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APRIL 2002

Tuesday April 30

A CRY FOR REFORM: Sir Thomas Allen, one of England's leading opera singers, has lashed out at the malaise of the classical music business. "New composers are not being heard. Commissions are not being given out in the way they should be. How many performances of Beethoven's Fifth do you need? How many of Tchaikovsky's Pathetique Symphony? The Independent (UK) 04/29/02

NEW BATON IN INDIANAPOLIS: Mario Venzago has been appointed music director of the Indianapolis Symphony. Venzago is director of the Basel Symphony in Switzerland. He "recently accepted an engagement as principal guest conductor of Sweden's Malmo Symphony Orchestra. This summer will be his third as artistic director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's Summer MusicFest. He also has an active free-lance career in Europe and, increasingly, with American ensembles such as the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. Venzago will succeed Raymond Leppard, who announced in 1998 that he would resign at the end of the orchestra's 2000-01 season." Indianapolis Star 04/29/02

HEY JUDE - NO SALE: Paul McCartney won a court injunction to stop the auction of the original manuscript of Hey Jude. The current owner bought it in a London street market in the early 70s, but McCartney says the paper was taken from his house. New York Post (Reuters) 04/30/02

SUCCEEDING THE LONE RANGER: The Grammys are on the hunt for a new leader after the resignation of longtime head Michael Greene. "Greene ran the Grammys like a one-man band, wielding power over a Hollywood award like no one other person in showbiz history. Today, that's rare in an industry run by committee." Nando Times (AP) 04/30/02

Monday April 29

GRAMMY PRESIDENT FORCED TO QUIT: Micahel Greene, who, as president of the Grammys for 14 years, became one of the "most powerful and controversial figures in the music industry" has been forced out of the job. "Greene's resignation as president took place during an emergency board meeting at the Beverly Hilton Hotel to discuss a sexual harassment probe commissioned by the Grammy organization, the sources said." Los Angeles Times 04/28/02

  • CLEARED OF CHARGES: The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences release a statement saying Greene was cleared of sexual misconduct, but does not say why Greene is leaving. "A full and fair investigation of alleged misconduct by Mike was completed and it revealed no sexual harassment, no sex discrimination and no hostile work environment at the recording academy." Nando Times (AP) 04/28/02
  • DIFFICULT PERSONALITY: "He was praised by some in the industry as an ambitious executive who played a large part in elevating the Grammys' glamour, prestige and high profile, while expanding the academy's membership, outreach, philanthropy and community involvement. But others within and outside the organization found fault with his sometimes abrasive personal style, which had a negative impact on the academy, as Mr. Greene himself has admitted." The New York Times 04/29/02

WOLFGANG - NEVER COUNT HIM OUT: So you thought the epic battles for control of the Bayreuth Festival were done and the aged and notorious Wolfgang Wagner vanquished? Think again. "Those who have fought to follow the near-interminable struggle for control of the festival among the pugnacious descendants of the master (as some zealots still call Richard Wagner) may gape to learn that Wolfgang is still able to laugh at all." But a new Wolfgang-led power base may be forming... The Economist 04/26/02

KC MUSIC DIRECTOR LEAVING: Kansas City Symphony music director Anne Manson has announced she will leave the orchestra. "Manson, 39, has been music director since 1999. She was one of the few women to head an American orchestra of notable size." St. Louis Post Dispatch 04/28/02

DUTOIT WITHDRAWAL: So many questions for the Montreal Symphony now that longtime music director Charles Dutoit is gone. Will the orchestra's best players (many of them loyal Dutoit supporters) stay with the orchestra or jump to higher paying US bands? Will the musicians union face a revolt over its handling of the affair? And who will be the orchestra's next music director? Montreal Gazette 04/27/02

Sunday April 28

MUSICIAN ABUSE: Tyrant conductors are notorious - both for their tempers and (often) for their impressive results. But "over the last 30 years, as unionized North American orchestral musicians fought successfully for good pay, reasonable working conditions and more say in artistic matters, the autocratic conductor became increasingly outmoded. Or so it seemed until the recent blowup at the Montreal Symphony Orchestra." Once musicians in Montreal began talking, they sounded like battered spouses... The New York Times 04/28/02

ON THE SILK ROAD: Cellist Yo-Yo Ma's project in international musical exploration is ambitious. "By the time it runs out of money next year, the Silk Road Project will have sponsored concerts, festivals, dance performances, workshops, conferences, Web sites, art exhibits and school curriculums in North America, Europe, the Far East, the Near East and Central Asia. The Silk Road Ensemble, led by Mr. Ma and embracing such virtuosos as the Iranian spike-fiddler Kayhan Kalhor and the Chinese pipa player Wu Man, will have performed (or at least run through) commissioned works by composers from Armenia, Azerbaijan, China, Iran, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan. And the Smithsonian Institution will, for the first time in its history, have devoted an entire Folklife Festival to a single theme, the Silk Road." The New York Times 04/28/02

PART OF THE PERFORMANCE: Mikel Rouse's opera Dennis Cleveland makes for a suspicious audience. "You're listening in the audience, and suddenly Mr. Rouse, playing the talk-show host, walks up and sticks the microphone in the face of the person next to you, who stands up and sings. Pretty soon you're looking at all your neighbors with suspicion: did they pay to see the show, or are they in the cast? You might even start to fear that Mr. Rouse/Dennis will stick the mike in your face, and you'll have to come up with a story for the folks." The New York Times 04/28/02

Friday April 26

ASKING HELP TO FIGHT PIRACY: The recording industry is asking for tax money to fight digital piracy. "In a congressional hearing Tuesday before a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, the RIAA requested additional funds for federal anti-piracy law enforcement efforts and is pushing for a renewed agenda on protecting intellectual property." ZDNet 04/25/02 

Thursday April 25

THE BEST ARTS PRIZE IN THE WORLD? Michigan's Gilmore Award for pianists just might be the best prize in all of the arts. Artists don't even know they're being considered for it, when suddenly the lucky winner is informed he or she has won $300,000. Polish pianist Piotr Anderszewski (On-der-shev-ski) is this year's winner and will receive "$50,000 in cash and $250,000 for any career-related projects, such as purchasing a new piano, commissioning new music or a recording project." Detroit Free Press 04/25/02

ORCHESTRAS OF VALUE: Over the past few months, the BBC and Classic FM have been signing exclusive deals with orchestras. The substance of these contracts does not always withstand daylight scrutiny, but the gestural value alone is enough to put heart into ailing orchestras - and the strategic shift at the heart of classical broadcasting is almost enough to take one's breath away. For the first time in a generation, orchestras are being pursued as genuine objects of value." London Evening Standard 04/24/02

CLASSICAL BRIT NOMINEES: Singer Cecilia Bartoli leads the nominations for this year's Classical Brit Awards. "Bartoli was nominated in three categories at a ceremony in central London on Wednesday, including best female artist, the critics award and best album for Gluck, Italian Arias." BBC 04/24/02

A CAPPELLA MADNESS: Okay, so it's not like being a starter on a Division I football team, but being a member of a college a cappella group is fast becoming a prestige position on American campuses. Once the purview of barbershop quartet refugees and general music dorks, a cappella groups are springing up all over, and their work is of a caliber that might surprise the casual observer. The New York Times 04/25/02

WONG DEFENDS HIS RECORD: Samuel Wong has been embroiled in controversy ever since taking the reins at the Hong Kong Philharmonic, with musicians and reporters alternately claiming that he's a dictator and that he has no control. But Wong refuses to be a pessimist, and says he still enjoys the orchestra: "Hong Kong is a model for symphony orchestras around the world. We have a recording contract, we tour, we have regular TV and radio broadcasts, the government gives us US$9 million a year, we do adventuresome programming, we do children's concerts, outreach, we play at a high standard. So if there is noise and friction, let there be. I don't welcome it, but if that's the cost, I'll accept it." Andante 04/25/02

Wednesday April 24

BERLIN ON A HIGH: In anticipation of Simon Rattle's arrival as music director of the Berlin Philharmonic, the orchestra has sold out next season's season tickets. And there's a four-year waiting list... To say expectations are high is an understatement...  Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 04/23/02

CHINA'S NATIONAL S.O. FIRES CONDUCTOR: "The China National Symphony Orchestra has officially removed Tang Muhai as its artistic director, more than six months after the 53-year old maestro angrily left Beijing... Also discharged was the orchestra's deputy chief executive, Qian Cheng, a Tang supporter who manages the two largest concert halls in Beijing as well as one in Nanjing." Andante 04/24/02

BRITS DROP OUT OF U.S.: For the first time in 38 years there are no British songs on the US Top 100 charts. By comparison "in April 1964 the Beatles held all of the top five positions and exactly 20 years later there were 40 UK singles in the top 100." BBC 04/23/02

MARK ERMLER'S LEGACY: Conductor Mark Ermler died last week at age 69 after collapsing on the podium in front of the Seoul Philharmonic. "He will be remembered in Russia chiefly for a host of distinguished opera and ballet performances at the Bolshoi - with a prolific discography to match - and, in Britain, for returning the music of the Tchaikovsky ballets to centre-stage at Covent Garden." The Guardian (UK) 04/23/02

OUE TO OSAKA: Minnesota Orchestra music director Eiji Oue, who will leave Minneapolis at the end of this season, has accepted the music director position at the Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra in his native Japan. Oue is fully fifty years younger than the legendary conductor he replaces, Takashi Asahina, who passed away at age 93 last winter. Minneapolis Star Tribune 04/24/02

Tuesday April 23

MUSICIANS TO JUDGE - RECORDING COMPANIES DON"T REPRESENT OUR INTERESTS: Some musicians charge that recording companies don't pay royalties owed them. "The record companies' representation that they are legitimate agents for their artists is false. The only payments they make are to those who have the means to force them to be accountable; to the rest, a vast majority, they pay nothing. Therefore, allowing them to collect fees in our behalf does not serve the public interest. I personally would prefer to allow my music to be freely shared, to the present situation, in which only the corporations stand to gain. Until this is changed, the record companies and publishers deserve nothing." Salon 04/23/02

TORONTO CELLIST SETTLES WITH ORCHESTRA: Toronto Symphony cellist Daniel Domb has "withdrawn a defamation lawsuit against the TSO and its former executive director, Edward Smith, in exchange for a cash settlement of an undisclosed amount. In addition, the TSO has agreed to schedule a farewell concert for Domb during the 2003-2004 season, during which Domb will appear as a soloist." Domb had been in a dispute with the orchestra "that began last May when Smith tried to fire Domb while he was recovering from near-fatal head injuries." Toronto Star 04/20/02

SAVING SAN JOSE: The San Jose Symphony, which shut down last fall with money problems, is working to reorganize. In January, "in an effort to save the debt-ridden symphony from filing for bankruptcy," the orchestra's musicians "agreed to forgo payment for this season's contract." But the players are upset that their conductor Leonid Grin didn't make a similar offer. The orchestra is starting to lose players. "The orchestra is going on faith that we will come back. But the longer we are out of work, the less we can financially afford to stick around. A couple have already left. Some are studying for other careers. Others are taking auditions.'' San Jose Mercury News 04/23/02

MONEY WOES FORCE USE OF HOMEGROWN TALENT: Argentine opera companies have long depended on international stars to populate their well-regarded productions. But the country's financial crises has forced the companies to use local talent they had formerly rejected. And the reviews haven't been bad... Andante 04/23/02

GARRISON KEILLOR OPERA: Garrison Keillor has written an opera, which is set to premiere in May in St. Paul, Minnesota. The story: "Mr. and Mrs. Olson is the story of a marriage searching for romance. Norman Olson is a taxman, and his wife, Karen, teaches 10th grade English. They live in St. Paul." St. Paul Pioneer Press 04/23/02

Monday April 22

WHY CLASSICAL RADIO MATTERS: "Americans have always depended on public radio to educate, inform and enrich listeners" write cellist David Finckle and pianist Wu Han. "In our travels as musicians, we hear the same story all too often: A city used to have classical music radio, but the station was bought — or polled its listeners with an eye toward 'better' demographics — and has switched to talk or to popular music formats. Great music on the radio is in dangerously short supply these days; in some places it has been abandoned altogether." The New York Times 04/20/02

TREE RETURNS AS INSTRUMENT: Years ago lightning killed a pine tree at the Interlochen Music School. "The wood of the old-growth tree was saved, cured and shaped into a new work of art - and on Thursday it returned to the place where it grew." It returned as a double bass played on campus by a student. Traverse City Record-Eagle 04/19/02

Sunday April 21

SLAVA SENDS A MESSAGE: Russian cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich, one of the most beloved icons of the classical music world, has announced that he will boycott the Montreal Symphony Orchestra next season in protest of the virtual ouster of music director Charles Dutoit. Rostropovich had been scheduled to conduct the MSO in January 2003. Montreal Gazette 04/20/02

ROME GETS A MEGA-HALL... "Rome on Sunday will inaugurate the largest concert hall complex in Europe - three separate theaters centered around an open-air arena designed by famed architect Renzo Piano. The $140 million project, one of the largest undertaken in Rome since World War II, will give the Eternal City its first major-league auditorium. It will be used to showcase chamber music, opera, contemporary music, theater, ballet, and symphonic performances." Nando Times (AP) 04/20/02

  • ...WITH MEGA-PROBLEMS: No one would deny that it's about time Rome got a decent concert hall. But the new Music Park has been a typically Italian fiasco from beginning to end: a controversial (some would say bizarre) design, a series of cost overruns, and lack of any sort of urgency to finish the thing have resulted in an embarrassing disaster of an opener, in which almost none of the complex will be completed. The Times of London 04/19/02

CHALLENGE OF A LIFETIME: Toronto's much-maligned Roy Thomson Hall is undergoing a complete overhaul, and no part of the job could possibly be as challenging as the part assigned to acoustician Russell Johnson. Johnson is supposed to fix the sound quality of a concert hall widely believed to be the world's worst acoustic building ever to play host to a major symphony orchestra. The original architect is not happy about it, but everyone else seems to think Johnson is the last, best hope for the hall. National Post (Canada) 04/20/02

THE GOLDEN AGE OF OPERA? "In all of Canada, back in the 1930s, there wasn't a single permanent [opera] company regularly peddling Giacomo Puccini and Richard Wagner. And in the United States, the situation wasn't a great deal better. Today? Opera America... embraces 117 professional companies in 45 states and 19 more in five provinces, and those companies are not the only ones currently active." Toronto Star 04/20/02

ORCHESTRAS (FINALLY) DISCOVER THE INTERNET: It's been nearly a decade since online information became a crucial aspect of American life, which means it ought to be just about time for American orchestras (always the land tortoises of marketing in the arts world) to discover that they might be able to use the internet to their advantage. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra "retooled its Web site in August 2000, in part to boost its online ticket sales. Since then orchestra officials said the group quadrupled its online ticket sales... Other U.S. orchestras are reporting similar gains." Chicago Tribune 04/21/02

INTERESTED, BUT NOT THAT INTERESTED: A new study by the sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation finds that, while nearly a third of American adults profess to be "interested" in classical music enough to listen to it regularly, only 5% go to live concerts. The study does not say how many of the "interested" adults were doing their regular listening while standing in an elevator. Andante 04/21/02

BEST OF TIMES IN FORT WORTH: It's not easy being the smaller of a pair of cities. Just ask Oakland, Saint Paul, or Fort Worth, languishing in the shadows of San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Dallas, respectively. But Fort Worth, Texas, has always prided itself on being the real cultural gem of the Metroplex, and these days, it has the musical quality to back up the claim. In the last few years, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and the Fort Worth Opera have undergone dramatic upgrades in quality, with a new concert hall leading the way. Dallas Morning News 04/21/02

LOOKING BACK (AND FORWARD) IN MINNEAPOLIS: When the Minnesota Orchestra selected Eiji Oue as its ninth music director back in 1993, the music world responded with a collective "Who?" Seven years later, the Oue era in Minneapolis (which comes to an end next month) is hard to assess: few would deny that the orchestra sounds better than it did when he arrived, but some have accused him of lacking discipline and being too much of a showman. Minneapolis Star Tribune 04/21/02

  • WHAT THE MUSICIANS THINK: Montreal's current scandal aside, it's rare for orchestral musicians to let their opinions on a given conductor be publicly known, for obvious reasons. But with Eiji Oue preparing to conduct his final concerts with the Minnesota Orchestra, three principal players give their analysis of the impact that Oue and his predecessor, Edo deWaart, had on the music, the musicians, and the organization. Minneapolis Star Tribune 04/21/02

PITTSBURGH PARTNERSHIP TO END: "Two years ago this month, Carnegie Mellon University and Opera Theater of Pittsburgh embarked on a experiment to be the only school and opera company in the United States with an official collaboration... Yesterday, CMU announced that it would not renew the agreement after it runs out in June." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 04/19/02

THE NEW THREAT: With Napster shut down, and other illegal music-downloading services effectively contained, the recording industry is training its sights on what it views to be the latest threat to its existence: CD burning. "For decades, people have made cassette recordings for friends. But record-label representatives say that home taping was never as prevalent as CD burning, mainly because blank tapes cost up to eight times what you now pay for blank CDs. Also, the sound depreciated every time you made another copy. Not so in the digital age, when immaculate-sounding copies can be made every time." Boston Globe 04/21/02

MAKING OPERA FUN, OR RUINING IT? "There is nothing anodyne about Richard Jones. His work, indeed his very personality, is unflinching, intense and often deeply witty. Over a 20-year career directing opera and theatre, he has been responsible for some of the stage's most talked-about images: latex-clad Rhinemaidens inflated to the proportions of Michelin men at the Royal Opera House; a tyrannosaurus rex towering over Ann Murray's Julius Caesar at the Staatsoper, Munich; a Ballo In Maschera in Bregenz in which a reclining skeleton, 32 metres high, clutched a vast open book that formed a stage floating on a lake." The Guardian (UK) 04/20/02

STRAYHORN GETS HIS DUE: "Until recently, the great jazz composer Billy Strayhorn, who died in 1967, endured a strange kind of obscurity. Many knew that he joined Duke Ellington in 1939, that he was partly responsible for the explosion of first-class music to come from the band in the early 1940's and that he collaborated with Ellington on some of his suites in the 1960's. Strayhorn was not invisible, but the quality of his contribution was largely misunderstood." The New York Times 04/21/02

Friday April 19

BYE BYE DUTOIT: The Montreal Symphony has finally accepted Charles Dutoit's resignation from the orchestra and says it will begin a search for his successor. "The announcement came the day after the musicians voted on a resolution to invite Dutoit back. The results of that vote were not revealed and there was no indication that they would be. It was also unclear at the time of the vote whether the resolution would have any effect on Dutoit." Andante 04/18/02

THE CALLAS MOVIE: For years Franco Zeffirelli refused to make a movie about Maria Callas, whom he knew well. Now he's filming a movie about the singer's last four months. "At the beginning, I didn't want to hear about it. I refused out of respect. For Maria. Now Callas is an icon, she is beyond passions, beyond relationships, beyond time. I thought the moment was right to do something, to remind people what she was, not just a voice that we can buy for $10. I want people to know that behind this incredible voice there was the person and what kind of person." The Guardian (UK) 04/19/02

TRAILBLAZER: Marin Alsop has probably accomplished more than any other female conductor. "How big a role I've played in [blazing a trail for other women] I'm not certain," Alsop says. "But I'm always very happy when young women [today] who are interested in the field think [being a woman is] a nonissue." Christian Science Monitor 04/19/02

Thursday April 18

ORCHESTRA FIGHT: Montreal Symphony musicians' public fight with music director Charles Dutoit has deeply divided the orchestra. "People in the musical world said musicians of major orchestras have almost never risen up publicly against a world-renowned conductor over his management style. The action has divided the orchestra's members and caused many of them to lose sleep, they said." The New York Times 04/18/02

  • THE LATEST FROM MONTREAL: As the MSO continues to waver on what to do next, its musicians are voting on whether or not to support a resolution asking Dutoit to return. But in "a development that can be interpreted as a victory for the anti-Dutoit camp, principal flute Tim Hutchins, a player widely perceived to be loyal to the conductor, resigned as chairman of the orchestra committee, a group of musicians who deal with internal affairs." Montreal Gazette 04/18/02

RECORD PRODUCERS TO BLAME FOR DOWNTURN? Recording industry execs blame last year's five percent decline in sales on digital file trading. "But critics of the recording industry say that by treating their consumers as thieves - oftentimes before any legitimate business alternative was offered - millions of people have turned their backs on the music industry. They have voted with their computers - flocking to technologies that allow them to download music whenever they want, move it into any portable device, and share it with their friends." Wired 04/17/02

THE DISAPPEARING CONTROVERSY: Peter Konwitschny is known in Europe for his controversial opera productions and provocative staging decisions. But many Dresden concertgoers were unprepared for the intense war imagery that dominated a State Opera production of Emmerich Kálmán's Die Csárdásfürstin, and the company eliminated the offending scenes. But Konwitschny sued, and a court ruled that the company didn't have the right to make cuts. Now, the production has quietly been yanked completely. Andante 04/18/02

STUDY - DIGITAL HELPS NEW ARTISTS: It's tough to be a big pop star these days. But better if you're a newcomer. A new study of Billboard charts finds that "the number of artists who appeared each year on the charts increased by 31.5 percent from 1991 to 2000, suggesting that more new artists are hitting the charts, at the expense of established musical acts. The biggest change occurred from 1998 to 2000, when the number of fresh faces making the Billboard 200 increased 10 percent." San Francisco Chronicle (WP) 04/17/02

ANOTHER ORCHESTRA UPRISING: The musicians of Spain's Orquesta Nacional are mounting what they call a "work-to-rules" strike, which amounts to a refusal to play more rehearsals than are called for in their contract. They want the government, which controls the orchestra, to address their concerns over, among other things, dubious hiring practices. But the action isn't sitting well with the orchestra's audiences, who shouted insults at the players before a recent concert. Andante (El Mundo) 04/18/02

THREE DECADES, ONE MAN, AND A THOUSAND 'EXPERTS': When Seiji Ozawa conducts the Boston Symphony for the last time as its music director this weekend, an era will come to a close, but chances are that the second guessing and armchair criticism won't. One Boston critic thinks the maestro may have gotten an unfair shake. "I've often wondered why Ozawa didn't head for Europe long ago. He's far more respected there, in part because sophisticated music-making is still considered the most important quality of a conductor there. In America, administrative ability and presenting a jolly face to the public - including participation in humiliating photo ops - seem to count for more in a music director." Boston Herald 04/18/02

YUCK. AND DOUBLE YUCK: Everyone knows that rock stars have the best (and the most) sex, right? Wrong. For sheer audacity of approach and ability to select partners more or less at will, no one beats the world's great conductors. Need evidence? "Sir Georg Solti, weeks before his death in 1997, discussed sex... as an active combatant. He was 84." La Scena Musicale 04/17/02

ANOTHER PIANO COMPETITION, YAWWWN: The London International Piano Competition concluded Monday night. And as usual, the wrong pianist won. Oh, well, that's the way competitions go these days... London Evening Standard 04/17/02

Wednesday April 17

VONK TO QUIT ST. LOUIS: St. Louis Symphony music director Hans Vonk, who had to stop midway through a performance in February because of illness, is stepping down. "Vonk will remain with the organization but in a dramatically reduced role, Symphony management told the Post-Dispatch on Tuesday. He will conduct just two weeks a year for the remaining three years of his contract and may advise the organization on artistic matters." St. Louis Post-Dispatch 04/17/02

MEANWHILE IN MONTREAL... Musicians of the Montreal Symphony are to vote tonight on whether to ask music director Charles Dutoit to return to the orchestra. Evidently Dutoit might rejoin the MSO if enough players vote for his return. But how many players will it take. Certainly not just a simple majority. And Dutoit has already canceled his next appearances with the orchestra; a substitute has been hired. Montreal Gazette 04/17/02

BAD MUSIC OR PIRACY? Worldwide recorded music sales were down five percent in 2001. "Plagued by pirate websites and growing use of technology which allows music lovers to burn tracks on to CDs, legitimate sales fell across the world's biggest markets including America, Germany and Japan. Experts believe the growth of internet download sites has been such that one in every three recordings sold around the world is now illegal, costing the industry £2.9bn a year." Oddly enough, the only countries to see a rise in sales were England and France. The Independent (UK) 04/17/02

HARLEM CHOIR ARREST: The counseling director of the world-renowned Boys Choir of Harlem and its prestigious college-prep school was arrested yesterday and charged with fondling a 13-year-old boy." New York Post 04/16/02

DUMB TIL YOU'RE NUMB: Why are fewer people listening to classical music on the radio? "The big problem is that music has been progressively dumbed down over the years, and not just at WNYC. Talk about music has replaced music itself, or the music is guitar sonatas and easy-listening favorites, background noise that drives away serious devotees. The public can judge quality. If you cheapen a product enough, eventually no one will want it. It is no surprise people have stopped tuning in." The New York Times 04/17/02

MONTREAL SYMPHONY SITUATION GETS COMPLICATED: What really caused the rift between conductor Charles Dutoit and his Montreal Symphony musicians? Turns out the musicians union mishandled a dismissal clause in the players' contract. Dutoit was playing by the contract rules as he understood them. Musicians probably didn't intend to push him to resign. Can the situation be salvaged? La Scena Musicale 04/16/02

Tuesday April 16

MUSIC AS "DAY-PART": Why does classical music radio programming often sound so canned? How do they decide what music to play? It's certainly not like programming a concert. Instead, programmers are looking for a "sound" in an exercise known as "day-parting." Washington's WGMS has a "database containing descriptions of the music in the station's 10,000-CD library. Selections in the database are categorized according to a couple of dozen adjectives that the station has come up with to define each composition's 'mood and energy level'—among them 'boisterous,' 'pleasant,' 'tranquil,' and 'lively'." The Atlantic 03/02

HOW TO GET INTO AN ORCHESTRA: Getting into a professional orchestra is hard. So many players, so few jobs. "For the winners, the rewards are sweet. Top orchestras pay six-figure salaries and grant tenure, meaning players can't be fired, even if they slack off on practicing. Best of all, you get to do what you love: Play music. It's a good gig, all right, but only if you can get it." Here's how it works. Cleveland Scene 04/11/02

MUSIC IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH (AND COUNTRY): The Queen Mother's funeral last week reminded at least one critic of Britain's tie to religious music. "We have grown used to thinking that our musical life takes place overwhelmingly in the concert hall, the opera house or the recording studio. Much of it does. But that is not the whole story. Even now, in modern Britain, there is a case for saying that the most important place in the nation's musical life is still our churches." The Guardian (UK) 04/13/02

DRAFTING THE NINTH: The earliest known draft of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is up for auction. "The manuscript, written on two sides of a large oblong sheet, is expected to fetch between 150,000 and 200,000 pounds (up to 320,000 euros, $290,000), according to the auction house." Nando Times (AFP) 04/15/02

Monday April 15

WHY KILL THE CHORUS? The Baltimore Symphony recently announced plans to cut its chorus, which has been performing for 32 years with the orchestra. "The chorus costs the orchestra $150,000 annually, or about 0.006 percent of the Baltimore Symphony's budget ($25 million). This hardly would appear cause for discarding a group of volunteer singers that has strengthened ties between orchestra and public for more than three decades, while exploring a vast, rich choral repertoire." As for quality? You want a good chorus, you get a good director. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 04/14/02 

KRALL DOMINATES JUNOS: Diana Krall and the band Nickelback dominate the Junos, Canada's annual music recording awards Sunday night. "With three Juno awards apiece, Krall and Nickelback were winners in the top categories at Sunday night's Juno awards. Krall took best artist and best album, as well as best vocal jazz album for The Look of Love." National Post (CP) 04/15/02

BIG TIME JAZZ: Female jazz singers are hot right now. Recording companies are scouring clubs to find the Next Big Thing, and sales are going well. Why? Diana Krall. Her breakout success selling albums has singers and producers dreaming big. And suddely there's a crop of new voices. Los Angeles Times 04/14/02

'POOR ME' DOESN'T WASH: Is the music recording business suffering? "Imagine a business where they cut the number of products released; raised the prices of their products to more than 20 bucks a pop; had a significant number of their distributors go out of business; reduced the amount of marketing money spent to promote each product; saw major promotional money and discounts from the two years of dot-com mania disappear; and saw complete turnover and management problems at one of their biggest providers, EMI. Yet in spite of all of these things, [the industry] sold more CDs and for more total dollars than the previous year. I would tell you that is a business that has had a great year. The RIAA has tried to paint the picture that the industry is suffering because of file sharing. It's not. There is more evidence that it has benefited from it." Phoenix New Times 04/13/02

MUSIC BY LAPTOP: "In a larger sense, nearly all of the music you hear today, both recorded and live, is electronic. This doesn't necessarily mean that it's digital - many studio engineers and artists remain fervently attached to analog hardware, with its arguably greater warmth and richness. But the computer is inextricably woven into all stages of the modern recording process: Even acoustic music such as string quartets and bluegrass is spliced and diced with all-purpose mixing software like Pro Tools and Logic. The wandering tones of mediocre (but marketable) singers are routinely treated with pitch-correcting programs like Antares Auto-Tune. And no one balks at drum machines anymore." Wired 04/15/02

Sunday April 14

ONE LAST FUTILE PLEA: The Montreal Symphony is making a token effort to get Charles Dutoit to reconsider his resignation. "In a brief statement issued just after 8, the orchestra said it would contact the conductor today in Pittsburgh and ask him to reconsider the resignation he had tendered 24 hours earlier. Yet the statement appeared to concede the inevitability of his departure by expressing a desire to ensure 'a harmonious transition in the artistic direction of the orchestra.'" Montreal Gazette 04/12/02

  • SO WHOSE FAULT IS IT? Is Dutoit really the autocratic tyrant one union boss has made him out to be? Are the MSO musicians a bunch of thin-skinned crybabies who've dug themselves a hole and fallen into it? And ultimately, how did the situation ever get to this crisis point without someone, somewhere, noticing and doing something about it? One critic is ready to start assigning responsibility. Montreal Gazette 04/13/02
  • FAR FROM THE ACTION: While the Montreal situation roils and boils, Charles Dutoit is continuing his career as one of the world's most prominent guest conductors, and while no one would ever claim that he is an easy man to work for, other North American orchestras continue to bring him back, year in and year out. This week, Dutoit is in Pittsburgh, and despite some rather unclassical interruptions, the critics say he remains in complete control of his emotions, and in the grip of the music he leads. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette & Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 04/13/02

VONK SCALING BACK IN ST. LOUIS: Conductor Hans Vonk has asked the management of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra to redefine and scale back his role as music director, citing health concerns. Vonk, who is suffering from a rare form of Lou Gehrig's Disease, had to leave the podium during a concert with the SLSO last winter, and subsequently cancelled a number of engagements elsewhere. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 04/12/02

ANOTHER ORCHESTRA IN THE RED: The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has become the latest in a long string of North American orchestras to annoucne massive operating losses. The BSO is running a $1 million deficit, and will be looking to make cuts, but will continue with plans for a tour of Japan this fall. Baltimore Sun 04/12/02

HONG KONG PHIL LOSES A GM: Things haven't been particularly stable at the Hong Kong Philharmonic ever since new music director Sam Wong stepped in and began cleaning house, and now the new direction of the orchestra appears to have claimed another victim. General manager Edith Lei Mei-Lon has announced her departure from the Phil after 13 years, but insists that the Wong controversy has nothing to do with it. Still, no one's offering any other explanation. Andante (South China Morning Post) 04/12/02

MIXED MESSAGES: Part of the trouble with the classical music profession is that the recording industry seems to have a profoundly different idea of what classical music is for than do its performers and advocates. "While live music goes on being promoted as a multicolored festoon of passion, thrills, bedazzlement and beauty, the marketing of recorded music at a certain level is more and more emphasizing the calming effect." In other words, orchestras want to be exciting, while record labels want to help people fall asleep. The New York Times 04/14/02

THAT RELAUNCH IS COMING ANY DAY NOW, WE SWEAR: "Song-swapping service Napster has laid off 30 employees, its third round of job cuts since October. The troubled business has yet to relaunch itself as a legal music download service since going offline in July 2001." BBC 04/12/02

SEIJI'S LEGACY: As Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra prepare to part ways after more than a quarter-century, the critics weigh in on his impact. Certainly, he is a legitimate star in the orchestral world, but it doesn't take much prodding to get musicians around the world to complain about his imprecise baton or his questionable grasp of the core repertoire. "Paradoxically, now that Ozawa is 66 and beginning to be acclaimed in Vienna and elsewhere as an Old Master himself, he is far more radical, eclectic, and exploratory than he was as a young man. He is still eager to 'taste' all that music, particularly opera, that he hasn't had the opportunity to conduct before, still adding nearly as much to his repertory as he repeats." Boston Globe 04/14/02

  • THE ROAD TO THE TOP: Like so many of the music world's top performers, Seji Ozawa's rise to prominence was part talent, part hard work, and part luck. He won his first conducting competition as a lark while tooling around Europe on a scooter, and almost immediately caught the attention of legends like Charles Munch and Leonard Bernstein. His ascent to the top ranks was meteoric, and few conductors have ever put such a distinctive stamp on an orchestra as has Ozawa with the BSO. Boston Herald 04/14/02
  • SEIJI SPEAKS: Through his years in Boston, Ozawa has rarely responded verbally to his critics, preferring to keep his dealings with the BSO in-house. In an extended interview with the city's leading music critic, the maestro explains what it was he tried to create in Boston, and why controversy was inevitable: "'When I came in, the orchestra played with a wonderful finesse of color that was the creation of Charles Munch and that was still there 10 years after he had left. I wanted a bigger and darker sound from the strings and the brass, and when I asked for it, some difficult situations arose.'" Boston Globe 04/14/02

CONDUCTOR COLLAPSES, DIES ON THE JOB: "Leading Russian conductor Mark Ermler, 69, died in Seoul on Sunday after collapsing during a rehearsal for a concert by the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, officials said. Ermler was associated with the Bolshoi Theatre and Opera throughout his career and was its musical director until 2000. He became chief conductor of the Seoul Philarmonic in May 2000." Andante (Agence France-Presse) 04/14/02

A BEER AND A BUMP AND SOME BACH: There was a time when classical music was not the stuffy, formal, tuxedo-clad beast that it has become. Back in the day (the 18th century, actually,) classical music was, y'know, popular. A 31-year-old Israeli cellist is taking a stab at duplicating the effect, playing Bach in bars, clubs, and all sorts of other places you'd never think of. Baltimore Sun 04/13/02

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: "Montreal-born composer Henry Brant has some advice for young artists of all sorts. 'Take care of yourself until you're old enough to do your best work. That's when everything becomes clearer what's important and what's less important, and how to proceed.' Nobody could accuse him of failing to heed his own advice: At the age of 88 he's in good health and has just won a Pulitzer Prize for composition." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 04/13/02

Friday April 12

WHEN THE CHICKENS COME HOME: Pop music deserves its current dire straits. "Today's pop scene has very little to do with making music: music is simply one of the pegs on which the New Instant Celebrity is hung. All notions of quality and artistry seem to have gone out of the window. By concentrating on short-term profits from instant hit singles by a fast turnover of disposable pop stars who are little more than karaoke singers, and all the major labels trawling the same over-fished pool of international talent by splashing out obscene sums of money for those few artists who can notionally guarantee massive sales, the 'industry of human happiness' is ultimately digging its own grave. The music business has been cruising for this particular bruising for years." The Independent (UK) 04/11/02

AFTER HE'S GONE: Musicians of the Montreal Symphony seem unrepentant that they provoked music director Charles Dutoit to quit the orchestra. "In the past year or so it's become intolerable. The musicians are constantly berated or they're insulted or there are sarcastic comments."  So what comes now for Canada's top orchestra? "In terms of its international prestige, if it can't find a conductor of high quality to replace him, a period of decline will inevitably take place." Canada.com (CP) 04/11/02

  • IS DUTOIT'S DECISION FINAL? "In the music industry, speculation runs both ways as to whether the decision is final. Some who have worked extensively with the decisive, Swiss-born conductor believe the resignation will be rescinded in a few days. Others claim that the only way he'll return to Montreal is to clean out his apartment." Philadelphia Inquirer 04/12/02
  • CANADA LOSES ITS MOST PROMINENT CONDUCTOR: Would Dutoit be interested in the vacant Toronto Symphony job? "Forget about that. Having presided over Montreal's surpassing Toronto's as the country's leading orchestra, he isn't likely to settle for second best.What a sad end to a great chapter in Canadian orchestral history." Toronto Star 04/12/02

THE MAKINGS OF A CAREER: "Why do some splendid performers enjoy major international careers and other equally splendid performers do not? And how to explain why certain flashy performers have thriving international careers, while more substantive performers never seem to break out of a regional success? It may come down to a certain temperament or drive that propels some artists to popular success. A marketable image, or just an inexplicable something that audiences connect with. The artist makes choices, too." New York Times 04/11/02

MUNICH MUSICIANS PREFER... The Munich Philharmonic is looking for a new music director, and the players, at least, have forcefully expressed their preference. "A 'highly qualified majority' of the orchestra has voiced a clear preference that amounts to a statement of artistic intent: The object of their affection is Christian Thielemann." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 04/11/02

SEIJI'S LAST SEASON: Seiji Ozawa is leaving the Boston Symphony after this season. But first there's a round of parties, farewell concerts and interviews... Boston Herald 04/12/02

Thursday April 11

DUTOIT QUITS MONTREAL: Charles Dutoit, music director of the Montreal Symphony since 1977, has resigned from the orchestra after a nasty spat with his players. "Dutoit said in a statement that he reached the decision following 'hostile declarations' by the president of the Quebec Musicians' Guild that were shared by a majority of the MSO musicians." Dutoit is credited with building Montreal into Canada's best orchestra, an orchestra that at one time was declared by Parisian critics as "the best French orchestra in the world." Toronto Star 04/11/02

  • LONG TIME BREWING: "Relations with the Swiss music director have been frosty since the end of the last musicians' strike in 1998. Although Mr. Dutoit took their side in that dispute, he was unhappy with certain provisions in the new contract regarding tours and recordings." National Post (Canada) 04/11/02
  • Previously: REVOLT IN MONTREAL: Montreal Symphony music director Charles Dutoit tried to fire two of the orchestra's musicians, and now the entire orchestra has risen up in revolt. "Sadly, the reality of life in the MSO for most players is ... a reality of unrelenting harassment, condescension and humiliation by a man whose autocratic behaviour has become intolerable." The Montreal Musicians Guild has "asked its lawyers to prepare a lawsuit against the MSO after an 'overwhelming' majority of MSO players voted in a secret ballot to give the union a mandate to take action." Montreal Gazette 04/10/02

PROTESTING A PULITZER: A critic who heard the world premiere of Henry Brant's Ice Field  last December in San Francisco is stunned that the work won this year's Pulitzer. "Entertaining at best, the composition's only distinction was being one of the most pointless and frustrating concert experiences in my memory." San Francisco Classical Voice 04/09/02

  • BRANT SPEAKS: Henry Brant is 88: "The main thing is for a composer to stick around as long as possible and keep working - otherwise you miss things like this. I'm now the second oldest living composer of nonpopular music, after Elliott Carter." Of his piece Ice Field, he told Josh Kosman: "It's one of the best-realized things I've done. That's another reason for sticking around a long time - you come to understand these things better. Although it's not a simple piece, I think it's one of the most accessible to audiences of anything I've written." San Francisco Chronicle 04/09/02
  • MORE ON ICE FIELD: The Pulitzer "was given to a piece that is by no means an easygoing, conventional piece. I regard it [the prize] as an encouragement to keep going the way that I go." Los Angeles Times 04/10/02

ELVIS HAS LEFT THE BUILDING: UCLA is close to Hollywood, so you'd maybe expect when the school reached out to name an "artist in residence" it might turn in a pop culture direction. But Elvis Costello's artist-in-residence gig hasn't exactly paid off for the university. Barely in to the job, Costello has left to work on an album, and the residency has been put on hold. "A ballet based on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream with orchestral music composed by Costello for the Italian dance company Aterballeto, originally planned for this summer, is probably not going to happen at all because of scheduling conflicts, though the music may be performed in another context." Los Angeles Times 04/10/02

SAME OLD DIRGE: Surely with all the wonderful music out there, official funerals could offer something other than Chopin's Funeral March, that dirge that gets trotted out for every important death. "Can no one compose a better send-off than the dreary third movement of Frederic Miseryguts Chopin's Sonata number two in B-flat minor?" London Evening Standard 04/10/02 

Wednesday April 10

AUSTRALIA'S TOP 100: Last week Classic FM in the UK released the results of its poll of most-loved music. Now an Australian poll is out, and it's remarkable how similar the lists are (yes, Rachmaninoff topped both lists). "One of the odd and surely disappointing features of the Australian list (even if you don't think much of list-making in general) is that not a single Australian piece makes it into the top 100." Sydney Morning Herald 04/10/02

REVOLT IN MONTREAL: Montreal Symphony music director Charles Dutoit tried to fire two of the orchestra's musicians, and now the entire orchestra has risen up in revolt. "Sadly, the reality of life in the MSO for most players is ... a reality of unrelenting harassment, condescension and humiliation by a man whose autocratic behaviour has become intolerable." The Montreal Musicians Guild has "asked its lawyers to prepare a lawsuit against the MSO after an 'overwhelming' majority of MSO players voted in a secret ballot to give the union a mandate to take action." Montreal Gazette 04/10/02

TURNING OPERA AROUND: Tom Morris is "the man who is giving opera a good name. And it's not just the heads of the opera and theatre establishment who are craning their necks to see how it's done. It's everyone." They're coming to the backside of South London to his Battersea Arts Center for productions like "Jerry Springer: The Opera - a vulgar, violent, crude and thrilling work-in-progress which set the travails of the freaks and misfits of daytime television to an exhilaratingly promiscuous score. At less than a fiver a ticket, audiences and critics couldn't get enough of the Lesbian Dwarf Diaper Fetishist, the Chick with a Dick or the Fighting Bitches, and fought for returns outside the stuffy 150-seater auditorium." The Telegraph (UK) 04/10/02

THE ACCIDENTAL CRITIC: Newsday's Justin Davidson hasn't been music critic for long - since 1995 - and fell into the business accidentally. But this week he won the Pulitzer for criticism. "The judges praised 'his crisp coverage of classical music that captures its essence.' Among the body of work receiving recognition were opera reviews and a series of long feature stories on recent developments in new music." Newsday 04/09/02

Tuesday April 9

CUTTING YOURSELF: The Philadelphia Orchestra came up with an outreach program that offered to demystify classical music for those who were new to it. "The format is probably the most elucidating and engaging new experience any orchestra has come up with. The largely young listeners seemed perplexed at first, but after a few minutes you could practically see the lightbulbs go on above their heads." But just as audiences for the new program were building, the orchestra has dropped the series. Why? Money. "A bigger penny-wise, pound-foolish miscalculation the orchestra hasn't made in years." Philadelphia Inquirer 04/09/02

TRADITIONAL REBEL: "The career of director Franco Zeffirelli remains a conundrum. Flamboyant, mercurial, vain and ambitious, Zeffirelli is as famous as the stars he features in his highly personal films. His tastes are too highbrow for Hollywood yet too hoi polloi for the elite. At the Metropolitan Opera, Zeffirelli's surname is a synonym for gorgeous overkill. But like so much else about him, even that name is an invention, carefully crafted for maximum effect." Opera News 04/02

ELVIS SPEAKS OUT: Siberian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky has been called the "Elvis of opera" by one magazine. And he's got the credentials of a big time star. Yet he left his recording label contract after they tried to push him into some "tacky" crossover albums. He admires the Three Tenors, but he's "distressed that the most famous opera singer in America is Andrea Bocelli. 'That's like saying the best cuisine in the world is chewing gum'." The Telegraph (UK) 04/09/02

Monday April 8

SO MANY STRINGS... The Canadian Opera Company has a big problem. Sure the Canadian government is giving the company $25 million for its new home. And the province is throwing in another 25. But there's a little dispute about how much the land the new hall is to be built on is worth. And who should pay for it. And which government ought to make which deal with whom...It's difficult to feel good about all this generosity when there are so many agendas floating about. Toronto Star 094/07/02

COMPETITION MESS: Pasadena's new Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition promised to be a different kind of competition, a competition free of controversy. But the jury disqualified the pianist who earlier in the week had been voted the audience favorite, and publicly humiliated him by declaring him unprepared. Los Angeles Times 04/08/02

  • RIPPING THE RACHMANINOFF: How much did Mark Swed dislike the new Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition in Pasadena? Let him count the ways. "What made me most uneasy Saturday, however, was not a vulgar pianist collaborating with a crude orchestra to produce studied excitement. After all, the Rachmaninoff prize is not likely to mean much, one way or another. Rather it was hard to respect any public presentation that demonstrated such disregard for the audience and performers alike." Los Angeles Times 04/08/02

TAMED: Rock's bad boys have gone domestic. "In the past we could always bank on the fact that, no matter how badly we conducted ourselves, we would seem like paragons of virtue compared to our pop idols. Pranged your father’s car? Calm down, daddi-o, if Keith Moon had been at the wheel of that slightly dented Rover it would currently be lying at the bottom of the neighbour’s swimming pool. But now it’s all over." The Scotsman 04/07/02

Sunday April 7

WHAT BECOMES A CLASSIC? "Which songs from the rock era will be the standards of the future? It's hard to even agree on the criteria. Songs that define a cultural moment, songs with an unforgettable melody, songs that the most people loved - all of those qualities contribute to a song's staying power. Or not. It's no secret how mercurial the world of pop music is. The great songwriter Nick Drake is a shadowy cult figure and ABBA is the toast of Broadway. Go figure. It's impossible to predict with any certainty what musicians will want to play, and what listeners will want to hear, a half century from now." Boston Globe 04/07/02

WAITING FOR THE NBT: There's a sense in popular music that a big change is just around the corner, that the Next Big Thing is about to break. "Whatever it is, it will come out of left field; it will not be what we expect. It may not come originally out of North America: It is more likely to come from middle-class North Americans or Europeans imitating some less privileged group, such as transplanted Turks in Germany, or Brazilian or North African peasants. I have a hunch, personally, that it will come from suburbs rather than cities -- it may well be some kind of angsty celebration of malls and empty spaces." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/06/02

EXPLOITING BERNSTEIN: Is there another modern-era composer who's been more marketed and promoted than Leonard Bernstein? His legacy has been relentlessly hawked since his death in 1990. But evidently, the Bernstein estate wants more. Gap ads. CD holders. "We'd like it exploited a little bit more. I think when people think of great music, a lot of people think of Bernstein. But he was much more. He was the American superstar of classical music, and not just classical, but Broadway and all the other things he did." Philadelphia Inquirer 04/07/02

LOOKING FOR A FEW GOOD LEADERS: The BBC Orchestra is looking foir a new music director. A few other English orchestras will also be looking in the near future. But who is there to lead them? "With the 18th-century classics now largely the province of period-instrument bands, symphony orchestras must expand their repertories forward, making the whole of the 20th century part of their regular programming. There are relatively few high-flying conductors who make a point of doing just that." The Guardian (UK) 04/06/02

THE MAN WHO SAVED SAN DIEGO: When conductor Jun-Ho Pak joined the San Diego Symphony, the orchestra was in tough financial straits and struggling at the box office. Now the orchestra is moving up to the next level. How to keep an orchestra alive? "It's about personal contact, getting to know audiences one on one. Spending time telling our story, what music means to us, why it's pertinent.'' That's how San Diego got itself back on the boards, he says. "It was good old pressing of the flesh, letting them know there's a face behind what many think an old, high-art form.'' San Jose Mercury News 04/07/02

Friday April 5

BUY AMERICAN: One reason why so many American singers, male and female, are in constant demand is that they are almost always thoroughly trained, in addition to a basic knowledge of how to use their voices, in stagecraft and in the ability to read and quickly memorise a score. Some of them are stars, others are capable youngsters on the way up. The youngsters rehearse the history of many of the stars in being ready, at the shortest possible notice, to master a difficult piece of music in order to replace an absent or indisposed singer and in having the all-round competence to find their way round an unfamiliar stage with only a resident director or two to prompt their next move from the wings. This helps to explain why some operatic occasions at - to pick one outstanding example - the Salzburg Festival seem like a club of expatriate American singers." Sydney Morning Herald 04/05/02

A MATTER OF PRIORITIES: For 20 years conductor William Christie has been "the music public's most trusted guide to the largely unknown treasures of the French baroque." But his career has been based in France rather than the UK or the US, and his opinion of support for the arts in the English-speaking world is not high. "Let's face it. You in Britain, like we in the States, have been governed by people who do not understand culture or, if they do, are interested only in elitist culture. The Thatchers and the Reagans of this world will certainly be remembered, I'm sure, but not because they have given beauty to people." The Guardian (UK) 04/05/02

LIKE CHARITY, PIRACY BEGINS AT HOME: Think pirate CDs and you think exotic far away places, like Marakesh, or Shanghai, or Camarillo. Camarillo? Yeah, it's in California. That's where, according the the Recording Industry of America, the Technicolor Corporation has been churning out illegal copies of CDs by 'N Sync and Celine Dion, among others. BBC 04/05/02

Thursday April 4

CONCERT AGENCY FAILING TO PAY MUSICIANS: Community Concerts Associates has long been an important promoter of young musical talent in cities across the United States. But the agency was sold in 1999, and now musicians engaged by CCA say they are having difficulty getting paid for concerts they have performed. Is CCA in danger of collapse? Andante 04/03/02  

THE WAGNERS AND THE RABBI: For years, the descendants of Richard Wagner have guarded fiercely his reputation, and refused to release documents that might in any way support what the world already knows - that the composer was a vicious anti-Semite. As a result, the family itself has gained a reputation as being close-minded and anti-Semitic, but a collection of correspondence between Wagner's son and a German rabbi may show otherwise. La Scena Musicale 04/03/02

GRAMMYS BACK TO NY: Four years ago the Grammy Awards moved out of New York to LA, after feeling unloved by Big Apple officials. With a new mayor, the event is returning to New York. "The recording academy, which gives the awards, estimates that having the event in the city brings $35 million to $40 million to local businesses." The New York Times 04/04/02

MOONLIGHTING RUSSIANS: On a recent American tour, the Kirov Orchestra picked up a little extra freelance work. "According to MusicalAmerica.com, which first reported the story on its Web site, the orchestra, based in St. Petersburg, Russia, recorded the soundtrack music for an upcoming Paramount film, K-19: The Widowmaker, starring Harrison Ford." So? The Russian orchestra plays for less than American musicians. The American Federation of Musicians is deeply unhappy. Washington Post 04/04/02 

BROOKLYN PHIL SETTLEMENT: The Brooklyn Philharmonic and its musicians have settled a contract dispute. "The three-year contract calls for a wage freeze in the first year and increases in the second and third year." Andante 04/03/02

ONLY FOR A LIMITED TIME: The New Jersey Symphony has received a mind-blowing offer from a long-time subscriber. Collector Herbert Axelrod wants to outfit the orchestra's first violins with Strads and Guarneris, and also supply a particularly beautiful Strad for the principal cellist. The instruments being offered are valued at $50 million, but Axelrod is offering them to the NJSO for half price, an unprecedented discount. The catch? The orchestra must come up with the money by June 30. Boston Globe (AP) 04/04/02

WHAT KILLED BEETHOVEN? A popular book has claimed that the German master was doomed to deafness and eventual death by lead poisoning, based on DNA analysis of a lock of his hair. But not everyone is convinced, and experts have been raising questions about the reliability of hair analysis, and pointing out that the lead poisoning theory is inconsistent with Beethoven's late-life musical output. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 04/04/02

OCTOGENARIAN ROCK CRITIC RETIRES: Jane Scott may well be the most unlikely rock 'n roll writer in the history of the genre. For the last 50 years, Scott has written, and written intelligently, about every corner of the rock world for Cleveland's Plain Dealer. Even at the beginning, she was older than most rock fans, and this week, the week she retires from her post, she turns 83. But Scott's musings on the music that changed America have stood as some of the finest music writing any newspaper has produced, and her analysis of the good, the bad, and the ugly were read as gospel not only by fans, but by many of her colleagues. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 04/04/02

Wednesday April 3

TOP CLASSICAL: What is Britain's most-loved classical music? Listener's of the UK's Classic FM voted Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto on top. Bruch clocks in at No. 2. New to this year's list is John Williams' score for the Harry Potter movie... The Independent (UK) 04/02/02

GOOD BUT POOR: Scottish Opera has been applauded for its recent productions and the company is celebrating its 40th birthday. But the company is struggling financially. This season was scaled back, even after an emergency infusion of public cash. And the Arts Council is dropping large hints that funding for expensive arts like opera are on the decline. The Scotsman 04/03/02 

FROM STREET TO STAGE: "Classical music's newest sensation is the OperaBabes, two attractive young female singers whose record label, Sony Music, has earmarked them as one of its top projects of the year. Yet less than a year ago, Karen England and Rebecca Knight were busking outside the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden in London.The novelty of their approach is to give personal adaptations of classic arias and great classical orchestral works. They will, for example, almost heretically add their own lyrics to Dvorak's New World Symphony." The Independent (UK) 04/01/02

WHERE THE BOYS AREN'T: "A crisis in our musical life is coming to the boil: boys just don't want to sing 'classically' any more. The great majority of youth and church choirs are now exclusively female. Most school singing classes can persuade boys only to bawl out show tunes, which give them no training in vocal technique or expressiveness." So what will become of the great English boychoirs? The Telegraph (UK) 04/03/02

SCIENCE IN THE SERVICE OF HUMANITY: A Japanese company has announced that it will soon unveil a device, intended for use in karaoke bars, which instantly gives even the most horrendous singer note-perfect pitch. The technology is in its infancy, and is not without problems (truly off-key singers may confound the machine, and the corrective process sometimes results in distortion that may throw performers off,) but the inventers say anything would be an improvement on the vocal stylings of many karaoke performers. Wired 04/03/02

Tuesday April 2

RANKING THE UK'S ORCHESTRAS: What are the best orchestras in Britain? Worst? Unless you're hearing all of them on a regular basis, it's difficult to make meaningful comparisons. Here's one critic's ranking of the best in the land. Probably not a surprise, but the entrepreneurial London Symphony is at the top of the pack. At the other end of the list is the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. The Times (UK) 04/02/02

WHY IT SOUNDS DIFFERENT: Why is American music different from European music? Perhaps the American variety comes from experimentation with sound, while European music started with an idea. "From such poundings on pianos and yowlings of cats American music began. Specifically, it sprang from a delight in sounds not found in 'correct' European music. Such legends, with their delight in rebelliousness and transgression, are a far cry from the origin story of European music, by which Pythagoras heard four hammers hitting an anvil in the perfect concord C, F, G, C." NewMusicBox 04/02

GOING IT ALONE: "Entrepreneurship in the classical music biz isn’t new. Orchestras own the rights to an overwhelming amount of recorded music, and it’s not as though they haven’t released their own performances before." But as recording labels give up classical music, and costs for recording and distributing their own music fall, more and more orchestras and musicians are setting up their own labels. Public Arts (WBUR) 04/02/02

Monday April 1

CAN MUSIC HELP PEACE? Should visiting musicians continue to perform in Israel as tensions in the region increase? Some, like Daniel Barenboim, believe art can be a force for peace. Others aren't sure: "Music as a bridge between nations is a very nice idea. We'd all like to believe in it. But I don't remember anybody signing a peace treaty after a concert. Music is a bridge between people, not nations." But whether they continue to perform or cancel concerts, musicians are sure to be criticized either way. Andante 04/01/02

SAYING GOODBYE TO SEIJI: After 29 years, Seiji Ozawa is leaving the Boston Symphony. "Player for player, the Boston Symphony musicians can hold their own against those in almost any major American orchestra. On a given night in the right work, the orchestra can play exceedingly well for Mr. Ozawa. But there has long been a sense that the chemistry between the conductor and the musicians is not always right. It has never been hard to get players to express their frustrations privately. So what happened?" The New York Times 03/31/02

OPERA AS A BRAND: San Francisco Opera is changing its "look." "The visual strategy has resulted in two 'brands' of dubious artistic quality, presented in the cynical hope that people will buy SFO like they buy Coke or Nike. Speaking of which, our new 'opera' logo, with its slash-graphic, is a direct steal from Nike's swoosh. Wonder if Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan can sing? The second brand is 'a signature red bird that highlights SFO's most adventurous productions,' though one wonders how fiscally wise it is to attempt attracting new subscribers by warning them of the Red Bird Danger ahead." San Francisco Examiner 03/31/02

POPULAR LURE: Crossovers between pop music and classical work so rarely, why does anyone bother? "Good pop expresses the inexpressible; it speaks where thought collapses. It is still an unknown language. It is a little like a beaten virus. Once it's inside you, a part of it stays, perpetually infecting and protecting at once. With power like this at his fingertips, is it strange that a pop composer will occasionally take a liberty with an opera star? And with that kind of effectiveness and reach, is it strange that orchestral stars should long, by association with pop, to achieve the same infinite engagement with every individual audience member?" The Observer (UK) 03/31/02


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