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Monday September 30

CONDUCTOR SEARCH: A search that drew 362 contenders, lasted 20 months and extended all over the world produced a pair of winners Saturday night at Carnegie Hall for the conducting competition run by Lorin Maazel and Alberto Vilar. "A 28-year-old woman from Beijing who learned music on a piano handmade by her father, and a 31-year-old man from Bangkok, where Western classical music is rarely played, shared the top honors and $90,000." The New York Times 09/30/02

BOOING GREETS WAGNER: Katharina Wagner, the 24-year-old great granddaughter of composer Richard Wagner, has long been touted by her grandfather Wolfgang as the member of the family to eventually take over Bayreuth. So interest was high last week for Katharina's directing debut, at the helm of Der fliegende Holländer. "There was indeed much tutting and shaking of heads through the two-and-a-half hours." Germany's leading critics were in attendance to witness the vociferous booing that erupted as the curtain fell. Andante (AFP) 09/29/02

WORD VIRTUOSITY: Freestyling is "a phenomenon born out of the hip-hop movement that, unbeknown to many Americans, has been thriving along the outskirts of most metropolitan areas for more than two decades. High school students and middle-aged performers alike freestyle, but what began predominantly in Oakland and Brooklyn has moved to cafes, high schools, and community street corners across the country." It's a mix of words that comes out in a form somewhere between speech and song, and the intonation is punctuated by rhyming phrases. Christian Science Monitor 09/28/02

Sunday September 29

THE PRICE OF SILENCE: Should Mike Batt have paid a reported £100,000 to settle a claim by John Cage's estate for royalties on a Batt "composition" that consisted of one minute of silence? After all, how can you own the rights to silence? Or even the idea of silence? Batt is philosophical: "We're going to sell more records, we've had fun with this, and I thought, I'll pay some money over to show goodwill - but of course the royalties remain mine for the future." The Telegraph (UK) 09/28/02

SAY HEY MIMI! Director Baz Luhrmann is producing a Broadway version of La Boheme, "polishing a dusty classic with so much manic elbow grease that it doesn't just shine but gives off a highly marketable bling-bling sheen. The production is in rehearsal for a San Francisco tryout before moving on to a six-show-a-week schedule in New York. "With Boheme we want to de-theatricalize the production because, if anything, opera these days is overdone and tired in its level of theatricality. We want to make it accessible, clear." San Francisco Chronicle 09/29/02

RELEARNING HOW TO BE A MASTER: When Oscar Peterson suffered a stroke in 1993, he lost some of the lightning-fast reflexes that had allowed him to play with such velocity and facility. But , "as often happens, adversity had a silver lining: Peterson, whose playing was dismissed by some elites as overly glib, was forced to change. He says he stopped chasing so many notes and began thinking more about melody. He started to pay attention to less obvious elements of the music, altering harmonies ever so slightly, peering deep into the structures of a tune for inspiration. He gradually developed what he considers a whole new approach." Philadelphia Inquirer 09/29/02

Friday September 27

STARS AGAINST NET PIRACY: "Full-page ads are scheduled to appear in newspapers today and will be followed by television and radio spots, urging consumers to stop downloading songs from illegal file-sharing sites on the Internet. The multimillion-dollar campaign coincides with hearings before the House Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on courts, the Internet and intellectual property." Washington Post 09/26/02

INDIANAPOLIS WINNER: Hungarian violinist Barnabas Kelemen, 24, has won the $30,000 top prize in the sixth edition of the quadrennial 2002 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis. Indianapolis Star 09/23/02

ON THEIR OWN: With recording companies all but giving up on classical music, musicians are producing their own discs. "Self-published CDs may never make a massive impact on the classical-record industry, especially in terms of sales, but some observers believe their artistic impact may be lasting." Christian Science Monitor 09/27/02

TAPPING LISTENERS: With a large endowment and significant corporate support, the Pittsburgh Symphony has never been aggressive about cultivating individual donors. But "last season, corporate fund-raising revenues dropped significantly and the faltering stock market decreased the value of the PSO's endowment." So now the orchestra will target individuals for money, and if it can't raise $500,000 in new money by the end of the year, "the orchestra may take cost-cutting measures that could diminish its artistic quality and reduce its educational programs." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 09/27/02

Thursday September 26

GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS IN PHILLY: The Philadelphia Orchestra sold 99% of its available seats last season after opening up a beautiful new concert hall in the heart of a thriving entertainment district. The orchestra is ending a successful run with music director Wolfgang Sawallisch, and eagerly anticipating the arrival of new baton-twirler Christoph Eschenbach. But even in Philadelphia, the economy is taking it's toll on the bottom line - the organization ran a $3.5 million deficit last season, and it's endowment has dropped to $68.5 million, one of the smallest among major U.S. orchestras. Management envisions boosting the endowment to $150 million in the next 5 years, but those numbers are awfully optimistic... Philadelphia Inquirer 09/26/02

MUSICIANS WANT PROTECTION FROM RECORDING CONTRACTS: A group of high-profile musicians has asked California lawmakers to "intervene and protect them from what they say are unfair contracts that give recording companies the opportunity to withhold royalties with impunity." The musicians called standard recording company contracts "dishonest," "indecipherable" and "laughably one-sided" because they favor the companies at the expense of musicians. Nando Times (AP) 09/25/02

AND BY 'LOST,' WE MEAN 'STOLE': The Cremona Society, which collects and distributes rare instruments to musicians who need them, is suing New York-based Christophe Landon Rare Violins for negligence and breach of contract after the dealer lost a 288-year-old Stradivarius violin he was supposed to be selling. According to the suit, Landon allowed visitors to his shop to play the instrument unsupervised, and did not adequately protect it. The violin has been missing since April, and no clues have been found as to its whereabouts. Andante 09/26/02

HEAD-TO-HEAD IN EDMONTON: Last winter, when the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra was thrown into turmoil by a mounting deficit, the firing of a popular conductor, and a musician strike over management incompetence, deposed music director Gregorz Nowak vowed to start his own rival orchestra in the city and steal away many of the ESO's musicians. These days, things are a bit more peaceful at the ESO, but Nowak, to the surprise of many, has made good on his threat, starting a new chamber orchestra called Metamorphoses which will present a 10-concert series this season. Edmonton Journal 09/20/02

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE STOP. PLEASE? Having tried lawsuits, logic, heavy-handed enforcement, and threats of record labels hacking into your computer at night, the music industry is now turning to pleading in an effort to stop illegal music downloads. Full-page ads in leading American newspapers are signed by multiple high-profile singers and bands, and the whole thing has something of a desperate air. Meanwhile, the legal battle continues apace, from Congress to the courts. Wired 09/26/02

  • MULTINATIONAL AVOIDANCE: The Australian Kazaa file-trading service is successfully avoiding the legal entanglements faced by other services like Napster by setting up operations around the globe. It has offices in the United States, the South Pacific island nation Vanuatu and the Netherlands, and so far has evaded legal attempts to shut it down. Wired 09/25/02

SAN JOSE MIGHT LOSE MUSIC SCORES: Bankruptcy is not going well for the San Jose Symphony. It looks like the orchestra might lose its music library, accumulated over 100 years of performances - "more than 1,000 scores, some irreplaceable, all with conductors' and players' markings" to satisfy creditors since the orchestra has failed to raise enough money. San Jose Mercury News 09/25/02

Wednesday September 25

LEARNING TO PAY FOR PLAY: Pay sites where customers can download music for a fee are starting to attract users. "The shift away from peer-to-peer services and toward pay subscription sites like EMusic and Rhapsody is a result of two coinciding developments in the online music world. First, the music industry's crusade to disable illegitimate file-sharing services has won significant victories. At the same time, Internet radio stations have fast been disappearing because of new copyright laws, lobbied for by the record industry, requiring that broadcasters pay royalties on the music they play." The New York Times 09/25/02

Tuesday September 24

A TANGLE OF RIGHTS: Major media industry websites that are offering legal downloads have so far been spotty in their selection. It's a rights issue. "The Internet services, which are so far generating almost no revenue, are facing a chicken-and-egg puzzle. For many music publishers and artists, even a large slice of such a tiny royalty pie is barely worth the administrative costs of issuing a license. Still, without those licenses, the pie is unlikely to grow." The New York Times 09/23/02

INVESTING IN THE BAND: The recording industry is less and less willing to take chances on bands they don't think will sell at vleast half a million recordings. So a Philadelphia band called Grey Eye Glances has sold shares in its next recording to get it produces. "Through a private offering, the 'adult alternative' band raised several hundred thousand dollars to start the Grey Album, a company responsible for producing, manufacturing and promoting Grey Eye Glances' seventh album, A Little Voodoo. For bands without obvious mass appeal, strategies like Grey Eye Glances' may be part of the future." The New York Times 09/23/02

FREEDOM REIGNS: Boston Lyric Opera holds two free performances of Carmen over the weekend and attracts 140,000 fans, more than the company draws in the rest of its season. Time to rethink how the company does business. ''We do believe there are people who will never be able to buy a ticket to go to opera. And therefore we must always find a way to provide free opera to the community.'' Boston Globe 09/24/02

NATIONAL HERO: What would have been Glenn Gould's 70th birthday is being celebrated in big fashion in Canada. CBC is "devoting hours of coverage on radio and television to celebrating and remembering Gould's life and accomplishments. Tomorrow, CBC Radio Two celebrates Gould with 14 hours of coverage, titled Variations on Gould." National Post 09/24/02

  • A ROAD NOT TRAVELED: Pianist Glenn Gould - who would have been 70 this week - is "a figure of legend, even among people who may have heard nothing more than his first, career-making recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations. His life and ideas have provided fodder not just for scholars and biographers, but for playwrights, novelists and filmmakers. But while Gould's influence is feted in the broad culture, it has almost evaporated among musicians. No major pianist follows his lead, either in performance style or in his cavalier attitude toward musical scores." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/24/02

THE COST OF SILENCE: Mike Batt included one minute of silence on his latest album, and called it One Minute of Silence, listing himself and John Cage as the authors. Cage's estate sued the rock musician, claiming Batt had violated the copyright to Cage's 4' 33", a silent piece. Now Batt has paid the John Cage Trust a "six-figure" fee to settle the case. A spokesperson for the Trust said "the publishers were prepared to defend the concept of a silent piece because it was a valuable artistic concept with a copyright." Nando Times (AP) 09/24/02

  • HOMAGE OF RIGHTS: "I can see Mike's side, but I think he should see our side more clearly. He is a creative artist—he has a vested interest in a system that protects creative work—so in some ways he's sawing at the legs of the very stool he's sitting on." The New Yorker 09/23/02

Monday September 23

THE NEW ROY THOMPSON: So how about that acoustic renovation up in Toronto? Is the rejiggered Roy Thompson Hall the new Carnegie? Well, no. But it's a lot better. "There's a deeper pool of resonance in the bass, and a more vibrant tone up top. The sound hangs in the air a bit longer, instead of fleeing before it can be properly savoured... What the room still lacks, and may never achieve, is that immersive, "wow" quality you get in a truly first-class hall." But that would have been too much to expect, even from superstar acoustician Russell Johnson. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 09/23/02

I (DON'T) WRITE THE SONGS: Is pop music less inspired today because the stars don't write their own music? Not really - pop has always been controlled as a business. "The relationship between pop idols and the people who supply their songs is at best an uneasy alliance. As with any industry, the key to profitability boils down to control of the assets - in this case, the songs. When it's the singer, this autonomy brings with it a certain degree of volatility. Or, if you like, the artistic clout to make terrible business decisions." In business terms, it's better for the execs to decide the business. The Guardian (UK) 09/22/02

LOOKING FOR MEANING IN MEGA-OPERA: Bad sound, poor sight lines, huge artistic compromises, and a loss of any theatrical intimacy - big arena stagings of popular operas have attracted thousands in recent years. But are the compromises worth it? The Times (UK) 09/23/02

M-A-R-I-A: It's 25 years ago this week that Maria Callas, the greatest diva of all, died. She "could fairly be described as one of the greatest global celebrities of the post-war era. Everything about her life became the subject of intense interest, to the point of obsession. But the story of Callas is itself the story of obsession. Legends abound about her hunted personality, her relentless drive for perfection in everything that she did - brought about by a huge inferiority complex." The Scotsman 09/22/02

HOW ABOUT BUILDING ONE FOR THE PRESENT? "Canadians will be able to take a simulated train voyage through the country's past, immerse themselves in the sights and sounds of "the concert hall of the future" and gaze at displays dedicated to prime ministers and Order of Canada recipients, according to documents obtained by the Citizen that reveal the federal government's $100-million plans for a Canadian History Centre at the old railway station in downtown Ottawa." Yes, that was the Concert Hall of the Future, designed to "encourage visitor participation in and experience of the performing arts and Canadian culture in a novel and meaningful space using wall-sized interactive display technologies along with state of the art sound and visual capabilities." Ottawa Citizen 09/23/02

Sunday September 22

WAITING FOR VILAR: Two more prominent opera companies are reporting that Alberto Vilar, the billionaire businessman who is the world's leading private supporter of opera, has failed to make payments on pledges to their organizations. The Metropolitan Opera in New York, and the Los Angeles Opera have not received expected checks, increasing speculation that the heavy losses Vilar sustained in his high-tech investments may have left him unable to continue his previous level of support. Vilar insists that the money will be there, and says his fiscal tardiness is purely temporary, a result of short-term cash flow problems. The New York Times 09/21/02

WHEN YOU'RE IN A HOLE... The board of Opera Australia has been taking quite a beating in the press since announcing its decision to fire music director Simone Young because she refused to scale back her plans for the future of the organization. So this weekend, the board attempted to explain itself, in the hopes that public opinion might turn in management's direction. Sadly, the best clarification OA's chairwoman could come up with was to point out that the board had been unanimous in its decision to sack Young, and to announce that the decision "was several months in the making." The Age (Melbourne) 09/20/02

GIVING VERIZON ANOTHER CHANCE: When the Philadelphia Orchestra moved into its new home at the Kimmel Center last winter, reviews of the sound in Verizon Hall were mixed at best, abysmal at worst. The Washington Post called the hall, which was supposed to finally give the Fabulous Philadelphians a sounding board to match the orchestra's reputation, 'an acoustical Sahara.' But the orchestra's two regular beat writers say Verizon, which is billed as the most adjustable concert hall ever built, needs to be given a second listen. "It's a pretty good hall. It is not a great hall in its current form. It is continuing to evolve, and changes made last week put it within striking distance of being a wonderful music room." Philadelphia Inquirer 09/22/02

ADAMS IN NEW YORK: This week, the New York Philharmonic premiered John Adams's new 9/11 commemorative work, On the Transmigration of Souls, which might be said to be a project for which the composer of such politically inspired fare as Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer is perfectly suited. David Patrick Stearns has heard it three times already: "It was shattering. Utterly. The audience reaction? A bit muted. Hard to read - aside from a few visible hankies. The gala-ish atmosphere of the occasion wasn't really apt for this premiere, given the inevitable presence of listeners who are there just to be there. On the Transmigration of Souls needs to be presented, somehow, to those who need it." Philadelphia Inquirer 09/21/02

A NEW BEGINNING IN TORONTO: Two decades ago, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra took up residence in the dramatic surroundings of Roy Thompson Hall. Sadly, the hall's architectural splendor was never matched by its acoustics, and this past year, after years of debate and recrimination, the TSO teamed up with world-renowned acoustician Russell Johnson for a dramatic, CAN$20 million overhaul of the performance space. This weekend, the orchestra once again moves into its familiar home, hoping finally for a concert experience that sounds as good as it looks. Toronto Star 09/21/02

GOING OUT WITH A BANG: Vladimir Spivakov, the 'stopgap' music director of the Russian National Orchestra who was informed earlier this summer that his contract would not be renewed when it expired next year, has resigned in spectacularly public fashion, following the RNO's first concert of the new season. Spivakov cited disagreements with management in his decision to quit, and in fact informed the media of his resignation before telling his musicians. Who will take his place at the head of the Moscow-based orchestra for the remainder of the season is unclear. Andante 09/21/02

PUSHING THE CITY LIMITS: Long before anyone had heard of O Brother, Where Art Thou, the movie soundtrack which sparked a roots-music revival, there was Austin City Limits, a low-budget, fly-under-the-radar live music show broadcast on PBS stations around the country, and featuring the same performers now enjoying such unexpected attention from the masses. This weekend, Austin City Limits goes big-time itself, with a two-day outdoor music festival expected to draw 40,000 fans to the Lone Star State's capital city. Dallas Morning News 09/22/02

MELLOWING WITH AGE: "Colin Davis spent years in the 'amateur wilderness' and was known for his fiery temperament. He suffered personal and professional upheavals - he once booed his audience from the stage - but went on to find success abroad. At 75 he is now recognised as one of the UK's finest conductors." Did the change come with maturity, or with the realization of a sea change in the music world, with power shifting from conductors to musicians? Or did Davis merely decide that all the bombast got in the way of his real mission of making great music come alive? The Guardian (UK) 09/21/02

SAMPLE OR STEAL? 'Sampling' is a defining component of hip-hop music, and the practice, in which artists excerpt bits of another musician's work and incorporate them into their own music, has been in wide use for at least two decades. But those being sampled aren't always happy about it, and, though most high-profile rappers take great pains to secure permission for their sampling, clashes are inevitable. In the latest sampling scandal to hit the courts, a California jazz musician is suing popular rap act Beastie Boys for a flute solo they sampled ten years ago. Los Angeles Times 09/22/02

Friday September 20

ENOUGH TALK, LET'S HEAR SOME MUSIC: After what seems like years of debate and discussion among critics and concertgoers, Loren Maazel debuted this week as the New York Philharmonic's new music director, presenting a conservative but carefully chosen all-Beethoven program. Anthony Tommasini liked what he heard generally, but "Mr. Maazel's technical command has usually involved a trade-off. His performances can be oddly willful, as if just because he has such ready control, he can't help exercising it." Furthermore, Maazel's decision to drop John Adams's bold new work commemmorating the 9/11 attacks from the opening night program (it was performed at all subsequent programs during the week) was "a mistake and a great missed opportunity." It seems Maazel will have quite a hill to climb to win over his detractors in New York. The New York Times 09/20/02

  • MEANWHILE, IN CLEVELAND... While all eyes seemed focused on New York for Loren Maazel's debut with the Philharmonic, Franz Welser-Möst was making his first appearance as music director of the Cleveland Orchestra, arguably America's finest ensemble of the moment. Haydn's massive oratorio, "The Creation," is an unusual choice for a debut, but "Welser-Möst conveyed the music's beauty and depth with a direct, decisive hand. He has inherited an orchestra in prime shape whose classical traditions are miraculously right for Haydn, though the new music director will need to make more of the ensemble's ability to clarify and articulate detail." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 09/20/02

WAS MUNCH A NAZI COLLABORATOR? Like many who lived in France during World War II, conductor Charles Munch (later the distinguished director of the Boston Symphony) claimed to have been aiding the French Underground. But an article in a current Skidmore College publication plants Munch squarely at the center of collaborationist Vichy culture in Paris during the war. ''He was a superstar of the cultural scene of occupied Paris who made the transition without missing a beat to the postwar scene in Boston.'' Boston Globe 09/19/02

ANOTHER WAY FOR ORCHESTRAS TO LOSE MONEY: "A founder and ex-chairman of the Hong Kong Sinfonietta has been charged with stealing about HK$220,000 (currently US$28,200) from the government-funded orchestra while he was chairman, Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption announced last week... Yu was arrested last July for allegedly embezzling HK$6.2 million (US$795,000) by issuing checks under the orchestra's name to himself, his wife and daughter, but was never charged." Andante 09/20/02

BITING THE HAND THAT FAILS TO FEED: Days after press reports surfaced suggesting that Alberto Vilar, opera's most dedicated and generous patron, would be missing payments on some of his pledges, the Washington Opera has removed his name from its young-artists donor list after a $1 million payment was not made. "Rumors have circulated for months that losses at Vilar's Amerindo Investment Advisors... would hamper Vilar's ability to fulfill his philanthropic pledges. Vilar has rescheduled some payments and said in the [New York] Times that in some cases he was 'not on top of the status of the payments.' But several large recipients of Vilar's philanthropy either declined to discuss his giving or confirmed that he was on schedule with payments." Washington Post 09/20/02

Thursday September 19

SANZ TAKES LATIN GRAMMYS: "Alejandro Sanz, who dominated last year's Latin Grammys, swept its major categories on Wednesday night, taking home trophies for album, song, and record of the year." Nando Times (AP) 09/19/02

ROCK ON: Some critics "have gotten whole books out of the notion that when rock 'n' roll passes from an expression of unbridled youthful rebellion to professionalism and nostalgia, it ain't worth a damn anymore. But rejecting the still-living possibilities of classic rock bands relies on an attitude toward rock that deifies it and demeans it simultaneously. Better to look at it for what it is: For its makers, it's both a job and (probably) a pleasure. The real conundrum is not, Why do these grizzled fools go on? but, Why aren't they all on the road nine months of the year, every year?" Salon 09/19/02

ANOTHER ORCHESTRA SEES RED: In the past decade the Seattle Symphony has been one of the more financially secure American orchestras, expanding dramatically with a new concert hall and lengthened season. The winning streak ends though as the orchestra posts its first deficit ($719,000) since the early 90s. The orchestra blames an economic downturn that reduced gifts from individuals and corporations. Seattle Post-Intelligencer 09/18/02

ORCHESTRA OVER INTERNET2: For the first time ever, Internet2 - which "transmits at the speed of light (and is rarely seen by the public because only scientists and universities use it)" was used to transmit a symphony orchestra concert across the country. The New World Symphony played in Miami, while composers Aaron Jay Kernis in Minnesota and John Adams in New York talked about their music "It worked like a charm." Miami Herald 09/17/02

SABOTAGE HALTS PARIS OPERA OPENING: Opening night of Handel's Giulio Cesare at Paris' Palais Garnier was sabotaged when someone planted a tape player and speakers inside the opera house that began playing scenes from the opera while the performance was underway. Eventually the performance was halted until the recording could be found and silenced. The New York Times 09/18/02

THE FUTURE IS ASIA: The list of woes facing classical music in North America and Europe is well-known and growing. But in Asia, Western classical music is booming. Fresh artists, and young and knowledgeable audiences suggest a vital future. London Evening Standard 09/18/02

NEW DRUG LAW TARGETS MUSIC VENUES: An anti-drug bill expected to easily pass in the US Senate has got nightclub music venues upset. The RAVE Act would "broaden federal standards for prosecuting venues under the so-called crack-house laws, which were designed to stamp out crack cocaine dealers. It would also add stiff civil penalties. The bill specifically targets dance-music venues, whether they are temporary outdoor raves or established nightclubs." Miami Herald 09/18/02

VILAR LATE ON GIFTS: There are reports arts philanthropist Alberto Vilar has fallen behind on promised pledges to arts groups. "Because Mr. Vilar's Amerindo Technology Fund has decreased by nearly 50 percent each year for the last three years, there has been wide speculation in the arts world that he would default on several of his extravagant pledges to cultural organizations. There is uneasiness in classical music circles, for example, that Mr. Vilar may be late on payments to the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Salzburg Music Festival, the Kirov Opera and Royal Opera House at Covent Garden and that he may have failed to pay for the supertitles he had installed at the Vienna State Opera." The New York Times 09/19/02

Wednesday September 18

U.S. REFUSES ENTRY TO CUBAN MUSICIANS: Twenty-two Cuban musicians nominated for Latin Grammys have been denied visas by US officials and won't be able to attend Wednesday night's Latin Grammy Awards ceremony. The State Department declines to comment. Newsday (AP) 09/18/02

THINKING TOO BIG? Opera Australia isn't saying anything more about its decision to oust artistic director Simone Young last week. But it appears that it was her grand "vision" for the company's 2004 season that was the cause, and not some of the other reasons that have been speculated on. Meanwhile the company says: "Simone Young is a great asset but this company has a long tradition of great people such as Charles Mackerras, Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge ... they have all invested in making the company what it is today. The company has a proud history and it will go on." The Age (Melbourne) 09/18/02

  • INEPT MEANS: The way Opera Australia's board terminated Young was curious. The decision was made without talking to her first, and then delivered while she was out of the country. How inept. "What we have still to discover is whether the board members are, collectively, high-minded and thoroughly worthy dabblers or mean-minded, ruthless dabblers intent on the conspicuous exercise of power; or whether - in managing this announcement - they are merely inept." Sydney Morning Herald 09/18/02

MUSICIANS FIGHTING RECORDING COMPANIES: Musicians' revolt against the deals they sign with recording companies is heating up. "The RIAA has positioned this as a bunch of rich old rock stars seeking revenge and better deals. The truth is, this system would not be suffered in any other business. You have record companies bought and sold on the strength of copyrights created by artists who sign away all rights in perpetuity to a faceless corporation. In the past 20 years, an industry that was led by visionaries and music lovers has become dominated by accountants, financial analysts and people who can't think ahead more than 90 days." USAToday 09/17/02

BARENBOIM ATTACKED: Conductor/pianist Daniel Barenboim, in the Middle East giving concerts, was attacked in a restaurant in Jerusalem Tuesday. His attackers called him a "traitor for giving a performance in Ramallah on Tuesday. (His wife responded by throwing vegetables at the activists). There were also reports that right-wing politicians had proposed that Barenboim should be put on trial for entering the occupied territories without permission." Ha'aretz 09/18/02

PERSONAL APPEAL: Why is the Pittsburgh Symphony in financial difficulty? While it's been successful over the years getting support from corporations and foundations, it hasn't cultivated individual donors. So when corporations pulled back because of the economy, and foundations saw their endowments shrink, the orchestra didn't have a strong individual base of supporters on which to draw. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 09/18/02

  • SOME COMPANY: Pittsburgh's other arts institutions are also struggling financially. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 09/18/02

Tuesday September 17

WHY TODAY'S PIANISTS ARE BORING: Are pianists today less interesting than in years gone by? Sometimes it seems that way. "Some solo pianists do scarcely more than travel, practise, give concerts and eat and sleep. On such a treadmill, it is very hard to remain fresh and interesting. To look for illumination from today's international soloists is a bit like looking for a lost object in a place where you know it can't be." The Guardian (UK) 09/17/02

LIFE SUPPORT: The financially troubled Calgary Philharmonic has launched a desperate ad campaign, saying if it doesn't attract 2000 new subscribers by next month the orchestra will go out of business. " 'This may be our last season,' reads one print ad, under the heading Save Our Brass. Another ad features instruments hooked up to defibrillators." National Post 09/17/02

BUY THIS: So that pop song you heard on the radio sounds more like an ad jingle than a legit song? Well yes, actually. "Mars Australia and its advertising agency, D'Arcy, are behind the new single, Get Your Juices Going, by fictional pop group Starburst. 'We wanted to try and get the song as high on the charts as we can. We held off letting people know it was an advertising campaign'." The Age (Melbourne) 09/16/02

FEE FOR VISA REVIEW: At a time when it's getting harder to get visas for foreign artists to perform in the US, it's also getting more expensive. The American Guild of Musical Artists says it will start charging a $250 fee to review visa applications for companies applying for visas for foreign artists. Backstage 09/16/02

Monday September 16

OPERA AS CHAOTIC EXPERIENCE: Francesca Zambello is the first American invited to direct at the Bolshoi Opera. Mounting Turandot on the historic stage is a different experience from doing it in the West. "Money is scarce. Ingenuity great. The other day, I suddenly realized there were no TV monitors in the wings backstage so my chorus could see the conductor while they are lying down looking at Peking's moon. Instead there were five conductors in the wings waving large flashlights. Not surprisingly, the chorus didn't sing together. What to do?" London Evening Standard 09/13/02

THE LITERARY POP SONG: There has been a rash of prominent writers writing lyrics for pop music bands. "Salman Rushdie has recorded with U2. Hunter S. Thompson appears on the new Paul Oakenfold album. Will Self has worked with Bomb the Bass..." Why? Some believe musicians are looking for a little more substance for their songs. Others are more cynical: "A lot of it is happening because books are much cooler than music, and can sell a lot more." The Age (Melbourne) 09/16/02

STYLE CLASH: Was the firing of Opera Australia artistic director Simone Young a matter of an artistic vision too big for the company's pocketbook? Perhaps. "The artistic leader of any company has the right to pick and choose, but it is understood that Young's perceived abrasive management style has caused rifts within the company. Whether it is this, or simply Young's refusal to compromise on her artistic vision, that has brought her down, is unknown. It is worth remembering, though, she has repeatedly said things must go her way or she would walk." The Age (Melbourne) 09/16/02

  • YOUNG DEFENSE: Young's defenders come to her defense: "The [OA] board has made Simone a scapegoat for internal and financial difficulties without any effort of mediation. It waited until she was working overseas. No one from the board has the nerve to face her. It's similar to how Maina Gielgud was treated at the Australian Ballet." Sydney Morning Herald 09/16/02

LISTENING TO MUSIC - JUST NOT TO CONCERTS: An American study on who listens to classical music and why offers some comfort for those who fear the artform is dying - there's a sizeable market for classical. "The bad news for symphony orchestras is that the traditional concert-hall experience is not the primary way these people relate to the art form. According to the study, people connect with classical music by listening to the radio first and foremost, followed by playing CDs in their cars and living rooms. Down the line is the attendance at live events in churches, schools and, yes, even concert halls." Hartford Courant 09/16/02

GIRL SINGERS TO THE RESCUE: It's to the point you can't hardly find a definition of country music that'll stick to the wall. "By now everyone who cares even casually about true country music knows the story of how Nashville was taken over by evil robots - it happened sometime in the '60s, '70s, '80s or '90s, depending on who's telling the story - and of how country radio subsequently went to hell in a multimillion-dollar handbasket. A subthread of the story is the gradual flowering of alt-country." But there are signs that the women of country music might be up to saving country as a genre. Salon 09/14/02

OUT WITH THE CD: With music sales down last year for the first time since 1983, there are signs music fans are tired of the CD format. "Several similar-looking formats appear poised to replace the standard compact disc. So how to tell which is the 'best' - and, more important, which will be the last to fall?" Nando Times (Christian Science Monitor) 09/16/02

Sunday September 15

FIRING FALLOUT IN OZ: "Opera Australia's decision not to renew artistic director Simone Young's contract in 2003, announced three weeks after Young announced the 2003 season, has shocked the Australian arts scene," but while many are decrying the sacking, few seem terribly surprised by it. Young was an aggressive director, undeniably raising the company's artistic standards, but clashing with many powerful people along the way. Still, the musicians she led from the podium seem to be defending her for the most part, and some observers are left wondering how the Opera Australia executives can justify firing a woman who did exactly what she said she would do when they hired her. Andante 09/14/02

ENTER MAAZEL, CAUTIOUSLY: "Lorin Maazel gives his first concert as music director of the New York Philharmonic on Wednesday after a career that in retrospect looks restless, even rootless." With openers like that, can there be any doubt that the New York media continue to be cool to the appointment of Maazel as the Phil's new top man? But "speculation among New York critics that the Philharmonic musicians fell for Mr. Maazel because he let them skip a rehearsal misrepresents the seriousness of both conductor and orchestra." Still, the question remains - will Maazel lead the Phil back to its former glory, or will the notoriously hard-to-please orchestra remain as it has been perceived for much of the last decade, as a collection of immensely talented people not quite living up to their potential? The New York Times 09/15/02

  • AH, THAT FAMOUS NEW YORK APATHY: "Why should symphonic subscribers in Chicago or Cleveland be more loyal and proud than in New York? Is it because of New York itself — its size, its diversity, its seen-it-all, heard-it-all 'sophistication'? ...In fact, the Philharmonic's audience problem is rooted in an institutional history so diffuse and haphazard that it's no wonder the orchestra and the audience have never bonded. No other American orchestra of world stature must cope with so generic an identity." The New York Times 09/15/02

THE UNUSUALLY IDLE RICH: This week, the musicians of the San Antonio Symphony agreed to a 20% pay cut for the upcoming season, which may have saved the organization from bankruptcy. But the larger issue remains unsolved: why has the city's considerable class of wealthy residents and companies never stepped up to support San Antonio's arts scene? "With a few exceptions, San Antonio's large corporations make puny contributions to the symphony, and even punier contributions to the city's other arts organizations. To judge from all the McMansions plopping down like cowpies north of town, it's obvious that a lot of moneyed individuals aren't pulling their weight, either." San Antonio Express-News 09/15/02

THE LAST DIEHARDS? The BBC Proms is, unquestionably, the world's most successful classical music festival, and the concerts attract dedicated fanatics of the type usually associated with the crowds gathered to see Manchester United or the Oakland Raiders. These are people who have not missed a Proms concert in decades, who line up eight hours in advance in order to secure 'their' spot inside. "Prommers guard both their territory and the purity of their musical experience. [One diehard] talks with horror of a recent concert at which the ice-cream seller came into the arena while the orchestra was still playing: she has yet to recover from this 'dreadful' experience." The Guardian (UK) 09/13/02

OFF THE AIR IN CHICAGO: Less than a year after the Chicago Symphony Orchestra killed its long-running series of radio broadcasts for lack of sponsorship, the Chicago Lyric Opera is doing the same. The Lyric's productions have been airing locally and nationwide since the mid-1970s, and in recent years have been funded in large part by donations from American and United Airlines. But the airline industry is in trouble, and last week, both carriers dropped their support for the series, leaving the Lyric holding a $400,000 tab it could not afford to pay. Chicago Tribune 09/13/02

HOPE FOR THE NEXT GENERATION? A recent study claimed that 65% of UK children could not name a single classical composer, and seem to be under the impression that Shakespeare wrote symphonies. The classical music world ought to be used to these surveys by now, but they never fail to produce the most remarkable panic among the type of arts folks who mistakenly believe that children of any era cared deeply about whether a particular musical passage was written by Beethoven or Offenbach. An informal survey of Londoners seems to confirm the study's basic claim of musical ignorance, but Johnny Sharp points out that one of the beauties of classical music is that, like fine wine or great literature, it tends to be a pleasure that one discovers later in life. The Guardian (UK) 09/14/02

HITTIN' 'EM WHERE IT HURTS: The University of Southern California has come up with a tough new way to discourage its students from participating in illegal file-swapping of the type offered by Gnutella, Aimster, and the late Napster. Any USC student caught making peer-to-peer copies of copyrighted material (particularly MP3 files of songs or movies) will lose his/her campus computer access for a full year. The regulation is controversial, of course, and most universities continue to be unwilling to restrict what students may or may not do with their own computers, despite increasing pressure from the recording industry. Wired 09/13/02

THE NEXT TENOR GETS CANNED: "Tenor sensation Salvatore Licitra, who was touted as the heir to Luciano Pavarotti when he stepped in for Pavarotti at the Metropolitan Opera in May, may be emulating the legendary tenor's talent for not showing up. Licitra has been replaced in the Vienna State Opera's new production of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra, because, according to a statement from the opera, he failed to 'honor the contractual conditions agreed upon for rehearsal time.'" Andante 09/15/02

Friday September 13

GIVE PEACE A SONG: A group of musicians led by Dave Stewart, formerly of the Eurythmics, is trying to get radio stations around the world to play the song Peace One Day on Sept. 21, the United Nations-designated International Day of Peace. "The idea was to make a song that on Sept. 21 we'll get as many stations around the world to play and DJs to talk about what it's all about." Nando Times (AP) 09/12/02

RECORDING IS DEAD, LONG LIVE RECORDING: Terry Teachout surveys the history of recorded music and come to a conclusion about the digital revolution - traditional recording companies are doomed. "In the not-so-long run, the introduction of online delivery systems and the spread of file-sharing will certainly undermine and very likely destroy the fundamental economic basis for the recording industry, at least as we know it today. And what will replace it? I, for one, think it highly likely that more and more artists will start to make their own recordings and market them directly to the public via the web. Undoubtedly, new managerial institutions will emerge to assist those artists who prefer not to engage in the time-consuming task of self-marketing, but these institutions will be true middlemen, purveyors of a service, as opposed to record labels, which use artists to serve their interests." Commentary 09/02

OPERA AUSTRALIA NOT RENEWING A.D. CONTRACT: Opera Australia has announced it won't be renewing the contract of artistic director Simone Young. Th company said in a statement that Young's "visions for the artistic growth of the company are not sustainable by OA in its current financial position and we have reluctantly concluded that we have to seek another path." Andante 09/13/02

STRENGTHENING THE BERLIN PHIL: What does Simon Rattle taking over directorship of the Berlin Philharmonic mean to the city? "The orchestra now has more influence and power than it ever had before. But we can no longer be just a concert- giving organization in a city like this. We have to be something a bit richer. The demographics of an orchestra can't be changed overnight, but what you can do is touch more hearts in the city and realize that an orchestra is a resource that belongs to the whole city. That's quite new in Germany." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 09/13/02

Thursday September 12

SITUATION CRITICAL IN PITTSBURGH? The fiscal crisis at the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra may be more dire than originally thought. The orchestra reported a $750,000 deficit for the 2001-02 season, and while that is not a high number in major orchestra circles, the PSO may not have the funds available to cover expenses this season. If that is, in fact, the case, the orchestra might file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to its managing director. However, it is worth noting that the PSO has a $93 million endowment, far higher than many other U.S. orchetsras, and that its contract with its musicians is due to expire at the end of this season, a condition which nearly always inspires orchestral managers to hyperbole. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 09/12/02

HOUSTON SYMPHONY CUTS: The Houston Symphony joins an increasingly lengthy list of American orchestras struggling with deficits. This week the Houston Symphony, staring at an expected $1.6 million deficit, "suspended three money-losing concert series, reduced its staff by 15 percent and instituted pay cuts for all administrative staff." The orchestra's musicians salaries were not cut. Houston Chronicle 09/11/02

SEEKING A WELL-ROUNDED NATION: The island nation of Singapore has been playing catch-up in crafting a national arts scene for the better part of a decade. Now, with a new $343 million performing arts center, the government is hoping to further develop an already flourishing market, bringing in such world-famous ensembles as the New York Philharmonic and the London Symphony Orchestra to christen the concert hall. There have been concerns that the population of the island is not enough to justify the size of the center's various halls, but the government swears it can fill the seats. Andante (UPI) 09/12/02

AND IT'S 1, 2, 3, WHAT ARE WE FIGHTIN' FOR? "A lot has changed since last year, and as the country discusses going to war against Iraq, there has been almost no response from musicians, despite a tradition of political commentary and protest... But on Monday, one of the first major songs to directly address the nation's stance toward Iraq was released. It is "The Bell," by Stephan Smith, a folk singer whose songs echo Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie." Smith doesn't expect his song will be particularly popular with a nation still in the throes of nationalistic post-9/11 fervor, but then, popularity has never really been high on folk music's list of priorities. The New York Times 09/12/02

THE GREAT DIGITAL DEBATE: It really comes down to this - most Americans grew up swapping LPs, making mix tapes, and sharing CDs with friends, so the computer generation feels they ought to be able to do the same. The recording industry points out that the computer generation can download a thousand MP3 song files in eight minutes without paying for any of them, which is not the same thing as making your girlfriend a mix tape. How to bridge this gap is the techno-challenge of the decade, and a new proposal has devised something called 'squishy' security in an effort to satisfy both sides. Naturally, both sides are skeptical. Wired 09/12/02

Wednesday September 11

HIP-HOPPING TO COMMERCIAL EXCESS...(ER, SUCCESS): "On any given week, Billboard's Hot Rap Tracks chart is filled with songs that serve as lyrical consumer reports for what are, or will be, the trendiest alcohol, automobile, and fashion brands. It's an open secret in hip-hop that product placement comes in two distinct categories. There is genuine brand endorsement inspired by an affinity for a product. And then there's name-dropping with the hopes that a marketing director will come bearing free goods—or a check." Village Voice 09/10/02

SINGULAR FRUSTRATION: The executive producer of the UK's most popular pop music TV show says the country's singles charts are compromised by recording companies. ""The Top 40 chart is dysfunctional. The Official Top 40 doesn't provide us with a list of the most popular songs in the country and that's a problem. It's controlled by record companies. Most of the Top 10 singles are new entries there because of clever marketing practices employed by record companies, not because they are popular." The Independent (UK) 09/11/02

THE NEED TO PAY ATTENTION: How can you have a vital music culture when there aren't interesting critics to write about it? A half-dozen prominent composers talk about the crisis in classical music criticism: "The music of living composers is not even despised because to be despised you have to exist. Cultured lay people may know about both Dante and Philip Roth, Michelangelo and Jackson Pollock. But if they know about Vivaldi they don't know about his musical equivalent today. They only know about pop. Pop is the music of the world today, alas." NewMusicBox 09/02

Tuesday September 10

SAN ANTONIO MUSICIANS TAKE CUT IN PAY: The San Antonio Symphony failed to balance its budget last season, and the orchestra's ability to mount a season this year has been in doubt. But the orchestra's musicians have voted to accept a 15 percent wage cut, by shortening the orchestra's season. "The musicians will take a total economic hit of about $700,000 for the coming season. 'It takes our base salary down to $28,000. That definitely takes us back to the mid-90s — 1995 or earlier'." San Antonio Express-News 09/09/02

  • Previously: TROUBLE IN SOUTH TEXAS: The San Antonio Symphony has never been a model of fiscal responsibility. Faced with years of high deficits and unbalanced budgets, the orchestra chose to liquidate its own endowment and rely on corporate and donor bailouts on a year-to-year basis rather than strive for meaningful change in its business plan. Now, the numbers crunch has reached crisis stage, and there is some doubt as to whether the SAS will even be able to have a 2002-03 season. San Antonio Express-News 08/27/02

EDMONTON CUTS SEASON: Unable to raise the money it needed, the Edmonton Opera has reduced its season from four operas to three - cutting a production of Turandot. "Corporate funding for the arts is extremely difficult to secure in Edmonton, and in Canada. The areas that are getting most attention from corporations these days are health and education." Edmonton Journal 09/09/02

TUGBOAT SYMPHONY: Sound "curator" David Toop has organized a 15-minute piece for tugboats. "On September 15, as part of the Thames festival, up to a dozen of these water workhorses, dating from as far back as 1907, take centre stage in the Siren Space concert, which precedes the fireworks finale. Up to 100,000 people are expected to gather between Waterloo and Blackfriars bridges." The Guardian (UK) 09/10/02


SHAKE, RATTLE AND ROLL: German critics have raved about Simon Rattle's debut as music director of the Berlin Philharmonic. "A sense of intellect and soul - a sheer and devilish exactitude, and vehement gestures of guidance by Rattle - a miracle of transparency and ecstasy - All the best for the next 10 years!" The Guardian (UK) 09/10/02

Monday September 9

ARE CD'S TOO EXPENSIVE? Worried about slackening sales, some music labels are lowering prices on CDs to see if consumers will buy more. "Lower prices may at least stop the bleeding. But that's tough for executives to admit. It calls into question their long-held belief that CDs are not only fairly priced, but a good value." USA Today 09/09/02

HAMPTON'S LAST RIDE: Jazz great Lionel Hampton takes a last ride in New York as he gets a New Orleans-style funeral procession through Manhattan - led by Wynton Marsallis and an all star band of colleagues. "Not surprisingly, the spectacle of these splendidly attired musicians wailing their blues-tinged dirges while slowly marching in the middle of the street - oblivious to traffic lights and even to traffic - caused a stir. New Yorkers who had been watching from curbside fell in behind the band. Television crews and newspaper photographers, who had been tipped off that a New Orleans-style parade would unfold on this morning, meanwhile crowded in front of the parade and walked backward, so as to capture the action head-on." Chicago Tribune 09/09/02

BEHIND THE CRITICAL CURVE: Is there a crisis in music criticism? Daniel Felsenfeld thinks so: "Twenty-five years or so ago, inaccessible was in vogue so critics responded in kind, all but begging for some tunes or nice chords. Now the opposite is true. Avant-garde is praised, the more difficult the better (Babbitt, Carter, Lachenmann, Boulez, Xenakis) while offerings by composers who either never left tonality, or approach it with fresh ears are given, for the most part, short shrift. An audience responding well to something automatically calls it into suspicion; appreciation is likely to elicit the ever-popular 'You LIKED that?' from the alleged musical literati." NewMusicBox 09/02

SWITCHED-ON MOOG: Before the digital music revolution there was the Moog synthesizer, which for many people, was their first introduction to electronic music. Today digital rules, but musicians have rediscovered the old Moog - which produces an electronic sound that's difficult to match. Now Robert Moog, inventor of the Moog synthesizer has begun making the instrument again, and they're selling as fast as he can make them. Boston Globe 09/09/02

Sunday September 8

SIMON'S BIG NIGHT: This weekend, all the hype which has swirled around Berlin for over a year comes to a head, as Sir Simon Rattle makes his debut as chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic. In the months since his appointment was announced, Rattle has promised to rid the ensemble of its "diva" image, and introduce a more contemporary repertoire to what is widely considered to be one of the world's most staid and conservative orchestras. And while the Phil's stoicism and the city's economic uncertainty are sure to provide plenty of challenges, the Rattle Era is already being heralded as a new beginning for German music. Andante (Deutsche Presse-Agentur) 09/07/02

  • OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT: With Berlin near financial collapse, the city's unrivaled collection of cultural and musical institutions have been battling for their piece of the financial pie for the last few years, and it was on the fiscal stage that Simon Rattle scored his first victory with his new orchestra. With money tight, other conductors alternately threatened and cajoled the authorities, hoping their antics would spare them from the budget axe. "But Rattle had a trump card, which he was able to play endlessly. He simply refused to sign his contract, knowing that the city couldn't countenance the humiliation of losing him to a rival orchestra in Boston or Philadelphia or - worst of all - Vienna." The Telegraph (UK) 09/07/02
  • PARTING SHOT: Sir Simon Rattle spent 18 years at the helm of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, guiding the group from a little-known regional ensemble to one of the U.K.'s premiere orchestras. Now, as he takes over in Berlin, Rattle is disenchanted with the British arts establishment, and has been making pointed comparisons between the British and German systems of arts funding. How long Rattle will be content with the money flow in cash-strapped Berlin remains to be seen, but his slings and arrows have stung the nation that gave him his start. The Guardian (UK) 09/07/02

WE'RE NUMBER ONE! OR TWO! WE THINK!: "Ranking orchestras by quality is hard -- and subjective. Doesn't every city think its orchestra is great? Orchestras wouldn't have been formed without a strong element of civic pride. And yet orchestras are ranked all the time -- by managers, by critics, by musicians, by conductors, by soloists... If there's a vague consensus about what orchestras are on the list, what are the criteria? Recordings? Repertoire? Tours? Reviews? Budgets? Technical accomplishment? The glamour and talent of the music director? Orchestra managers and officials suggest that it's a complicated question and that ranking basketball teams is much easier." The Star Tribune (Minneapolis) 09/08/02

MUSIC FOR AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY: With the first anniversary of 9/11 coming up on Wednesday, arts groups the world over are preparing to commemorate the attacks with concerts of all kinds. The "Rolling Requiem," a worldwide performance of Mozart's last work spanning 21 time zones and including 170 choirs, will run throughout the day. In Texas, the Houston Symphony will play a free concert celebrating American music. In Minneapolis, Renee Fleming will offer Strauss's haunting Four Last Songs with the Minnesota Orchestra. And in New York, the Philharmonic will debut John Adams's On the Transmigration of Souls, written for the occasion. And that's only the beginning... Andante 09/08/02

A BUYER'S MARKET, IF YOU CAN FIND IT: Despite the troubles sweeping the recording industry, there are more recordings of great classical music available today than at any time in history. Still, where does the serious collector go to find that obscure recording or digital reissue? "The future, everyone says, lies on the Internet, but there are still a lot of problems there. One of the basic issues is the difficulty of building a database for classical music that is consistent enough for the search engines to deal with. (How do you spell 'Petrouchka'?). And of course, the Internet is not the easiest place for you to find something you just have to have if you don't already know that it exists. There isn't a catalog that can keep up with what is theoretically or actually available. No publication like the Schwann Catalog of the LP era can claim to be 'the collectors' Bible' anymore." Boston Globe 09/08/02

ODE TO A DEAD CD PLAYER: "Musicians know the frustration of inwardly hearing a sound they cannot elicit from others or create themselves. Conductor Arturo Toscanini threw tantrums, once nearly putting out the eye of a violinist who did not realize the sound he wanted, and Wilhelm Furtwangler so regularly spat upon unresponsive players during rehearsals that some talked of getting umbrellas..." Such is the frustration of the audiophile, struggling desperately to recreate the glory of a live concert on a series of ever more complex machines. For most of us, a CD player is just a tool: to Alan Artner, it is a living, breathing thing, as irreplacable and mysterious as a human musician. Chicago Tribune 09/08/02

BIG IDEAS IN CLEVELAND: Franz Welser-Möst takes over as music director of the Cleveland Orchestra this month, and with that ensemble's track record, you might think that the new man would be a bit intimidated. But Welser-Möst has some big plans for America's most unlikely super-orchestra, and he isn't worried in the least about the public reaction. "One of this orchestra's many wonderful qualities is the humble attitude. I love that. When you come to conduct, it's not like they know it all. It's about the result, the product, not about the prestige... What's so exciting in Cleveland is when you make programs, people will come. Some programs you couldn't do in London. Maybe in Vienna. In Berlin, impossible." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 09/08/02

Friday September 6

VIOLINISTS TOLD TO SKIP ISRAEL? Did the Jerusalem branch of the British Council practice "cultural terror" by convincing prominent violinists Nigel Kennedy and Maxim Vengerov to cancel performances in Israel later this month? The two were told that "their lives would be endangered" if they attended such a "political" concert, which would "incur the wrath of millions of Muslims." Andante (Jerusalem Post) 09/05/02

A LECTURE FOR CRITICS: Composer John Corigliano has a rigorous definition of job standards for music critics, and tells critic Justin Davidson so: "Am I saying that critics need to be trained musicians, thorough scholars, and snappy writers — all on a freelancer's meager salary? Yes. 'What professional standards should critics be held to?' You need to be able to read like a conductor, research like an historian, judge like a parent and write like a playwright. 'How should critics reconcile the demands of accuracy with the realities of the deadline and the music business?' Take this question to your editors, Justin. Critics must improve the business of criticism: composers cannot. It's tough out there, from what I hear. But it's tough for composers, too. Sorry." Andante 09/05/02

ANOTHER ORCHESTRA SEES RED: Add the Pittsburgh Symphony to the list of American orchestras posting deficits. The orchestra expects to open its new season with a $750,000 deficit from last season. With the softening stock market, the orchestra's endowment slipped from $130 million to $100 million. "The orchestra, which reported a $200,000 deficit a year ago, also took a hard hit at the box office, finishing about $450,000 below projected ticket sales." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 09/06/02

LISTENING FOR MISTAKES: Programmers are converting raw computer code to music as a way of helping check the thousands of lines of code in programs. "Your ears are extremely good at picking up temporal patterns. Sometimes better than eyes. When different sections of code are put together, they should form a harmonious tune. But if a loop, for example, does not execute properly, the music would not ascend properly and the programmer should hear the error. Similarly, a duff statement would produce a different chord that would be immediately apparent." New Scientist 09/05/02

PEACE THROUGH MUSIC? Conductor/pianist Daniel Barenboim is an internationalist through and through. "One of the few advantages that the 21st century has over the early 20th and 19th is, he believes, the pluralism of its societies. 'Human beings have not only the possibility but almost the duty - yes, the duty! - to acquire multiple identities.' He paddles his arms in a short, expressive backstroke. 'That's what globalisation means at its most positive. That you can feel French when you play Debussy, that you feel German when you play Wagner. You do not have to be one thing'." The Guardian (UK) 09/06/02

VLADO PERLEMUTER, 98: The French pianist studied with Moszkowski and Cortot, gave his first piano recital in 1919 and studied Ravel with the composer himself. "His classes became legendary. His teaching embodied the great qualities of his own playing - an impassioned care for detail and also an architectural vision of each piece as a whole." The Guardian (UK) 09/06/02

HEIFETZ'S FIDDLE PLAYS AGAIN: The San Francisco Symphony has a new member - Jascha Heifetz's violin, the $6 million "David" Guarneri del Gesu. By arrangement with a local museum, the orchestra's concertmaster will have the use of the instrument for the orchestra's concerts. In the instrument's debut in the role, "Davies was filled with the majestic sound of the 'David' - big, bold and full of all kinds of pungent and elusive colors, like the flavors in a complex sauce." Unfortunately, writes Joshua Kosman, the orchestra's opening concert of the season was uninspiring. San Francisco Chronicle 09/06/02

Thursday September 5

JANSONS TO AMSTERDAM? A Dutch newspaper is reporting that Pittsburgh Symphony music director Mariss Jansons is the musicians' choice to be the next principal conductor of Amsterdam's renowned Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Jansons, who has already announced his intention to leave the PSO when his contract expires, would likely jump at the opportunity - the Concertgebouw is considered to be among the top five orchestras in the world. A source in Pittsburgh believes that Jansons has already been offered the post. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 09/05/02

MORE INTRIGUE IN MONTREAL: Emile Subirana has had a very bad year. The head of the Quebec Musicians' Guild has been accused of driving Charles Dutoit from the podium of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra when musicians asked him for help in dealing with their prickly leader, and, more recently, he has been charged with misusing union funds and overpaying himself for 'consulting' work. But yesterday, the guild's union parent, the American Federation of Musicians, issued a 250-page report clearing him of all charges. It's unlikely to assuage Subirana's critics in Montreal, and further begs the question: who wants to get rid of the guild boss, and why? Montreal Gazette 09/04/02

CLASSIC FM BRANCHING OUT: While much of the classical music industry struggles, Britain's ClassicFM is thriving, and expanding. The company operates an all-classical radio network with 6.7 million listeners per week, a magazine with strong circulation, and a successful record label. So what's the next logical step? Television, of course. Classic FM says it will launch an over-the-air TV channel next year, and is confident that it can make money on the project. The Times (UK) 09/04/02

88 KEYS AND NOTHING TO SAY: Critic Martin Kettle is bored. "If there were a softer and gentler way of saying this, then I would say it. But in my view, modern concert pianists have become boring. Very few of them have anything very interesting to say, at least to me. To make such statements is to invite some heartfelt attacks. Some will say that it isn't the pianists who are boring, but I who am bored with the piano. Perhaps that is the case. But then I only have to put on a CD by Schnabel to know that I'll never be bored by him, at any rate." The Guardian (UK) 09/05/02

THEY'RE SO MUCH BETTER ON THE WALL: A Stradivarius violin will be auctioned at Christie's this week. This in itself is not terribly unusual - although there are only 500 or so Strads known to exist, they pop up at auction with some frequency - but this instrument is a perfect example not only of the absurdly high cost of the world's top violins (it is expected to fetch $1.3 million,) but of the central conflict between collectors and performers. Incredibly, in 275 years, the fiddle has never been owned by a professional musician, and never been played in a concert. BBC 09/05/02

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: That CD you paid $18 for at a big national retailer cost the record company around thirty cents to produce, and these days, most consumers are aware of that, and are fairly unhappy about it. The industry has been accused for years of keeping CD prices artifically and indefensibly high, but now, the prices are coming down for the first time as individual labels try to dig out from under abysmal sales numbers and declining interest in their product. CDs by major artists are now selling like hotcakes at $11 to $13, and the industry may be on the verge of discovering a fascinating marketing concept called supply and demand. Chicago Tribune 09/05/02

SCORE ONE FOR THE HEAVYWEIGHTS: "A Chicago federal court judge granted the recording industry's request for an injunction to shutter the file-trading network originally known as Aimster, almost certainly ending the company's short life. The decision came down on the same day Napster quietly closed its doors for good, posting only a series of rotating animations on its website's front door." The battle over file-trading and music sharing has been raging for two years now, pitting consumers looking for free access to their favorite songs against a recording industry desperate to wring every penny they can out of the people who buy their recordings. Wired 09/04/02

Wednesday September 4

THE MUSIC EFFECT: "Science may not have yet figured out exactly how, or why, human beings respond to music. But research across many disciplines shows that music is a powerful stimulator, shaper and maybe even sharpener of memory." Hartford Courant 09/04/02

STATISTICS, DAMN STATISTICS AND LIES: A new batch of polls and surveys arrives to depress the classical music faithful. Classical is a dying art, the evidence says. But is it really dying? There's plenty of evidence to the contrary, and besides, don't surveys prove the theories going into them? The Telegraph (UK) 09/04/02

SALZBURG SUCCESS: The Salzburg Festival ends its first season under new director Peter Ruzicka. "The season ended with a total of 21.75 million euros in ticket sales and a budget surplus of 1.6 million euros. The festival played to 93.5 percent capacity, attracting 212,000 visitors." Andante 09/03/02

IT'S ALL ONE BIG POP: Nicholas Kenyon, director of the Proms, Britain's biggest music series, says that lines between classical and pop music have broken down. "We have to recognise there is no longer a dividing line between the classical and pop worlds. They're not in completely separate camps - there's an overlap. We have to respond to what the audience listens to, and the audience's tastes are wider and more volatile than ever. The audience is a voracious consumer of all sorts of cultural experience." BBC 09/03/02

MUSICAL THEATRE AT THE ROYAL OPERA? London's Royal Opera House might start offering musical theatre on its stage, alongside opera, says Anthony Pappano, the Royal's new director. "I'm a big fan of musicals. I think it's our job to expand the vistas of what is and is not musical theatre." Pappano also said he would consider also using "enhanced sound" otherwise known as amplification. BBC 09/03/02

Tuesday September 3

I WANT TO HEAR LEONARDO'S NINTH: All ye who love music, read the following at your own peril... A UK magazine survey reports that "65% of children under 14 cannot name one classical composer. Only 14% of 600 children nationwide knew Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven wrote music." Asked to name a composer, students answered variously with historical figures such as Leonardo da Vinci and Shakespeare." The Guardian (UK) 09/02/02

SOVIET TREASURE: For years the heart of the Soviet Ministry of Radio and Television archives - recordings of some of the USSR's most important artists - have been stored away and inaccessible. "Now, after years of legal and technical wrangling, the performances recorded over nearly seven decades are being released. They number more than 400,000 - enough to fill 12,000 compact discs." The Plain Dealer (AP) (Cleveland) 09/02/02

GREAT VIBES: "Lionel Hampton was a defining voice for a generation of musicians who understood that it was possible to entertain without sacrificing one's quest for inventiveness. And he did so with consummate skill." Los Angeles Times 09/02/02

Sunday September 1

DEAD MAN TELLS A TALE: When Gerald Segalman died, the elite, secretive world of violin dealers was salivating even before the casket was in the ground. Segalman was known to be one of the world's foremost collectors of priceless instruments, and his estate promised to make millionaires of the dealer who managed to oversee the sale of the valuable fiddles. What none of the dealers foresaw was that Segalman's legacy would blow the lid off their deceptive, underhanded fraternity, which for years has been over- and under-valuing instruments based on their own desires, and gouging the musicians who actually need them. The Guardian (UK) 08/31/02

WHO FORGOT TO STROKE THE MONEY GUY? Opera patron Alberto Vilar, whose fiscal generosity may be exceeded only by his considerable ego, is pitching a rather public fit at the British government, which he accuses of ignoring him and forgetting "to say the two most important words - thank you." Vilar says his support of London's Covent Garden will continue, but also promised that the UK would "regret" its treatment of him. BBC 09/01/02

AND IN THIS CORNER... For a critic, reviewing a work of new music presents unique challenges, not the least of which is that the composer is still around to shoot back if s/he doesn't like what's written. Two Pulitzer Prize-winners - one a composer, one a critic - see the conflict from decidedly different angles, and the debate ranges from whether critics are capable of recognizing a bad performance of a good piece to whether composers drastically overstate the impact of critical assessment. Andante 09/01/02

DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL, JUST PLAY: Race is such an important component of the history of jazz that no one would think of ignoring it. As a result, the musicians who make up the jazz world have tended to be out front of the rest of the country on a wide range of social issues over the years. Yet the jazz world has maintained a macho, testosterone-driven style which has made it nearly impossible for gay musicians to be open about their sexuality. Jazz has maintained a staunchly conservative attitude towards gays, and the jazz world went into an uproar in 1996 when a biography revealed that the famed composer Billy Strayhorn had been gay. Why isn't this situation getting any better with the passage of time? The New York Times 09/01/02

CHILDREN ARE THE FUTURE, RIGHT? Even as death knells, critical blasts, and doomsaying analyses continue to pour in from the press, the world of classical music appears to be building a power generation of young musicians. Youth orchestras, which, arguably, play at a higher level today than at any point in the past, are overflowing with talent, and the toughest college in the nation to get into is still Juilliard. The young people participating in the training are wildly passionate about the music they play, and many in the industry say that such devotion will assure that classical music will continue to be a viable enterprise for decades to come. The Christian Science Monitor 08/30/02

THE LITTLE LABEL THAT COULD: "This year marks the fifteenth anniversary of Naxos, the once dowdy little budget record company that is now the biggest independent classical label in the world. Back in 1987, Naxos’s founder and CEO Klaus Heymann decided to record 100 popular classical music titles as a sideline to his main business of distributing sound systems in Asia. From that humble beginning Naxos grew into an international conglomerate with 250 employees and a catalogue of over 2400 CDs... Today Naxos dominates classical music sales in the UK, Germany, and Scandinavia with 30%-80% of the per unit classical market." La Scena Musicale 09/01/02

TROUBLE IN TEXAS: For some orchestras, it just seems as if nothing they do is ever enough. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra has risen to national prominence in the last decade under the baton of a popular young conductor; it has increased ticket sales; and in a year when many orchestras lost tens of millions of dollars from their endowments, the DSO actually increased its stockpile of money by $4.3 million. And yet, as their new season opens, the orchestra is staring down a massive deficit, and wondering what it will take to sustain its recent success. Dallas Morning News 09/01/02

TANGLEWOOD TUSSLE: The musicians of the Boston Symphony Orchestra take their role as instructors at the Tanglewood Music Center very seriously, as do the TMC's students, who represent some of the most promising young players in the U.S. So when the BSO musicians complain that the Center is not providing enough performing opportunities for its students, it's something of a major controversy. Of particular concern was the small number of large-scale works programmed at TMC this summer, which meant a lot of sitting around for the brass. Boston Globe 08/30/02 (first item)

LIONEL HAMPTON, 94: It's a good bet that, absent Lionel Hampton, the world would never have come to think of vibraphone as a great jazz instrument. But Hampton, who "until recently continued to tour the world with his own immensely popular big band, was an extremely important figure in American music, not only as an entertainer and an improvising musician in jazz, but also because his band helped usher in rock 'n' roll." Hampton died in a New York hospital this weekend. The New York Times 09/01/02


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