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Sad passing of great voice teacher

Vera Rozsa, one of the most important singing teachers of the modern era, has died in London, aged 93, her son informs me. A mezzo-soprano who studied conducting with Zoltan Kodaly, she lost her first husband, Lazslo Weiner, in a wartime labour camp. After liberation she sang in both Budapest and Vienna opera houses until the loss of a lung to the after-effects of wartime pneumonia ended her stage career. Married to a British official, Ralph Nordell, she moved to London in 1954 and … [Read more...]

News just in: Verdict in the oboe case

An employment tribunal in Cardiff has ruled unanimously that oboist Murray Johnston was neither victimised by its former music director, Carlo Rizzi, nor unfairly dismissed (see earlier commentary). The decision is a serious blow for the Musicians Union, which supported Mr Johnston and conducted member ballots on his behalf. While Welsh National Opera expressed quiet satisfaction at the victory, the ruling is unlikely to allay the orchestra's unhappiness, as described to the court. First … [Read more...]

New baton in Vienna

The Vienna Philharmonic's having a rocky ride with its Japan tour. First, Seiji Ozawa fell ill. He was replaced by Andris Nelsons and Esa-Pekka Salonen. Now Salonen has pulled out. Looks like Franz Welser-Möst, the new Opera chief, will fly in to save the tour along with the ever-willing Georges Pretre. Salonen's Vienna concert is being taken over by Andres Orozco-Estrada. Who's that? He's 33, a hot young Colombian at the Tonkünstler orchestra of Lower Austria, as well as the … [Read more...]

In defence of the X-factor

Two cultural arguments were advanced in last night's Battle of Ideas debate in vindication of the gladiatorial television contest that has created a feeding frenzy in British mass media. The New Culture Forum founder Peter Whittle suggested that Simon Cowell's ruthlessly commercial competition was useful corrective to the anti-competitive ethos fostered in UK schools - the politically correct attitude that 'everyone must have prizes'. And Mark Frith, editor of Time Out … [Read more...]

How musicians get fired, or not

I have written an op-ed in the Daily Telegraph this morning discussing the issues raised by the current employment tribunal case in Cardiff, where an oboist at Welsh National Opera is claiming he was 'victimised' and 'bullied' by the conductor, Carlo Rizzi. What goes on in an orchestra's rehearsal room can never be resolved by law and logic, least of all my musical merit. Chemistry, temperature and body language are essential elements in the making and maintenance of a good orchestra. When … [Read more...]

Breaking news: major move for Deutsche Grammophon

More than 20 years after German reunification, the emblematic Universal-owned yellow label is finally being transferred from Hamburg to Berlin, it was announced today. The move has been fiercely resisted by label diehards and was accomplished only after the removal of the universally unpopular Universal president of classical and jazz, Chris Roberts. Contrary to heavy Hamburg rumours all week long, Universal has officially confirmed that DG will remain under the … [Read more...]

How the X Factor manufactures musical porn

I am speaking tonight at the Battle of Ideas on television's last-ever water-cooler moment, the regimented talent contest known as the X Factor. Like most of the population, I have watched a few minutes of it and formed a view. Knowing the music business as I do, it is fairly easy to see through the pretence of 'people's winners' and musical democracy to the cynical mass production of cash-till jingles. Nothing wrong with that. One can also see how the show actively perverts the … [Read more...]

It’s Pavarotti’s birthday, someone said

He would have been 75 today. Nice to know Big Lucy's duetting it up there once more with Dame Joan. (With Solti conducting?) … [Read more...]

BBC man disses Dame Joan

The BBC's flagship Ten O'clock News had nine hours yesterday to prepare a tribute to the 'voice of the century' and disgraced itself on every count. The report was fronted by the Beeb's geek-spectacled arts/news editor, Will Gompertz, a former Tate staffer whose lack of interest in the performing arts has been evident from day one. Gompertz apparently spent most of his day preparing a report on the new Ai Wei Wei installation at - guess where? - the Tate. Old loyalties die hard. The … [Read more...]

News just in: Joan Sutherland has died

Dame Joan Sutherland, the dominant opera soprano after Maria Callas, died during the night of October 11, 2010 at her home at Les Avents, near Montreux, Switzerland, her family have announced. She was a month short of her 84th birthday. An overnight star in 1959, when she stormed the mad scene in Franco Zefirelli's production of Lucia di Lammermoor, the Australian was steered by her conductor husband Richard Bonynge ever deeper into the bel canto repertory of Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti … [Read more...]

Happy birthday, who?

Deutsche Grammophon has posted a happy birthday page for the Chinese pianist, Yundi Li. Have they forgotten they fired him last year, at Lang Lang's insistence? Only for Lang Lang then to walk out on them and join Sony on a $3 million handshake. Does no-one in these giant corporations talk to one another? Yundi, by the way, is now with EMI.          (picture credit: DG) … [Read more...]

Guess who’s gonna be Daddy Dude?

Gustavo Dudamel has told the Los Angeles Times that he and his wife, Eloísa Maturén, are expecting a baby next spring. 'I will be Papa!' he cried. The paper then obtained confirmation from Deborah Borda, president of the LA Philharmonic - just in case he'd got it wrong. Here's the link and here's the happy couple (Dude and Mrs, not Dude and Debs). Photo credit: Susana Gonzales / Los Angeles Times       … [Read more...]

Katie won’t go to Israel, after all

The Bayreuth Festival has decided, at an emergency board meeting, not to send its artistic director, Katharina Wagner, to Israel after adverse reactions to her plan to engage the Israel Chamber Orchestra for next summer's festival. It seems odd she should have backed down after a few predictable howls from Holocaust survivors. What did she expect, rose petals?. The whole plan was misjudged and miserably mishandled. There must be a reconciliation between Israel and Bayreuth some day, but … [Read more...]

And a shaft of joy from London

Sir Colin Davis resumed conducting last night, leading the London Symphony Orchestra in the Mendelssohn violin concert (soloist: Sarah Chang) and Elgar's second symphony. Next week he will conduct Dvorak's violin concerto (with Anne-Sophie Mutter) and Janacek's Glagolitic Mass. Sir Colin, who is 83, pulled out of the BBC Proms this summer after suffering severe ill health and a close family bereavement. … [Read more...]

Latest gloom from the Low Country

Arts unions in the Netherlands are organising a mass rally in The Hague this Friday to protest a wave of government cuts that will abolish three orchestras and reduce several more. Here's the agenda, if you are in the area:   Location: het Plein, Den Haag (naast het Binnenhof) DRESSCODE: Concert dress11.00 Meeting at het Plein  11.30-12.30 Speeches and music (some stars are promising to play).12.45 Petition presented to Parliament.13.00-13.30Mozart wind serenade … [Read more...]

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