Slipped disc: August 2010 Archives
The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra's New Year's Day concert is one of the most watched classical events on world television. Sony today snapped up world rights from 2012 on as a token of its renewed commitement ot classical music.
Or is it? The annual surfeit of Strauss waltzes is chiefly popular in Japan, South Korea and neighbouring Asian economies. It has little popular appeal in the US and is in evident decline in Europe. Even stuffed with turkey, carp and other seasonal fattenings, how many Strausses can the average citizen watch before screaming for an end to the waltzer torture?
Sony's rivals at Universal Music need not lose much sleep. The last time Sony did a deal with the Vienna Philharmonic 20 years ago it nearly bankrupted the label, putting it into creative somnolence until some recent twitchings of residual life.
The press release shows four contract signatories, only one of whom can successfully knot a tie.
Sony Music is the Vienna Philharmonic's New Partner for the New Year's Concert
NEW YORK, Aug. 31 The Vienna Philharmonic's New Year's Concerts are the world's most watched classical events. Starting in January 2012, the concert recordings will appear on Sony Classical. The contract, signed last week in Salzburg, encompasses releases on CD, DVD and Blu-ray.
The New Year's Concert is broadcast from Vienna's Musikverein to over 70 countries and reaches more than 40 million television viewers. The resulting recordings with works from the Strauss dynasty and their contemporaries are among the classical market's most important releases.
Prof. Dr. Clemens Hellsberg, Chairman, Vienna Philharmonic:
"The Vienna Philharmonic is delighted to have found in Sony another prominent partner for our audio and video recordings. We are confident that the New Year's Concert will be enjoyed by an even wider audience thanks to our collaboration with Sony."
Rolf Schmidt-Holtz, CEO, Sony Music Entertainment:
"For millions of people, the New Year's Concert is an inspiring way to begin the year; it expresses a universal message of hope and friendship for the year to come. The Vienna Philharmonic devotes itself to the Strauss family's masterpieces and always presents the world with audio and video recordings of great beauty and enormous appeal. Sony Music is proud to be the orchestra's new partner for these remarkable releases."
Bogdan Roscic, President, Sony Classical:
"Sony Classical's catalogue already contains some legendary New Year's Concerts, including the famous video of Karajan's only appearance in 1987 and the unforgettable audio recordings documenting Carlos Kleiber's two concerts. I look forward to continuing this tradition and also to ensuring that these recordings attain the success they deserve in all markets."
About Sony Classical:
Sony Classical is the label group in charge of classical music within Sony Music Entertainment, based in New York and Berlin and responsible for the international productions of Sony Classical, RCA Red Seal and Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, as well as a vast catalogue that goes back to Enrico Caruso. Sony Classical is the home of artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Lang Lang, Joshua Bell, Murray Perahia and Vittorio Grigolo, as well as containing the musical legacy of Glenn Gould, Arthur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz, Arturo Toscanini and Leonard Bernstein.
At the closing performance of the Glyndebourne season, chairman Gus Christie announced that Vladimir Jurowski was leaving in three years (as tweeted by Jessica Duchen). By then he will have put in 13 happy years and kept Glyndebourne fresh and challenging throughout, deepening the Wagner content, introducting Russian operas and generally being there through each summer as a hands-on musical leader. The ever-rising Juro will be just 41 when he moves on.
That year, 2013, will also be Antonio Pappano's last at Covent Garden. There will be plenty of press chatter in the years ahead about likely contenders and I don't intend to waste this space on idle speculation. That said, you'd have to be a slow-witted Martian with mobility problems not to spot that the timing of the two departures looks just perfect for the Metropolitan Opera.
The Met will need strong candidates to be free when it has to get to grips with James Levine's health problems and its artistic future. Those issues cannot be dodged much longer. It helps that there are now two hats in the ring, each with an outstanding international record.
On tonight's edition of the Lebrecht Interview, Sir Clive Gillinson charts his progress from the second desk of cellos in the London Symphony Orchestra to the leadership of the world's most prestigious concert hall.... a rags-to-riches story to warm every musical heart.
Or is it? The job may carry a million-dollar tag - the actual salary, Clive clarifies, is much lower than that - but there are high pressures to perform and deep infrastructural flaws. We had a discussion about the hall's stagehands and electricians, five of whom take home $400,000. Clive explained that the union theatre agreements are city-wide and cannot be tackled unilaterally by a single venue.
Back in England, he continues to attack the Arts Council's refusal to recognise excellence, funding all London orchestra at roughly the same level regardless of whether they rehearse much or not.
Catch Clive at 9.15 tonight on BBC Radio 3, and streamed for the next week.
The season's final Lebrecht Interview, next Monday, is a man who has never spoken on British radio before.
Just under six months ago, the world's hottest conductor shocked the music industry by walking away from his management agency and joining a rival firm.
Resisting appeals from Simon Rattle and others, Gustavo Dudamel followed his close friend and agent Mark Newbanks out of AskonasHolt to join former IMG chief Stephen Wright at the newly reconstituted Van Walsum Management. It was a huge coup for Wright with Newbanks, a former cellist, taking over as head of artist management and heir apparent.
That was then, this is now.
Last night, after tense discussions, Newbanks issued his notice to quit Van Walsum to set up on his own. And Dudamel, ever loyal, is following him into the unknown.
Why Newbanks had to go is unclear and both sides are keeping lips tight. But my ear to the ground picks up whispers that the sensitive manager was unhappy at the flak he was taking from old-time Van Walsum staff and artists and decided, with the Dude, that he would be better off without having to manage people had had not chosen himself.
It's a tough call and he is going to face a difficult time establishing himself with only one artist, albeit the most desirable on earth. Dudamel is unlikely to suffer from the backlash.
Wright and Van Walsum are reeling from the defection, coming as it does close on Costa Pilavachi's departure to head the classical division of Universal Music. But the company has moved swiftly to reshuffle its top team, with Wright taking a more hands-on role and major changes planned in the very imminent future.
So no winners, no losers? Not quite. The music business itself is the loser.
Every time a major artist like the Dude sets up independently outside the infrastructure, the business falls deeper into disintegration. Events of the past few months, reported here, reveal the old guard to be in dangerous flux. This latest move won't help, and there's more to come.
Just watch this space.
Michael O'Leary's budget airline is not very nice to musicians. Almost 13,000 have banded together on Facebook to form Musicians Against Ryanair, complaining of rudeness, discomfort and an intolerance for musical instruments in the passenger cabin.
That protest has just acquired official backing. The Incorporated Society of Musicians issued a press release today, reporting the case of a 12 year-old girl who was turned off a flight after being refused permission to carry her small violin on board. The ISM warns musicians to beware of the Ryanair experience. Maybe not just musicians.
Press release follows:
Young girl stopped from boarding Ryanair flight with violin
Musicians are being warned to take extra care when planning air travel with their instruments.
The advice comes after several reported cases this summer of musicians being targeted by airline staff. In one instance, twelve-year old music student Francesca Rijks, who studies at Chetham's School of Music in Manchester, was turned away with her violin at the boarding gate of a Ryanair flight returning to the UK from Germany. Her parents were told the violin was not allowed as hand luggage, and were given an ultimatum to either put the violin in the baggage hold of the plane, which would cause irreparable damage to the instrument, or to purchase an additional seat at a cost of 230 euros. This was despite the fact they had received confirmation from the Ryanair customer service department (prior to purchasing any tickets) that the instrument would be accepted. They had also checked in without problems.
Francesca's father Harmen Rijks said 'This was an absolute disgrace! Their policy appears to discriminate against violinists, the vast majority of whom simply can't afford to purchase an additional seat.'
The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) is warning anyone intending to travel with a small instrument to check very carefully before travelling with Ryanair, and to ensure their instruments will be accepted as hand luggage before booking any flights.
David Abrahams, Head of Legal Services at the ISM, said: 'We are deeply concerned about the recent cases involving musicians travelling on flights with their instruments.'
'The idea that musicians should be forced to purchase an additional seat on board an aircraft because they are carrying an instrument that can be stored safely in the overhead lockers is unfair, discriminatory and irrational. These airlines are punishing musicians for being musicians.'
In addition, the ISM has advised its members to take with them a letter, signed by ISM Chief Executive Deborah Annetts, confirming that they are music professionals.
Note to editors1. The Incorporated Society of Musicians is the UK's professional body for musicians. We champion the importance of music and protect the rights of those working within music through a range of services, campaigns, support and practical advice. We offer peace of mind with our high quality legal expertise, casework and comprehensive insurance and are proud of the assistance we have given our members since 1882.
2. The International Artist Managers' Association (IAMA) and the Association of British Orchestras (ABO) are corporate members of the ISM. Their members have also recently experienced problems with airlines when travelling with their musical instruments.
For further information on this story, please contact Natalia Fenyoe, Head of Marketing, t: 020 7079 1211, e: firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook: Incorporated Society of Musicians
On the Lebrecht Interview tonight, it's jackets off with Stephen Kovacevich, a pianist who once matched Brendel and Ashkenazy set for set in the recording studio.
He's 70 this year and ready to tell all - about Myra Hess, his formidable teacher, about London in the 60s, how he fell in love with Jacqueline du Pre and Martha Argerich, and why he has never played the music he adores: Rachmaninov.
It's tonight 9.45 on BBC Radio 3 and streamed all week.
While the London Symphony Orchestra has been on tour with Valery Gergiev and Mahler's fifth symphony, its principal flute and chief blogger Gareth Davies has been reading my new book Why Mahler? in his down time.
'Why Mahler?' wonders Gareth. 'Sitting in Gstaad (Switzerland) playing a relatively minor but essential role in the symphony, I was looking around at my colleagues concentrated faces asking myself that very question.'
You can read his closely observed reflections here.
I would add only that the question itself expresses Mahler's uniquely disturbing qualities. I don't hear anyone asking Why Strauss? Why Sibelius? Why Elgar?
Why Mahler? is published in the US on October 5.
The Universal Music manager who threatened to stop a singer's record contract was warned today by Deutsche Grammophon not to wield its name as a blunt weapon against artists, according to senior label sources. DG also assured the singer concerned that their next recording together will go ahead as planned.
The agent, whose emailed threat has gone viral since I blogged it up this morning, is keeping a very low profile. As well he might.
His conduct exposes a dangerous flaw in Universal's plan to offer '360-degree management' to artists, covering all their activities, live and recorded. By telling a singer who wanted to leave him that his contract would be voided by a Universal record label, the agent gave the unfortunate impression that the company owned the artist, body and soul, and could wreck a career at the stroke of a pen.
It serves due warning to others to keep the different parts of their lives in separate baskets.
Meanwhile, the classical agency business remains in furious flux, with further defections expected early next week.
Things are getting tense at the classical artists agency wing of Universal Music. There's a big merger coming up and three top singers - Elina Garanca, Barbara Fritoli and Luca Pisaroni -have decided they want out.
So when a fourth singer, whose identity I shall withhold for the moment, muttered that he was also thinking of changing ships, the email he got from his agent - leaked to me in the dark of night - gives a rare insight into the balance of terror that prevails between a soloist and the person who supposedly has his or her best interests at heart.
I have deleted three names. The rest is verbatim, the stuff of nightmares. Here's the email, dated last week:
From: (name withheld)
Sent: 11 August 2010 16:55
Cc: (name withheld)
Thank you for your recent e-mails. I am still very surprised by your reactions, and I want the chance to discuss this with you. You are making a major career decision, and I think you need to be very careful with your next steps.
You have been clear with (...) and me over the last few months that you need to make more money. What I don't understand is the following. You may have earned less in the past two years, but the next three years are excellent for you in terms of your income, and we did this for you. Your financial situation now may be very hard, but it will get better very soon. We have shown this to your accountant, and she has accepted this.
In the past two years, (....) and I have done for you things that no one else could have done. We made a recording contract for you with Deutsche Grammophon during a time when very, very few singers get recording contracts. You said yourself that we made your dream come true. In the years to come, these recordings will enhance your career and bring you better work and more money. We have also brought you new productions and brought you to new theatres. In short, your career really is better than it has ever been. I understand that in this economic environment that you are making less money. This is in part due to the prestigious new productions in which you are performing (with long rehearsal periods), but (....) and I have made sure that your income will increase greatly in the next two years. Your career is better now than it has ever been. I promise you that no other managers can do for you what we have done. I know this is true.
I need to be very, very clear with you. If you leave Universal, my boss will make very strong decisions about what we can do for you in the future. I have seen this before, and I can predict with great accuracy that Universal will do the following:
Start a lawsuit to demand immediate payment of the money you owe Universal.
Stop ALL recordings with Universal, including the potential of not releasing your second recording.
Suggest that we remove you from our current recording.
You and I have a great friendship, and you have the same with (....), and even (....). You must know that no one can work better for you than (....) and me. We are now working on making some dates for you that earn a great deal of money. NO ONE has more access to these private dates than we do.
Also, I need to point out that you are singing in London and Paris in the future. Only Salzburg is left, and I have asked you to give me a few weeks to try to confirm an engagement for you there.
I think you are making a terrible decision for very emotional reasons. I want to speak with you about this with the hope that you will give us a few more weeks or months to show you that we can bring you the income and the engagements (theatres) that you need. We have also hired a new Italian agent who can help to bring you some large fees for the work in Italy that you need.
None of what I write is a threat to you. You know that you are my friend and that (....) and I love to work for you. I think you are making a terrible mistake and you need to allow us to address your concerns.
Can we speak about this on Thursday or Friday? I am sure that you are making a terrible decision. I want the best for you. Please be careful with the decision you make.
The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra is extending its brand. Its season opener will be relayed next week to several cinemas in Britain, copying the successful operacasts by the Met, Covent Garden, Glyndebourne and others. The difference is that in an opera there is lots to be seen. In a concert, it's just men and women playing instruments.
Will it get an audience? No-one knows. This is a toe-dipping venture. If the reception is warm enough, expect the trend to spread.
Press release below:
NEWS EXTRA: The Philadeplhia Orchestra is working on a similar plan.
THE BERLINER PHILHARMONIKER AND SIR SIMON RATTLE TO DEBUT
FIRST LIVE UK CINEMA BROADCAST AT THE ODEON COVENT GARDEN ON AUGUST 27TH
London, 19 August, 2010 - The Berliner Philharmoniker's opening concert of the 2010/2011 season, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, will be beamed live via satellite to the ODEON Covent Garden on Friday, August 27th at 5:45 pm. For further information and tickets, please go to www.odeon.co.uk/fanatic/odeon-plus/ or call 0871 244 1891. Other participating UK cinemas outside of London include Haslemere Hall, a community cinema in Haslemere, Surrey. www.haslemerehall.co.uk Tel: 01428 642161.
Over 60 other cinemas across Europe will be part of this historic live cinema event, courtesy of Rising Alternative, a leading international distributor of special event entertainment into cinemas. Full cinema listings can be found at: www.berliner-philharmoniker.de/cinema
The concert will be performed at the orchestra's home venue, the Philharmonie in Berlin and will feature Beethoven's Symphony No. 4 in B flat major and Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 1 in D major. Not only does this concert with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle open the new season, it also marks the start of an ambitious artistic project: the performance of all of Gustav Mahler's symphonies by the end of 2011. With this series, the orchestra and its conductor pay tribute to two Mahler anniversaries: 7 July 2010 is the 150th anniversary of the composer's birth and 18 May 2011 will be the centenary of his death.
Founded in 1882, the Berliner Philharmoniker is one of the world's leading orchestras, renowned for important innovations such as the education project, Zukunft@Bphil, through which the orchestra addresses a broad public - young people in particular. For this commitment, the Berliner Philharmoniker and Simon Rattle were appointed international UNICEF Ambassadors in November 2007. They are the first artistic ensemble to receive this honour.
Sir Simon Rattle was born in Liverpool and studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He assumed the post of Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Berliner Philharmoniker in September 2002. Between 1980 and 1998, Rattle was Principal Conductor, Artistic Adviser and Music Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
Mahler's symphonic œuvre is of particular significance for the relationship between Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker. Not only was a Mahler symphony - the Sixth - performed at Rattle's Berlin debut in November 1987 but also at his inaugural concert as the orchestra's Principal Conductor in September 2002, when the Fifth was played.
For further details on the Berliner Philharmoniker opening concert, please go to: http://www.berliner-philharmoniker.de/en/concerts/kalender/programme-details/konzert/7925/termin/2010-08-27-19-00/
In a further break-up of music industry structures, the hot mezzo Joyce DiDinato has walked out on IMG Artists with her agent Simon Goldstone. The pair are joining London firm Intermusica, together with 20 other Goldstone singers, including Amanda Echalaz and Soile Isokoski.
Joyce was fulsome last night in the Lebrecht Interview in her gratitude to Goldstone, who signed her after eight New York agents had turned her down. But she gave no hint of the present upheaval, which will further destabilise IMG, whose owner, Barrett Wissman, has officially withdrawn from the running of the business after admitting to fraud in a New York state prosecution. As I have reported here and in The Strad, all the big agencies are in varying states of disarray and a further lurch is expected momentarily. Watch this space.
The press release follows.
For immediate release
Simon Goldstone joins Intermusica as Director, Vocal & Opera - artists moving to Intermusica include Joyce DiDonato
Intermusica is pleased to announce that highly-respected singers' manager Simon Goldstone is to join the company as Director, Vocal & Opera. Twenty-one of the artists Simon represented at IMG Artists, where he was Vice President in the Vocal Division, will follow him to Intermusica, including Joyce DiDonato, Amanda Echalaz, Soile Isokoski and Scott Hendricks. He will work alongside Julia Maynard, Head of Vocal & Opera, in the continuing development of the company's exciting vocal roster.
Stephen Lumsden, Founder and Managing Director of Intermusica, said: "It is tremendously exciting that a manager of Simon's calibre and reputation has decided to join Intermusica. His arrival represents a major development for both our Vocal & Opera department and for the company as a whole. Simon will fit well into a company which values personal care and a concern for long-term thinking for its artists as well as a real passion for music in all its forms."
"I am delighted to be joining Intermusica" commented Simon Goldstone. "In these challenging times I feel that the combination of the company's very experienced senior management team, spearheaded by Stephen Lumsden, and its vibrant and enthusiastic younger members strike just the right balance. I am very happy to be working once again with my esteemed former colleague, Julia Maynard, and together we look forward to adding to an already well-established roster of talented singers, stage directors and opera conductors."
Alongside Joyce DiDonato, Amanda Echalaz, Soile Isokoski and Scott Hendricks, other artists following Simon Goldstone to Intermusica will be: Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet (soprano), Solveig Kringelborn (soprano), Lyubov Petrova (soprano), Julia Riley (mezzo soprano), Julian Gavin (tenor), Marcel Reijans (tenor), Norman Reinhardt (tenor), George von Bergen (baritone), John Chest (baritone), Jason Howard (baritone), Jacques Imbrailo (baritone), Brett Polegato (baritone), Matthew Willis (conductor), Stephen Barlow (director), Paul Curran (director), James Robinson (director) and Alessandro Talevi (director).
These artists join the Intermusica roster with immediate effect. Simon Goldstone will begin on Monday 20 September 2010.
Simon Goldstone read French and Music at King's College, London University. After an early career in real estate he made a major career change and spent the next five years in arts administration, initially at the Royal Albert Hall and then at the Southbank Centre. Simon, a fluent French speaker, moved to Paris in 1990 and into the music agency business for Organisation Internationale Artistique, where his clients included Roberto Alagna and José van Dam. Five years later, Simon was invited to join IMG Artists, where he was an Artist Manager in the Vocal Division for fourteen years. When not at the opera Simon enjoys scuba diving and, as a former member of the British Junior Swimming Team, he still swims several miles a week.
Intermusica is one of the leading international classical music agencies, representing some of the foremost conductors, instrumentalists and singers as well as composers and orchestras around the globe. Founded in 1981 by Stephen Lumsden, the company - which now employs nearly 40 staff - works to develop the careers of 80-plus artists and manages touring projects for a number of the world's leading orchestras. Next year Intermusica celebrates 20 years as promoters of the International Chamber Music Season in London (in collaboration with the Southbank Centre) and among its other promotions, presents an international recital series at the Mariinsky Concert Hall in St. Petersburg in conjunction with its artistic director, Valery Gergiev. Intermusica is committed to creative partnership with all sides of the music world whether in building careers, implementing high-level projects or developing new media initiatives.
Vocal & Opera, Intermusica
Intermusica manages the careers of leading singers, stage directors and opera conductors, including Felicity Palmer, Susan Bickley, Iain Paterson and David Alden. For a complete list of the new Vocal & Opera department roster, please find an artist list attached.
I have just been told by the management of the Tivoli Gardens Copenhagen that, two days after his seven-minute recital, Rolando Villazon agreed to renounce his fee. As a result, the Tivoli is now able to offer a refund to people who attended the unfortunate event.
I am very glad that Villazon has done the decent thing and hope that he was prompted more by personal conscience than by the torrent of adverse publicity. He is a nice man who is having a hard time. He deserves a break, in both senses of the term.
It is also to be hoped that lessons will be learned from this fiasco - that Villazon will take all the time he needs to recover vocal strength and repair his technique, and that other, less scrupulous singing stars will stop bilking the public with short-measure recitals.
What you see here is a photograph that cannot be printed in any self-respecting newspaper in the year of our enlightenment 2010.
It shows a man smoking a cigarette. Everyone knows that smoking kills. Depicting a man in the act of lighting a fag amounts to an inducement to homicide. That's why no newspaper editor will permit it.
So what is it doing on the cover of a classical record?
My first response, when I reviewed the record here and here, was that the German producers had erred against current codes of public decency and should, perhaps, have chosen another photo. On second thoughts, I think they were right.
Nine months after this photo was taken, the pianist in the picture, known as Solomon, suffered a paralysing stroke and never played again. Once you know this, the picture and its story constitute a subtle but highly effective health advertising campaign. Don't you think?
The soaring mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato was turned down at twelve opera house auditions in quick succession. How did you cope? I asked. Her reply is one of the most balanced and rational self-assessments I have ever heard from anyone in creative life.
You can catch it tonight on The Lebrecht Interview, at 9.45pm on BBC Radio 3, and streamed online all week long.
There's more about Joyce in an op-ed I wrote this weekend for the Sunday Telegraph on shaming miscreant classical stars.
For reasons we need not examine here, my wife and I occupied the Royal Box at Covent Garden for the opening night of the Bolshoi run of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin. Since the Royal Family were in Balmoral, we occupied it on our own, and very comfortable it was.
The angle of vision is slightly limited - you don't see right of stage - but you overlook the orchestra pit and can hear just how much of the fifth and sixth symphonies is anticipated in the opera score. The Bolshoi orchestra has a fabulous woodwind section, and its strings sound in pretty good form. Dmitri Jurowski, Vladimir's brother, conducted.
The production is four-square Russian with minor variants. Lensky doesn't get shot in a duel; he dies in a firearms wrestling accident with Onegin. Although the duel is meant to be in winter, everyone wears summer suits; and the entire action takes place around a large dinner table. All very Stanislavskian.
Few of the singers are known outside Russia. Tatyana Monogarova seemed to be playing Ophelia rather than Tatyana in the first two acts, but woke up in the third. Onegin was Mariusz Kwiecin, a sweet-voiced Pole. Alexei Dolgov as Lensky was the one who could act and the best musical moment came from Anatoly Kotscherga as Gremin.
It's a classic Bolshoi show, on for another week. I'd recommend it to the Royal Family if they get back early from their hols, and I can assure them we left the box as we found it.
It's getting worse, year by year. American orchestras, whose players once went off to shoot bear or pool in the Adirondacks, now oblige staff to report to work ever earlier in August to rehearse the Aix-Proms-Lucerne-Salzburg-Lübeck festival programme. Pallid and jet-lagged, the musicians return to open the home season with as much enthusiasm as an England goalkeeper facing a penalty kick.
Festivals have become an etiolating factor in our lives, stealing our precious summers, weakening marriages, depriving children of parents at leisure, eating away at fantasy and freedom with the scant reward of late-night microwaved meals and far too much to drink. The festival transaction has got out of hand.
-- From the Lebrecht Conversation in the September issue of The Strad, out now.
Discuss below. Especially if you are a player, or a festival manager.
Waiting for someone in the lobby of English National Opera, I let my eye roam idly over the list of private donors who heped towards the restoration of the glorious Coliseum.
There, in the middle, was a 'Mrs Doris Lessing' (she collaborated on an opera some years back with Mr Philip Glass) and there, just below, were 'Sir Charles and Lady Mackerras'.
Now that's noble, I thought.
Charlie, as I recalled when he died last month, had a wretched time as music director of ENO in the 1970s. The orchestra didn't respect him, the singers were unfriendly and the management were too busy fighting fires on other fronts to give him much support. It may have been one of the most miserable times in his life.
Yet when the company was in dire need two decades later, who steps up to the plate with a cheque but Sir Charles and Lady Mackerras. That's the mark of a decent man, a really good person.
From time to time, on a Lebrecht Interview, the person in the opposite seat reveals unsuspected depths of ambition, frustration and regret.
With Sir Roger Norrington, tonight's subject, we were chatting in his Berkshire gazebo about his former life as an academic publisher and out-of-office-hours singer, when he burst out with the assertion that, has he persisted with the singing, he could have gone as far as any of his contemporaries, as far as the leading English tenor, Philip Langridge.
'Are you sure?' I pressed (I hope this makes it to the broadcast cut). 'Sure,' said Norro.
Among other subjects we covered were his privileged intellectual upbringing in Oxford, his wartime boyhood in Canada, his enterpreneurial zeal - ever setting up and winding down his own ensembles - and his late-onset immersion in Mahler, about which he has interesting - and, for me, persuasive opinions.
The Lebrecht Interview is on BBC Radio 3 tonight at 9pm and streamed all week online.
The BBC has just let it be known that Neil Sedaka will join the Last Night of the Proms in an extra-mural capacity - that is to say, singing for the outdoor crowds in Hyde Park with other denizens of Memory Lane, including Kiri Te Kanawa, Jose Carreras and Brian May.
And who said popular music is strictly for the kids?
Press release follows:
BBC PROMS IN THE PARK
Saturday 11 September 2010, Hyde Park, London
Stellar line-up also includes internationally acclaimed opera stars Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and José Carreras
Sir Terry Wogan presents with the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Martin Yates
Neil Sedaka is to perform at this year's BBC Proms in the Park in Hyde Park - the annual Last Night of the Proms extravaganza broadcast live on BBC Radio 2. Now in its 15th year, BBC Proms in the Park has become Britain's largest outdoor classical music event and is once again expected to attract around 40,000 music-lovers to join the fun and the magic of the nationwide Last Night of the Proms celebrations.
With a career that spans over five decades, singer-songwriter and pianist Neil Sedaka has recorded, written and produced a glittering catalogue of Rock 'n' Roll hits. Having amassed 20 US top 40 hits, an Ivor Novello Award and a coveted star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Neil has remained a household name through the years with hits including 'Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen', 'Stupid Cupid' and 'Breaking Up is Hard to Do'. Neil's work as a song-writer has seen him pen hits for artists including The Carpenters, Elvis Presley and of course Tony Christie, with 'Is This the Way to Amarillo' recently revived by the comedian Peter Kay to become the UK's best-selling single of 2005.
Of his BBC Proms in the Park appearance, Neil says:
'I am honoured to be invited to perform at BBC Proms in the Park and delighted to be sharing the stage with such illustrious company. England has always been a second home to me. For all my fans who have remained so loyal and supportive through the years, I will be singing many of my hits. I have been told this is one of the world's largest classical music audiences and, as a former student of Classical music, I am thrilled to be a part of such a wonderful evening.'
Neil continues to record extensively as well as performing and touring across the globe throughout 2010. His life and music have become a source of inspiration-the musical comedy 'Breaking Up is Hard to Do', premiered in 2005, was based on the songs of Neil Sedaka, while the producers Bill Kenwright and Laurie Mansfield premiered their biographical musical, 'Laughter in the Rain - The Neil Sedaka Story' at the Churchill Theatre, London, in March 2010.
Neil Sedaka completes a star-studded line-up that includes the award-winning soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa (who will perform with the winner of the Radio 2 Kiri Prize, the station's opera initiative) and the return of one third of the world-famous Three Tenors, José Carreras. Also confirmed to perform are West End and Broadway star Kerry Ellis and legendary Queen guitarist Brian May, as well as the BBC Concert Orchestra under the baton of Martin Yates.
The event culminates in a live video link-up with the Royal Albert Hall and a nationwide sing-along to the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic You'll Never Walk Alone as well as the Last Night of the Proms favourites Land of Hope and Glory and Jerusalem. As ever, crowds are encouraged to bring picnics and flags, to sing along and enjoy the music and firework finale.
Acclaimed Abba tribute band Björn Again, Nell Bryden, Serpentine Fire and the cast of the renowned West End musical Jersey Boys start the entertainment in the afternoon's warm-up events, hosted by BBC Radio 2 presenter Ken Bruce. This year's Proms in the Park follows the success of last year's event, which featured Barry Manilow, Katherine Jenkins and Garðar Thór Cortes.
Proms in the Park fans across the UK are able to tune in to the concert live on BBC Radio 2, by pressing the red button during the Last Night of the Proms on BBC TV, or by catching up on BBC iPlayer for seven days after the event.
Now an integral part of the UK's musical calendar, BBC Proms in the Park in Hyde Park celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2010 and is once again hosted by Sir Terry Wogan. The event is one of five major Last Night of the Proms celebrations staged across the UK by the BBC on Saturday 11 September. The others will be held in County Down, Dundee, Swansea and Salford, bringing the magic of the Last Night of the Proms to many thousands of music-lovers around the UK.
Audiences can also join the Last Night of the Proms celebrations via one of the BBC Big Screens around the country - and there are more than ever in 2010, in Birmingham (Victoria Square), Bradford (Centenary Square), Bristol (Millennium Square), Cardiff (The Hayes), Derby (Market Place), Dover (Market Square), Edinburgh (Festival Square), Leeds (Millennium Square), Leicester (Humberstone Gate), Liverpool (Clayton Square), Manchester (Exchange Square), Middlesbrough (Centre Square), Norwich (Chapelfield Plain), Plymouth (Armada Way), Portsmouth (Guildhall Square), Swindon (Wharf Green), Waltham Forest (Walthamstow Town Square) and Woolwich (General Gordon Place).
BBC Proms in the Park, Hyde Park, London
BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Martin Yates.
Hosted by Sir Terry Wogan
Line-up: Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, José Carreras, Neil Sedaka, Brian May, Kerry Ellis
Pre-broadcast entertainment hosted by Ken Bruce
Line-up: Björn Again, Nell Bryden, the cast of Jersey Boys, Serpentine Fire
Gates open 4.00pm; entertainment on stage from 5.30pm. Tickets: £30 (under-3s free) Telephone booking: See Tickets on 0844 412 4630 (a transaction fee of £2.00, plus a booking fee of £1.25 per ticket applies) and from the Royal Albert Hall on 0845 401 5040 (a transaction fee of 2% of the total value, plus £2.10 per ticket applies) or online at bbc.co.uk/proms (transaction fees vary, see website for details).
Bryn Terfel's annual summer festival on the Faenol estate at Bangor in Wales has been cancelled for the second year running due to poor ticket sales - and this, despite £250,000 of public money given to the singer last month by the Welsh Assembly.
The grant provoked widespread resentment, coming at a time when every arts organisation in the country is having to cut budgets.
A dejected Terfel told BBC Wales: 'We have looked at the situation in great detail and from every possible angle. We have found no other workable solution.' The only event to survive is a concert by the aging Irish boy band, Westlife.
Neither the grant nor the festival yielded much public benefit. Both may now be written off as the singer's vanity fair.
Performing two Mahler symphonies back to back promised to be more an athletic feat than an aesthetic one. By scheduling them at the BBC Proms in the same week as he conducted Salome at the Verbier Festival, Valery Gergiev seemed to be registering early for the triathlon in the 2012 London Olympic Games. A packed house awaited a record-breaking effort.
The fourth symphony was semi-coherent. Gergiev took the opening sleighbells at an artificial plod, promising a few surprises on the bends. But none of his effects seemed particularly interesting, or relevant to what Mahler had in mind. The redeeming facts were the rivetting solos of concertmaster Rainer Küchl, better known as leader of the Vienna Philharmonic, and the soaring, vibrato-free sololiquy of Swedish soprano Camilla Tilling in the finale, a clarity and innocence that seemed perfectly in tune with the composer's intention.
The World Orchestra for Peace, decorated for its efforts with a UNESCO title, is made of up of principal players from many of the great ensembles, playing without fee. In the fourth symphony, they lacked character and traction.
All changed after the break, when Gergiev led an authoritative account of the fifth symphony which proclaimed its urgency in the opening trumpet call from the Maryinsky's Timur Martinov and proceeded, briskly and without sentimental indulgence, through the shifting moods of a composer at the turning point in his life. The ending of the third movement sounded emphatically Jewish and the Adagietto was taut with rigour. There was no slackening in the finale, where conductors often come unstuck, and the concluding silence seemed eternal.
This was, beyond doubt, one of the great performances of recent years, and some of the playing was sensational. Unfair as it is to single out a few, I have to mention the horn solos of Gail Williams (Wyoming), the harp playing of Valerie Aldrich-Smith (BBC National Orchestra of Wales), the three trombones - Randall Hawes (Detroit), Pierre Volders (Rotterdam) and Douglas Wright (Minnesota), the Chicago clarinet Larry Combs and every single one of the string players who played as if they had been together all their lives.
Two Mahlers in one night is probably too much for any conductor or audience, but this Fifth will resound long and warmly in my memory bank.
This is the Brazilian Vinicius de Moraes (1913-1980) as you've never seen him before. Not sure about the glasses, but the rest seems true to life. He was known as 'the little poet' and he's revered as one of the fathers of the Bossa Nova.
What's he doing in the bath? Blame it on the bossa nova....
Thanks for the photograph are due to Fernando Novaes Duarte.
The Russian pianist and conductor Mikhail Pletnev, charged with paedophile offences in Thailand and released on bail, has cancelled his appearances at the BBC Proms and the Edinburgh Festival later this month.
In a terse statement, issued through the Russian National Orchestra's press office, Pletnev said he needed the time to deal with the accusations against him and repeated that he was innocent of the alleged offences.
Over the past week he has been seeking representation offers from London PR firms.
Press release follows:
Reading left to right: Mark Adamo, Robert Spano, John Corigliano, Jennifer Higdon (it may take her a few years to live this down), Steve Reich (him, too) and John Mackey. You can read more about it - but not much more - on Mackey's site: http://ostimusic.com/RubDub.html
Bobby Hebb, who wrote the teenage hit Sunny - inescapable in my teens - has died. He was prompted to write it when his brother was knifed to death outside a Nashville nightclub, a day after the John F Kennedy assassination. Sunny was a girl who smiled at him. Jerry Ross produced the record.
Here's the original: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbUl_E-R91Q
One of the oddest things about it is a resemblance to the Bond theme from Dr No (I think) that connects the first two verses.
Hebb later toured with the Beatles. He died in Nashville yesterday, aged 72.
No-one who saw Radu Mihaileanu's delightful rom-com The Concert will be startled to learn that the Bolshoi Theatre has a new music director. In the film, it is the office cleaner who grabs the baton and takes the orchestra to Paris.
In real life, the lucky loser, announced today in Moscow, is Vasily Sinaisky, a highly proficient conductor who has worked with the BBC Philharmonic in Manchester, making several records for Chandos, and recently conducted the Shostakovich opera, A Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, in Berlin.
Sinaisky, 63, worked with the Bolshoi Opera in Dresden six weeks ago in Tchaikovsky's Iolanta, after which his accession was rubber-stamped by the powers-that-be, though no-one knows if they will still be there next week, such is the chaos that prevails in Russia's leading cultural icons.
Mihaileanu's film tells more of the truth than today's formal press release. It exposes a Russia where a gas oligarch decides who plays what and where, a gangster state where music is an occasional ornament to organised banditry. It is nothing short of amazing that music survives at all in such conditions, and everyone will be praying that Sinaisky can survive the dreadful conditions and transform them.
Seeing the film again on a large screen, as distinct from the cramped DVD I was shown for review, I was forcefully struck by the power of Sarah Nemtanu's playing in the Tchaikovsky violin concerto. Some record label ought to get her into studio fast. She has a real feel for the piece and a highly personal expression. Maybe Sinaisky should conduct, bringing the life-art imitation to full fruition.
Keith Lockhart, conductor of the Boston Pops since 1995, has been named chief conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra, a band catering for light music and family concerts.
Lockhart, 50, has also been music director of the Utah Symphony. A forthright character, he has not shirked public controversy with his predecessors and over his personal life (he went through a messy divorce with a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra). He will add a welcome splash of colour to the BBC's most cuts-vulnerable ensemble.
Lockhart will share the London post with Johannes Wildner, principal guest conductor, a former violinist who has directed in the Prague and Leipzig opera houses after ten years as a player in the Vienna Philharmonic. Apparently, the BBC see him as an upmarket André Rieu.
The corporate press release follows:
The BBC Concert Orchestra announce new conductors
Hot on the heels of a resounding performance at the BBC Proms Sondheim at 80 celebration on Saturday evening, the BBC Concert Orchestra is delighted to announce the signing of Keith Lockhart as Principal Conductor and Johannes Wildner as Principal Guest Conductor. The announcement signals the beginning of a new era for the BBC's most versatile performing group, renowned for their dynamism in classical, jazz and light music.
Keith Lockhart makes his BBC Proms debut with the BBC CO on Monday 30 August leading an evening of English classics and US pizzazz, featuring music by Bernstein, Walton and Gershwin, with audience participation on a giant scale in 'You Must Remember This: A Cinematic Singalong'.
Keith joins the BBC Concert Orchestra whilst continuing his successful work with the celebrated Boston Pops, where he has been Conductor since 1994, bringing music to a wide audience throughout New England and across America. Previous positions include Music Director for the Utah Symphony Orchestra from 1998 to last year. His formidable experience in broad repertoire, allied with his love of all things British make him perfectly positioned to lead the BBC Concert Orchestra through to its 60th year in 2012 and beyond.
Having already conducted the BBC CO on a number of acclaimed recordings, broadcasts and concerts over the past two seasons, Keith says:
"It has been a joy to make music with the BBC Concert Orchestra and I am honoured to be embarking on a more formal relationship with this virtuosic and versatile group of musicians. The unique variety of the BBC Concert Orchestra's concert offerings in the UK and their unrivalled role on BBC TV and Radio, together with their ambitious touring plans, provide an immense opportunity for audience connection at the most meaningful level. I'm excited to get started, and look forward to our upcoming Proms concert, as well as our United States tour later in the fall."
The BBC CO's General Manager, Andrew Connolly, says:
"In securing Keith Lockhart as the BBC Concert Orchestra's seventh Principal Conductor we welcome a musician who embodies the international appeal and ambition of the Concert Orchestra - 2010 style! From its roots in the British Light Music tradition the BBC CO now embraces music awesomely broad in range and style. Under Keith Lockhart's direction we look forward to making evermore musical discoveries through a shared, open-minded approach to stretching the limits of orchestral possibilities."
Alongside Keith Lockhart, the BBC Concert Orchestra has appointed Johannes Wildner as Principal Guest Conductor. He joins the orchestra after holding positions as Chief Conductor of the Prague State Opera, First Permanent Conductor of the Leipzig Opera and General Music Director of the New Philharmonic Orchestra of Westphalia in Germany, from 1997-2007. At the beginning of his professional career Johannes spent 10 years as a violinst of the Vienna Philharmonic which helped shape his distinctive stamp.
"A musician is always audience facing and in my new role as the BBC CO's Principal Guest Conductor I will continue to put people at the heart of what we do. Together we have many ideas, many possibilities and many opportunities to create stand out moments in the hall and on the radio. With high instrumental standards, great flexibility and musicianship I look forward to the future, a future of good music with the BBC Concert Orchestra."
Andrew Connolly continues:
"Johannes's affinity for repertoire from the Strauss family to contemporary music, as well as his first hand experience of the great European music making tradition has won him many friends in the orchestra and audiences alike. His first concert as Principal Guest Conductor will be at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 27 September this year."
Barry Wordsworth, the BBC CO's Conductor Laureate, says of the signings:
"It is a fantastic moment for me to see two such fine and exciting conductors join us. With Jonny Greenwood as Composer-in-Residence and the support of our forward looking management, we now have a team of great artistic strength to create and deliver distinctive output in all areas of our music making."
Full information at bbc.co.uk/concertorchestra
For further press information or pictures please contact Madeleine Castell email@example.com
0207 765 5575
Well, would you believe it? Our man has made it to the heart of Africa, featuring on a rather lovely postage stamp of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The portrait is by R B Kitaj, and you can read the background to it in Why Mahler? The original can be seen in the Vienna State Opera and there is a copy of it hanging in my hallway at home.
It's nice to see Gustav Mahler getting his fifteen cents of fame - actually, one franc fifty, but that's inflation - in a country without a symphony orchestra, where his music has surely never been played.
If it has, do let me know.
Late Extra: I've just been told there is a Kinshasa Symphony Orchestra. It is made up mostly of 'self-taught amateurs' and it is rather short of instruments, but its heart is plainly in the right place. I can't wait for its first Mahler concert. Here's a link to a German film about the band.
In 36 years of Mahler chasing, I cannot remember a week of more intensive performance than the one ahead - with the singular exception of the Mahler fest that Riccardo Chailly directed in Amsterdam in 1995. But that was a festival dedicated to Mahler; this is just the BBC Proms.
In the week ahead at the Royal Albert Hall, and online the world over, you can hear Mahler's third symphony conducted by Donald Runnicles (4 Aug), the fourth and fifth from Valery Gergiev (Aug 5) and the seventh from Ingo Metzmacher (10 Aug). This is, I suspect, a happy accident of planning and availability in an anniversary season shared with other composers, none of whom is projected with the same intensity.
Why Mahler? Well you may ask. The week ahead offers the world an unequalled opportunity to immerse itself in the works of one of the makers of modern civilisation.
The BBC may be criticised for many indulgences and shortcomings, sometimes justly and always predictably by the Murdoch-owned media. Nevertheless, when it comes to signposting key figures in human evolution, the BBC's instincts are usually in the right place - whether the subject is Darwin, Einstein, Shakespeare or Sherlock Holmes.
In Mahler's case, it was the BBC in 1959-60 that commissioned the first post-war symphonic cycle and which, today, is extending the experience to a borderless universe.
Listen to Simone Young on The Lebrecht Interview, Monday night 9.45 on BBC Radio 3 and streamed all week.
Simone pulls no punches, making it clear that she was fired by a board that went back on its promises. There are hints of anti-feminism in the story, and her recovery to become general music director of the city of Hamburg is one of the great musical comebacks.
I like Simone: she's a real fighter, and a contender for the next big opera vacancy, possibly Covent Garden. More details here, along with a posed picture.