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Arts Council fudges its orchestras

The Arts Council announced today that it was applying the cuts strategically - 'no equal cuts for all'.And then it promptly did the opposite with the nation's orchestras.ACE has refused to judge orchestral performance, giving the same 11-15 percent treatment to all symphony orchestras across the board, regardless of merit or recent progress. One band, Bournemouth, perhaps the least deserving of the regionals, gets a small increase - entirely for regional reasons.Everyone gets prizes is the … [Read more...]

Arts Council England – penalising excellence

A snap assessment of the Arts Council's major grant cuts - broken here this morning - is that Liz Forgan and Alan Davey have gone down the obvious route, top-slicing their biggest gas guzzlers in order to sustain the lower levels of ecology.If that were the case, it could be justified - even applauded.But the ACE has fallen into its usual traps of prejudice and favouritism.Of the five top grants, only ENO's near-standstill can be seen in a rational light. The Coliseum has recovered greatly in … [Read more...]

News Break: Arts Council England – first word of the big grants

My first leak of the morning gives a rundown on the ACE's five biggest clients.Royal Opera HouseNational TheatreRoyal Shakespeare Companyall three are hit by above average, double-figure cuts. Numbers coming soon.English National Opera gets a standstill grant, on the grounds that any cut ould jeopardise its recovery.Most contentiously, the South Bank Centre receives a standstill grant - in recognition of its far-too cosy relationship with Arts Council England.More details and commentary to … [Read more...]

Breaking: Sony steal glittering prize from DG

In its second swoop of the week, predatory Sony Classical has poached the world's most prestigious string quartet from rivals Deutsche Grammophon.The Emerson Quartet will open this November with a Mozart release.Their output on DG has slowed of late and their relationship with head office has become more distant than it used to be.Sony are crowing that they have snatched the 'pre-eminent' string quartet. A video interview has been posted on the Sony Classical window, ariama, ahead of tomorrow's … [Read more...]

News just in: Carnegie in a tangle

Murray Perahia, who stepped in for Maurizio Pollini on April 4, has just pulled out.Too much work, he told them. Might impede his recovery from injury.Any pianists who are free that night in New York, contact the address below.LATE EXTRA: He's cancelled Chicago, too. Details here. Jonathan Biss is deputising.Date: March 29, 2011 | Contact: Public Relations | Tel: 212-903-9750 | E-mail: publicrelations@carnegiehall.orgCARNEGIE HALL ANNOUNCES CANCELLATION OFPIANIST … [Read more...]

Arts Council England – a broken bucket

Arts organisations across England will learn between 0700 and 0930 tomorrow what they can expect to receive over the next three years. At 1000 the ACE will announce its decisions at a press conference, having prepared the softer parts of the media to expect the toughest call since Sophie's Choice and the most revolutionary overhaul in arts funding since the fall of Rome.Insiders who have seen the documents say it is neither. Not by a long chalk.The decisions have been made under five … [Read more...]

Sony swoop for EMI piano star

Expansionist Sony Classical has launched a dawn raid on bank-owned EMI to snatch one of its crown jewels, the Norwegian pianist, Leif Ove Andsnes.It's a blow for the former British label, which had nurtured the artist over two decades, and a coup for Sony to cash in just as Andsnes is winning world acclaim.He will open with a Beethoven concerto cycle, recorded over three years with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. The only cloud on his new relationship is the question of whether Sony will allow him … [Read more...]

Exclusive: record studio for sale – this time for real

When EMI floated the idea of selling Abbey Road last year, it was an attempt to test the market for state preservation. Still, there's no denying that work has dried up in sound-proofed rooms - especially those large enough to hold a symphony orchestra - and today one of Britain's most productive classical venues has been put up for sale.Potton Hall, near Aldeburgh, has won awards for the quality of its sound in recordings by the likes of Vladimir Ashkenazy, the Belcea Quartet, Jean-Efflam … [Read more...]

Sad news: Robert Tear is dead

The international Welsh tenor, infinitely agreeable and versatile, has died at 72.Robert Tear was an integral member of the London scene and in high demand at the musical summits, working with most major conductors and appearing on no fewer than 250 records.He was Simon Rattle's tenor of choice for Mahler and everyone's for Britten, owning the role of Quint in Turn of the Screw and delivering indelible performances of the War Requiem. Bearded and bald, he was unmissable on a crowded stage.My … [Read more...]

From the Arts Council’s rubbish bin

Arts Council England has responded with its usual dismissals to a highly critical report, published today, by the House of Commons select committee on Culture, Media and Sport.The Committee attached ACE for spending too much on itself, lacking a clear purpose for the works of art it owns, favouring big organisations over small ones, among other faults. The Council responded - to the Guardian, where it gets a soft landing - that the Committee was working from old information and biased … [Read more...]

Would you buy a used Monet from this man?

Christie's have just announced the sale of works from the collection of Jeffrey Archer.For those unfamiliar with shlock fiction, Archer is a phenomenally successful producer of works in that genre. He was previously a Member of Parliament who went to prison for perjury.Never mind the whiffs of impropriety that trail his reputation like so many old herrings. Never mind the lumps in his prose. What puzzles me is how anyone would trust the taste and provenance of a fallen politician and literary … [Read more...]

Wanted: someone to play violin on the Titanic

An article in the tabloid Sunday Mirror reports the possible rediscovery of an instrument that may have been played on the Titanic as it went down.I have inserted several disclaimers into that sentence. You may wish to add more.The instrument is the subject of a new book by pop biographer Steve Turner. He is coy about disclosing where and how the instrument was found, and how it might be considered playable after a hundred years' immersion at the bottom of the ocean.However, he claims it is … [Read more...]

Brian Cox turns irrational

For those who live on another landmass, Professor Brian Cox is presently magnetising British attention with his expositions of science on television and his columns in the tabloid Sun.Cox, once a boyband member but now an advocate for ruthless empiricism, gave a revealing interview to the Guardian today in which he quoted Carl Sagan's famous aphorism that science 'has not got an agenda... it is a process that is utterly dispassionate'.In a previous breath Cox had told the interviewer that 'I … [Read more...]

Viv gives again – a cool £8.2 million to the arts

Just as Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt preens himself on establishing the 'most generous tax regime in the world for arts giving, philanthropist Dame Vivien Duffield has stepped into the breach to address urgent needs in the arts in a year of government clawbacks.She has given £8.2 million to 11 institutions ranging from the Royal Shakespeare Company to the Holburne Museum in Bath. Most of the grants are education or child oriented.Let's hear it for Dame Viv. (She's the one next in line) … [Read more...]

What Wim Wenders may be planning for Bayreuth

Not having seen his work for six years - the last release was Don't Come Knocking (2005) - I clocked in for a preview of Wim Wenders' new film Pina in the hope of finding possible clues to his thinking on Wagner's Ring.Pina, in UK cinemas next month, is a multi-sensational tribute to the dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch (1940-2009), whom Wenders once described as 'the inventor of a new art: dance theatre'. Undaunted by Bausch's swift and sudden death as filming was due to begin, Wender … [Read more...]

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