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October 31, 2006

Classical Hot Classical musicians are taking a cue from pop stars and spicing up their images. "There are so many talented people out there, but there’s not the jobs for the talented people, and there’s not the concerts for every talented person. You need to be special. You need to have something that that other person doesn’t have, and maybe it’s looks." Georgia Straight (Vancouver) 10/26/06

Keeping Score On "Keeping Score" Once upon a time in America, Leonard Bernstein brought music to the masses -- to the children, even -- on TV. "Classical music is much more marginalized now, at least in American life, and any appearance on television is to be enthusiastically celebrated." But is Bernstein protégé Michael Tilson Thomas, host of the PBS program, "Keeping Score," the right person to take up the mantle? New York Sun 10/31/06

Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Saved "The community has bailed out the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, saving it from looming bankruptcy and closure. In less than a month, more than 1,400 people pledged a total of $2.3 million to the struggling orchestra. It's enough money to ensure the symphony will not be forced to shut down at the end of this month. ... On Oct. 4, the symphony announced it needed $2.5 million by the end of the month or it wouldn't be able to carry on." As the symphony works on a sustainability plan, musicians and staff have taken pay cuts. The Record (Kitchener, Ontario) 10/31/06

October 30, 2006

UK Copyright Law Needs Overhaul For Digital Age UK copyright laws are out of date in the digital age, says a new report. "The explosion in the sale of MP3 players means that more people in Britain are copying their music and film collections on to home computers. However, the practice can in theory result in a small fine." So the law needs to be changed. The Guardian (UK) 10/30/06

Will Korean Pop Storm America? "K-pop music is already becoming one of Korea's top cultural exports to other Asian countries. Pop stars like BoA, Rain, Se7en, TVXQ and Shinhwa are overcoming the language barrier with their music, even drawing thousands of fans to their concerts in China, Japan and S
Southeast Asia." But will the music sell in the US
Korea Times 10/30/06

Bavarian State Opera Takes On A New Future "With 2,100 seats, its home, the early-19th-century National Theater, is Germany’s largest opera house. The company also boasts Germany’s biggest opera audience (580,000 last season), the most productions (40) and performances (350) per year, and the richest budget ($100 million)." But new leadership means a new path... The New York Times 10/30/06

October 29, 2006

A Surge In String Quartets People have been predicting the death of chamber music for years. "Three decades later, not only has this apocalyptic view of the genre been averted, the field is flourishing. The industry support organization, Chamber Music America, claims more than 100 quartets as members, and it estimates that many more operate in the United States. While the classical music industry has had its struggles, the quartet genre is booming." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10/29/06

Dobrin: PhilOrch Has Dug Itself A Big Hole Peter Dobrin says that the Philadelphia Orchestra has never really had much of a handle on this whole music director search business. "The orchestra is once again looking for (any?) port in a storm... Waiting for chemistry could take years, but the orchestra really has no choice if it remains committed to the idea of musical quality as the criterion. No one can afford another arranged marriage. Too much is at stake, and some critics believe that the orchestra is already injured." Philadelphia Inquirer 10/29/06

Is There Anybody Out There? Radio orchestras have a long and distinguished history in Germany, where their proliferation was a major part of the postwar rebuilding of the country's infrastructure. "Unlike regular symphony orchestras, they did not have to worry about selling tickets, and focused on studio recordings of unusual repertory, including contemporary music... [But] radio stations no longer have deep pockets; licensing fees have not risen to keep pace with inflation. And in the age of CD’s and iTunes, studio recordings made for broadcast are no longer essential." Despite efforts to adapt, many radio orchestras are teetering on the brink as Germany attempts to square budgetary concerns with its record number of professional orchestras. The New York Times 10/29/06

They'll Still Call Themselves "Cleveland," For Old Time's Sake The Cleveland Orchestra has always been a bit of an anomaly among America's major orchestras, based as it is in a low-profile, mid-sized city with a history of economic problems. The challenge of maintaining one of the world's top bands in a community that doesn't really have the money or the population to support it has caused the ensemble to begin seeking periodic residencies away from home, notably in New York, central Europe, and beginning this year, at Miami's new performing arts center. Akron Beacon Journal 10/29/06

China Rising "Anyone who likes classical music is aware of the changing face, literally, of this Old World art form. Increasingly, its new virtuoso practitioners are coming from Asia, and especially from China, where European art music has entered a golden age." San Jose Mercury News 10/29/06

The Continuing Relevance Of Shostakovich Mozart has gotten most of the attention, but this year is Shostakovich's centenary as well, and John Terauds makes the case that the latter is far more relevant to today's musical experience than the former. "Mozart conjures up powdered wigs, salons and silk-stockinged aristocrats. Shostakovich evokes mass media and tyranny, peace protests and global war, science and enslavement... This music can chill to the bone and tug at our heartstrings at the same time. It is tonal and rhythmic, bearing familiar sounds supported on a masterful architecture of harmony, dissonance and counterpoint — like the music of Bach." Toronto Star 10/28/06

Could Detroit Land Davis? The Detroit Symphony has been searching for a new music director for a couple of years now, with no visible frontrunner emerging. But could Andrew Davis, who will shortly leave a leadership post with the Pittsburgh Symphony, be the DSO's knight in shining armor? "Not that the DSO should act rashly. But 16 minutes into this concert, after a perfectly exquisite, poised, witty, not to say airborne turn through Haydn's little Symphony No. 22 in E-flat, I would have been pushing a contract into Davis' hands and filling his ear with honeyed promises." Detroit News 10/28/06

October 27, 2006

Slatkin Joins Indiana U The university will become Leonard Slatkin's "academic home." "The conductor, 61, seems to be putting together his life after the National Symphony Orchestra, which he exits as music director at the end of 2007-’08. In August the Nashville Symphony named him music advisor; last year he took on the titles of Principal Guest Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic and of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl." Musical America 10/27/06

October 26, 2006

Berlin Police Say Opera Can Go On Berlin police say a production of Mozart's Idomeneo can resume, "weeks after it was cancelled amid fears that its depictions of severed heads of religious figures, including Muhammad, would spur violence." CBC 10/26/06

Note To Orchestra: Sign The Conductor Before You Announce The Conductor The West Australian Symphony Orchestra proudly announced it had snared Edo de Waart as its next music director, announced programs and printed brochures featuring him prominently. Only one problem - they hadn't signed him yet. Now de Waart has pulled out, and the orchestra is embarrassed. The Australian 10/27/06

You Mean Writing A Symphony Is Harder Than Singing A 3-Minute Song? Let's face facts: "classical" works written by ambitious pop stars always suck. Always. Likewise, attempts by pop singers, no matter how talented in their field, to tackle Schumann lieder (Streisand) and classic English lute music (Sting), nearly always end in disaster. But why? It's pretty simple (and depressing), actually. "Many rock musicians can't read music and have what strikes most classical musicians as rather a loose conception of authorship, relying on amanuenses to transform vague ideas into detailed life." The Guardian (UK) 10/26/06

Pickets vs. Pirouettes In Atlanta The musicians who work the pit at Atlanta Ballet will be marking the opening of the 2006-07 season with picket signs. The company disbanded the orchestra in August, preferring recorded music to the cost of maintaining a house band. The musicians have filed an unfair labor practices claim, and plan to protest at the ballet's performances this week. Atlanta Journal-Constitution 10/26/06

Whose 5th Is It Anyway? Beethoven's 5th is arguably the most well-known work of classical music in the world. But it's also probably the work most messed with by conductors. "Some prefer the electricity of [John Eliot] Gardiner, some the grandeur of [Fritz] Reiner and some the nobility of George Szell, still others the compelling manipulation of conductors who interpret the score as if they had composed it themselves, such as Carlos Kleiber." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10/26/06

Labor Strife In Dallas "Two weeks before the Dallas Opera is to open its 50th-anniversary season with Verdi's Nabucco, the opera company and its union orchestra don't have a contract." The company is seeking a 5-year deal (long by industry standards) that executives call "flexible" and the musicians call "regressive." Dallas Morning News 10/26/06

K-W Symphony Makes Payroll The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony saga took a turn for the better yesterday, when the beleagured Ontario orchestra announced that it had raised enough money to make this week's musicians' payroll. The musicians also voted to agree to a 15% pay cut for the current season, and the symphony has less than a million dollars to go to meet its goal of bringing in CAN$2.5m by month's end. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 10/26/06

October 25, 2006

Towering Impact Tower Records may have been a big corporation, but to many classical music aficionados in New York and other large East and West Coast cities, the chain's classical department was as close as you could get to a neighborhood record store. "Older record collectors have memories of wonderful, quirky independent stores run by managers who were passionate, if opinionated, about the music they sold. [And Tower's closing] will have a severe impact on niche markets like classical music. According to one industry insider’s estimate, Tower Records alone accounted for up to 50 percent of sales in the specialty genres." The New York Times 10/25/06

NJSO Finally Has A New CEO André Gremillet, a 39-year-old pianist who has spent the last few years running a pipe organ manufacturing company in Canada, has been tapped as the new president and CEO of the New Jersey Symphony. "Gremillet will inherit an organization that is straining under a mountain of debt and yet growing artistically under the baton of Neeme Järvi, the orchestra's conductor and music director." Newark Star-Ledger 10/25/06

K-W Bailout Sees No Business Support Donations have been trickling in in the last-ditch campaign to save Ontario's Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony from bankruptcy (the orchestra needs to raise $2.5m by month's end,) but corporate support has been largely nonexistent. "Money raised to date includes $782,680 donated by about 900 individuals. It also includes $250,000 from Waterloo Region, $170,000 from Kitchener, $85,000 from Waterloo and $230,000 pledged by 18 symphony board members." The Record (Kitchener, ON) 10/25/06

October 24, 2006

The Last Radio Orchestra "Radio orchestras, which continue to play an important role in the musical life of Europe and Asia, were once crucial organizations in the U.S. and Canada. The CBC Radio Orchestra is the last of its breed in North America. Supported by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., this is the only surviving radio orchestra on the continent."
Los Angeles Times 10/24/06

What Happened To Music After The Nazis? "The Americans were convinced that Nazi Germany had been a cultural desert and that the public needed and appreciated them for supplying the refreshing waters of hitherto unavailable music. What they failed to realize was that much good contemporary music was performed in Hitler's Germany and that until the war the country was not closed to the works of British or French or other European composers." NewMusicBox 10/24/06

For £11,100, Rights To An Unknown's Lyrics An unknown London singer-songwriter harnessed the power of eBay to auction his words -- and it worked. "Jonathan Haselden has spent the last four months marketing his lyrics as a way of raising money to promote himself and his music. The idea is that individuals and companies can buy song lines, use them in any way they wish and, if all goes to plan, get a share of the royalties when the song is successful." The Guardian (UK) 10/24/06

Kennedy Breaks Arm Violinist Kennedy has broken his arm in a bicycle accident. "Most of Kennedy’s performances, all cancelled through the month of November, were to have been based on his recently issued debut jazz album, Blue Note Sessions," Musical America 10/24/06

Turn Down That iPod! (Or: High Volume = Risk) "Avid iPod users who wonder if they are putting their hearing at risk may find some relief in a new study that tries to arrive at guidelines for safe listening levels. The key to avoiding hearing damage, the researchers say, appears to be limiting not so much how long one listens to music but how loud it is played." Full blast, it seems, is an officially unhealthy setting.... The New York Times 10/24/06

October 23, 2006

Vivaldi Gets The "Amadeus" Treatment Hoping to duplicate the success of Milos Forman's "Amadeus" movie, movie producers are planning a biopic on the life of Vivaldi. "Amadeus is what we are going for. They set the template for this form, and there's been not much between then and now. That was a wonderful film. We want to make a film of that calibre. Maybe better." The Guardian (UK) 10/23/06

The Opera Director And The Homeless Shelter "It's not unheard of for high-flying directors to return to grass roots. Graham Vick spends part of each year staging community productions with his Birmingham Opera Company. And Warner was partly responsible for establishing the outreach wing of English National Opera. Yet it still seems incongruous to find him at work in a community centre on the outskirts of Newcastle, patiently explaining stage technique to a homeless woman who has missed her cue." The Guardian (UK) 10/23/06

October 22, 2006

How Things Sound In Miami "Everything is audible: a candy wrapper 50 feet away, someone tapping their shoe three rows back; even a moderate cough in the balcony explodes like a detonating landmine on the main floor. Miami audiences are going to have to engage in some serious self-policing to avoid disrupting performances in such a live acoustic." The Sun-Sentinel (Florida) 10/22/06

Lamenting Tower Records "Many culprits contributed to the demise of Tower. It got out-chained by the likes of Wal-Mart and other mass retailers who now promote bestselling CDs, probably under cost. It got hit by the big record labels' indiscriminate releasing of junk in all genres. The downturn in DVD sales hasn't helped. And the ever-infuriating iTunes came along. Once Apple marketed its cute players as objects of lust, the CDs became prehistoric media. Downloaded music isn't inherently bad. But in its quest to rule the world, or at least become another Microsoft-ish monopoly, Apple can be." Los Angeles Times 10/22/06

What Does It Mean To Be Russian Any More? For much of the 20th Century the was a mystique to Russian music. "If there is still 'Russian music' in the old sense, what are the criteria of Russianness?" The Times (UK) 10/22/06

1906 Boston Symphony Recording Surfaces "Tomorrow, thanks to a Florida record collector and a serendipitous turn of events, that song -- believed to be the earliest known recording featuring members of the BSO -- will be played on the radio for the first time. After WGBH found out about it earlier this week, the station included ``The Kerry Dance" as part of its Sunday broadcast, which takes place exactly 125 years, to the day, after the BSO's first concert in 1881." Boston Globe 10/21/06

Eschenbach, Philly Parting Ways In a move that stunned the music world, the Philadelphia Orchestra has announced that music director Christoph Eschenbach will leave his post when his contract expires after the 2007-08 season. At five years, Eschenbach's aborted tenure in Philadelphia will rank as the shortest any music director there has ever had. Philadelphia Inquirer 10/21/06

  • So, What Now? "The successor scenario remains unclear, and the rest of the Eschenbach tenure - almost two full seasons - could go to a number of extremes: Conductor and orchestra might just give up on each other, which would be painful and/or soporific, or they might decide that since it's not a marriage anymore, they can relax and have fun. [As for a successor,] the orchestra will have a long, hard slog with dark horses eager to come up, veterans such as [Bernard] Haitink who guard their time jealously, and interested parties in between - all arriving here knowing that the orchestra needs them more than they need it." Philadelphia Inquirer 10/22/06

And This Is... Bad? Anthony Tommasini says that the opera world is suffering from a distinct lack of big voices capable of tackling the classic roles in big Italian operas. "Young voices are not being nurtured for this particular repertory as they once were. Instead, fledgling singers have the option of forging a distinctive artistic persona in the much broader repertory that has been embraced by companies everywhere." The New York Times 10/22/06

A Necessity, Not A Frill Is a musical education as important in child development as proper instruction in math and language? "At a superficial level, most teachers would agree that becoming involved with music at school has a markedly good effect on pupils. [But] more significant is the nature of the music itself. Nobody can deny how central a part music plays in the life of most children and adolescents... It is the purpose of education to extend the imagination, to open up new and infinite pleasures. For many children, to learn an instrument is the beginning of this extension." The Observer (UK) 10/22/06

Lyric Back On The Air And Fully Funded Lyric Opera of Chicago has found a sponsor for its radio broadcasts through the 2011-12 season. Lyric has been off the air for four years, but returns to local and syndicated radio this Saturday night. The donor making the series possible is a Chicago-area developer whose net worth is estimated at $3 billion. Chicago Tribune 10/21/06

And Some Opera Singers Look A Lot Like An Offensive Line Most people in the arts assume that there just isn't a lot of crossover between the core audiences for high culture and professional sports. But honestly, football really isn't all that different from opera, right? ...no, really! "The crowd is better behaved at the opera, [but] there are moments watching both that make my spine tingle... Second-guessing plays a big role in both the football and opera experiences. By halftime of the game or intermission of the opera, almost everybody has become a critic." Baltimore Sun 10/21/06

Alabama Exec Resigns The executive director of the Alabama Symphony has resigned after only three seasons. Paul Ferrone's brief tenure in Birmingham was widely considered a success - "he leaves an orchestra with a balanced budget, a new music director and a growing statewide presence" - and it appears that the decision to leave was entirely his. Birmingham News (AL) 10/21/06

October 20, 2006

Pittsburgh Symphony - Still Losing Money (But Things Are Better) The Pittsburgh Symphony will finish its year with a $1 million deficit. "Last year's budget was $1.2 million in the red, so the deficit for the 2005-2006 year was incrementally better." Some trends? Ticket sales were up this year, and so was the orchestra's endowment. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10/20/06

October 19, 2006

Steve Reich - In From The Cold Finally - as Steve Reich turns 70, "the classical establishment, which still hasn't figured out how to award Reich a Pulitzer Prize, has finally embraced a composer, and a movement, that it had relegated to the margins." The Nation 10/19/06

Atlanta Hall On Hold Pending Future Donations Work on the Atlanta Symphony's proposed new concert hall in the city's downtown has come to a grinding halt as the project's CEO announced yet another reassessment of the location and design of the building. "Fund-raising for the new hall has stalled... Although the symphony has raised a third of the projected cost of the new center, officials have said they need another third to come from city and state government sources. To date, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and Gov. Sonny Perdue have yet to budget the ASO's request." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 10/19/06

Seattle Blowup Unlikely To Lead To Change At The Top The dustup over Seattle Symphony music director Gerard Schwarz has escalated into a full-scale brawl over the last few weeks, with some musicians loyal to Schwarz claiming harassment, and others in the orchestra insisting that the allegations are merely a reaction to a small, bullying cabal which is losing its grip on power at the SSO. But the bottom line hasn't changed: "Schwarz has lost some of the orchestra (just how large the disgruntled contingent is remains in dispute), but not all of it, and he appears to have the backing of the symphony's board. It may be uncomfortable for all involved, but as long as concertgoers like what they hear from the stage, internal unhappiness won't be an issue." Seattle Post-Intelligencer 10/19/06

October 18, 2006

Washington Opera Takes To The Mall The company will simulcast "Madame Butterfly" outside on the National Mall. "There's a central question here -- and it is not only a question in Washington but in New York and San Francisco and in all the great opera companies. Will these new technology initiatives raise revenue or is revenue not the primary goal? I believe that if we allow the next generation of young people greater access to the opera now -- through simulcasts, radio, special events, lower-priced tickets, free tickets and so on -- they are much more likely to support the opera later on." Washington Post 10/19/06

Rudel Returns To City Opera Julius Rudel, 85, is back conducting at New York City Opera for the first time in 25 years. "Collective memory is short. So not everyone may remember what Mr. Rudel stood for during his tenure. Under him, City Opera cultivated a couple of generations of American singers: Samuel Ramey, Carol Vaness, and, of course, Beverly Sills, long the company’s reigning diva and ultimately Mr. Rudel’s successor." New York Times 10/19/06

October 17, 2006

By What Right A Composer? "Sure, there have been and continue to be tons of great composer/performers out there. But if no one else ever performs your own music except for you, are you a composer? Is a singer-songwriter whose material never gets covered by anyone else a composer?" NewMusicBox 10/17/06

An Orchestra Grows In Kentucky While some larger orchestras have struggled to survive, the Kentucky Symphony has been growing since its birth 15 years ago. "The first concert, Nov. 21, 1992, in Greaves Hall at Northern Kentucky University, drew 165 people. From a start-up budget of $20,000 and four concerts, the organization has grown to a budget of more than $600,000 and 34-40 concerts a year." Cincinnati Post 10/16/06

Music Editor Out After Okaying Reviews By Ad Staffer "The Stranger, one of Seattle's two alternative weekly newspapers, accepted the resignation of two employees late last week after it was discovered that an advertising coordinator had been secretly writing for the paper under a pseudonym -- something editors and managers called a conflict of interest." Those two employees were the advertising staffer, who wrote music reviews and blog entries for the paper, and the music editor who oversaw the arrangement. Seattle Post-Intelligencer 10/17/06

October 16, 2006

Met Opera Pinches Chicago Lyric's Chorus Master Donald Palumbo is "widely considered to be one of the best opera chorus masters in the world, with many impresarios, including the Met's Peter Gelb and Lyric's William Mason, saying that he is tops in the difficult field." Chicago Sun-Times 10/16/06

Music Industry Question Digital Rights Policies "The major record labels by and large insist their music must have some sort of digital rights management protection before they'll license it for digital distribution. Increasingly, the wisdom of this stance is coming under scrutiny. DRM, they say, simply forces consumers to buy hardware with proprietary technology that enriches software companies rather than artists or labels." Yahoo! (Reuters) 10/15/06

Ticket Prices Decline Ticket prices for pop concerts have been going down in the past year. "Nationally, the average ticket price for the top 100 tours tracked by Pollstar magazine dropped to $50.27 last year, from $53.55 in 2004." Detroit Free Press 10/15/06

Chicago Symphony - Doing Better Business Than Expected This past year the orchestra had "stronger than expected ticket sales, subscription renewals, fund-raising and deficit reduction. In an environment of concern about the future health of classical music, executives and board leaders of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association almost seemed surprised at the good news." Chicago Sun-Times 10/15/06

October 15, 2006

What Will The Recording Business Of The Future Look Like? "The labels that survive will do so by spreading sales across a wider range of talent, rather than concentrating on a handful of megasellers to ensure profitable quarterly statements to satisfy anxious shareholders. The new marketplace isn't being built for the 10-million selling act. It'll be about building a foundation for artists that sell less than 100,000 albums." Chicago Tribune 10/15/06

The New Met - Cue The Monkey Suits? Peter Gelb is making wholesale changes in how the Metropolitan Opera does business. "Some critics no doubt will be waiting for the Met's new GM to cross the line between selling that art form and selling it out. Gelb addressed that recently when he recalled seeing one of those "Euro-trash" productions that try anything to connect. It was a "Rigoletto" conceived by a German film director as "Rigoletto Meets the Planet of the Apes." Set amid the shattered remains of the world's opera houses, it had the singers dressed, yes, as apes. 'There will be no ape suits in our new productions'." Los Angeles Times 10/15/06

The Musicians Who Make House Calls "Since 2004, Musicians on Call has regularly serenaded those in Britain unable to attend concerts and, according to its mission statement, draws on scientific research that suggests that listening to live music lowers blood pressure, anxiety and depression. The orchestra seems eager to establish a footing in New York, where it spends about 10 days a year, and its members are starting to treat the city as a second home." The New York Times 10/14/06

Trombone As Star? (Really?) "This season there are four — count ’em, four — major trombone premieres in the United States. The others are at the New York Philharmonic, the Harrisburg Symphony and the Hartford Symphony. The premieres suggest that an instrument that has rarely been invited into the spotlight has finally hit the big time..." The New York Times 10/15/06

The Cincinnati Symphony Audience Problem Attendance at Cincinnati Symphony concerts has plummeted this season. "Does the orchestra have too much "product" for its customers? Does it need a massive marketing campaign? Will a planned renovation of Music Hall, to add patron amenities such as a café and an attached garage and create a smaller auditorium, improve the attendance?" Cincinnati Enquirer 10/15/06

"Orchestral Terrorism" At The Seattle Symphony Orchestra management says someone is targeting musicians who support embattled music director Gerard Schwarz. One player says the retaliation includes "someone anonymously denting my horn, scratching my car, stealing from my orchestra mailbox, desecrating my photo with pinholes to the eyes and forehead, and phoning my home and threatening my family. I have never before encountered orchestral terrorism until now." Seattle Times 10/15/06

October 13, 2006

Worldwide Music Sales Drop 4 Percent Total sales of recordings in the first half of 2006 fell to $13.7 billion. "Digital sales rose by 106% to $945m, representing 11% of the worldwide recorded music market." The increase wasn't enough to offset the sale of physical formats such as CDs, which fell by 10% under pressure from cheap illegal copies. BBC 10/13/06

Cleveland Institute Prez Resigns David Cerone is stepping down as president of the Cleveland Institiute of Music after 22 years. "As the longest-tenured president in CIM history, Cerone has overseen enormous growth in enrollment and programs and helped balance the budget for 11 consecutive years." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 10/13/06

October 12, 2006

It's Official: Tower Records Assets Liquidated "The disappearance of Tower's familiar red-and-yellow logo will leave a gaping hole in the landscape of American music retailing. Los Angeles-based Virgin Megastores, which operates 20 Virgin Megastores, now will become the most prominent deep-catalog retailer. One veteran industry observer noted that Tower might have accounted for 40%-50% of some niche-genre labels' business." Yahoo! (Reuters) 10/12/06

Pittsburgh Opera Taps Australian Pittsburgh Opera has named Australian conductor Antony Walker as its next music director, beginning later this season. "Walker has worked closely with [Sir Charles] Mackerras on many opera productions in Australia and Europe, and benefited from his personal relationship with, and advocacy by, the world-renowned maestro." Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 10/12/06

How The Kitchener-Waterloo Fiasco Got This Bad It was August when executives at the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony learned that their ensemble was in serious danger of not being able to complete the 2006-07 season unless a major financial turnaround was achieved. The KWSO had ended the '05-'06 season $600,000 in the red, even after a $750,000 behind-the-scenes fundraising campaign. "The symphony, after studying solutions struggling orchestras in Vancouver and Calgary have used, realized it would have to go public with its problems." The Record (Kitchener, ON) 10/12/06

  • Previously: Another Canadian Band On The Brink The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, a regional ensemble in Canada's most populous province, says it needs to raise CAN$2.5 million by the end of the month to avoid immediate bankruptcy. That goal might well prove unreachable - the total contributions of the orchestra's board members to the emergency drive total only $230,000. The Record (Kitchener, ON) 10/05/06
October 11, 2006

BBC Phil Extends Noseda's Run "Gianandrea Noseda, 42-year-old principal conductor of the Manchester-based BBC Philharmonic for four years, has extended his contract by two years and will now be known as chief conductor... Noseda has endeared himself to Manchester audiences and has won wide critical praise. He throws himself into a score (Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet for example) with passion, sometime crouching so low you fear he will end up on his knees or leaping so high that those in the front row of Manchester's Bridgewater Hall prepare for his imminent arrival in their laps." The Guardian (UK) 10/11/06

SF Opera To Offer Discount Tickets San Francisco Opera is slashing some ticket prices in an effort to grow its audience. Under the plan, members of the $60-per-year Bravo Club will be able to purchase tickets for $50 that normally sell for between $87 and $155. The company's announcement comes on the heels of the Metropolitan Opera's decision to make $20 seats available for most weekday performances. San Francisco Business Times 10/12/06

You've Got The Hall - Now Show Us The Music Now that Orange County, California has its beautiful and acoustically impressive new concert hall, it's time to start asking whether the principal tenant lives up to its new digs. "The Segerstrom, with 2,000 seats, is a place a lot of major orchestras in big American cities would kill for. The Pacific Symphony, on the other hand, is more than a pickup orchestra but also less than a year-round, full-contract ensemble... The citizens of Orange County have dropped a splendid gift on this young, perhaps embryonic orchestra and will now wait to see what they get in return." The New York Times 10/12/06

Oregon On The Side Early this week, rumors were rampant in the orchestra biz that Edmonton Symphony managing director Elaine Calder was about to be snatched up as the next president of the Oregon Symphony. As it turns out, the rumors weren't true, but Calder has agreed to serve as a consultant in Portland. The unusual arrangement will require the Edmonton Symphony board to approve Calder's double duty. Musical America 10/11/06

And They're Better Behaved Than Deadheads Anyone who doubted whether a fully staged production of Wagner's Ring could thrive at a suburban opera house (in this case, the Orange County Performing Arts Center outside L.A.) clearly doesn't understand the obsessive nature of Wagner devotees. "If you stage the operas, pretty much anywhere, they will come, from pretty much anywhere else... 'It helps to be a bit mad,'" says one Ring addict. Los Angeles Times 10/11/06

Hard To Believe No One Thought Of This Before Opera tends to be a fairly rigid form, from the narrow range of repertoire embraced by its devotees to the seemingly unbreakable tradition of the evening performance. But in the last several years, Lyric Opera of Chicago has discovered a surprising niche audience that has apparently been patiently waiting for someone to start offering weekday matinees. "The decision to add the extra matinees may have had a Field of Dreams effect on a certain demographic -- the one made up of folks who might not feel quite as energetic as they used to when it comes to staying awake through an evening three-hour opera and, possibly, a long drive back to the suburbs around midnight." Chicago Tribune 10/11/06

Why Throw Good Money After Bad? As Ontario's Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony continues its drive to raise the $2.5 million it needs to avoid bankruptcy, civic leaders are debating whether public money should be spent to help bail out what some see as an expensive and culturally irrelevant organization. Some observers are also concerned that helping the symphony achieve its short-term funding goal would only delay the organization's inevitable collapse. The Record (Kitchener, ON) 10/11/06

The Amplified Orchestra Huge, acoustically superior new concert halls designed by superstar architects are all well and good for orchestras that can afford them, but those can be counted on one hand. So what is everyone else supposed to do to improve the quality of live sound? A California company is marketing its supposedly undetectable electronic enhancement systems. There's plenty of resistance, of course, but "we live in an electronic, computerized, rock 'n' roll world. How can electronics be kept at bay in the concert hall?" San Jose Mercury News 10/11/06

Orchestra Exec Caught In Predator Sting The former executive director of a small regional orchestra in Indiana has been arrested and charged with solicitation of a minor. Edward Williams, formerly the head of the Lafayette Symphony Orchestra, was arrested when he traveled to an Indianapolis suburb to meet what he thought was a 15-year-old girl he had chatted with online. The "girl" was, in fact, a police officer. The orchestra, which had already cut ties with Williams, is stunned by the news. Lafayette Journal & Courier (IN) 10/11/06

Austin Music Series To Get Major Upgrade Austin City Limits, the popular public television program featuring live performances by up-and-coming musical acts in various genres, is getting a splashy new home, courtesy of a major downtown development plan in the city known as America's indie-music capital. The new venue will triple the size of the ACL audience, and bring the popular performances downtown for the first time. Austin American Statesman (TX) 10/11/06

October 10, 2006

Mighty Tower Comes To Ground Tower Records is having a giant going-out-of-business sale before closing its doors. "In a download-happy, file-swapping era, the discreet joys of browsing among record racks and losing oneself in reverie while pondering album cover art — the boilerplate experience of shopping at a brick-and-mortar outlet operated for and by music lovers — seem lost on a generation of young shoppers." Los Angeles Times 10/11/06

Poll: The Top Ten European Orchestras Ten media outlets voted on the best orchestras. The Vienna Philharmonic tops the list, barely edging out the Royal Concertgebouw... PlaybillArts 10/10/06

NEA Selects 2007 Jazz Masters "Big-band leader Toshiko Akiyoshi, pianist Ramsey Lewis and vocalist Jimmy Scott were among those selected by the National Endowment for the Arts as the newest jazz masters, the nation's highest jazz honor." Los Angeles Times (AP) 10/10/06

October 9, 2006

Opera Where It Lives (Out Of The Mainstream) What is the heart of opera all about anyway? Big overly-familiar productions of Boheme and Tosca and Carmen that everyone knows? Or is it small experimental productions that are attempting to keep the art form revitalizing? The Telegraph (UK) 10/08/06

Online Help Revolutionizing Music Instruction "From the real-time animated guitar fretboard of workshoplive.com to the truefiretv.com on-demand guitar lessons to the animated courses of Berkleemusic.com, students are increasingly able to forgo formal lessons in favor of à la carte online instruction with as little or as much human interaction as they want." The New York Times 10/08/06

San Diego Symphony Tries To Invent Orchestra Of The Future Attendance at the Masterworks programs has increased roughly 50 percent during the past five years, with approximately 60,000 people attending the orchestra's core classical concerts at Copley Symphony Hall last year. San Diego Union-Tribune 10/08/06

  • San Diego Symphony Keeps Its Balance The San Diego Symphony has managed to balance its books even as the organization grows. Of course, it doesn't hurt that a major benefactor pledged $100 million a few years ago... San Diego Union-Tribune 10/08/06

October 8, 2006

The "New" SPCO: Still A Work In Progress It's been three years since the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra dumped the idea of a music director, and abandoned the traditional American symphonic business model in favor of a more democratic approach that allowed musicians a role in artistic leadership, and placed board members and managers in the middle of the musical side of the organization. So how's it working out? That depends entirely on whom you ask. Star Tribune (Minneapolis/St. Paul) 10/07/06

Where's The CanCon? The Canadian Opera Company has been getting plenty of good press since opening its new home in Toronto this summer. So you would think it would be the perfect time to showcase some homegrown Canadian operas, right? Wrong. "The company has had a lot of time to think about bringing some Canadian rep to its new stage, and so far that thinking has yielded no result." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 10/07/06

LA Opera Celebrates Something Los Angeles Opera turns 20 this year. Unless it actually turns 58. It all depends on what your definition of an opera company is. More importantly, LA Opera has one of the more entertaining and colorful histories you'll read, full of all the backstage wrangling and boardroom controversy that you'd expect. Los Angeles Times 10/07/06

You Can't Tell The Players Without A Scorecard The St. Louis Symphony has been on the rise ever since David Robertson took over as music director last year, but the amount of turnover among the orchestra's musicians has hit a near-record high. 17% of the SLSO started work within the last two years, a very high number for an American ensemble. But there probably isn't anything to be alarmed about: a combination of natural attrition and the sudden filling of several long-standing vacancies accounts for the influx of new blood. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 10/07/06

New Contract, Old Cuts Unveiled In Newark The New Jersey Symphony has a new two-year contract with its musicians that provides nominal raises but maintains several cuts implemented last year, including a four-week reduction in the length of the NJSO season, and a 12% cut in the number of full-time players in the orchestra. Ratification of the deal will allow the NJSO's season to start on time later this week. Newark Star-Ledger 10/07/06

Good Start, But A Long Way To Go Ontario's Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony has pulled in $320,000 of donations in the two days since announcing that it was in imminent danger of bankruptcy. That leaves the ensemble with just over $2 million to raise by the end of the month. The Record (Kitchener, ON) 10/07/06

  • Previously: Another Canadian Band On The Brink The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, a regional ensemble in Canada's most populous province, says it needs to raise CAN$2.5 million by the end of the month to avoid immediate bankruptcy. That goal might well prove unreachable - the total contributions of the orchestra's board members to the emergency drive total only $230,000. The Record (Kitchener, ON) 10/05/06

Wouldn't Recognize Home If They Saw It September is the time when most orchestras settle in for the long winter season at their home concert hall, but no such relaxing schedule awaited the Cleveland Orchestra this fall. "The ensemble and music director Franz Welser-Möst began their winding journey in mid-August at Blossom Music Center [in Kent, Ohio.] Then they tested out the new concert hall at Miami's Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, performed in eight European cities and opened the 2006-07 Severance Hall season." Now, they're in New York, wrapping up a 3-concert residency at Carnegie Hall. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 10/07/06

October 5, 2006

Music Downloads Bolster Recording Biz "Physical album sales so far this year totaled 370.5 million units, down 8.3% from the 404.2 million racked up in the year-ago period. However, digital album sales climbed 115%, with 22.6 million sold through September. Downloaded tracks soared 72%, to 418.6 million." Yahoo (Reuters) 10/05/06

At Least They Can't Threaten Him With The Gulag Anymore Dmitri Shostakovich was always the composer who couldn't get no respect, even (or especially) in his own country. Now, with celebrations of Shostakovich's centennial underway around the world, the birthday boy is under fire once again, this time by the Russian Orthodox Church. "The State Theater of Opera and Ballet of the Republic of Komi, a region once notorious as a center of the prison camp system, or Gulag, recently bowdlerized a commemorative performance of 'The Tale of the Priest and of His Workman Balda'... after the local diocese objected to the portrayal of the priest in the work." The New York Times 10/05/06

How To Make Fundraising Fun (And Successful) The much-beleagured Scottish Opera, so recently forced to shut down for a year as a federally imposed cost-cutting measure, is taking a unique approach to fund-raising for its latest production. "In an attempt to raise extra funds towards the cost of the production, and give audiences a chance to get more involved, the company offered patrons a chance to sponsor individual characters for any sum between £25 and £5,000. It was inundated with requests and ended up with each character being sponsored more than once." The Independent (UK) 10/05/06

Montreal Opera On Life Support Montreal Opera was once a vibrant company on the rise, but these days, it's happy even to still exist. "Money does make the opera world go round, and there is definitely not enough of it in the Montreal opera company coffers. The accumulated deficit is $1.95 million, generated over two years -- quite a sum for a company that spent only $6.9 million in 2005-2006... There is no artistic director, Bernard Labadie having submitted his resignation in June, more or less on the grounds that in such an atmosphere there were no serious artistic decisions to be made... So what went wrong?" Ottawa Citizen 10/05/06

  • Another Canadian Band On The Brink The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, a regional ensemble in Canada's most populous province, says it needs to raise CAN$2.5 million by the end of the month to avoid immediate bankruptcy. That goal might well prove unreachable - the total contributions of the orchestra's board members to the emergency drive total only $230,000. The Record (Kitchener, ON) 10/05/06

Apparently, There's A Bit Of Money In The Bay Area One day after San Francisco Opera announced an unprecedented $35 million gift, the San Francisco Symphony has great news of its own. The SFS is the recipient of a $10 million challenge grant designed to bolster its endowment, which already stands at an impressive $180 million. San Francisco Chronicle 10/05/06

  • Of Course, Money Is Only Half Of The Equation As San Francisco's arts groups rake in the cash, arts leaders in the wealthy and heavily populated Silicon Valley, less than an hour to the south, are left wondering why their own cultural scene has stalled out. "Generally speaking, people here don't care about the arts the way people do in San Francisco. The apathy extends into the moneyed community... We probably have the greatest concentration of billionaires on the planet, yet no one steps forward to reward the organizations that are trying so hard to make this a richer, more cosmopolitan, and stimulating place to live." San Jose Mercury News 10/04/06

BBC Phil Locks Up Its Maestro The Manchester-based BBC Philharmonic Orchestra has extended the contract of its music director, Gianandrea Noseda, through 2010. "The partnership has proven fruitful, with nine CD's for Chandos and dynamic performances of large-scale choral works and operatic repertoire... [Noseda's] Beethoven Symphony Cycle last year - offered free for download via the BBC's website - won ITV's South Bank Show Award in January." Gramophone (UK) 10/05/06

October 4, 2006

Vinyl Makes A Comeback "Most of us have a soft spot for records, whether for the memories that the picture sleeves conjure up or simply because we think a slab of vinyl is a lovely thing. And for vinyl lovers, the news is good: last year, sales of 7in singles were 1,072,608, compared with a dismal 178,831 in 2001." The Telegraph (UK) 10/05/06

SF Opera Gets $35m, No Strings Attached "At a time when the San Francisco Opera is looking to shore up its finances, the company has received $35 million from longtime patron and supporter Jeannik Méquet Littlefield, a donation believed to be the largest to an American opera company from a single benefactor... The money comes with no restrictions on its use." San Francisco Chronicle 10/04/06

Toronto's Ring Suddenly In The Red Richard Bradshaw's ambitious (and critically acclaimed) production of Wagner's Ring Cycle with the Canadian Opera Company is over, and the director ought to be basking in the afterglow of his accomplishment. "Despite being tested by one crisis after another, Bradshaw enjoyed a spectacular triumph. So at this point you would think the political and cultural leaders would hoist him on their shoulders and ride down University Ave. while crowds chant his name. Well, not quite. Bradshaw's troubles are far from over." To begin with, the Canada Council has reneged on a $500,000 pledge to help defray the costs associated with the Ring... Toronto Star 10/04/06

Selling Less, Making More U.S. concert promoters have been in a ticket sales slump for the better part of three years now, and many are saying that sales will likely never return to the levels of five years ago. "Nevertheless, the concert industry is taking those lemons and learning to make lemonade. Despite the decline in ticket sales, Pollstar reports that last year the industry saw a 10.7 percent increase in profits over the previous year's total of $2.8 billion, for a record $3.1 billion." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10/04/06

October 3, 2006

Defending ENO's Sean Doran Sean Doran has plenty of detractors who are making life difficult. But, writes John Rockwell, Doran is responsible for some excellent work. "His few, lonely supporters in London see him as the victim of byzantine, not to say operatic, machinations within the English National Opera, abetted by hostile critics still loyal to Mr. Payne." The New York Times 10/04/06

How Online Is Revolutionizing The Music Biz "The popularity of social networking sites such as Rupert Murdoch's MySpace, which last night won the award for best innovation, has turbocharged the rate at which artists get their first break and has democratised the A&R process." The Guardian (UK) 10/04/06

NSO Follows Yellow Brick Road To Kansas "The National Symphony Orchestra has announced that Kansas will be the site of the ensemble's 2007 American Residency -- the NSO's 17th such extended visit since 1992." Washington Post 10/03/06

Metropolitan Opera Offers $20 Orchestra Tickets More proof that things really are different at the Met under Peter Gelb: "The Metropolitan Opera says it will offer 200 orchestra seats to the general public at a cost of $20 each for performances Monday through Thursday, starting tonight. The seats, at the sides and toward the back of the hall, would normally cost $100." (Second item.) The New York Times 10/03/06

A Symphony Of Cell Phones "A device similar to a traffic light signaled the audience members to activate their rings — red for the balcony, green for the orchestra seats — at various points in the piece. An assistant conductor, Terrance Gray, followed the score and activated the lights." The New York Times 10/03/06

Controversial Idomeneo May Go On After All Last week Berlin's Deutsche Oper canceled a production of Mozart's Idomeneo However, there are signs that Idomeneo could be resurrected, either in Berlin or Austria. The Guardian (UK) 10/03/06

October 2, 2006

Toronto "Ring" A Hit At The Box Office The Canadian Opera Company's first "Ring" cycle sold 99 percent of its tickets. "More than 6,000 patrons saw The Ring of the Nibelung over a three-week run." CBC 10/02/06

October 1, 2006

Denying Evolution, Chicago Style "At a time when symphony orchestras and opera companies are marching proudly into the brave new electronic future of classical music, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra seems content to dither on the sidelines as the parade passes by... Sunday marks the fifth anniversary of the orchestra's discontinuing its locally and nationally syndicated radio broadcasts because of a lack of funding. That same year, 2001, the CSO and then-music director Daniel Barenboim lost their recording contract with Warner Classics." Chicago Tribune 10/01/06

When Does Controversy Become Unnecessary Provocation? The cancellation of a German production of Mozart's Idomeneo because of fears that it could inflame Islamic fundamentalists has the arts world debating its role in an increasingly dangerous world. "Artists are raising important questions, but we as a society are a bit frightened to be open to these ideas. We need a safe place to discuss them, and it's unfortunate that the arts are being attacked in this way, when they really are a place for exploration." San Francisco Chronicle 09/30/06

  • Door Still Slightly Ajar For Idomeneo Deutsche Oper says it would consider reinstating the cancelled production of Mozart's Idomeneo if it receives security assurances. "At a government summit Tuesday with Islamic leaders, Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble proposed that the participants go to see the opera together if it is ever staged again, [and] Berlin's top cultural official, Thomas Flierl, said that he wanted the opera brought back." The Globe & Mail (AP) 09/30/06

  • Mozart's Real Anti-Islamic Operas Joshua Kosman points out that Idomeneo is a strange opera to be causing such a storm of controversy. In fact, the scene giving such offense was inserted by a director looking to stir the pot, and has nothing to do with Mozart. "The irony is that there are a handful of familiar operas, including two that are performed regularly as part of the standard repertoire, that have anti-Muslim sentiment -- or at least comedic disrespect -- built into their very DNA." San Francisco Chronicle 09/30/06

Small Market Orchestra Gets Big Time Radio Deal The New Jersey Symphony has always had a tough time making itself heard above the roar of the high-profile New York orchestras just across the river. But thanks to a new deal with New York radio station WQXR, the NJSO will shortly be heard in concert across the country on a new weekly broadcast series. Not only that, but thanks to WQXR's well-respected brand name, the NJSO broadcasts will debut in six of the top ten media markets in the U.S. Newark Star-Ledger 09/30/06

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