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Father of the CD? No, he wasn’t

Norio Ohga, the Sony ex-chairman who has died aged 81, tended to dismiss claims that he was somehow the 'father of compact disc'.The facts are these. CD technology was developed by Philips in Holland. Ohga, recovering from a car smash in 1979, saw a prototype of the badly-launched Philips Laservision and put the squeeze on the Dutch to share an accelerated development programme, or else Sony would go it alone. He set tight deadlines and made the Dutch dance to his tempo.Ohga told me how he … [Read more...]

Last shout for Charlie Mac

English National Opera has ingathered a galaxy of chums on June 26 to sing out a fine farewell to Sir Charles Mackerras, who died last summer. Charlie had a short and torrid time as music director at the Coliseum. This bash is sure to wipe away any lingering release belowSir Charles Mackerras Concert - Stars of the classical music world mount a special tribute at ENO on Sunday 26 June 2011   Lesley Garrett, Sir John Tomlinson, Sir Mark Elder and others join ENO to … [Read more...]

Brazil – Le Monde awakes to the crisis

The standoff in Rio - where half the musicians in the Brazil Symphony Orchestra have been sacked - has yet to be noticed in North American media. Le Monde, however, has a refined nose for trouble and its report grasps the cultural implications for all concerned, especially the conductor.Here it is.Roberto Minczuk est un maestro sans musiciens. Les membres de l'Orchestre symphonique brésilien (OSB), basé à Rio, qu'il dirige depuis 2005, refusent de jouer sous sa baguette, à la suite de plus de … [Read more...]

Breaking: The black box man has gone

Norio Ohga, the Sony co-founder who turned all its gadgets black and was driven by his classical obsession to own and music and film industry, has died aged 81.I met him on several occasions and interviewed him once, at length, in his Tokyo office. Rigidly polite under close questioning, flicking between German and English, the only emotion he showed was when I got him to talk about the death of his friend, Herbert von Karajan.Ohga had met Karajan, while a singing student in Berlin, through the … [Read more...]

Lament for the Liebersons

The composer Peter Lieberson, who died today in Israel aged 64 while undergoing cancer treatment, was the son of a musical legend and the husband of another. He took a while to establish his own voice but, when he did, the wait prove worthwhile.His father was Goddard Lieberson, head of Columbia Records when it was known as the Tiffany Label, the man who recorded the complete works of Stravinsky, Rodgers & Hammerstein and Webern without a flicker of aesthetic discrimination. Goddard, who … [Read more...]

She’s out, she’s edgy and she accepts no returns

The long-awaited album by offbeat violinist Anna Karkowska is ready to ship. The website's running, there's a new video clip and record critics everywhere are undergoing advanced neurological tests before addressing their reviews.So confident is the artist that you're going to love her work, she has posted this on the website:We do NOT accept any returns or exchanges so please make sure to listen to our music samples available on line first before ordering. In case of a lost or damaged … [Read more...]

Bad tweets from the Canaries

My little dickie-bird in Tenerife tells me that the government is trying to scale down the music conservatory in order to spend more money on Anna Netrebko and friends at the high-profile music festival.Here's a local press report in Spanish. And here's another. It would be pretty awful if this sort of thing were allowed to go through. We'd all have to go looking for another island paradise.Tenerife is supposed to be Europe's Capital of Culture in 2016. Might have to rethink that, too. … [Read more...]

Breakthough composer signs off

Max Vernon Matthews, one of the first musicians to extract coherent sounds from a computer, has died in San Francisco, aged 84. Matthews was important less for original compositions as for the path that he lit for others to work with the infernal machine. He was a significant influence and facilitator for Pierre Boulez in the early years of IRCAM.Here is his pitch for posterity:Computer performance of music was born in 1957 when an IBM 704 in NYC played a 17 second composition on the Music I … [Read more...]

Aussie arts manager in line for top China post

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Aussie arts manager in line for top China post

It is being authoritatively reported in Hong Kong that the search for a leader of the turbulent West Kowloon cultural district has narrowed down to one. The authorities are talking to Michael Lynch, former head of the Sydney Opera House, which he revitalised, and of London's South Bank Centre, where he brought a reconstruction project to a successful conclusion many millions of pounds over budget. Since his London contract expired in 2008, Lynch has been back in Sydney, in the market for … [Read more...]

Locked-out musicians play Mozart on TV

Five players from the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, locked out by their government, have taken their case to prime-time television with a fizzing performance of Mozart's clarinet quintet.The players areViolins: Elias Gurevich and Ala GubaidulinaViola: Christine BaraCello: Nicolas RossiClarinet: Carlos FernandezAnd the performance is just up here on youtube. Muy bien. … [Read more...]

Prince Charles puffs up his fave composer

I have been invited to a film preview and am all a-twitter with excitement. The film has been made by the Heir to the Throne and it's about a composer he really, really likes. He's going to tell us why, for about an hour, I guess.Now, normally I'd be off to a Royal Command like a corgie at lunchtime but what gives me pause here is that the composer Prince Charles declares he loves above all others, his lifetime number one, is the late Sir Hubert Hastings Parry (1848-1918) who, for me, stands for … [Read more...]

… and one green shoot

A cello student at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama was looking around one day, wondering what he could do with all these wonderful talented people he was meeting.I know, he thought, let's make a festival back home. Mostly local, some London pals.Jonathan Bloxham is now 23 and Northern Chords is coming up for its third successful run.More initiative like his is needed much higher up the scale.Northern Chords Festival 2011 Press Release• Award-winning musicians  presents North … [Read more...]

Orchestral spring? well, it’s certainly open season

Another day, another orchestra bites the dust.The New Mexico Symphony is the latest bankruptcy in America. Bedfordshire Youth Orchestra the most recent British casualty of funding cuts. In Albuquerque, NM, the musicians learned their fate from reading newspapers. In Britain no print or broadcast medium has yet reported the death in Beds.These are just symptoms of a sweeping phenomenon. Orchestras in Holland await their fate. Musicians in Philadelphia are discovering in court papers that one of … [Read more...]

Another orchestra goes under

Wretched news from the English shires. One of the country's best youth orchestras gave its last concert this week, after a lifeline of local authority funding was cut off.Bedfordshire, not the north of London, is not a poor part of the country, but the council has to adjust to lower grants from central government and music was the first victim of the new era.The Bedfordshire Youth Orchestra was the nursery for many outstanding musicians who brought credit to their homeland the world over - among … [Read more...]

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