Slipped disc: November 2010 Archives
Greg Wood, News Correspondent for the BBC, is to join Centrica in January as Head of Corporate Media Relations and will report to Mish Tullar, Director of Group Media Relations. In his new role, Greg will help embed Centrica's growth story across the media highlighting its significant upstream investment programme in gas, nuclear and renewables and the transformation of British Gas from an energy utility to an energy services business. Prior to returning to London in November 2009 to take up his post as a BBC News Correspondent based at TV Centre, Greg was with the BBC in New York covering the US economy over the 2008 presidential election. Before this he was a Business Correspondent on the BBC Radio 4's Today Programme. Until he leaves in January, Greg can be reached email@example.com
From: Judi Linden
It is with great sadness that I have to relay the news of Byron's passing last evening. As an esteemed board member and leader in the arts field, Byron did so much for so many of us.
He was a mentor and a manager to Midori from the time she started her career over twenty years ago and a fellow colleague and friend to so many of us. His kindness, and gentle nature, along with his intuitive understanding of the performing arts, were just a few of the extraordinary qualities he brought to everything and everyone he helped.
Through his personal passion and professional work, he made such a meaningful difference in our lives and organizations.
Please know that the details regarding any service have not yet been sent to us, once they are I will forward them to you.
Sadly, the Syracuse Symphony has cancelled a performance of Mahler's fifth symphony for lack of funds.
The German monthly Das Orchester has devoted its November issue to the old enemy. The magazine speaks for orchestral players and the orchestral association. It regards conductors as a regrettable necessity.
The issue looks at the way conductors are being trained (or manufactured) in Finland; wonders whether the eyes or the hands are more important in conveying expression and runs a small survey of players on what they think of their maestros.
Being good German players, they are reasonably polite. But between the lines you get the impression that few of those asked think that conducting is a respectable occupation. Like banking, it seems to them money for old rope.
Here's the website. You'll need to buy the magazine (and read German) to get full content.
The great mezzo-turned-soprano has died, aged 79, at her home in Ann Arbor, Michigan. After early battles with racial discrimination in the US, she achieved widespread fame on the European stage and universal popularity among her own profession.
Her autobiography contains prefaces by arch-rivals Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti and afterwords by conductors Claudio Abbado and Zubin Mehta.
Her loss will be the more intensely felt, coming as it does so soon after Joan Sutherland's.
If Osama bin Laden were to sue Citibank for giving him false advice in a takeover deal, he'd stand a decent chance in a New York court, given the general low repute of City bankers.
No such luck for Guy Hands, the man who owns the hedge fund that owns EMI. His $7 bn court claim that he was swindled into paying over the odds for the company was thrown out in four hours by a jury, unmoved by wails that Hands had lost 70 percent of his personal fortune when EMI's share price fell by half.
Where that leaves EMI is firmly in the knackers yard. If the company cannot meet its next debt repayment, Citibank will call in the loan and put the comany into administration.
Vultures are circling. If Warner pass yet again on the chance to pick up the oldest and deepest music catalogue on the cheap, sources at Sony and Universal say the two giants will carve up EMI between them. Neither can buy the company without facing anti-trust action. But if they cherry-pick the remains, Citibank will get repaid and the label will fade into history.
As for Terry Hands, he's running low on friends and the high-wire case will have cost him another chunk of an already depleted fortune. So sad.
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 outstanding and popular concertmaster, hit his head on a rock and died while climbing near Salzburg with his wife in July 1994, early in the festival. It was said at the time that he let his head take the blow to protect his playing hand from injury.
Austria is a mountain nation and many VPO musicians are fearless climbers. But an orchestra on tour needs to maintain collective discipline and security. It may have to restrict dangerous pastimes to off-duty periods.
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 Marks & Spencers boss Stuart Rose and Tesco chief Terry leahy are being considered by the Goverment. Neither has prior form in the arts or any notable passion. Past experience of business moguls has been dismal - remember Labour's Gerry Robinson.
If there is a plan to remove Liz Forgan before her term expires in 2013, Jeremy Hunt should keep his focus on someone from the arts with a no-nonsense history. Tusa's the name.
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' the ACE during their session.
So the committee as a whole was receptive to criticism from Tiffany Jenkins of the Institute of Ideas, David Lee of Jackdaw magazine and myself. And I think we gave them the specifics required. I discussed the huge budgets lavished on non-arts social and political ventures; Alan condemned the unaccountable preference for one contemporary style over others; and Tiffany, naturally an ACE supporter, acknowledged its weak leadership and loss of direction.
Various reforms were proposed, all of us rejecting outright abolition. It will be interesting to see which of our ideas will appear in the final report.
Here is a video of the session that has just appeared online. My contribution begins at 12:08
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:
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 Music Podcast will be unleashed.
The podcast is taken directly from our regular Tuesday morning exploration of the newly released Specialist Classical Chart. It's basically the 0800-0830 segment of the show, when each week you can hear chart details and some of the new entries, fast movers and often the number one.
What's really special about this podcast is that, after months of negotiation and collaboration, we've secured for our listeners the opportunity to hear not just a few seconds of music but whole movements or works excerpted from CDs appearing in the chart. (We can include up to 9 minutes from any individual CD). This gives our audience a chance to sample and re-sample CDs as they keep themselves informed and make their spending decisions.
It starts tomorrow, Tuesday, and will be available around midday every successive Tuesday, initially for a 6-month trial period.
You can download individual episodes from here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/r3chart
Or you can subscribe to the weekly thing through iTunes, Yahoo, Zune, Google Reader, Zencast. Whichever way you do it, do it. And please tell your friends, if you have any. If not, complete strangers are a good option.
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 Porto's beautiful and adventurous Casa da Musica tells me he's preparing for a 19.6 percent budget cut. I see that Michael Kaiser is impressed by the arts minister, but the government is fragile and all outcomes are uncertain.
In Spain, the symphony orchestra in Seville is suffering a 40 percent cut and voices are being raised against the continued state funding for Daniel Barenboim's East-West Diwan while resident arts ensembles are exposed to the full blast of post-bankcrash retrenchment.
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 question of why Germans felt the urge to follow Hitler. Mulisch had the great skill of creating situations that absolved him of polemic. The narrator never rants. Everything flows from the central character and the reader is left with the sensation of going places he or she has never been before.
Mulisch is a unique writer, still too little known in English translation.