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May 31, 2006

Orchestras - The Best Or Worst Of Times? Allan Kozinn wrote a piece in last Sunday's New York Times contending that rumors of the demise of classical music are greatly exaggerated. But Greg Sandow doesn't believe it, and a vigorous debate has broken out... Sandow (AJBlogs) 05/31/06

More Than Just A Murderous Thug "The thirteenth-century warlord Genghis Khan is best known as one of history's most bloodthirsty rulers, and at first glance appears an unlikely subject for a Jesus Christ Superstar-type rock opera. But in his native Mongolia, a rock opera has opened that gives the medieval empire builder the Genghis Khan Superstar treatment, claiming he had a softer, more appealing side which was overlooked." The Independent (UK) 05/31/06

Is Pittsburgh's 3-Way Leadership Model Working? When the Pittsburgh Symphony chose to forgo a traditional music director following the departure of longtime chief conductor Mariss Jansons, many in the music world wondered if the three-headed conducting team the PSO put in place could work. But three years in, the titular head of the triumvirate, Sir Andrew Davis, says it's all working out fine. Still, he says, the arrangement does mean that it's taken him a long time to get to know his orchestra... Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 05/31/06

Brendel: Rattle Naysayers Are Full Of It Legendary pianist Alfred Brendel has stepped up to defend Simon Rattle against recent allegations in the press that the conductor's relationship with the Berlin Philharmonic is not living up to expectations. "Contrary to what is said by a few critics, the Berlin Philharmonic is in superlative shape. Of course it is not a carbon copy of Karajan's or Abbado's orchestra... I remember the times when it was chic in Germany to look down on Karajan. Likewise, a press campaign against Claudio Abbado that claimed he had failed to rejuvenate the ageing orchestra, made him start packing his bags." The Guardian (UK) 05/31/06

New Hall For Scotland On The Table Edinburgh will be getting a new concert hall within the next five years, if plans currently being floated go through. The new venue would replace the aging Queen's Hall, would seat an audience somewhere between 500 and 1200 people, and would become the new home for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. The Scotsman (UK) 05/31/06

May 30, 2006

The Doctors And Rachmaninoff's Piano The piano lives at Columbia University's Medical School. Its "pedigree is more than just a nice tale. The medical school uses it to attract musically inclined applicants, part of its goal of producing well-rounded doctors. The Rachmaninoff identification was also mentioned in fund-raising efforts to restore it and several other medical school pianos, and to renovate practice rooms." The New York Times 05/30/06

May 29, 2006

A Place To Lock Away Your Music New services to store your digital music are coming online. "Today the computer remains the de facto content locker. But things may get more interesting as more and higher-speed Internet-enabled devices hit the market, from PDAs and car stereos to home entertainment systems and mobile phones. Suddenly, the computer and the MP3 player no longer are the keystones of the mobile-music experience, and there is less need to worry about transferring compatible files from device to device. Each connects directly to the content locker to play or download music." Yahoo! (AP) 05/28/06

Do New Internet Jukeboxes Signal End Of An Era? "At thousands of bars and restaurants, patrons can now listen to songs stored on hard drives or downloaded from remote servers. Some find the change a refreshing departure from the limited selection of records or CDs of old jukeboxes. Others lament the transformation of an American icon. They say the smaller collections of compact discs or 45s in traditional jukeboxes gave barrooms a distinct feel that gets washed away by the new technology's nearly unlimited choice and flashy screens reminiscent of video poker machines." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (AP) 05/28/06

French Rapper Charged For Offending France A popular French rapper has been hauled into court, charged with offending public decency for insultinjg France. "Monsieur R, whose real name is Richard Makela, could face three years in prison or a €75,000 (£51,000) fine after an MP from the ruling UMP party launched legal action against him over his album Politikment Incorrekt." The Guardian (UK) 05/29/06

Classical Music Blues? Yeah, Right! "Moaning about the state of classical music has itself become an industry. But as pervasive as the conventional wisdom is, much of it is based on sketchy data incorrectly interpreted. Were things better in the old days? Has American culture given up on classical music? The numbers tell a very different story: for all the hand-wringing, there is immensely more classical music on offer now, both in concerts and on recordings than there was in what nostalgists think of as the golden era of classics in America." The New York Times 05/28/06

Oakland Opera's "X" Files Oakland Opera Theatre exists as a vehicle for modern opera. Since it took on the Oakland Opera name in 1999 (the former Oakland Opera having shut down a few years earlier), the company's offerings have ranged from Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson's "Four Saints in Three Acts" to a disco-era staging of Stravinsky's "The Rake's Progress" to a circus fantasia of Glass' "La Belle et la Bête." Seeing what inventive stagings the small company concocts with limited resources is half the fun..." San Francisco Chronicle 05/28/06

May 26, 2006

LA Opera Postpones Big Premiere For the first time in its 20 year history, Los Angeles Opera is postponing a premiere - the hotly-anticipated "Grendel" - because of of computer problems with the set. "The $2.8-million show, a co-production with New York's Lincoln Center and an undertaking that L.A. Opera general director Plácido Domingo has called the company's most ambitious to date, will still go on. But the official premiere has been pushed back until June 8, at a cost to the company of more than $300,000." Los Angeles Times 05/26/06

May 25, 2006

Brooklyn Swings In the past few years, Brooklyn has emerged as a hot scene for jazz. "The rise of that scene — which, like its borough, is an assemblage of enclaves — has been one of the most significant developments for jazz in New York in recent years." The New York Times 05/26/06

Is The Internet Really Remaking Indie Music? Everyone's talking about the internet's impact on helping the careers of indie artists. But "while the notion of unsigned artists circumventing radio and television and "shaking the major record labels to their core" is a romantic one, whether it's happening to the degree being portrayed in the media is another matter entirely. In fact, could it be the idea of the internet, rather than the internet itself, that is driving exposure of emerging artists?" The Guardian (UK) 05/25/06

If 4 Out Of 5 Prefer African... "Last year, the music magazine fRoots polled what it considered to be the 200 most influential movers and shakers in the music industry (promoters, record companies and journalists) on the best global and folk records of 2005. Four out of the top five records came from West Africa." So why does African music still have a tough time getting into the global mainstream? New Statesman 05/25/06

A Shortage Of Organists "The number of organ students nationwide has fallen sharply since the 1950s, and many churches say they can't find competent musicians to play the hymns, choral accompaniments and solo works that have been a staple of worship services for centuries." Chicago Tribune (AP) 05/25/06

Music Minus One (21st Century Edition) "DreamMusician.com hopes to entice musicians who want to play along to hits by artists like Smash Mouth, Tears For Fears, Rick James and others while pretending they're actually filling in on a given part. The site, which launched earlier this month, sells song downloads for about $2 each and compilations of the same song with different instrumental parts removed starting at about $18." Yahoo! (AP) 05/25/05

May 24, 2006

New Licensing Scheme Killing UK Live Music? A new venue-licensing regulation in the UK is killing live music in small venues, say musicians. "Reports have been received by Equity branches that the work involved in getting an entertainment license now means many venues have simply stopped using live performers altogether and reverted to using recorded music." TheStage 05/24/06

Is Berlin Tiring Of Rattle? The critics are starting to turn on conductor Simon Rattle, four years into his reign atop the Berlin Philharmonic. He's being accuse of "being boring and predictable, and inducing 'mild despair' in his audiences." The Guardian (UK) 05/24/06

Zukerman: National Arts Center Orchestra Needs New Hall Pinchas Zukerman wants a new hall for Ottawa's National Arts Center Orchestra. "The orchestra needs a new venue because there is not enough space at its current location, Zukerman said. He added that a new building would give the orchestra a new identity and downtown Ottawa some much-needed nightlife. Zukerman said he envisions the new facility to be a world-class building that would have three halls — a 2,000-seater, a 1,200-seater and a 500-seater — as well as an orchestral academy for budding musicians." CBC 05/24/06

Public Lines Up To Play New Kimmel Organ As part of the inauguration of its new organ, Philadelphia's Kimmel Center offered the public an opportunity to pay to play it. "Fifty-four people put down $25 a minute or $75 for a five-minute block for the afternoon event. A student from New England Conservatory's Preparatory School in Boston drove six hours for a minute. An organist from New York City bought 10 minutes."
Philadelphia Inquirer 05/23/06

May 23, 2006

Has Rattle Lost His Charm In Berlin? "After four years, the Simon Rattle System is quite familiar. The British conductor and the 120 members of the Berliner Philharmoniker are no longer madly in love, but instead preoccupied with delivering top-notch musicianship, maintaining their reputations. In the meantime, we have learned that the fellow with the sunny disposition is human just like the rest of us." SightandSound (Germany) 05/23/06

The Lou Harrison Legacy A festival celebrates the ultimate outside. "Harrison's music does not stand apart from so much as, like a giant sponge, absorb all around it. A feisty individualist, he was an outsider artist who happened to be the ultimate musical insider. He was an expert geneticist-composer who made musical hybrids no one had ever heard before, particularly in his pioneering grafting of Asian musical instruments and genres onto Western ones. And he wrote melodies — gorgeous, unpredictable, brain-sticking melodies — with the best of them." Los Angeles Times 05/23/06

Summing Up The Met Opera's Volpe Years "Volpe admits that ticket sales have plummeted at the Met, but blames 9/11 traumas. He points strenuously to a few innovative productions, but rests his laurels on a stubborn pursuit of tradition. There is no question that this dictator kept an orderly house in a world notorious for chaos. Even Volpe’s detractors praise his organisational skills. It cannot be surprising that he will soon join a consulting firm run by his buddy Rudolph Giuliani, ex-mayor of New York." Financial Times 05/17/06

May 22, 2006

The Rebirth Of Classical Recording Self-produced recordings are the hottest thing in classical music these days, and artists and orchestras around the world are embracing the concept as a more than viable alternative to dealing with disinterested major labels. Even more promising is that fact that there doesn't appear to be any one road to self-produced success, and musicians are quite literally tailoring their recording process to suit their needs. The Independent (UK) 05/23/06

Peace Reigns And Dollars Flow At SF Opera Three years after agreeing to wage and benefit cuts in an effort to help their organization dig out from under a $4.4 million deficit, the musicians of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra have a new contract which will restore the cuts, and boost minimum salaries to nearly $81,000 within five years. "The agreement was reached after a week of negotiations and well in advance of the current contract's expiration date in August." Monterey Herald (AP) 05/22/06

Féting Joe Volpe Outgoing Met Opera general manager Joseph Volpe went out in style on Saturday night, as the focal point of a five-and-a-half hour gala featuring the biggest stars of the opera world. "About 30 solo artists, along with the Met chorus and ballet troupe, performed 36 selections under the direction of a tag team of conductors... Even with a top ticket price of $5,000, the house was packed." The New York Times 05/22/06

Like Practicing Your Driving Skills In A Ferrari One of the toughest things about being a young conductor is finding opportunities to learn the craft in front of a real, high-quality orchestra. So a spot at the National Symphony's annual National Conducting Institute, where participants get to spend three weeks learning from one of America's top orchestra and its music director, Leonard Slatkin, has become one of the most sought-after privileges for up-and-coming conductors. Washington Post 05/22/06

Maazel's Gift When conductor Lorin Maazel purchased a 550-acre farm in Virginia, his original intention was to have a place where he could escape the music world and live like a hermit. Instead, though, Maazel chose eventually to open his house "to local children in an expansive home-schooling project; to neighbors for chamber music concerts by the likes of stellar cellist Mstislav Rostropovich; and, lately, to music students and young professional singers, who have created a fully staged opera production." Baltimore Sun 05/22/06

May 21, 2006

Levine To Return James Levine "is returning to the podium after an unprecedented four-month hiatus. The Boston Symphony Orchestra's music director fell onstage in Symphony Hall at the end of a concert in March, sustaining a rotator-cuff injury to his right shoulder that required surgery." But the conductor will emerge this summer at Tanglewood... Boston Globe 05/21/06

Japanese Music Apart From The World Japanese traditional music isn't much of a player in the international Woorld Music scene. "There are no travelling stars of the ancient music of the Imperial Court known as gagaku, no sell-out albums by players of the sighing bamboo flute called the shakuhachi. The music doesn't lend itself to "fusion"; you couldn't really imagine the deep meditative twanging of the koto or zither put against a Latin beat." The Telegraph (UK) 05/21/06

Is Japan The Spiritual Home Of Classical Music? "Where is the nerve centre of classical music in the early 21st century? Answering that question depends on your criteria. If it's to do with possessing a venerable tradition, you might choose Vienna. If it's the location of the best orchestras and opera houses, you might choose Berlin. If it's finding exuberantly creative ways to reinvent the tradition, London or New York seem strong contenders. But if the true measure is a passionate devotion amounting almost to idolatry, Tokyo would win the palm." The Telegraph (UK) 05/20/06

Barenboim's Mixed Legacy Daniel Barenboim's departure from the Chicago Symphony is finally at hand. So what has the enigmatic conductor's 15 years at the helm in Chicago meant to the orchestra? "Some players, critics and concertgoers complained that he was inconsistent, rarely conducting the same piece of music the same way twice, often wildly distorting the musical fabric in the process. Why, Barenboim wondered in turn, would anyone want to give the same performance night after night?" Chicago Sun-Times 05/21/06

  • CSO Set Up Nicely For A Barenboim-Less Future The Chicago Symphony may not have anyone waiting in the wings to replace Daniel Barenboim, but the ensemble is still sitting pretty both artistically and financially as one of America's top orchestras. The CSO will be a glittering prize for whatever conductor eventually seduces it, and with Bernard Haitink in place as a stopgap solution, the CSO can take its time with the wooing. Chicago Sun-Times 05/21/06

Not The Way You Want A Tour To Go The Perth-based West Australian Symphony Orchestra, which just completed a major tour of China, ought to be flying high right now. Instead, the orchestra has declined to renew the contract of its music director (and informed him the week before the WASO headed to China,) and the tour was plagued by logistical problems and half-filled halls. For the WASO, it's clear that there are a lot of things not working the way they should, and many management problems that will have to be addressed once the ensemble returns home. The Australian 05/22/06

Orchestra Furious With Hall Closure Plan One of Northern Ireland's largest orchestras may have to begin its next season without the use of its concert hall, and orchestra officials are furious that they weren't consulted before the closure of Ulster's Waterfront Hall was announced. The Ulster Orchestra "had made provisional booking for four concerts during this period, including the important opening concert of the 2007-2008 season and... 'had been led to believe' that the Waterfront would be closed during the quiet season from June-August, and not later on." Belfast Telegraph 05/20/06

May 19, 2006

Classical Music Jumps On the Digital Bandwagon "Three years ago it seemed that classical music producers did not care about digital downloading. Well, that impression was wrong. Classical music, as many have noted recently, is doing very well on the Internet: a bigger proportion of sales on iTunes than in conventional retail stores. The classical establishment is now moving with uncharacteristic speed to get onto this bandwagon." The New York Times 05/19/06

Da Vinci Code Producers Sue Sony For CD The producers of the new Da Vinci Code movie are suing Sony for putting out a CD of music "inspired" by Leonardo Da Vinci. "Universal has alleged that Sony is using imagery connected to the book and film to deceive buyers. Sony insists it has simply seized a marketing opportunity. It said Universal's rights were limited to the film's official soundtrack and do not extend to associated promotional material or general religious themes and imagery explored in the book." BBC 05/19/06

May 18, 2006

Charleston Musicians To Get Back Their Full Salary (Of $20,000) The musicians of the Charleston Symphony have a new one-year contract, and will see their salaries return to 2003 levels, when the orchestra accepted a 17% cut to prevent the orchestra from going bankrupt. "Under the proposed contract, an average section player would earn $20,903 and average principal player would earn $26,128 in the 2006-07 season, Girault said. The 46 core CSO musicians perform more than 100 concerts from mid-September to mid-June." Charleston Post & Courier (SC) 05/18/06

Burn Bright, Burn Out: How Opera Works Today As Joseph Volpe prepares to step down from the helm of the Metropolitan Opera, a glance at this weekend's gala celebration of his tenure can tell a lot about the state of modern opera. "It's interesting that Mr. Volpe's gala, celebrating a nearly 16-year reign that is being bruited as one of the Met's most illustrious, is focused so firmly on the present... Career development is not a high priority in today's opera world. What is a priority is finding the latest stars and getting them up in front of the public, in as many places as possible, and in as many attractive roles as possible, regardless of how well suited they happen to be to a particular role." The New York Times 05/18/06

Perhaps He Should Be Development Director, Then? Earlier this month, Seattle Symphony music director Gerard Schwarz received a three-year contract extension, which will carry him through his 26th season with the orchestra. But when you talk to people inside the organization, it sounds as if the reasons for keeping Schwarz at the helm have very little to do with music. He has been sued by his own musicians, accused of having little to say musically, and while there can be no doubt that Schwarz has been a masterful raiser of money, one observer says that "The [symphony] board is already a laughingstock around the country for allowing itself to become hostage to the fund-raising abilities of its music director." Seattle Weekly 05/17/06

May 17, 2006

David Robertson Revives St. Louis Symphony "The nation's second-oldest orchestra had been demoralized by contract talks and artistically adrift by the coming and going of dozens of guest conductors after illness forced Hans Vonk's retirement in 2002, two years before he died. Robertson's inaugural season, which wrapped up last weekend, featured eclectic, imaginative programs that juxtaposed classical and contemporary music by international and American composers." Seattle Post-Intelligencer (AP) 05/17/06

The New English National Opera (Uh-Huh) "Watching English National Opera calls for nothing less than a complete renunciation of the critical faculties if one is to imagine that the company has turned a corner since the past year’s upheavals that swept away two music directors, a chief executive and a chairman in less time than it takes to make an opera." La Scena Musicale 05/17/06

Recording Companies Sue XM Radio Over Device The recording industry is suing XM satellite radio over a device that allows customers to record music from the satellite radio service. "The recording industry said XM's Inno device, which stores music and divides it into tracks, infringes copyright. The lawsuit seeks $150,000 in damages for every song copied by XM customers to an Inno gadget." BBC 05/17/06

Battling The Ghosts Of Opera Opera fans are a notoriously conservative crowd, and they tend to have very specific ideas concerning what voice is "right" for what role in the repertoire. But why does there have to be a right vocal type at all? Why shouldn't a great singer be encouraged to sing any role within her/his range, and to be creative in the interpretation, rather than bowing and scraping at the altar of the past? The New York Times 05/17/06

May 16, 2006

Record $3.5 Million Price For Strad "The tally for the violin created by Antonio Stradivari in Cremona exceeded the presale high estimate of $2.5 million. The purchaser, who was not identified, made the winning bid by telephone." Bloomberg 05/16/06

Chicago Lyric In The Black Yet Again "Lyric Opera of Chicago posted a surplus for its third consecutive season and for the 18th time in the last 19 campaigns. According to preliminary results announced at its annual meeting Monday, Lyric had a surplus of $140,000 on a budget of $49.2 million last season... Lyric officials also reported that more than 277,000 tickets were sold -- or 95 percent of Civic Opera House capacity -- in the 83-performance season of 2005-06, bringing in $27.2 million at the box office." Chicago Tribune 05/16/06

Eventually, Everyone Will Hire Barenboim It's official - Daniel Barenboim has been named principal guest conductor at La Scala, and will be the highest ranking conductor there for at least the next several years (the company having declined to name a true music director for the time being.) Barenboim is also chief conductor at Germany's most prestigious opera company, the Berlin Staatsoper, and the two companies plan to come together for several productions in future seasons. Gramophone (UK) 05/16/06

May 15, 2006

Hawaii Orchestra Finally Gets Some Good News The Honolulu Symphony has been battling serious fiscal problems for years, and this season was no exception. But as the orchestra wrapped up its year onstage, the Hawaii state legislature came through with a $4 million matching gift for the HSO's endowment, as well as a $150,000 for educational programs. The orchestra will need to raise an additional $4 million in order to keep the state money, as part of a wider campaign to boost the HSO's endowment. Honolulu Advertiser 05/15/06

Is The Balance Of Orchestral Power Shifting In Tokyo? The city of Tokyo has a whopping eight professional orchestras, but until recently, only three - the NHK Symphony, Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony, and Yomiuri Nippon Symphony - have been considered major players on the national and international scene. Now, though, two of the lesser ensembles, both notable for operating without a major commercial sponsor, are making a major push for promotion to the top ranks of orchestras. But market factors are also at work, and with many in Japan (as elsewhere) questioning how many orchestras even the biggest cities need, the upstarts still have a long road ahead. Daily Yomiuri (Tokyo) 05/16/06

Study: Women Driving Sales Of Recordings An awful lot of money has gone to marketing pop music to men. But new studies show that "more women now spend more time listening to music than their male counterparts, with record labels speculating that the rise in digital downloads means they now find it quicker and easier to explore new artists." The Guardian (UK) 05/15/06

May 14, 2006

The Kimmel's New Organ Philadelphia's Kimmel Center unveils its new organ. "If the Philadelphia Orchestra has done well all this time without a proper in-residence pipe organ (as opposed to the Academy of Music's movable organ), is this really something we need? Given the organ's flashy range and magnitude of sound, will it usher in an era of effects more than music? Will it be some sort of Frankenstein's monster, strangling all subtlety in its path?" Philadelphia Inquirer 05/14/06

Daniel Barenboim On Top Of The World? "Barenboim's appointment at La Scala, like the CSO's recent appointment of Bernard Haitink as principal conductor and Pierre Boulez as conductor emeritus, buys the respective institutions time to fill two high-profile posts without rushing to make choices they might regret. Barenboim's prominent role in La Scala's future opens the door to a possible ascendancy to Muti's former post somewhere down the line. A couple of major successes there could cinch it for him." Chicago Tribune 05/14/06

Will Yale Be The Next Juilliard Or Curtis? Starting next year, thanks to $100 million gift, tuition at the Yale Music School will be free. "Now as the school prepares for commencement on May 22 for the final graduating class to have paid the $23,750 annual tuition each year, many faculty members and students are wondering how the donation will affect Yale's reputation. Will subsidized tuition affect the type and quality of new students? Will the school claim a place alongside conservatories like the Juilliard School and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia?" The New York Times 05/14/06

Survey: 50 Percent Illegally Copy Music "In an online poll of 2,135 UK adults conducted by YouGov, 55% said they copied CDs onto computers, iPods, MP3 players and other equipment. Three in five of those questioned - 59% - thought it was legal to do so." BBC 05/13/06

Sizing Up James levine's First Season At The Boston Symphony "The orchestra generally played gloriously for Levine, who has given the guest conductors a new point of departure for their own adventures. The orchestra's collective technique and sound have changed under Levine: There is more blend, more contrast, better balances, infinitely more refinement, and even more power." Boston Symphony 05/14/06

Las Vegas Philharmonic On The Conductor Hunt The Las Vegas Philharmonic is only eight years old. But the orchestra is growing, seems to have found an audience, and has a $1.5 million budget. So it's time to pick a new music director. The candidates are: David Commanday of the Peoria Symphony Orchestra, David Itkin of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and Peter Rubardt of the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra. As part of the selection process, they will serve as guest conductors during the 2006-07 season. Las Vegas Sun 05/13/06

Berlin Philharmonic Takes Itself To School "Fearing the loss of future audiences, the once-staid Berlin Philharmonic has constructed an elaborate education program, something still relatively rare on the Continent. Many orchestras in Britain and the United States have been making similar efforts to draw in youngsters and educate the public, but in catching up, the Berliners have created one of Europe's most ambitious programs." The New York Times 05/14/06

Childhood Secrets Sometimes, the childhood compositions of great composers ought to be left hidden in peace. "One argument says that we need to know everything about great people and that every surviving scrap about them is fair game. For the scholar, yes. For the public reputation of the artist, I'm not so sure. Dead composers are defenseless. They aren't around to censor what happened before the achievements that mattered." The New York Times 05/14/06

May 11, 2006

Winnipeg Symphony Music Director Departs Andrey Boreyko concludes his short tenure as music director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. "Soon after taking the reins from former maestro Bramwell Tovey in 2002, he discovered WSO was in a "tragic" budget bind that threatened its existence. He and the musicians made financial sacrifices, the WSO rallied and Boreyko later extended his contract for an extra year to see the orchestra through its current season. But he bemoans the lack of public support for classical music in Canada." Winnipeg Sun 05/11/06

Classical Award To Alsop The Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards have been presented. "BBC Radio 3 listeners voted Marin Alsop, conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, their favourite figure in classical music." BBC 05/09/06

Art Students Find New Venue For Show Closed By City "A group of graduate art students whose thesis exhibition was shut down last week after a city official found it offensive have accepted an offer by their college to relocate the show to the Dumbo neighborhood in Brooklyn." The New York Times 05/12/06

What Happened To Classical Music's Political Fire? "The retreat to the purely aesthetic in the past 30 years has led to a depressing lowering of the emotional and intellectual temperature of new music. We hear so many safe, high-gloss pieces that seem to have no urgent reason for existing. However, the good news is that the radical spirit hasn't gone. It's just that, as in pop music, you find it in people who might be old in years, but are marvellously young in spirit." The Telegraph (UK) 05/12/06

May 10, 2006

Time To Rehabilitate Britten Benjamin Britten had a thing for boys. It's hampered his legacuy as a composer, writes Norman Lebrecht. "We’re in a new century and the linen that has been hung out to dry. We must accept Britten for what he was, a tormented innocent, and find the courage to stage his work coherently for the first time in a comprehensive cycle." La Scena Musicale 05/10/06

Sorting Out The Zukerman Affair Why did music director Pinchas Zukerman return early to Ottawa's National Arts Center Orchestra? There's plenty of speculation, but one's thing is sure - his situation with the orchestra is far from resolved. "So we may be in for several more years of Zukerman at the NACO. It remains to be seen whether that turns out to be a good thing, or a new phase in a bad relationship." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/10/06

How Concerts Sell Out In Ten Minutes Have you ever called TicketMaster to buy tickets for a popular concert minutes after they're released only to be told the show has sold out? "Can a show really sell out in a few minutes? Yes, thanks to the Internet. Ticketmaster, the ticket agent for pretty much every big concert in America, sells tickets on its Web site, over the phone (via 19 international call centers), at 6,500 domestic retail outlets, and through arena box offices. According to Ticketmaster, Internet orders now make up 60 percent of sales." Slate 05/09/06

Are You Rockist? (Pssst - Rockism Is Bad) "One thing's for sure: Most pop critics today would just as soon be accused of pedophilia as rockism. This was certainly the case among the journalists, academics, and geeks who gathered at the 2006 Experience Music Project Pop Conference last month. At EMP, rockism talk was so prevalent that it became a kind of running gag." Slate 05/09/06

May 9, 2006

Africa's Changing Musical Landscape For decades, South Africa was the powerhouse of the African music world, cranking out hit after hit and producing popular new artists at a speed no other country on the continent could match. But today, the base of musical power has shifted: Mali and Senegal are top of the pops, and South Africa is nowhere to be found. Financial Times (UK) 05/09/06

Barenboim To La Scala? Rumor Mill Says Yes Several European newspapers are reporting that opera insiders expect conductor Daniel Barenboim to shortly be named music director at Italy's famed La Scala opera house, succeeding Riccardo Muti. Barenboim will wrap up his tenure as music director of the Chicago Symphony next month. "Ironically, Muti, 64, who resigned from La Scala in April 2005 after acrimonious relations with orchestra members, is considered one of the leading candidates for Barenboim's Chicago post." Chicago Tribune 05/10/06

Alsop, DiDonato Take Home Royal Phils The UK's Royal Philharmonic Society has handed out its annual classical music awards, and conductor Marin Alsop took home the prize as BBC Radio listeners' favorite person in the business. "American soprano Joyce DiDonato was named best singer for her performance of Rosina in the Barber of Seville," and a Welsh National Opera production of Wozzeck took top honors for musical and dramatic excellence. BBC 05/09/06

The Best Composers You've Never Heard Of Contrary to the belief of some, there are plenty of top-notch composers hard at work around the world. But you probably haven't heard of most of them, because there's a lot more to becoming famous than just being good at what you do. The funny thing is, though, that composers who achieve fame in America are frequently unknown in the UK, or continental Europe, and vice versa. How can that happen, with the music world being as small as it is? Well, it's complicated... The Guardian (UK) 05/10/06

Among Musicians, This Is Known As A Demotion Most conductors are musicians first, of course, but it is fairly rare for a great conductor to begin his career as a great orchestral musician. (This may have something to do with orchestral musicians' well-known hatred of most conductors.) But when the Chamber Orchestra of Europe celebrates its 25th anniversary next week, the man on the podium will be Scotsman Douglas Boyd, who rose to prominence as the COE's star oboist, and who has since crafted an unlikely second career as a highly regarded stick-waver. Financial Times (UK) 05/09/06

May 8, 2006

Business Before Pleas... Oh, Heck, We Can Do Both Getting music played on commercial radio is getting harder and harder, particularly if your work is in the hip-hop genre. Tiny playlists and PR-driven conglomerates make it almost impossible for emerging artists to get their music in the ears of consumers. So where should the snubbed masses of musicians turn? How about strip clubs? "The music industry increasingly has embraced the strip club out of necessity and convenience... Strip clubs are one of the fastest-rising segments among entertainment venues," and DJs there can play complete tracks uninterrupted, and aren't afraid to try out new material. Moreover, strip clubs have become an important place for hip-hop stars to be seen... Yahoo!News (Reuters) 05/07/06

New King Of Organs To Debut In Philly Philadelphia's Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts will finally be complete this week, when the center unveils a massive $6.4 million, 32-ton, 6,938-pipe organ in its main concert hall, and inaugurates it with a 10-day festival featuring the Philadelphia Orchestra. "The specs alone make you want to hear what will be the largest functioning concert-hall organ in the United States. The Kimmel instrument - in contrast to the sensible but disappointing portable organ once used in the Academy of Music - is the magnum opus, eight years in the making, of the busy Dobson Pipe Organ Builders Ltd., of Lake City, Iowa." Philadelphia Inquirer 05/07/06

Will Four Orchestras Become One? A controversial proposal to merge four orchestras in Osaka, Japan, has the country's musicians buzzing. The merger idea was suggested by the head of the region's economic authority as a way to overcome dwindling government subsidies and rising musician costs. But some say that the proposal is misguided, and even suggest that Osaka could actually support more orchestras than it already has, given proper management and artistic leadership. Daily Yomiuri (Tokyo) 05/08/06

Berlin Phil's Youth Movement The Berlin Philharmonic under Sir Simon Rattle is still frequently referred to as the world's greatest orchestra, and few other ensembles could even think of challenging the assertion. But what is often underplayed is not how good the Berlin is, but how young its musicians have become. "Nearly half the 122 members are under 40, including 13 20-somethings. Seventy-seven were born after Jan. 1, 1960, and the average age is 45. That is about five years younger than during the Karajan period." The New York Times 05/08/06

May 7, 2006

NJ Symphony Short On Money, Still Can't Find A Boss "The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra is not yet halfway toward its 18-month goal of raising $1 million from new donors by June 30 to meet a dollar-for-dollar challenge grant from the Prudential Foundation. As of this week, the orchestra had collected $423,751 from 587 new individual and corporate donors." No one knows whether Prudential would be willing to extend the deadline. "In more gloomy news, the orchestra, which has been searching for [former executive director Simon] Woods' replacement for almost a year, has not interviewed a single candidate for CEO since December." Newark Star-Ledger 05/07/06

An Opera Rises From The Rubble New Orleans Opera is back on the stage, and amazingly, much of the audience seems to be back, too. But the challenges aren't over for the company, as it deals with its too-small new home, the loss of many members of its pit orchestra to other ensembles around the country, and countless other logistical and musical issues that serve as a constant reminder of the devastation wrought by Katrina. "Many opera-goers and corporate sponsors who left the city haven't returned yet either. With the city's more pressing needs, the opera has had to make a strong case to get philanthropic dollars." San Antonio Express-News 05/07/06

A Festival Comes Of Age, Then Falters Over the past decade, the Miami International Piano Festival has built itself up into quite the event. Founded by teacher Giselle Brodsky, the fest has recently begun sponsoring well-attended concerts in South Florida throughout the year. "Yet if outwardly the Miami International Piano Festival appears in hale health, for many observers, Brodsky's organization has suffered from severe growing pains, manifested by a crucial loss of its bearings and wavering sense of mission." South Florida Sun-Sentinel 05/07/06

Dallas Looks For A New Leader As Andrew Litton prepares to depart the Dallas Symphony (see more on this in ArtsJournal's People section,) speculation is rampant concerning whom the orchestra will turn to as its next music director. On the shortlist: Andrew Davis, Stephane Deneve, and Philippe Jordan, among others. Fort Worth Star-Telegram 05/07/06

Jurowski To Head London Phil The London Philharmonic has named 34-year-old Russian conductor Vladimir Jurowski as its next principal conductor, succeeding Kurt Masur. Jurowski has been the LPO's principal guest conductor since 2003, and his star has been rising fast on the international scene. "His contract is for an initial five years. He will give a minimum of 25 concerts per year, as well as touring and working with the orchestra in Glyndebourne - spending a total of seven or eight months of the year in Britain." The Guardian (UK) 05/06/06

George W. Revives The Protest Song The 1960s were a divisive time in America, and the music of the period reflects the "protest" movement that flourished at the time. And though overtly political music has been out of fashion for decades now, the protest song is showing signs of making a comeback, thanks in large part to the divisive qualities of the Bush Administration. "These artists' dissent is not the innocuous, war-hurts whine of U2, R.E.M., Ani DiFranco, Dar Williams or the Dead Kennedys that has passed in recent years as an expression of conscience, but a rage-grounded strain that sounds a lot like the potent snarl of the dispossessed and betrayed." Toronto Star 05/06/06

May 5, 2006

Centuries Of Music In A Single Work (Caged, Of Course) A piece by John Cage is being performed in a German church. Don't worry about catching the performance though. It will continue over the next six centuries. It's "a version of a composition by John Cage called 'As Slow as Possible.' A group of musicians and town boosters has given the title a ridiculously extreme interpretation, by stretching the performance to 639 years." The New York Times 05/05/06

May 4, 2006

The Good News About Classical Music Nicholas Kenyon argues that far from dying, classical music is thriving. "The real problem for classical music is that no one expects it to change, because it is steeped in tradition and is too often associated exclusively with the past. Yet it changes continually, both in character and in content. New music, so often thought of as esoteric and unappealing, has never been more varied in style and substance than now." New Statesman 05/01/06

A Plan For Music Education Drifts... New Labour made big promises about remaking music eduction in UK schools. But its initiatives have dwindled away, and it's looking less and less likely that things will get better... The Telegraph (UK) 05/04/06

MacMillan Symphony Wins At Classical Brits The Classical Bit Awards are back, and Placido Domingo picks up two awards. "Domingo received a lifetime achievement award and shared the critics' prize for his part in the Royal Opera House's production of Tristan and Isolde. Katherine Jenkins won album of the year for Living A Dream while Andreas Scholl beat Bryn Terfel and Renee Fleming to the singer of the year crown." BBC 05/04/06

Gaddafi, The Opera English national Opera will presnt an opera about Libyan disctator Muammar Gaddafi. "The opera tackles some of Libya's most controversial moments on the world stage, including U.S. attacks on the country in 1986, the Lockerbie disaster of 1988 and the shooting of police officer Yvonne Fletcher outside Libya's London embassy in 1984. Little wonder its creators see the project as high risk for one of Britain's two main opera houses." Yahoo! (Reuters) 05/04/06

May 3, 2006

The Morgan Library Gives NY A Fine New Concert Hall "New York has few intimate and acoustically appealing halls in the 250-seat range. The Morgan is hoping that its handsome space — designed, like the pavilion, by the architect Renzo Piano — will become a valuable resource. It usually takes concertgoers (this one, at least) time to assess the acoustics and qualities of a new hall. But it's clear from the get-go that this one will be welcomed by the music lovers in the city." The New York Times 05/04/06

Vaughan Williams' "Lark" Wins Poll Listeners to the UK's Classic FM radio station have voted Vaughan Williams's work Lark Ascending the most popular piece of British classical music. "Edward Elgar came second and third with Cello Concerto in E minor and then Variations on an Original Theme. Welshman Karl Jenkins - the only living composer in the top 10 - was fourth with The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace." BBC 05/03/06

Longtime Portland Orchestra Director Retires Conductor Toshiyuki Shimada gives his final concert as music director of the Portland (Maine) Symphony. He led the orchestra for 20 years. "The crowd filled the hall with applause and roars of approval. Audience members, whom Shimada always has viewed as an extended family, stood and cheered for nearly 10 minutes." Portland Press-Herald 05/03/06

EMI Makes Another Bid For Warner The recording giant is trying again. "The negotiations are the latest in a series of on-and-off talks between the companies that have unfolded over several years. EMI unsuccessfully bid to buy Warner from its previous parent, Time Warner, in late 2003 before losing out to an investment group led by Mr. Bronfman. Before that, European regulators blocked a proposed merger of the two giants." The New York Times 05/03/06

Strads - It's Chemistry What makes Stradivari violins so good? "One scientist thinks he has finally solved the mystery, and he gives the credit not to famed maker Antonio Stradivari but to a nameless 18th Century drugstore chemist from a small town in Italy. Joseph Nagyvary, an emeritus professor of biochemistry and biophysics at Texas A&M University, said several things set a Strad apart, but none more so than the chemicals that hardened the wood and gave each instrument its fiery appearance." Chicago Tribune (SLT) 05/03/06

May 2, 2006

Handel Makes A Comeback "It’s a bit of a mystery why Handel has become so crucial for early-twenty-first-century listeners. The prior century made a cult of Bach, whose music takes the form of an endless contrapuntal quest. Perhaps, in an age of information overload and ambient fear, we have more need for Handel’s gentler, steadier art. At the same time, though, this composer appeals to the permanent hunger for high-class melodrama and psychological theatre." The New Yorker 05/01/06

Canadian Opera Company Tests Its New Building "The COC isn't interested in monuments so much as a building that can flatter the company's talents, nurture its growth, and give pleasure to performers and audiences. In that sense, attending these concerts (including a school matinee on Wednesday) was like witnessing the first meetings of the parties to an arranged marriage. You knew it would be made to work. The question was: how, and how well?" The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/29/06

Davis: Voigt's Voice Is Different After Weight Loss Peter G. Davis detects a change in Deborah Voigt's voice since she lost weight. "A change has also come over Voigt’s voice lately, though it’s hard to tell if it’s from weight loss or normal aging—controversy still rages over whether Maria Callas’s drastic diets contributed to her rapid vocal decline." New York Magazine 05/01/06

May 1, 2006

Rap - Just About The Money? "Many of the performers at the three-day Trinity International Hip-Hop Festival in Hartford, Connecticut, were critical of the way that US rap - which is by far the best-selling - appears concerned mostly with money, drugs and sex, and has little to do with its roots in the angry political expression of groups like Public Enemy or KRS One." BBC 05/01/06

Time To Bash "Last Night Of The Proms" Again "The Last Night has never been just about the music; in fact, it's mostly about everything but the pieces the BBC Symphony Orchestra gamely tries to play through a chorus of klaxons, whistles, and toe-curling audience participation. The first half of the Last Night is traditionally a conventional concert in miniature, a minor inconvenience tolerated by the audience in the hall before the bombastic beanfeast of the second half. It's the rituals of that second half that have defined a sense of British - or rather, English - patriotism that often curdles into jingoism, with tub-thumping renditions of Jerusalem, Land of Hope and Glory, and Rule, Britannia." The Guardian (UK) 05/01/06

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