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Monday December 31

DOWN YEAR FOR CONCERTS: On the American concert circuit, "the top 100 concert tours sold 34.4 million tickets in 2001, down about 7 percent from 37.1 million the year before, according to an analysis by Pollstar magazine." U2 earned $109.7 million, the second highest gross ever for a tour (The Rolling Stones 1994 tour earned $121.2 million). Contra Costa Times (AP) 12/31/01

SVETLANOV EMERGES: Two years ago, the Russian Culture Minister dumped legendary conductor Yevgeny Svetlanov as head of the State Symphony Orchestra. Svetlanov had led the orchestra for 35 years. Earlier this month Svetlanov conducted in St. Petersburg. "Inevitably, therefore, Svetlanov's appearance in the Bolshoi Hall of the Philharmonia with this distinguished orchestra took on something of the air of revenge against official Moscow. Petersburg, as the guardian of tradition and conservative orchestral tastes, was obliged to show that it maintained its own attitude toward Svetlanov." St. Petersburg Times 12/7/01

EDWARD DOWNES, 90: Edward Downes, famous to millions of opera lovers as the host of weekly Texaco Opera Quiz heard during intermissions of Saturday broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera, has died at the age of 90. Nando Times (AP) 12/30/01

Sunday December 30

A DOWN YEAR: "After a banner 2000, sales of recorded music are down for the first time in years. A souring economy caused fans to think carefully before plunking down $125 to see Janet Jackson, and tour interruptions following Sept. 11 dealt the live-music industry another setback. To make matters worse, as record labels struggled unsuccessfully to combat online file-sharing of individual songs, sales of blank discs soared, thanks to the growing popularity of home-computer CD burners able to copy entire albums." St. Paul Pioneer Press (KR) 12/30/01

BAD BUT POPULAR? Promoter Raymond Gubbay's Christmas Festival is the best-attended classical music event in Scotland. So why do musicians and "serious" music fans disdain them? "Executives and administrators of full-time classical orchestras are usually contemptuous in their dismissal of the whole Gubbay empire, whose populist musical extravaganzas range across the calendar and throughout the UK. Many professional classical musicians will have nothing to do with Gubbay concerts - the phrase 'it's only a Gubbay gig' is usually delivered with a snort of derision and the equivalent of a spit." Glasgow Herald 12/28/01

KILLING A COMMODITY: World Music is booming. But it's also been turned into a commodity "as a party-adjunct, a feelgood frippery. Sometimes, as with Thomas Mapfumo, it comes garlanded with political respect, but mostly it's a case of shove it in a corner, and add a smiling face in a funny hat: hey folks, it's world music time." The Independent (UK) 12/30/01

MOVING BACK THE RING: Los Angeles Opera has been on a massive ramp-up in its artistic activities, including a new Ring production projected to cost as much as $60 million. "It was scheduled to begin in spring 2003, with the presentation of one or two operas each year at the Shrine Auditorium, leading up to the presentation of the complete cycle at the same venue in 2006." But after a downturn in the company's business after September 11, funding the production will take more time. The new plan is to wait until 2006 and present the cycle all at once. Los Angeles Times 12/30/01

HANDEL HOUSE: George Handel lived at 25 Brook Street "for 36 years: an eternity for someone active in the 18th- century music world. Baroque composers, not unlike their latter-day rock counterparts, were famous for unstable lives. They traveled across mountains, seas and battlefields in search of work or patronage." Now part of the house has been turned into a museum, the only museum in London devoted to a composer. The New York Times 12/30/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Friday December 28

SO WHO NEEDS COMPOSERS? At a conference in Germany, an inventor shows off his robotic/computer composer. "On six strings tuned to one chord, and with connected equipment producing a rock-like effect without human involvement, the contraption really did play something that sounded like the blues. With distortions and overdrives, the resulting sound was somewhat weird, gruff and expressive, resembling Jimi Hendrix's live version of Voodoo Child. The artist claimed that the digital computer taught itself to play, in the best tradition of a basement band, as it were. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 12/27/01

FANFARE FOR THE COMMON FOLK: "[U.K.] junior culture minister Kim Howells has written of his "regret" over remarks he made about folk music. During a parliamentary debate in early December the minister described listening to folk singers as his idea of hell." BBC 12/28/01

WHAT'S HAPPENED TO AUSSIE MUSIC? "I've come to conclude that in an important sense orchestras are museums and that it's right and proper they fulfil this function. But just as they seem to be doing a better job of new music than at any time since the 1960s, there is room for improvement on the museum front. In particular, in the wing of the museum marked 'Australia', someone appears to have removed all the pieces for cleaning and then forgotten to put them back again. A foreigner could attend symphony concerts all around this country in 2002 and conclude that Australian music began in about 1998." Sydney Morning Herald 12/28/01

WRAPPING UP 2001 DOWN UNDER: Sydney's classical music scene has been dominated this year by the personalities of two very different music directors. Edo deWaart, the outgoing MD of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, is on his way out, with equal amounts of grumbling and grudging respect emanating from his musicians. Meanwhile, Simone Young is just settling into the head job at Opera Australia, and her enthusiasm is apparently catching. Sydney Morning Herald (courtesy Andante) 12/28/01

YOU MEAN THEY BEAT BRITNEY? 31 years after the breakup of The Beatles, the band has scored its first #1 album in the U.S. A collection of old hits by the Fab Four took the top spot on the Billboard charts for 2001, proving either that Americans are beginning to return to good music, or that we buy way too many 'best of' albums. BBC 12/28/01

UNDERSTANDING RICHTER: Soviet pianist Sviatoslav Richter was not a man easily defined. A brilliant technician and musical master, he nonetheless refused to accept that any of his skills made him worthy of the praise he received, both at home and abroad. "He wanted the focus to be entirely on the music, and not on himself; a tremendous musical personality, he detested the cult of personality." Boston Globe 12/28/01

BORING ME SILLY: More and more musicians are keeping online journals. But why are they so banal? "The common denominator of these notebooks is their superficiality. They have none of the serenity of Janet Baker's late journal, nor the energy of the young Kenneth Branagh's. They serve, ostensibly, as a token of the artist's urge to communicate. But since the artist has, in most cases, nothing to say, they reduce art to mundanity and deflate our eagerness to hear it." The Telegraph (UK) 12/26/01

Thursday December 27

NAGANO STAYS WITH GERMAN ORCHESTRA: "After months of threats and legal squabbles, Deutsches Sinfonie-Orchester chief conductor Kent Nagano has agreed in principle to renew his contract beyond 2003, and the mud-slinging over organizational boss Bettina Pesch seems to have stopped. Nagano's squabbles with Pesch were not worthy of the press attention accorded them; the injustices committed against him were largely in his own imagination." Andante 12/26/01

PAVAROTTI MAKES SHANGHAI DEBUT: Pavarotti makes his debut in Shanghai (reportedly for a fee as high as $1 million). "Ticket prices soared as high as $720, not that far below what an average Shanghai resident earns in a year. In the program, Mr. Pavarotti was referred to as Pavartti, as well as Pavanotti." The New York Times 12/27/01 (one-time registration required for access)

BRING ON 2002: It would be overstating the case somewhat to say that 2001 was a dismal year for America's classical music industry. But with multiple orchestras in a financial bind (with some actually shutting down,) and some high-profile groups using September 11 as an excuse to cancel performances of controversial and difficult music, it's hard not to wonder whether the nation really values its cultural heritage as much as it says is does. San Jose Mercury News 12/27/01

Wednesday December 26

UPBEAT TIMES FOR ORCHESTRAS: With all the bad news about the health of symphony orchestras, it's easy to think the orchestra world is on the ropes. But a closer look gives plenty of reason for optimism. Plenty of new talented musicians, interesting young conductors, and "the graying of the classical orchestra audience is a myth." Los Angeles Times 12/25/01

"STAMP OUT SCROOGE": Calling Winnipeg Symphony management "Scrooges" for locking out its musicians in a contract dispute, Bramwell Tovey, the orchestra's former music director, returned to Winnipeg to conduct a free concert by the players. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/26/01

Monday December 24

MIAMI'S ENDANGERED CLASSICAL MUSIC STATION: The new owners of South Florida's classical music radio station says they're going to abandon the format in favor of talk radio. So the previous owner is launching a campaign to get the station back and save the music. "But he probably won't know the results of his efforts for 60 days or more, and should he prove unsuccessful, the future of classical on our local airwaves looks bleak." Miami Herald 12/23/01

SAVING ST. LOUIS: The financially-endangered St. Louis Symphony has seen a swell of support since it announced a cash emergency. "The contributions ranged from a $5 check sent in by a school bus driver to $3,000 raised by a student string quartet, from $20,000 from a brand-new patron of the orchestra to $25,000 from the mostly volunteer, 130-member St. Louis Symphony Chorus." St. Louis Post-Dispatch 12/23/01

  • Previously: ST. LOUIS REPRIEVE: In September the St. Louis Symphony said it had to raise "$29 million in stopgap funding - $20 million to be raised in the form of pledges by Dec. 31, 2001, and the entire $29 million in hand by next spring" or the orchestra would have to be shut down. With December 31 only a little more than a week away, the orchestra has raised $25 million in pledges. Riverfront Times 12/19/01

Sunday December 23

ST. LOUIS REPRIEVE: In September the St. Louis Symphony said it had to raise "$29 million in stopgap funding - $20 million to be raised in the form of pledges by Dec. 31, 2001, and the entire $29 million in hand by next spring" or the orchestra would have to be shut down. With December 31 only a little more than a week away, the orchestra has raised $25 million in pledges. Riverfront Times 12/19/01

SIZE MATTERS: "Are physical attributes in opera really irrelevant? If one regards the art merely as a concert in costume, looks cannot matter. If one regards opera as a fusion of music and drama, suspension of disbelief does." Financial Times 12/22/01

CAMPAIGNING AGAINST MESSIAH: One critic made a heartfelt request last Christmas. "The plea I had back then was simple: that these good souls might move past the yellow dog-eared, much-scrawled scores of what George Bernard Shaw referred to over a century ago, as Messiah's annual 'regulation performance', and move from there to the bright places lit by the sunny music of other equally cheerful songsmiths. But it was not to be, and the plea fell into the chilly waters of public indifference, bubbled briefly, but helplessly, and sank without trace. In fact, if anything, things are worse this year." Irish Times 12/20/01

Friday December 21

MERRY CHRISTMAS MUSIC: Sure there are classic Christmas carols. But there are many more pop Christmas songs, and most of them are an acquired taste of one sort or another. Here's a pretty comprehensive list that includes the sentimental to the simpering to the downright taseless. National Post 12/21/01

DIGESTING KIMMEL'S BAD REVIEWS: Most of the out-of-town critics didn't like the acoustics of Philadelphia's new Kimmel Performing Arts Center, which debuted last weekend. Philadelphians, however, generally declared themselves pleased. "Are their ears wrong? In digesting the out-of-town reviews, acoustical context must be considered. Philadelphia's is the Academy of Music. Few major cities have had so much of their cultural life centralized for so long in a single acoustical environment..." Philadelphia Inquirer 12/20/01

DOESN'T PLAY NICE WITH OTHERS: Despite the PR, there's very little "classical" about violinist Vanessa-Mae. "It seems she prefers to use her instrument to engage in mock fights with the others on stage - guitar, bass, keyboards and drums - just like a child attacking its playmates with a wooden sword in the sandbox. In the sandbox, there is always one child who must have its way; otherwise it starts to scream. Here, that child is the sometimes almost unbearable Vanessa-Mae." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 12/21/01

IMPERIAL SALE: The Bosendorfer piano company has been sold to an Austrian bank. "Boesendorfer and Steinway are considered the Rolls-Royces of pianos. Among the hundreds of virtuosi and composers associated with Boesendorfer since the first handmade instrument was assembled in the early 19th century have been Anton Rubinstein, Johannes Brahms and Bela Bartok." Nando Times (AP) 12/21/01

Thursday December 20

BEETHOVEN'S VIOLA PLAYS AGAIN: After more than 100 years of silence, Beethoven's viola, "the viola the composer played while still an adolescent, probably between 1787 and 1792, in the court orchestra of Elector Maximilian Franz of Bonn," has been played in concert again. "After Beethoven's departure from the orchestra, the viola became the property of Franz Anton Ries, who was also a member of the orchestra as well as Beethoven's violin teacher. It later turned up in America and finally found its way back to Bonn after World War I as part of Ries' estate." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 12/19/01

HAS THE NEW YORK PHIL LOST ITS NEW YORKNESS? As critics consider the New York Philharmonic's post-Masur era, a summing up of his influence on the orchestra is called for. How convenient then that a new collection of Philharmonic performances has been recently released. While there are many things to like, "despite his lengthy list of world premieres and successful forays into the canon, New York's orchestra has lost its New York flavor. It has become woefully generic." The New Republic 12/18/01

A BELATED VERDI PREMIER: Verdi's La Forza del Destino was commissioned by the Russian Directorate of Theaters, and premiered in St. Petersburg. Remarkably, however, it has never been staged by the Bolshoi Theater. Never, until now. Forza, a staple in most other houses, will open at the Bolshoi on December 26. The Moscow Times 12/20/01

THE MUSIC BUSINESS IS, WELL, A BUSINESS: That means it is, first of all, about making money. Consequently, people in the music business are not always nice to each other. Latest example: "Saying he is fed up, television host Dick Clark filed a $10 million lawsuit Wednesday accusing Grammy chief Michael Greene of illegally preventing pop icons such as Michael Jackson and Britney Spears from appearing on Clark's "American Music Awards" program." Detroit News (AP) 12/19/01

THE BBC PHIL'S NEW MAN: Gianandrea Noseda, a "37-year-old Italian who cut his teeth as a conductor with Valery Gergiev in St Petersburg, has just been appointed principal conductor of the Manchester-based BBC Philharmonic, succeeding Yan Pascal Tortelier." He likes fast cars - and collecting orchestras. BBC 12/20/01

Wednesday December 19

INDUSTRY ON THE ROPES: "The music industry is powered by four crucial engines: record labels, radio, the touring industry and retail record stores. And they are all sputtering with a grim array of problems. Napster is hobbled, but music swapping online remains a gleeful pleasure for millions of computer users who have lost interest in actually paying for CDs. Venerable record chains like Tower Records have been on the verge of going out of business. The alternative-rock/country/rap explosion of the 1990s is over, and few new acts are selling - even as consumers are turning up their noses at superstar perennials, too. Major labels have been battered by losses and layoffs, radio station owners are wallowing in an advertising recession, and the concert business lost millions of ticket buyers in just the last year." Salon 12/19/01

DUMB AND DUMBER: "For all the political homilies we hear about raising educational standards, the role of culture in education is under attack from a murderous anti-elitist virus and a secondary infection of multi-cultural confusions. Anything that cannot instantly be grasped by the innocent ear is banned as exclusive. Music in school is modelled on McDonald's: it is cheap, mass-produced and sensorily unchallenging." The Telegraph (UK) 12/19/01

ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS... New York City Opera wants a new home out of the Lincoln Center redevelopment plan. But building a new theatre on the campus isn't likely to happen, what with the objections of others (and you know who you are...). If the company stays in its current home and renovates, it stands to lose the support of its biggest backer. But if it moves elsewhere in the city, costs go up and... The New York Times 12/19/01 (one-time registration required for access)

IT'S REAL, BUT YOU STILL CAN'T PLAY IT: 'The Messiah' is the name that the violin has been given, and fights have raged over its authenticity for years. Is it the work of the great Antonio Stradivari, or a copy made after his death? A professor at the University of Tennessee claims to have dated the instrument to Stradivari's time, further exciting the sort of people who shell out tens of millions of dollars for a musical instrument that has never been, and never will be, played, for fear that actual use might devalue it. Chicago Tribune (AP) 12/19/01

BENEFIT CDs NOT SELLING: "The millions of people who watched two benefit concerts for victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks haven't exactly rushed to buy the compact disc highlights of the shows. 'The Concert for New York City,' a two-disc set compiled from the Madison Square Garden show starring Paul McCartney and the Who, has sold about 148,000 copies in two weeks, according to Billboard. Baltimore Sun (AP) 12/19/01

THE SINGING COP: "If Verdi were to write a new opera, it might run like this: A young man loves to sing, but at first he doesn't succeed. Then he joins the police, where he sings the national anthem. Thanks to his great voice and the mayor's patronage, - he cuts a CD and gets to study with Placido Domingo. But Verdi can put his pen down - it's true." The Christian Science Monitor 12/19/01

Tuesday December 18

ASSESSING THE KIMMEL: With opening weekend behind them, the folks behind Philadelphia's imposing new Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts are reading the initial reviews, and beginning the years-long process of accommodating a new hall to its tenants. But reviews were wildly mixed, and the local perception seemed often at odds with that of out-of-town critics. The overall report card seems to indicate a promising future for Verizon Hall, but much acoustical tweaking will be needed. Philadelphia Inquirer 12/18/01

  • INCOMPLETE GRADE FOR KIMMEL'S 'OTHER' HALL: "In a valiant but ultimately futile effort, the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts' Perelman Theater opened Sunday in such an unfinished state as to misrepresent what it will ultimately look and sound like." Philadelphia Inquirer 12/18/01

THE HOUSE THAT WYNTON BUILT: Jazz at Lincoln Center has a new $115 million home rising at Columbus Circle. Wynton Marsalis is its driving force, its inspiration and its fundraiser. "Yet you wonder how long Wynton can stay in the window of the jazz temple he's building over on Columbus Circle, and what might happen without him. 'They've painted themselves into a corner at Lincoln Center, pushing Wynton so far out front,' says one prominent jazz critic. 'He's very good, but he's not Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington rolled up into one, as they'd have you believe'." New York Magazine 12/17/01

PATRIOTIC ROYALTIES: The Florida Orchestra has sued Arista Records to collect royalty payments from Whitney Houston's SuperBowl performance of the Star Spangled Banner. The orchestra accompanied Houston and "since Sept. 11, the royalties could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars for the nonprofit orchestra, which cut its budget by $600,000 this year to $7.6 million and forced musicians to take a pay cut." Nando Times (AP) 12/17/01

STREAMING MELODIES: "Musicians in the United States have reached a tentative agreement with radio stations over how much should be paid in royalties when a broadcast is streamed over the internet... The deal covers internet streams of shows that are already broadcast over the airwaves by radio stations... It does not cover web-only broadcasters, who are still in arbitration talks expected to last until February." BBC 12/18/01

GREEDY BASTARDS: Universal Music Group this week will become the first company to release new copy-protected CDs that cannot be played on computers, game consoles, or any other non-standard CD player. Anyone wanting the ability to play the music digitally, or "rip" it to an MP3 file, would have to subscribe to one of the industry's online services. Critics have charged that the new protected CDs are nothing more than a naked attempt by the recording industry to force consumers to pay twice for the same music. Wired 12/18/01

QUIT THAT SNIGGERING IN THE HIGHBROW BALCONY, PLEASE: In the wake of 9/11, as with nearly all tragedies, many people turned to music to sooth their battered souls and regain their confidence in the world around them. And with the nation on something of a patriotic jag, there is no question what genre of music is leading the way for regular folks looking to grieve, recover, and rebuild: country is king. Chicago Tribune 12/18/01

BRITISH INVASION: British pop music has enjoyed one of its best years on the American pop charts since the days of Duran Duran and Culture Club. "According to Billboard magazine, sales of albums by British artists soared during 2001 accounting for almost 9% of the top 100." The Guardian (UK) 12/17/01

NO VOICE BEFORE ITS TIME: Young singers are often tempted to take on desirable operatic roles before their voices are ready. Those who push ahead can ruin their voices. Those who hold out until their voices have settled can sing well into later life. But how to judge when the time is right? The Times (UK) 12/18/01

MÖDL DIES: "Renowned German mezzo-soprano Martha Mödl has died at the age of 89, the National Theater in Mannheim announced on Monday. Mödl, one of the most respected Wagner singers of her time, died Sunday after a long illness in a Stuttgart hospital." Andante (courtesy Agence France-Presse) 12/17/01

Monday December 17

HOW'S IT SOUND? Philadelphia's new Kimmel Performing Arts Center opened this weekend. So how were the acoustics? It's too soon to tell it's too soon to tell it's too soon to tell.... "For now the musicians say they are happy. And happy musicians play better. When music is played well, it makes a concert hall's sound seem better. Such is the nature of psycho- acoustics." The New York Times 12/17/01 (one-time registration required for access)

  • THE MAKING OF... "Great concert halls are not born that way. They are designed, built and opened, and then coaxed, polished and aged before settling into a state of greatness. But Verizon Hall is off to a promising start." Philadelphia Inquirer 12/17/01
  • SOME PROBLEMS... The hall "would seem to have some serious acoustical problems, for all of its plush, burnished mahogany and elegant, cello-shaped frame. On the evidence of the two opening concerts the sound is dim, diffuse and unsupported, somehow managing to be both muddy and bone-dry." Washington Post 12/17/01
  • THE SOUND? From my seat, in what should be a prime location, I had trouble hearing the orchestra." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 12/17/01
  • IT WILL EVOLVE: "In the end, though, the acoustics left something to be desired. More definition and presence would be nice, and it will be interesting to hear how the sound evolves." Baltimore Sun 12/17/01
  • UNDERSIZED: "But the sound was distant and small and lacked presence. The audience should be swimming in the lushness of Ravel's Suite No. 2 from Daphnis et Chloe, but we were parched." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 12/17/01
  • FROM THE ORCHESTRA: "In terms of acoustics, 'it's a Stradivarius,' raved the orchestra's principal cellist, William Stokking." Baltimore Sun 12/17/01

LONG TIME BETWEEN ACTS: Paolo Lorenzani's opera Nicandro e Fileno had its debut with "great success" before King Louis XIV and his court at Fontainebleau in September, 1681. This week - 320 years later - it's getting its second performance thanks to the efforts of a University of Alberta music professor. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/17/01

PREDISPOSAL: Should a critic review music he/she doesn't like? One LATimes reader goes digging into the paper's archives for evidence that critic Daniel Cariaga has a thing against Elgar... Los Angeles Times 12/17/01

Sunday December 16

KIMMEL CENTER OPENS: A night after Elton John opened Philadelphia's new concert hall (in return for a fee said to be $2 million), the Kimmel Center's real tenants moved in. "Rough edges in the still-to-be-finished performing arts center were well-hidden; the Philadelphia Orchestra's next music director, Christoph Eschenbach, was helicoptered into Philadelphia after his 5:19 p.m. curtain at New York's Metropolitan Opera; and guest cellist Yo-Yo Ma courted disaster when his chair slipped off a raised platform while performing (he was caught by orchestra violinist Nancy Bean)." Philadelphia Inquirer 12/16/01

  • FIRST REVIEWS - NOT A RAVE: "On Saturday the Philadelphia Orchestra played its first concert in its long-awaited home, the 2,500-seat Verizon Hall in the new $265 million, two-hall Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. Alas, the first report can't be called wildly enthusiastic. Finished in almost unrelieved red mahogany, Verizon is a bit oppressive visually. And, at least in its initial incarnation, it's seriously short of sonic warmth." Dallas Morning News 12/16/01
  • LOOKS GOOD: "Philadelphia's new center distinguishes itself in a big way from the conventional models U.S. cities have been using for a century or more to carve out places for culture in the midst of chaotic urban circumstances. The Kimmel Center is a savvy mix of megastructure, modern architecture, shopping mall and civic plaza." Washington Post 12/16/01

LAMENTS FROM A BORED CRITIC: It looks like the Toronto Symphony has been bailed out of its life-threatening financial woes. But does it deserve its heroic rescue? "in recent months I've walked out of two TSO concerts because I was so bored and because I was enraged at the apathy radiating from most of the orchestra. The TSO as a whole has what I call bad morale genes - too many whiners who have an outrageous sense of entitlement and seem to bear undying grudges against the administration. Unless there is an outstanding conductor on the podium - and how often does that happen? - the TSO's 'house sauce' is note-perfect but soulless playing, redeemed by expressive solos from that consistent but relatively small group of players." National Post (Canada) 12/14/01

SPANO TAKES ATLANTA: Why conductor Robert Spano decided to take on the Atlanta Symphony: "What I could tell from the search committee was: `Here's this great orchestra, here's this very vital, thriving, growing, exciting city, and the two have absolutely nothing to do with each other. There's a total disconnect. We're not getting audiences.' That's a challenge that fascinates me. How do you get this credible, viable artistic institution to mean something to the community in which it lives? Because if it doesn't it's going to die." The New York Times 12/16/01 (one-time registration required for access)

TRUE TO ITS VALUES: Chicago's one remaining classical music station is 50 years old. "WFMT has [built] one of the most loyal audiences in the U.S. by sticking to its initial mission of [offering] quality and excellence and not mucking it up with gimmicks. Outsiders have called the station elitist. But others say it respects the intelligence of its listeners at a time when a growing number of classical radio outlets have dumbed down their programming." Chicago Tribune 12/16/01

PATRIOTIC FOG: "Because of the events of September 11, John Adams finds himself accused of being an 'anti-American' composer, a label with uncomfortable echoes of the McCarthy era of the 1950s." In the New York Times, musicologist Richard Taruskin charged Adams with "romanticising terrorists" in his 1991 opera The Death of Klinghoffer - and, by implication, with romanticising the perpetrators of the attacks on the World Trade Centre, too. Taruskin's article provides some flavour of the atmosphere in the US today. "If terrorism is to be defeated," he wrote, "world public opinion has to be turned decisively against it." That means "no longer romanticising terrorists as Robin Hoods and no longer idealising their deeds as rough poetic justice". The creators of The Death of Klinghoffer - Adams, librettist Alice Goodman and director Peter Sellers - have done just that, he argued. The opera was "anti-American, anti-semitic and anti-bourgeois. Why should we want to hear this music now?" The Guardian (UK) 12/15/01

Friday December 14

ANOTHER ORCHESTRA LOCKOUT: "The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra has locked out its musicians for the first time in its 54-year history. The move followed a unanimous vote by the players yesterday afternoon to reject binding arbitration with conditions that would recoup a projected $400,000 loss at the musicians' expense." Winnipeg Free Press 12/14/01

A WINNER AT BAYREUTH? The battles in Bayreuth over who will control the Wagner Festival may be settled. And it looks like Wolfgang Wagner, the composer's grandson, has won his way after a long, bitter and very public fight. Wagner, 82, "announced that he had appointed Klaus Schultz, one of his steadfast supporters and longtime confidants, as his artistic adviser, starting in January." The New York Times (AFP) 12/14/01 (one-time registration required for access)

DOMINGO'S BREAKDOWN: Tenor Placido Domingo was singing Othello at La Scala this week when he suddenly stopped: " 'Sorry, I can't go on,' croaked the Spanish superstar after his voice broke down in the second act. He then turned and walked off the stage, leaving the audience on tenterhooks." After a short pause he returned and managed to finish the performance, one of the last performances before the opera house shuts down for renovations for three years. Sydney Morning Herald 12/14/01

CONDUCTING A BID: A 25-year-old from Arizona was browsing on eBay when he spotted an offer to conduct the Sydney Philharmonia Choir in a performance of Handel's Messiah. So he anted up his life savings of $7,500 and won the bidding, which was part of a fund-raiser for the chorus. "The funny thing was, no-one had bid on it when I saw it. So I thought, 'OK, I'm game'. And I won. It was as simple as that." Sydney Morning Herald 12/14/01

MR CHRISTMAS CAROL: "In the world of music, John Rutter is Mr Christmas: the most celebrated and commercially successful carol-composer alive. Given the state of world affairs it's hard to predict the supply of peace and goodwill among the nations in the next few weeks, but one thing you can guarantee is that Rutter's choral packaging of those sentiments will be on the lips of countless millions in cathedrals, churches, chapels and mud-hut missions, from Nebraska to Nairobi." The Telegraph (UK) 12/14/01

WHY RUSSIAN POP SUCKS: "If you listen to Frank Sinatra or Elvis Presley, neither the material nor the arrangements are dated. Michael Jackson's 'Billy Jean,' which was recorded in 1982, sounds as if it was recorded a year ago, because it's superb. [Russian artists] don't challenge themselves like that - that's why none of the songs being played now will survive even a year. Artists are not motivated to produce good music [in Russia] - and the main thing is that they don't even try." The Moscow Times 12/14/01

Thursday December 13

IS THIS GOOD OR BAD NEWS? Warner Music UK has announced that, contrary to previous reports which had it scrapping the classical recording business altogether, it will debut a slimmed-down Warner Classics division in January 2002. A Warner official also denied reports that specialty labels Teldec and Erato will cease issuing new releases. Andante 12/13/01

  • CLASSICS ON A BUDGET: "The American arm of the Naxos label, known for its budget classical catalogue of around 2400 titles, has signed a deal with Liquid Audio to distribute selected recordings via Liquid’s network of retail and music web sites." Gramophone 12/13/01

PHILLY'S NEW CONCERT HALL: "Achieving good acoustics in a concert hall is an extremely complex balancing act. The sound of music inside an enclosed space is affected by an enormous number of variables — everything from the shape of the room to the thickness of the walls to the number of seats determines the acoustic environment. Acousticians attempt to collect and measure the quality of sound in a specific space. It all gets very technical, but there are several key elements involved." Andante 12/13/01

  • CONCERT HALL OR CIVIC REVITALIZATION? Philadelphia's new Kimmel Center was built with the help of nearly $100 million of public money, leading some to ask whether the expense of creating such cultural monuments is balanced by the benefits it returns to the community. "Officials say the Kimmel will create 3,000 jobs and generate $153 million in annual spending on tickets, parking, restaurants, hotels and the like. The building itself isn't expected to be profitable for several years." San Jose Mercury News 12/13/01
  • A NEW KIND OF CONCERT HALL: "Philadelphia now breaks ranks with cities that have regressed toward infinite infantilism in the quest to revitalize their downtowns. Rafael Viñoly's architecture is not nostalgic for ye olde city life. It's not ironic about it, and it's not cute. Apart from spatial amplitude, it makes few concessions to luxury or glamour. The exterior, particularly, may strike some concertgoers as harsh. It is only inside the building that the Kimmel Center reveals the elegance of its concept. Mr. Viñoly has designed an urban ensemble, composed primarily of city views. Classical music is the architecture here, the building an instrument in which to perform and hear it." The New York Times 12/13/01 (one-time registration required for access)
  • L.A.'S NEW LANDMARK: In Los Angeles, Frank Gehry's new Disney Concert Hall is taking shape. It's sure to alter the cultural architecture of the city. "The crazily curved building - which evokes the hallucinatory shapes of Disney's more fantastic cartoons - will surely be another milestone in the architect's long career. Now 71, for much of his life he was underappreciated in his adopted city." The Age (Melbourne) 12/13/01

CALL IT THE ANI DIFRANCO BUSINESS MODEL: "Finally, the Internet is starting to pay real dividends to musicians who haven't signed deals with major labels. Big subscriptions are here, but out-of-the-way bands have made it, too." Wired 12/13/01

Wednesday December 12

NOT MUCH TO SING ABOUT: Chorus members rarely - if ever - make money for their work; they get their rewards in other ways. But "a deep gloom has settled over the volunteer sector of the singing world - not the pros who bury Aida nightly at the opera or tweet exquisite Messiaenisms for the 32-strong BBC Singers, but the lawyers, plumbers and home-makers who, from time immemorial, have given up three nights a week for rehearsal, no expenses paid. The choral tradition is in trouble. Money is tight, the music is monotonous and ensembles are turning sloppy." The Telegraph (UK) 12/12/01

A NEW WRINKLE IN DIGITAL RIGHTS: A web company signs up bands performing in clubs to record their performances. The company pays nothing and the bands get the promotion of having their gigs webcast. But "this means that if a band the company recorded signs with a major label and suddenly becomes successful, the Digital Club Network can quickly have a live album by the band in stores. And there won't be any marketing or promotional costs, since the label will have done that work already." The New York Times 12/12/01 (one-time registration required for access)

NEW FORM BEGGING: The Royal Opera House at Covent Garden is trying out a new way to raise money, saying it urgently needs new funds. The company is asking donors to "sponsor" props for performances - "£150 to pay for Macbeth's gold crown, £250 for Othello's sword, £500 for a wig in the production of Queen of Spades, £750 for a rifle in Il Trovatore, £1,500 for a sedan chair in Don Giovanni and £4,500 for a Madonna in the same opera." The Telegraph (UK) 12/12/01

GLASSWERKS: In the last couple of decades the glass harmonica has made something of a comeback, "as some musicians took a liking to its ethereal sound. It is used infrequently in concert performances by the Metropolitan Opera, primarily in Lucia, but its use in smaller regional and chamber music events seems to be increasing." But the only American glass harmonica maker disappeared three years ago. "When he disappeared, it was like an earthquake. More than to say that his loss meant something for the instrument, I prefer to say that his life meant something for the instrument." The New York Times 12/12/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Tuesday December 11

REACHING OUT: Since 1991, Czech nationalism has been such that allowing outsiders to have artistic influence on the country's cultural institutions has been difficult. The Czech Philharmonic, once considered on par with the Vienna Philharmonic, has seen its reputation dwindle in the past decade. But recent developments give hope the Czech Republic is shedding some of its nationalism and opening up. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 12/11/01

BRINGING ART AND TECH TO THE TABLE: "With a glitzy splash, two Montreal universities yesterday launched Hexagram, a research institute that aims to do for song and dance what Silicon Valley did for the computer industry... Hexagram is an attempt to pull together research in the widely expanding field of digital arts with the needs of Quebec's cultural industry." Montreal Gazette 12/11/01

THE LAWSUIT THAT WOULDN'T DIE: Yet another installment of digital music's longest-running soap opera is underway in a California courtroom, with the proprietors of the now-deceased Napster facing off against the corporate giants of the recording industry. But such continued whine-fests seem inherently pointless - not only is the song-swapper dead, but the technology of online music has long since surpassed Napster's crude service. Wired 12/10/01

MASUR GETS TRANSPLANT: New York Philharmonic music director Kurt Masur is recovering from a kidney transplant operation. "The 74-year-old conductor suffered no complications during the operation, which was done Nov. 29 in Liepzig." Andante (AP) 12/10/01

Monday December 10

SOMETHING NEW IN CONCERT HALLS? Philadelphia's new Kimmel Center concert hall is not your traditional shoe-box design. "The Philadelphia Orchestra's new cello-shaped home, part of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, is a uniquely curvaceous, wood-lined concert room that may change the way future generations think about concert halls, the role of the arts in this city, and Philadelphia in general." Philadelphia Inquirer 12/09/01

THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN: Is the sun finally setting on the aging gods of rock music? Elton John announced last week he'd made his last album. And "new releases from rock's other fifty-somethings, such as Rod Stewart (56), Mick Jagger (58) or Sir Paul McCartney (59), have bombed with younger audiences. Jagger limped into the British top 75 last week with his new album Goddess in the Doorway. It sold sold an unimpressive 954 copies on its first day, and just about managed to sell 12,000-odd to reach No 44." New Zealand Herald 12/10/01

MORTIER TO TAKE PARIS OPERA: Outgoing Salzburg Festival director Gerard Mortier has been named director of the Paris National Opera beginning in 2004. "Mortier, 58, earned a reputation at Salzburg both for sponsoring offbeat productions and for clashing noisily with conservative Austrian politicians. The New York Times 12/08/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Sunday December 9

LA SCALA'S SHORTEST SEASON: Milan's La Scala opened its new season Friday night. "The first night marked the opening of the shortest opera season ever at La Scala, which is closing down at the end of the month for at least three years of rebuilding and improvement. Placido Domingo, singing in Verdi's Otello, got a 15-minute standing ovation. The short season has been sold out for weeks, with scalpers getting $2000 for prime tickets. BBC 12/08/01

BIG FIVE BEHIND NEW TWO: America's Big Five orchestras haven't been so big for a long time. That's not to say there aren't plenty of good performances or that these orchestras aren't relevant anymore. But as they enter a new era - most of them with new leadership - they will neeed to reinvent. And for a model - why not look to the New Two - the Los Angeles Philharmonic and San Francisco Symphony? Los Angeles Times 12/09/01

THE POTENT FORCE OF MUSIC: So the Taliban banned music in Afghanistan. "Musicians caught in the act were beaten with their instruments and imprisoned for as many as 40 days." But throughout history, those in power have often sought to control music." Why? Because of "the all but irresistible kinesthetic response that music evokes that makes it such a potent influence on behavior, thence on morals and belief." The New York Times 12/09/01 (one-time registration required for access)

LISTENING TO THE PHILLY'S NEW CONCERT HALL: The Philadelphia Orchestra has being trying to build a new home since about 1908. Next week it moves into the new $263 million Kimmel Center. This week the orchestra got its first chance to try out the acoustics: "The first impression is an overwhelming one, a wonderful one," says music director Wolfgang Sawallisch. "The musicians can hear each other. I can hear each section - individually and in ensemble. Of course, this will take time. You cannot do it in 15 minutes." Philadelphia Inquirer 12/07/01

  • HOW PHILLY GOT ITS NEW HALL: Decades in the dreaming, it took some adjustment in attitude to get it done: "We originally tried to go without support from the public sector. We arrogantly made the statement that we could do it all on our own. The original project was led by a small group of corporate leaders who were not successful at building consensus." The New York Times 12/09/01 (one-time registration required for access)

I'LL BE SAD FOR CHRISTMAS: Some of the best Christmas songs are sad, even mournful. And a great many of them are written by Jewish composers. "Why are there so many Jewish Christmas songs and so few for Chanukah? Chanukah is a minor holiday that has been artificially inflated to keep up with Christmas. Accordingly, the music trails in its wake." The Observer 12/09/01

NOT THE WRITE STUFF: What's wrong with music these days? Try what's wrong with music writers. A new book takes a hard look at the history of pop music critics, and finds...a lot of bores and backstabbing. The Guardian (UK) 12/08/01

SILVERSTEIN STEPS IN TO LEAD FLORIDA PHIL: Violinist/conductor Joseph Silverstein has stepped in to be the South Florida Philharmonic's interim music director while the search for a replacement for recently-ousted James Judd goes on. Judd was forced from the job after 15 years. Miami Herald 11/29/01

Friday December 7

EXPERIMENTING WITH THE FUTURE: The Atlanta Symphony has seen its box office sales erode in recent seasons; the orchestra was particularly hurt by a musicians' strike. This season, under new music director Robert Spano, the orchestra has aggressively experimented with its format, introducing light shows and installations to accompany music, and performing more contemporary fare. Some patrons object, complaining that the additions are distracting from the music. And yet, attendance is beginning to climb... Atlanta Journal-Constitution 12/07/01

GUITAR DISPUTE: An agreement that would have determined who gets to keep the late Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia's custom-made guitars has fallen apart. Garcia's will says the instruments were to be returned to their maker. The band says members of the group signed an agreement to leave the instruments to a museum. National Post (Canada) 12/07/01

WORDS OVER MUSIC: Supertitles at the opera have transformed the artform. Some believe it is the main reason why opera attendance has soared in recent years. But many stage directors and artists deplore them. "I have a terrible feeling that when you go to the opera now, reading the titles becomes the primary experience, followed by the music, followed by the visual [element], followed by the performance. Because words have an appearance of exact meaning, your mind gravitates to the specificity.... The opera becomes like text with background music." OperaNews 12/01

HAS THE RECORDING INDUSTRY GONE TOO FAR? "Though the record industry used lawsuits to shutter Napster, Scour and others, it's now facing a much hardier breed of challengers. As a result, the Big Five record labels and their trade group, the Recording Industry Association of America, have begun to employ an array of technological tricks to fight piracy - tricks that, in turn, have led some online, in the courts, in Congress and even in the Bush administration to say they've gone too far." NewTimes LA 12/05/01

Thursday December 6

CONCERT BUSINESS DOWN: Fewer people have gone to concerts this year as the economy has slowed. "Attendance among the top 50 touring acts was down 15.5 percent through the first half of 2001. But not in Atlanta. Here music fans are still concertgoing in respectable numbers." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 12/06/01

CONTINUING GOOD NEWS FOR DSO: Neeme Jarvi is back, and now management and musicians at the Detroit Symphony have agreed to a new four-year contract. To top it off, an anonymous gift will cover the orchestra's million-dollar shortfall from last year. Detroit News 12/05/01

  • Previously: JARVI RETURNS: Conductor Neeme Jarvi returned to the podium over the weekend with his first concerts since he suffered a stroke last July. "The instant Jarvi appeared from the right stage entrance for the first time Friday night, the audience of 2,200 rose and cheered 'Bravo, maestro!' and 'Bravo, Neeme!'" Detroit News 11/25/01

MUSIC AS KEY TO THE UNIVERSE: "The very idea of a 'key to the universe' today seems as quaint as the belief that the Earth is flat. We are more familiar with concepts such as Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, or chaos theory, or irrational numbers that can be calculated to an infinite and patternless number of decimal places. Even if a key to the universe could be discovered, the lock that it fits long ago disappeared. But for thousands of years, from the ancient Greeks to the Church fathers to the Enlightenment, the existence of such a key was not a fantasy but a premise of intellectual life, and the key was situated at the intersection of music, science, and religion." The New Republic 12/04/01

STAR SEARCH: Seven conductors in their 20s and 30s have gathered in Indiana to compete in the North American regional round of Alberto Vilar's and Lorin Maazel's worldwide conducting competition. "Following the North American regional round in Bloomington, there will be rounds at Krakow, Poland, in January; London in February; Sao Paulo, Brazil, in April; and Sydney, Australia, in August. One conductor from each round will advance to the finals in September in New York City's Carnegie Hall." Indianapolis Star 12/04/01

MUSIC IN DIFFICULT TIMES: "Do audiences need the continued comfort that familiar art provides, or do they need it to push them and force them confront and understand the world as it is?" This is the question facing programmers in the weeks since September 11. NewMusicBox 12/01

Wednesday December 5

HOW CROSSOVER KILLED CLASSICAL: "This week's top-selling 'classical' album in the US is piano music composed by Billy Joel, a faded rock star. The top two albums in Britain are punched out by Russell Watson, an industrial-strength tenor who assaults football terraces with pop ballads and ice-cream arias in marshmallowy, Mantovani-like settings. These are the core of contemporary classics. Were the charts to be purged of such mongrelisms, there is little doubt that classical sales would fall below one per cent and the business would be shut down." And yet, maybe the efforts gone into promoting such crossovers is killing the legit classical biz. The Telegraph (UK) 12/05/01

DEATH BY POPULARITY? The annual Glastonbury Festival is Europe's largest music festival. But this year's edition was canceled because of safety concerns. Authorities are threatening to kill next year's edition for the same reason. "Last year's festival was licensed for 105,000 spectators - but some estimates put the real attendance above 200,000." Organizers were fined for allowing too many people in. BBC 12/05/01

THE URBAN COWGIRL RIDES OFF: Few North American orchestras can boast truly outstanding management these days - stunning incompetence is much more common. But the San Francisco Symphony has been flourishing over the last decade, thanks in large part to its dynamic president, Nancy Bechtle. Bechtle, who is stepping down after a 14-year reign, was feted this week at Davies Symphony Hall, even as more good news about the state of the SFS was released: "[T]he Symphony ended its fiscal year with a $48.7 million budget, retired its accumulated deficit of $597,000, [and] presented 237 concerts attended by nearly 600,000 people." San Francisco Chronicle 12/05/01

AVANT GARDE - MISSING IN ACTION: What happened to the opera avant garde? Twenty-five years ago Philip Glass's Einstein on the Beach promised to energize and change the world of contemporary opera. But that promise was never fulfilled and today's operas act as if the avant garde never happened. Financial Times 12/05/01

YOUNGEST OPERA COMPOSER? Fifteen-year-old Sophie Serese "is believed to be the youngest person to have written both music and libretto for a full-length opera, although Mozart wrote the music to his first opera when he was 12." Her third opera premieres this week in Melbourne. The Age (Melbourne) 12/05/01

BET THE NY PHIL THINKS THIS IS HILARIOUS: In what may be the strangest development to come out of the current world tensions, renowned French conductor/composer Pierre Boulez was detained by Swiss authorities, and informed that he was on their list of potential terrorists. Apparently, back in his impetuous youth in the 1960s, Boulez publicly declared that opera houses should be blown up. BBC 12/04/01

DEPRIEST GETS HIS KIDNEY: "After waiting six months for a transplant, Oregon Symphony conductor James DePreist has undergone surgery to receive a kidney from an anonymous donor... He suffers from kidney disease, which is incurable, but DePreist has said a new kidney 'lasts indefinitely.'" Andante (AP) 12/05/01

Tuesday December 4

LA SCALA'S RISKY RENOVATION: "On Friday, Milan's opera season will open in Teatro alla Scala, as it has done for 223 years, but will then move for two years to a newly-built auditorium in an industrial suburb. No one knows if audiences will follow. In the superstitious art world there are fears La Scala's rebuilding may be as cursed as that of the Royal Opera House in London, La Fenice in Venice and Teatro Massimo in Palermo. If the bureaucratic bungling, mafia infiltration and bad luck of these other renovations afflicts La Scala, its reopening in June 2004 could be delayed by years." The Guardian 12/02/01

WHO LEARNS MUSIC ANYMORE? What's happened to arts education? "There simply isn't time in our culture to take music seriously. Mothers who might once have encouraged their children to take piano lessons or study the violin in order to expand their minds and acquire the fundamentals of good discipline are now often forced to tackle two jobs just to make ends meet, leaving their kids in after-school or day-care programs. That luxury we used to call 'spare time' is so diminished that families don't regularly get together at the kitchen table; they now consider a quick meal at McDonald's a sit-down dinner." Opera News 12/01

WHAT'S IN A PERFORMANCE? The hype surrounding the Philadelphia Orchestra's 2000 premiere of Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara's 8th Symphony was at a fever pitch by the time the first performances occurred. Sadly, conductor, musicians, and critics alike were disappointed with the results, and the premiere appeared to be an unusual failure for Rautavaara. But a new recording may be proving that it's all in the interpretation. Philadelphia Inquirer 12/04/01

HOW TO RUN AN ORCHESTRA: St. Louis is teetering, Toronto just barely dodged a bullet, Chicago is vulnerable, and countless other North American orchestras are running deficits and running scared. So has anyone figured out how to run a profitable, yet artistically skilled orchestra? Well, Nashville has. Yeah, that Nashville. Nashville Tennessean 12/04/01

LOSS LIEDER: "For whatever reason, vocal programs have shot up in number and quality in the past few years. The phenomenon has stemmed in part from an influx of talent: so many compelling baritones, mezzos, and light-voiced tenors have popped up that the names have begun to blur." The New Yorker 12/03/01

AFTER YOU BEAT 'EM, JOIN 'EM: "The first of the major record labels' online music download services, MusicNet, is launching among a flurry of activity of paid-for sites hoping to win over post-Napster music fans. MusicNet, which is backed by Warner, EMI and Bertelsmann, will be available through RealNetworks' new RealOne service from Tuesday." BBC 12/04/01

  • AND THEN RESTRICT 'EM: The music industry has high hopes for their new pay-for-download service, but MusicNet carries such heavy restrictions on where and how users can listen to the music they buy that many online music enthusiasts are barely taking notice of the launch. Wired 12/04/01

Monday December 3

WHY THERE'S HOPE FOR CLASSICAL MUSIC: "The 'regression equation' - one of the preferred tools for understanding economies - shows that for classical orchestras, the likelihood of money being spent on orchestral music is linked to consumers’ increasing age, education, and income. Graying of classical music audiences is most often viewed as a serious problem rather than a valuable asset. Economic demographer David Foote offers telling arguments as to why aging baby-boomers are likely to increase the classical music market." La Scena Musicale 12/01/01

  • AND THAT INCLUDES OPERA: Opera devotees are fond of bemoaning the passing of what they view to have been opera's Golden Age in the mid-20th centuiry. "But is the situation really so bad? It might be worthwhile to step back and take a brief survey of where opera — particularly among American composers — seems to be heading of late. While there's no single emerging trend, several tendencies suggest a relatively healthy state, arguably more fertile than what has been seen in the recent past." Andante 12/03/01

WHY HOW WE GET MUSIC HAS CHANGED: It's popular to say that the internet really changed nothing after the dotcom crash. And recording companies would probably be happy with such a version of history. But the music-sharing phenomenon has transformed how we get music, and traditional music companies blew it every step of the way. Salon 12/03/01

WHEN ORCHESTRA GOES BUST: What happens to subscribers' money when an orchestra goes out of business? The San Jose Symphony offers three options...San Jose Mercury News 12/02/01

THE MUSICAL PSYCHIC: Psychic Rosemary Isabel Brown has died at the age of 85. "She claimed to have been in touch with Beethoven, Liszt, Chopin and some 20 other composers who had employed her as their contact on earth to receive their latest compositions. How was it that a woman apparently of little musical ability had one day sat at a piano and had begun to play Chopin with ease, and Chopin music that no one had heard before?" The Economist 11/30/01

HSU DIES: "Fei-Ping Hsu, a Chinese-born American concert pianist who built an acclaimed career after spending part of the 1960s banished to a rural rice farm, was killed in a car accident in northeastern China. He was 51." Nando Times (AP) 12/03/01

Sunday December 2

BUILDING A BETTER ORCHESTRA: Why do some orchestras flounder along - some even going out of business - while others always seem to thrive? Sure there's something to quality and repertoire and having enough money. But "the most important factor is the one that most audience members are probably least aware of: the board and its leadership. San Francisco Chronicle 12/02/01

A NEW GEORGE: "A last album of George Harrison’s music was being finished in secrecy in the months before his death. He played tracks from the CD to his family and friends in his private room at a Los Angeles hospital last Sunday, four days before he died." Sunday Times (UK) 12/02/01

HOW TO PLAN A CONCERT HALL: Before there's a design, before there's a budget, there's a guy. A guy who takes all the hopes and aspirations for a new concert hall and starts funneling them into a new $200 million concert hall. In Atlanta the guy is Tom Tomilinson, and the Atlanta Symphony is counting on him. Atlanta Journal-Constitution 12/02/01

CRITIC'S CRITIC: By the end of his life (he died at age 85 last week) former Washington Post music critic Paul Hume had stopped listening to music, said his wife. It didn't interest him anymore. But "the defining characteristic of Hume's tenure was an intense love for everything about music and the making of it. That may seem like an awfully obvious thing for a music critic, but it can't be taken for granted." Baltimore Sun 12/02/01


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