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Vienna Philharmonic loses player in Japan

Georg Straka, a double-bass player with the Vienna Philharmonic, was killed while climbing Mount Fuji on Wednesday during an orchestral tour of Japan. The tour continues.Straka, 41, had four children and played with them in a family ensemble. Six years ago, he survived a brain tumour. His climbing companion on Fuji was violinist Wilfried Ramsaier, according to fellow-players.This is not the first time in recent memory that the VPO have lost a player on the hike. Gerhard Hetzel, an … [Read more...]

Who’s the next Arts Council chair?

I was asked the question at the House of Commons culture committee and suggested Sir John Tusa as a good candidate. He has run the BBC World Service and the Barbican Centre to very good effect and remains so passionate about the arts that its hard to find him at home of an evening. John would do a great job of cleaning those Augean stables, the more so after today's massive debacle. However, I hear there are more names in the frame. Whispers in the past 24 hours suggest that former … [Read more...]

Top UK music blogs (all genres) from Wikio, November 2010

1 Musicrooms.net 2 SoulCulture.co.uk 3 Alter The Press! 4 Lil Wayne HQ 5 St. Peter's View 6 LondonJazz 7 Word Magazine blogs 8 Matrixsynth 9 No Rock And Roll Fun 10 Live4ever - The Brit Rock Daily 11 uncarved.org blog 12 Popjustice 13 PUT ME ON IT 14 Southern Hospitality 15 Slipped disc 16 Song, by Toad 17 We Are Pop Slags 18 On An Overgrown Path 19 Tom Service on classical music 20 The Chemistry is Dead Music Ranking recorded by Wikio … [Read more...]

The last sound Shostakovich wanted to hear

Rudolf Barshai, who has died at his Swiss home, aged 86, was the best viola player in Russia. He had a long friendship with Dmitri Shostakovich, who called him one day in the summer of 1975 with technical questions about the instrument. When Barshai asked what he was composing, Shostakovich replied 'a sonata, for you'. It was to be his final work. Barshai had already applied to leave the country and was officially an outlaw. The sonata, opus 147, was published and performed in Moscow with … [Read more...]

Just when you thought it could get no worse

Unbelievable.It's the only word I can find to describe Alan Davey's performance on the Today programme this morning.The chief executive of Arts Council England has just 'discovered' that many of the companies receiving regular grants, the so-called RFOs, never actually applied for them.Absolutely right. Maynard Keynes stipulated in 1945 that arts funding was to be 'informal' and the Arts Council existed to choose ventures and support those which had a 'reasonable prospect of success'. This is … [Read more...]

From the absurd to the ridiculous

I've just heard that Arts Council England has rushed forward an important initiative from next week to tomorrow. The announcement is its ten-year strategy for arts funding in England, a work three years in preparation and - I am reliably informed - hardly changed to take in the strategic effects of deep cuts to the Council itself. What began as an altogether quixotic exercise in navel-gazing now has all the comic realism of Alice in Wonderland.Hammered and humiliated in the government's spending … [Read more...]

What the House of Commons culture committee wanted to know

The first question I was asked at the HoC Committee for Culture, Media and Sport was, 'what's wrong with the Arts Council?' Since the committee's brief is to examine the funding of arts and heritage with particular reference to budget cuts, this was a leading question. One MP in particular, Tom Watson (Labour), had formed a dim view of the ACE during its chief executive Alan Davey's testimony two weeks ago. Another, Louise Bagshawe (Con), announced that Mr Watson had 'filletted' … [Read more...]

Classical pods sprout at the BBC

If you want to hear the classical charts wherever you go, the BBC will provide them on a podcast from tomorrow. I'm not sure it's going to change many lives, but at least it tells you what music is going into the shops and at what speed it is leaving.   Here's the announcement: Hello - I'm writing to alert you to an exciting event in Radio 3 history and a first for BBC Audio and Music. Tomorrow morning, when Naomi Anderson presses the button, the first Breakfast Show Specialist Classical … [Read more...]

The state of classical music, late 2010

An arts foundation asked me to summarise the state of the art in the throes of its latest turmoil. I gave brisk answers to brief questions, but still surprised myself at my own general optimism that classical music will emerge stronger from recession and that the new wave of talent will generate its own energy. You can read the interview here: http://www.snapshotsfoundation.com/articles/36-norman-lebrecht-interview Meantime, things are getting tough in Spain and Portugal. The manager of … [Read more...]

A Writer, Defined by Occupation

Harry Mulisch, who has died in Amsterdam aged 83, never escaped the shadow of German occupation in the Second World War. Growing up with a father who collaborated with the Gestapo was a guilt that pervaded his fiction in ways ever more painful and ambivalent. The Assault, his best-known novel and the first I read, follows the ruined adult life of Anton who, as a boy, witnessed a German retaliation on civilians for the murder of a quisling. Siegrfried, even more dangerous, cuts to the … [Read more...]

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