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October 31, 2003

Saving Jazz In Canada Du Maurier-sponsored jazz festivals have been a longtime tradition in Canada. But with the tobacco company handcuffed by federal legislation, "many jazz festival organizers across the country feared the worst for their annual events. It's no surprise then that TD Canada Trust was welcomed as a saviour yesterday when it stepped into the breach. As part of a four-year multi-million-dollar deal, the bank will assume title sponsorship for the Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax jazz festivals. Additional support will be distributed to fests in Victoria, Edmonton, Saskatchewan, Winnipeg and Montreal." National Post 10/31/03

Out Of America - The Jansons Phenomenon Mariss Jansons typifies the new generation of star conductors: he's turned his back on America, writes Norman Lebrecht. "For most of the past century great conductors were drawn to America by its wealth and energy. Now, they are having second thoughts. Simon Rattle refused all offers. Riccardo Chailly, Antonio Pappano and Daniele Gatti have planted their feet resolutely in Europe; Riccardo Muti can hardly be bothered to board a plane; Christian Thielemann works mostly in Germany. The American way of making music – heavily unionised schedules, deadeningly conservative audiences – has lost its allure. This is the last year that Munich has to wait for a maestro to return from America." La Scena Musicale 10/39/03

October 30, 2003

The World's Most Overprotected Hunk Of Wood 19th-century violin virtuoso Nicolo Paganini had quite a life story, full of gambling, carousing, and concertizing, but the life of his instrument is nearly as fascinating on its own. The 260-year-old Guarneri, which is kept under heavy guard in Genoa and overseen by a committee, has been played by only a few select musicians since the death of Paganini, and when jazz fiddler Regina Carter was invited to try it out two years ago, purists threw a fit. Carter recorded an album on the famous violin, and this weekend, she'll get a chance to perform on it live in New York. But only for 45 minutes. Because the commitee says so. New York Post 10/30/03

Naming Names In St. Louis Sarah Bryan-Miller is not a popular individual with some St. Louis Symphony Orchestra musicians at the moment, due to her decision to break a little-known taboo in her reviews of the ensemble. Bryan-Miller is not known for overly caustic reviews, and doles out far more regular praise than some of her predecessors in the city, but last year, she made a decision to use her platform to address one of the problems that nearly every orchestra faces, but no one ever talks about. "There are several players [in the SLSO] who sometimes appear in the spotlight but are simply not up to the challenge. A couple of them are downright bad. And there's no apparent end to the problem: In the absence of a music director, no one can fire an inadequate player. What to do? Last season, I reluctantly began naming names." St. Louis Post-Dispatch 10/25/03

Tough Times In The Northland The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra is reporting a deficit for the just-concluded fiscal year of nearly $800,000, its first in a decade. The announcement comes on the heels of the signing of the SPCO's new contract with its musicians, which trimmed six weeks from the orchestra's season and slashed salaries by nearly 20%. The SPCO also laid off a third of its administrative staff last spring in a cost-cutting move, and has significantly scaled back or replaced some of the larger productions it had scheduled for this season. St. Paul Pioneer Press 10/30/03

Useful Research Or A Waste Of Good Public Money? The Brooklyn Philharmonic is set to receive a $330,000 grant from the federal Department of Education to study whether children in inner-city schools benefit from music classes. Trouble is, everyone already knows that children benefit from music classes, don't they? Anti-tax organizations and government watchdog groups are up in arms over the grants, which opponents say could have been spent on "about 400 drum sets, 800 saxophones or 900 trumpets - or to pay the salaries of several music teachers." New York Daily News 10/30/03

October 29, 2003

Michener: Disney "Radically Redefines" Concert-Going Charles Michener is impressed with his first encounter with Disney Hall. "If the flamboyant façade doesn’t attain quite the iconic power of the Sydney Opera House as a city-defining monument (there’s no dramatic vantage point from which to view it whole), its interior radically redefines the experience of concertgoing. People in the concert business tell me that it takes about three years for an orchestra and a new hall to settle down acoustically. What I heard at Disney Hall suggests a marriage that is off to a roaring start." New York Observer 10/29/03

Why Songs Get Stuck In Our Heads (Damnit!) Those annoying songs that somehow get stuck in our heads and can't be chased out? There's a physical reason, apparently. "A cognitive itch is a kind of metaphor that explains how these songs get stuck in our head. Certain songs have properties that are analogous to histamines that make our brain itch. The only way to scratch a cognitive itch is to repeat the offending melody in our minds."
BBC 10/29/03

Pittsburgh Turns It Around The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, which has been seen as a textbook case of the financial chaos enveloping American symphony orchestras, has somehow managed to balance its budget. "The PSO had projected a $2.5 million to $3 million structural deficit for the 2003-04 season, but expects to avoid it through increased endowment performance, augmented annual fund contributions, reduced musicians' salaries, increases in ticket revenue and enhancement of shared services... Other positive fiscal factors include fund raising that is $250,000 ahead of this time last year, a new musicians' contract that includes a 7.8 percent wage cut for the first two years, and a 30 percent increase in new classical subscription sales from last year to date, totaling 1,550 new subscribers." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10/29/03

Good News/Bad News in San Antonio The musicians of the San Antonio Symphony have a new contract. The good news is that the embattled ensemble will apparently survive, and will mount 26 weeks of concerts in 2004-05. The bad news is that there will be no concerts this season, and musicians will have no salaries, no health insurance, and few local prospects for full-time musical employment in the interim. The contract calls for the musicians to receive a raise in weekly wages in 2004, but because of the short season, they will actually make far less in salary and benefits than they did prior to the orchestra's bankruptcy filing last spring. San Antonio Express-News 10/29/03

NJSO: Basking in the Järvi Glow So how do the musicians of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra feel about the appointment of Neeme Järvi as their next music director? 'Ecstatic' may not be a strong enough word. Järvi first conducted the NJSO last season, and the orchestra's principal flute says that "after that concert, I heard the most unbelievable gushing from every section of the orchestra. The veterans loved him, the newbies loved him. Everybody fell for him." Musicians are also praising the orchestra's board for making them an integral part of the search process, rather than an afterthought. Newark Star-Ledger 10/29/03

  • Getting To Know Him While the appointment of Neeme Järvi in New Jersey may have come as a shock to the orchestra industry, the new partnership is already looking like a natural match. After all, Newark is not so terribly different a city from Detroit, where Järvi has spent the last 14 seasons. And the NJSO couldn't ask for a more down-to-earth musician to match its down-to-earth base of operations: by all accounts, Järvi's strength is in his ability to take music seriously without ever forgetting that he and his musicians are entertainers first. "Do you know what is the difference between God and a conductor?" he asks. "God doesn't think he's a conductor!" Newark Star-Ledger 10/29/03

  • Previously: Stunning Appointment: Järvi to New Jersey In what is being widely viewed as a major coup for a second-tier American orchestra, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra has announced that Neeme Järvi will be its next music director, officially beginning in 2005. Järvi will take over immediately as the orchestra's principal conductor, ending a 2-1/2 year search to replace the departed Zdenek Macal in Newark. Järvi has been the music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for 14 years, and has been credited with transforming the DSO into one of the top ensembles in the U.S. The announcement is seen as a badly needed shot in the arm for the NJSO, which has been running severe deficits and which recently lost its well-regarded executive director to Pittsburgh. Newark Star-Ledger 10/28/03

Big-Time Opera, Hold the Sticker Shock A British impresario has announced that he will shortly launch a new opera company in London designed specifically to be accessible to a wider and more diverse audience than the city's other, larger companies. "The Savoy Opera company, based at London's Savoy Theatre, will stage popular operas such as Carmen and the Marriage of Figaro, beginning in April. The aim is to not to compete with the capital's two big opera companies, but to offer a cheaper alternative. Top ticket prices will be £50, compared to £170 at the Royal Opera House." BBC 10/29/03

October 28, 2003

Presidential Peter "A couple of new recordings of Peter and the Wolf - narrated by Sophia Loren and Bill Clinton. "His famously pock-marked voice is strangely alluring. He sounds sincere and avuncular, and acts with a fair amount of ease. This is something more complex than a statesmanlike reading of Copland's Lincoln Portrait. Hidden talents? No. After all, it was Ronald Reagan who said during his presidency that there had been times when he wondered how you could do the job if you hadn't been an actor." Philadelphia Inquirer 10/26/03

Musicians' Union Accuses Fund Director of Embezzlement The American Federation of Musicians has fired the executive director of its Sound Recording Special Payments Fund, which doles out money to unionized musicians around the country in payment for commercial recordings, and is accusing him of having embezzled more than $400,000 from the union. According to the AFM, no determination has been made as to whether a criminal complaint will be filed against Enex Steele, but the union has issued a formal demand that Steele immediately return the full amount he is charged with having taken. [Editor's Note: The link for this story is to a formal press release from the AFM, and not to an objective and independent news source.] American Federation of Musicians 10/14/03

Davidson On Disney: Populism Meeting Glitter Justin Davidson is duly impressed with the L.A. Philharmonic's new Gehry-designed digs: "It is a building made of visual metaphors: It blooms among the architectural crabgrass of downtown L.A... The hall is a come-on to the city on the part of a high-art establishment that feels miniaturized by the pop-culture machine. Like a maestro going to the supermarket, Disney Hall balances glamour with populism. It is a complex space, yet a straightforwardly spectacular one, too. It flaunts its impeccable sheen, yet invites visitors to touch. People have done so, and unless the maintenance crew proves overzealous, one of the more unexpected features will be the shadow of hands on steel." Newsday (New York) 10/27/03

Butting Heads In Birmingham Peter Thomas, the concertmaster of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra has resigned from his position, and will leave the highly-regarded orchestra in March 2004, reportedly as a result of ongoing artistic conflicts with CBSO music director Sakari Oramo. "Regular CBSO concertgoers will have noticed the two men have not appeared on stage together for months... Ironically, Mr Thomas flew to Europe in 1997 with former chief executive Edward Smith to persuade an initially hesitant Mr Oramo to replace Sir Simon Rattle in Birmingham." Birmingham Post (UK) 10/28/03

Stunning Appointment: Järvi to New Jersey In what is being widely viewed as a major coup for a second-tier American orchestra, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra has announced that Neeme Järvi will be its next music director, officially beginning in 2005. Järvi will take over immediately as the orchestra's principal conductor, ending a 2-1/2 year search to replace the departed Zdenek Macal in Newark. Järvi has been the music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for 14 years, and has been credited with transforming the DSO into one of the top ensembles in the U.S. The announcement is seen as a badly needed shot in the arm for the NJSO, which has been running severe deficits and which recently lost its well-regarded executive director to Pittsburgh. Newark Star-Ledger 10/28/03

Is Vienna Stalking Cleveland's MD? Seiji Ozawa is under contract as music director of the Vienna State Opera through 2007, so it isn't surprising that VSO officials are being coy about rumors that they are actively pursuing Franz Welser-Möst to replace him. Welser-Möst, the young music director of the Cleveland Orchestra, was first mentioned as an object of Viennese desire more than a year ago, but the talk of his wooing has revved up since he stepped in for an ailing Christian Thielemann last month, and led a well-received production of Wagner's Tristan & Isolde. Complicating the rumors is the fact that Welser-Möst's contract in Cleveland was recently extended through 2012. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 10/28/03

October 27, 2003

Where Have All The Music Stores Gone? The number of sheet music stores still alive is tiny compared with 30 years ago. "Nowadays, although recent polls show that 25 percent of adults say they play musical instruments, there are so few specialist stores that sell print music, and they don't really make a great outreach to people except for the ones who physically darken their doorsteps." The New York Times 10/23/03

Let's Blame The Recording Companies "Why is the classical music tradition in difficulty, asks Charles Rosen? "At the time that listening to records was beginning to overtake going to concerts as the chief way of staying in contact with the classical tradition, the record companies consistently refused to make records freely or cheaply available to schools. Educating a future public would have meant planning in longer terms than the habits of thought of the modern business world are comfortable with. Nevertheless, this makes a coherent view of our cultural heritage in literature and music an awkward undertaking. Some educators have abandoned the idea as hopeless and even (sour grapes!) as unnecessary. Even the idea of a canon of great works of the past can inspire resentment today." New York Review of Books 10/03

Disney Passes Expectations In The Fast Lane LA's new Disney Hall got through its opening weekend of three concerts in great style, writes Joshua Kosman. "Taken in tandem with Thursday's opener, the evenings added up to a beguiling snapshot of musical life in the Southland - venturesome, swaggering and ready to embrace whatever cultural developments may be passing through. In addition to its own extravagant charms, at once noble and puppyish, Disney Hall reveals anew the strength and resilience that this orchestra has attained under Salonen's leadership." San Francisco Chronicle 10/27/03

The Music Biz's New Biz Model "In the trickle-down economics of the music industry, the travails of the Big 5 major labels - who have suffered steeply declining sales for the last three years - are having an impact on the smaller bands, record companies and media who make up the rock and rap underground. The idea of the Big 5 multinationals as viable distributors of music becomes a less likely scenario every year; a new business model that is emerging sees the big record companies as glorified marketing companies, expert at spending money to get consumers to spend even more money." Chicago Tribune 10/27/03

October 26, 2003

Concerto Winnows Piano Competition Field Some 400 pianists applied to compete in the San Antonio International Piano Competition. "Of those, only 38 were able to meet a new requirement that applicants submit a recording of themselves playing with an orchestra." Organizers were dismayed to hear so many excellent pianists were unable to provide a tape of them performing with orchestra. San Antonio Express-News 10/26/03

Buy A Beethoven A movement of a Beethoven string quartet, written in the composer's hand, is coming up for auction. Earlier this year a manuscript copy of Beethoven's 9th Symphony sold for $3.47 million. "Unlike that manuscript, which was prepared by a copyist but had Beethoven's corrections and comments on most of its pages, the quartet movement is entirely in Beethoven's hand. Sotheby's says it expects the manuscript to bring between $1.6 million and $2.5 million." The New York Times 10/27/03

Sex (No Drugs) And Rock 'N Roll According to a new study, young rock musicians are more liable to discourage drug use than encourage it. "The research, published by the University of Texas at Austin, explodes the conventional wisdom that popular music encourages teenagers to abuse drugs. The author, John Markert of Cumberland University, Tennessee, says that although there has always been a generally hostile attitude towards heroin and other hard drugs, teenage listeners today 'are being exposed to more negative images of marijuana and LSD than older listeners'." The Guardian (UK) 10/37/04

Beethoven In China Western European orchestral music has a big following in China. But until this month, Beethoven's string quartets had never been performed as a complete set before. "The fact that it has taken this long for Beethoven's quartets to be given this kind of hearing in a country where western orchestral music has built up an established, if still relatively small, audience may seem surprising. Why should the popularity of western chamber music lag that of western orchestral music?" Financial Times 10/24/03

Pavarotti - High C's At 68? At 68, Luciano Pavarotti doesn't always sound so good, writes Richard Dyer. "But he sounds amazingly steady and solid on the new album - it is hard to think of any previous tenor who could sound this good at Pavarotti's age. Most of the songs are appealing, and Pavarotti lavishes his incomparable diction and emotional generosity on them, and his high C is still in working order." Boston Globe 10/26/03

October 24, 2003

Music Fans Beginning To Rebel Against Recording Companies More and more music lovers are getting fed up with the recording industry's tactics of protecting their business. Some are organizing a boycott of CD sales for the month of Decemeber. "Angry music fans see the recording industry's tactics for dealing with declining CD sales as punishing the wrong people - music lovers." Charlotte Observer 10/24/03

October 23, 2003

Disney Hall's First Night "As spotlights raked the billowing exterior of architect Frank Gehry's $274-million edifice, a glittering lineup of politicians, Hollywood players, captains of industry and cultural savants filed up a red-carpeted stairway and into the dramatically sculpted 2,265-seat hall, which has already drawn ecstatic reviews from architecture critics across the country." Los Angeles Times 10/24/03

  • Disney: So How'd It Sound? Mark Swed writes that Disney Hall is "everything and more than we might have hoped for. In this enchanted space, music can take on meaningful new excitement even in an age when many art forms are satisfied with oversaturated stimulation." Los Angeles Times 10/24/03

  • Disney Hall - Fulfilling Expectations Nicolai Ouroussoff writes that Disney Hall lives up to extravagant expectations. "What makes the building so moving as a work of architecture is its ability to express a deeper creative conflict: the recognition that ideal beauty rarely exists in an imperfect world. It is this tension — and the delicacy with which Gehry resolves it — that makes Disney Hall such a powerful work of social commentary. That he could accomplish this despite a tortured construction process that dragged out over 16 years is a minor miracle. Its success affirms both Gehry's place as America's greatest living architectural talent and Los Angeles' growing cultural maturity." Los Angeles Times 10/19/03

Barbie On The Half Shell (Operatically Speaking) A new opera in Dresden features Barbies. Naked Barbies. "This Barbie spends a lot of her time without her clothes on and has a male alter ego (not the trustworthy Ken doll but a mutated Barbie with brutally cropped hair); together they indulge in wildly experimental sex play. In performance, the action is performed by real Barbies in a real Barbie house, with the musicians and singers behind. The dolls are manipulated by two puppeteers and the action is video-projected on to screens on either side of the house. It is a technical challenge." The Guardian (UK) 10/24/03

Those Daring Young Pianists On The Flying Trapeze Piano competitions are a grand old classical music tradition, but in recent years, it's become harder and harder for some of the smaller events on the circuit to raise enough money to keep it all going. A case in point is Canada's Esther Honens competition, run by Andrew Raeburn, who has been employing every technique he can think of to generate interest, and cash. Inlcuding, believe it or not, trapeze artists. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 10/23/03

Low-Fi, High-Tech: Is Chip Music The New Punk? Technology has officially invaded pop music, and the results have been, well, bland. Endless digital remixes and computer-generated backing instrumentals have created an entire catalog of dull, generic, lifeless songs by artists who really ought to know better. But a new do-it-yourself movement known as "chip music," vaguely remniescent of 1970s punk, has emerged from the shadow of the technology beast, employing high-tech but low-fidelity "instruments," such as old Nintendo GameBoys, to create music which reeks of contempt for the mainstream music industry. "The essence of chip music is in reverse engineering an electronic interface - whether it's a Game Boy or a computer's sound chip - and subverting its original design." Wired Magazine 11/03

October 22, 2003

Music's Do-It-Yourselfers A new generation of musicians is producing recordings on its own. "It has never been easier to make a record than it is now. Computers and digital recording technology have put the means of production into the hands of the musician. So, if you can make a record that sounds every bit as polished as an expensive studio recording, press copies and produce an eye-catching sleeve with the aid of graphics programmes, what do you need a major record company for?" The Telegraph (UK) 10/23/03

October 21, 2003

Libeskind Pulls Out Of 'Ring' Production Covent Garden thought it had scored a coup when it hired architect Daniel Libeskind to design sets for a new production of Wagner's Ring. "But a Covent Garden spokesman said yesterday that he and director Keith Warner had been "unable to agree on the imagery", for the operas whose design always provokes passionate - and sometimes vitriolic - debate among Wagner buffs." So Libeskind has pulled out of the project. The Guardian (UK) 10/22/03

iTunes - The End Of Illegal Downloading? Apple's iTunes for Windows is a big success so far. "To hear Apple's CEO Steve Jobs tell it, the iTunes store is the beginning of the end for the file-sharing networks. 'This has been the birth of legal downloading'." Others, though, are not so sure... Wired 10/21/03

Recording Industry On The Trail Of 204 More Music File-Traders The recording industry has warned 204 more people that they will be prosecuted for file-sharing. "The RIAA's second round of lawsuits started with a sternly worded letter giving the individuals 10 days to contact the RIAA to discuss a settlement and avoid being formally sued. Under copyright law, the defendants could face damages that range from $750 to $150,000 for each illegal song." San Francisco Chronicle 10/21/03

A Tax To Pay Artists For Music Copying? Harvard professor William Fisher has a proposal for a tax on digital playback devices. Music could be downloaded and copied freely and artists would be paid from the tax fees. "He predicts that his plan, debated at a recent copyright conference, eventually would boost music revenues. Since online distribution is cheaper than printing CDs, overhead should shrink. Promotion costs could drop, too, as fans spread the word themselves about talented artists. Legal costs should vanish along with copyright lawsuits." The Star-Ledger (Newark) 10/21/03

Disney Hall - Hopes Of A City What does Disney Hall mean to LA? "We never had a downtown," Richard J. Riordan, the former mayor who played an important role in reviving the once near-dead Disney Hall, said before the ceremony. "We finally have one now. And Disney Hall is a symbol of that." The New York Times 10/21/03

October 20, 2003

Opera At The Crossroads "The future health and development of opera depends on it embracing the whole of society, and that means being a part of society and being prepared to change as rapidly as society itself. We have to find a way of recovering a fundamental sense of adventure, challenge and interaction - a modern world demands nothing less. However, the desire to keep everybody happy - from paymasters to reviewers, from the conservative and wealthy to the modish and wealthy - has created a strange climate of catch-all, in which it is sometimes difficult to understand whether we are being offered vision, excellence, audience-pleasers, or a competition for who can produce the glossiest international brochure." The Guardian (UK) 10/21/03

Disney Hall - Worth Waiting For After 16 years and $274 million, Disney Hall is opening this week in LA> "Is the long-delayed Disney Hall, then, just a consolation prize for Los Angeles? Does one of the biggest cities in the world find itself in the odd position of playing second fiddle to a Basque regional capital with a population under 400,000? Not exactly. The building is a fantastic piece of architecture—assured and vibrant and worth waiting for. It has its own personality, instead of being anything close to a Bilbao rehash. And surprisingly enough, it turns out that all of those postponements and budget battles have been a boon for the hall's design." Slate 10/20/03

Charge: Microsoft Manipulating Online Music Buyers Is Microsoft forcing computer users to buy music only by using its browser? "Lawyers for the Justice Department and 19 state attorneys general have formally complained to a federal judge about a design feature of Windows that compels consumers who buy music online to use only Microsoft's Internet browser and steers them to a website operated by the company." Wired 10/20/03

iTunes Windows A Hit Apple's iTunes service for Windows computer users is a hit. "More than a million copies of the Windows version of its iTunes music software have been downloaded in the past three days. The program offers PC users the same services, prices and catalogue of songs, which Apple hopes to increase to 400,000 by the end of October." Since debuting earlier this year, Apple's Mac iTunes stores has sold 14 million songs. BBC 10/20/03

October 19, 2003

How Much Is Music Worth? Is 99 cents a fair price for a downloadable music track? "Some analysts are beginning to realize that lower prices could greatly expand the size of the digital-music market, still minuscule despite iTunes' success. A July survey by Jupiter Research of 2,500 adults who use the Internet found that 35% of people are willing to pay 51 cents to $1 for a song by a favorite artist; 20% are willing to pay 50 cents or less; and 19% would pay more than $1 (26% say no price is right, they'll pay nothing). Problem is, online-music services cannot significantly lower prices without losing money." BusinessWeek 10/17/03

North Carolina Conservatory - Tools For The Job The North Carolina School of the Arts has long had to contend with inadequate facilities. Despite the limitations, the school has turned out an impressive list of music graduates. But now the school is opening a new $10 million home, and with the right tools... Winston Salem Journal 10/19/03

LA's Disney Hall - The Aesthetic Challenge "This hall is our opportunity to take that evolutionary step in creating an orchestra for the 21st Century. We now have the possibilities of enhanced programming and new concert formats, of providing a new gravitas with the community. I've always had this feeling that an orchestra should not just be an orchestra but, rather, something that has an intellectual and spiritual impact on the lives of people in the community. You cannot open a new building and simply carry on business as usual. There must be a match of programming and ideology, with the music matching the signals given out by the building." Chicago Tribune 10/19/03

Opera House In A Laptop Canada's first real opera house is under construction in Toronto. For now, though, it exists in software. "In a opera house, sound is sacred. The worst nightmare is to pour the concrete, build the place, and then find out the acoustics are poor. So computer software has been heavily pressed into service to establish what kind of sound every person in the hall will hear - before the hall is built. This is something that has only become possible in the past four years, and Toronto's opera house will be the first to receive the benefit." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 10/18/03

Getting Ahold Of A Strad There are only 500-600 Stradivari violins left. To play at in the top ranks of soloists, you want to have one of them. "Say you are a gifted young musician and you need an illustrious instrument to develop your musicianship, career and reputation. To buy one you have to be able to command the fees that only a career on the international circuit can provide. And for that you need a fine instrument. You are stymied." The Telegraph (UK) 10/18/03

Is Classical Music Racist? The audience for traditional classical music is overwhelmingly caucasian, whether in Europe or North America, and despite paying frequent lip service to the vague concept of "diversity," few practitioners of the art have made any serious attempts to widen the appeal of the genre. So why does classical music receive such a huge percentage of available public arts funding? "This has always been the case, but now that cultural diversity has moved to the top of the funding agenda, it's become a serious political embarrassment. There's something disquieting, in 2003, about the sight of an all-white orchestra playing to an all-white audience." The Telegraph (UK) 10/18/03

Sydney's Icon Turns 30 The Sydney Opera House celebrated its 30th anniversary this weekend. Initially plagued by construction delays and cost overruns, the sleek, swooping building has become an icon for the entire continent, and the first image many foreigners imagine when they think of Australia. The Age (Melbourne) 10/19/03

Has Montreal Chosen Dutoit's Successor? Rumors are swirling that the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, which was left headless following the abrupt resignation of Charles Dutoit in 2002, has already chosen a new music director, and is simply waiting for the right time to announce. "Security is high. No one with authority has let a name slip... Still, there are some suspects worth re-examining." Any serious conductor who is fluent in French could be a candidate, but the names Eliahu Inbal, Emmanuel Villaume, and Yan Pascal Tortelier are among those who are frequently spoken of as serious contenders. Montreal Gazette 10/18/03

Spoleto's Surprise Surplus "Spoleto Festival USA's board of directors has learned that the 27th season of the arts festival ended up $10,007 in the black. The unaudited results for the fiscal year ending Aug. 31 showed that the festival's $6.3 million budget got a strong boost from a record $2.5 million in ticket sales, according to a statement released by the festival Friday following a board meeting in New York. Not only was this year's festival the highest-grossing ticket sales season in its history, but about half of its performances also were sold out." Charleston (SC) Post & Courier 10/19/03

Detroit's New Digs: Spending Money To Make Money The Detroit Symphony Orchestra could very well have chosen to spend the last few years hiding under a pile of the Motor City's ever-present downtown rubble, and hoping that the financial roof wouldn't fall in. After all, orchestras are in terible shape just about everywhere, and Detroit is hardly a model for the type of forward-looking urban development that orchestras must embrace to make strides in an increasingly diverse entertainment universe. Instead, the DSO took a big, beautiful chance, and invested millions in a newly revitalized concert hall in one of the city's most blighted neighborhoods. No one yet knows if the plan will succeed, but thank God someone is still trying, says William Littler. Toronto Star 10/18/03

Why Must Music Be Transcendant? Classical music, and opera in particular, is often held up as a beacon of transcendant, other-worldly beauty, in a culture obsessed with speed and reduced to communicating through sound bites. But that perception doesn't often square with reality, says Anne Midgette, and the fact that listeners aren't being transported to a higher realm on an average night at the Met doesn't mean that the music has failed, simply that our expectations are misplaced. "Opera deals in human emotions, not divine and ethereal ones. When singing is sublime, it's partly because it amplifies those emotions with a kind of inner purity." The New York Times 10/19/03

October 17, 2003

First Impressions In Detroit As part of the massive expansion of the Detroit Symphony's Max M. Fisher Music Center, a new 450-seat chamber music hall was built, and the DSO is hoping that it will be the key to drawing new audiences to classical music in the city. The new hall looks great, but how does it sound? "Judging acoustics based on only one night in the hall is a bit like tasting Bordeaux from the barrel, but with that caveat in mind, the sound-bite summary is this: The hall is not perfect, but the acoustics Wednesday were promising enough that it's safe to call the Music Box the best hall for chamber music in metro Detroit." Detroit Free Press 10/17/03

Fighting For The Soul Of R&B At some point in the 1980s, the pop music genre known as R&B went crushingly, horrifyingly commercial, and became less traditional "soul" music than overproduced pap designed to be as inoffensive as possible to as wide a range of consumers as could be snookered into buying it. Then, in the mid-'90s, a new breed of talented young singers - the "neo-soul" movement, they were dubbed - began to revitalize the genre with original albums that picked up where artists like Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye had left off back in the '70s. But the movement has stalled out, the neo-soul musicians are flying well under the pop culture radar, and slick commercial R&B is again dominating the charts. Still, there may yet be hope for serious soul musicians. Chicago Tribune 10/17/03

Trouble In Paradise The Honolulu Symphony Orchestra has become the latest American orchestra to make drastic cuts to its infrastructure in order to avoid fiscal insolvency. The musicians of the HSO this week accepted a stunning 20% salary cut, reduced pension benefits, and a 4-week reduction in their season. Prior to the new agreement, HSO musicians earned $30,345 for a 34-week season. The cuts are all the more ominous because the HSO's musicians were in the middle of a 5-year contract when the orchestra's management informed them that they would not be able to honor its terms. Honolulu Advertiser 10/17/03

October 16, 2003

Miles Davis Raw...Is It Fair? In 1970, Miles Davis was "clean and healthy and at the height of his powers." He made a set of recordings in which he tested out music. But the recordings were never meant to be released, and now that they are, some Davis fans are angry. "The set offers unprecedented insights into the musical intelligence that went into the album's creation. But with mistakes and doodles included in the mix, are these private explorations really for public consumption decades later?" The Guardian (UK) 10/17/03

Disney-High Ambitions LA's Disney Hall opens next week. "For all the energy and playfulness of this $274 million piece of civic sculpture, Disney Hall also bears a heavy burden as an instrument of this city's heady ambition. Sixteen years in the making, it represents Los Angeles' determination to shake off its perpetual No. 2 status, to be recognized, along with New York, as an international cultural heavyweight, yet on its own highly theatrical terms." San Francisco Chronicle 10/16/03

Staying Solvent, While Holding On To Your Soul With deficits becoming the rule rather than the exception, and public interest in classical music stagnant at best, American orchestras are searching for ways to reinvent their product without alienating their core audience. No one's done it successfully yet, but many people in the industry are betting that Deborah Card, the Chicago Symphony's new executive director, may eventually lead the way. "Our responsibility as administrators is to make sure that people have the best possible access to those concerts. We have to step up to the challenge of understanding that we're in a marketplace, and the marketplace must be attended to. We have to be sure that our product -- that sounds so crass -- is delivered in the way people want to receive it." Chicago Sun-Times 10/16/03

  • Chicago Balances The Budget, Sort Of The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which stunned the orchestra world when it posted an unprecedented $6 million deficit last year, has officially balanced its books for the 2002-03 season. The CSO cut $2.5 million from its annual budget and took an additional endowment draw of $1.3 million in order to stay out of the red, while ticket sales and contributed income remained flat. However, the orchestra anticipates a return to large deficits for the current season, when it will not be able to repeat the endowment overdraw trick. Chicago Sun-Times 10/16/03

Cleveland Posts Large Deficit Even the most prestigious American orchestras aren't safe from the wave of deficits and cash flow problems which has swept the nation in recent years. This week, the Cleveland Orchestra, thought by many to be the best symphony orchestra in the U.S., reported a deficit of nearly $2 million on a budget of $36 million. This is the second consecutive deficit for the group, and orchestra execs are projecting a $4 million deficit for the current fiscal year. The struggle to stay in the black appears to be twofold: "The fundamental problem is the presence of a world-class symphony orchestra in a relatively small city," and the orchestra's endowment was hit hard by the recession, losing more than $50 million over three years. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 10/16/03

Milwaukee's New Top Exec The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, hoping to dig its way out from under a $4 million accumulated debt, has hired Mark C. Hanson as its new executive director. Hanson has run the Knoxville (TN) Symphony for the past two seasons, and received a national award recognizing his progress in both financial and artistic areas there. Hanson is quite young - 29 years old - but his record in retiring debt was apparently attractive to the MSO's search committee, and he is himself a musician, which is often thought to be an important factor to an orchestra's players. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 10/15/03

October 15, 2003

Seattle Symphony Hires Controversial New Exec Director The Seattle Symphony hires a new executive director. Paul Meecham is currently orchestra manager of the New York Philharmonic, but his appointment in Seattle is controversial, and didn't win the full support of the orchestra's board of directors. "According to musicians, Meecham had earlier made derogatory statements about longtime music director Gerard Schwarz's conducting and recordings in a meeting with several musicians." Seattle Times 10/15/03

NY Phil/Carnegie Merger - An Ill-Fated Venture The New York Philharmonic/Carnegie Hall merger was ill-fated from the start, writes Charles Michener. "It was never going to happen. As we now know, the whole farrago was cooked up by Sanford I. Weill, the megabanker who heads Carnegie’s board, and his counterpart at the Philharmonic, Paul B. Guenther. And for all the spin about the orchestra’s glorious return to the place where it flourished before its move to Lincoln Center in 1962, it seems clear that the scheme had nothing to do with nostalgia or concern for the public good. In keeping with the merger mania that has corrupted so much of the product delivered by our media and entertainment leviathans (General Electric, which owns NBC, has just added Vivendi Universal’s entertainment division to its list of household appliances), the deal was all about the bottom line." New York Observer 10/16/03

October 14, 2003

The St. Louis Symphony's Puzzling Management Moves The financially troubled St. Louis Symphony has been doing some management restructuring. But that "restructuring" included dismissing the executive most orchestra observers believe knows the most about how to run an orchestra. So what's going on? St. Louis Post-Dispatch 10/12/03

Atlanta Opera's Big New Home Atlanta Opera enters a new chapter, moving into the 4,600-seat Atlanta Civic Center. "The generically functional auditorium was built in the late '60s to accommodate annual visits from New York's Metropolitan Opera, which, for most of the 20th century, was the highlight of affluent Atlanta's summer social calendar. It was only after the center's final Met performance - Verdi's "La Traviata" in May 1986 - that Atlantans, and the city's business community, were ready to support a local opera company." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 10/10/03

The Philadelphia Orchestra's Little Deficit Problem The Philadelphia Orchestra had a deficit of $1 million on a $35 million budget last season. Not too bad, considering. "But look a little deeper, and the real problem becomes obvious. Since 1999, the orchestra has racked up a total of roughly $14 million in deficits, and only about $8 million of that has been paid off - through bequests from, among others, Gretel Ormandy, the widow of Eugene Ormandy, the orchestra's fourth music director. The orchestra has covered the rest, about $5 million, by borrowing from its endowment." Philadelphia Inquirer 10/14/03

La Scala Appoints a Referee...Er, "Artistic Director" La Scala has appointed a new artistic director to mediate between music director Riccardo Muti and general manager Carlo Fontana. Muti has fought against what he characterizes as Fontana's attempts to "dumb down" the famous company. "Mr Fontana had been criticised for introducing popular fare such as West Side Story to fill the 2,600 seats of the Arcimboldi theatre, built on the industrial outskirts of Milan to host La Scala's performances while its city-centre premises undergo a £40m refit. Tension between the two men burst into the open in July when Mr Muti snubbed the official presentation of the opera's new season." The Guardian (UK) 10/13/03

Recordings - The Politics Of Price "As musical recordings have increasingly shed their physical form, the record industry and its customers have been at odds over what it all should cost. Music fans complain of high CD prices and copy more music illicitly than they purchase legally, while the record companies rail against the devaluation of their product and take file-sharers to court. Since legal ways to experience online music are only now becoming widely available, there is no established record of what the market will bear or how these innovations will be received. Will each song purchased online represent the loss of a whole CD sale in the store? Or will customers respond to the ease and selection of e-commerce by buying more, overall?" The New York Times 10/12/03

October 13, 2003

NY Phil - Negotiating A Deal To Stay Home So is all forgiven of the New York Philharmonic now it's decided to pass on Carnegie Hall and stay at Lincoln Center? Maybe. But the orchestra has to negotiate a new lease at the West Side culture campus. And there are just a few things Lincoln Center wants to change about its arrangement with the orchestra... The New York Times 10/14/03

October 12, 2003

At The Gramophones: Bartoli Named Most Popular Cecilia Bartoli has been named the world's most popular classical music artist at this year's Gramophone Awards. "The mezzo soprano beat Sir Simon Rattle and Nigel Kennedy to the Classic FM listener's choice prize, voted for by fans of the radio station." BBC 10/12/03

October 10, 2003

Recording Industry Suing Flea Markets The recording industry has widened its legal offensive. Now it's suing owners of flea markets. "The lawsuit filed by the Recording Industry Association of America charges that the market has made only token efforts to deter the sale of counterfeit and pirated recordings, and says that, like many flea markets, Columbus profits by virtue of its underground reputation as a marketplace for cheap discs. 'There are 3,000 flea markets in the country, and at many of them, vendors are offering home-burned CD's or other illegal recordings'." The New York Times 10/10/03

English National Opera's Frayed Edges "Two years of boardroom rows, budget deficits, strike threats, sackings and redundancies, plummeting box-office sales and the critics' thumbs-down have taken a chastening toll on an institution that once breezily proclaimed itself as opera's 'Powerhouse'. Now ENO is beginning to reinvent itself in less aggressive guise, with a new managerial team led by artistic director and chief executive Sean Doran." The Telegraph (UK) 10/10/03

  • English National Opera Gets Some Help The English National Opera has been in a crisis for so long, it's getting harder and harder to remember when the company was able to just concentrate on producing good work. Now some good news. "Yesterday the artistic director, Sean Doran, announced the biggest sponsorship deal in its history, £3m over three years from Sky and the digital channel Artsworld. And its Ring Cycle next year has got the largest sponsorship for a single production - £300,000 from the MFI group, best known for bargain kitchens." The Guardian (UK) 10/10/03

But When That Carrot Hits A Wrong Note! The First Viennese Vegetable Orchestra has left the crisper for a European tour (they have a CD, natch). "The orchestra's instruments consist entirely of fresh vegetables, minimally abetted by some kitchen gadgets and a power drill. Before a show, the nine orchestra members go produce shopping and spend about four hours honing their particular devices. Carrots play a major role: some are hollowed out and made into flutes capable of mean trills; others are lined up like a xylophone; a few get grated. Gourds are slapped, peas and celery snapped, leeks used as drumsticks on pumpkins. Perhaps the prettiest instrument, the gurkophon is made from a cucumber with a carrot mouthpiece and a red pepper bell." Financial Times 10/10/03

October 9, 2003

Standoff In Charlotte The Charlotte Symphony strike is a month old today, with no signs of movement from either the CSO management, or the musicians. The latest round of talks, which concluded Friday, left the sides seemingly as far apart as they were a month ago. Four sets of concerts have been cancelled, and starting this week, the strike will affect the city's opera and ballet companies, which employ the CSO as a pit orchestra. However, the orchestra's contracts with the opera and ballet say nothing about strikes, so the two groups are likely to hire the CSO musicians on a freelance basis. Charlotte Observer 10/09/03

Music As Diplomacy Relations between Canada and the U.S. have been a bit frosty ever since the American invasion of Iraq last spring, and the usual diplomatic channels don't seem to be having much of an effect on an increasing divide between the two populaces. So the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs is writing a $250,000 check to underwrite a two-week U.S. tour of the Ottawa-based National Arts Center Orchestra. "It might not repair the relationship between George W. Bush and Jean Chrétien, who are as chummy as two scorpions can be. But it will put Canada in the newspapers for a couple of weeks in a way the politicians can't. If it's an attempt to buy some good will, so be it." Montreal Gazette 10/09/03

But Will Anyone Use It? Napster is back, and it's legal this time. The embattles song-swapping service was shut down last year after the recording industry filed multiple lawsuits alleging copyright violation. The new Napster is owned by media company Roxio, which had no connection to the original service, and which is hoping that the notoriety of the Napster name will help it cash in on the growing consumer base desiring legal downloading options. BBC 10/09/03

  • Shouldn't Somebody Have Checked On This? "With its relaunch on Thursday, Napster, the most notorious name in music downloads, will collide with the hottest music player on the market, the iPod. That's because music downloaded from Napster will not be playable on Apple's insanely popular iPod. The newly legal Napster service and the iPod use incompatible file formats." Wired 10/09/03

October 8, 2003

Carnegie, NYPhil Talks Never Really Got Off The Ground Talks for the proposed merger between Carnegi Hall and the New York Philharmonic never progressed very far because the two sides couldn't agree on the basics. "The talks about artistic control, shared finances and combined boards came apart mainly over dividing up performance and rehearsal time in the main hall, Isaac Stern Auditorium." The New York Times 10/09/03

An Underground Musician With Tips For The Music Industry The recording industry is at war with its consumers. But "the industry's efforts are counterproductive. About 60 million people in the United States have already swapped copyrighted material over the Internet, and that number isn't likely to shrink. The times are a changin', and record companies should learn to how to profit in this new environment." A musician who sells his music in the New York subways and makes a good living at it has some tips for the industry. Washington Monthly 10/03

New York Merger Fatality The failure of the Carnegie Hall/New York Philharmonic is a public embarrassment, writes Greg Sandow. "If you ask me, Carnegie Hall and the Philharmonic both look dumb. One issue, as anybody could have guessed beforehand, was how to accomodate all the concerts the Philharmonic gives each year with Carnegie's strong and diverse schedule. How could it take all these months to figure that out? And how could the two organizations have announced plans to merge - actually announce that the meger was a done deal, with everything set except for the details - without settling such an obvious issue before the announcement was made? I can barely believe it." Sandow (AJBlogs) 10/08/03

Rice Wins Shortlist "Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice took home the third annual Shortlist Music Prize, beating out acts such as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Floetry and The Black Keys for an award that celebrates the best non-commercial music artists." Chicago Tribune (AP) 10/08/03

Lebrecht: Diversity Is A Red Herring In the last several years, the language of diversity has begun to creep into the lily-white world of symphony orchestras, and it's a big mistake, says Norman Lebrecht. "Diversity, or the policy that speaks its name, is a means of diverting orchestras from what they ought to be doing, making music, to what the Government ought to be doing, creating social harmony... It amounts to a mirror image of Hitlerite policy which entailed the removal of non-aryan races from German music, even though this would relegate the art to the margins of civilisation." La Scena Musicale 10/07/03

Embracing the Future "As the major record companies scramble to put a lid on peer-to-peer file-sharing networks like Morpheus and Kazaa, an upstart California record label is trying to revolutionize the industry by taking the opposite approach: making file sharing the heart of its business. Berkeley-based Magnatune calls its approach 'open music,' a blend of shareware, open source and grass-roots activism. The idea is to let users try music before they buy, and when they do, to give half of every sale to the artist. Magnatune's motto: 'We are not evil.'" Wired 10/08/03

  • And How Much Did This Wonder Of Technology Cost? The much-ballyhooed MediaMax CD3, a copy-protected disc which was designed to prevent its contents from being 'ripped' to computers and converted into digital music files, apparently needs fewer loopholes. The discs operate by launching a driver onto any computer into which they are inserted, and the driver blocks the ability to copy the disc. But the driver doesn't work on Mac or Linux machines, and a college student is already publicizing his discovery that the driver can be bypassed on Windows machines, simply by pressing the key. Wired (Reuters) 10/08/03

Music Encourages Spending "The strains of Mozart, Bach and Beethoven played in restaurants makes diners feel more affluent and encourages them to spend, according to research released by the University of Leicester in central England on Tuesday." Andante (AP) 10/07/03

October 7, 2003

A Carnegie, NY Phil Merger That Never Made Sense? "To many minds, the merger never made sense. Looked at solely from the perspective of the New York Philharmonic, the primary advantage was obvious: instead of being a tenant in the acoustically challenged Avery Fisher Hall, the orchestra would have become a co-resident at America's most storied and acoustically excellent auditorium. But it was much harder to see how Carnegie Hall was supposed to benefit from the merger, unless you viewed it essentially as a business venture that would have combined two endowments and two subscriber bases at a time of economic uncertainties." The New York Times 10/08/03

SF Conservatory's New Home The San Francisco Conservatory is entering a new era with a new building. "The new building, designed by the San Francisco architectural firm Simon Martin-Vegue Winkelstein Moris with the involvement of acoustician Lawrence Kirkegaard, will mark a huge expansion for the Conservatory. The plans call for a building nearly twice the size of the existing facility, with no fewer than three performance spaces and a wealth of new classrooms, practice rooms and teaching studios. And all at a cost of only $80 million." San Francisco Chronicle 10/07/03

NY Phil & Carnegie - Calling Off The Marriage "The much-heralded union between America's oldest orchestra and its most prestigious concert hall - announced for the 2006-07 season - would have created a gigantic nonprofit corporation with an endowment of around $350 million. But there were problems from the beginning, both legal (Lincoln Center had indicated that it would seek to hold the Philharmonic, its tenant for the past 41 years, to a contract that ran until 2011) and aesthetic (the merger would have greatly diminished the variety of programming at Carnegie Hall)." Washington Post 10/08/03

NY Phil, Carnegie, Call off Merger Carnegie Hall and the New York Philharmonic have decided to call off their proposed merger. "Rumors that the deal was unraveling had been circulating in recent days after weeks of growing doubt about whether the boards of these two proud organizations would ultimately sanction the move. Lincoln Center officials said today that they were pleased to have the orchestra remain. `If you were to capture our feelings about this, they could be succinctly stated: Welcome home. All is forgiven. We have a lot to discuss." The New York Times 10/07/03

Philly Opera - Blasting Out The Half-Price Tickets The Opera Company of Philadelphia finds its season subscriptions on the decline. So it's trying something new - four days before a performance, the company releases remaining tickets at half-price. "The availability of half-price seats is made known through periodic e-mail 'blasts' much in the fashion of last-minute airline deals. The question remains whether opera fans are the type who will make last-minute plans. Last week's Il Trovatore opening sold 100 half-price tickets on 24-hour notice." Philadelphia Inquirer 10/07/03

October 6, 2003

Let It Skate - Rolling Along With Rodolfo And Mimi How about a "La Boheme" on roller skates? "The populist impresario Raymond Gubbay, who has a track record of bringing new audiences as well as new tricks to opera, unveiled plans for a £2m production of Puccini's work at the Royal Albert Hall in February." The Guardian (UK) 10/06/03

Black Artists Score All Spots On US Top Ten For the first time ever, all the artists on Billboard's Top Ten chart are African-American. "Nine of the ten are rappers, plus one track by R&B singer Beyonce and reggae star Sean Paul." BBC 10/06/03

Reconsidering Prokofiev A new biography of Prokofiev suggests that a re-evaluation of his life and work is in order. "Even as the collapse of Communism has made it easier for us to understand Prokofiev’s life, so has the collapse of the postwar musical avant-garde removed any remaining obstacle to a full appreciation of his music. One need no longer apologize for enjoying such pieces as the First Violin Concerto or Romeo and Juliet, or pretend that they are anything other than modern masterpieces, great works of art that are “popular” in the best sense of that much-maligned word. That they were written by a man who succumbed to temptation—and paid the price for it—need not make us love them less." Commentary 10/03

October 5, 2003

Carnegie Establishes Education Center Carnegie Hall gets a $24.7 million gift to extablish a music education center. It is the largest single donation in the hall's history. "We think we can make a difference in music education. When you think about how audiences are declining, or you go to concerts and see the age of the audience, you're looking at a major void." The New York Times 10/06/03

Elevating Elgar Edward Elgar was so revered in his home country England that his picture adorns the back of the £20 note. "Yet a recent YouGov poll found that three-quarters of British adults were unable to recognise his portrait on the back of theirs. They were more likely to say the man with the droopy moustache was the imperialist Lord Kitchener than England's greatest home-grown composer since Henry Purcell." A new initiative aims to raise Elgar's profile. The Guardian (UK) 10/06/03

Rosen On The Piano Charles Rosen is a brilliant writer about music. But he's also a major pianist. "He would probably be better known as a pianist if he had not published a single word about music. That he has not belonged to the most visible group of concert pianists that includes Murray Perahia, Emmanuel Ax, Alfred Brendel, Maurizio Pollini, and Richard Goode is a circumstance with multiple causes (including his decision to play Boulez rather than Brahms, Schoenberg and Carter rather than Schubert and Copland)." So his new book about the piano is something to be taken very seriously indeed. New York Review of Books 10/23/03

Taking Another Look At Khachaturian Aram Khachaturian's music was dismissed by many in the 1950s and 60s as being lightweight. But this year - the year he would have been 100 years old, "the pendulum of serious music has swung to the other extreme. The realities of Soviet life and politics are better known, and the personal histories of artists are understood as having been more complex. The time may be ripe to take another look at Khachaturian's music." The New York Times 10/05/03

Thinking Too Small In KC? Kansas City's massive new performing arts center will be many things to many local arts organizations, or at least that's the assumption. Among the individual components of the PAC will be a concert hall for the exclusive use of the Kansas City Symphony. The orchestra is grateful for having been included, but complaints are mounting about the small size of the hall, and some KCS staffers are wondering if the orchestra could ever hope to make money, or grow as an organization, in a hall with only 1,200 seats. Kansas City Star 10/05/03

Mozart, Muti, and the Movie Man Mozart will be 250 years old in 2006, and plans are underway for a massive celebration at Milan's famed La Scala opera house. Music director Riccardo Muti plans to mount a new production of the Austrian composer's comic classic, Cosi Fan Tutte, with none other than Spanish film director Pedro Almodóvar in charge of the staging. "Muti's choice suggests a change of attitude by the maestro, who has been accused of trying to block attempts by the general manager of La Scala, Carlo Fontana, to popularise the repertoire." The Guardian (UK) 10/04/03

Music As A Contact Sport Conductor Keith Lockhart tore his rotator cuff last year, as a direct result of what he does for a living. Laugh if you must, but what orchestral musicians (even conductors) do onstage is a physical nightmare for the human body, and injuries are becoming increasingly common. String players contort their arms and shoulders into impossible positions to reach around their instruments, brass players spend hours with their lips frozen in a pucker, and a conductor leading a Mahler symphony might not drop his hands to his sides for more than a few seconds in a 90-minute performance. Many musicians are adapting new methods of relaxation and muscle relief in an effort to stave off career-threatening injuries. Salt Lake Tribune 10/05/03

October 3, 2003

St. Louis Symphony Dumps General Manager To Save Money The St. Louis Symphony, struggling to get its finances in order, has dismissed its general manager. The orchestra says the move is to help reduce expenses, and that the duties of the well-respected Carla Johnson will be divided among other senior staff. Critic Tim Page called Johnson "the administrative heart and soul of the St. Louis Symphony." St. Louis Post-Dispatch 10/03/03

An Old-School Orchestra Prez Exits Stage Left David Hyslop has been in the orchestra management business for 40 years. He has worked for orchestras from Elmira, New York, to Portland, Oregon, and has been the top man at two major American orchestras. This weekend, he steps down after 12 years at the helm of the Minnesota Orchestra, confident that the orchestra industry will weather the ongoing economic storm, but admitting to a few questions about the sustainability of the current economic model. "The key thing -- and the challenge -- is that the 52-week season, whether it's here or in any other market our size, wasn't driven by market demand but by labor." Minneapolis Star Tribune 10/03/03

Making The Music The Star For small, regional orchestras, the challenge of drawing a significant audience to concerts is considerable, and many resort to booking "superstar" performers like Itzhak Perlman or Yo-Yo Ma in order to sell tickets. The trouble with that strategy, of course, is that such soloists command exorbitant fees, which tend to wipe out most of the profit gained from the full hall. But not every orchestra is trapped in the star cycle. "The simple idea of giving the music itself top billing has kept the Las Vegas Philharmonic in the black for its first four seasons, without having to prop up its main-stage offerings with pops concerts or big-name guest artists." Las Vegas Review-Journal 10/03/03

Domingo Falls Ill During Performance "Tenor Plácido Domingo left the stage of the Vienna State Opera this evening after apparently falling ill during the second act of Giordano's Fedora, but later returned to finish his performance." Andante 10/02/03

The Portable Musician "Working on the go has become standard operating procedure in the music industry. Times have changed: Twenty years ago, a studio was the only place where professional recordings could be made; even five years ago, desktop computers were just starting to get enough horsepower to make great records. Today, a laptop offers plenty of power to make a great-sounding track - and that portability is changing the way music is made." Wired 10/02/03

A Tale Of Two Opera Openings Two of the country's grandest and most venerable companies, the San Francisco Opera and the Metropolitan Opera, began their new seasons recently, and they made an instructive contrast." Both face financial challenges. The Met chose ear-pleasing fare for its opening. SF Opera, by contrast presented a challenging American work. And the grumbling at intermission?.... The New York Times 10/03/03

October 2, 2003

The Blues - Now For The Facts The Martin Scorcese blues documentary project currently running on PBS is a riff on the music, but short on the basic facts. So a radio series that looks at the blues from a more clinical chronological perspective was put together. "The film teams knew that once the films aired there would be an outcry because they're not traditional documentary. There was a feeling that there was a need for that kind of content. So the folks who put the project together - Scorsese and the Seattle-based Experience Music Project - settled into a 13-part documentary that would be a true chronological documentary on what is the blues." Boston Globe 10/02/03

Remembering Vladimir Horowitz In the last three years of pianist Vladimir Horowitz's life, he was forever being labeled the last Romantic virtuoso. "As a younger generation of cooler-headed, more intellectual pianists came to the fore, Horowitz came to be regarded as a lovable dinosaur. The truth, as demonstrated by an outpouring of Horowitz films and CD’s re-released in honor of the 100th anniversary of his birth, is that he was that rare artist who sums up nothing but himself." New York Observer 10/02/03

October 1, 2003

CD Sales Decline Accelerates The drop in CD sales worldwide is accelerating, reports an industry association. "The International Federation of the Phonographic Industries (IFPI) says sales fell by 10.9% in the first half of 2003, but by just 7.1% in 2002. The body blames the fall on commercial piracy and unauthorised internet music sharing." BBC 10/01/03

Taking On Ticketmaster A classic David-and-Goliath battle is shaping up over the way concert tickets are marketed and sold in the U.S., thanks to an ongoing dispute between ticketing behemoth Ticketmaster, and a wildly successful Colorado indie band known as The String Cheese Incident. The band has been doing something of an end-run around Ticketmaster, which has exclusive ticketing rights at venues across the country and often incurs the wrath of consumers with its famous "convenience fees" and handling charges which significantly boost the cost of tickets. "Ticketmaster's dominance is increasingly threatened as technology allows more [musicians] to sell tickets for low costs." Philadelphia Inquirer 10/01/03

Unpopular, But Effective When the recording industry began suing consumers in an effort to scare users of peer-to-peer file trading networks into ceasing their illegal trading of copyrighted songs, the chorus of protest was heard across the country. The RIAA's move was called draconian, unnecessary, and absurd. But the strategy appears to be working: new site tracking numbers out this week show that usage of the leading file-trading service, Kazaa, is down 41% over the last three months. Wired 09/30/03

Big Grant For Lincoln Center "Lincoln Center has received a $16 million grant from the Alice Tully Foundation toward the renovation of Alice Tully Hall, the center's prime stage for chamber music and jazz. The gift, announced yesterday, is the largest so far by a private donor for Lincoln Center's redevelopment project... The grant is contingent on Lincoln Center's raising two and half times the $16 million for a total of $56 million. Reynold Levy, president of Lincoln Center, said yesterday that he was optimistic that the center could come up with the rest of the money." The New York Times 10/01/03

Baby Steps Towards Solvency The San Antonio Symphony, which shut down in May and has effectively cancelled the 2003-04 concert season, says it is close to a new deal with its musicians, which would be a major step on the road back to fiscal solvency. "Federal Bankruptcy Court Judge Leif M. Clark gave the symphony and the American Federation of Musicians until October 15 to work out a new deal and submit it to the rank and file for approval. A new contract would insure that the musicians, many of whom have moved on to other jobs, would be available when the San Antonio Symphony is able to resume performances." WOAI Radio 09/30/03

Still Walking The Pickets In Charlotte It's been nearly a month now since the Charlotte Symphony musicians walked off the job in the face of management demands for pay cuts, reduced benefits, and a shortened season. Maria Portone says that the musicians should not have to make up for the mistakes of the orchestra's executives. "In my 23 years in Charlotte, the CSO has not mounted an endowment drive. As a result, its endowment is a meager $2.3 million. Similarly sized cities have far larger endowments, averaging $60 million, allowing them to support considerably higher budgets than Charlotte's. Indianapolis, a city about 30 percent larger than Charlotte, has one in excess of $100 million." Charlotte Observer 10/01/03

Closing the Gap in Florida The Florida Orchestra, buoyed by a flurry of last-minute contributions, has cut its deficit for the 2002-03 season to $500,000. The organization had been expecting to run somewhere between $1 million and $2 million in the red, due to slumping ticket sales and a drop-off in contributed income. Last month, the orchestra's musicians accepted a 16% pay cut in an effort to keep the orchestra afloat during the economic turmoil. St. Petersburg Times 10/01/03

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