AJ Logo Get ArtsJournal in your inbox
for FREE every morning!

Friday May 31

DIGITAL PROMOTION: Eminem's new album shipped early because the music was already available over the internet in pirate digital copies. Indeed, music from the album was so widely traded on the net, that Eminem's recording company feared sales of the album in stores would be way off. But the album has debuted at No. 1 in record time, adding to the argument that file-swapping on the internet promotes sales of recordings, not discourages them. Nando Times (AP) 05/30/02

  • COPIES HELP NOT HURT: "The big record companies' complaints about your new CD burner and file-sharing services like Napster, Kazaa and Music City are hogwash. The big record companies have built their case on what seems a logical premise. They contend that if you can download the new Ashanti song for free from the Internet or borrow your friend's copy of the new Bonnie Raitt CD in order to burn one for yourself, then they've lost a sale. No doubt some music fans behave this way. But not most. That's the point of a study by Jupiter Research, a leading Internet and new technology research firm. Jupiter found that people who use file-sharing networks to obtain free music or who make homemade CDs are likely to maintain or increase their spending on music." Boston Herald 05/31/02

BERLIN'S "DANGEROUS" OPERA HOUSE: Daniel Barenboim, director of Berlin's Staatsoper has warned that the opera house is in such disrepair that it is a danger to audiences and performers. "Barenboim's complaint came four days after an aged hydraulic stage lift collapsed during a performance of Mozart's Don Giovanni, bringing down with it parts of the decor. No one was injured, but the performance was interrupted for 20 minutes." Chicago Sun-Times 05/7/02

Thursday May 30

EXPLOITING THE YOUNG? The 60 music students from the Royal Academy of Music who agreed to play for free in an orchestra to accompany Sir Elton John, Sir Paul McCartney and Tom Jones at a £4 million charity concert in Buckingham Palace gardens next week, are being exploited says the British musicians union. "People will be making money out of this event, whether it is record distributors, dealers or publishers. Clearly this concert is a great opportunity to showcase young talent, but we argue young talent should be treated equally." The Guardian (UK) 05/29/02

KURT MASUR'S BUM DEAL: After ten years as music director of the New York Philharmonic, Kurt Masur is leaving. "By any measure Mr. Masur has accomplished what he was asked to do. And how did the Philharmonic's board reward him? By severing his contract." The New York Times 05/30/02

CUTTING OUT THE MIDDLEMAN: The most frustrating part of buying a stringed instrument for any musician is navigating the deceptive and self-serving world of dealers who can set prices with impunity, and often charge buyers three to four times what they paid for a given instrument. But a new culture of online instrument auctions is gathering momentum, and, given time, it may well change the way all but the wealthiest musicians shop for the tools of their trade. Andante 05/30/02

MAYBE THIS EXPLAINS BRITNEY? Payola, the practice of paying radio DJs to promote certain records over others, was outlawed decades ago. "Now, however, a growing coalition of music and consumer groups and members of Congress charge that payola is back in a disturbing new form involving middlemen promoters who skirt the law while operating legally to the detriment of artists and the listening public." San Francisco Chronicle (NY Times) 05/30/02

SIZE MATTERS: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Uh, rent it out, actually, just as dozens of small groups and high schools do every year, their modest performances sandwiched between the world's greatest classical ensembles. The rental concerts generally draw small crowds, but a group of New Jersey school kids are anticipating quite a crowd for their Brahms German Requiem this week. The interest can be chalked up to the scale of the thing: the orchestra will contain 150 musicians, and the choir, which will spill over into the seating area, will number 250. Philadelphia Inquirer 05/30/02

Wednesday May 29

DUTOIT SUPPORTER BOLTS MONTREAL: Tim Hutchins, principal flute of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, is leaving for Pittsburgh following the acrimonious departure of Montreal music director Charles Dutoit. Hutchins is an unapologetic Dutoit supporter, and resigned as chairman of the orchestra's musicians' committee when it became clear that a majority of his colleagues held a much dimmer view than he of the famously temperamental conductor. Hutchins has been principal flute in Montreal for nearly a quarter of a century. Montreal Gazette 05/28/02

FINISHING TURANDOT (AGAIN): Puccini's Turandot is widely considered to be the Italian master's greatest opera, and yet the composer was unable to complete the work before his death in 1924. An ending was commissioned from Franco Alfano, but it has always been considered amateurish and not up to the standard of the rest of the work. This year, a new ending is making the rounds of the world's opera houses, with the addendum courtesy of Italy's greatest living composer, Luciano Berio, and is garnering dramatically better reviews. Los Angeles Times 05/27/02

SPOLETO USA IN THE BLACK: "When the Spoleto Festival USA announced last summer that it intended to raise $25 million for programming, an endowment, and restoring a building, it also said it already had raised $18 million. Now the annual Charleston, S.C., arts festival, which opened Friday and will end June 9, is in its 26th year with $23 million collected or promised. That is not the kind of news people expect from a festival that has struggled with money from its first year." Philadelphia Inquirer (Knight Ridder) 05/29/02

RISE AND FALL: It's the 50th anniversary of the singles charts for records. "But it's hard to pretend that it isn't now dealing with an irreparably tarnished institution. A once richly varied and hard-fought battleground on which rival talents would engage in titanic struggles for weeks on end to attain that coveted No 1 slot, the pop-singles chart has degenerated into a dismal procession of formulaic releases, each recklessly catapulted to the top – and then to hell – with equal dispatch." The Independent (UK) 05/27/02

  • WEBCASTING FOR FUN AND NO PROFIT: Music was supposed to be fun, so we were always told. But with the radio and recording industries now so corporate-driven as to make most stations and releases indistinguishable, webcasting was developed as a way to get exposure for music never heard on today's ultrasanitized Top 20 countdowns and generic music video channels. So why all the brouhaha over webcasting royalties? It seems that the corporate music monolith isn't enjoying the competition. Chicago Tribune 05/29/02

THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE: The newest fad in the world of electronic music is known as 'lowercase sound,' and it is every bit as understated and subtle as techno (electronica's most mainstream contribution to music) is bombastic. Lowercase focuses on computer magnification of incredibly soft sounds, and contains many long stretches of silence in between music so soft that some listeners don't realize it's there at all. Wired 05/29/02

Tuesday May 28

PRODIGY WINNER: Jennifer Pike, a 12 year-old violinist became the youngest person ever to win the BBC's Young Musician of the Year award with a "breathtaking performance of Mendelssohn's violin concerto on a Stradivarius borrowed from the Royal Academy of Music and with minor assistance from her lucky mascot, a fluffy cat called Kitty." The Guardian (UK) 05/28/02

  • GREAT PERFORMANCES, BUT... "Pike was the youngest of the five finalists, so it is only right to sound a note of caution. This competition is not necessarily about musicians who are on the threshold of a professional career, but is an acknowledgment of achievement at a particular stage of study." The Telegraph (UK) 05/28/02

Monday May 27

MUSIC AS EXPRESSION: Composer Tod Machover has helped develop a computer program that helps people who don't know anything about music, compose their own pieces. The software helps "convert expressive gestures — lines, patterns, textures and colors — made on the screen into pleasing and variable sounds. The goal, he said, is to let children have 'the direct experience of translating their own thoughts and feelings into music. Then music becomes a living, personal activity, and not a given which is handed down from experts or from history'." The New York Times 05/27/02

LET'S FOCUS ON THE PRODUCT: The perpetually underfunded Scottish Opera had a great new season to announce last week. But the company spoiled all the excitement by unleashing a tirade about needing more money. "Everyone has hopes, aspirations, fears, concerns, and visions for the future. Scottish Opera has more than most. In an act of stupendous naivety, gaucherie, or stupidity (delete according to opinion), Scottish Opera's two top executives unleashed all of these last week at precisely the moment when they were unveiling their latest product. Don't they understand that when you have a big, sexy, and rather surprising product to sell, you focus exclusively on that product - they do want people to go out and buy tickets, don't they?" Glasgow Herald 05/24/02

CUTTING INTO FRANKFURT: The city of Frankfurt has a quota of performances it expects from its opera company in return for city funding. So along comes a budget crunch and the city cuts millions out of the company's subsidies. What kind of sense does this make? It barely saves money, since canceling productions still means that contracted performers have to be paid. "Perhaps only a psychoanalyst can understand the soul of Frankfurt. Why does everything always have to go wrong? Once, people would have called it a curse. Today, we speak of a virus: the short-sightedness of always cutting the budget by sacrificing art and culture." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 05/26/02

SURVIVOR: The St. Petersburg Philharmonic has long been one of Russia's cultural jewels. But since the USSR went away, money for culture has been tight. From nearly unlimited budgets harnessed to the orchestra's product, the orchestra has in recent years had difficulty just paying its musicians. "But aid is coming in. American friends of the orchestra have given money for new instruments, and an oil magnate whom [music director Yuri] Temirkanov knows has donated enough cash to double the orchestral wages." The Telegraph (UK) 05/27/02

LATVIA WINS EUROVISION: For the first time ever, a performer from Latvia has won the Eurovision Song Contest. "Marija Naumova's Latin-influenced song I Wanna beat off strong competition from Malta to win the prize with the very last vote of the competition." BBC 05/26/02

Sunday May 26

HOW CHICAGO GOT ITS SOUND: Chicago jazz has always had a different flavor than that from New Orleans or New York. "Clearly, Chicago musicians take pride in the distinctiveness of their sound, and for good reason. Removed from the commercial pressures of Manhattan and the pop-oriented recording studios of Los Angeles, the Chicagoans always have forged a rougher, harder-hitting jazz than most of their counterparts on the coasts." Chicago Tribune 05/26/02

HOW I COLLECTED 23,000 RECORDINGS: Music critic John von Rhein is wrestling with his collection of recordings. The music is "an invaluable source of reference and pleasure, and an albatross. The need to collect recorded music cannot be explained rationally. Once the process has reached a certain point, it takes on an insidious life of its own. Why on earth would I want to own 26 CD recordings and nine LPs of the Rachmaninoff Third Piano Concerto?" Chicago Tribune 05/26/02

SECOND ACTS: Itzhak Perlman is one of the great violinists of the past century. But since he turned 50 a few years ago, increasingly his interested have turned to teaching and conducting. "That means he'll make a call to a student at intermission of one of his own concerts if he remembers something he forgot to say during a lesson." As for conducting, "his stick technique is quirky, but the players can follow him; he communicates through a deep reservoir of animated expressions and gestures. He has large, strong hands, and all those years of walking on crutches have created tremendous torque in his upper body; his physical energy is commanding." Detroit Free Press 05/26/02

CONDUCTOR MOVES ON: Eiji Oue is leaving his post as music director of the Minnesota Orchestra. The orchestra has a long and storied history, but had fallen into a rut before Oue came. "His greatest and most indelible feat is intangible — coaxing this orchestra to perform from the heart rather than the mind. It also exposed what some see as his greatest failing. People inside and outside the orchestra see Oue as soft and underinvolved in the technical details required for flawless performance. Oue wanted his musicians to soar through a boundless skyline; with Oue, some musicians felt adrift in the wind." St. Paul Pioneer Press 05/26/02

Friday May 24

TECHNO-LY SPEAKING: The Detroit Electronic Music Festival drew more than one million people in each of its first two years. Still, the music is much better received in Europe than in the US, and Detroit festival organizers wonder why. National Post 05/24/02

WISH YOU WERE HERE: A new international piano competition in Minnesota will be conducted partly over the internet. Competitors playing in the Twin Cities will have their performances instantly recreated via the internet on a similarly equipped piano at Yamaha headquarters in Japan. Devices on the pianos record and playback every keystroke, transmitting the performances to judges Emmanuel Ax and Yefim Bronfman, sitting in Japan. "Digital video of the performance, also transmitted via cyberspace, will play on a large digital monitor so the overseas judges can watch as well." St. Paul Pioneer Press 05/23/02

WHAT BECOMES A GREAT CONDUCTOR? Does a conductor have to be a dictator to be great? Or should he be the friend next door? One wonders after the (apparently) dictatorial Charles Dutoit made a hard exit from the Montreal Symphony. "The ideal conductor, if such a paragon exists, would command the magnetism of a perfect father, the imagination of a poet, the memory of a historian, the patience of a saint, the intellect of a genius, the technique of a virtuoso and the ambition of a salesman. All this plus the friendly manner of the little guy next door." Unfortunately, like is a series of compromises... Andante 05/23/02

BUT ARE THEY ARTISTS? Over the past two decades, "a subculture of 'turntablists' has grown up – 'scratchers' invest hundreds of dollars and hours of time hovering over two turntables and a mixer, their fast-moving hands furiously scratching up records and wearing down needles. They're found onstage at nightclubs, in the corner at house parties, and even alongside the conductor at symphony concerts. But are they simply disc jockeys? Or are they true musical artists?" Christian Science Monitor 05/24/02

SING FLING: Choirs aren't just for church anymore. In the US, "over the past two decades, community choruses have sprung up everywhere, supplementing the wealth of church choirs that traditionally have formed the musical backbone of many communities. A National Endowment for the Arts study found that 1 in 10 American adults now sings weekly in some kind of chorus." Christian Science Monitor 05/24/02

ABRUPT EXIT: Giving only a week's notice, Dallas Opera General Director Mark Whitworth-Jones quits the company after two years on the job. He "acknowledged frustration with the local fund raising situation during the economic downturn and in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He said subscription revenue was down 17 percent during the 2001-02 season. The company has also found its fund raising for annual operations competing with efforts to raise money for the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House, as part of the proposed Dallas Center for the Performing Arts." Dallas Morning News 05/23/02

Thursday May 23

THE SHAM THAT IS THE CLASSICAL BRITS: The Classical Brit Awards are a shallow exercise, writes Norman Lebrecht. There's really only one "real" classical artist up for an award. "The rest are a motley band of dabblers and distorters, rock mimics and studio-made combos who call themselves 'classical' for any number of reasons, none of them credible." London Evening Standard 05/22/02

WEBCASTERS NOT IN THE CLEAR YET: The Librarian of Congress this week rejected a proposed royalty payment system to be applied to webcasters who play commercial music for public consumption. But while the decision was a great relief to webcasters, who claimed they would have been effectively rendered extinct by the plan due to the high royalties, the issue has not been put to rest yet. Within 30 days, the Librarian must issue his own set of recommendations, and word is that the plan may have to involve a whole new way of calculating royalties, one which takes listenership into account rather than just number of songs played. Boston Globe 05/23/02

GIVING THEIR ALL (AND THEN SOME): "The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra donates its time for 12 school concerts each season. The concerts are free for the students, and orchestra volunteers even help the teachers prepare for the experience. In fact, the symphony does everything but drive the students to Heinz Hall. Until now, that is." Orchestra musicians, frustrated by the lack of inner-city students participating in the program, coughed up $5000 out of their own pockets to bus some 2,000 students to the latest round of shows. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 05/23/02

Wednesday May 22

WEBCASTING FEE REJECTED: The US Librarian of Congress has rejected a "proposal by the Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel which recommended that webcasters pay recording companies $.0014 per listener for each song they play." Webcasters claimed that charging the royalty fee would put them out of business. Wired 05/21/02

NEW ARTS CENTER IN PARMA: The city which gave birth to such musical luminaries as Giuseppe Verdi and Arturo Toscanini now has a brand spankin' new performing arts center. The Casa della Musica boasts "an auditorium, the museum of the famed Teatro Regio opera house, a music library, a multimedia collection and the new seat of the Istituto di Studi Verdiani, an international society active in producing critical editions of Verdi's scores." Andante 05/22/02

PROBABLY STOLEN BY A NON-MILLIONAIRE VIOLINIST: "A $100,000 cash reward is being offered for information leading to the return of a $1.6 million Stradivarius violin that disappeared from the workshop of a New York violinmaker. The reward is being offered by Kroll Inc., a global risk consulting company that has been retained to help find the instrument. Kroll, in a news release, said it is working with New York police and is publicizing the disappearance among musicians and collectors in an effort to generate leads." Andante 05/21/02

HOW TO REJECT FREE PUBLICITY AND ALIENATE FANS: The Bellevue Philharmonic Orchestra may not be the most prestigious orchestra in Washington state, but it has apparently mastered the art of acting like a big-dog organization. The BPO is taking legal action against a classical music fan who has registered the domain name "bellevuephilharmonic.org" and set up an unofficial web site meant to drum up support for the ensemble. The orchestra claims the site is diverting traffic from its official site. Eastside Journal (Bellevue) 05/20/02

Tuesday May 21

THE GREAT PATRON: Paul Sacher was the great patron of 20th Century music. He comissioned "more than 120 works, including masterpieces by Bartók, Britten, Honegger, Hindemith, Stravinsky, Milhaud and Tippett." But he was more personally involved as well. "Throughout his life Sacher’s palatial mansion outside Basle was a kind of upmarket soup kitchen for hard-pressed geniuses. The dying Martinu spent his last weeks there. Honegger and his family lived there, free of charge, for a year. The young Boulez and exiled Rostropovich were accommodated so often that the respective rooms became known as 'Slava’s apartment'and 'Pierre’s room'. It is hardly an exaggeration to claim that without Sacher’s money-bags some of the most scintillating musical minds of the last century might have ended up washing dishes." The Times (UK) 05/21/02

DAMAGE CONTROL: What's up with British jazz critics? "Too many of them seem to find it really rather awkward to say anything unpleasant about the artists they review. The disobliging word does not even stick in their throats, let alone spring from their lips like a dart; instead, it remains a sad little thought, quickly displaced by brighter, shinier blandishments." Are they afraid they'll hurt jazz if they write critical things about it? New Statesman 05/20/02

ANOTHER CONTROVERSIAL PIANO COMPETITION: Controversy dogged the finals of the first-ever Atlanta International Piano Competition. Two of the finalists were students of members of the jury. "The conflict was apparent to many in the audience after Japanese pianist Junko Inada, 30, failed to make the finals. She had no teacher on the jury", yet some thought she gave the best performance. Atlanta Journal-Constitution 05/20/02

Monday May 20

MUSEUM BUST? The Country Music Hall of Fame opened a handsome new $37 million museum in Nashville a year ago, amid rosy predictions of first-year admissions of 550,000. The reality is considerably less, and the museum is optimistically hoping for 330,000 visitors this year. Houston Chronicle (AP) 05/19/02

WE REALLY DON'T LIKE OUR CUSTOMERS: Sony has incorporated copy protection software into copies of Celine Dion's new album. "It can actually crash PC's, and owners of iMac computers from Apple Computer have found that they sometimes cannot eject the discs." The discs have been sold in Europe but not in the US, though Sony says that may change. The New York Times 05/20/02

DIGITAL DEBATE: Is digital music downloading a good or bad thing for musicians? There are arguments both ways. "The notion that artists can now circumvent record companies and reach their fans through the net is correct in theory but unlikely in practice. In order to attract fans in really large numbers, bands need a large dollop of hype, which costs enormous sums of money, but record companies are willing to risk this kind of investment in the hope that this or that band will become a cash cow." The Scotsman 05/18/02

Sunday May 19

FOR THAT KIND OF MONEY, IT OUGHT TO PLAY ITSELF: There is no arguing that Beethoven's 9th Symphony is one of the great musical and artistic achievements of the Western world, so when the earliest known draft went up for auction at Sotheby's in London, experts expected it to fetch up to £200,000. Guess again: an anonymous telephone bidder snapped up the score for an astounding £1.3 million (US$1.8 million,) stunning other bidders, Beethoven experts, and, presumably, the winner's accountant. BBC 05/17/02

TORONTO PUSHING FOR THE MAGIC MILLION MARK: Last winter, with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in imminent danger of financial collapse, board chairman Bob Rae brokered a deal with the provincial government of Ontario for a "matching" gift of $1 million, if the TSO could raise a million of its own by June 30. With slightly over a month to go, the orchestra is still $300,000 short of the goal, and blood pressures are rising. In most respects, the TSO's rebuilding effort has been going remarkably well, but without the matching gift from the province, the process would be set back considerably. Toronto Star 05/19/02

HOW ABOUT CORDUROY AND CARDIGANS? The Hallé Orchestra, of Manchester, England, is considering a plan to change the style of dress worn by its musicians on stage. Orchestras the world over have been nearly single-handedly keeping the white-tie-and-tails business afloat for decades, and there have always been mutterings that symphonies will never reach a young audience wearing 19th-century outfits. The plan is far from final, but you can bet that other ensembles will be watching Hallé closely. BBC 05/17/02

TEMIRKANOV GETS OPEN-ENDED DEAL: The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has agreed to extend the tenure of music director Yuri Temirkanov on a year-to-year basis, meaning that the conductor is expected to remain in Baltimore for a long time to come. Temirkanov has garnered mixed reviews with the BSO: he is credited with nurturing a darker, lusher overall sound than the orchestra previously had, but has been sharply criticized (by former BSO music director David Zinman, among others) for his programming decisions, which appear to ignore contemporary music and focus on too narrow a range of repertoire. Baltimore Sun 05/16/02

  • FINALLY, SOME GOOD NEWS: "After this season's string of bad news days at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra - the dreadfully managed canning of the BSO Chorus, a projected $1 million deficit - [the] announcement that music director Yuri Temirkanov has agreed to stay in the job beyond his initial contract period shone with an extra brightness... There was reason to be concerned about the prospects for Temirkanov's commitment. The stark truth is that the BSO needs him more than he needs the BSO." Baltimore Sun 05/19/02

MAKING MUSIC IN THE SHADOW OF THE CITY: Over the last decade, the New Jersey Symphony has become what many believed it could never be: an excellent and well-respected ensemble completely separate from its competitors in nearby New York City, and possessed of a striking combination of marketing savvy and infectious enthusiasm. In an era when many orchestras are struggling for survival, the NJSO has thrived. Now, music director Zdenek Macal, credited with driving much of the orchestra's artistic growth, is stepping down after a decade at the helm. Andante (AP) 05/19/02

IT'S GOOD TO HAVE PRIORITIES: "Tenor Luciano Pavarotti has postponed a performance in Britain to train for an appearance at the World Cup. The Italian opera star is scheduled to perform in a Three Tenors concert at the tournament in Japan in late June and said he needed time to rehearse." Nando Times (AP) 05/17/02

  • IT AIN'T OVER 'TIL... oh. IT'S OVER, THEN: The jilted opera lovers at the Met last weekend may have been disappointed, but they shouldn't have been surprised, says one critic. Pavarotti's career "ended more than a decade ago. Ever since, the credulous punters have been applauding a bloated, vocally enfeebled, tottery parody of the great tenor, or - as the public at a recent alfresco concert in Italy discovered - listening to him lip-synch to a recording." The Observer (UK) 05/19/02

THE SONG-SWAPPER THAT WOULDN'T DIE: Two days after ArtsJournal reported that Napster would finally die a merciful death in the wake of continuing lawsuits and employee resignations, German media giant Bertelsmann has announced that it is buying the now-legendary song-swapping service, and will turn it into a music subscription service that won't run afoul of copyright law. The twisted irony of Napster being acquired by the very type of media conglomerate that has been trying to kill it off for the last two years has escaped no one. Wired 05/17/02

THE FUTURE (OR LACK THEREOF) OF WEBCASTING: Depending on who you talk to, recent U.S. Copyright Office action requiring webcasters to pay royalties to the copyright holders of the songs they play was either a much-needed updating of media regulations, or the death knell of the web radio industry. But does either side really have any idea about what the future will hold for online audio? And isn't it about time that the U.S. got past this silly notion that copyright holders (read: record companies,) rather than performers, receive the royalties for the airplay? Boston Globe 05/19/02

THE LITTLE GENRE THAT TIME FORGOT: Garrison Keillor has written an opera. Well, okay, he hasn't so much written it as thought it up, and had one of his prairie home companions write it. And it isn't so much an original opera as it is a parody of some existing bel canto arias. And it isn't exactly totally finished yet. But it does have Keillor's name on it, and it has a Lake Wobegon feel guaranteed to sell tickets, and it gets its premiere this coming week in (of course) Minnesota. Saint Paul Pioneer Press 05/19/02

KANSAS CITY GETS A SUPER-PAC: The trend towards huge, multiple-use performing arts centers is proceeding apace, with Kansas City the latest American metropolis to sign on for the ride. The city's PAC, which comes with a $304 million price tag and looks something like the Sydney Opera House turned inside out with all the corners pounded flat, will include a "2,200-seat theater/opera house and an 1,800-seat orchestra hall. A 500-seat multipurpose 'experimental theater' remains part of a future phase of development and fund raising." Kansas City Star 05/17/02

AND HE SHOWS UP FOR PERFORMANCES, TOO: While the arts world trades gossip about the spectacular collapse of the most famous of the Three Tenors, one of the others has quietly gone about securing his place in operatic history. Placido Domingo, still a fine singer at the age of 61, has broadened his activities over the last decade to include conducting, directing, and the art of running a major opera company. In all these things, he has found success, to the surprise of many observers, and, in so doing, has crafted one of the most impressive operatic careers of the last century. Washington Post 05/22/02

ROBESON REDUX: "On May 18, 1952, Paul Robeson -- who will be remembered as one of the greatest singers of the 1940s, the first black superstar in the United States, a civil-rights hero and a tragic figure destroyed by McCarthyism -- stood on the back of a flat-bed truck parked at the edge of the Canadian border and sang songs of solidarity to a crowd of 40,000. Fifty years later, that legendary concert will be recreated at the very same park." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/18/02

Friday May 17

THE CRITICS TURN ON KISSIN: Pianist Evgeny Kissin was the wunderkind, a critical favorite. Apparently not anymore. The critics have turned on him: "One short, furious blast in The Guardian managed to squeeze in the phrases 'totally repellent', 'profoundly unpleasant', 'heartlessly dazzling' and 'entirely monochrome', concluding that Kissin was some mechanical doll and that the whole event (a recital in Birmingham, part of a tour which reaches London at the end of this month) was 'the biggest pianistic circus act since David Helfgott'." What happened? London Evening Standard 05/16/02

BRINGING JAZZ INSIDE (OR IS IT THE OTHER WAY AROUND?): The Detroit Symphony is branching into the jazz world. The orchestra has announced an endowed position for a prominent jazz musician. "It's very important for us to present art that reflects the heritage of our community, and jazz is a part of that." His duties include "conducting workshops for area students, acting as a liaison between the DSO and local and national jazz musicians and helping DSO leaders plan future jazz programs." Detroit Free Press 05/13/02

KEEPING THE JAZZ FREE: The Detroit International Jazz Festival is "the largest free jazz festival in North America." Now the festival is at a crossroads. "The last two festivals have run deficits of more than $300,000 per year, and attendance has dropped from a high of 857,000 in 1998 to 550,000 last year. Organizers say the festival is not in danger of folding or scaling back, but the red ink cannot continue without consequences. Festival leaders have hatched an ambitious menu of new ideas to increase revenue, boost sponsorship and beef up attendance." Detroit Free Press 05/13/02

THE VIRTUAL VIOLIN: Electronic music is everywhere. But some instruments - for example, the violin - just don't translate well in MIDI. Now an inventor has developed a device "that tells a computer everything about a bow's motion, allowing it to generate a more realistic, emotional sound." The idea is to produce a sound that can compete with that made on a real instrument. New Scientist 05/16/02

Thursday May 16

SAN JOSE TO FILE BANKRUPTCY? The San Jose Symphony, which shut down earlier this season with a $3.4 million deficit, and which has been trying to reorganize, is considering shutting down and filing for bankruptcy. An orchestra violinist says the board is considering the idea after a meeting last week: "The bottom line of that meeting was a recommendation that we completely go dark, for a period of no less than six months, and probably more realistically of 12 to 18 months." The board's interim chairman denies the plan. San Jose Mercury News 05/13/02

LA SCALA RESTORATION SPARKS CONTROVERSY: "The long-awaited final architectural plan for the restoration of La Scala, which was offically presented to the public and the press at Milan's city hall on 10 May, has aroused a heated debate... In [the] plan, the depth of the stage and backstage in combination will increase from 48 to 70 meters, thus eliminating the Piccola Scala, an auxiliary venue for chamber opera seating 250. A new new stage tower in the shape of a parallelepiped (a kind of modified cube) will rise 40 meters (the current tower is 35 meters) at the building's rear facing." Andante 05/16/02

THE DOCTOR EXPLAINS IT ALL TO YOU: Ever wonder why singers lose their voices with age? "When our vocal cords get saggy, we lose the range of our voice, the ability to hit high notes in particular, and we lose the power of our voice, the ability to project or amplify, which is key for a Pavarotti-type opera singer. As the body changes, ages, the muscles become less strong and the supporting tissues lose their elasticity, and let's face it, elasticity in the vocal cords is everything. That's what makes our vocal cords pliable and able to vibrate. When we lose that elasticity we lose the vocal quality we enjoy so much in someone like Pavarotti." Toronto Star 05/15/02

DEAD FINISHED GONE KAPUT (REALLY): How many Napster's-finished stories have we run in the last year? But this really really really looks like the end. Like, the CEO and founder both quit this week, and all the workers are about to be set free... soon there won't be anyone left. Too bad. "Napster and its founder held the promise of everything the new medium of the Internet encompassed: youth, radical change and the free exchange of information. But youthful exuberance would soon give way to reality as the music industry placed a bull's-eye squarely on Napster." Wired 05/15/02

BYE BYE CLAUDIO: Claudio Abbado finishes up his tenure as music director of the Berlin Philharmonic. "Abbado, allowing himself the capricious wisdom of resigning from his job, has done much for the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in the past 12 years. How he shaped, changed and promoted it will not be completely assessed until some time has gone by. What has already become clear is that a strong, new post-Herbert von Karajan generation has found its place." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 05/15/02

Wednesday May 15

GLYNDEBOURNE'S DELICATE BALANCE: The Glyndebourne Festival is about to open another season. It sells out and tickets are difficult to get. Therein lies a problem. "On the one hand, opera ranks as an art form that offers the opportunity to dress up and experience something expensively and exceptionally glamorous; on the other hand, in order to avoid the accusations of elitism (that pretentious modern synonym for snobbery) and sustain its moral claim to public subsidy, opera must also present itself as accessible to all." But attracting new audiences that aren't, shall we say, respectful of tradition, is a strain on the old guard... The Telegraph(UK) 05/15/02

ATTACKING THE CONSUMER WHO BUYS YOU: Music companies are embedding ever stronger copy protection into CD's. One problem - the measures prevent some computers (particularly Macs) from playing the music at all. "CDs manufactured by Sony seem to be the biggest headache. Not only do many discs not play on the Mac, but they cause the machine to lock up and refuse to eject the offending disc." Wired 05/14/02

FAKE SCORES: Manuscripts said to be newly discovered scores and poetry by Declaration of Independence signer Francis Hopkinson have been withdrawn from sale because they are fakes. "What seemed to be a manuscript for the Revolutionary War oratorio The Temple of Minerva as well as a number of marches, songs and poems by Hopkinson are thought to be the work of an infamous Philadelphia forger, Charles Bates Weisberg, who died in prison in 1945." Philadelphia Inquirer 05/15/02

GRACELESS ENDING: "By canceling a gala appearance in Puccini's Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera an hour before curtain Saturday night, Pavarotti has apparently ended his opera career with a singular lack of grace. The 66-year-old tenor has no further opera performances scheduled, and none are expected." Though he had a marvelous voice, Pavarotti's lack of curiosity and introspection marred his career. Los Angeles Times 05/15/02

  • FAILURE TO APPEAR: Should anyone have been surprised that Pavarotti was a no-show at the Met last weekend? In 1989 the tenor withdrew from a Tosca that Chicago Lyric Opera had essentially created for him. Fed up, the company announced Pavarotti would be banned from the company. By then "Pavarotti had walked away from 26 of his scheduled 41 Lyric performances over nine years. The action earned headlines around the world and the bravos of managerial colleagues who wished they'd had her guts." Chicago Tribune 05/15/02

Tuesday May 14

ANOTHER REASON NOT TO BUY CELINE: Sony Music has gotten aggressive in its attempts to stop music fans from copying cd's. The company "has planted a 'poisoned pellet' of software in Celine Dion's latest CD, A New Day Has Come, that is capable of crashing, and in cases permanently freezing, the optical drives of personal computers into which the discs are inserted." The Age (Melbourne) 05/14/02

I KNOW CARNEGIE HALL, AND THIS AIN'T IT: When Philadelphia's Kimmel Center opened, officials crowed - "watch out Carnegie Hall." But the hall wasn't really ready acoustically then. Six months later, one can venture some better judgments. At least one New York critic still isn't sold on the comparison. "The Philadelphia Orchestra might have sounded better to me in its new home had I not just heard the same program in Carnegie Hall, where, true to form, the sound of the Brahms was glowing, warm, clear and present without being overwhelming." The New York Times 05/14/02

JAZZ BY ANY OTHER NAME: Has labeling your music "jazz" become a liability? Some of the most successful jazz artists today have stopped calling their music jazz, trying to sell more recordings. "To some people, jazz is a turn-off," Part of the problem is that acoustic jazz is mired in the past. Ironically, decades ago, that wasn't the case." St. Louis Post-Dispatch 05/12/02

Monday May 13

PAVAROTTI MAY HANG IT ALL UP: Following his cancellation at the Met last weekend, Luciano Pavarotti has told an Italian newspaper that he may retire completely from the stage. The tenor, who has eschewed most operatic roles in recent years for arena concerts and gala events, told Corriere della Sera, "It's the most difficult decision because I don't know yet if the moment has come or if the crisis of the past few days is down to health problems." BBC 05/13/02

  • PAVAROTTI WRITES TO FANS: After canceling out of a much-anticipated final performance at the Met, Pavarotti has written a letter to his fans. "I am writing, because today I have influenza, a common disease which would mean nothing were I not a tenor. From some of the newspaper reports, it seems almost as if my cancellation were considered something of a betrayal or a weakness, not to show up on that stage and undertake the profession to which I have dedicated almost my entire life." Toronto Star 05/13/02 
  • THE MAN WHO REPLACED THE BIG MAN: The audience had paid as much as $1,800 for their seats. They were all expecting the final performance of one of the great voices of the 20th Century in one of the world's great opera houses. So when Pavarotti failed to perform Saturday night at the Metropolitan Opera, you had to feel sorry for the tenor brought in to take his place. "Salvatore Licitra, 33, was flown in at the last minute on the Concorde, courtesy of the Met, which was determined to salvage the evening. If this was not to be the farewell of a faded superstar, then at least it would be the starry anointing of a potential successor." The New York Times 05/13/02
  • SO FAR, IT'S UNANIMOUS: A star may have flamed out at the Met this weekend, but so far, all the critics are much more excited about the one that may have been born. "The burly, commanding tenor was having a blast. The voice unfurled effortlessly into Puccini's vocal lines, with their sun-drenched, rhapsodic lyricism... The voice is quite big. Licitra's Act II shouts of victory were enough to rearrange your hair." Philadelphia Inquirer 05/13/02

SAN JOSE BENEFIT MAY GIVE SYMPHONY LIFE: Three benefit concerts have now raised over $169,000 in an effort to save the San Jose Symphony, which severely cut back its schedule and declared a fiscal crisis eight months ago. Clearly, the orchestra has supporters who don't want to see it vanish, but persistent reports leaking out of the SJS's musician ranks suggest that the benefit money may be too little, too late, and the orchestra may be near filing for bankruptcy. San Jose Mercury News 05/13/02

OZ LOOKS TO ATTRACT ORCHESTRAS: "It's been a decade since the world's great orchestras stopped touring Australia. A handful of ensembles have come for festivals... But the regular visits that once brought orchestras to three or four Australian cities have stopped." One local arts administrator is looking to reverse the trend. Andante 05/13/02

Sunday May 12

NO MET FINALE FOR PAVAROTTI: Luciano Pavarotti, the 66-year-old tenor who has been rumored for some time to be winding down his career, cancelled his final scheduled appearance at the Metropolitan Opera in New York this weekend on less than two hours notice, saying he was ill with the flu. Met general manager Joseph Volpe reportedly pleaded with the famed tenor to at least put in an appearance before the sellout crowd, but Pavarotti refused. He had also skipped a performance earlier in the week, prompting a scathing story under the screaming headline "Fat Man Won't Sing" in the New York Post. Rising young Italian singer Salvatore Licitra stood in, to much acclaim. BBC 05/12/02 & New York Post 05/10/02

WHY NO ONE SINGS ALONG AT SYMPHONY HALL: "Classical music's advocates in the cultural marketplace must contend with the fact that the clichés of the concert hall are much more familiar than the content of the music itself. Everybody knows them: the pianist's tails draped over the piano bench, the conductor's flipping forelock, the orchestra tuning, etc. But when the music starts, I would contend that only a handful of members of the audience have any idea what to expect — or, in the case of Beethoven's Fifth, know what's coming after the first few bars." Is this a failure on the part of educators and performers, or does it speak to the enduringly complex quality of the music? Andante 05/10/02

ALAS, POOR KURT, WE HARDLY KNEW YE (DID WE?): As the New York Philharmonic bids adieu to music director Kurt Masur this month, New York still doesn't seem to know quite what to make of his tenure with the nation's second-most-recognizable orchestra. Some called him an autocrat, but the players seem to respect him; others accused him of lacking subtlety, yet few would deny that the Phil sounds better today than it has in years. The bottom line may be that Masur was a music director whom the city took for granted. New York Times 05/12/02

  • ONE CRITIC'S ASSESSMENT: John Rockwell of the Times, for one, will miss the maestro: "I cannot claim to have heard every one of Kurt Masur's 860 New York Philharmonic concerts. I have not even heard his every Philharmonic recording. He is not a close friend. But I do know him in two rather different contexts, journalistic and collegial. I admire him, I think he's a noble conductor, and I will regret his departure." New York Times 05/12/02

CARVING OUT A LIVING AMONG THE OLD MASTERS: The conventional wisdom among string-playing musicians is that if you're not playing on an expensive old instrument, preferably Italian and at least 200 years old, you're just never going to amount to much. But today's luthiers would disagree, and some musicians are starting to come around to the idea that a new instrument can have a power and resonance that the old masters never conceived of. One rural fiddlemaker's experience with the strange and mysterious world of the violin (and viola, cello, and bass as well) may not be typical, but it says much about the future of the industry. Minneapolis Star Tribune 05/12/02

TOSCANINI'S LOVE LETTERS: He defined a generation of conductors with his rages and his passionate performances, but off the podium, Arturo Toscanini was a private man. Still, much has been written of his life, and many writers have spent many pages speculating on his motivations. A new collection of letters, many written to his several mistresses, sheds some fresh light on a legend which has threatened to grow stale in recent years. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 05/12/02

Friday May 10

LACK OF DISCIPLINE: Should anyone have been surprised that Pavarotti bailed out on short notice of Wednesday night's performance of Tosca at the Met? "It was only reasonable to doubt that he would sing these performances. Mr. Pavarotti has had one of the indisputably greatest voices in opera history and enjoyed a sensational career. Still, he is 66. Several distinguished tenors with disciplined work habits, like Carlo Bergonzi and Alfredo Kraus, sang strongly into their 60's. But for at least 15 years, Mr. Pavarotti has been woefully undisciplined." The New York Times 05/10/02

MASS BAD TASTE: Charles Spencer is all in favor of lists - especially lists that rank pop songs. But this week's Guinness Poll that ranked Bohemian Rhapsody as the best single of all time..."The poor misguided fools! How could they possibly think that such poncily portentous, sub-operatic claptrap was the greatest single of all time? Thunderbolts and lightning, very very frightening' indeed. For goodness sake, you deluded saps, get a grip." The Telegraph (UK) 05/10/02

SUPER SLAVA: Is Mstislav Rostropovich one of the great cellists in history?  "The former music director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., for 17 years has been awarded more than 40 honorary degrees and more than 90 major awards in 25 different countries, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Kennedy Center Honors in the United States." Christian Science Monitor 05/10/02

Thursday May 9

THE UK'S TOP SONG OF ALL TIME? Don't read too much into this - polls where people write in to vote aren't worth much - but here goes. According to the new Guinness Hit Music poll, the most popular single of all time is Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. "The six-minute epic first topped the charts in 1975. It hit the top spot again in 1991 when a fund-raising version was released after the death of the band's singer Freddie Mercury." Predictably, according to the 31,000 who voted, four of the top 10 songs of all time are by the Beatles: Hey Jude, Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever, Yesterday and Let It Be. The Guardian (UK) 05/08/02

THE MAHLER MOUNTIES: Early-music puritans drove audiences away with their picky academic concerns about being "authentic," writes Norman Lebrecht. But new adaptations of Mahler's unfinished 10th Symphony are something else. "The Mahler Mounties are frontiersmen, pushing out horizons. Rather than bemusing us, their Pooterish proliferation of Mahler Tenths undermines the academic notion of authenticity. It suggests that there is no correct way of reading a dying man's intentions - and that, in these politically correct times, is no small victory for freedom of thought." London Evening Standard 05/08/02

NOT A CLUE: Last fall three of the world's largest music companies finally got online with a music download service. It's been a big bust. It doesn't offer as many songs as the free sites, it can't transfer files efficiently and there have been all sorts of glitches. And for all this you're supposed to pay. And people aren't. So now some retooling. “The first offering was too clunky and too consumer unfriendly to hold much hope for its success. So we are going to go back, and we will come out with a 2.0 product which will be more consumer friendly, easy to use. ... This is a business of trial and error.” MSNBC (WSJ) 05/08/02

DEATH BY MARGINALIZATION: Is jazz still a potent and evolving art form or has it become a museum piece? With its most popular artists sticking to old times and experimenters marginalized, jazz is none too healthy these days. Maybe the definition of what can be called jazz needs to expand. But the places to try out new jazz is shrinking... San Francisco Weekly 05/08/02

PAVAROTTI BOWS OUT OF MET: So Pavarotti canceled another performance at the Met. Nothing much unusual about that (it was the flu this time). Except that it was his second-to-last scheduled performance there, and he's not on the schedule next year or thereafter. Some feel he may never appear at the Met again. And expectations for this Saturday's performance of Tosca are high. Philadelphia Inquirer 05/09/02

  • GREAT EXPECTATIONS: "The Met is charging $75 to $1,875 instead of the usual $30 to $265 for Saturday night's performance, followed by a formal dinner and dance, and is setting up a video screen on Lincoln Center plaza and distributing 3,000 free tickets for a simulcast." New York Post (AP) 05/09/02

MONTREAL SYMPHONY - GETTING WORSE: Things continue to get worse for the Montreal Symphony. With Charles Dutoit abruptly quitting as music director, the orchestra has been scrambling to find replacement conductors for the rest of this season and all of next. Rostropovich and Ashkenazy have both pulled out of MSO engagements in solidarity with Dutoit, and ticket sales have gone dead. The orchestra finds itself having to reprint all of its season brochures for next year as it reworks its programming (the season had been planned as a celebration of Dutoit's 25 years with the orchestra. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/09/02

Wednesday May 8

DOWN BUT NOT DIRTY: New Orleans' Jazz Festival wrapped up ten days of music last weekend. "Over half a million music fans attended the festival. The announced attendance of 501,000 was a sharp drop from last year's record turnout of 618,000, but with tourism off significantly around the country, Jazzfest more than held its own with what has to be deemed a healthy turnout. In fact, it was the second-largest crowd in the festival's history." Nando Times (UPI) 05/07/02

BOMBS COME IN MANY GUISES: A recent production of Mozart's Idomeneo at the Paris Opera was a bit unconventional. It featured an "Act I ballet with a dancing jellyfish attacked by Greek soldiers and then being comforted by nuzzles from a seahorse. Idomeneo's sacrifice of his son, Idamante, was foreshadowed by the simulated slaughter of a goat while dancing mermaids provided levity." And the critics? "Critical reaction was, in some quarters, incredulous. How could this happen in a major opera house? How could a conductor of Ivan Fischer's caliber have such judgment lapses as a stage director? Didn't anybody try to tell him?" Andante 05/07/02

MURRAY ADASKIN, 96: Murray Adaskin, one of Canada's most prominent composers, has died in Victoria at the age of of 96. "Adaskin, born in Toronto to a musical family on March 26, 1906, had a distinguished and varied career that spanned most of the 20th century. One constant was a passion for Canadian culture." The Times-Colonist (Victoria) 05/08/02

  • FOR THE JOY OF MUSIC: "Adaskin was a complete musician. He worked as a violinist, composer, teacher and mentor, and served as an unfailingly good comrade to five generations of colleagues." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/08/02

DIVA DREAMS: Soprano Joan Sutherland is 75. "It's nice to be remembered. But the whole opera thing has changed from top to bottom. It has all changed. Even the way that the productions are geared. I'm glad I finished when I did. I might have done a few walkouts." Did she ever think about singing again? "Only once since 1990 has Sutherland thought to let it rip one last time. A year or two after her retirement, her husband was flying home from Canada and 'I decided to surprise him'. But after a day's strenuous vocal exercises she found herself coughing and choking. 'So then I really did give up'." The Guardian (UK) 05/08/02

Tuesday May 7

WE'RE LISTENING: A new study of who listens to classical music shows a broad listenership. "Nearly 60 percent of 2,200 adults polled at random said they have some interest in classical music, and about 27 percent make classical music a part of their lives 'pretty regularly,' according to a study commissioned by the foundation. Nationally, 17 percent said they attended some kind of classical-music concert in the previous year. About 18 percent listen to classical music on the radio daily or several times each week." Philadelphia Inquirer 05/07/02

COLOSSEUM CONCERT: Rome's Colosseum is to stage its first concert in 200 years. Ray Charles is "headlining Time for Life on 11 May, an event dedicated to promoting global harmony. He will be joined by artists from around the world including Algerian pop star Khaled and Argentina's Mercedes Sosa." BBC 05/07/02

GOT THE BUZZ: Software writers have developed a program that performs improvised jazz that musicians can use to accompany themselves. "A team at University College London has written a program that mimics insect swarming to 'fly around' the sequence of notes the musician is playing and improvise a related tune of its own. Their software works by treating music as a type of 3D space, in which the dimensions are pitch, loudness and note duration. As the musician plays, a swarm of digital 'particles' immediately starts to buzz around the notes being played in this space - in the same way that bees behave when they are seeking out pollen." New Scientist 05/07/02

DETROIT'S NEXT MAESTRO? Neeme Jarvi has announced he'll leave his job as music director of the Detroit Symphony. Who might succeed him? "Handicapping the field is folly, but some names are obvious: Frenchman Yan Pascal Tortelier has been one of the DSO's most vital guest conductors in recent seasons. Finnish conductor Leif Segerstam developed a close rapport with DSO when he subbed for an ailing Jarvi on last fall's European tour, though one wonders how his eccentricities would play if he were music director. Young American Alan Gilbert made an impressive debut with the DSO in 2000. More experienced Americans who deserve a look include David Robertson, Kent Nagano and Marin Alsop." Detroit Free Press 05/05/02

FIRST COUPLE: Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu are opera's star couple. Married in real life, they also collaborate onstage. But the nicknames of "the world's greatest French tenor and the most celebrated of its young sopranos are not affectionate. They include 'the Ceausescus', while director Jonathan Miller famously nicknamed them 'Bonnie and Clyde' after Alagna failed to turn up for some rehearsals of his production of La Boheme at the Bastille opera in Paris. The Bastille also dubbed the Romanian-born Gheorghiu 'La Draculette'." The Telegraph (UK) 05/07/02

Monday May 6

DIGITAL DOWNLOADING HELPS MUSIC SALES: A new report says that experienced digital music downloaders are 75 percent more inclined to buy music than the average online music fan. "This shows that while the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) continue to scapegoat file sharing for their problems, all reasonable analysis shows that file sharing is a net positive for the music industry." Wired 05/05/02

THE PROGRESSIVE: "Does music (or any other art) really move forward? Yes, it changes, as time moves on. But can we really call those changes progress? What would progress be, anyway? Which aspect of art would be progressing?" If you allow for the idea of progress, "then why won't sophisticates lose interest in anything earlier? Why won't Mozart sound too simple, once you've heard Brahms? Why won't Brahms himself sound too simple after we've heard Schoenberg?" NewMusicBox 05/02

SUMMING UP MASUR: Kurt Masur is finishing up his last few weeks as music director of the New York Philharmonic. "The Masur decade sometimes seems like a barrier island, a sandy, pleasant enough strip of beach between relief and anticipation. All this is very unfair. Masur's tenure was not only full of musical accomplishments, it produced some genuine New York City rowdiness of its own. If Masur did his part in raising the orchestra's sense of dignity and common purpose, he did so by an odd mix of old-school tyranny and democratic participation." Newsday 05/05/02

  • BUILDING A LEGACY: Christoph von Dohnanyi is in his final month as music director of the Cleveland Orchestra. He's "had the artistic time of his life in Cleveland, where he achieved remarkable things: uncommon ensemble finesse, arresting performances, adventurous programs, distinguished recordings, a gleaming Severance Hall renovation. Along the way, the Berlin-born conductor experienced a few scuffles with management over artistic control, and he saw his ambitious project to record and to perform Wagner's four-work Ring cycle aborted after the first two operas because of the collapse of the classical recording industry." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 05/05/02

SVETLANOV, DEAD AT 73: Yevgeny Svetlanov, one of Soviet Russia's most-enduring conductors, has died at the age of 73. Russian president Vladimir Putin "wrote in a message to Svetlanov's wife, Nina, that the musician's death was an 'irreplacable loss for all of our culture'." Two years ago Svetlanov was "dismissed from his post conducting the State Symphony Orchestra after Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi said he was spending too much time conducting overseas." Yahoo News (AP) 05/05/02

Sunday May 5

LATIN UPBEAT: The Latin music recording industry gathers in Miami this week. While CD sales for all kinds of music slipped six percent last year in the US "sales of Latin CDs rose 9 percent and the Latin music market overall grew 6 percent, to $642 million, according to the Recording Industry Association of America." The industry is meeting to figure out how to keep up the momentum. Miami Herald 05/05/02

NOT FADE AWAY: Older Canadian composers are feeling ignored and neglected by "a younger generation of composers, and by changes in the Canadian cultural ecology." They know it's nothing personal, that "each new generation has to fight for its own space." But "with oblivion staring them in the face, the old guard knew it had to fight or fade" so they staged an assault on the CBC. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/04/02

ALL ABOUT PEOPLE: The Tokyo String Quartet once was considered one of the top two or three quartets in the world. But personnel changes changed the group's character and then its fortunes. Now a young Canadian violinist joins after a turbulent few years. "Martin Beaver will replace Mikhail Kopelman as first violinist after a period of artistic differences if not conflict." Can the Tokyo regain its lustre? The New York Times 05/05/02

CRITICAL AFTERLIFE: Will Crutchfield was a music critic - and a good one - when he quit the New York Times in the mid-90s to conduct opera. Now he's got a serious career on the podium. "Singers Crutchfield once reviewed seemed either not to remember he was a critic or were 'nice enough not to say anything if they had any animosity - or they arranged not to be working with me. If any singer had a right to be irritated with me, it was Placido Domingo. As a critic I would sometimes use him as an example of certain technical things in modern tenor singing that I would like to see different. Domingo nonetheless invited Crutchfield to conduct at the Washington Opera." Miami Herald 05/05/02

Friday May 3

SAFETY NET: The English National Opera had a disastrous season, which translated into a deficit. "The company, battling to redress its deficits, had been accused of peddling an 'alarming series of flops' and losing its artistic way, following the scandalised reception of a production of Verdi's A Masked Ball, which featured anal rape, chorus singers on toilets, simulated sex and masturbation." So in putting together its next season the company has burrowed into the core repertoire and come up with some crowd-pleasers. The Guardian (UK) 05/01/02

BRITPOP HAS LOST ITS WAY: British pop music, which once dominated American Top Ten charts, has dropped off the American map altogether. Things are so bad, the Brits are even opening an office in New York to promote their music. Won't help, says American critic John Pareles. "British rock has lost its willingness to face the present or interact with the outside world." The Guardian (UK) 05/03/02

OPERA IN A BURNED OUT THEATRE: Lima, Peru's main Municipal Theatre burned down in 1998. "But that hasn't kept the charred opera house from becoming one of the smartest places in town for shows and celebrations. Plays, concerts and musical revues usually sell out, with patrons filling the folding chairs that line the once-carpeted concrete ground floor and balconies." Los Angeles Times (AP) 05/03/02

JARVI QUITS DETROIT: Neeme Jarvi, 64, has decided to step down as music director of the Detroit Symphony at the close of the 2004-05 season, leaving a 15-year legacy that will be remembered as one of the orchestra's most important eras. Jarvi - who says he has fully recovered from the ruptured blood vessel he suffered at the base of his brain last July - announced his plans to the orchestra at Thursday's rehearsal at Orchestra Hall." Detroit Free Press 05/03/02

HEPPNER RE-EMERGES: Tenor Ben Heppner has been a major star in the past decade. But when he walked out of a recital in Toronto a few months ago, then canceled the rest of his North American tour, he left critics whispering that he was having some major problems with his voice. Perhaps the kind of problems that could end a career. His concert in Seattle this week leaves some of those questions unanswered. "His formal program was only about an hour. He sang few fortissimos and a handful of fortes. High notes were at a strict minimum, and there were few technical challenges. The musical ones were substantial. Good sense dictated those terms. And even at that, there were some tiny, tiny breaks in the voice, an indication he is still not wholly recovered." Seattle Post-Intelligencer 05/02/02

Thursday May 2

NOT JUST DUMB BABES: The OperaBabes are "classically trained opera singers who ended up busking in Covent Garden as they attempted to make some cash to pay for extra singing lessons. However, their burgeoning classical careers came to a juddering halt when they were spotted by a talent scout and asked to sing live to millions of people at the FA Cup Final, and then the Champions League final, last year. This was a huge success, and launched the duo into a new world of recording contracts, big name concerts, photo sessions, new clothes and into the clutches of Des Lynam - their number one celebrity fan. What is absolutely indisputable, is that the OperaBabes are the latest example of what opera stalwart Sir Thomas Allen would call the dumbing down of classical music. " The Telegraph (UK) 05/02/02

CASUAL INTEREST? The Los Angeles Philharmonic has started a "Casual Fridays" series in which everyone (including musicians) attends in street clothes. The concerts are short and meant to be as informal as possible. Fine - but "with music programs cut back in high schools, too many students have little or no knowledge of classical music. And there's the widespread perception that I encountered among the friends I lured to performances that classical concerts are boring." Los Angeles Times 05/01/02

BOLSHOI ON THE ROAD TO RECOVERY: "After almost a decade of turmoil, uncertainty and artistic decline, Moscow's Bolshoi Theater seems on the road to recovery. The theater, which houses both a ballet and opera company under its venerable roof, has a newly reorganized leadership team and has released plans for an ambitious new season. But soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, a legendary figure at the theater until she left for the West in 1974, says that far more drastic changes are required." Andante 05/02/02

DON'T JUDGE A CELLIST BY HER COVER: A new album of little-known works by established "dead white guy" composers might not sound like the future of the classical recording industry. But Sony has taken an interesting approach to the release, which features Canadian cellist Denise Djokic: the presentation, from the cover art to the marketing of the star, is pure MTV, while the content is real, serious music by a rising young talent. Could it be that the industry has found a way to do "crossover" without driving away serious fans of classical music? The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/02/02

STREAMING MEANIES: The debate over how musicians and recording companies should be compensated for streaming webcasts of their music continues to grow louder, and the two sides could not be farther apart. Webcasters claim that the current law, set to take effect May 21 of this year, will effectively shut down the webcasting industry with its high royalty payments. The music industry's position is that it doesn't care what happens to the utopian webcasters, and if they want to distribute the music to a worldwide audience, they'll have to find a way to pay for the privilege. Wired 05/02/02

Wednesday May 1

DUTOIT THANKS THE FANS: In an open letter to the concertgoing public of Montreal, recently resigned Montreal Symphony music director Charles Dutoit reminisces about his quarter-century of music-making in the city, and thanks his fans and supporters among the public, saying "My gratitude to Montrealers is as intense as it is deep." The letter makes no mention of the events which led Dutoit to resign from his position last month. Montreal Gazette 05/01/02

BUFFALO STAMPEDE DELAYED: The Buffalo Philhamonic Orchestra, which had planned to move its offices to an old mansion the group recently purchased, has announced that the plan will be delayed, after fund-raising for renovations hit a snag. The mansion needs $45,000 in repairs and restoration just to get up to code, and the BPO is not saying when the move might happen. Buffalo Business First 04/29/02

L.A. MUSIC CENTER HEAD RESIGNS: "The head of the Los Angeles County Music Center announced her resignation Monday, saying the center is 'structurally sound' and ripe for new theatrical leadership. Joanne Kozberg, president and chief operating officer of the downtown arts megaplex, said she will serve until the center secures her replacement. Music Center officials say they plan to conduct a nationwide search for a new president." Andante (Los Angeles Daily News) 05/01/02

ABBADO LEAVES BERLIN: Claudio Abbado conducts his final concert as music director of the Berlin Philharmonic. His tenure after the storied Karajan years "led to fluctuations within the orchestra and the taciturn Milanese, who was never a big one for rehearsals, had a rather lax style that did not always meet with universal enthusiasm. By and large, however, the choice of Abbado can be viewed as fortuitous, especially as he proved himself to be by far the most open-minded of the world's top conductors." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 04/30/02


Home | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy
Copyright ©
2003 ArtsJournal. All Rights Reserved