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June 30, 2004

Mourning The Rosenberg Plan Pamela Rosenberg was building a new model of an American opera company at San Francisco Opera. Taking some adverturous artistic risks, she had transformed the company in her short time running it, writes Anthony Tommasini. But she was hobbled by the company's financial woes, and so she's leaving, in search of a more financially stable situation. American opera is the poorer for that... The New York Times 07/01/04

Brazil's Billion-Dollar Pirates Music piracy is a billion-dollar business in Brazil, says a new report. "Of CD's alone, six out of every 10 music discs sold in Brazil are pirate copies. "The report concluded that piracy in Brazil was heavily controlled by organised crime." BBC 07/01/04

Grand Estonian Grand Ten years ago, the Estonian Piano Factory was in such disrepair it almost went out of business. But after a young entrepreneur bought the company and revamped the instruments' design, the company turned around. "Today, 90 percent of the approximately 500 Estonias handmade each year end up at U.S. dealerships. Estonias account for a fraction of U.S. sales, which were 40,000 grands and baby grands, and 57,000 smaller upright pianos in 2003." Rocky Mountain News 06/30/04

Does Clear Channel Really Own The Concert Instant-Recording Idea? One of the most promising innovations in the music industry is the ability to record and sell recordings of live concerts within minutes of their conclusion. "On Monday, Clear Channel announced that this summer, it will offer some 100 live recordings of various artists who will be taped throughout the country." But beware, independent artists who want to offer the service: "Clear Channel bought the patent for the live-recording technology from its inventors, and the company now claims it owns exclusive rights to the concept of selling concert CDs after shows." Chicago Sun-Times 06/30/04

Royal Opera House Rejiggers Cheap Ticket Plan When London's Royal Opera House launched a plan to sell 100 of the best seats for £10 each every Monday - "there was rejoicing all round. Until people looked at the small print: only one seat per customer would be available, 90 minutes before a performance. There was an outcry." So now a plan to rejigger the deal for next season... The Guardian (UK) 06/30/04

Mozart Opera Provokes Outrage In Berlin The premiere of a production of Mozart's Abduction from the Seraglio (Entfuehrung aus dem Serail) at the Komische Oper in Berlin has been greeted with outrage from audiences and critics. The production's director says that "moving the Berlin opera's action to a modern-day brothel would highlight abuses in the sex trade." BBC 06/29/04

June 29, 2004

And This Week's No. 1 Download Is... Demonstrating the impact downloaded music has had, a new chart of best-selling downloaded music is being launched. "The new chart will register the sale of tracks from websites run by HMV, Coca-Cola and Microsoft's MSN and will be broadcast on BBC Radio 1. Separately, mobile phone operator T-Mobile announced plans to turn handsets into personal stereos, downloading songs at about £1.50 each." The Guardian (UK) 06/29/04

Scottish Opera Performers Stage Closing Night Protest On the last night of Scottish Opera's production of La Boheme, the company's performers staged a protest at the end, unveiling "T-shirts bearing the words: 'No Chorus? No Opera? No way!' The protest, which involved the 34 members of the chorus whose jobs are to be axed, as well as technical staff, principal singers, and the orchestra, was then greeted with a lengthy standing ovation." The Scotsman 06/27/04

June 28, 2004

Wagner Is A Hit At Pop Festival An abridged version of Wagner's "Ring" cycle has been a hit at the Glastonbury Festival. "It was the first time opera had been performed at the festival, with thousands of fascinated revellers gathering in front of the main Pyramid stage for the event. The 75-minute long extract opened with the section of the opera familiar to fans of the film Apocalypse Now, its lyrics sung in English and subtitled at the side of the stage to make it widely accessible. The Valkyries were played with relish by the ENO singers, flame-haired and dressed in black, as members of the orchestra behind them were clearly enjoying the unique experience." BBC 06/28/04

Race Narrows For Kansas City Symphony Director Job The list of candidates to lead the Kansas City Symphony is down to three. Critic Paul Horsley has his favorite, but reports that the race is divided. And, he says, some changes to the makeup of the selection committee are worrisome. Kansas City Star 06/26/04

June 27, 2004

The Tech-Savvy Orchestra New devices such as the Concert Companion - which displays text describing what's going on in the music as a concert plays - add a new dimension to the symphony experience. The question is what its adds, wonders William Littler. Toronto Star 06/26/04

Lollapalooza - Too Old To Live Lollapalooza had a established name. And a pretty good lineup for this summer's season. So why did the traveling music lineup kick the bucket? "The bristling embodiment of a generational zeitgeist, it wasn't. Quality programming aside, Lollapalooza 2004 had the disturbing aura of an 'oldies' package tour." Toronto Star 06/26/04

Why Orchestras Are Stuck In The Past "A little more than a decade ago, recording, radio and television contracts were bringing in about $700,000 annually in revenues. Today that figure hovers below $150,000. And if the orchestra wants to record an important new work that it has commissioned from a famous contemporary composer, it must pass the hat." The New York Times 06/27/04

Indies Vs. Big Music - Guess Who's Winning? Small independent recording operations are thriving as the costs of recording and producing music drops. Indie music is "as healthy, one may even observe, as the mainstream is sick. Worldwide, hit records have become the privilege of a select few as embattled major labels take refuge in safe, carbon-copy acts." Meanwhile, maverick artists are "increasingly taking music into their own hands, although no one is under no illusions about toppling Global Pop Inc any time soon." The Age (Melbourne) 06/27/04

Music File-Sharing Rebounds Despite Lawsuits Last fall, after the recording industry began suing music downloaders, file-trading on free networks fell in Canada. But after an initial drop, new research indicates that "free download activity has bounced back significantly. Free downloads are too hard to resist, despite greater awareness of intellectual property issues surrounding music." CBC 06/25/04

June 25, 2004

Rosenberg To Quit SF Opera Pamela Rosenberg is stepping down as director of San Francisco Opera. "Rosenberg has spent more time and energy than she had expected in efforts to rectify the company's financial problems. In the face of steep budget deficits, she has had to scale back the scope of the company's activities by almost 25 percent, cancel some new productions and make across-the-board staff cuts." San Francisco Chronicle 06/25/04

  • Rating The Rosenberg Regime And what will be the legacy of Pamela Rosenberg's three-year reign at San Francisco Opera? "Rosenbergism -- the complex blend of unusual repertoire, edgy musical values and concept-driven, psychologically fine-tuned dramaturgy that has defined her tenure so far -- hasn't been a complete success, but it hasn't been tried and found wanting, either. The truth is that it was never completely tried at all." San Francisco Chronicle 06/25/04

US Senate Asks NJ Symphony For Violin Deal Records A US Senate committee has asked the New Jersey Symphony to turn over all records concerning a sale of 30 rare instruments for $17 million. The seller - Herb Axelrod - has been arrested for tax fraud, and the Senate is investigating abuse of charitable deductions. Meanwhile Axelrod's lawyer is denying any wrongdoing. "Herb Axelrod didn't cheat anybody. The fact is, he hasn't taken a dime in charitable deductions with respect to the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. All the good he has done with respect to these violins has been denigrated unfairly." Newark Star-Ledger 06/24/04

June 24, 2004

A Prescient Guantánamo Opera Keith Bernstein set out to write an opera about torture at Guantánamo, but he had no idea the images he imagined for his plot would hit so close to home. "The whole scenario of the opera has flooded the world since it was written to a degree that we could not have predicted. Or perhaps we all knew subconsciously that Abu Ghraib was inevitable, and it just took a librettist of sufficient prescience to imagine it." The Guardian (UK) 06/25/04

A Jazz Label That Makes Money Blue Note Records, owned by another big company, EMI, is a legend in jazz recording. But though jazz isn't a big seller, Blue Note is consistently profitable. "That financial stability gives CEO Bruce Lundvall and the label's musicians the freedom to follow their vision and to take risks. It also means Blue Note is a force for enriching and continuing the genre. Last week, it picked up another award for Best Jazz Label from the Jazz Journalists Association - an indication that even with the addition of a broader range of artists, it hasn't lost its roots." Christian Science Monitor 06/25/04

Summer Pop Concert Circuit Suffering From Soft Sales Lollapalooza isn't the only summer pop music tour that has had difficulty generating ticket sales. Other big-name tours are selling poorly. "The summer concert business is going to be lackluster. A lot of high-profile tours are doing poorly." Philadelphia Inquirer 06/24/04

June 23, 2004

Because What Opera Really Needs Is A Few Revolutionary Nuns English National Opera has commissioned a new work from the Asian Dub Foundation, an experimental group "best known for their blend of breakbeats, rap and politics." No one seems quite sure what the opera, which will premiere in 2006, will consist of, but just in case anyone was worried that the ADF would take its usual act down a notch for the sake of high art, they have announced that the protagonists will be Libyan dictator Colonel Moammar Gadafi and his "revolutionary nuns." The Guardian (UK) 06/24/04

Is British Opera Strangling Itself? With the quick demise of Savoy Opera, the attempted murder of Scottish Opera, and the seemingly endless melodrama at English National Opera, Norman Lebrecht is wondering whether the UK's opera world realizes the trouble it is in. "A view is forming, not unreasonably, that opera has reached saturation point in Britain, and most congestively in London where Covent Garden and English National Opera compete year round with visiting troupes at Sadlers Wells, the South Bank, the Barbican and the Proms, not to mention an incursion of festivals." La Scena Musicale 06/23/04

June 22, 2004

The Bigger They Are, The Faster They're Canceled The Lollapalooza concert tour, long one of the big events of the summer mega-concert season in the U.S., has been canceled due to poor ticket sales. It's only the latest blow for promoters in a summer which has seen slow sales for many large touring shows, and comes only days after pop's reigning mega-princess, Britney Spears, had to pull out of her nationwide tour following a knee injury. The New York Times 06/23/04

Bad Time To Be A Politician Scottish composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies has blasted the Scottish Executive for its treatment of Scottish Opera, calling the politicians responsible "a disgrace," and accusing them of deliberately "wrecking the country's artistic heritage... Scotland is not philistine, but it is being rendered philistine through the lack of vision of those in charge." The Herald (Glasgow) 06/23/04

Would Playing Faster Increase Productivity? Australia's Adelaide Symphony Orchestra isn't exactly a luxurious place to work. Its highest-paid musician is paid less than the lowest-paid member of the Sydney Symphony, and an organizational restructuring this year has cut costs and staff to the bone. And yet despite significant gains in ticket sales and private contributions, the ASO is still struggling with the deficits that have plagued Australia's orchestras since they were privatized in 1997. Part of the problem may be that government assumptions concerning orchestras consistently expect that productivity can increase. But as one union leader points out, "it takes the same number of musicians the same amount of time to rehearse and perform as it did 200 years ago." Adelaide Advertiser 06/21/04

Well Endowed (St. Louis Hope) After meeting a $40 million challenge grant (with six months to spare), the St. Louis Symphony's endowment stands at about $90 million. While that's good for the orchestra, which was in a financial emergecny a few seasons ago, it's not enough. "A $90 million endowment, although a huge improvement, is not enough to maintain the orchestra at its current high levels." says the orchestra "Ultimately, the orchestra will need an endowment of $150 million to maintain its current quality." St. Louis Post-Dispatch 06/22/04

Chicago Festival Shuts Down Signups After Memberships Double Chicago's Grant Park Music Festival has had to stop taking new memberships after twice as many people signed up as did last year. "Festival leaders knew people would be interested in the new 4,000-seat Jay Pritzker Pavilion that becomes the Grant Park Orchestra's home July 16. But they didn't expect to double their membership, which carries a guarantee of preferred seating, weeks before the opening concert in the new facility in Millennium Park." Chicago Sun-Times 06/22/04

June 21, 2004

Muddying Maazel At The New York Phil What was the New York Philharmonic doing with its announcement of an extension of music director Lorin Maazel's contract, asks Barbara Jepson. Naming three guest conductors during Maazel's last three years does nothing but muddy the issue of leadership after Maazel's tenure. OpinionJournal.com 06/22/04

St. Louis Symphony Matches $40 Million Challenge The St. Louis Symphony has raised the $40 million it needed to meet a challenge grant six months ahead of schedule. "The 125-year-old orchestra received funds toward the challenge grant from symphony patrons, board members, corporations, foundations and individuals. More than 10,000 pledges were made in 54 months, the orchestra said." St. Louis Business Journal 06/21/04

Of Conductors Who Compose There are plenty of composers who take up conducting (and do quite well). There are few conductors who can turn the other way. So why are Lorin Maazel and Andre Previn both writing operas well on in their careers? La Scena Musicale 06/18/04

Scottish Opera: Director Quits, Chorus Axed Scottish Opera's woes mount. The director of the company's "La Boheme" has quit over a dispute about scenery. And "the opera’s own tragedy reached a new low yesterday. After 34 chorus members singing in La Bohème were told minutes before the curtain went up on Thursday that they faced redundancy, the rest of the 88 staff facing the axe were formally informed by the company yesterday." The Scotsman 06/20/04

  • Scottish Opera Resignation A vice president of Scottish Opera has resigned in protest of the government's funding decisions. "I believe the company has been treated in an appalling way and as I predicted it is now being put about that the plan to diminish the company is the Opera’s choice. The Scottish Executive has made a serious mistake in not providing the necessary additional funding. However, as I have always believed that additional funding is necessary it would be inconsistent for my formal association to continue with the reduced Scottish opera that is envisaged. In these dark times the only light is the near unanimous voice in Scotland against the Executive’s actions." The Scotsman 06/20/04

June 20, 2004

The Top 100 Albums Of All Time (Sure!) The Observer polls critics to compile a list of the 100 greatest English albums of all time. The Beatles came out No. 2. And No. 1? The honour goes to the Stone Roses. The Guardian (UK) 06/20/04

The London Symphony At 100 The London Symphony is flying at a time when other orchestras are struggling to stay alive. Why? "You never stay successful by becoming institutional. Success is the result of keeping on the move, demanding more of yourself, challenging the very rules you live by. But at the same time, you have to be clear about what you exist for and where you're going. If there's one reason the L.S.O. has been successful, it's because everything we do is for the music and without the compromise of `Oh, can we afford it?' " The New York Times 06/20/04

June 17, 2004

Scottish Opera Chorus Gets The Official Axe That the chorus members of the Scottish Opera are about to lose their jobs has been common knowledge for weeks, ever since details of the Scottish Executive's plan to "save" the company hit the press. But the chorus hadn't had their fears officially confirmed until last night, when their chorus master informed them, 24 minutes before a performance, that they were all officially being laid off. The chorus has offered singing protests outside the company's hall before and after concerts lately, and the petition they are circulating in an effort to reverse the Executive's decision sports the signature of Scottish Opera's own chief executive. The Scotsman (UK) 06/18/04

Philly Orchestra Extends Eschenbach Contract, Players Respond Unhappily The Philadelphia Orchestra announces an extension to music director Christophe Eschenbach's contract through Aug. 31, 2008. "Players of the orchestra responded yesterday with a letter to orchestra chairman Richard L. Smoot stating that they were 'deeply disappointed and disturbed to receive your announcement... that you had unilaterally determined to bypass the full Board of Directors and had failed to solicit the expertise of Orchestra members in making a decision that will impact the artistic integrity of the Philadelphia Orchestra for years to come'." Philadelphia Inquirer 06/17/04

Sony/BMG Merger Would Make No. 1 Company If a merger of music giants Sony and BMG goes ahead, the combined company will lead the music industry in market share. "Sony BMG would control 25.1% of the global record market - based on 2003 sales data - if they merged their record labels. That would put the joint venture in front of Universal Music, which saw its global share slip from 25.4% to 23.5%, according to figures from trade body the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry." The Guardian (UK) 06/17/04

Scottish Opera: Architect Of Doom So who was reposible for the "doomsday scenario" recommendation to disband Scottish Opera? It was former Scottish Arts Council chairman James Boyle. "Mr Boyle, in an interview with The Scotsman earlier this week, had attributed the decision-making on Scottish Opera to civil servants who work as officers for the Scottish Arts Council." The Scotsman 06/17/04

June 16, 2004

NJ Arts Philanthropist Arrested In Germany On Tax Fraud Herbert Axelrod, the disgraced New Jersey philanthropist who sold the New Jersey Symphony a raft of rare Stradivarius violins and then "fled the country ahead of a federal tax fraud indictment two months ago, has been arrested in Germany on a U.S. fugitive warrant, authorities said yesterday." Newark Star-Ledger 06/17/04

Public Steps Up To Support Scottish Opera Public nsupport for Scottish Opera is rolling in. "Regular opera-goers will not be surprised by the support Scottish Opera has received from the public, because regular opera-goers have always been aware of the widespread appeal of opera. It is only those who don’t care for the art form, or have failed to grasp the affection in which a proud national institution is held, who may be a little stunned." The Scotsman 06/17/04

Relâche Makes Big Changes "In a significant change in artistic authority, Philadelphia's cutting-edge Relâche Ensemble will now be guided by two of its longtime musicians, easing out artistic and executive director Thaddeus Squire. In an announcement yesterday, flutist Michele Kelly and oboist/English hornist Lloyd Shorter were named co-artistic directors." Squire, who has been credited with rescuing the eminent contemporary ensemble from near-collapse four years ago, had recently proposed expanding his authority, a change with which the musicians weren't comfortable. Still, the split appears to have been an amicable one. Philadelphia Inquirer 06/16/04

250 Concerts Highlighting Violas and Bassoons? Must We? An unprecedented series of 250 concerts will be held by orchestras across the UK this fall, with the aim of promoting the orchestra as a still-relevant cultural force, as well as to promote certain instruments within the orchestra which have fallen out of favor with young British musicians. Among the much-maligned-or-ignored instruments to be highlighted are the tuba, the bassoon, the double bass, and of course, the butt of all orchestra jokes, the viola. The Guardian (UK) 06/16/04

June 15, 2004

Arts Council Plotted To Kill Off Scottish Opera In a stunning development in the ongoing melodrama enveloping Scottish Opera, a secret document obtained by a newspaper shows that the Scottish Arts Council had a plan in place to eliminate the company completely "and replace it with a new organisation run by a skeleton staff." Under the terms of the plan, which was concocted last summer, even as the company was preparing to stage its wildly successful Ring Cycle, the entire orchestra and chorus of Scottish Opera would have been dismissed, and a new group of administrators would have commissioned future productions on an ad hoc basis. The public release of the plan may well cost some Scottish government overseers their jobs, and the fallout is already beginning in Glasgow. The Scotsman (UK) 06/16/04

  • How Did It Come To This? It is now clear that the Scottish Opera mess was created not by simple indifference, but by a deadly combination of bureaucratic bungling, shortsighted cost-cutting, and a stubborn unwillingness from individuals on all sides even to look for a compromise. "The impression now emerging is that powerful figures in the arts council were more than willing to let the Opera die - and that the Executive, confronted by sweeping redundancies, opted for a political fudge." The Scotsman (UK) 06/16/04

  • Does Anyone Actually Support This Plan? "Scotland's arts world suffered another setback yesterday when Craig Armstrong, one of the country's leading composers, resigned from the country's flagship arts body just days after its membership was announced... In what will be regarded as a serious problem for James Boyle, the head of the commission, the composer resigned after discovering he was the only working artist on the board. He also condemned the Scottish Executive's treatment of Scottish Opera, and called for artists to get together to save the company from the extensive job losses announced last week." The Herald (Glasgow) 06/16/04

Maazel Gets An Extension, New York Gets A Horse Race The New York Philharmonic has extended the contract of music director Lorin Maazel through the 2008-09 season, but also hired three prominent conductors to lead the orchestra regularly over the next three seasons, presumably placing them at the front of the race to be the next music director. The guest conductors are Riccardo Muti, David Robertson, and Alan Gilbert. Maazel has been a frequent target of critics since his appointment, but the musicians of the orchestra have publicly supported him, going so far as to issue an open request to the Phil's board for the extension. The New York Times 06/16/04

  • PR Masquerading As Artistic Initiative? To Anthony Tommassini, the New York Phil's two-pronged music director strategy "looks like a public relations move dressed up as an artistic policy... Is the Philharmonic feeling defensive as several major orchestras reap credit for having shaken up their institutions by appointing risk-taking artists as their music directors?" The New York Times 06/16/04

iTunes Europe Launches, But Selection Is Spotty The much-heralded launch of the European incarnation of Apple's iTunes music download service was marred a bit yesterday when consumers signed up for the service, only to find that the company's song selection is missing some key artists. The omissions, which include The Beatles, The White Stripes, and Franz Ferdinand, are due to Apple's ongoing dispute with more than 800 independent record labels. The Guardian (UK) 06/16/04

MTT Does It Again Michael Tilson Thomas could accurately be said to be the populist heir to Leonard Bernstein, a conductor of a major American orchestra who is as determined to make music accessible to the general public as he is to please the usual concertgoing crowd. His latest project with the San Francisco Symphony is a multi-part PBS documentary exploring how music is created, what it means, and who exactly those tuxedo-clad individuals frowning from the stage really are. An extensive web site and a companion radio documentary produced by Minnesota Public Radio will make Keeping Score the largest music/media project ever undertaken by a symphony orchestra. San Francisco Chronicle 06/15/04

New Leadership for NYC Chamber Music Society Husband-and-wife musicians David Finckel, cellist of the Emerson String Quartet, and Wu Han, the pianist who used to run the La Jolla Festival, have been named the new artistic directors of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Finckel and Han are also the co-directors of the new California summer festival Music@Menlo. The pair replace clarinetist David Shifrin at the helm of CSM. The New York Times 06/15/04

iTunes Launches European Service The online song market is officially getting crowded in Europe, with the continental launch of Apple's iTunes, which has sold 70 million songs in its first year of operation in the U.S. The cost of a single download from the European site will be 79p (€1.19), and a full album will cost £7.99 (€12). Meanwhile, media company OD2 announced plans to launch an online "penny jukebox" where listeners can hear songs for 1p apiece, although they cannot download the songs. BBC 06/15/04

June 14, 2004

Be A Classical Star! (virtually, that is) "Australia's Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and a local software designer have created 'In The Chair,' a cross between a karaoke machine and flight simulator, which allows you to play your favorite symphony via a computer, with a conductor on screen and tuition while you play... The orchestra sees 'In The Chair' as a tool to teach young musicians, build appreciation for orchestral music and help pay its bills. It hopes the product will eventually provide it with a steady $345,000 a year." Reuters UK 06/14/04

Arson Suspected At Strathmore An arson fire appears to have been set at the unfinished Strathmore Music Hall in suburban Washington, D.C., causing $500,000 of damage to a building which has already been beset by delays and cost overruns. When completed, the hall will be the second home of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Washington Post 06/15/04

Scottish Opera: Is The Music Director the Problem? The chorus members of Scottish Opera, who may lose their jobs as part of the proposed restructuring of the troubled organization, are publicly attacking music director Sir Richard Armstrong for his "inappropriate and elitist programming," "prima donna tantrums," and "systematic exclusion" of the chorus from programs. Staffers at the company are also voicing complaints about Armstrong's extravagant spending on such seemingly unnecessary elements of staging as £270 Versace shoes, £700 mannequins, and top-of-the-line plasma screen monitors. The Sunday Herald (Glasgow) 06/13/04

  • Government Is The Problem, Not The Solution Kenneth Walton cannot believe what the government is doing to Scottish Opera: "What we witnessed last week from the Executive was an act of cultural vandalism. This is an administration that has enshrined mediocrity as a standard for Scotland. We have a First Minister who recognises the manufactured celebrity of short-term Pop Idol winner Michelle McManus above the lasting, nurtured, talent of violinist Nicola Benedetti. By committing Scottish Opera to this ludicrous deal, it is closing the door to the access and development of opera in Scotland." The Scotsman 06/14/04

Was Philadelphia Orchestra's Reputation Hurt On Europe Tour? The Philadelphia Inquirer sends not one, but two music critics to follow the Philadelphia Orchestra's first European tour with music music director Christophe Eschenbach. The tour had mixed success, they report: "it's unfortunate that in the orchestra's cycle of touring, Europe coincided with Eschenbach's first season. Europe is key to the orchestra's international reputation. Too bad the relationship between Eschenbach and the orchestra hadn't evolved over several seasons before they faced Vienna, London and Amsterdam. If what I heard in Madrid is what we'll be hearing in the future, critics as well as audiences would have been more enthusiastic. As it is, the orchestra's reputation has been somewhat damaged. How bad is it? How difficult is this damage to undo?" Philadelphia Inquirer 06/13/04

Congress Questions Smithsonian Strad Deal The US Congress is questioning a Smithsonian deal that brought the museum four Stradivarius violins for $50 million. "The high-profile gift, one of the museum's largest ever, allowed its donor, Herbert R. Axelrod, a New Jersey businessman, to claim what his lawyer confirmed was a tax break of around $32 million. Mr. Axelrod fled to Cuba in March after being indicted on unrelated charges of tax evasion." The New York Times 06/14/04

June 13, 2004

Football Songs Crack The Pop Charts How crazy about soccer (excuse me, football, please) in the UK? Well, when the big tournaments are on, songs associated with the matches become so popular, they crack the Top Ten music charts. "Three football songs feature in the top 10 of the UK singles chart as the country is gripped by Euro 2004 fever." BBC 06/13/04

Will Rules Changes Make The Pulitzer All-American? The rules changes governing the eligibility of various types of music for the Pulitzer Prize may be controversial among academics and classical purists, but Howard Reich says that the change is nothing more than a long-overdue acknowledgement that American music is more than Europe-Lite. "More than six decades after the Pulitzer Board began giving prizes for music, in other words, it has come to recognize that American music is not simply European symphonic art penned by American composers in its thrall. On the contrary... the folkloric roots of jazz, blues, gospel and the like born of oral tradition and originated not in the salons of Vienna and Paris but in the fields of Africa and the islands of the Caribbean." Chicago Tribune 06/13/04

The American Edinburgh Charleston, South Carolina, is best known as a tourist town full of Old South charm and beautiful beaches. But in the summer, Charleston may be the most diverse and successful arts town in the U.S. Not only is it home to the stateside incarnation of the Spoleto music festival, but the high-minded chamber music plays alongside a decidedly Edinburghian fringe festival known as Piccolo Spoleto. Toronto Star 06/12/04

Scottish Opera Hits Back “Sir Richard Armstrong, the artistic director of Scottish Opera, launched a scathing attack yesterday on Frank McAveety, culture minister, over what he described as brutal and shameful behaviour and an agenda to reduce the size of the company. Speaking at length for the first time about the new deal which will lead to more than 80 job losses and a "dark" season in 2005/6 with no major performances, he said the Scottish Executive had deliberately targeted the opera's mainscale work because it believed it was watched only by a select and elitist audience.” The Herald (Glasgow) 06/11/04

In Search Of Ludwig's Immortal Beloved There is no doubt that Ludwig van Beethoven was deeply in love several times in his life. However, being the emotional basketcase that he was, nearly all of his objects of desire “women whose social or marital status - often both - placed them safely beyond reach.” The most famous of Beethoven’s women is, of course, the anonymous muse known as “Immortal Beloved.” To this day, no one knows who she was, “but she left the composer in a creative crisis that lasted for years.” The Guardian (UK) 06/12/04

Many Voices To Be Heard In Chicago MD Search Daniel Barenboim’s successor at the helm of the Chicago Symphony will be chosen by a panel of 17 musicians, managers, and board members, according to the orchestra. In addition, the CSO is promising to give the public a serious voice in the process, soliciting comments by e-mail, and offering several open forums for concertgoers to voice their opinions on what qualities are most important in a music director. Chicago Sun-Times 06/12/04

Not Taking No For An Answer New York City Opera wasn’t particularly surprised when city officials rejected their request to move to Ground Zero once the new complex is completed. General director Paul Kellogg insists that the company isn’t giving up its quest for a new home. “Despite his brave talk, however, the rejection of this proposal represents an enormous setback for this innovative company. It's hard to think of another arts organization in New York that is so hobbled by its performance space.” The New York Times 06/12/04

June 11, 2004

Troubled Waters In Baltimore? Ominous signs are looming over the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra these days, with accumulated debt mounting (expected to reach a whopping $8 million by 2005), controversy in the front office, and dissension in the boardroom. "Seven top administrators and other staff members have resigned [in recent weeks], including the chief financial officer, an executive board member and a member of the fund-raising department." And the BSO's decision to appoint a marketing specialist with no orchestral management experience to be the organization's new president is being met with skepticism in some quarters, particularly after a widely-reported comment about broadening the audience beyond "wealthy old white people" hit the papers. Baltimore Sun 06/07/04

Reversing Course In Wisconsin The board of the tiny La Crosse (Wisconsin) Symphony Orchestra has thought better of its decision to terminate conductor Amy Mills, after some board members complained that the process which led to the vote ousting Mills was underhanded and unfair. Mills's current contract runs through next season, which will be her tenth with the ensemble, and the board's reversal opens the door for her to negotiate a new deal, despite artistic conflicts with some of the ensemble's musicians. La Crosse Tribune 06/11/04

  • Previously: Small Town, Big Drama Another conductor controversy has broken out in a small North American city. This time the showdown is in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where the board of the La Crosse Symphony has voted narrowly to dismiss conductor Amy Mills, after musicians in the orchestra complained bitterly about her musicianship. But some board members are furious at the way the vote was conducted, saying that two uncounted proxy votes in favor of Mills were not counted because they would have swung the vote in favor of retaining her past 2005. La Crosse Tribune 05/26/04
June 10, 2004

Birtwistle's Plot Man When composer Harrison Birtwistle put out the call for a "gloomy poet" to write the libretto for his next opera, Stephen Plaice, who prefers to think of himself as "lyrical and ironic," found himself with the job. Over the ensuing three years, a story emerged which blends Greek myth with disturbing sexual undertones and a complex relationship which ended before the opera begins. It's a process that few opera lovers ever think about, but a successful relationship between librettist and composer can mean the difference between success and failure. The Guardian (UK) 06/11/04

Jacksonville Breaks Even The Jacksonville Symphony, which has been running massive deficits in recent years, rode an 18% rise in single ticket sales and a 23% uptick in donations to a break-even season for 2003-04. The orchestra's endowment also performed better than expected, allowing the organization to begin digging out from under the multi-million dollar debt it had amassed. Jacksonville Business Journal 06/10/04

Maybe He Wants To Spend More Time With His Family? Buffalo Philharmonic CEO Larry Ribits has apparently been fired, only days before the conclusion of the orchestra's season. Official word from the Philharmonic's board chairman is that the abrupt departure was Ribits's own decision, but the head of the musicians' union is publicly questioning that stance, and is also pointing out that no musicians, even those who serve on the board, were informed of the decision until Wednesday morning. Ribits's fate may have been decided this past weekend, while he and the BPO were in New York City for a concert at Carnegie Hall. Buffalo News 06/10/04

Music Industry's Next Big Enemy? Your Phone "The music industry is scared out of its mind. The mass sharing of music files that exploded on the internet could transfer to mobile networks. The advent of high-speed 3G networks and mobile phones with complex operating systems, Bluetooth and massive storage capacity, could create another "perfect storm", hurting profits further." The Guardian (UK) 06/10/04

Covent Garden Makes Deal With BBC "The BBC will transmit 16 performances on television over the next four years, backed by documentaries such as an Imagine special on the ROH's music director, Antonio Pappano, while Radio 3 will broadcast 48 productions. It is a significant commitment for the BBC, not just in terms of airtime but also logistics: for each opera and ballet the BBC records, they talk to the director, choreographer and designer, then rehearse one or two performances before recording a third." The Guardian (UK) 06/10/04

June 9, 2004

Wagner Defeats Trier "Bayreuth is again in the news, thanks to the withdrawal of iconoclastic Danish film-maker Lars von Trier from the 2006 Ring. Von Trier's Ring would have been a splashy event, making headlines well beyond the opera world. He had already worked on the project for two years. Stage mock-ups were to have begun this month. But The Ring has defeated him. This week he was forced to admit he couldn't realise his ideas within the limitations of a theatre. Given Von Trier's evocations on film of psychological awareness and the tangled webs of family (Dogville, The Idiots), he was an inspired choice - but an extremely risky one. He said he preferred David Bowie to Wagner. He had no record in theatre or opera." Financial Times 06/09/04

Calls For Scottish Opera Boss To Step Down A growing chorus of critics is demanding that Scottish Opera boss Duncan McGhie resign, after the company was told of a draconian plan to downsize. Critics "accuse the management of repeatedly failing to steer Scottish Opera out of financial trouble and running up a £4.5 million debt that forced first the Scottish Arts Council and then the Executive to step in." The Scotsman 06/09/04

German Orchestra Refuses To Play Anthem "A German orchestra was threatened with dismissal after instrumentalists mutinied over having to play the communist anthem, the Internationale, for an audience of blue-collar car-assembly workers" The Independent (South Africa) (ADP) 06/09/04

Bach In The Clubs Cellist Matt Haimovitz on playing classical music in pop music clubs: "There's a certain kind of music that, for me, belongs in an intimate space. There's something authentic about playing Bach in a club. We're always talking about authentic performances, but for me there's something wrong with putting baroque music in a place like Roy Thomson Hall. It's much more appropriate in a smaller setting -- in something like the coffeehouses Bach was familiar with." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/09/04

June 8, 2004

Trier Pulls Out Of Bayreuth Ring "The Danish film-maker Lars von Trier has thrown Bayreuth into confusion. Not by his outrageous take on the operas of Richard Wagner, nor by spectacular fallouts with divas - but by admitting that he is not up to the job of directing the festival's forthcoming Ring cycle." The Guardian (UK) 06/09/04

Mr. Mortier At The Paris Opera Gerard Mortier takes over the Paris Opera from Hugues Gall. "While Mr. Gall held the job for almost a decade before reaching the official retirement age of 65, Mr. Mortier, 60, has only five seasons to make his mark. His first, the 2004-5 season, with 9 new productions and 10 revivals, already suggests a more daring approach, notably in the selection of directors who, he hopes, will seek out "the modernity" in established works." The New York Times 06/09/04

Scottish Opera Carved In Half (And Worse) "The long-term future of Scottish Opera was cast into doubt last night after the company and the Executive unveiled plans which will mean the firing of nearly half its staff and productions being halted for nine months. The executive promised up to £7 million in funding for a radical "restructuring" plan that it said would enable the company to live within its £7.5 million annual budget." The Scotsman 06/08/04

  • Cutting Forces Will Make Scottish Opera Better? "If this is going to be a company "in better voice", then the collective throats of the Scottish Arts Council need examining. The main musical redundancies are almost certainly going to come in the chorus, which will be completely disbanded as a full-time ensemble." The Guardian (UK) 06/09/04

  • Unions Protest Scottish Opera Cuts "Unions representing staff at Scottish Opera have urged company directors to resign following news that almost half the workforce will lose their jobs." BBC 06/08/04

June 7, 2004

New Music In Little Pieces Greg Sandow observes that new music has difficulty widening its appeal. "New music in New York seems fragmented, right now, at least to me, and I'd like to see more going on that would bind us together. We talk as if we have common interests, and we have organizations that support us all. But how much do we even know about what we all are doing?" NewMusicBox 06/04

Regretting The Pulitzer Changes Josh Kosman doesn't like the decision to open the Pulitzers to different genres of music. "In truth, the prize has now been thrown open to all musical comers -- pop, classical, jazz, bluegrass, salsa, hip-hop, written and improvised, recorded and live and everything in between. Any musical utterance heard within the 50 states is now, in theory, eligible for a Pulitzer. Does that amount to inclusiveness, eclecticism, a postmodern abolition of restrictive conceptual categories, or any other warm and fuzzy gesture of goodwill? Not at all. It's an attempt to be all things to all people, something that you and I know never works. The result will inevitably be to drive an already marginal accolade further down the path to insignificance." San Francisco Chronicle 06/07/04

Are Record Stores About To Slip Into History? A new report says that with the increasing popularity of music downloading and the availability of CDs in supermarkets, record stores in the UK are in danger of disappearing. "The pressure of new players competing for the record buyer's pound could make music stores 'irrelevant', it stated." BBC 06/07/04

June 6, 2004

New Opera, New Tryout "Even though the operagoing public today seems more open to new works than it has in decades, the repertory in most houses remains overwhelmingly traditional. Major commissions are rare. So even composers with no prior experience are under pressure to come up with an effective work right off the bat." That's why New York City Opera's annual showcase for new operas "provides composers and librettists with an invaluable chance to assess how a work might come across." The New York Times 06/06/04

Scottish Opera - At The Mercy Of Consultants Should Scottish Opera downsize and restructure? To decide, the Scottish government brought in consultants. "Figures from the Scottish Arts Council reveal that earlier this year the body handed a grant for £195,830 to the company’s board to pay for lawyers, management experts and accountants, brought in to advise on a restructuring plan." The Scotsman 06/06/04

Chinese Pianist Wins E-Competition "Jie Chen, an 18-year-old pianist from China who moved to the United States with her mother five years ago, won first prize in the second biennial International Piano-e-Competition in Minneapolis. She received $25,000 and a Yamaha Disklavier (an electronic keyboard) valued at $75,000, along with a recital at Alice Tully Hall in New York and a CD on the Ten Thousands Lakes label. Pianists from 12 countries, from 15 to 31 years old, competed." The Star-Tribune (Mpls) 06/06/04

Testing The Mobile Music Companion A concert-goer takes a spin with a hand-held electronic Concert Companion at a New York Philharmonic concert. "It was amazing, in fact: to my untrained eye and ear, the text invariably arrived at exactly the right moment. And there was something exciting, or at least satisfying, about reading that the concertmaster traditionally plays the solo and glancing up to see said concertmaster sawing away." And yet, there were some problems... The New York Times 06/06/04

Club Owners Protest Aussie Nightclub Music Fee Australian nightclub owners are angry about an increase in fees for playing music in their clubs. "A proposed increase in licence fees to play music in nightclubs has angered owners who say it could put them out of business. The record industry's proposal would see licence fees soar 14-fold from 7 cents per patron to $1." Sydney Morning Herald 06/06/04

June 3, 2004

Scottish Opera Crisis At The Wire "The future of Scottish Opera was hanging in the balance last night after members of the board failed to agree to an Executive-sponsored rescue package. The board meeting had been expected to reach a decision on cost-cutting moves including possible job losses." The Scotsman 06/04/04

Boston Pops' American Idol Hundreds of hopeful singers lined up Thursday to audition for a chance to sing with the Boston Pops. "In its own version of "American Idol," the orchestra is holding open auditions Thursday and Friday to find a vocalist who will sing in front of 500,000 people expected at the Hatch Shell on the Charles River. The only requirements are that applicants be over 18 and not have agents or recording contracts." The New York Times 06/04/04

Recreating Old Recordings How to preserve old vinyl and wax cylinder recordings? "Researchers using optical-scanning equipment have made exquisitely detailed maps of the grooves of such recordings. By simulating how a stylus moves along those contours, the team has reproduced the encoded sounds with high fidelity." ScienceNews Online 06/03/04

Pianists On The Web The 2nd International Piano e-Competition is underway in the Twin Cities, with the final six contestants set to perform with the Minnesota Orchestra later this week. The competition was started by a professor at the University of Minnesota who was disgusted by the nepotism inherent in many international competitions, and in addition to the unusual move of barring the students of competition judges from competing, he found a timely hook to get the press and public interested in his event: all the contestants play on a high-tech piano which can store the memory of their performances for online streaming and even remote judging. In fact, every round of the competition can be viewed live online. St. Paul Pioneer Press 06/03/04

Are Scottish Opera's Problems Due To Bad Government? The Scottish government, known as the Executive, should bear the blame for the current crisis at Scottish Opera, according to one UK paper. "The way the executive has treated Scottish Opera, denying it the funding necessary to be a company of worldwide renown while, instead, reviewing it to potential death in a wrong-headed switch of priorities, is symptomatic of its approach to the arts sector generally." The Herald (Glasgow) 06/03/04

Losing An Administrator, But Gaining A Half Mil The Florida Orchestra, which has spent the last couple of seasons in dire financial straits, announced this week that it has received two donations totalling a half million dollars, which will be placed in a community trust. The orchestra is also losing one of its top executives: operations manager and artistic administrator Jeff Bram has announced that he will leave Tampa Bay to become artistic administrator of the Utah Symphony. Tampa Tribune 06/03/04

NY's Mehta Takes A New Title New York Philharmonic executive director Zarin Mehta will take on the title of orchestra president, according to the ensemble's board chairman. Mehta, who came to New York after leading the Chicago Symphony's Ravinia Festival, was a major player in the search that led to the hiring of Loren Maazel as the Phil's music director. Mehta's day-to-day duties will not change with the new title - most American orchestra CEOs also carry the title of president - and the move appears to be largely a vote of confidence in his leadership at a time when the Phil faces several challenges. Newsday (AP) 06/03/04

June 2, 2004

Violists Are Always Better Named Later "The world of classical music was in turmoil this morning when officials of the Professional Orchestra League revealed that seven principal players of the New York Philharmonic had tested positive for steroids and would receive automatic life suspensions from the league." In other surprising industry news, the principal clarinetist of the Cleveland Orchestra has been demoted to the minor leagues, and San Francisco has traded its concertmaster to St. Louis for "its entire flute section and a violist to be named later." Broken Newz 06/02/04

Adams Wins Inaugural Northwestern Prize "The Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer John Adams is the first recipient of Northwestern University's Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Musical Composition. The biennial award carries a cash award of $100,000 and honors living composers of widely recognized achievement. It is one of the largest in classical music." Chicago Tribune 06/02/04

Wong Leaving Honolulu Conductor Samuel Wong is stepping down as music director of the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra. The move is being cast as Wong's own decision, but the orchestra was informed not by the conductor himself, but by the orchestra's president, without Wong in attendance. "Wong just completed his eighth season with the Honolulu Symphony. He will remain as the conductor laureate for the 2005-06 season and conduct at least six concerts over the next two seasons." As for what he'll do next, Wong, who holds a degree in opthalmology from Harvard, is hoping to help start an Institute of Music & Healing, which would deal with music-related injuries. Honolulu Advertiser 06/02/04

June 1, 2004

Critics: Royal Festival Hall Renovations A Disaster "Planned alterations to the Royal Festival Hall on London's South Bank are "disastrous" and an "act of architectural vandalism", according to the Twentieth Century Society, which protects Britain's legacy of modernist architecture." The Guardian (UK) 06/01/04

The Ring Tone Charts A new music chart will track the popularity of phone ring tones. An estimated £70m of ringtones were sold in 2003 - up from £40m in 2002. The fortnightly chart will count down the 20 most popular tones downloaded onto mobile phones and will be published in Music Week magazine. Most current pop hits are available to buy as mobile phone rings for between £1.50 and £3.50." BBC 06/01/04

Barenboim Says He'll Be Done In Chicago Daniel Barenboim says he won't appear with the Chicago Symphony again as guest conductor after his contract runs out in 2005-2006. He has said he "disliked guest conducting, preferring to work with orchestras on a longer-term basis." Chicago Sun-Times 06/01/04

Pulitzer Music Changes Debated Changes in the criteria for the Pulitzer Prize for music to broaden it are provoking controversy. Defenders say: "The board has been concerned for many years that the full range of exellence in American music was not somehow getting through the process in such a way that it could be properly and appropriately considered. The changes in the wording are intended to make sure that the full range of excellence can be considered. The prize should not be reserved essentially for music that comes out of the European classical tradition." Boston Globe 06/01/04

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