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August 31, 2005

The Rebirth Of A Mozart Festival For years New York's Mostly Mozart festival was a listless affair that many critics thought should be put out of its misery. But under the festival's new music director French conductor Louis Langrée, the enterprise has been reborn. "Though Mr. Langrée can be credited with the rejuvenation, he has had a crucial ally in Jane S. Moss, the vice president for programming at Lincoln Center. Back in the dreary days when Gerard Schwarz was the festival's music director, the playing of the orchestra was listless and, even worse, pointless. The musicians would run through a performance of a staple like Mozart's Symphony in G minor, and you'd wonder why they were bothering." The New York Times 08/31/05

The Celebrities Who Think They're Musically Talented "What is it that makes people who have earned some success or social status imagine that they have the gift to command musical attention? Why, for instance, does the present chairman of English National Opera, Martin Smith, conduct the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (which he once financed), albeit in private performances? Why did the former chairman of Sony, Norio Ohga, demand to conduct top US and European orchestras, albeit in exchange for a million-dollar donation? Are these men so deficient in reality sensors that they fail to consider what orchestral musicians who work with real maestros must make of their pathetic presumption?" La Scena Musicale 08/31/05

Paik: Crossover Is The Problem With Classical Music Korean pianist Paik Kun-woo thinks that the problems of classical music have been mis-characterized: "The real problem is commercial misuse of classical music. Sacrificing the quality of music never makes things better. Classical music is wonderful and complete in itself. Fusing two different genres of music can only ruin the original values of both." Korea Herald 09/01/05

BYOH: The Latest In Personalizing The Concert Experience The strangest new trend in live concertgoing is all about pretending that you're actually alone. Rather than piling up walls of speakers to pump sound into a room, several music festivals have begun providing a bank of headphone jacks for people to plug in their personal ear gear, and the whole room rocks in what sounds to a non-participant like silence. "The idea of a live show experienced solely through headphones originated eight years ago in France when a Paris musician named Erik Minkkinen streamed a concert from his closet. As the story goes, three people in Japan tuned in. Despite the tiny audience, the idea evolved into a decentralized organization under the name le placard, or the closet, a kind of open-source music festival where anyone can establish a streaming and/or listening room." Wired 08/31/05

NJSO Negotiations Need More Time Contract negotiations with the musicians of the cash-strapped New Jersey Symphony are set to go into overtime tonight, when the current collective bargaining agreement expires. Both sides say negotiations are proceeding amicably, and there is no risk of a strike or a lockout. The NJSO musicians accepted a temporary pay cut in 2003, and are hoping to maintain their current salary of $44,975 under the new deal, even as they accept a role in bringing the organization back to fiscal stability. Newark Star-Ledger 08/31/05

August 30, 2005

Company Claims Patent On Part Of iPod Digital music device maker Creative says it owns a patent for a feature used by Apple in its popular iPod. "Creative said the patent covers the way music tracks are selected on a device using a hierarchy of three or more successive screens. On the iPod, for instance, users can scroll from artists to albums to songs. Creative ranks far behind Apple in the market. Apple dominates over 70 percent of sales for music players that use hard drives to store music." Yahoo! (Reuters) 08/30/05

Runnicles To Lead Grand Teton Festival Conductor Donald Runnicles has been named director of Jackson Wyoming's Grand Teton Festival. "In addition to his position as music director and principal conductor of the San Francisco Opera, Runnicles, 50, is also principal conductor of the Orchestra of St. Luke's in New York City and principal guest conductor of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. He guest conducts frequently in Germany, Austria and Great Britain." San Francisco Chronicle 08/30/05

Noted: Concert Success Isn't Driving Album Sales Pop stars who sell lots of high-priced concert tickets on the road are finding that their recordings aren't selling in stores. "Scenarios abound when it comes to the disparity between chart and box office numbers -- figures that rarely tell the whole story. In some cases, like with the old guys, it's that millions and millions of records have already been sold over decades, and fans feel that they have what they need. But sometimes, as with many of the big jam bands, it's simply the live work that truly drives the train." Yahoo! (Reuters) 08/30/05

August 29, 2005

Do-It-Yourself Critics "Destroying someone's career or pulling work from obscurity used to be the province of well-financed mass and trade publications, but now anybody with a voice strong enough to stand out on the Web can have a real impact - and maybe make a couple of bucks in the process. Pitchfork Media is a case in point. Started by Ryan Schreiber in his parents' house in suburban Minneapolis in 1995, Pitchfork has emerged as one of the more important indie music tastemakers in any medium, with 125,000 unique visitors a day and only three full-time employees." The New York Times 08/29/05

Gershwin Was Richest Composer George Gershwin has been named the richest composer of all time. "Gershwin eclipsed such classical greats as Strauss, Verdi and Handel in the poll for Classic FM. The classical music station drew up the rich list based on estimates of earnings accrued in a composer's lifetime." The Guardian (UK) 08/29/05

Chicago Jazz Cranks Up A Notch "Chicago long has been a magnet for and a generator of great jazz talent. But in the past year or so, the promotion and support of Chicago jazz performers have intensified dramatically, with major developments energizing an already robust scene. On the eve of the Chicago Jazz Festival, which unofficially kicks off with performances Monday, jazz observers young and not-so-young agree that they've never seen anything like this dramatic change in the local scene's infrastructure." Chicago Tribune 08/28/05

August 28, 2005

The Super-CD SACD's offer superior sound. "Though the discs engulf the listener with sound from five different channels, delivering depth, dimension and ambience that were barely imagined 20 years ago, they have traveled the world for the last five years like cruise missiles, slightly below the radar but successfully seeking their small, specific targets (or consumers). Some quarters of the often-impatient recording industry appear to be giving up on the technology. Others, less committed to immediate profits, see vast potential and won't let it go." Philadelphia Inquirer 08/28/05

The Soccer Mom Versus Big Recording Companies "Record companies have filed about 13,300 similar federal lawsuits against Internet users across the country since September 2003. Nearly 3,000 of those lawsuits have been settled. The offending music traders have agreed to pay an average of $4,000 to $5,000 and promised not to illegally download copyrighted songs anymore. None of the cases has gone to trial. That may change. And it may change with a soccer mom who said she would rather pay a lawyer's fees than give in to what she calls intimidation tactics by the record companies to get her to settle." The Journal News (NY) 08/28/05

Chicago - Then And Now Chicago has always been a great music town. But the last 40 years have expanded the depth and breadth of classical Chicago. "Seed money from the National Endowment for the Arts (founded in 1965) and other granting institutions created fertile ground for new performing arts groups in the late '60s and throughout the '70s and '80s. And many of those groups sustained their growth through the new practice of subscription ticket sales, which in turn fanned individual giving. As a result, the city now pulses with dozens of music ensembles made up of local professionals, almost all of them founded since 1967." Chicago Sun-Times 08/28/05

Oxford Does Piano The Oxford International Piano Festival is a different breed of dog. "It has nothing to do with winning anything or brokering careers. It's about the exchange of views and opening of ears. We try to explore the world of the piano from every aspect: the virtuoso, the chamber musician, the accompanist, the pianist in academia. And being in Oxford, we're interested in the relationship between playing and learning, performing and informing. I think that's clear from who we invite and what they do while they're with us." The New York Times 08/28/05

Selling Symphonies - More Than Just Marketing New York Times readers respond to Daniel Wakin's story about classical music marketing: "Why are symphony audiences shrinking? It's obvious. The majority of the public has zero connection to the standard repertory, and therefore little reason to hear it or care about it. Whereas video-game-music concerts take advantage of an emotional investment players make in characters and scenes which they not only observe, but actually control." The New York Times 08/28/05

End Of An Era - The Last Opera Recording A new recording of Tristan und Isolde with Pacido Domingo marks the end of an era. "No more spending hundreds of thousands of dollars coddling famous singers' egos. No more waiting decades to, with luck, recoup an investment. No more recording works with singers who have never performed their roles onstage and are long past their primes. No more sessions spread out over weeks, months, years. No more relying on technology that permits a soprano and tenor to record a duet without ever setting foot in the studio at the same time. No more shifty studio magic. But then again, no more of that legerdemain to bring the music alive in ways it may never be in the opera house. This new "Tristan," which EMI Classics will release in the U.S. in September, turns out — against all odds — to be glorious." Los Angeles Times 08/28/05

August 25, 2005

A Rationale For The Complete Webern The UK's Radio 3 is playing the complete works of Anton Webern in one session. "No amount of historical importance and peer endorsement will persuade anyone to love Webern. Nor will the copious amounts of ink spilt by the theorists who've shown just how beautifully ingenious his music is, as full of mirror-forms and symmetries as the rock crystals Webern loved to collect on his Alpine walks. But in any case, I suspect Radio 3 controller Roger Wright doesn't want to lecture us. He just wants us to love Webern's music as it deserves. That will be a tough call..." The Telegraph (UK) 08/26/05

Untangling Tippett Composer Michael Tippett's music went out of fashion after he died in 1998. But "the fact is that, at his best, Tippett is a highly individual composer and a hugely important figure in 20th-century British music. His interest in the culture of other countries and his endless fascination with literature and the workings of the mind helped to keep him looking some 15 years younger than his true age. Rather than compare him to Britten, we should celebrate the fact that the two composers had such utterly contrasting minds." The Guardian (UK) 08/26/05

Sorting Out Implications Of The Hyperion Case Music labels are worried that the recent judgment against Hyperion requiring the company to pay royalties to a musicologist who had prepared scores will kill certain kinds of recording. "What may set precedent is that, while musicologists have sometimes received recording royalties before, a court had never required a company to pay them, as far as I know. To require payment means classifying a musicologist with composers, who gained the right to royalties from for-profit performance of their work over a century ago. This may be why, whatever the legal merits, many people have decried the decision." Andante 08/24/05

  • Previously: Hyperion Struggles To Stay Alive The recording label recently lost a lawsuit that has put the company on the verge of bankruptcy. "Hyperion generates intense affection among classical listeners the world over for its esoteric mix of lesser works by great composers and discoveries by minnows. An American fan offered to buy all of its 1,100 recordings for Hyperion to deposit in countries that lack access to western culture. Perry is negotiating a first delivery to the Baghdad School of Music and Ballet, with help from local fixers and the British Embassy. He will do whatever it takes to put the company on its feet again after a catastrophe that would have driven most family businesses to bankruptcy." La Scena Musicale 08/11/05

  • Steal It If It's Anonymous? "The classical music world has discovered a fact about copyright law that has long bothered folklorists and ethnomusicologists: under certain circumstances, the law allows individuals, in effect, to "privatize" works that are common property. Anonymous works handed down via oral tradition — the sort that make up the musical heritage of many small-scale societies — have always been vulnerable to legal appropriation." Andante 08/24/05

Philadelphia Orchestra And Philly Pops Merge The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Philly Pops have merged operation. "Musically, little will change. Peter Nero, 71, will continue to lead the Pops. The number of Philadelphia Orchestra players who currently gig with the Pops is not expected to grow. But the consolidation gives the Philadelphia Orchestra a chance to boost its budget and donor base and allows it to concentrate on its main mission." The Philadelphia Inquirer 08/24/05

Norman Lebrecht, Performer Norman Lebrecht is asked to narrate a performance of Schoenberg's "A Survivor from Warsaw". "To study an orchestral masterpiece of this magnitude is pure pleasure, physical as much as intellectual. To perform it in a public concert hall is a privilege that beggars description, a moment where we are humbled by the materials we handle. I cannot remember everything. The seven minutes of Survivor pass like a flash and the reward of applause seems undeserved. I want to do it again, to do it better, to do it justice." La Scena Musicale 08/24/05

August 24, 2005

Into The Woods Canadian composer R. Murray Schaefer is recreating one of his most famous pieces The Enchanted Forest, staged in actual wilderness. "The work follows the search for an abducted child by her companions and their encounters with a White Stag, a Wolf, a Marshhawk, a Shapeshifter and other forest denizens and deities on 12 different stages in the forest, the audience migrating through the trees from one to another." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 08/24/05

San Jose: Opera Takes A Step Up Opera San Jose (California) took a risk in expanding its operations last year, and it's proved a success. "It was a financial balancing act. The company moved from the 520-seat Montgomery to the 1,100-seat California, adding $1.6 million to its $2.8 million budget. It still produced four operas, but dropped the number of performances of each from 15 to eight or, for 'Carmen,'' nine. It also increased ticket prices by an average of $27 -- and sold more tickets than expected." San Jose Mercury-News 08/23/05

August 23, 2005

Can Music Soothe the Middle East? Daniel Barenboim's orchestra made up of young Israelis and Arabs offers some hope for peace. "In a week that had seen the occupied territories once again hitting global headlines, as 8,000 Jewish settlers finally withdrew from appropriated land in the Gaza strip, the arrival in the West Bank city of an orchestra that was founded to promote the principles of peace and reconciliation seemed to offer some faint hope of normality and harmony. The town's 'cultural palace', built last year, was full to bursting, its capacity of 800 boosted by at least another 300 people sitting in the aisles and standing at the back of the hall, and the concert was broadcast live on television in Israel and through much of Europe." But can music make a lasting difference? The Guardian (UK) 08/24/05

Warner Does Away With CD's In "E-Label" Warner is setting up a new label that will produce music in electronic form only. "New and niche musicians will be signed to the "e-label" without the pressures or costs of recording, manufacturing and distributing full albums. Warner chairman Edgar Bronfman Jr described the move as 'revolutionary'." BBC 08/23/05

August 22, 2005

Why Is Classical Music Dismissed As Elitist? There's a prevailing wisdom that "classical music is elitist, inaccessible, stuffy, boring and uncool. As a mass-market view, it would be wonderful to be able to turn it into something less dismissive, more embracing, more informed. The success of Classic FM, the affordable riches of the Proms, Radio 3's tie-loosening and the vibrant marketing/education/ programming initiatives of my colleagues around the country can all counter the insidious tendency to use the C-word as a jeer word. Such leadership and advocacy can't be done by the classical music fraternity alone. The broader constituency of intelligent, educated, culturally literate people (OK, you) needs to back classical music, too." The Guardian (UK) 08/23/05

A New Music Downloading Scheme A new music download service promises to revolutionize the download model. "Subscribers will be charged £26 a month for a high speed broadband internet connection, similar to the price charged by BT, with the added attraction of being able to share as much music as they want with other subscribers at no extra cost. Because there will be no restrictions on the format in which the traded music is encoded, users will be free to transfer songs to any type of digital music player, including the market leading Apple iPod, or burn them to CD." The Guardian (UK) 08/23/05

Chicago - A Tale Of Two Festivals "Like a summer earthquake, Millennium Park has tilted the playing field of Chicago-area classical music festivals, and Ravinia is clearly feeling the shock waves. The city of Chicago's stunning $475-million cultural playground and outdoor recreation center -- home to the Grant Park Music Festival since its opening in July 2004 -- has been pulling in capacity crowds to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion for most of the Grant Park Orchestra's 30 concerts this season. At the same time, Ravinia continues to grapple with a decline in pavilion ticket sales to the 22 Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts it presented." Chicago Tribune 08/21/05

  • Ravinia, Grant Park See Increased Audiences Chigao's Grant Park Festival has had a great summer, with solid crowds. "The rush to become a member of the Grant Park Music Festival, which guarantees access to 2,000 of the pavilion's 4,000 fixed seats, began last season. In 2004, the festival stopped taking memberships six weeks before the Pritzker Pavilion opened, fearing they couldn't accommodate so many new members. This summer, the festival sold out its basic and premium memberships, priced at $60 and $150 per person respectively. With 3,764 members, 30 percent more than 2004, it stopped taking new members in mid-June." chicago Sun-Times 08/21/05

Dedicated Cleveland Chorus Raises Money To Work The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus is traveling with the orchestra in Europe to festivals this month. But costs for the chorus's travel aren't covered by the hosting organizations. "Not even bread will be supplied to the 152 choristers - of the total personnel of 165 - who will travel this month" and so fundraising is required... The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 08/21/05

Try Anything... Orchestras Reinventing Symphony orchestras look desperate to pull in new audiences. "As audiences seem to grow older and the public turns its attention away from concertgoing, orchestras around the country are adopting a wide array of methods, from the trivial to the thoughtful, to bring more people into the concert hall. They are hunting for the neophytes, the dabblers and mainly the ungray. This fall, a slate of innovations will be on display for the first time..." The New York Times 08/21/05

Summer Concert Ticket Prices Down Last summer's low concert attendance at American pop concerts caught the eyes of promoters. So ticket prices came down a bit this summer. "From May through July, the median ticket price at shows seating more than 5,000 was $25, according to an analysis of data from Billboard Boxscore. That price, based on the least expensive seats at each show, was $2.75 less than the same time last year. Prices for the most expensive tickets dropped by $3.50 (median $49.50)." USAToday 08/19/05

August 21, 2005

Will The Internet Save Classical Music? "In the virtual absence of classical radio in America, the Internet can provide what radio does for other musical genres, namely a “free” means of hearing new and unfamiliar music, which if you like, you’ll go out and buy. But with the element of radio removed from the market structure, there are almost no places to randomly hear Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony or Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” while driving home from school or work. The Net provides direct access. With the stuffiness removed from the classical experience, people can hear just how glorious Stravinsky really is." Kansas City Star 08/21/05

Has The iPod Peaked? Okay, so Apple rules music downloads and players. "Today, Apple commands 80 percent of the MP3 player market and 75 percent of online music sales. But even as analysts predict another massive holiday sales season for the company this year, many believe Apple's reign will last only another 12-18 months before the playing field levels out." Yahoo! (Billboard) 08/20/05

Holy Minimalism Batman! "The radical fringe of serious music isn't on Manhattan's Lower East Side or at George Crumb's house in suburban Philadelphia. It's among the mystical and the devout of Eastern Europe and Russia, collectively called "holy minimalists" - and they're championed by some of the world's best-known performers. Spare in the extreme, might the music be too much an afterthought of the composers' inner experience? Or do we just need a few decades to figure it out?" Philadelphia Inquirer 08/21/05

Get With The Program (By Email, And In Advance) Who has time to read program notes at the concert? "Now the Los Angeles Philharmonic has come up with something it considers a solution to the problem: FastNotes, a brief set of program notes to be e-mailed free to interested parties a week or so before a concert. Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, the notes will include links to iTunes and similar websites that will allow FastNotes subscribers to hear a brief passage of the music to be played." Los Angeles Times 08/21/05

Those Twisted Pianists (Aren't They Fun?) Which musicians are the best fodder for movie portrayal? Pianists, definitely. "For better or worse, it's pianists, in particular, who seem the most narratively and pathologically appropriate musicians to be depicted on celluloid as twisted personalities." Los Angeles Times 08/21/05

Interlochen's Successful Summer The Interlochen Center has made some big changes in the school in the past year. Interlochen president Jeffrey Kimpton has been reorganizing the venerable institution and the changes seem to be paying off. "The goal is to retain Interlochen's historical mission while adjusting to a changing society and becoming more financially secure. The quality and competence of the staff is paramount. This summer, we've not had one complaint about a teacher. Last year we had complaints all the time." Detroit Free Press 08/21/05

Garth Brooks - Only At Wal-Mart Brooks has cut a deal with the mega-retailer to sell his music exclusively there. "Brooks' arrangement is the first time an artist has made an entire catalog available only through one outlet. Exclusive albums as special one-time promotions are becoming increasingly common, such as when Alanis Morissette and Bob Dylan limited sales to Starbucks Corp. Music retailers complain, however, that such deals are bad for the industry. Some pulled Morissette's albums from their shelves after she cut her Starbucks deal."
Los Angeles Times 08/20/05

August 19, 2005

Marin Alsop On Getting Past The Controversy Of Her Baltimore Appointment ''You know, when it started getting like this weird personal thing, I really tried to dissociate from it, because it did feel very, very personal. I insisted on having a private meeting with the musicians, and I said, 'Look, I have some really hard feelings about this, but I'm willing to put them aside if you're willing to meet me halfway.' " Boston Globe 08/19/05

August 18, 2005

Rare Violin Returned A rare 18th Century violin has been returned to its owner a year after having been stolen. "The violin, which is dated to around 1740, was recovered when an unsuspecting dealer took it in to Bonhams auction house, which checked it against an insurance company list of stolen items." The Guardian (UK) 08/19/05

Here's A Stunning Stupendous Headline To Match! Julian Lloyd Webber wants to know why classical music performances are described with such breathless adjectives. "Pick up any brochure for the new concert season and you will soon discover that the entire classical world (and presumably its audience) are apparently staggering around in a perpetually stunned condition - which could, of course, account for the stunning predictability of these pre-concert blurbs. Next season, how about a moratorium on the following words: stunning, sensational, dynamic, young, exciting, amazing, breath-taking, magnificent, inspirational, brilliant, astounding and best loved?" The Telegraph (UK) 08/19/05

A Talk With Franz Worse-Than-Most Conductor Franz Welser-Most has heard all the insults, and they don't seem to bother him. "There's an untouchability about Welser-Möst, which goes with the magical suddenness with which he appeared on the scene." The Telegraph (UK) 08/19/05

August 17, 2005

The Cliburn's Competition Within The Competition For years the Van Cliburn Piano Competition commissioned a work for the competition. This year "five composers' works were sent to all the competitors who had to select one for performance in the semifinal round—should they be lucky and skilled enough to get that far. The composer performed by the most semifinalists would be the winner. Sebastian Currier took home the top prize of $5,000, while each of the other composers who had a work played in the semifinals received $2,500." NewMusicBox 08/17/05

August 16, 2005

Cincinnati Symphony Raises Ticket Prices, Takes A Big Hit Last season the Cincinnati Symphony raised ticket prices by 25 percent. It was a disastrous move. "The orchestra lost 10 percent of its subscribers and its attendance dropped 12 percent in the 51-concert season that ended in May, in figures released today by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Average attendance was 1,707, meaning on most nights, the 3,417-seat Music Hall was half empty. Such a steep decline in one year is unprecedented in recent symphony history. For the past decade, attendance has hovered between 1,900 and 2,000. Last season, 1,935 concertgoers heard the symphony play on an average concert evening." Cincinnati Enquirer 08/16/05

Making Room For Something New (And Good!) So a hot new symphony comes out, wins a big prize, and... nothing. It doesn't get performed. And why? "The issue is whether orchestras can find the will and the flexibility to tap into hot works when they turn up, or whether their idea of exciting programming is simply to group repertory favorites under facile thematic banners, with the occasional premiere thrown in dutifully and the word "exciting" splashed across the brochure." The New York Times 08/15/05

August 15, 2005

Jerry, The Opera: No Funding Pressure... A tour of Jerry Springer, The Opera is in doubt, and some are saying it's because Arts Council England bowed to pressure from religious groups and denied funding. But a Council spokesperson says: "The decision not to provide funding for the tour was financial, as the musical was already a 'commercial success', and not over fears of a religious backlash. It is nonsense to say that the Arts Council has refused to fund the tour of Jerry Springer over fears of protests from Christian groups, or anyone else." BBC 08/15/05

August 14, 2005

Hip-Hopping Mozart "The home of Britain's classiest opera parties is about to strike out in a new direction by staging 'hiphopera', complete with f-words and rap music, in the country house setting of Glyndebourne. The transformed version of Mozart's masterpiece is part of an increasingly successful attempt to draw new, and particularly young, audiences to the venue, which has a largely unfair but deep-rooted image of exclusivity and expense." The Guardian (UK) 08/14/05

Can Music Remember? "Sixty years after the end of World War II, across German-speaking Europe, classical music has been invoked as a medium of public memory, an accompaniment to the fitful process of reckoning with the past. In these countries, as firsthand memories of the war dwindle, music is serving as a kind of proxy allowing postwar generations to approach a difficult history. But why, other than the convenience of an anniversary, is this music being called to speak now? And what exactly can it remember?" The New York Times 08/14/05

CD Burners A Bigger Threat To Big Recording Companies Than Downloading? "Music copied onto blank recordable CDs is becoming a bigger threat to the bottom line of record stores and music labels than online file-sharing, the head of the recording industry's trade group said Friday. Burned" CDs accounted for 29 percent of all recorded music obtained by fans in 2004, compared to 16 percent attributed to downloads from online file-sharing networks." Yahoo! (Reuters) 08/13/05

World Music - A Tension Between Art And Selling Recordings World music can be endlessly inventive. "The debate throughout the polity in recent weeks has centred on issues of multiculturalism and tolerance. The world’s problems are not going to be solved by people playing crazy rhythms, and meaning it, but it is a small indicator that we are travelling in the right direction. There is another imperative at work here, however - that of selling records. Music is an industry, as well as an art form and a cultural tradition; and it happens to be an industry that is finely honed in its marketing and promotional techniques. And, wouldn’t you know it, the requirements of commerce and artistic integrity occasionally fail to gel." Financial Times (UK) 08/13/05

Payola - Can You Buy Hits? It's called "taste magnetics: People experiencing art together are apt to concur on its merits. When you laugh, I'm more prone to smile. When you flinch, I grimace. We're swayable. Taste magnetics also helps account for the persistence of payola, or radio 'pay for play.' That bogeyman of the music biz is back. Reactions seem split: Camp 1 cries, 'See why the radio is so full of lousy music?' while Camp 2 yawns, 'Same as it ever was; you can't buy hits.' Each has a point." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 08/13/05

America's Best Orchestras? Which are the best American orchestras? After a year in which he heard most of the contenders, Mark Swed has some observations about where the new powerhouses are... and what it takes to be the best. Los Angeles Times 08/14/05

August 11, 2005

Christie Is Brooklyn Phil Music Director The Brooklyn Philharmonic has appointed Michael Christie (recently named music director of the Phoenix Symphony) as its music director. "He takes over after a two-year search that left the orchestra leaderless after the departure of Robert Spano, who had stayed on as an adviser. Mr. Christie, who was Mr. Spano's former student, will conduct three of the orchestra's four subscription concerts at the Brooklyn Academy of Music this season." The New York Times 08/12/05

Hyperion Struggles To Stay Alive The recording label recently lost a lawsuit that has put the company on the verge of bankruptcy. "Hyperion generates intense affection among classical listeners the world over for its esoteric mix of lesser works by great composers and discoveries by minnows. An American fan offered to buy all of its 1,100 recordings for Hyperion to deposit in countries that lack access to western culture. Perry is negotiating a first delivery to the Baghdad School of Music and Ballet, with help from local fixers and the British Embassy. He will do whatever it takes to put the company on its feet again after a catastrophe that would have driven most family businesses to bankruptcy." La Scena Musicale 08/11/05

Adams Goes Atomic John Adams previews his new opera about the atomic bomb. "Adams's third opera, which has been in the making for five years, is his first return to the medium 14 years after achieving worldwide notoriety with two provocative and now seminal works, Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer. According to Ms. Rosenberg, it took a bit of persuading to lure Adams, whom she described as 'the greatest composer alive today,' back to the world of opera. But ultimately the saga of the bomb's conflicted inventor J. Robert Oppenheimer, which Rosenberg proposed to Adams, proved too operatic to turn down. Sellars described recently declassified government documents, incorporated into the libretto, which might fundamentally change everyone's perception of this world-changing event." NewMusicBox 08/11/05

Russia's Greatest Living Composer? Fifteen years ago, Sofia Gubaidulina was little-known outside the Soviet Union. But "With the fall of the Soviet Union and a spate of large-scale commissions from orchestras in Europe, North America and Japan, Gubaidulina, now in her 70s, has become one of the most sought-after composers in the world. Success has brought modest independence and a small house outside Hamburg, where she lives quietly and simply, with close friends nearby. All she wants is to write music." The Guardian (UK) 08/12/05

Baltimore And Alsop - An Issue Of Leadership? The waves are still rolling from the Baltimore Symphony's appointment of Marin Alsop as music director. "Ms. Alsop's appointment is known to have been deeply controversial. If this is simply sexism, then it isn't worth worrying about, as she will know how to ride it out. If it's concern about a change in repertoire--Baltimore's former conductor Yuri Temirkanov represented a very traditional outlook and Ms. Alsop champions a more diverse approach--then three cheers for the Baltimore board. But if it's about the psychology of leadership, then this is a story the whole orchestra world will want to follow." Opinionjournal.com 08/11/05

August 10, 2005

Vivaldi Find Last For Australian Researchers? A long-lost work by Vivaldi discovered by an Australian researcher gets its premiere. "It is rare that a university music department can boast a research breakthrough of world importance. Those headlines usually go to the doctors, scientists and engineers. But new Federal Government research guidelines limiting research in the humanities mean the 35-minute work unearthed by Melbourne University's Janice Stockigt at a German university in May could be the last Australian discovery of its kind." The Age (Melbourne) 08/10/05

Land of Wretched Excess In 1872, the U.S. had begun to establish itself as a world power, and much of the country was edging away from the wild frontier mentality. With the desire for greater global respect came a desire for high culture, something most Americans hadn't had a lot of time for previously. So when the city of Boston invited a group of European composers to bring their music (and their considerable) reputations to American shores, it was a big deal. A concert hall seating 100,000 was erected, and the star of the show, Johan Strauss, Jr., was treated like royalty as he led an eye-popping 20,000-piece orchestra, assisted by more than 100 assistant conductors. To Strauss, it was a gross excess antithetical to music's nature. To America, it was only the beginning... Minnesota Public Radio 08/09/05

August 9, 2005

What To Make Of Free Beethovens? Recording industry people are still pondering the phenomenal demand (1.4 million downloads) for the BBC's free downloads of Beethoven. "Everyone in the industry was astounded at the result. So astounded, that they have been left on the back foot. No one doubts now that a huge appetite exists in the marketplace for classical music delivered straight to your computer or on to your iPod. But how best to assuage that appetite? The BBC downloads may have been free but if a commercial label got even 10 per cent of that response it would still be a huge leap for downloading. Forward-thinking record-company executives are already talking about using free downloads as a method to tempt new classical buyers in the future." The Independent (UK) 08/09/05

But It Supports Two Daily Newspapers, Right? The Pittsburgh Symphony may end its fiscal year with a deficit of a half million dollars, with the promise of much more red ink to come next season, when the musicians will be due a $17,000 salary increase. Such money woes, combined with falling ticket sales, have convinced one of the city's daily newspapers that it might be time for the PSO to throw in the towel and stop trying to compete with other major American orchestras. "The harsh reality is that a metropolitan area barely ranked among the top 25 in population does not have pockets deep enough to support [an orchestra] the way New York and Chicago support theirs." Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 08/09/05

Good Numbers In Detroit "Attendance at Detroit Symphony Orchestra classical concerts inched forward last year by 2% and income from the orchestra's classical series leapt 7.6% -- victories in an environment in which many orchestras have seen attendance and income drop. Income from all DSO concerts combined in 2004-05 -- classical, jazz, pops, children's series and special events -- rose 6%. A small increase in ticket prices was partially responsible for the uptick. The revenue increases are a critical step in the DSO's drive to balance its budget for the second straight year after running up an accumulated deficit of $2 million. With three weeks left in its fiscal year, the DSO has met goals for earned income and expenses. But contributed income from individuals and businesses remains a question mark." Detroit Free Press 08/09/05

Two Conductors Quit Everett Symphony Washington State's Everett Symphony Orchestra is losing its music director and another staff conductor as well, after both submitted letters of resignation to the board saying that they could not support "the direction that the current leadership is imposing on the organization." If anyone at the ESO understands what direction Paul-Elliott Cobbs is referring to, they aren't talking, but assistant conductor Ron Friesen's letter said that the symphony leadership "no longer fosters trust, respect, and support." Seattle Times 08/09/05

August 8, 2005

Rabbi: Boycott Klinghoffer A Rabbi has urged a boycott of a production of John Adams' opera "The Death of Klinghoffer" at the Edinburgh Festival. "The work has evoked anger ever since it first appeared in 1991, and its subject has made it almost unperformable in the US and Israel, where charges of anti-semitism, naivety and of giving a voice to terrorism have been levelled at it." The Guardian (UK) 08/08/05

A Good Summer For Women Conductors Of course there was Marin Alsop's controversial appointment as msuci director of the Baltimore Symphony. In addition "this month Simone Young becomes music director of the Hamburg State Opera; Susanna Mälkki, a familiar conductor of the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, is about to become the new music director of L'Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris; and Emmanuelle Haim's reputation as a leading interpreter of the baroque repertoire blossoms by the week." The Guardian (UK) 08/09/05

Live And Online "In recent months there's been an explosion on the Internet of what used to be called tape trading. This is not the illegal copying of commercially available music that is being fought by the major record companies. This is the free, generally legal exchange of fan-made concert tapes, radio broadcasts and material that was never officially released — by the Dead and just about anybody else. It's a world that is growing daily at an exponential rate — and has its foundation in the community of tapers and traders that initially coalesced around and was nurtured by Garcia and the Grateful Dead." Los Angeles Times 08/08/05

New Vivaldi Discovered A Melbourne musicologist has found a piece by Vivaldi written in 1754. The find is being described as the biggest Vivaldi find in 75 years. "The work is an 11-movement Dixit Dominus based on Psalm 109 for choir and orchestra, intended to be played in church. But Dr Janice Stockigt suspects that because of a lack of additional notation on the score, this might be its first performance ever." Sydney Morning Herald 08/08/05

In Sacramento - Battle Of The Orchestras Nine years ago the Sacramento Symphony went out of business. Now there are two orchestras competing for the affections of the city. The question: will competition be good for the orchestras, or will it dilute resources? Sacramento Bee 08/05/05

August 7, 2005

Chinese Pianist Wins Cleveland International Chu-Fang Huang, a 23-year-old Chinese pianist who studied at the Juilliard School and the Curtis Institute of Music, was named first-prize winner of the 2005 Cleveland International Piano Competition... The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 08/07/05

Where Are The Women? In Orchestras (And Running Them) "The competition for spots in major orchestras is fierce, and the path for women has its bumpy patches. Female orchestral players tend to be clustered in string sections, and brass sections are still largely a male preserve. Female conductors are still a tiny minority. But ambitious, talented female musicians just keep coming. Like their counterparts in the business world, some of them are now reaching the profession's top ranks." Chicago Sun-Times 08/07/05

Farewell To The Lindsays "After 40 years, the Lindsays, the most successful British string quartet of their generation, have given their final concert..." The Guardian (UK) 08/06/05

Pay To Play - Now We Know Why A CD Cost $20 Why are recording company execs paying radio stations for airplay? "After congressional hearings revealed the extent of payments to DJs by record companies and distributors in the early 1960s, authority over what music gets on the air was taken out of disc jockeys' hands and vested in radio station executives. But both executives and DJs continued to receive gifts from record companies, and large payments to stations by supposedly independent promoters hired by the record companies still make up an important part of radio station revenues." Washington Post 08/07/05

What Is It With The German Cellists? Is there a German school of cello-playing? Yes, in a way. Some prominent young German cellists are attracting attention. But "the classical music world is less like soccer than like bicycle racing: allegiances and teams are formed without much regard for national boundaries. And like bicycle racing, the pack is a group of fiercely competitive individuals. These German cellists acknowledge one another's existence but are not exactly pals." The New York Times 08/07/05

Download Music - To Buy Or Rent? The online music business is changing. Now you have the option to buy, rent or subscribe. But there are drawbacks to each of them: "the rental outfits look more attractive if you think of them as services, like cable TV or satellite radio, rather than stores. Like satellite radio, you get music only while you're still a subscriber. You pay $3 more per month than satellite radio costs, but you get to pick the songs." The New York Times 08/07/05

What Is It About Perlman? What is it about Itzhak Perlman that inspires such devoted fans, asks Peter Dobrin. Surely not his music-making alone. "A blindfold test in the first movement would have revealed an often-dull player with moments of difficulty with intonation. I'm not saying that in total the Perlman experience was a bad one, or even that his shortcomings outweighed his assets. But would a fresh-faced recent Juilliard School graduate have gotten the same response from this audience with exactly the same performance? Hardly. It's a point worth considering if only because perpetuation of the art form will require cultivating love for the next one or two Itzhak Perlmans - or dozen." Philadelphia Inquirer 08/06/05

August 5, 2005

Domingo: Retirement Is Near At the age of 64, tenor Placido Domingo says he's close to retiring from singing. "The day is close that I quit singing. I really don't know how to do it - a tour or a concert or if I just say, that's it, that's the last night."
BBC 08/05/05

August 4, 2005

Judge Ye Not So Ye Can Hear Frank Oteri ponders the limitations of judgment on really hearing music: "I have long thought that the only way to be a receptive listener to music in a world where the Schoenberg/Cage emancipation of dissonance was a fait accompli is to engage in an emancipation of judgment. Such a stance not only liberates dissonance by also re-embraces consonance, any kind of timbre, rhythm or lack thereof, duration, you name it... Once we set up paradigms of good and bad, worthwhile and worthless, cool and uncool, we doom ourselves at best to being tomorrow's Horatio Parker and, at worst, to being a mirror image of the very thing we claim not to let into our aesthetic purview." NewMusicBox 08/05

Why The iPod Fails At Classical Music "Classical music fits badly into the Walkman world, and even worse into the iPod world. For one thing, the technology doesn't suit it very well. Try listening to an opera on an iPod, and you'll discover the software puts a gap between tracks, which is pretty annoying if you're trying to enjoy the dramatic flow of an opera scene. And just try searching for your favourite Beethoven trio on iTunes, which is designed to search for "song" and "artist", and copes badly with keys and opus numbers. But the very conception of music embodied in the iPod is bound to seem odd to a classical music lover." The Telegraph (UK) 08/05/05

Going Cheap - A Chance To Conduct A Big Orchestra The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra has put itself up fo sale on eBay. The winning bidder will have the opportunity to conduct the orchestra. "It will be interesting to see whether it will be bought by some terribly serious budding conductor who sees this as their break, or someone completely inexperienced who wants to be charitable towards us." The Guardian (UK) 08/05/05

Is Vinyl A Thing Of The Past For DJ's? "When laptop DJing first came on the scene a few years back, there was a small handful of software programs for DJs to choose from, and none of them offered the same range of song manipulation options available with turntables or even CD DJ players. DJs could cross-fade (or blend) digital tracks, but the crucial function of shifting the pitch (or speed) of a song to match beats was unreliable. There was also the question of credibility. Vinyl was for purists. Digital was seen as cheating. But in the last year, technology has finally caught up with DJs' expectations — and given them a way to keep it real." Los Angeles Times 08/04/05

Doesn't That Bank Already Have A Ballpark, Anyway? Boston Mayor Tom Menino is trying to block the city's historic opera house from slapping a new corporate name on its facade. Citizens Bank paid $4 million to buy the naming rights to the recently reopened venue, but the mayor and several other elected officials have objected, saying that the theatre should continue to be known simply as the Opera House. Furthermore, Clear Channel, which bought and renovated the venue with considerable assistance from Menino, says that it "owes" the mayor, and may be amenable to squelching the naming deal. Boston Globe 08/04/05

Dodging Trouble In Pittsburgh The Pittsburgh Symphony is in a tricky situation. It's running deficits again, ticket sales aren't up to snuff, and the orchestra is in the unenviable position of trying to remain in the top world ranks following the departure of renowned music director Mariss Jansons. Oh, and the musicians, who took a big pay cut a few years back, are due an unheard-of 25% raise this fall, the result of a contract which pegs their salaries to orchestras in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Cleveland. Still, subscriptions are up, and previous deficits have been wiped out by last-minute contributions, so no one's panicking yet. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 08/04/05

Is US&O's Financial Ship Starting To Turn? The Utah Symphony & Opera's embattled CEO, Anne Ewers, insists that the troubled organization is well on its way to recovery, despite huge deficits and an in-house revolt this past season that saw the orchestra's musicians mount a public campaign to expose what they saw as mismanagement. Ewers's offered to reduce her own salary by $25,000 to help the US&O cut expenses, and overall, the organization spent $250,000 less in the 2004-05 season than it had the year before. Other measures designed to stabilize the group include an end to the regular practice of engaging substitute musicians to fill out the orchestral ranks, and a mandatory $10,000 gift for each of the US&O's 40 board members. Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City) 08/04/05

August 3, 2005

Rattle's Kids Sir Simon Rattle has long had an obsession with bringing classical music to a wider audience, and his latest project is a daring effort to link two disparate sectors of German society. "Rattle's brave determination to include some of Berlin's most phlegmatic and recalcitrant teenagers into the orchestra's working life, from the very start of his collaboration with the orchestra, has been captured in Rhythm Is It!, one of the most popular German documentary films for years... In a former bus depot on the edge of industrial wasteland in Berlin, the cooperation between the teenagers and an initially sceptical orchestra reaches its height in a performance of Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, attended by an audience of several thousand. " The Telegraph (UK) 08/03/05

Fired As A Fiddler, Hired As A Conductor Violinist Dennis Kim, who was recently dismissed from his position as concertmaster of the Hong Kong Philharmonic after music director Edo deWaart discovered that he had been auditioning for an American orchestra while supposedly on sick leave, has landed on his feet in a big way. Kim was named the new conductor of Korea's Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra this week, following a series of auditions for the position. Kim is Korean-born, though he grew up mainly in Canada. The Korea Times 08/03/05

August 2, 2005

Montreal Symphonty Strike - A Disagreement Over Suspending Negotiations Why have talks in the Montreal Symphony musicians' strike stopped? "An MSO spokesperson told The Gazette yesterday negotiations were suspended for the month of August because the mediator was on vacation. Musicians' association president Marc Beliveau concurred. Yet a press release from MSO management, dated Thursday, quotes the chief negotiator for management as saying, "Given the gulf separating the two sides, we fully understand why the mediator saw no need to schedule any new negotiating sessions." Montreal Gazette 08/02/05

Who's Buying Music? Music consumers are getting older. "In 1999 music buyers over 30 accounted for less than half of all music sales. Now 55% of music is bought by over 30s." BBC 08/02/05

August 1, 2005

Suspiciously (Neo)Romantic "Neoromanticism has almost always been regarded with suspicion by critics, even though it has been embraced by at least as many composers as has neoclassicism. (The second edition of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians devotes twice as much space to neoclassicism as to neoromanticism.) Is this because neoromantic music is inferior in quality? Or is it merely the last gasp of the same prejudice in favor of innovation for its own sake that once led avant-garde composers and their critical sympathizers to dismiss all tonal music as “useless”?" Commentary 08/05

Will New UK Law Kill Live Music? A new law governing live music venues in the UK threatens to decimate the country's live music scene. "New research shows that almost seven in 10 owners or managers of small music venues are unaware of the implications of the 2003 Licensing Act, which requires them to reapply for their live music licence by August 6. The research warned that at least 56,700 venues face possible closure if they do not reapply by the deadline. Almost half of those those currently stage live music, and it is predicted that the number of gigs taking place every day in the UK could fall from 4,500 to fewer than 2,250." The Guardian (UK) 08/01/05

Montreal Symphony Strike Threatens Season Talks have broken down in the Montreal Symphony musicians strike, and the impass could threaten the start of the orchestra's new season. "The players' proposal would have increased wages by 45 per cent over five years, as well as maintain current work rules governing recordings, overtime and rehearsals on tour. Management had offered an 8-per-cent raise over five years, as well as lump-sum amounts to counter the effects of a two-year wage freeze. The players have been without a contract since August, 2003." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 08/01/05

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