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June 30, 2006

Turning Porgy Into A Musical Director Trevor Nunn is turning Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" (the opera) into "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess" (a musical). So why does such a great opera need to be reimagined (or at least repackaged)? "It's the most sensational, wonderful, wonderful score, and so many of the people in the world know it but they don't know they know it," Mr. Nunn said in a telephone interview yesterday from London, where he was attending auditions. The problem, he said, was that the operagoing audience is small. The New York Times 06/30/06

20 Percent Own Digital Music Players A new study reports that "one in five Americans over the age of 12 now own a portable digital music device, and one in 20 of those quizzed said they possessed more than one." BBC 06/30/06

June 29, 2006

A South Bank Master Plan Falls Short? London's South Bank Center is reopening next year after a 110 million pound makeover. What will go inside? A plan has been announced "intended as a radical blueprint for a new era of cultural activity in Britain's most prestigious and heavily funded arts centre. The heavily-trailed 'vision' incorporates closer collaboration between four resident orchestras at the Royal Festival Hall - the Philharmonia, London Philharmonic, London Sinfonietta and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment." La Scena Musicale 06/29/06

The Zen Of Air Guitar (It's Really Big) "In recent years, the air guitar has become a cult phenomenon, sparking air-eoke tournaments in cities across the nation. Undoubtedly, the most impressive offshoot of the air-guitar craze is the invention of the Virtual Air Guitar, a computerized pair of gloves developed by students at the Helsinki University of Technology that monitors a player's hand movements and pumps accompanying electric guitar riffs through an amp." Christian Science Monitor 06/29/06

UK Orchestras Saved From Crippling Insurance Bill Orchestras in Great Britain won't have to pay a potentially disastrous health insurance bill that could have pushed several of them into bankruptcy. "Many orchestras are formed of self-employed musicians and have not paid national insurance on the income paid to them, as they would have had to for permanent staff... Revenue and Customs has advised the chancellor that the orchestras do not have to pay the contributions, thus averting not only the back tax bill of £33m but an annual future bill of £6m." The Guardian (UK) 06/29/06

Now That's Audience Building Dressed up in tuxedos and hard hats, the Nashville Symphony gathered this week to pay tribute to those without whom their glittering new concert hall would never have been built. No, not the high-rolling donors, or the architect, or even the politicians who approved the funding plan. The audience for this private concert was made up entirely of the construction workers whose part in the success of such venues is frequently overlooked. Nashville City Paper 06/29/06

Expense-ive Tastes Valencia's impressive new opera house, known as Palau de les Arts, designed by architect Santiago Calatrava, was hailed as an unqualified success at its opening last year. But controversy has sprung up over the high salary and expenses run up by the hall's superintendent. Helga Schmidt earns over €180,000 a year, far more than her counterparts at other Spanish opera houses; and in the last two years, she has reportedly racked up nearly €300,000 in travel, hotel, and car service costs. Whether such costs are actually out of line is up for debate. PlaybillArts 06/29/06

June 28, 2006

Music Dinosaurs Try To Eat One Another Music giants EMI and Warner have rejected offers from each other to be bought out. Clearly there's synergy here, but... "A merger between EMI and Warner Music has long been mooted and the companies have had merger negotiations before. Although the companies rank third and fourth on the list of the largest music groups, they have the biggest music publishing assets, together accounting for around 32pc of the market." The Telegraph (UK) 06/28/06

Canadian Pianists Shut Out Of Canadian Piano Competition No Canadian pianists have made the cut for this year's Honens International Competition in Calgary. "More than half of the 150 pianists who entered were eliminated without playing a note, on the basis of their applications and reference letters. Seven Russians and six Americans made the cut. The other successful contestants, whose average age is 25, are from Korea, Israel, Brazil, China, Germany, Ukraine and Georgia." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/28/06

Orchestra Selling Itself On eBay "On June 23, just before a rehearsal, the Belgian chamber orchestra Beethoven Academie was informed that its government grant was to be eliminated entirely as of 2007 — in effect, that it has six more months to live. In desperation, and figuring that you can buy and sell anything on eBay, it put itself up for auction on the web site." PlaybillArts 06/28/06

More Red Ink In Milwaukee, But Less Of It The Milwaukee Symphony will end its fiscal year with a $688,000 deficit, and $8 million in outstanding credit lines. But it's not all bad news - the orchestra has hit its fundraising targets for the year, and even the red ink is within the bounds of the ensemble's strategic plan to eventually balance the budget. "Subscriptions fell from 10,285 to 9,805 in 2005-'06, continuing a seven-year trend. But the orchestra set records for single-ticket sales, which jumped from about 14,200 in 2004-'05 to 21,000 this season." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 06/28/06

Montreal's New Hall - So Far, It's All In The Mind The details surrounding the Montreal Symphony's new concert hall have been officially announced. "But long-suffering local music lovers should not hold their breath. While the proposed facility on the neglected northeast corner of Place des Arts has an estimated price tag - $105 million - it does not yet have a builder or architect and is not expected to materialize before 2011, the last year of Kent Nagano's contracted tenure as MSO music director. What was unveiled yesterday was less a concert hall than a hypothetical five-year plan to build one as the first cultural private-public partnership in Quebec." Montreal Gazette 06/28/06

June 27, 2006

Springer Opera Comes To End (Maybe Forever?) Jerry Springer the Opera is winding up its controversial tour in the UK. Despite rave reviews, the tour was a financial disaster after fundamentalist Christians attacked the tour. Many theatres pulled out and ticket sales were low. "This will be the last chance to see it, as its co-author Stewart Lee says glumly that he doubts it will ever be performed again. It shows how insidiously the tentacles of religious zeal invade every sphere of national life, despite the very small number of religious practitioners in this most secular of nations." The Guardian (UK) 06/27/06

One-Click Buy Music Over Your Phone... A UK phone company will offer the service. "While tuning in to digital radio stations through headphones, listeners will be able to click a 'buy' button on their phone and have the track downloaded to their phone. Record labels, buffeted by digital piracy in recent years, and commercial radio stations suffering an advertising drain to the internet hope the digital solution will help them to fight back. But it will pose another challenge to high street record stores, already struggling to compete with the convenience of digital downloads."
The Guardian (UK) 06/27/06

Back And Better Than Ever? James Levine is back after missing several months of conducting engagements with an injured shoulder, and reports say that he has lost a noticable amount of weight during his rehabilitation. Levine will open the Boston Symphony's summer season at Tanglewood on July 7. Boston Globe 06/27/06

MD Mutiny Brewing In Seattle Mere weeks after extending the contract of music director Gerard Schwarz, the Seattle Symphony has been thrown into chaos amid what appears to be an open revolt against Schwarz's leadership. Executive director Paul Meecham, whose tenure got off to a rocky start a few years back when he suggested that the SSO might need to look beyond Schwarz, has resigned, and the orchestra's musicians are preparing to publicly release an internal survey expressing widespread dissatisfaction with Schwarz's leadership. One well-respected musician who recently questioned Schwarz's extension in a letter to a local weekly has also been tagged for dismissal from the SSO in what the musicians say is an obvious act of retaliation. Seattle Post-Intelligencer 06/27/06

Another Louisville Manager Flies The Coop A tumultuous year continues apace at the Louisville Orchestra, where the chief operating officer is leaving to become executive director at the Portland Symphony in Maine. Louisville previously accepted the resignation of its own ED in the midst of a bitter battle with the orchestra's musicians over a proposed reduction in the number of full-time players in the orchestra, before managing to stabilize its perennially precarious finances without such reductions. Louisville Courier-Journal 06/27/06

June 26, 2006

Ross: Barenboim The Traditionalist Daniel Barenboim leaves the directorship of the Chicago Symphony. Alex Ross likes what the orchestra has accomplished under a conductor he had some questions about ten years ago. "Ultimately, Barenboim is a fiery traditionalist, who can revitalize the most familiar scores." The New Yorker 06/26/06

Group Protests Loss Of Texas Classical Music Station Texas classical radio station KTPB has been sold to a Christian broadcaster. So classical music will go off the air, but not without a fight. "Just because we live out here in the middle of nowhere doesn't mean we have to be a cultural void. This radio station has reached people who have no other access to the arts. Meanwhile, three other Christian music stations lie just to the north on the FM dial." The New York Times 06/26/06

Conducting Left-Overs The Saratoga Performing Arts Center unveiled a new logo with a picture of a left-handed conductor. Nothing unusual about that. Except... how many left-handed conductors are there? The Saratogian 06/25/06

June 25, 2006

Summertime... And The (Orchestra) Concerts Mean Something It's easy to pooh-pooh conservative summer orchestra concerts. But "what is it about these neighborhood concerts that makes them work so well? They come at a time when even the orchestra management is saying that supply outstrips demand for subscription concerts - you know, the ones whose ticket prices have escalated at three times the rate of inflation. Maybe the fact that the neighborhood concerts are free has something to do with it. But for these audiences, the act of the orchestra coming to them gratis eases more than just logistical and financial hurdles. The trek becomes a social gesture in which an important civic institution takes a little of its glamour and prestige to declare that a section of the city or suburbs matters." Philadelphia Inquirer 06/25/06

Report: Montreal Symphony To Get New Home Montreal newspaper Le Devoir reports that the Montreal Symphony will finally get a new concert hall. "The MSO has been performing at the downtown Place des Arts complex, and efforts to move it into its own home have been underway since 1980. The new hall will be built on the Place des Arts site and is expected to have better acoustics and opportunities for the orchestra to expand its audience, with a seating capacity of between 1,800 to 2,200, the report says." CBC 06/24/06

Everything You Ever Needed To Know About The Florida Orchestra It was a good season - some concert highlights, some new players, some changes in management... St. Petersburg Times 06/25/06

Lockhart Named Artistic Director In North Carolina "Keith Lockhart, conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra and music director of the Utah Symphony, has been named artistic advisor of Brevard Music Center [North Carolina] effective Oct. 1, 2007." The Citizen-Times (Asheville, NC) 06/24/06

Why Jazz Doesn't Always Sound Good In Great Concert Halls Carnegie Hall is, of course, one of the world's great concert halls, just so long as you're talking about symphonic music. But throw the best jazz band in the world on the Carnegie main stage, and you've got a major acoustical problem on your hands. The problem has to do with electronics - halls built to showcase the raw sound of an orchestra just aren't built to deal with the high-octane amplification systems used by jazz and pop musicians. The problem can be overcome without too much trouble if the guy running the sound board knows how to do it, but a large percentage of board operators just aren't used to working in such an environment. The New York Times 06/24/06

Norwegian Strike Ends In Mediated Settlement Norway's musicians' union has called off a month-old strike that could have crippled the nation's many state-supported symphony orchestras, after musicians accepted a draft settlement proposed by a mediator. "The strike began in Bergen in late May, disrupting the opening of the west coast city's annual music festival. It later spread to the national Opera and the Oslo Philharmonic, which was forced to cancel its Asian tour. The musicians were protesting annual salaries that average NOK 350,000 ($58,300) and the fact that they have to pay for their own instruments and their own gala clothing that's worn during performances." Aftenposten (Oslo) 06/23/06

Gelb's Met Can't Come Soon Enough There's no longer any doubt that the Metropolitan Opera will undergo a dramatic shift when Peter Gelb takes over this fall, and with all due respect to Joseph Volpe, Rupert Christian says it's time for a change. "Artistically, [Volpe] has presided over a regime that has been cautious and conservative, excessively in thrall to the tastes of its elderly subscribers and sponsors. Despite its superb orchestra and roster of stars, the Met hasn't had much luck with its half-hearted attempts to employ the more radical generation of directors, and its need to churn out seven shows a week often makes it seem more like a factory delivering the goods than a hub of creativity." The Telegraph (UK) 06/24/06

Honolulu Finally Finds New Leadership The perenially strapped Honolulu Symphony has named a new executive director to replace Stephen Bloom, who resigned a year ago. Tom Gulick, a marketing expert who most recently served as director of Ballet Pacifica in suburban Los Angeles, "will have to immediately address lingering symphony concerns that include negotiating musician, management and staff pay raises — their first since taking a 20 percent pay cut and reduction in benefits in 2003 — and helping the orchestra's search for a replacement for long-departed music director/ maestro Samuel Wong." Honolulu Advertiser 06/24/06

June 23, 2006

NY's Morgan Library Scores Concert Plans "In a coup, the Morgan has lured away the St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble from Zankel Hall by offering a bargain-basement price. The prestigious Boston Early Music Festival will present three concerts, a shot in the arm for New York's relatively modest early-music scene. Glimmerglass Opera will bring previews of its offerings for next summer. And the library hopes to play host to a small contingent from the Vienna Philharmonic." The New York Times 06/23/06

June 22, 2006

Conducting & Leadership: Together At Last When the UK's Cheltenham Festival appointed conductor Martyn Brabbins to be its new director last year, all involved knew they were taking a chance. "Conductors lead busy, peripatetic lives; they are far from obvious candidates to run music festivals... A year on, the appointment seems an inspired choice. Not only had Brabbins made his home in Gloucestershire, but he had the reputation of being a conductor with an unusually wide range of musical sympathies." The Guardian (UK) 06/23/06

Still Learning Toronto's New Opera House Robert Everett-Green isn't ready yet to pronounce on the acoustics of Toronto's new Opera House: "I've been in the hall four times (five, if you count a hard-hat tour) and heard music from six different seats on three levels. It has been a steep learning experience so far, and I'm not just talking about the stairs up to the fifth ring. One thing I'm sure of is that it's mighty interesting to have a new opera house on the block." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/22/06

June 21, 2006

France Compromises On iTunes Dispute The French National Assembly voted in March to "force companies like Apple Computer to make their online music stores and players compatible with rival products, but key members say they have agreed to many of the weaker measures endorsed by senators." Wired (AP) 06/21/06

Chicago's Barenboim Years - Progress But Not Affection "A door has not exactly been slammed shut. But the Barenboim years in the Windy City were not marked by a mutual affection that might have left both sides with a more enduring relationship. Barenboim’s departure, made public two years ago, came by mutual consent: he, frustrated at having to combine musical stewardship with the glad-handing of potential donors; they unsure of his commitment to audience-building at a time of falling subscriptions." Financial Times 06/20/06

Competition Shuts Down Arizona Youth Orchestra The Arizona Youth Symphony is shutting down after only six seasons. Its founder cites the establishment of the new Mesa Youth Symphony Orchestra as the cause. "Wal-Mart moved in next door to TrueValue; that's basically what happened," he said. "We've had such good seasons, the idea of not being able to be as good as I was, I thought I'd better not. That's why I didn't." Arizona Republic 06/21/06

June 20, 2006

Driving Daniel Barenboim "Barenboim may have taken his leave of America's finest orchestra - and what a farewell it was, the towering ninth symphonies of Mahler, Bruckner and Beethoven on successive evenings - but the future offers endless possibilities. An important chapter in his life has now closed, and yet, at 64, no great age for a conductor, one senses that his race has some way to run." The Telegraph (UK) 06/20/06

Looking For American Opera "The still slightly unformed nature of American opera is reflected in the startling diversity of opinions surrounding it. Experts cannot even agree on exactly how to define the field." Denver Post 06/18/06

Peter Oundjian Hired As Artistic Advisor To Detroit Symphony Oundjian is also music director of the Toronto Symphony. In detroit "Oundjian will focus on artistic planning, helping select repertoire, shaping upcoming seasons and devising special initiatives such as festivals or other ventures. Oundjian (UN-jen), who was previously engaged to conduct two weeks in Detroit next season, will lead three weeks in 2007-08. The move promises to deepen the scope and ambition of DSO classical programming, which in the eyes of some aficionados and DSO players has lacked imagination during the transition after former music director Neeme Jarvi stepped down in 2005." Detroit Free Press 06/20/06

June 19, 2006

Hungarian State Opera Director Fired Hungarian minister of culture István Hiller has fired Árpád Jutocsa Hegyi, the controversial general director of the Hungarian State Opera in Budapest, Italy's ANSA news agency reports. PlaybillArts 06/19/06

What Should Scotland's National Anthem Be? "The Royal Scottish National Orchestra has launched an online poll asking users of its website to vote for one of five choices. The contenders are Highland Cathedral, Flower of Scotland, Scots Wha Hae, Scotland the brave and A man's a man. The anthem debate has been stoked by different sports playing different songs before Scotland matches." BBC 06/19/06

Kushner's Operatic "Angels" More Literally As An Opera "The rush of time drives 'Angels in America' — first as Tony Kushner's gargantuan Broadway play about AIDS, politics and morality, and now in an operatic setting by Peter Eotvos. Written for the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris and produced for an American audience by Opera Unlimited at the Calderwood Pavilion here on Friday night, "Angels" as opera thrives on characters who — in their varying pettiness, nobility, cowardice, heart and sheer size of personality — were operatic before there was music to make them so." The New York Times 06/19/06

Daniel Barenboim Takes Leave Of Chicago "For all that Mr. Barenboim has changed the orchestra's character, it is not always apparent to one who has not heard a lot of the Chicago Symphony in recent years what, precisely, the new character is. While the sound retains weight and solidity, it tends more to invite listeners in rather than overwhelm them. Perhaps it is a matter not so much of a new personality as of a new versatility." The New York Times 06/19/06

Classical Music Groups Being Pushed Out Of Lauderdale? Fort Lauderdale music groups say they're feeling a scheduling squeeze from the Broward County Performing Arts Center because of touring Broadway shows. "Officials have privately complained for years that the Broward Center's emphasis on reserving large blocks for touring Broadway shows has made scheduling their performances increasingly difficult." With the imminent opening of the Miami Performing Arts Center, the groups may be looking at other options. South Florida Sun-Sentinel 06/19/06

June 18, 2006

Was Horowitz's Piano The Equivalent Of Bonds' Steroids? "Although it's true that tweaking a piano is not illegal, hardly like ingesting a banned substance, one effect resembles that of steroids. According to 'Game of Shadows,' the recent bestseller that blew the whistle on Bonds, one of the properties of steroids is that they can reduce the effects of fatigue, permitting ballplayers to ignore pain and concentrate on hitting or throwing. A looser action on a keyboard does something similar: You can play runs and scales faster and for a longer period of time with less muscle fatigue. In that sense, you could say that Horowitz's instrument was like a piano on steroids." Los Angeles Times 06/18/06

Cleveland-In-Florida - Some Mixed Feelings In Miami there are mixed feelings about a deal that will make the Cleveland Orchestra the resident orchestra of the region's major new performing arts center. Cleveland is one of the world's great orchestras. And yet, some worry that having the orchestra in residence will mean the area won't be able to build its own orchestra. "It's a shame that the hall was built for the local musicians and they're not getting a chance to use it. Obviously, the musicians who were in the Florida Philharmonic would like to be playing in the hall that was built for them." South Florida Sun-Sentinel 06/18/06

Organized Music A majority of most orchestral audiences probably don't even realize that the tuxedo-clad musicians in front of them are affiliated with organized labor, but American orchestras have been union shops since the turn of the 20th century. Well, most of them. The Boston Symphony, one of America's top bands, furiously resisted all organizing efforts for nearly half a century before finally embracing the union in 1942. Since then, Boston's musicians have become some of the most influential in the country. Boston Globe 06/18/06

Spoleto's Pull Charleston, South Carolina may not be one of the first cities you think of when listing the world's classical music centers. But "during late May and early June, the cultural life of smallish Charleston is virtually synonymous with Spoleto Festival USA," a major music festival that takes over the entire city and has long since been embraced by the entire populace. Toronto Star 06/17/06

Barenboim's Last Chicago Hurrah This weekend, Daniel Barenboim conducts his final concerts as music director of the Chicago Symphony. "Barenboim has had his differences with CSO players, and some of them are doubtless happy to see him go. But Thursday night's Mahler offered a glimpse of conductor and virtuoso orchestra clearly willing to go for broke." Chicago Sun-Times 06/17/06

June 16, 2006

Classical Music's Future Online... Whatb are the prospects for classical recordings on the internet? A recent panel at the American Symphony Orchestra League conference in Los Angeles discussed the opportunities and challenges... Gramophone 06/16/06

Contemplating A Baltimore Symphony Under Alsop "Right now, if I were asked whether I'd rather hear Temirkanov or Alsop in Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler, Sibelius, Shostakovich -- in virtually any of the masterpieces in the standard repertory -- I'd go for Temirkanov in a hummingbird's heartbeat. But if I were asked who was more likely, over time, to bring in new audiences and board members, to win over Baltimoreans who may never have attended a classical concert, to help revitalize both the orchestra and the city in which it is rooted, Alsop might get the nod." Washington Post 06/16/06

Arizona Orchestra Cancels Performances The Mesa [Arizona] Symphony has canceled four upcoming concerts, including its popular July Fourth concert. "Officials from the symphony, which comprises 65 part-time employees who perform about a dozen concerts a year, blamed the failure of a Mesa property tax initiative in May for the loss of funding. The $50,000 grant represents about a quarter of the symphony’s annual budget." East Valley Tribune (Arizona) 06/16/06

The Website That's Changing The Music Business "Pitchforkmedia.com has become the main arbiter of taste among independent music fans, a distinction once claimed by zines, college radio, and mainstream music mags that risked advertising dollars by taking chances on unknown bands. The news and reviews site has found its niche in catering to list makers, mp3 traders, and kids who are determined to love and leave a band before you've ever even heard of them. Pitchfork has plenty of faults—impenetrable writing, factual gaffes made by first-time critics—but they haven't kept it from turning the music industry's standard operating procedure on its head. It's the website every music-head checks and the website every music-head hates." City Pages (Minneapolis/St. Paul) 06/14/06

June 15, 2006

Music Firm Claims iPod Infringes Patents "Creative has asked the International Trade Commission to issue an order stopping Apple from marketing, selling or importing iPods into the US. It claims the iPod infringes its patent for a music player navigation menu." BBC 06/15/06

Milwaukee Revival? The Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra, which hasn't given a concert in over a year for financial reasons, is showing signs of life. The orchestra has appointed a new music director, and resolved a dispute with the musicians' union, and plans on mounting a 2006-07 season. "The MCO is carrying about $9,000 total debt. The board is working on grants and fund raising to pay that off and get the orchestra playing again as soon as next fall." Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 06/15/06

Toronto Opens Its Opera House As Toronto's Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts held its official opening gala last night, the music almost seemed to take a back seat to the whole concept of having an opera house. "For years, Toronto was known around the world as the city that could not get an opera house built." No more, and the opening went off without any of the usual speeches and bluster - the singing was the thing. Toronto Star 06/15/06

  • But How Does It Sound? "The hall sounded like a winner. It's got a very attractive resonance, flattering to all parts of the orchestra and especially to voices on stage. The sound is warm and a bit contained, but without dryness. It is clear enough to expose every section of the orchestra (a challenging asset), and to give maximum transparency to sung or spoken text." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/15/06

June 14, 2006

Marketing Classical Music - Try MySpace "Common wisdom has it that the social networking Web site is primarily a hangout for teenagers and 20-somethings, where middle-aged cops can entrap pervs preying on teenagers. But savvy classical music marketers are discovering that if you want to attract young people, you’ve got to go where they are. Thus MySpace is becoming a valuable marketing tool for some of today’s biggest classical stars - and is poised to be even more important as young musicians promote their own careers." Boston Herald 06/10/06

Tosca's Allure "Tosca remains one of the ten most performed operas around the world and there is no arguing with the turnstile. Its secret, I suspect, is twofold. Like The Mousetrap, most people know how it is going to end, which means they can take guests again and again with a lightly-worn air of superiority. The attraction of repetition is reinforced by the richness of interpretative possibility." La Scena Musicale 06/14/06

Do We Overthink What We're Trying To Appreciate? "Being culturally and historically informed is one thing, and having an artistic experience is quite another. The danger nowadays is that with musical scholarship calling the shots in 'early music', and so much energy devoted to reviving mediocre works, we're losing sight of that distinction." The Telegraph (UK) 06/15/06

Comparing Toronto's Opera House To the World How does Toronto's new opera house stack up against the world's great opera houses? Architect Jack Diamond’s new Toronto theatre has "an almost dour grey-brick exterior, which belies the warmth of the hall’s interior, an effect created by ambient lights, a cozy horseshoe-shaped auditorium — small for an opera hall — and rich wood paneling. To make the opera-going experience less elitist than European halls built by and for aristocrats, Diamond has opened the main lobbies to the passing eye, with nothing but glass between show-goers and outsiders gaping from the street." CBC 06/14/06

Dallas In The Black "The Dallas Symphony Orchestra is ending the 2005-06 season with a balanced budget and an uptick in overall attendance and ticket revenues. But the news isn't all good. Attendance at classical concerts declined 6 percent, and the annual fund fell 6 percent short of its $8,025,000 goal." Dallas Morning News 06/13/06

Red Ink In Houston Houston Grand Opera is expected to report a $2.5 million deficit at summer's end. The red ink is a result of slumping ticket sales and donations, and comes despite cuts the company has made in education and outreach programs in recent years. A major capital campaign is planned for next year to help the opera stabilize its finances. Houston Chronicle 06/14/06

Please Hold Your Opinions The Canadian Opera Company is thrilled with their new home at Toronto's just-opening Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, but the company is also trying to temper expectations of the acoustic before audiences get their first listen later this week. "After decades of pushing out enough sound to fill the unresponsive Hummingbird Centre, he said, the musicians of the COC's resident orchestra are going to need time to discover how much is enough in the new building, which hosts its first public concert tonight... When it comes to the acoustics of music theatres, it seems, nothing is easy." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/14/06

June 13, 2006

Artist management Company Closes After A Decade Janice L. Mayer is closing her classical music artists management agency after a decade. "Friends and associates said fatigue, a need for change, tough times in the business and a dispute with one of her singers might all have contributed to the decision." The New York Times 06/14/06

Teachout: Stravinsky Bio Is A Modern Classic Terry Teachout has strong words for Stephen Wash's new biography of Igor Stravinsky. "The Second Exile, like its predecessor, is an inspiring piece of work, at once comprehensive and beguilingly well written. After two careful readings, I feel safe in ranking it—alongside David Cairns’s Berlioz, Lewis Lockwood’s Beethoven: The Music and the Life, and Anthony Tommasini’s Virgil Thomson: Composer on the Aisle—as one of the finest biographies of a classical composer to be published in the modern age of musical scholarship." Commentary 06/06

UK Sound Artists Lead the Way Britain's experimental musicians are now what the YBAs were for visual art in the 90s. "While pop seems to have run out of new ideas, preferring to find witty ways to reinvent the sounds of decades past, these artists are pushing the boundaries of what music can do, and melding it with technology, art, architecture, film and even comedy. 'Sound art' is finding a home in galleries and venues that have identified an appetite among the listening public for music that gives the brain, as well as the ears, something to work on." The Observer (UK) 06/11/06

Baltimore SymphonyBreaks 8-Year Recording Drought The Baltimore Symphony has gone eight years without recording a commercial CD. "Other than a limited-edition disc issued by the orchestra itself, there is no documentation of the BSO's extraordinary collaboration with music director Yuri Temirkanov. But Marin Alsop, who succeeds Temirkanov next year, will record with the ensemble this week. If all goes well, recordings will be a regular feature of her BSO tenure." Baltimore Sun 06/13/06

June 12, 2006

Oh My Ojai "Ojai used to be the music world’s best-kept secret. Now it is in danger of becoming too successful for its own good. Igor Stravinsky, Pierre Boulez and Peter Maxwell Davies are among the composers who have succumbed to its simple charms. Michael Tilson Thomas and Kent Nagano are two of the performers it recognised before they reached the limelight. Ojai is synonymous with musical adventure and yet the festival takes place in a small town 90 minutes’ drive north of Los Angeles, the last place you would expect to find an iconic festival experience." Financial Times 06/12/06

Lebrecht: Why Warner Cut Classical Music "The tragic fact of the matter is that giant media players are pulling out of minority art, a myopic strategy that gives them no chance of tapping the next quirk in public taste or contributing to cultural evolution. Warner bought its way into classics just ahead of the Three Tenors 1990 boom and scored an eight-million follow-up CD at the Los Angeles World Cup. It gobbled up one independent after another – Erato in France, Teldec in Germany, Finlandia, Deutsche Harmonia Mundi – and went into overproduction along with all the others in the 1990s until the roof fell in and the outlet was slimmed down to a single stream of mainstream classics. That, too, ha now been deemed surplus to requirements." La Scena Musicale 06/12/06

Any Music, Any Time, Anywhere "Pundits have been yammering away for years about a 'celestial jukebox' that will give everyone the ability to access all content ever created, from anywhere, at any time. This long-discussed concept is finally becoming a reality, at least as far as music goes." Wired 06/12/06

Assessing Baltimore's Temirkanov Years "Yuri Temirkanov's time with the Baltimore Symphony was relatively brief, just 6 1/2 years, but I wouldn't be surprised if it takes on the glow of legend as time passes. He inherited what had long been a solid orchestra of the not-quite-top tier and proceeded to elicit, in concert after concert, nuances, tendernesses and reserves of feeling from the players that were often extraordinarily affecting. The best analogy I can come up with is that moment in "The Wizard of Oz" when the scene changes from black and white to full color and we are in a different world." Washington Post 06/12/06

Daniel Barenboim On The State Of Music In America "The fact remains that a great majority of the intellectuals in this world are totally oblivious to the existence of music. Some of them enjoy the sounds they hear at concerts or when they listen to records at home. But it's not part of their intellectual worldview. This is a worldwide sickness. And I have to say the problem is more acute in America." Chicago Tribune 06/11/06

Baltimore Symphony Works To Smooth The Road The Baltimore Symphony has had a bumpy ride in the past year, hiring a new music director and seeing its management leaders depart. "The orchestra has been further roiled by continuing budget deficits and sparse attendance at many concerts - problems that have led similar orchestras to fold in recent years. Now, though, with a former corporate executive shepherding the orchestra and a beefed-up role for musicians in major decisions, the BSO says it's in the midst of a crescendo." Philadelphia Inquirer (AP) 06/11/06

June 11, 2006

Opportunity In Challenges For NY Phil? The New York Philharmonic faces big challenges - looking for a new music director as well as an extended exile from Lincoln center while its home is renovated. Might this lead to changes? "Imagine if the status quo were shaken up. For a month or so an orchestra would present varied weekly programs, like those today. This could be followed by, say, a minifestival focused on a single composer or an overall theme, with a different program for each concert. Then the musicians might subdivide into chamber orchestras and perform in high school auditoriums and smaller halls before reassembling at the homestead for another installment of weekly programs." The New York Times 06/11/06

LA Opera's "Grendel" On A Grand Scale "Nearly two decades in the making, this opera conceived by Goldenthal and director Julie Taymor finally — after a 12-day delay due to finicky computer technology — had its premiere Thursday night at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. And this much can be said without qualification: It is the most ambitious, spectacular and successful new opera yet from Los Angeles Opera." Los Angeles Times 06/10/06

Sun-Times' Critic Delacoma Leaves The Newspaper After 15 years, Wynne Delacoma packs it in as music critic of the Chicago Sun-Times. "I joined the Sun-Times just before Halloween in 1990 and inherited the critic's post the following April Fool's Day. Goblins and tricksters, not the most auspicious omens for major career changes. But on my watch, benevolent forces far outweighed evil influences on Chicago's classical music scene." Chicago Sun-Times 06/11/06

Toronto's New Opera House Toronto's glittering new Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts opens this weekend, and the $150 million venue is aiming high, as is the primary tenant, the Canadian Opera Company. "Architect Jack Diamond's spare, modernist structure is first and foremost an ideal place to experience the powerful blend of words, music and drama that is opera. If the opera company and its associated Canadian Opera House Corporation can continue to pay their way, the new structure heralds a bigger dot for Toronto on the world's cultural map." The Four Seasons Centre opens just in time to play host to COC's upcoming production of Wagner's Ring Cycle. Toronto Star 06/10/06

  • Opera As Exhibit A In The Wonder Of The Modern City So Toronto's opera lovers have a new palace. That's nice and all, "but why should anyone who doesn't know Parsifal from Pagliacci give two hoots? The answer, I think, has something to do with the importance and the wonder of cities... Cities stretch us, challenge us, broaden us. Cities, like magazines in their glory years, can pique our curiosity with an almost unlimited table of contents. And we become intrigued. About hockey, perhaps; about graffiti, perhaps; about commodities, perhaps; about Verdi." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/10/06

Soundtrack, Bloody Soundtrack "Like most of modern life, surgery has acquired a soundtrack, whether it be Sinatra or Vivaldi, Mozart or Bob Marley, 'La Bohème' or the Beatles. Surgeons say it relaxes them, focuses their attention and helps pass the time... Music can become a subtle bone of contention among the members of the surgical team or a practical aid. Loud rock 'n' roll is good for routine operations, they say, Mozart for trickier ones. There is even a genre called "closing music": raucous sounds to suture by." The New York Times 06/10/06

New Leadership In Baltimore The Baltimore Symphony, which has lately been plowing through controversies like most orchestras go through Beethoven, is expected to select a self-made millionaire and venture capitalist as its next chairman of the board. The hope is that Michael Bronfein can help right the BSO's financial ship as the organization attempts to put behind it the controversy generated when conductor Marin Alsop was appointed music director without the approval of the musicians. Baltimore Sun 06/10/06

We Vote For Whichever One Doesn't Remind Us Of Braveheart Scotland's national orchestra is making a push to choose a new national anthem for the region, to supplement the UK-wide anthem, "God Save The Queen," which doesn't have a great deal of resonance with Scots. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra has recorded renditions of five contending songs (not surprisingly, two are based on poems by Robert Burns, and a third is a bagpipe tune,) and is inviting Scots around the world to vote on its website over the next month. The Scotsman (UK) 06/11/06

June 9, 2006

Wales Center Resists Demands To Cancel Springer Opera The Wales Millennium Centre says it won't bow to demands from religious leaders to cancel performances of "Jerry Springer, The Opera." "Monday's letter, signed by representatives of more than 100 churches in Cardiff and across south Wales, called on the venue to cancel the show. 'Christians in Cardiff and south Wales are deeply offended that a national venue paid for by our tax money is being used to mock God and his son, Jesus Christ, in the most vulgar way'." BBC 06/05/06

American Abroad Comes Home With A Mission "For the past few decades, James Conlon has been the classical music world's most noted American abroad. He's held musical posts in Rotterdam, Cologne and most recently Paris, where he spent nine acclaimed years as principal conductor of the Paris Opera; his main foothold in his homeland has been the Cincinnati May Festival, a choral festival he's led since 1979. But now, at 56, Conlon is coming home. He's taken over the helm of the Ravinia Festival, the summer home of the Chicago Symphony, and in the fall he'll succeed Kent Nagano as music director of the Los Angeles Opera." San Francisco Chronicle 06/09/06

June 8, 2006

What Happened To Rock's Great Bassists? "Most of those who operate in music's lower registers are hardly making the most of their time. The finger-stretching that once characterised the best bass-playing has all but disappeared: these days, rock's remaining bassists tend to find out what chords the guitarist is playing, memorise what are known as the "root notes" and thrum along." The Guardian (UK) 06/08/06

Will Wal-Mart Lift Parental Advisory Recordings Ban? Wal-Mart may be ending its ban on selling CDs with parental advisory stickers. The retailer is a major force in the recording business, but only sells "clean" versions of songs. "People seem to think that Wal-Mart is revisiting that decision. There are indications that the new regime is more open to change." Yahoo! (Reuters) 06/08/06

Osmo Vanska Quits Finnish Orchestra "After keeping a foot on each side of the Atlantic for a few years, the Minnesota Orchestra's music director will leave his post as chief conductor of Finland's Lahti Symphony at the end of the 2007-08 season, concluding a two-decade tenure that began when he was named the orchestra's music director in 1988." St. Paul Pioneer Press 06/08/06

Suggestion - National Symphony Should Book A Crowd The National Symphony has been looking for a replacement for music director Leonard Slatkin, but Mark Mobley has a suggestion. "The NSO needs a radical new strategy. It's time to diversify the product by hiring a series of guest conductors. Put more emerging musicians, especially more Americans, on the podium, and let the players and staff set a course to lure patrons and improve the concerts." Washington Post 06/04/06

June 7, 2006

A Controversial New Business Model For Trading Music A new website "allows fans to trade music discs for just $1 plus shipping, pledges to give a fifth of its sales to all the musicians, including lesser-known session studio players, involved in the making of CDs exchanged on its site. In a move that is certain to stoke controversy with music promoters, the founder of the Silicon Valley startup said la la will circumvent traditional copyright and royalty payment systems to compensate identifiable working musicians." Wired 06/07/06

Warner Rolls Up Classical Label Warner Classics is no more. "Warner Classics is being rolled into Rhino, Warner's reissue division, though it is unclear at the moment of the parent company's ambitions in the classical music world. This move by Warner reduces the so-called majors in the classical record arena to just EMI, Universal and Sony-BMG." Gramophone 06/02/06

June 6, 2006

Tony Hall's Covent Garden Turn-around "When he took over five years ago, leaving his post as director of BBC News to do so, Hall was described in the press as having taken on the 'dirtiest job in the arts'. The opera house was emerging from a particularly dark period; indeed, the television fly-on-the-wall documentary series The House had shown it as chaotically organised and financially in tatters." Now "the ROH has now balanced its books for the seventh consecutive year and Hall, once the arts world outsider, has just renewed his five-year contract." The Telegraph (UK) 06/07/06

UK Fans Can Copy CDs They've Bought "UK music fans no longer face the threat of prosecution for copying their own CDs on to PCs or MP3 players, as long as the songs are only for personal use." Thus says the British recording industry. BBC 06/06/06

Remaking Scottish Opera Scottish Opera is trying to revive itself after a series of financial setbacks. "I don't see it as a need to 'rebuild' audiences, more a need to 'reconnect' with them. The issue is not that we haven't connected with Scotland, we just haven't been noticed." The Scotsman 06/05/06

"X" Marks The Spot Oakland Opera is a small company that does big things with contemporary work. Case in point - its revival of Anthony Davis' "X". "Operating on a shoestring -- Sunday afternoon's performance went ahead with neither lighting nor programs after a series of mechanical mishaps -- the company has once again assembled all the elements it needs for gripping musical theater. There seems to be no limit to what these folks can pull off." San Francisco Chronicle 06/06/06

Pondering The Allure Of Opera A gala at the Metropolitan Opera has Alex Ross thinking about the attraction of opera. "For a long while, during the macho decades of rock and rap, it seemed as though vocal floridity had been drummed out of pop music. But it turns out that there is an abiding hunger in the heartland for high notes, melisma, fioritura, and the rest. So why don’t more people warm to the grand original? One problem is that there is no way of capturing opera’s elemental thrill on television, or even on a recording." The New Yorker 06/05/06

June 5, 2006

Self-Interested - Bands Build Fans By Phone These days major recording labels want to see musical acts demonstrate they have a fan base before being signed. So bands are turning to promotions for mobile phones and other fan-building ploys to build their careers... Yahoo! (Reuters) 06/05/06

June 4, 2006

Can Jazz Save New Orleans? "If the Chicago owners of the Hyatt Regency New Orleans and their Crescent City partners can pull together $716 million in financing, New Orleans will have a 200,000-square foot National Jazz Center, a 20-acre jazz park featuring live music performances and an under-the-stars amphitheater and band shell. The complex will be home to the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and the centerpiece of a larger plan to refurbish the hurricane-battered Hyatt Regency New Orleans and erect new government buildings." Chicago Tribune 06/04/06

Barenboim After Chicago What will Daniel Barenboim do after leaving the Chicago Symphony? "I will play more piano. I always knew that with this job [as music director], I would have a limited amount of time to play the piano. But I won't have to do that anymore. You know my rhythm here with chamber music and recitals, which I do because otherwise I don't play for too long. Do I want to overextend myself and play, or take the necessary risk and not play for too long? I don't want that anymore." Chicago Sun-Times 06/04/06

Detroit - An Orchestra Adrift? "Four years into the search to replace music director emeritus Neeme Järvi, the Detroit Symphony hasn't selected a successor and a decision may be six months or a year away, perhaps longer." While "the orchestra has given committed and expressive performances, yet the scent of unfulfilled potential lingers like a summer cold." Here'a a list of potential music directors. Detroit Free Press 06/04/06

Consider... The Accordion June is National Accordion Awareness Month. So is the accordion becoming cool again? "The sound of a piano accordion makes people happy. If I were to join the musicians who played while the Titanic was sinking, I'd grab my Weltmeister piano accordion -- the smaller one I use for strolling -- and play a nice German beer-barrel polka. It'd be a great sing-along that would put everyone in a better mood." San Francisco Chronicle 06/04/06

A Share In A Great Violin Violinist Robert McDuffie wanted a great violin but couldn't afford the cost himself. "So he incorporated, setting up 1737 del Gesu Partners, L.P., and convinced 16 friends and acquaintances (including himself) to invest in the instrument. The return on equity? Two private concerts a year, a share in any profits when McDuffie sells the violin in 2024 — and the pleasure of seeing and hearing a master play a masterpiece." Toronto Star 06/04/06

Salsa's Superstar Label Gets Back In The Game "In its heyday, from the late 1960's through the 70's, Fania, like Motown, had a superstar-packed roster, a virtual monopoly on salsa's A-list." But the label fell on hard times. "Dozens of its most important recordings are out of print, and others were so shoddily transferred to CD — often directly from the original vinyl — as to be virtually unlistenable. Now, though, a Fania revival is stirring." The New York Times 06/04/06

The Small Missouri Orchestra That Marshalls A Big Orchestra Marshall, Missouri is a small town of about 12,000, but its pride and joy is its symphony orchestra. "Marshall for years has touted itself as the nation's smallest city with its own symphony. The designation may be apocryphal — contenders include the Red Cedar Symphony in Rice Lake, Wis., population 8,350 — but no one can deny that Marshall is mad about music. More than just the brass and woodwinds, a Marshall Philharmonic concert is a testament to the ties forged in small-town America." Los Angeles Times 06/03/06

June 1, 2006

And A Soprano Shall Lead Them The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra has named soprano Dawn Upshaw to an important part-time leadership position. The SPCO abandoned traditional music directorships in 2004, and named a collection of high-profile "artistic partners" who lead the orchestra in multiple programs over a period of years. Other current SPCO "partners" include conductor Douglas Boyd and violinist Joshua Bell. Of course, it's one thing for a violinist to lead a conductor-less orchestra, and quite another for a soprano to do it... Minnesota Public Radio 06/01/06

Curtain To Rise Again In Scotland Scottish Opera has unveiled its new season, and that in itself has to be considered an accomplishment, considering the turmoil the company has been in over the past two years. "Scottish Opera ceased full-scale opera productions for nearly a year and lost its permanent chorus in a major restructuring to pay off its debts," but its new director says that it should be smooth sailing for the foreseeable future. The Scotsman (UK) 06/02/06

Music's Chinese Connection "While British music educationalists agonise over the merits (or otherwise) of 'leading' our children to orchestral music via urban grime projects in Hackney, the Chinese - as in so many Far Eastern countries - have stolen a march on us simply by introducing their children to classical music as a matter of course with no patronising sweeteners attached. As a result, there's a buzz around the genre which is wholly absent in the West." The Telegraph (UK) 05/31/06

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