got to compel someone to listen or the jungle will close over her." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/10/04

September 9, 2004

Riding The Internet To Musical Fame "While the recording business litigates and lobbies over music being given away online, countless musicians are taking advantage of the Internet to get their music heard. They are betting that if they give away a song or two, they will build audiences, promote live shows and sell more recordings." The New York Times 09/10/04

Low Pay Threatens UK Orchestras UK orchestras are endangered because musicians are woefully paid, says a new study. "The average rank and file orchestral musician has been in the job for 21 years and earns £22,500 a year, a Musicians Union survey has found. That is half the average salary of their professional siblings, it says." BBC 09/09/04

Tanglewood Attendance Slips Attendance at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, fell by 11% this year, with BSO staff blaming the decline on lousy weather and a cutback in the number of free tickets available. It was an unusually rainy summer in the Berkshires - 20 rain days in July, and 22 in August - which can directly affect Tanglewood concerts, since many patrons sit outdoors, and even the main Shed, which is covered, has no walls to insulate concertgoers from the rain. Still, more than 320,000 people attended a concert at the famous venue over the ten weeks of the festival. Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield, MA) 09/09/04

Barenboim To Miss CSO Season Opener Conductor Daniel Barenboim will miss the opening of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's new season after doctors advised him not to travel from his home in Berlin. Barenboim is being treated for several herniated discs in his back. Sir Andrew Davis, of the Chicago Lyric Opera, will lead the CSO this weekend in Barenboim's stead. So far, the orchestra expects Barenboim to return for his scheduled concerts later in the month, but isn't making any guarantees. Chicago Sun-Times 09/09/04

Court: Sampling is Stealing "A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that rap artists should pay for every musical sample included in their work — even minor, unrecognizable snippets of music." Other courts had already ruled that recognizable "samples" of another artist's work required payment, but the new ruling would make even the appropriation of a single note a matter requiring permission and payment. Some in the hip-hop industry are aghast... Wired (AP) 09/08/04

September 8, 2004

Gramophone Finalists Finalists for the Gramophone Recording of the Year have been announced... Gramophone 09/07/04

Hush Hush: Classical Musicians And Hearing Loss "An often-cited study by Canadian audiologist Marshall Chasin measured hearing loss among rock musicians and found that about 30 percent were afflicted in some way. Among their classical music counterparts, the figure was 43 percent. Yet while noise-induced hearing impairment is a well-known issue in the rock world, long highlighted in educational campaigns featuring The Who's Pete Townshend and rapper Missy Elliott, the discomfort from loudness suffered by classical musicians is generally kept hush-hush." Chicago Tribune 09/08/04

Kansas City Symphony Hires Music Director The Kansas City Symphony has hired 44-year-old Michael Stern as its new music director. "Until recently, he was chief conductor of the Saarbruecken Radio Symphony in Germany." Kansas City Star 09/08/04

Christiansen: Scottish Opera's "Insane Ambition" Rupert Christiansen is unsympathetic to the plight of Scottish Opera. "Despite a decidedly dodgy balance sheet and the failure to secure a future for its chorus, the management continues to programme at an almost insanely ambitious level. Over the coming year, Scottish Opera must take a new route, under new artistic leadership. The company has been ill served by the Scottish Arts Council, but it should also take responsibility for its own arrogance and misjudgments." The Telegraph (UK) 09/08/04

Americans Take Banff Americans dominated at this year's 8th Banff International String Quartet Competition. "In music, as in the visual arts, European pre-eminence can no longer be taken for granted, in part because of the superior educational opportunities afforded on this side of the Atlantic." Toronto Star 09/08/04

September 7, 2004

Court: Rappers Must Pay For Samples "An American federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that rap artists should pay for every musical sample included in their work — even minor, unrecognizable snippets of music. Lower courts had already ruled that artists must pay when they sample another artists' work. But it has been legal to use musical snippets — a note here, a chord there — as long as it wasn't identifiable." Yahoo! (AP) 09/07/04

The Recognition Is Great, But... Competitions for composers are a difficult thing. How do you declare a "best" piece? Based on what? On the other hand, winning competitions is the only way many composers can get recognition for their work... NewMusicBox 09/04

Disney Could Lose Mickey Mouse In South Africa If Disney loses a case in South Africa contesting rights to the song The Lion Sleeps Tonight it might have to give up numerous trademarks in South Africa."Relatives of the song's original composer, Solomon Linda, say they are entitled to $1.6m in royalties from the track, used in The Lion King. If Disney loses the case, it may have to sell over 240 trademarks, including Mickey Mouse, to pay the family." BBC 09/07/04

Chicago Jazz Chooses Faddis "In a bold move, the Chicago Jazz Ensemble -- one of the nation's leading jazz repertory bands -- is expected to engage the brilliant trumpeter and widely admired bandleader Jon Faddis as its artistic director, replacing the late CJE founder William Russo." Chicago Tribune 09/07/04

September 6, 2004

A Dallas Concert Hall Turns 15 Dallas' primary concert hall turns 15. "After a decade and a half, the Meyerson definitely doesn't squeak like a mouse. Acoustically, it is the best hall of its generation, with a sound as sumptuous as warm brandy and a silk jacket. Architecturally, it remains a mixed bag, a good example of Mr. Pei's elegant classical modernism but also aloof and somewhat intimidating, a piece of sculpture meant to be admired rather than embraced. Promises of hefty economic benefits – the association predicted that the new hall would generate at least $25 million in new tax revenue and 500 housing units – proved delusional." Dallas Morning News 09/05/04

  • Cantrell: A Fabulous Hall It takes a pretty good hall to impress a critic over many years, but Scott Cantrell likes Dallas' Meyerson: "Fifteen years on, and with the experience of a lot of concert halls around the world, the Meyerson is still my favorite modern symphony hall and one of my favorites of any period. It's not a perfect hall – there's no such thing – but it's a fabulous one." Dallas Morning News 09/05/04

September 5, 2004

Going Back To The Drawing Board Mark Hanson took over as president of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in January 2004, and it didn't take him long to decide that what the financially strapped organization needed was a completely new way of doing business. Whereas previous administrations tried to patch deficits by dipping into the endowment, and sought to downplay the importance of dramatically slumping ticket sales, Hanson is apparently seeking to face the MSO's problems head on, and in public. Still, that means more deficit spending for the next couple of seasons, and an uphill battle to convince local donors that the symphony is worth their investment. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 09/05/04

Seattle's Schwarz Dismisses His Concertmaster The concertmaster of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra has been fired after 20 years at the helm, apparently at the behest of music director Gerard Schwarz. Ilkka Talvi, who has filed a grievance contesting his dismissal, was apparently the victim of a clause in the SSO musicians' contract which allows the concertmaster to be dismissed at the will of the music director, even as the rest of the orchestra's musicians are protected by a tenure system. Seattle Post-Intelligencer 09/04/04

  • A Tough Year For A Local Legend Seattle Symphony music director Gerard Schwarz has always been a master of public relations, and his two decades in the Pacific Northwest can attest to his staying power. But this has been a year in which Schwarz's abilities as a conductor and leader have come under fire: he was all but dismissed from the directorship of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic last month, and at least one prominent critic has suggested that his recently-ended 17-year tenure at the helm of New York's Mostly Mozart festival was tired and unimaginative. Still, Schwarz remains the face of classical music in Seattle, and so far, says Melinda Bargreen, he has weathered every storm with aplomb. Seattle Times 09/05/04

Bribery: The New Scalping? So you want to get into the hottest show of the summer, but you don't care to camp out in a 3-day line or spend hundreds on scalper tickets? No problem: just spend a few minutes scouting the folks taking tickets at the gate, pick a target, and see where a well-placed $50 bill will get you... The New York Times 09/05/04

The Rock 'n Roll Cello It's a fledgling movement, to be sure, but more and more rock bands are turning to the traditionally classical cello to bolster their sound, and add an unusual twist to a genre which has for decades relied on screeching guitars and hammering percussion. From indie-goth band Rasputina, which sports multiple cellos, to a Colorado-based acoustic rock quartet which recently decided that a full-time cellist could improve their sound, the cello seems to be overtaking the violin in the role of the classical instrument best suited to crossing over into the nightclub scene. Denver Post 09/04/04

Extension And Mediation In Chicago The musicians and management of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra have agreed to extend the musicians' current contract through October 31, and are bringing in a retired judge to mediate further negotiations. The extension will insure that the CSO season will run for at least six weeks without interruption by strike or lockout, and the joint selection of a mediator suggests that, while the talks remain contentious, there is at least a desire on both sides to avoid the public relations disaster that a work stoppage would likely precipitate. Chicago Sun-Times 09/04/04

September 3, 2004

What Sank City Opera's Ground Zero Move? "The thrill of the initial idea of an opera house at Ground Zero seemed to have bowed to a fear of highbrow stuffiness and the burdens of a 2,200-seat venue in the cultural complex’s construction. But criticism surrounding New York City Opera’s proposal was aimed less at the institution itself — and at its innovation and its vital niche within the greater scheme of the New York cultural world — than at preconceived notions of a musty old opera house, largely filled by the elderly with the occasional sleeping grandchild in a clip-on tie, in the midst of an economically thriving Ground Zero." Opera News 09/04

Coming Soon: Operas About Gadhafi And Bill Gates "With many opera companies facing stagnating ticket sales and aging audiences, composers and producers are turning to contemporary conflicts and headline news in a bid to lure new crowds. A new batch of contemporary operas -- from rappers rhyming about Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to an experimental musical about Microsoft boss Bill Gates -- sets out to change that stuffy image." The Globe & Mail (AP) 09/03/04

Cincinnati Orchestra Contract Talks The Cincinnati Symphony is racing to negotiate a new contract with its musicians. "The talks are among the most difficult in memory because of the symphony's $1.8 million budget deficit over the last two years. An anonymous gift wiped out that deficit, but the orchestra is facing increased pressure to balance the budget this season." Cincinnati Enquirer 09/03/04

September 2, 2004

The Celebrity Gramophones This year's Gramophone Awards are being served with celebrities. "The editor of Gramophone says using celebrities as champions for its awards shortlist would raise the profile of the recordings, and help put classical music back in the spotlight: We hope that this year's celebrity initiative will rekindle an interest in classical music and the great musicians who have dedicated their lives to it." The Guardian (UK) 09/03/04

Can Loud Music Puncture Your Lungs? That's what doctors now think. They "suspect that loud music may damage the lungs due to its booming bass frequency, which can be felt as a vibration going through the body. The lungs may essentially start to vibrate in the same frequency as the bass, which could cause a lung to rupture." Wired 09/02/04

Pop Goes The Classical (Or Is It The Other Way Around?) Why do do many pop stars try to write "classical" music? "Do they really aspire to be one of us? Are we to be envied by millionaires with legions of fans? Have we, at last, arrived? Perhaps we have, but truth be told, it seems more and more like we want to be one of them — and ought to be, according to some critics." NewMusicBox 09/04

Luring Hollywood Into Opera With charm and shrewdness, Placido Domingo, the general director of the Los Angeles Opera, has been enticing Hollywood into the fold since he was a midwife at the company's birth in 1986. 'It's not that we're in Hollywood so we have to use film directors. It's because we believe in them. It has never been a gimmick." The New York Times 09/02/04

Lebrecht: I Was Right - Classical Recording Industry Has Died Norman Lebrecht predicted at the start of 2004 that this would be the recording industry's last year. "Well, I was over-cautious. No need to wait for Christmas: it's over now. The closure signs are up in neon. There is barely a new symphony or sonata to be heard this season from any of the six major labels which command three-quarters of store space and classical sales. Game over." La Scena Musicale 09/01/04

September 1, 2004

Summer Of Free Music This has been a bountiful summer for free music in the UK. "Magazines have long used cover-mounted CDs to boost sales but this year newspapers have embraced them enthusiastically..." The Guardian (UK) 09/02/04

Official Download Chart Debuts The new download chart measuring music downloaded on the net debuts in the UK. "The countdown, broadcast on BBC Radio 1, is an attempt to take account of the thousands of tracks that are bought legally from online sites such as iTunes and Napster. But if supporters of online music were hoping it would herald a break in the dominance of the music industry majors, they were disappointed:" all the music in the Top 20 was produced by major labels. The Guardian (UK) 09/02/04

Salzburg's Tough Summer (How About Lucerne?) The Salzburg Festival has a difficult summer. It "was the last century’s most illustrious summer camp for musical and theatrical talent, but seemed more than ever trapped between the glories of the past and an uncertain future in more competitive times. In the years since the death in 1989 of Herbert von Karajan, who ruled over the proceedings as if by divine right, Salzburg’s artistic focus has been blurred." New York Observer 09/01/04

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