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February 28, 2006

Are Louisville Orch's Execs Out Of Their Depth? ArtsJournal blogger Drew McManus says that there's absolutely no reason that the Louisville Orchestra can't find its way out of the fiscal hole it is in, but "ignorance, inexperience, and financial stress were conspiring to damn the negotiations [on a new musicians' contract] before they began." Neither the orchestra's board chair nor its executive director have ever participated in a collective bargaining process before, and the lack of experience apparently led them to lash out in anger the moment the musicians declined to immediately accept their terms. Adaptistration (AJ Blogs) 03/01/06

  • Previously: The Louisville Score: Obstinacy 1, Mediation 0 Three days of mediated talks between the musicians and management of the Louisville Orchestra have yielded no breakthroughs, but both sides have agreed to meet again as soon as possible. As things stand, the orchestra's president is still threatening to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy (that's the permanent kind) by April 1 if the musicians do not accept a new contract under which the size of the orchestra would be significantly cut back. The musicians continue to believe that the board is ignoring other options for balancing its books in favor of forcing the players into a corner. Louisville Courier-Journal 2/27/06

You Mean They're Singing Words? Should operas performed in English still have surtitles projected above the stage? It sounds like a silly question, unless, of course, you've ever been to an opera ostensibly sung in English. Now, English National Opera, which translates all its operas into English and once had its director declare that he would "bomb the London Coliseum" if surtitles were introduced, has quietly begun using them. Not everyone is happy, but a few diehard surtitle haters have begun to admit that they could be won over. Culture Vulture (The Guardian) 02/28/06

The Perfect Operatic Protagonist? Opera being the deranged parade of dysfunctionality that it is, there are certain literary characters to which composers find themselves inexorably drawn, and the more licentious and distasteful the rogue, the better. Perhaps the king of all operatic louts is Falstaff, "a fat everyman who gleefully clings to life, despite its often appalling cruelties." The Guardian (UK) 03/01/06

Juilliard Given Priceless Collection New York's Juilliard School has been given a treasure trove of original scores, notes, and manuscripts by some of the greatest composers who ever lived. "Many of the manuscripts have been unavailable for generations and could be a significant source of new insight for scholars and performers." The 139-piece collection, which is considered priceless and includes an original score for Beethoven's 9th Symphony, "is so large that Juilliard is building a special room for the manuscripts" as part of a larger renovation to be completed in 2009. The New York Times 03/01/06

  • What'd They Get? Here's a partial list of the scores and manuscripts included in the Juilliard collection... Washington Post (AP) 02/28/06

Mile-High Dreams In Denver Come Up Short Denver's makeover of its Opera House was accomplished on a modest budget. But "expectations were too high" writes Mark Swed. "Architect Peter Lucking and acoustician Robert Mahoney had boasted that the Ellie would turn out to be one of the 10 best opera houses in the world. Well, it isn't, and given its myriad requirements and modest budget, was never likely to be." Los Angeles Times 02/28/06

February 27, 2006

You Give Us 15 Hours, We'll Give You Wagner's World The BBC has announced that it will do what no live opera company could ever dream of accomplishing: present Wagner's entire epic Ring cycle in a single day. BBC Radio 3 will air all four of Wagner's famous operas over a 15-hour period on the Monday after Easter, using recordings made by conductor Daniel Barenboim at the Bayreuth festival in the early 1990s. The Guardian (UK) 02/28/06

The Louisville Score: Obstinacy 1, Mediation 0 Three days of mediated talks between the musicians and management of the Louisville Orchestra have yielded no breakthroughs, but both sides have agreed to meet again as soon as possible. As things stand, the orchestra's president is still threatening to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy (that's the permanent kind) by April 1 if the musicians do not accept a new contract under which the size of the orchestra would be significantly cut back. The musicians continue to believe that the board is ignoring other options for balancing its books in favor of forcing the players into a corner. Louisville Courier-Journal 2/27/06

Grover's Corners Meets Rorem's Arias "Aaron Copland wanted to make it an opera. So did Leonard Bernstein. But Thornton Wilder, the author of Our Town, turned both composers down. Now, 68 years after it was written and 30 years after Wilder's death, the play has made it to the opera stage. Our Town, with music by Ned Rorem and a libretto by J. D. McClatchy, received its premiere [in Bloomington, Indiana] on Friday evening." The New York Times 02/27/06

How The Music Is Changing In New Orleans Music changes when circumstances change. That's certainly proving true in New Orleans. "They're still playing New Orleans standards as the drinks flow. But there's a changed spirit: the tenacity of holding together bands whose members have been scattered and the determination to maintain the New Orleans style. And in new songs, an open anger coexists with the old good-time New Orleans tone." The New York Times 02/26/06

How An Orchestra Is Changing Its Concert Model "Traditionally, orchestras organize seasons horizontally because attendance is built on season subscriptions. Seasons often have themes that develop across the entire year, not quite as cohesively as an episodic TV show like "Lost" but designed to have some connection between concerts or to build up to key soloists or symphony works. But the recent explosion in entertainment has challenged that approach. Today's world is driven by the event; live music must compete with a host of options from Netflix to sports to touring shows." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 02/26/06

February 26, 2006

Want More Audience? Ask The Kids Every arts organization wants to find better ways to get young people in to see their work. The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center has formed a committee of young people to come up with strategies. "Most of the committee members come from prestigious high schools, both public and private. But even if one allows for a certain urban precociousness, the sophistication of their weekly discussions is impressive, and not dissimilar to debates going on at arts organizations around the country." The New York Times 02/26/06

iTunes: One Billion Sold Apple's iTunes store has sold one billion songs online. "Despite those gaudy numbers, analysts say at 99 cents a song, Apple's iTunes business roughly breaks even. That's because after paying its partners, such as the music labels, Apple receives only about 25 cents to 30 cents per song. Add in operating costs and the business hovers around the break-even point." San Francisco Chronicle 02/24/06

The Mass With The Problematic Origin "From 1460 to 1700, "L'Homme armé" served as the basis of nearly 50 Mass settings, more than any other tune." But it has, well.. problematic words, at least for a mass. So how did this piece get such heavy use? The New York Times 02/25/06

Training Leaders, One At A Time Being a concertmaster is a very different job than being a rank-and-file orchestra musician. In most orchestras, the concertmaster must play a double role in the life of the ensemble, consulting with conductors and commanding respect while simultaneously maintaining a collegial connection with the other players, who are unlikely to respond well to dictatorial tactics. It is also a job for which there has never been an official way to train, until now. "The Concertmaster Academy [at the prestigious Cleveland Institute of Music] is intended to groom a person for the specific leadership demands of the job. Unlike performance programs, which one might argue are glutting the marketplace with players, this program has an intentionally tiny enrollment: one per year." Akron Beacon Journal (Ohio) 02/26/06

Philly Breaks New Ground In The Low Brass The Philadelphia Orchestra has hired a new tuba player. Who is twenty years old. And female. And if you think that's not a major departure from the orchestral norm, you clearly haven't spent much time scanning the low brass rosters of prominent ensembles. Still, "if brass players have a reputation for macho banter and a certain amount of antics, Carol Jantsch should have no trouble keeping up. She once won a tuba-throwing contest at a tuba conference in Finland, casting an old instrument into a lake, landing first prize in the women's division." Philadelphia Inquirer 02/26/06

Look Alive, Dammit! Why do American orchestral musicians always look so unhappy onstage? Are they actually that cynical? Is it merely a desire not to show up one's fellow musicians? Are the players exhausted from what is admittedly a tough schedule of rehearsals and concerts? Or is the music really so difficult that looking happy to be playing it becomes a physical impossibility? "Classical music, it seems, is the only genre that abides and encourages such affectlessness... Well-intentioned though it may be, this stoic style does nothing to bridge the communication chasm between orchestras and audiences." Chicago Sun-Times 02/26/06

Other People's Money An ongoing dispute between the Edmonton Symphony and the family of one of the orchestra's biggest supporters has taken the form of an ugly public battle over an $800,000 bequest. "Stuart Davis, Edmonton's philanthropist of the year in 2003, didn't like lawyers and accountants. He didn't use their services when he wrote a will giving his millions to local charities and six family members. Charities ended up getting 80 per cent of his $13-million estate." But the lack of legal advice means that parts of the will are unclear, and Davis's son says that he cannot afford to be as generous with the symphony as his father might have been. Edmonton Journal 02/26/06

February 23, 2006

What's Wrong With Music Education "Increasingly, musical tuition has become the preserve of the elite. The government's obsession with targets and league tables does not help. The national curriculum affords less and less time to classical music. How many of those who do manage to take up and stay the course of learning an instrument are then encouraged, with little career advice at their disposal, to enter a confusing abundance of music colleges?" The Guardian (UK) 02/23/06

Domingo Rebuffs 2T's, (End Of The Three T's) It's official (well, maybe not quite official official - but the Three Tenors has sung its last gig. Placido Domingo is going it alone sans the two other T's. "No matter who wins the football, Placido Domingo will walk away from Germany 2006 as the richest and most powerful operatic personage on earth. Where the Three Tenors carved up the record business between them in royalty deals worth more than 40 million dollars, Domingo now has the game all to himself." La Scena Musicale 02/23/06

Would Anyone Notice If The Junos Disappeared? The Juno Awards are the Canadian equivalent of the Grammys. "To the average Canadian, however, the Junos barely register. They’re just one in an apparently endless line of awards galas that exist only for the purposes of filling up a couple hours on the television schedule. So why not get rid of the Junos? Isn’t that the logical thing to do? Why not get rid of a few awards shows while we’re at it? Be honest — would you even notice? Awards are meaningless once they become ubiquitous." London Free Press (Canada) 02/23/06

Cleveland Opera Merger Approved With the boards of Cleveland's two opera companies having officially agreed to merge, both groups are now playing the waiting game, hoping that transitional funds will come through and that all the niggling details on the legal end will work themselves out. When the dust clears, the combined company plans to present two large productions per season, plus lighter fare during the summer. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 02/23/06

  • Previously: Two Become One Cleveland's two opera companies are on the verge of combining operations while maintaining their separate missions. "Like many American opera companies, Cleveland Opera and Lyric Opera Cleveland have struggled in recent seasons with deficits and declining attendance. The two organizations view a merger, no matter how challenging, as a means of controlling finances and presenting a reasonable number of performances of varied repertoire." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 02/11/06
February 22, 2006

Classical Music? Define Your Terms! "Classical music is the music that has lived on or will live on. The implication here is that there's lots of other music that hasn't or won't live on because it isn't as good. Contemporary implies having a quality of newness, which is impermanent at best. Once something becomes familiar, by being around for a while and people getting to know it, it can't really be contemporary anymore. So the more out there and inscrutable the music is to an audience, the longer it can stay contemporary." NewMusicBox 02/21/06

A Longer, Finished Porgy The version of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess known to the world may not be the version he intended to be the final one. "It turns out that Gershwin, during rehearsals for the New York premiere at Broadway's Alvin Theatre, made extensive cuts and additions to his 700-page score. Since the composer died only two years later, in 1937, that edited but unpublished version represents, in effect, his final word on the subject." The Tennessean 02/19/06

Domingo Reups In LA Plácido Domingo, the superstar tenor who helped found Los Angeles Opera and has led it as general director since 2003, has renewed his contract with the company for an additional five years, through 2011. At the same time, the company announced Tuesday, artistic director Edgar Baitzel has been promoted to chief operating officer, and two new executives are coming on board... Although Domingo's re-upping is no surprise, it underscores his pivotal role at Los Angeles Opera." Los Angeles Times 02/22/06

  • ...And DC, Too (but shhh! it's a secret) Washington National Opera will announce next week that they, too, have inked General Director Placido Domingo to a five-year contract extension, running through the 2010-11 season. The company had promised execs at LA Opera that they wouldn't trample on the California story with a simultaneous announcement of their own, but leaks are apparently a whole different story. Washington Post 02/22/06

On Second Thought, Mediation For Louisville After weeks of recriminations and threats through the press, the Louisville Orchestra has agreed to mediation in its ongoing contract negotiations with its musicians. The orchestra's management team had initially rejected mediation, and has said that without major cuts to the size of the orchestra and the compensation package paid to the musicians, the organization would declare Chapter 7 bankruptcy and liquidate before the end of the current season. Louisville Courier-Journal 02/22/06

Oramo To Leave CBSO Finnish conductor Sakari Oramo has announced that he will step aside as music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra at the end of the 2007-08 season, after ten years at the helm. The CBSO won't be completely bidding farewell to Oramo, however: in a rather unusual move, he will be granted the title of principal guest conductor beginning with the 2008-09 season. Gramophone (UK) 02/22/06

February 21, 2006

Dutoit Sails As Montreal Struggles Charles Dutoit turned the Montreal Symphony into an exceptional instrument. But he made an abrupt departure four years ago. "Since Dutoit's abrupt exit, the OSM has endured a series of setbacks: The organization has struggled with persistent deficits and a crippling players' strike that lasted for five months. There have been no new discs in the last four years, and the orchestra won't be making its annual pilgrimage to Carnegie Hall next season. Dutoit, on the other hand, hasn't missed a beat." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/21/06

February 20, 2006

Wanted: Detroit's New Music Director The Detroit Symphony is looking for a new music director. What kind of person should that be? "Every music director brings his own agenda, his own interests. They are all conductors first. Thirty years ago, that was enough. Now we expect them to be ambassadors as well, and in many different ways, raising money, speaking before concerts, meeting the public after performances. We have to realize that a conductor is a human being with his own strengths and weaknesses." Detroit News 02/19/06

English National Opera Gets Some Private Help Lord Laidlaw, one of Scotland's richest men, is helping to bail out English National opera, with a £2 million donation. Laidlaw, "who has almost single-handedly kept the Scottish Conservatives afloat since 1997, is to help to finance a number of productions over at least two seasons at the Coliseum in London’s West End. His intervention will be a huge relief to the opera company, which has been beset by a wave of financial and managerial problems." The Times (UK) 02/19/06

February 19, 2006

Digital Music Choice: Rent Or Buy? "One sign that the selection out there is maturing is that you've now got two choices when you go to buy music downloads: You can rent them by the month, or buy them and keep them forever. Some services offer both options." Detroit Free Press 02/19/06

ENO's Winter Of Discontent "The English National Opera has just staggered through a firestorm of conflict and upheaval, including the apparent dismissal of its artistic and executive director, the bitter resignation of that chairman and the departure of a new music director before he had even started. It was all played out in public, and in excruciating detail. Grinning and bearing it has, of necessity, become the house style." The New York Times 02/19/06

Boys Choir of Harlem Struggles After Eviction "After the eviction at the beginning of February, it has moved into the Metropolitan United Methodist Church on 126th Street in East Harlem. The choir was $5 million US in debt, and founder Howard Turnbull admits he mismanaged relations with the public school two blocks away that was The Choir Academy of Harlem for more than a decade." CBC 02/19/06

February 17, 2006

More China In SF Symphony Future? "Chinese musicians and musical institutions appear ready to enter a newer and more integrated relationship with the international musical community. And the San Francisco Symphony -- looking toward the Pacific Rim as any institution must that is situated on the American West Coast -- must surely be thinking about its role in that integration. This was an underlying theme of the recent tour, giving it a slightly different tone from the orchestra's visits to the major cities of Europe or the United States." San Francisco Chronicle 02/17/06

Amazon's New Digital Music Strategy "Amazon, the world's No. 1 online retailer, is in advanced talks with the four global music companies about a digital-music service with a range of features designed to set it apart. Among them: Amazon-branded portable music players, designed and built for the retailer, and a subscription service that would deeply discount and preload those devices with songs, not unlike mobile phones that are included with subscription plans as part of the deal." Wall Street Journal 02/16/06

February 16, 2006

Sydney Takes Big Risk On Vienna Phil "The Vienna Philharmonic, one of the world's great orchestras, will play four concerts in Sydney in September at a cost of nearly $2 million, most of which will be borne by the Opera House. To break even it will need to sell 90 per cent of tickets, which range from $85 to $295 - more than double the price of the best seats in the Sydney Symphony's most expensive concert this year." Sydney Morning Herald 02/17/06

Disney Settles on Lion King Tune The family of the composer of The Lion Sleeps Tonight have settled their suit with Disney. "The relatives of South African Solomon Linda, who wrote the original Zulu tune, settled with the US owners of the copyright who had loaned it to Disney. The dispute over royalties arose when the song was used in The Lion King." BBC 02/16/06

A Matter of Choice "When it comes to consumer choice, it's hard to beat recordings of the popular classics. There are now around 100 different recordings of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, and nearly 200 of Vivaldi's Four Seasons." Conversely, you're lucky if you can find even a single recording of that contemporary work your local orchestra played last weekend, and finding more than one recording of a work written after 1970? Forget it. "But now things are changing. As new music loosens up, and finds a genuine public, so the record companies are taking an interest in it." The Telegraph (UK) 02/16/06

February 15, 2006

Will The New Met Finally Crush The New Puritanism? Mark Swed says that the Metropolitan Opera's embrace of change under new director Peter Gelb comes just in time to counteract the creeping conservatism sweeping much of the rest of America's classical music scene. "The inclinations of big money normally are not adventurous, and the companies reflect that. But there is also a climate of fear of offending an increasingly puritanical public. Although political and moral issues are an essential part of much great opera, these are touchy, politically divided times, and few arts administrators seem willing to take chances." Los Angeles Times 02/15/06

Not Just Another Orchestra Crisis There's a different kind of orchestra crisis going on in Northern Ireland, where the Ulster Youth Orchestra was revealed last week to be in nearly complete disarray. The UK Arts Council stepped in when it was discovered that "bills had not been paid, the phone was disconnected and staff were no longer employed in [the UYO's] office." Now, a former vice-chancellor of a major British university has been placed in charge of overhauling the organization, and implementing an emergency plan agreed to by the orchestra and the council. BBC 02/15/06

February 14, 2006

Just The Music You Want To Buy In Australia "Sanity Music, through its Sanity, HMV and Virgin stores, will introduce 'music kiosks' where customers can use touch screens and a vast digital library to order tracks and have the CD and packaging created on the spot." Sydney Morning Herald 02/15/06

Zukerman Returns To Ottawa Orchestra Pinchas Zukerman has ended his "medical leave" from Ottawa's National Arts Center Orcehstra. "Last week, Zukerman apologized to the NAC players in a letter. It was not made public but included the words 'I am sorry,' said orchestra manager Christopher Deacon. Initial reaction from the players was conciliatory. 'I think that sort of thing goes a long way to correcting the situation'."
The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/13/06

London Tube Cuts Crime With Mozart Classical music has been shown to reduce crime. So "the London Underground is broadcasting Mozart and Pavarotti through loudspeakers and claims it has resulted in a drastic reduction in anti-social behaviour by gangs of youths." BBC 02/13/06

Met Opera Slashes Ticket Prices The Metroploitan Opera is cutting the price of its cheapest tickets to $15. "The Met faces a box office shortfall of approximately $4 million this season as opera finds its harder to compete with other forms of entertainment. The Met's new general manager, Peter Gelb, unveiled his strategy on Monday, and promised to maintain the venerable institution's reputation for quality while broadening opera's appeal." Yahoo! (Reuters) 02/14/06

February 13, 2006

Levine Adds Two Years To Met Contract James Levine, "whose current contract as music director runs through the 2010-11 season, said Monday he will stay at least two additional seasons for a new staging of Wagner's Ring Cycle, which will be the centerpiece of the Met's 2013 celebration marking the 200th anniversary of the composer's birth." Yahoo! (AP) 02/13/06

How Does The UK Music Industry Work? Here's a graphic that connects the dots from artist to producer to consumer... The Guardian (UK) 02/13/06

Peter Gelb's New Met Peter Gelb has big changes in mind for the Metropolitan Opera, and the opera world is interested. "He said he would emphasize directors with theater and film backgrounds, embrace digital delivery of opera, bring in conductors like Riccardo Muti who have never conducted at the Met before and introduce major voices in new roles, like Karita Mattila as Tosca. Mr. Gelb will also establish a joint commissioning program with the Lincoln Center Theater, which would solicit works from musical theater composers as well as from more traditional classical composers. He will increase the number of new productions from about four a season to seven." The New York Times 02/13/06

  • A New (Crossover) Met? What do Peter Gelb's plans for the new Met mean? "If Mr. Gelb wants to connect the Met to contemporary culture, then he must make the company something it has not been: a place that cultivates living composers. He has big plans here as well, though one program will indeed raise the specter of crossover opera to his doubters." The New York Times 02/13/06

The Grammy Hawaiian That Doesn't Fit Last week's Grammy award for best Hawaiian album has provoked controversy. "No sooner had the award been announced, Hawaiian discussion boards, phone lines and radio shows began buzzing with the controversy: Slack key may be a Hawaiian art form, but it has won both years, and will most likely keep winning precisely because it is the Hawaiian style with which most non-Hawaiians -- and most Grammy voters -- are most familiar." Chicago Tribune 02/12/06

Baroque-Style Program Squeeze When Wu Han and David Finckel took over the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, they faced a programming challenge. The Society has traditionally performed all of the Brandenburg Concertos on a single program each year. But should the tradition continue? "Half of the board members told me, 'If you cancel the "Brandenburgs," I'm not supporting you.' The other half said, 'If I hear another six "Brandenburg" concertos, I'm going to go crazy'." The New York Times 02/12/06

Promoting Home-Grown On Hold The City of Seattle is replacing its generic Muzak with recordings by local musicians. Anyone calling City Hall will be serenaded by locally-produced music while they're on hold. "The program is a great way to support local artists and expose more people to the incredible diversity of music this city has to offer."
Seattle Post-Intelligencer 02/13/06

February 12, 2006

Schoenberg Still Polarizes The Boston Symphony is playing an all-Schoenberg program this week. "The Schoenberg programming has had a polarizing effect, pitting the traditionalists, who would prefer their Beethoven served with a dose of Mozart, against the modernists, a group made up of musicians, students, critics, and subscribers who say they're inspired by Levine's commitment to a composer who, while long respected, has never been a hot ticket." Boston Globe 02/12/06

A Missing Strad And Its Lost Journey One day in 1967, David Margetts' Stradivarius was stolen from his car. Some time late a woman found it on the side of a freeway in Los Angeles. It took 27 years before the instrument surfaced again... Los Angeles Times 02/12/06

Radio Silence It's been five years since the Chicago Symphony lost its regular series of radio broadcasts, and a replacement series is nowhere on the horizon. Wynne Delacoma says that the continued lack of any radio presence is directly attributable to stubbornness on the part of the CSO's musicians and management, who have been loathe to challenge old compensation systems, even as other orchestras embrace new ideas. "Audiences in Chicago and around the world need to hear what the symphony is doing now, not simply what it did 10 or 20 or 30 years ago... It is a crime that [the CSO] is falling so far behind in the world of electronic media." Chicago Sun-Times 02/12/06

Leaderless, But Never Directionless The Chicago Symphony's music director search is now two years old, and no progress has been visible in the quest to find a proper successor for Daniel Barenboim, who leaves the position in June. But no one in the organization seems to be in any sort of hurry, and if there seems to be a dearth of well-qualified candidates, the CSO isn't bothered by it. Some are even suggesting that a music director isn't terribly important to the fortunes of a truly great orchestra. "The CSO's 2006-07 season, with trips to Carnegie Hall under Boulez and a residency in Florida next February, hardly signals an orchestra on hold." Chicago Sun-Times 02/12/06

Opera As Societal Mirror? Conventional wisdom says that the opera crowd is too mired in tradition to embrace new work, but several Canadian companies are enlisting big-name stars and media partners in an effort to ramp up public interest in a new wave of premieres. One of the city's artistic directors says that opera "has become a populist voice and an opportunity for creative artists to show society to itself." Toronto Star 02/11/06

Two Become One Cleveland's two opera companies are on the verge of combining operations while maintaining their separate missions. "Like many American opera companies, Cleveland Opera and Lyric Opera Cleveland have struggled in recent seasons with deficits and declining attendance. The two organizations view a merger, no matter how challenging, as a means of controlling finances and presenting a reasonable number of performances of varied repertoire." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 02/11/06

The Met's New Direction There may be no more conservative institution in American classical music than New York's Metropolitan Opera. For decades, the Met has catered to an audience that loves old chestnuts, respects tradition above all else, and generally abhors the experimental. So when the company's incoming general manager starts talking about wholesale change and using terms like "radical reinvention," a lot of people get very nervous. But Peter Gelb is apparently quite serious in his desire to remake the Met for the 21st century. The New York Times 02/11/06

February 10, 2006

American Idol Beats Grammys In The Ratings "For the first time in 12 years, the Grammys did not win its night in the ratings. From 8 to 9 p.m. nearly 29 million people decided they'd rather watch the lousy performances and histrionics of wannabe pop stars in Hollywood than be entertained by Madonna, Coldplay, John Legend and U2 at the [Office Supply Retailer] Center in downtown Los Angeles." Washington Post 02/10/06

I Won A Grammy? No Big Deal "For these relative unheards fronting large jazz bands, a Grammy, while nice, probably won't transform a career. A few extra commissions might come through, a hall might get booked a little more easily. But there will be no need for Ray-Bans and floppy hats, or checking into hotel rooms under assumed names." Los Angeles Times 02/10/06

February 9, 2006

Miles, The Way He Never Meant To Be Heard Miles Davis has always sold well. But there are so many boxed sets that feature outtakes and performances not meant to be heard. What's the point? "There's something intimate, even creepy, about listening to the vast quantity of recordings on these boxes; many of the tracks are out-takes - never intended for the market. And they seem to have become more obsessive, more microscopic." The Guardian (UK) 02/09/06

What Happened To Schumann's 150th? Norman Lebrecht wonders why, amid "the universal mush of Mozart's 250th birthday, few are bothering to contemplate the 150th anniversary of Schumann's death, an event that changed the course of music." La Scena Musicale 02/09/06

Bolcom's Grammy Triple Delight William Bolcom's Songs of Innocence and of Experience won the Grammy Awards for best classical album, best choral performance, and best classical contemporary composition at the Grammys. Here's a complete list of classical Grammy winners... Playbillarts.com 02/08/06

How Many Musicians Do You Really Need? When the CEO of the Lousiville Orchestra paused in the middle of negotiating a new contract with the orchestra's musicians last month to speculate publicly that the organization might shut down if serious changes did not occur, the musicians were stunned, and then furious. This week, they offered to take a wage freeze and benefit cuts and to submit the whole contract to mediation. But CEO Scott Provancher isn't hopeful that mediation will accomplish anything, and he remains convinced that only a wholesale reduction in the number of full-time musicians in the orchestra can save the company from Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Louisville Courier-Journal 02/09/06

The New York DigiPhil "The New York Philharmonic, not known for its quick-stepping ways, is entering the new world of digital downloading under a three-year recording deal with Deutsche Grammophon... [The record company,] using live recordings by the orchestra, will release four concerts a year, probably through iTunes and perhaps through other Web sites." The full concerts will cost $8 to $10, and listeners will also have the option of downloading individual pieces. The new deal was made possible when the Philharmonic musicians agreed to a revenue-sharing deal, rather than insisting on being paid a flat fee up front for the project, as has always been traditional. The New York Times 02/09/06

Life After Daniel Building an orchestral season without a music director is always a challenge, but the Chicago Symphony is hoping an unconventional approach to the challenge will engage audiences. "The season, built around an innovative tie-in to Yo-Yo Ma's ongoing Silk Road Project, is jammed with more than two dozen visiting conductors," some of whom are undoubtedly candidates to succeed the outgoing Daniel Barenboim at the helm of the CSO. Chicago Sun-Times 02/09/06

  • Less Barenboim, More Crowd-Pleasers The new Chicago Symphony season seems to have veered in a decidedly populist (read: anti-Barenboim) direction, says John van Rhein. "There will be a conspicuous drop in the kind of rigorous modernist programming Barenboim favored -- no Schoenberg, no Elliott Carter." Behind the change in tone is CSO President Deborah Card, "[whose] primary mandate is building up an audience that has fallen somewhat during the Barenboim years. And so her administration continues to stress consumer-friendly initiatives such as Classic Encounters and the popular Friday-night film series." Chicago Tribune 02/09/06

Yes, There Are Still Grammys for Classical And Jazz Conductor Leonard Slatkin, composer William Bolcom, and an orchestra from the University of Michigan were the big winners among classical nominees at the Grammy Awards last night. Mariss Jansons and the Bavarian Radio Symphony took home the award for best orchestral performance, and the Emerson Quartet's complete set of Mendelssohn quartets won best chamber music performance. In the jazz division, major awards went to Wayne Shorter, Pat Metheny, and Sonny Rollins. International Herald Tribune (AP) 02/09/06

February 8, 2006

NY Phil To Record American The New York Philharmonic is back in the recordinjg business. The orchestra has announced "an agreement with New World Records to issue two CD recordings per year of live performances of contemporary American repertoire." NewMusicBox 02/08/06

Classical Music's Online Future Looks... Bright? Really? The ambitious online venture Andante.com may have lost its battle to drag the world of classical music into the digital age last week, but Anne Midgette says that there is plenty of reason to believe that the war will eventually be won. "Classical music is thriving on the Internet. It is just that, like many other things on the Internet, it is not thriving in the form people in the 1990's or early 2000's expected it to take." The New York Times 02/08/06

At Long Last, Audubon Dispute Settled The feuding members of the Audubon Quartet have finally reached a settlement in their years-long dispute which racked up $1.5 million in legal fees and cost two members of the group their home and (briefly) their instruments. According to the terms of the settlement, the aggrieved former first violinist will receive $500,000 from the other three members of the group. All parties will cover their own legal fees. Richmond Times-Dispatch (VA) 02/08/06

Before You Hire A CEO, You Gotta Have A Plan "Eight months after the abrupt departure of its former president and CEO, Simon Woods, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra has put its search for a new leader on hold... The orchestra's search committee, having received credible feedback that it might be overselling the position and understating its problems, has suspended the search until the end of the month. During that time, it will develop a three-year plan meant to show it understands its issues and has a concrete strategy for the future." Newark Star-Ledger (NJ) 02/08/06

Music Under Pressure Orchestras often try to apply overarching themes to their seasons, but the Los Angeles Philharmonic is taking the idea a step beyond the conventional with its 2006-07 season. "With the U.S. premiere of a new oratorio and a series of concerts devoted to music composed under Josef Stalin, the Los Angeles Philharmonic will tackle issues of art versus politics" and focus on composers under duress from oppressive regimes. Los Angeles Times 02/08/06

Sheng Premiere Put Off Over Problems With Score The Philadelphia Orchestra has postponed the premiere of a new work by composer Bright Sheng, apparently at the request of music director Christoph Eschenbach, who announced after going over the score that "we all felt we weren't ready to perform it in its current state." Sheng and Eschenbach plan to work together on revisions to the Concerto for Orchestra: Zodiac Tales and the orchestra still plans eventually to give the premiere. Philadelphia Inquirer 02/08/06

Sydney Hops On The Online Bandwagon The Sydney Symphony is going digital, striking a deal with Australia's largest internet service provider to offer streaming audio and video of ten concerts in the 2006 season, beginning with opening night. The videocast, in particular, sounds as if it will beak some new ground, with five cameras in place to record the action. "With no record companies to take a cut... Sydney Symphony could be looking at a lucrative new model for generating revenue from digital recordings." Gramophone (UK) 02/08/06

February 7, 2006

A Grand Unifying Theory Of Music History Historian Richard Taruskin has grand ambitions for his 4000+ page history of music. "He maintains that this is the first history of music which not only relates what was done but how and why. He aims, he writes, to present a social history of music; that is, he attempts to place the development of music in the general culture of the place and time it was created, to describe it in its social setting, to explain its genesis and its significance for the composers' contemporaries and at times for their posterity." New York Review of Books 02/06

The Man Who Saved The Audubon's Instruments The donor who stepped in to save two members of the Audubon String Quartet from having to surrender their instruments in a legal dispute has come forward. "Those instruments are part of their musical personality, their musical identity. I thought this was an opportunity to address this one aspect of the situation." The New York Times 02/07/06

Louisville Orchestra Musicians Make Concessions Musicians of the Louisville Orchestra's musicians say they'll accept a two-year wage freeze and stop trying to get the orchestra to cover the cost of dependent health insurance. In return, the players want the orchestra to agree to mediation for their new contract. Louisville Courier-Journal 02/07/06

Largest Mexican Music Festival Is A Free For All "Once on the verge of extinction, the fast-paced and irresistibly rhythmic son jarocho (pronounced ha-RO-cho) is undergoing a revival. The genre is being fueled by a new generation of jaraneros, a name derived from the genre's typically small guitar, or jarana. This evolution of son jarocho doesn't have a new name yet, but it definitely has a new energy and fresh sound." Los Angeles Times 02/07/06

Ottawa Orchestra Says Missing Zukerman Will Return Ottawa's national Arts Center Orchestra announced its next season Monday, saying that wayward music director Pinchas Zukerman will return to lead the orchestra. Zukerman mysteriously bolted from the orchestra part way through this season, claiming need for a break. Orchestra manager Christopher Deacon said the NAC is working on a suggestion by Zukerman to bring in a facilitator to 'improve communication and better the working atmosphere'."
Ottawa Citizen 02/07/06

February 6, 2006

Like The Concert, Go Home With The CD John Eliot Gardiner is offering audiences for his new concert an instant recording. "As audiences leave Sir John Eliot's concert at Cadogan Hall in London, they will be able to walk away with a live recording of the music played in the first half of the evening - Mozart's Symphonies Nos 39 and 41 - produced by his own label, SDG." The Guardian (UK) 02/06/06

Wanted: A Music Director To Conduct Us In Chapter 7? The Louisville Orchestra's current crisis will put the organization in bankruptcy, says the orchestra's board. But that isn't stopping Louisville from looking for a new music director. "Though a Chapter 7 filing would put the orchestra out of business for an indefinite period, orchestra manager Scott Provancher said it's still worth pursuing the music-director search in the meantime. The orchestra is seeking a successor to Uriel Segal; his contract was not renewed at the end of the 2003-04 season, with the board saying it wanted a music director with more of a community presence." Louisville Courier-Journal 02/06/06

  • In Louisville - A Musician's Take On An Orchestra's Labor Crisis In frustration with her orchestra's current labor impass, Louisville Orchestra musician Tamara Meinecke writes to the Courier-Journal: "I find it somewhat embarrassing and certainly distressing to have to defend the orchestra from its own board chairman..." Louisville Courier-Journal 02/06/06

A London Renovation Forces Orchestras To Cope London's Royal Festival Hall is closed for extensive renovations. "The closing of the roughly 3,000-seat Festival Hall — a regular stopping point on the Famous Performer circuit (from Callas to Hendrix to Karajan) — was traumatic, said Michael Lynch, the chief executive of the South Bank Center. The center comprises Royal Festival Hall, the smaller Queen Elizabeth Hall, the even smaller Purcell Room, the Jubilee Gardens and the Hayward Gallery. The renovation, more than 20 years in the making, is part of a revitalization of the complex." The New York Times 02/06/06

English National Opera Wins Labor Peace With Contract Staff of the English National Opera have agreed on a new contract after threatening to strike. "The deal includes a 3% pay rise, backdated to August 2005, as well as a slight increase in employer's pension contributions." BBC 02/06/06

Amazon's Online Music Store - Added Value? Word is that Amazon is getting into the online music business. "Customers who buy a CD will receive a digital copy of the album or song, which they can transfer to a portable digital music player." Newsweek 02/06/06

Morrison: Opera As One Of Many Toni Morrison found working on the opera Margaret Garner frustrating experience. Would she do another opera? No. "Although Morrison has collaborated previously with composers Danielpour and André Previn on some well-received song cycles, novelists aren't used to generating just one of many elements - and not the dominant one - of a creative production." Philadelphia Inquirer 02/05/06

February 5, 2006

An Appassionata Boom Pianists are recording Beethoven's Appassionata sonata in droves. "Why the 'Appassionata'? And why now? Have Beethoven's notes perhaps released a deadly sonic Kool-Aid for use by record companies wanting to commit mass suicide? Might the companies be deluded by the youth angle? As a showpiece full of turbulence, Beethoven's sonata obviously appeals to young musicians, and most of the new releases are by emerging artists using the 'Appassionata' as an aural calling card." Los Angeles Times 02/05/06

The Music Migration Traditional CD stores are going out of business. "These are brutal days for many traditional music retailers. Technology creates winners and losers. This has been a radical shift in distribution, consumption, discovery, all those things. Another irony: While sales are down, more music is being produced and heard than ever before in history." Rocky Mountain News 02/05/06

Channel Switch Irks DC Music Fans Washington DC classical music fans are fuming about a frequency switch for WGMS, the area's only classical music station. "Many WGMS listeners see their station's move to a frequency that can be heard only sporadically as a step toward eliminating classics from the radio altogether. Oddly, that sense of being squeezed out by the radio gods comes in a market where classical music has done better in the ratings than almost anywhere else in the country. WGMS regularly lands in the Top 10 among Washington area stations for total audience, and it's one of the most highly rated stations among listeners 54 and older." Washington Post 02/05/06

So It Matters How You Play Carnegie Hall... "The distinction between renting the hall and being invited by Carnegie's programmers may not strike many concertgoers, who see the same black concert dress onstage and hear the same canon of orchestral works. But the difference is sharp, both in prestige and in fees." The New York Times 02/05/06

Questionable Mozart Article after article has appeared about Mozart in this 250th anniversary year. So how much have you been paying attention? Take another one of the Guardian's famous quizes of your Mozart knowledge... The Guardian (UK) 02/05/06

Just What Exactly Do The Grammys Reward? The Grammys are based on the idea of rewarding the best music. But is it really possible? "Once upon a time, when there were only a handful of record labels and a few thousand albums a year to track, it seemed possible to sort out the albums that mattered, or should matter. Now, it is estimated that more than 35,000 CDs are released annually on hundreds of record labels, in addition to thousands more that surface through Internet and underground channels." Chicago Tribune 02/05/06

February 3, 2006

Goodbye Andante.com The ambitious website tried to be an important online magazine for the classical music world. But its business model was ultimately unsustainable... Los Angeles Times 02/03/06

A Composition Plan For An Orchestra Circuit How do you get more than one performance of new music? A couple of new projects band together dozens of orchestras to give new music multiple performances. "The project originated during a meeting of the leaders of small-budget orchestras belonging to the American Symphony Orchestra League. Wanting to make the presence of their orchestras felt, they decided to pool their resources to commission a new work. Each of the initial participants contributed $1,000, and those presenting four regional premieres kicked in a few thousand more." The New York Times 02/03/06

February 2, 2006

Inside The Orchestra A new film about musicians in the Philadelphia Orchestra gives glimpses inside the life of an orchestra. "Although no one can quite articulate it, being part of an orchestra puts the individual in constant contact with music so grand and utopian that it can either ennoble or wreck the soul. It demands from those who make it essentially the same bargain that the religious must make with God: You submit and serve, in return for a deeper sense of participation in the sublime." Washington Post 02/03/06

Harlem Boys Choir Evicted From Home "The choir that started in the basement of a Harlem church and grew over nearly 38 years to become famous internationally is scrambling to find a new home. At an emotional rally of about 100 supporters outside the school on Wednesday, choristers and parents said they hoped to revive the group." The Guardian (UK) 02/03/06

What Happened To That Contract Between Composers And... "The dialogue between the composer, the orchestra and the audience was based on an understanding that the composer would primarily serve the needs of the listener and performer by providing music for worship or entertainment. Tension arose when composers began to express themselves overtly as individuals, and the contract started to break down at the end of the 19th century when - straining against the bounds of conventional tonality - composers started to make demands on players and audiences that required an ability to focus and specialise that was generally beyond the non-professional or social listener." The Guardian (UK) 02/03/06

Music Soothes The Wayward Dog A dog shelter in England has begun playing classical music to calm its canine guests. "The animals are said to respond well to the strains of Beethoven and Mozart, but are not fans of pop or dance music." BBC 02/02/06

Poll: Consumers Say CDs Too Expensive What ails music? Recording company execs say its illegal file-sharing. But a new poll of music consumers has plenty of criticism for the music industry. "Eighty percent of the respondents consider it stealing to download music for free without the copyright holder's permission, and 92 percent say they've never done it. Meanwhile, three-quarters of music fans say compact discs are too expensive, and 58 percent say music in general is getting worse." Wired (AP) 02/02/06

How Not To Have A Career As A Pianist Stephen Kovacevich has made a series of moves thta conspire against his being more well known. But, wonders Charles Michener, isn't he one of America's best pianists? "In a poll of New York music lovers and critics, the names most frequently mentioned would probably be Emanuel Ax, Yefim Bronfman, Richard Goode, Garrick Ohlsson, Murray Perahia and Peter Serkin. Few would think to nominate Stephen Kovacevich." New York Observer 02//10/06

Union Wants Lip-Synchers Exposed The UK Musicians Union is pressing British broadcasters to institute an on-air system to notify viewers when a musical performance is being lip-synched, saying that such a system would encourage more bands to perform live. "Just as when you buy a can of beans and it tells you what's in the beans, we think if you are going to buy a ticket for a show or watch a band on the TV, you should know exactly what it is you are buying and what you are watching." BBC 02/02/06

Ozawa Ill Conductor Seiji Ozawa, 70, has canceled all his winter engagements with the Vienna State Opera, where he is music director, due to a severe bronchial infection and a case of shingles. Ozawa, who has led the VSO orchestra since 2002, is expected to recover, and plans to keep all his summer engagements. Boston Globe 02/02/06

New MD In Winnipeg The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra has named 35-year-old conductor Alexander Mickelthwate to be its next music director, beginning this fall. Mickelthwate, currently an assistant conductor at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, replaces Andrey Boreyko, who led the WSO for four seasons. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/02/06

February 1, 2006

Why UK Orchestra Players Are Quitting "One could argue that in this country we do not get the orchestras we deserve: we get far, far better than that. And it is the players who are subsidising us. String players are the rank and file of the orchestra, the infantry. Of the 600 or so orchestral string players in full-time work across the country, few earn more than £25,000 a year. Many are on much less. Orchestral rates of pay in western Europe are high, where a premier-league player can earn up to £50,000. In America, where there is no state funding for the arts and orchestras rely mainly on private sponsorship, the average starting salary is $58,000 (£32,805), more than one and a half times that of British recruits. But it's not just the money and lack of career advancement that prompts some players to hang up their bows..." The Guardian (UK) 02/01/06

It's The Venue, Stupid "Classical music is defined, in part, by where it's played. If it's at Avery Fisher Hall, it's probably classical; if it's at CBGB, it's probably not." And while it might take more than a dingy club setting and a fully stocked bar to convince some audiences to give classical a try, an increasing number of young classical performers seem to believe that it really is the forbidding stodginess of concert halls that separates them from rock stars. "The studied formality of the concert hall is increasingly unfamiliar to today's audience, not to mention ticket prices that can put off even diehard music lovers... In a club setting, people aren't under the same social constraints as in a recital hall." The New York Times 02/01/06

Andante.com Goes Dark Five years after launching an ambitious mix of online music news, cultural coverage, and digital audio, the web site Andante.com has closed up shop. "The site's mission was to be no less than the leading classical music site on the Internet—and the leading source for digital classical recordings, a position that was up for grabs in the pre-iTunes era." Andante was bought by a French record label in 2003, and its demise followed an announcement from the label that it could no longer afford to support the site. PlaybillArts 02/01/06

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