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Thursday January 31

STAYING THE NEW MUSIC COURSE: Nearly every American orchestra pays regular lip service to the concept of contemporary music, and occasionally even performs some in public. Very few orchestras, however, ever really make a lasting commitment to advancing the music of living composers. But in Los Angeles, the L.A. Philharmonic's New Music Group is 21 years old and going strong. "The New Music Group has survived changing administrations and budget crises, and in the process it has become part of what defines the feisty spirit of the Philharmonic." Los Angeles Times 01/31/02

AMERICAN TRUMPETER BEATEN BY SPANISH POLICE: American trumpeter Rodney Mack, currently living in Spain and serving as principal trumpet of the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra, was viciously beaten by a gang of out-of-uniform Spanish police two weeks ago. The officers did not identify themselves to Mack, who thought he was being mugged, and offered up the explanation that they thought he was a car thief who had been seen in the area. Mack's injuries are preventing him from performing with the BSO on its current tour of the U.S., and he is preparing a lawsuit against the police. The New York Times 01/31/02

L.A. OPERA LIGHTLY TAPS THE BRAKES: Los Angeles Opera has been ambitiously scaling up its productions, and the company has announced numerous new initiatives and plans in the past few years. Now, with the announcement of next year's season, some of those plans have been scaled back as part of the artsworld's generally sobering reassessment of risks. Los Angeles Times 01/30/02

CRUSADING FOR MENDELSSOHN: Mendelssohn is certainly a solid member of the classical music canon. And yet, two scholars, say - he is underappreciated for his accomplishments. The pair have been cataloging and recording what they say are "hundreds of unpublished or rediscovered pieces," and they're pushing scholarship on the composer. The New York Times 01/31/02

DOTCOM MUSIC MELTDOWN SPURS BBC: Online e-music ventures have poured millions of dollars into trying to create viable businesses. But GMN.com one of the most established, shut down last week, out of money, and its owners are looking for a buyer. Interestingly, as the dotcom meltdown continues, the BBC has rediscovered a commitment to broadcasting culture. It's about time, writes Norman Lebrecht. The Telegraph (UK) 01/31/02

Wednesday January 30

JERSEY JUICE: The New Jersey Symphony is not one of America's 'Big Five'. It does not even rank among the top 20 US orchestras. Its musicians survive on 36-week contracts. And yet, the New Jersey Symphony plays with more heart and soul - and scarcely less finesse - than better-known counterparts in Boston, New York and nearby Philadelphia. It gives the lie to so many US cultural stereotypes - that nothing of artistic note happens outside metropolitan centres, that American audiences are dwindling, that American orchestras are stuck in a conservative, union-regulated rut." Financial Times 01/30/02

Tuesday January 29

THE BILLIONAIRE MUSIC LOVER: Music philanthropist Alberto Vilar has given away more than $200 million to operas and orchestras: the Metropolitan Opera in New York; the Kennedy Center in Washington; the Kirov in St. Petersburg, Russia; the Berlin Philharmonic; Covent Garden in London. "But those groups really owe their bigger budgets to Vilar's father, who wouldn't let his son study music when he was a boy in Cuba. Instead, the son went on to make a fortune in business." Nando Times (AP) 01/28/02

AND YOU THOUGHT THIS STUFF ONLY HAPPENED IN ALABAMA: The Catholic hierarchy in Naples, Italy is taking a cursory shot at the city's leftist government, denying permits for the use of several of Naples's historic churches for concerts. Among the well-regarded guest musicians who may be left out in the cold is La Scala director Riccardo Muti. The local monsignor is questioning "whether performing artists should be chosen "mainly for their showmanship and social acceptance rather than for their personal commitment in bearing witness to the values of the Gospel." Andante 01/28/02

PARALYSIS CAN'T DERAIL CONDUCTOR: Mario Miragliotta was a promising conductor who had recently finished his term as music director of the Santa Barbara Symphony and had been appointed assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, when he got into a car accident last June that left him paralysed, unable to move his hands or legs. Determined to overcome the injuries, he's been working daily to get back on the podium, and he's got a concert coming up... Los Angeles Daily News 01/28/02

Monday January 28

REPORTS OF MY DEATH... So some orchestras are struggling in the business of survival of late. And some may even go out of business. But the orchestra is hardly dying as an institution, writes David Patrick Stearns. There is too much evidence to the contrary. Besides, "those orchestras will survive, because the public, more unconsciously than consciously, knows that when its opera company and symphony orchestra go away, the only thing left in many cities will be congested strip roads, plastic burger signs, abandoned bowling alleys and cable TV." Andante 01/27/02

DR. DOHNANYI'S MIRACLE CURE: When Christoph von Dohnanyi became music director of the Cleveland Orchestra 20 years ago, it was drifting and in trouble. Now Dohnanyi is leaving the orchestra in prime shape. "During a period when most American orchestras, facing declining subscriber bases and aging audiences, responded with timid artistic leadership that demoralized musicians and just made matters worse, the Cleveland Orchestra under Mr. Dohnanyi attracted new subscribers and saw the average age of its audience steadily decline." What's his secret? The New York Times 01/28/02

THE ONLINE ORCHESTRA: "All the evidence, anecdotal and otherwise, suggests that the virtual box office is changing the way orchestras do business." American orchestras are selling more and more of their tickets online - the Chicago Symphony, for one, has seen e-sales double or triple each year in the past four seasons. Andante 01/27/02

CANNIBALIZING THE MUSIC BIZ: The music recording industry is weak right now, and the very structure of the business is changing. Recording companies are cutting artists from their rosters, and musicians, sensing weakness, are trying to get more control and better deals for themselves: "After years of being taken advantage of by the large recording companies, we realize we do have some power. We are doing it because now is the time." The New York Times 01/28/02

Sunday January 27

FAITH-BASED SALES: Last year wasn't great for recorded music sales - unless you play Christian music. "Overall, music industry sales declined to 762.8 million, from 785.1 million in 2000." But "Christian music sold 49.9 million albums, up 12 percent from 2000, according to SoundScan, which tracks music sales for the industry. Country, jazz, soundtracks and New Age music recorded gains, while alternative, classical, Latin, metal, R&B and rap were flat or declined." Baltimore Sun (AP) 01/27/02

ART & POLITICS: National Post music critic Tamara Bernstein objects to what she considers anti-semitic aspects of a current Canadian Opera production of Salome. Another critic protests Bernstein's proposed remedy: "Even the greatest admirer of Salome (which I am certainly not) would never call it a morally uplifting work, but it is undeniably an operatic masterpiece. Yet if it offends some people's sensibilities, suggests Bernstein, then that is enough reason to ban - or 'mothball' - it. This seems to me a profoundly dangerous position to adopt. In any case, bias is always in the eye of the perceiver, and one person's bias is another's even-handedness." The Guardian (UK) 01/26/02

BACK TO THE PIANO: Another post-9/11 effect - piano sales are up, as people spend more time at home. "Some Seattle piano dealers have seen a 30 percent jump in the number of pianos they have sold in the past three months compared with the same period a year ago." Seattle Post-Intelligencer 01/24/02

DOWN IN BIG D: The Dallas Symphony, which has been on an artistic and financial updraft in the past decade, is, like many arts companies, feeling a drop in business since September 11. "If you add a drop in contributions, the DSO is down about half a million dollars from where it expected to be at this point in the season. That's not a big percentage of the orchestra's nearly $23 million budget, but it definitely hurts." Dallas Morning News 01/27/02

Friday January 25

MATTER OF MORALITY? National Post music critic Tamara Bernstein responds to Atom Egoyan's objections of her review of Salome: "The underlying issue here - and it goes beyond Mr. Egoyan's production of Salome - is that it's time the sleepy world of classical music acknowledged that in addition to being beautiful, opera is political - sometimes in very nasty ways. It's time we stopped pretending that just because a work is aesthetically 'great' it is automatically morally neutral - or superior." National Post (Canada) 01/25/02

  • Previously: FIGHT! FIGHT! It's not often these days that a true artistic brawl breaks out on the pages of a North American newspaper. But Canadian critic Tamara Bernstein, never one to pull her punches, picked one with opera director Atom Egoyan recently, and Egoyan has taken the bait, firing off a furious response to Bernstein's charges of anti-Semitism and brutality in his production of Salome. Better yet, the paper is promising a Bernstein response yet to come. National Post (Canada) 01/24/02
  • SHOULD SALOME BE SANITIZED? Richard Strauss's Salome has never been an easy-to-swallow opera. It has been panned constantly since its debut nearly a century ago for being vulgar, anti-Semitic, and just generally shocking. A new Canadian production is drawing particularly nasty fire from one local critic: "I left the Hummingbird Centre in a rage after Friday night's opening, feeling violated as both a woman and a Jew." National Post (Canada) 01/21/02

FOLKLIFE: There are more venues for folk music in New England than ever before - hundreds of them - and more musicians making a living performing. ''The folk world allows a person to be a professional musician without dealing with the mainstream music industry. That doesn't mean that everyone decides to go that path, but the opportunity is there if you want it." Boston Globe 01/25/02

ROYAL COMEBACK: The Royal Opera House at Covent Garden has been in decline for years, and tales of its mismanagement and often ill-considered offerings offered more drama than what went on the stage. But the Royal Opera appears to be back on track. "Indeed, the year-end London critics' reports last month were, as one the few dissenters put it, 'an epidemic of enthusiasm'." Los Angeles Times 01/25/02

CONCERT-A-WEEK: The BBC says its new arts TV channel will broadcast at least one classical music concert a week, as well as coverage of opera and world music. Gramophone 01/24/02

WELSH MILLENNIUM CENTRE: Despite comparisons to the Millennium Dome debacle, work will soon start on a giant new opera house and arts centre on Cardiff Bay. Budget - £104m ($147M). "It is expected to open by late 2004 and will spearhead Cardiff's campaign to win the title of European capital of culture in 2008." The Guardian (UK) 01/24/02

Thursday January 24

FIGHT! FIGHT! It's not often these days that a true artistic brawl breaks out on the pages of a North American newspaper. But Canadian critic Tamara Bernstein, never one to pull her punches, picked one with opera director Atom Egoyan recently, and Egoyan has taken the bait, firing off a furious response to Bernstein's charges of anti-Semitism and brutality in his production of Salome. Better yet, the paper is promising a Bernstein response yet to come. National Post (Canada) 01/24/02

  • SHOULD SALOME BE SANITIZED? Richard Strauss's Salome has never been an easy-to-swallow opera. It has been panned constantly since its debut nearly a century ago for being vulgar, anti-Semitic, and just generally shocking. A new Canadian production is drawing particularly nasty fire from one local critic: "I left the Hummingbird Centre in a rage after Friday night's opening, feeling violated as both a woman and a Jew." National Post (Canada) 01/21/02

BOHEME ON BROADWAY: The movie Moulin Rouge is a wacky take on a modern musical form. Now the movie's director Baz Luhrmann wants to bring the opera La Boheme to Broadway later this year. "We're bringing it back to the audience for whom it was written. Opera was like the television of the time, created for everyone to experience, from the simple street sweeper to the King of Naples. So it seems a natural for it to play on Broadway. We're bringing it back to its popular roots." New York Post 01/23/02

A NEW IDEA IN PIANOS: After 16 years of working on his ideas, Australian Ron Overs has designed and manufactured a new piano. "He developed the new action on computer. 'On my computer screen I had a hammer that strikes the string, and a key. 'Now,' I thought, 'I'm going to draw the intermediate lever. I'm not even going to consider what's been done before. I'm going to reposition the levers so that we reduce energy loss'." Sydney Morning Herald 01/24/02

OH, GOOD, ANOTHER DELAY: "The recording industry's suit against Internet song-swapping service Napster was put on hold for a month after requests from both sides while they seek a possible settlement... Napster chief executive Konrad Hilbers said he's confident the legal downtime will lead to an accord with the labels." Wired 01/23/02

  • DO THESE PEOPLE LIKE BEING SUED? "An Australian multimedia company has purchased and restarted KaZaa, the Internet file-sharing program that's being sued for being the new Napster." It's reportedly logging about 2 new users per second. Nando Times (AP) 01/23/02

Wednesday January 23

YOU'RE LEAVING THE CONCERTGEBOUW???: Why would Riccardo Chailly give up conducting one of the top five orchestras in the world to go to a lesser band? "For a conductor to abandon a top mount voluntarily for a lesser one is without precedent in 150 years of podium history. Conductors are creatures of hunger and habit. Once they reach the top, they cling on for life. So the shock that Chailly sprang was felt not just in Holland, where it made the front pages, but in the nervous system of an already nervous concert industry. It was the equivalent to George W Bush becoming governor of Nebraska, or Bill Gates quitting Microsoft to run Aeroflot." The Telegraph (UK) 01/23/02

THE MAN WHO'S RESCUING THE TORONTO SYMPHONY: The Toronto Symphony has been scrambling the past few months to keep out of bankruptcy. Yesterday, the man who has been leading the salvage operation - Bob Rae - was elected chairman of the orchestra. Rae has some heavy credentials - he used to be premiere of the province of Ontario, a job that was probably easier than the one he's taken on now. National Post (Canada) 01/23/02

ST. LOUIS CUTS SEASON: Musicians of the financially troubled St. Louis Symphony have agreed to take cuts in their season. The agreement "cuts 10 weeks from the playing season but keeps salaries at a level competitive with peer ensembles." What programs the orchestra will cut will be announced later this week. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 01/22/02

SONG RECITALS FOR THE CAPTION-IMPAIRED: Opera companies have used supertitles for several years now, and the captioning of operatic lyrics are popular. So why not use the system for song recitals? As it turns out, there are several reasons... The New York Times 01/23/02

Tuesday January 22

REBUILDING IN TORONTO: There hasn't been much new news on the Toronto Symphony front lately, largely because the organization has been huddling in conference, trying to figure a way to reinvent itself in the wake of last year's financial catastrophe. Now, with the TSO's future still in doubt, and many of its musicians rumored to be looking elsewhere for jobs, a revamped board will attempt to salvage what is left of one of North America's great orchestras. Toronto Star 01/22/02

LAMENTING CARNEGIE JAZZ: So Carnegie Hall has decided to fold its jazz band. Will it make any difference? "Such active bands are the seedbeds of jazz composition, and they're getting rarer. Jazz composition is needed these days; for one of its big faucets to be shut off is a shame." The New York Times 01/22/02

CONTAIN YOUR EXCITEMENT: John Lennon is preparing to release a brand new set of songs. Yeah, we know he's dead. But fortunately, Linda Polley of Fargo, North Dakota is very much alive, and is apparently quite adept at channeling the former Beatle. "Since 1999, Polley claims, John has been stopping by her trailer in Fargo to deliver his latest offering from "the heaven sessions" -- more than 50 songs in all -- so she may record them on her electric keyboard and spread them to the world in an effort to save both the sinful masses and the chaotic 'Afterlife.'" National Post (Canada) 01/22/02

PEGGY LEE DIES: "Soulful singing legend Peggy Lee has died of a heart attack at the age of 81... Lee is best known for her rendition of Fever and in 1969 she won a Grammy award for best contemporary female vocal performance for the hit Is That All There Is?" BBC 01/22/02

RETHINKING HINDEMITH: Few composers have had their reputations endure harsher cultural mood swings than Paul Hindemith. Rejected by academics in the mid-20th century after he rejected the atonalism of Schönberg, his music has never regained any real traction in the concert hall, even as other "accessible" composers like Shostakovich and Britten have been vindicated and popularized. What is it about Hindemith's music that doesn't interest today's music programmers? Commentary 01/02

Monday January 21

PLAYING THEIR WAY OUT? The San Jose Symphony, which stopped operations late last year, is trying to make a comeback. Musicians agreed to give up unpaid wages ($2.5 million) they were owed, and the orchestra plans to play benefit concerts to raise money for itself. "The musicians, who average about $25,000 for 190 performances and rehearsals a year, have been scrambling to teach more private lessons and play in other orchestras." Philadelphia Inquirer (AP) 01/21/02

LA SCALA OPENS IN NEW TEMPORARY HOME: A first performance (of Rigoletto) by La Scala in the company's new temporary quarters is judged a success. "In Europe's second-largest auditorium after the Opera Bastille, the Arcimboldi theatre is a jewel-case of metal, glass and precious woods and has been described as a cross between a conference centre and the Palais des Festivals in Cannes." The Guardian (UK) 01/21/02

WORRIED MUSIC INDUSTRY MEETS: The international music industry is meeting in Cannes this week to talk business. Things aren't good. Global sales of recordings are down 10% after poor figures in the world's two biggest markets - the US and Japan. "The music industry needs to re-invent itself. By 2005, we will be looking at a very different music industry than today." BBC 01/21/02

IT IS BETTER TO SOUND GOOD...(BUT DON'T LET THAT STOP THE MARKETING): Magdalena Kozena is 28, and "the blue-eyed, blonde Czech mezzo-soprano is the classical recording industry's latest hot property. But does Kozena owe her success to her looks?" The Guardian (UK) 01/21/02

  • SOUND BEFORE LOOKS? "A tall and willowy 28-year-old, Kozená is a delightful girl with a crisp sense of humour and - sorry, chaps - a nice new French boyfriend. More important, she is blessed with an impressive vocal technique and a clean, warm and alluring mezzo-soprano that reaches, in the modern style of Anne Sofie von Otter, Ann Murray and Susan Graham, into soprano rather than contralto territory." The Telegraph (UK) 01/21/02

Sunday January 20

WHAT'S IN A CHORUS? Financial concerns aside, for one of America's top 25 orchestras to disband its decades-old chorus, as the Baltimore Symphony is doing, is a controversial and wide-ranging decision. A full-size chorus is more than a convenience - it's a community of volunteers more committed to classical music, and to their own orchestra, than the vast majority of subscribers that symphony organizations try so hard to bring in. Baltimore Sun 01/20/02

HISTORY OF A BACKSTAGE FRACAS: Just what the heck is going on in Edmonton, anyway? Since when do fired conductors start their own competing orchestras? And what kind of musicians are prepared to follow such a heretic? The answers are the stuff of bad TV dramas and David Mamet plays. Edmonton Journal 01/20/02

  • EDMONTON ULTIMATUM: "The lawyer who raised $4 million to form a new orchestra says he will give the money to the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra board instead - on one condition." The condition is that if the musicians of the ESO don't like the way the board is spending the money, they will have the right to fire the board members. If the ESO agrees (which seems unlikely,) the arrangement would be unprecedented in the history of North American orchestras. CBC 01/18/02

LA SCALA'S TEMPORARY DIGS: "Milan's famous opera company, La Scala, has inaugurated a new theatre to replace its legendary venue, which is closed for renovations. [The performance] was sold out, and the performers, under the direction of conductor Riccardo Muti, were given a rousing six-minute applause and half-a-dozen curtain calls. But some fans were unhappy with the new theatre, which is located in an old industrial area in the outskirts of Milan." BBC 01/20/02

TENOR'S NIGHTMARE: It's the kind of scenario that causes performers to wake up screaming at night: for whatever reason, a singer suddenly loses his ability to sing, on stage, with thousands in attendance. It happened this week in Toronto to legendary Canadian tenor Ben Heppner, who was forced to halt a recital halfway through when he could not stop his voice from cracking repeatedly. Toronto Star 01/18/02

GEEK SQUAD 1, WRITER'S CRAMP 0: The worst part of being a composer, hands down, is the endless hours spent scratching out scores and parts for cranky musicians with dubious eyesight who are forever claiming that nothing is legible, or spaced right, or has the page turns in the right place. So what, other than a dungeon full of enslaved copyists, can make the drudgery easier? Why, a couple of British computer geeks, of course! Los Angeles Times 01/19/02

Friday January 18

SPACE IS FINE BUT THE SCHEDULE STINKS: Six years ago Atlanta Opera moved into the roomy Fox Theatre. "While the 4,514-seat movie palace has accommodated the opera's booming audience - a 167 percent increase in six years - problems in booking advance dates have limited the company's artistic growth," so the company is moving out. Atlanta Journal-Constitution 01/17/02

SOME PEOPLE REALLY ARE TONE DEAF: There's even a technical name for the problem: amusia. Usually, it's the result of head injury, or an illness. But some people are just born that way. All Things Considered (NPR) 01/16/02

  • Previously: UNDERSTANDING PERFECTION: Scientists are trying to determine why some people have perfect pitch - the ability to identify notes without other reference notes. "Based on the evidence so far, most scientists believe that genes do play at least a subtle role, perhaps by keeping a developmental 'window' open wider and longer during early childhood, when note-naming ability generally takes shape. Still, some experts argue the quest for an absolute pitch gene is akin to searching for a gene for speaking French; it doesn't exist." San Francisco Chronicle 01/15/02

SCARING THEM OFF WITH MOZART: A southeast English rail line thinks it has a solution to a vandalism problem - classical music. "It seems the tunes aren’t too popular with potential vandals: the move follows a trial at First Great Eastern’s Harold Wood station which saw a reduction in damage when the music was played." Gramophone 01/17/02

IS ALL MUSIC THE SAME? "Especially in post-modern times where categories are being redefined, it is easy for many to assert that a tango, a rock tune, and a Beethoven symphony are all the same except perhaps for the musical parameters that define the style. This can have its positive as well as negative ramifications. The positive perhaps being that all types of music are understood as having similar importance, the negative that everything is considered in many ways as being the same." NewMusicBox 01/02

Thursday January 17

SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY GETS ITS $100 MILLION - AND THEN SOME: Qualcomm Inc. founder Irwin Jacobs and his wife, Joan were going to give the San Diego Symphony $100 million, but at the last minute kicked in another $20 million. It's the largest gift ever to a symphony orchestra. "The additional money is to go to the symphony's operating funds - $2 million a year for the next 10 years. Thus, the symphony will get $7 million a year over the next 10 years, with $5 million each year going into an endowment. The Jacobses have also pledged $50 million to be paid upon their deaths." Orange County Register 01/16/02

FIRING THE CHORUS: The Baltimore Symphony has announced it will cut loose its volunteer chorus, after 32 years of service. "We have a very good chorus, but it is not a world-class chorus. And it couldn't be one because we don't support it as we should. To fix the problem would be expensive." Baltimore Sun 01/16/02

NEW OPERA HOUSE FOR TORONTO? It looks like Toronto may finally get its new opera house after years of trying. The Toronto Star reports that the Province of Ontario's premiere has approved "a deal under which the federal government would contribute $25 million to the project and the province, in lieu of matching funds, would contribute the land for the opera house. The city would contribute zoning and air rights worth about $5 million." Toronto Star 01/17/02

BACK TO WORK IN WINNIPEG: After a month's lockout, musicians of the Winnipeg Symphony have agreed to a new contract. "The musicians will not receive a raise in the first year of the deal, nor will they be paid for the four weeks they were locked out. They will get a three per cent raise in the second year of the contract, and five per cent in the third." CBC 01/16/02

CARNEGIE DROPS JAZZ BAND: Carnegie Hall's new leader has eliminated the institution's resident jazz band from the schedule. "The Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, which had its first concert in the fall of 1992, grew out of Carnegie Hall's 100th anniversary celebrations. 'We're reallocating the resources to a different part of jazz programming. There are a lot of different jazz groups out there," and if Carnegie Hall had to support one jazz band, it would be unable to present other artists." The New York Times 01/17/02

Wednesday January 16

UNDERSTANDING PERFECTION: Scientists are trying to determine why some people have perfect pitch - the ability to identify notes without other reference notes. "Based on the evidence so far, most scientists believe that genes do play at least a subtle role, perhaps by keeping a developmental 'window' open wider and longer during early childhood, when note-naming ability generally takes shape. Still, some experts argue the quest for an absolute pitch gene is akin to searching for a gene for speaking French; it doesn't exist." San Francisco Chronicle 01/15/02

  • Previously: BIOLOGY, NOT AESTHETICS: Why do some works of art seem to have universal appeal? Are they just that much better than other art? Maybe not. "A flowering scientific movement suggests that art appreciation and production starts in the brain, not the heart. All visual art, from execution to perception, are functions of the visual brain." That art which we most respond to may trigger some physiological truth. San Diego Union-Tribune (AP) 01/14/02

THE YOUNG CONDUCTORS: A new crop of young conductors is making a mark on the world stage. Still in their 20s, they're getting big jobs early. "So Philippe Jordan, at 27, has the world at his feet." Still, "the marketing of young conductors is only problematic when they're sold as something they're not - as great interpreters. Age and experience may be out of fashion, but they remain essential ingredients of a wise reading of a masterpiece." Financial Times 01/16/02

MUSIC TO THE PEOPLE: Digital music and file sharing isn't just about making copies and getting music for free - it is changing the music industry in a fundamental way. "The advent of new and accessible technologies has made the independent route much more possible. The 1960s aesthetic which caused some theatre practitioners to abandon the stage for the street, and visual artists to seek an audience outside formal galleries, has now visited popular music in a much more radical way than it did back then. The possibilities the Internet and related technologies offer to bypass major record labels and give the artist direct access to a potentially mass audience have changed the music industry forever." Irish Times 01/15/02

CHAILLY LEAVING CONCERTGEBOUW: Riccardo Chailly, who's been chief conductor of Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra since 1988, is leaving the orchestra to head up the Leipzig Opera in Germany, in 2005. Philadelphia Inquirer (AP) 01/16/02

MUSIC MEDICI: "Alberto Vilar has become the biggest benefactor in the history of classical music. Whatever the critics make of his philanthropic style, it has endeared him to many of the world's top directors, conductors, and singers, not to mention the managers who must pay them. He has few other cultural interests (he hates movies) and - unlike the Medicis - isn't interested in expanding the repertory; he doesn't commission new work and has no soft spot for small, struggling companies." New York Magazine 01/14/02

Tuesday January 15

THE NY PHIL'S BRAVURA MARKETING: Last week the New York Philharmonic served up a lavish lunch at Lincoln Center for about 200 journalists and supporters. "The cost? Well, probably more than the five London orchestras spent on public relations during the entire 20th century." So "why is America’s oldest and most glamorous orchestra going to such trouble to butter up the press? It would be fun at this point to point to a sordid sex scandal, or at least a juicy bit of corruption. Don’t get excited: the closets seem to be puritanically bare. But the reasons behind the Philharmonic’s charm offensive are revealing in other ways." The Times (UK) 01/15/02

OPERA'S IRON MAN: "As of last week (and he keeps track), [Placido Domingo] had given 3,045 performances, not even including those as a conductor. He will turn 61 on Monday and already has commitments through 2005. He has sung 118 complete opera roles. He holds the record for opening nights at the Metropolitan Opera: 19 as of this season. (Enrico Caruso is in second place with 17.)" Now he's released a set of the entire Verdi repertoire for tenor, an amazing feat by itself. The New York Times 01/15/02

HOPE FOR THE DYING? Okay, so 2001 was a terrible year for the classical recording industry. The worst, in fact. "Still, if one looks hard enough, some promising signs can be gleaned from the cards dealt to recorded classical music, both in the major and independent sectors. Having survived the Tower debacle — in which the cash-strapped retailer demanded drastically extended payment terms from most of its independent accounts — a distributor like Harmonia Mundi might actually end up stronger, having now culled back its inventory and overhauled its retail sales/stock process. Universal Classics Group — a key industry barometer — finished the year not only with a bevy of crossover hits but also with the highest number of top-selling "straight" classical offerings, according to Billboard." Andante 01/15/02

SCORE ONE FOR THE CLASSICS: Okay, so country music may not exactly be Mozart. But in Nashville, and indeed across much of America, country is as classic as it gets, and "regular folks" are as loyal to it as opera fans. So when a legendary Nashville AM station (flagship of the Grand Ole Opry) announced it would be moving to a talk format, the listeners revolted. None of this, of course, is unusual in an age of huge broadcasting conglomerates. What is unusual is that the effort worked, and WSM will stay country, and stay unique in a sea of generic radio blather. Nashville Tennessean 01/15/02

Monday January 14

RIGHT OF WAY: The BBC has made a costly mistake. The corporation filmed an expensive version of Gian Carlo Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors that was set to air Christmas eve - "until it was found at the last minute that no one had checked who owned the copyright, and the programme had to be pulled." Seems an American company owns the film rights, and the company is not inclined to grant permission for another version. The Observer 01/13/02

WHY DOESN'T LONDON HAVE A GOOD CONCERT HALL? "London’s lack of a world-class concert hall is beginning to get embarrassing. It is arguable that London has lacked this prime requisite of a world city ever since the 2,500-seat Queen’s Hall, on Regent Street, was destroyed in the Blitz, and that the Festival Hall, for all its democratic public spaces, never quite made up for that. Which raises the question: if we started from scratch now, rather than tinkering around with the variously flawed big halls at our disposal, could we do better?" Sunday Times (UK) 01/13/02

VICTIM OF MONEY: The Welsh National Opera is one of the UK's finest. Except recently. "WNO's management appears to have conceded power to the accountants, allowing the company to be run not according to its highest artistic standards - which Wales should be roaringly proud of - but the logic of the balance sheet. In this brave new world, why not make 10 per cent of the chorus redundant too? Why not forget about anything except the safe box-office bets of the Mozart-to-Puccini repertory? Why bother subsidising opera at all when raggedy companies from Eastern Europe can go through the motions at half the price and a quarter of the quality?" The Telegraph (UK) 01/14/02

WHERE ARE TODAY'S COMPOSERS? Why, at the start of the 21st Century, are our "mainstream musical tastes are still stuck so completely back then, in the 19th century. Not that there's anything wrong with listening to Wagner or Chopin, or even Mendelsson. But it is strange - isn't it? - that an absolute majority of the music performed by all the American symphony orchestras this season will be by just four guys. Four guys who were all composing music during the same hundred-year period that ended more than a hundred years ago: Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky. Who are our Brahmses and Tchaikovskys, the historically important composers of this time? Why don't we know their music? Why don't we even know their names?" Public Arts (Studio 360) 01/11/02

EDMONTON MUSICIANS SUPPORT FIRED CONDUCTOR: Musicians of the Edmonton Symphony are supporting their former music director's plans to form a rival orchestra. "We, the musicians of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, express overwhelming support of our music director, Grzegorz Nowak, and express dismay with the way the Edmonton Symphony Society board has handled his termination." CBC 01/12/02

  • Previously: FIRED CONDUCTOR STARTS RIVAL ORCHESTRA: Conductor Grzegorz Nowak was told this week that his contract as music director of the Edmonton Symphony wouldn't be renewed. The next day he announced he'd put together a group of supporters and will start a new orchestra in the city. The plans are ambitious: "an immediate 45 per cent increase in concerts, a growth in orchestra size from 56 players to 93, a near-doubling in musicians' salaries over six years, and annual recordings and/or tours beginning in 2002." The new orchestra "would be based on a quite different attitude," says Nowak. "The new orchestra would put musicians' concerns first and would present more concerts with higher-paid musicians." Edmonton Journal 01/10/02

THE NOT SO ROYAL OPERA: Those year-end wrapups found London critics in a generous mood about Covent Garden. One critic wonders why: "To suggest that the Royal Opera is yet consistently punching its weight as a top-flight international company, with top-flight new productions to match, is putting far more emphasis on hope than on experience." The Guardian (UK) 01/12/02

Sunday January 13

ART VERSUS INTERPRETATION: Is an opera production a "work of art?" "Missionaries for opera keep touting it as the greatest art form, simply because it supposedly subsumes so many others. Drama and music and painting, maybe even sculpture and dance: top that, if you can. Actually, the essence of opera, even for Richard Wagner, who dreamed of an 'artwork of the future' based on just this model, remained what it had been since Monteverdi: drama embedded in music. In a classic Platonic sense, this constitutes the work (in more fashionable parlance, 'the text'). On the other hand, a performance, along with its physical trappings, falls under the heading of interpretation, commonly held to be a creative function of the second order, though it does not have to be." The New York Times 01/13/02

SCHOOL-BORN JAZZ: Jazz musicians used to learn their craft on the road, playing gigs. Not anymore - more jazz musicians come from colleges and music schools. "During the past half century or so, an academic approach to the music has gradually become far more prominent. By the end of the century, there were hundreds of thousands of youth ensembles ranging from big bands to small combos. And the activities were not limited to the United States." Los Angeles Times 01/13/02

LOOKING FOR CLUES: The Atlanta Symphony is beginning the process of trying to build a new concert hall. The budget will be about $200 million. Philadelphia's Kimmel Hall is the most recent concert hall to open - it offers a list of do's and don'ts for Atlantans. Atlanta Journal-Constitution 01/13/02

IN PRAISE OF THE WALKOUT: Walking out of a performance is pretty rare these days. Some audience members walked out of a recent Dallas Opera performance of Wozzek. Usually, "audiences are more passive, or at least more polite, than they used to be. It's hard to play a piano concerto anymore and not get a standing ovation. 'I sometimes wish more people would walk out. At least it would show some passion'." Dallas Morning News 01/13/02

Friday January 11

SAN JOSE SYMPHONY MIS-USED DONATIONS: As the now-suspended San Jose Symphony struggled to survive in the past year, the orchestra improperly used more than $1.7 million that had been donated for a new concert hall and education center to pay operating expenses. "The diversion of the donations, and a further disclosure that $77,000 of youth symphony money was used to pay general symphony expenses, could provoke a legal inquiry from the office of the California attorney general." San Jose Mercury News 01/11/02

FIRED CONDUCTOR STARTS RIVAL ORCHESTRA: Conductor Grzegorz Nowak was told this week that his contract as music director of the Edmonton Symphony wouldn't be renewed. The next day he announced he'd put together a group of supporters and will start a new orchestra in the city. The plans are ambitious: "an immediate 45 per cent increase in concerts, a growth in orchestra size from 56 players to 93, a near-doubling in musicians' salaries over six years, and annual recordings and/or tours beginning in 2002." The new orchestra "would be based on a quite different attitude," says Nowak. "The new orchestra would put musicians' concerns first and would present more concerts with higher-paid musicians." Edmonton Journal 01/10/02

  • PROGRESS IN WINNIPEG LOCKOUT: Musicians of the Winnipeg Symphony, locked out by the orchestra in a salary dispute since before Christmas, have agreed to an arbitration of the dispute. CBC 01/10/02

AMERICA'S GREATEST LIVING COMPOSER? Who is America's greatest living composer? Here's a vote for John Adams: "Adams is the most consistently serious of them all - eclipsing trend-setters such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass, edging out older types like Ned Rorem, and dwarfing the semi- tonal postmodernist brigade. An Adams premiere is an international event. Unlike Reich and Glass, he is still evolving. In contrast to retro-Puccinians like Mark Adamo and Jake Heggie, his best works withstand repeated hearing. He has enough ideas - and craftsmanship - to sustain interest from beginning to end: in short forms or long, his music inspires confidence. Most important of all, it remains pleasurable to the senses." Financial Times 01/11/02

AN ODD WORLD: BBC3's World Music Awards are an odd enterprise. "Radio 3 goes down some pretty obscure byways in its remit to educate and inform, whether playing archive field recordings, laptop improv or extracts from Broadway shows that closed after four nights. It's good to hear music you would never dream of buying, and radio can contextualise unfamiliar music. But some listeners worry that the BBC Awards are too preoccupied with what my local store calls 'phat global beats'. Dissenters see it as a cult cul-de-sac for people with 'funny trousers'." The Guardian (UK) 01/11/02

Thursday January 10

SAN DIEGO GIFT: The San Diego Symphony, which once went bankrupt and is perpetually in financial difficulty, is in line for a major gift - perhaps the largest-ever individual gift to an American symphony orchestra. "The money - thought by some in San Diego's arts community to be as much as $100 million - eventually could place the organization's endowment near the top 10 of U.S. orchestras and bring unprecedented stability to the 92-year-old institution." San Diego Union 01/09/02

  • CSO AVOIDS FINANCIAL CRISIS: The Colorado Symphony says it has headed off a $700,000 deficit by cutting salary increases and increasing giving from its board. But the orchestra warns that its financial security still isn't assured. Denver Post 01/10/02

AMERICAN MUSIC AWARDS: "In a night dominated by the new generation of soul music, Alicia Keys, Destiny's Child and the late singer Aaliyah each won two American Music Awards on Wednesday. Michael Jackson, the subject of a behind-the-scenes tussle between music's two biggest awards shows, accepted an Artist of the Century award. He didn't perform, though." MSNBC 01/10/02

SOUNDS LIKE THE PLOT OF A C&W BALLAD: In Nashville, four of the bigger country labels shut down. Country music giant Gaylord Entertainment has been losing money at the rate of about two million a week. And now, they're talking about dumping the Grand Old Opry. The New York Times 01/10/02

DOOMSDAY SCENARIO (OR THE SKY IS FALLING?): A panel of recording-company executives at a conference on the future of the music business depicted an industry in dire shape. "A major-label album needs to sell at least half a million copies to break even and only 10 percent of albums ever recoup their investment. Marketing and promotion costs are high: good placement in retail stores can cost up to $250,000, and promoting a single Top 10 hit to radio stations can cost millions." Besides that, digital copying is ruining sales, and how are musicians ever going to make a living? The New York Times 01/10/02

DON'T GET TOO SECURE: Recorded music is being distributed in a variety of ways these days. People are still buying CD's, and consumers don't seem to mind waiting a few days for delivery from online stores. "That could change if people begin receiving albums that won't play in certain stereo devices" because recording companies encrypt them not to play in certain devices to deter piracy. Wired 01/09/02

SCOTTISH OPERA SUSPENSIONS: Six employees of the Scottish Opera have been suspended pending police investigations into illegal drug use. The Times (UK) 01/09/02

Wednesday January 9

SAME OLD TIRED IDEAS: The Toronto Symphony, having just (barely) staved off bankruptcy a few months ago, is trying to broaden its appeal by offering pops concerts. But "two fake palm trees, the billboard-sized words 'Club Swing,' two lounge tables and a dreary raconteur who reels off showbiz names just don't work on this stage in this venue. And asking the TSO to metamorphose into a red-hot swing orchestra is asking for a manned spaceflight to Mars this year. Playing the nostalgia card at this stage cannot be considered wise." Toronto Star 01/08/02

WRONG ABOUT WALTON? It's the 100th anniversary of composer William Walton's birth. There not being a lot of great English composers, Walton is regularly trotted out as one of the very best. "To suggest, as I am about to do, that Walton is not worth the candle of retrospection is to risk the wrath of friends and the scorn of patriots. Walton was a talented composer. He was also, in objective terms, an archetypal English failure whose shortcomings cry out for critical examination. When a king walks down Centenary Lane clad in nothing but local adulation, there must surely be one voice in the throng to draw attention to his immodesty." The Telegraph (UK) 01/09/02

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: When the New York Philharmonic announced that its next music director would be septuagenarian stick-waver Lorin Maazel, an instant range of opinion was established, with most local critics panning the selection, and the notoriously choosy Philharmonic musicians reportedly thrilled with the decision. The NY Phil has released its tentative schedule for Maazel's first season, and the repertoire, soloists, and overall programming are anything but daring, even as they constitute an impressive list. But perhaps traditionalism is just what the Phil needs. Andante 01/09/02

  • IN THE BLACK AND IN TRANSITION: Calling the Philharmonic "an institution in transition," the New York Phil's chairman announced that the company is operating with a balanced budget, and is going ahead with plans to renovate its Lincoln Center home, at a cost of some $325 million. Possible improvements include a rebuilding of the stage and elimination of hundreds of seats in Avery Fisher Hall. The New York Times 01/09/02 (one-time registration required for access)

DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH FOR REFORM: "Legislation to force music industry reforms ranging from limits on artists' contracts to bolstering consumer access to digital music is unlikely to pass Congress this year, a top Democrat said Tuesday. John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said he supported some reforms but did not expect Congress to take action as long as the House remained under Republican control. Conyers' assessment was likely to disappoint Internet music companies and recording artists who have called on Congress to reform what they see as a musical landscape unfairly dominated by the five major recording companies." Wired 01/08/02

ROCK ON...(NOT PAINT, NOT WRITE): Why do pop stars think their modest talents translate to other arts? Worse, why do we have to endure them? "Obviously, what rock stars choose to do behind closed doors is their own business, but few can resist sharing, and the fact that they are household names means there will always be a publisher or gallery prepared to indulge them." The Guardian (UK) 01/08/02

Tuesday January 8

WEAK SALES=BLAME INTERNET: Sales of recorded music slipped last year, and predictably, the recording industry is blaming the internet and digital copying. "The Australian music industry, which does not release its yearly sales figures until later this month, said Internet piracy had substantially affected the local market and was estimated to cost it $70 million a year." Sydney Morning Herald 01/08/02

HOW THEATRES GREW UP: A study of Venice's La Fenice Opera House gives some idea of the evolution of theatres adapting to social customs. "During the 18th century, the theater was one of the most important meeting places in public life. In the boxes and the camerini allocated to them - Marcel Proust described these as 'small living rooms minus their fourth walls' - people ate meals, made love and hatched intrigues before, during and after the performances." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 01/07/02

SAM I AM (WAS): Once, Sam the Record Man was Canada's leading retailer of music recordings. But the chain is bankrupt and its assets sold off. "In the classical department, the sound system pumps out cheerful Viennese music, but there's little cheer in the air. Rather, there's a sense of quiet desperation - a subdued hush of people making the best of a bad situation." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/07/02

THE FUTURE OF MUSIC? BRING YOUR OWN LOBBYIST: "When about 200 music executives, artists and lawyers gathered at Georgetown University, the topics on the conference agenda were lofty enough: What new business models may emerge? How are other countries handling things? Should unions be involved? The one common note, however, at the second Future of Music conference was that everyone from record labels to Napster will be lobbying Congress more furiously than ever. Napster wants cheap music to distribute; the recording industry plans to ask for tougher, even draconian copyright laws; civil libertarians want to gut existing ones." Wired 01/08/02

THE MYSTERY OF THE COUNTERTENOR: It's been a long time now since countertenors were regarded as oddities. These days "they are positively mainstream, and two singers in the category have now become front-ranking stars with big recording contracts and even bigger box-office pull. One is the bespectacled German Andreas Scholl, who represents the Deller tradition of pure, ethereal cathedral-choir beauty of tone; the other, who performs repertory that Deller could never have dreamed of essaying, is the all-American David Daniels." Recently, Daniels "watched with fascination as a micro-camera probed his throat. What he discovered is that he is the unwitting owner of an infantile epiglottis, an unusual condition of the flap that hangs protectively over our vocal cords." The Telegraph (UK) 01/08/02

UNEQUAL RIGHTS: "A US state senator has taken the first steps to try and overturn a Californian law which ties recording artists to contracts longer than artists in other fields. Under current US law, record companies have a special exemption allowing them to sue musicians and singers for albums not produced over the course of seven-year contracts." BBC 01/08/02

Monday January 7

BRITAIN'S TOP SINGERS: Who are Britain's top ten opera singers? A poll of English singers ranks Bryn Terfel on top. The Independent (UK) 01/07/02

THE SELLING OF RENEE: Soprano Renee Fleming is said to have the most beautiful voice on stage today. "Though singing may be a private orgy, it is also a business, and if Fleming has become America's sweetheart it is because, behind her soft smile, she so shrewdly understands the country's values: the need to balance pleasure and profit, self-expression and the ambitious manoeuvrings of a career." The Observer (UK) 01/06/02

Sunday January 6

GRAMMY NOMINEES: The Grammy Award nominees are announced. Conductor Pierre Boulez leads classical nominations with six. A complete list of nominations is here. The awards ceremony is February 27 in LA . Los Angeles Times 01/04/02

  • A GOOD YEAR: Job well done, writes one critic about this year's selection of nominees. "There haven't been many times over the last four decades when it has been possible to put the words 'job well done' and 'Grammy Award nominations' in the same sentence, but this is one." Los Angeles Times 01/05/02
  • SIGN OF CLASSICAL CHANGE: The most-honored classical release this year - a live performance of Berlioz's opera The Trojans, nominated for for best classical, opera and best engineered recording, was not produced by a commercial recording company, but by the London Symphony Orchestra." Los Angeles Times 01/05/02

ANOTHER OPERA HOUSE FOR BERLIN? Does Berlin need a fourth opera house? There is a proposal to build one, devoted to music theatre written since 1945. The design is sleek - like a space ship, and the project is creating a sensation. But "there are a few problems. Berlin, which can no longer afford to maintain its three existing opera houses, is probably the European capital least likely to want to pay for another. The national government has already categorically said it will not provide money for the project; Germany already has some 80 opera houses." Andante 01/04/02

WRESTLING WITH THE PIANO: A man decides that learning to play the piano is his passion, and embarks on a long journey to get better at it. "There may well be a psychoanalytical explanation for this wanting to lose oneself in a private realm of musical expression. Neurologists may one day find the answer in combinations of peptides and amino acids; in the metabolic affinities between specific neurons. They may also be able to explain to me why my musical memory is so dysfunctional and why my brain is so inadequately wired to my fingers. All this may one day become clear. Until then I shall stumble on, feeling that the act of playing the piano each day does in some way settle the mind and the spirit. Even five minutes in the morning feels as though it has altered the chemistry of the brain in some indefinable way. Something has been nourished. I feel ready - or readier - for the day." The Guardian (UK) 01/05/02

A PLEA FOR BACK TO BASICS: Why must opera directors muck up perfectly good classic operas? "The curse of the megalomaniac producer is not confined to Britain. In fact we get off quite lightly. It is now almost impossible to see a classic opera in Germany in a reasonably traditional production. There must be a new 'Konzept', good or bad makes no difference." The Telegraph (UK) 01/05/02

MUSICAL WONDER: The Wannamaker organ at the downtown Lord & Taylor store in Philadelphia may be "the largest and most complex musical instrument ever constructed." First played in 1911, the instrument's only had four official players. "On the atrium's south wall, stretching from the second floor upward to a height of 21 metres, can be found most of the more than 28,000 pipes housed in the remarkable, 530-tonne instrument." Toronto Star 01/05/02

Friday January 4

WILL OPERA SURVIVE? Gerard Mortier wonders about the future of opera: "For years now, like vampires, we so-called managers and artistic directors have been sucking fresh blood from film and theater directing to secure a little more eternity for opera. I have taken great delight in doing so. The experience was an important one - it brought about refreshing new interpretations of works. In the meantime, however, this process has itself become clichéd, possibly even a pure publicity reflex. Will it be possible to keep opera from becoming a dead language and gradually disappearing from our so-called educational canon, just as Latin and Greek are vanishing from our classrooms?" Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 01/04/02

  • UNIDENTIFIED FUNKY OPERAHOUSE: Berlin already has three opera houses, and is struggling to support them. So does the financially troubled city really need a fourth, particularly of the wildly unconventional style being proposed by a contemporary music group? Probably not, but the new-age design and unusual programming potential have some music aficionados excited. That said, funding will be a problem, as the opera house is expected to come with a €51 million price tag. Andante 01/04/02

CYBER-ATTACKING THE VIENNA PHIL: William Osborne has been attacking the Vienna Philharmonic for its closed membership policies that have barred women and minorities. "The Vienna Philharmonic continues to discriminate, but due to cleverly managed tokenism and an effective public relations campaign, protest against the orchestra and the institutions that support it, such as Carnegie Hall, have become difficult. On the other hand, change is slowly becoming apparent." Osborne-Conant.org 01/01/02

  • Previously: CYBERGRASS VS. GENDER BIAS: The Vienna Philharmonic is one of the world's great orchestras. Also one of the few to retain a distinctive sound that is theirs alone. Trouble is, they don't believe in women musicians in their midst. The international campaign taking on the VPO's sexist discrimination has been fertilized on the internet in a real cyber-grass roots effort that has exerted considerable pressure on the orchestra to change its ways. (be sure to take the musical gender test part way through the story). MSNBC 01/20/00

CROSSING THE LINE: The problem with crossover music (the blending of classical with popular forms) may be that so much of it uses the moniker of "classical" to reinforce old elitist stereotypes of the superiority of high art music. "But is there any scale on which [Charlotte] Church could possibly be measured a greater, more valuable artist or musician than soul goddess [Aretha] Franklin? And is every Boston Pops concert automatically inferior to any performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra?" Boston Herald 01/03/01

US ALBUM SALES TAKE A DIVE: "Album sales in the US dropped by almost 3% in 2001 - the first year for a decade that has seen a decline. CD-copying, internet swapping, a weak economy and other popular forms of entertainment such as DVDs and video games have been blamed... A recent industry study found that half of those questioned had downloaded music from the internet in the last month, and 70% of those had burnt songs onto CD." BBC 01/04/02

GRASS ROOTS: American roots music (called "Americana" by some) is find a swell of new fans. "Americans want to hear the hybrid blends of folk, blues, country, rockabilly, and regional sounds (zydeco, Cajun, native American) known as roots music, Americana, or its punk-edged cousin, alternative country. Theories regarding Americana's popularity abound - though it must be noted that most of its practitioners disapprove of 'genre-fying' music at all." Christian Science Monitor 01/03/02

KERNIS AT THE TOP: Composer Aaron Jay Kernis has been winning all the music world's top prizes for composers, including the Grawemeyer and the Pulitzer. He's also getting some of the most prominent commissions by major orchestras. "He's capable of irony and wit, but won't take cover behind those qualities. There's a lot of passion to his writing, and what ties his disparate pieces together are the grand gestures, the way he'll go for a big romantic statement." Christian Science Monitor 01/04/02

PETER HEMMINGS, 67, L.A. OPERA'S FOUNDING DIRECTOR: "With a budget of just $6.4 million, Hemmings launched Music Center Opera (later renamed Los Angeles Opera), mounting five productions in a first season that immediately made the operatic world take notice. By the time he retired in 2000 to return to his native England, Hemmings had left behind a company with a $22-million budget and an eight-opera season of more than 50 performances, most of them selling out." Los Angeles Times 01/04/02

Thursday January 3

CHANGE AT THE TOP: Many of the orchestra world's most prestigious ensembles are about to get new music directors - a new generation of conductors set to shape orchestral music for the 21st Century. It's about time. Andante 01/02/02

A NEW STANDARD OF SUCCESS? It is a strange phenomenon of an uncertain time in the orchestral world that many top ensembles are announcing year-end fiscal numbers that would have been considered horrifying a couple of years ago, but can still be said to place the orchestra well out of the danger zone inhabited by groups in Toronto, St. Louis, and elsewhere. Case in point: the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, which ran over $1 million in the red in 2001, but is going ahead with a massive venue expansion plan and shows no signs of making cuts. Detroit Free Press 01/02/02

HOPE FOR HIGHBROW? The San Francisco Opera's new director may be sick and tired of all the fundraising work her job entails (no surprise after the years she spent in Europe, where the arts are publicly subsidized,) but the necessity of catering to the interests of certain wealthy patrons isn't stopping Pamela Rosenberg from mounting challenging new productions. Among the costly and daring projects the SF Opera is planning: the American premiere of a Messaien opera that critics swore up and down would never be heard here. San Jose Mercury News 01/03/02

THE NEW JAZZ: The new Grove dictionary of jazz is out. There are many changes from the first edition, which debuted in 1980. "The Grove now bends an ear to those post-1980s phenomena, 'acid jazz' ('the first jazz term to have been coined by a disc jockey') and 'smooth jazz', and devotes an essay to the subject of women in jazz as an acknowledgment not only of the growing number of female performers, but also of the politics of that change." The Guardian (UK) 01/03/02

SANDERLING TO STEP DOWN: Conductor Kurt Sanderling is turning 90, and he's decided to retire from the podium after 70 years on stage. "Musicians are rueing his departure, while admiring its dignified restraint." Why do so many other artists have difficulty knowing when it's time to quit? The Telegraph (UK) 01/03/02

Wednesday January 2

LA SCALA CLOSES: La Scala's opera house closed its season last weekend and now the house is closed for a major renovation. But the closure has many worried. "La Scala's management says the work will be completed in three years and that the house, its gilt and glory fully restored, will be ready for opening night Dec. 7, 2004. 'Temporarily closed for repairs' has been the kiss of death for some of Italy's other important opera houses. Their stories are as melodramatic as Maria Callas' love life." Chicago Tribune 12/31/01

KEYS TO SUCCESS? Should classical music popularize itself like the visual art industry has? "Classical music doesn't suit that sort of hype. Its sedentary, spiritual quality tends to appeal to older people. Unlike the visual arts, it demands communal concentration - something most young people, raised on a culture of soundbites, are not prepared to do. It can't be sampled at a glance, it's not visually exciting. It also happens to be horribly labour-intensive. Worst of all, classical music is in the throes of an identity crisis, because its principal tools are 18th- and 19th-century creations, with a few 20th-century accretions. The vast majority of orchestras and venues have failed to reinvent themselves in a way that suits modern media." Financial Times 01/01/02

IN PRAISE OF STAPLES: "Of all the performing arts, classical music has been the most hopelessly bound to past repertory. It's essential for those who want this art form to have a future as well as a history to encourage new work and cajole ensembles, orchestras and opera companies into supporting living composers. Yet such calls are not meant as a criticism of the standard repertory. These works have survived for a reason. The problem is that repertory staples are trotted out too often for their own good." The New York Times 01/02/02

TROUBLE GETTING MUSIC: Many music fans looking for recent classical recordings in stores before Christmas were stymied. Selection in stores is lousy and distribution is limited. So where did all the music go? "It must be said that the downturn in the disc business doesn't herald the end of classical music. Box office figures for live performance remain good to excellent here and elsewhere. Yet veterans of the disc biz say it's rarely been worse." Philadelphia Inquirer 01/01/02

CANNON FODDER: "The Cannon, named for its huge, sonorous sound, is a 250-year-old Guarneri del Gesù violin. It is owned by the city of Genoa, jealously kept in a vault inside Palazzo Tursi, Genoa's City Hall, and supervised by a committee of experts responsible for the violin's maintenance and preservation and for deciding who plays it. Typically, the honor falls to select world-class guest soloists and to winners of the Paganini Competition who are allowed to perform only from a classical repertory that has been approved in advance. [Jazz fiddler] Regina Carter's concert marked the first time in the history of the violin that a nonclassical musician played it." New York Times 01/02/02

DALLAS POSTPONEMENT: The Dallas Opera has seen ticket sales fall by about 15 percent. One of the company's cost-cutting measures is to postpone the American premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage's The Silver Tassie to the 2004-2005 season. The opera is "based on a play by Sean O'Casey, tells the story of an Irish soccer hero who goes off to World War I and returns paralyzed by a battle injury." Dallas Morning News 01/02/02


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