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January 31, 2005

Death Of The Pop Single "The single is now over. Not the pop song, of course, which blasts over everything from car ads to party political broadcasts, but the single record, which has now gone the way of the tape-to-tape. Just before Christmas, it was announced that more songs were downloaded from the internet than were bought as CDs or records in shops, and, this week, it emerged that sales of new songs were being outstripped by their sales as mobile phone ringtones. Downloading means no physical record, no sleeve, no artwork of any kind, just a piece of sound that will most often be deployed now by young people as a way of alerting them to another sound they like much more: the sound of each other talking. When the song becomes tired, consumers will simply press "delete". Given that pop music has always been the most nostalgic of art forms, the new disposability might sit oddly." The Telegraph (UK) 02/01/05

Muti Still Miffed At Covent Garden Last year after 20 years trying to convince Riccardo Muti to conduct in its house, Covent Garden had to watch as the maestro walked out at the last minute. And Muti? He puts the blame squarely on the opera company: "I think that Covent Garden didn't behave properly. La Repubblica wrote a line that was wonderful. It said, 'In this story, for once, the English behaved like Italians, and the Italians behaved like the English.' That said everything." The Guardian (UK) 02/01/05

Where Did Popular Classical Music Go? Where is the new classical music? Okay, there's lots of music being written out there. But "what is the most recently composed piece of classical music to have achieved a genuinely established place in the repertoire? I mean a piece that you can count on hearing in most major cities most years, and a performance of which is likely to bring in a large general audience. Shostakovich's first cello concerto, written in 1959, perhaps? Even that is stretching a point. A more truthful answer might be Richard Strauss's Four Last Songs, composed 56 years ago in 1948." The Guardian (UK) 02/01/05

January 30, 2005

China's First Summer Festival China is creating its first international summer music festival this July. "The festival, similar to the famous Tanglewood and Aspen music schools of the United States, will be the first large-scale annualinternational professional music summer camp ever held in China orSoutheast Asia." China Daily 01/31/05

I Beethoven, Rock Star There' a big slug of Beethoven showing up on programs around America this year. "An overabundance of Beethoven, or any composer, during an anniversary year is hardly noteworthy. But with no birth or death commemoration of Beethoven in the offing, why so much Beethoven now?" The New York Times 01/30/05

Report: Kimmel Center Needs Acoustic Overhaul Philadelphia's Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts has been open for less than four years, but an internal report by the acoustic engineer of Verizon Hall, the center's main stage and the home of the Philadelphia Orchestra, suggests that a major interior renovation will likely be necessary to fix what are described as "serious acoustical problems." The hall has received mixed reviews from critics since its opening, but the concept of a major renovation is likely to face opposition, and debate has not even begun about who would pay for such a project. Philadelphia Inquirer 01/30/05

Strathmore Concert Hall Sets A New Suburban Standard " Most serious concert halls can be found in big cities. That's where the audiences are; that's where orchestras tend to make their homes. The Music Center at Strathmore, which opens Saturday in Montgomery County, [Maryland], is a rare exception... From the beginning, its designers set out to demonstrate that a suburban concert hall can be just as successful as its urban counterparts, in serving audiences and performers, and in showcasing classical music...From the standpoint of architectural design and construction, this music center measures up to the finest concert halls of the past 20 years - warm, intimate, visually sumptuous." Baltimore Sun 01/30/05

  • And It Sounds Pretty Good, Too The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has been test-driving the new Strathmore concert hall for several weeks, and so far, everyone seems to be thrilled with the acoustic. "It's too soon to know the extent of long-range public relations or financial benefits the BSO will accrue from having an additional performance venue. But, on purely artistic grounds, Strathmore, opening Saturday, looks - and sounds - like a can't-lose prospect." Baltimore Sun 01/30/05

Opera, The Official Soundtrack Of Death Opera can be about a lot of things, but more often than not, it ends up being about death, and dying, and what happens to the bereaved after someone dies. Mortality is a natural human obsession, of course, but there does seem to be something about the operatic form that causes composers and librettists to linger on the subject. Toronto Star 01/29/05

Philly To Sign With Finnish Label The Philadelphia Orchestra is in talks with the small Finnish record label Ondine to distribute a series of CDs which would be produced live by the orchestra and distributed internationally by the label. Philadelphia has been without a recording deal since 1996, when it was dropped by EMI, although the orchestra has released a few albums on its own in recent years. The recent labor agreement between the orchestra and its musicians reportedly allows for lower pay rates for recording than those imposed on orchestras nationwide by the musicians' union, a change which paved the way for the new deal with Ondine. Philadelphia Inquirer 01/29/05

Damn The Applause, Full Speed Ahead! It's not unusual for audiences at orchestral concerts to accidentally disrupt the performance with a burst of applause, thinking that a piece has ended before it actually has. But last week, outgoing Detroit Symphony music director Neeme Jarvi created his own disruption, to the astonishment of many in attendance. Following the breathless conclusion of Carl Nielson's powerful Fifth Symphony, "with his back still to the house, [Jarvi] raised his baton once more, called over his shoulder 'Encore!' and proceeded straight into a rather banal waltz by Shostakovich... Jarvi loves to do encores. But this was nuts." The incident left Lawrence Johnson wondering if Jarvi's fragile health has begun to affect his judgment. Detroit News 01/29/05

Saraste To Take The Reins In Oslo Finnish conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste has been tapped to succeed Andre Previn as chief conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic. The ensemble has frequently been regarded as being among the finest in Europe, and Saraste's task will be to raise it to the heights it enjoyed under the 20-year directorship of Mariss Jansons. Saraste's contract calls for him to spend 10 weeks each year in Oslo conducting concerts, plus additional weeks spent touring and recording with the orchestra. Helsingen Sanomat (Finland) 01/25/05

January 28, 2005

Long-Lost Beethoven Work Gets Hearing A long-lost Adagio written by Beethoven is getting a performance. "Beethoven likely wrote the draft in Vienna in the 1790s, when he was in his 20s. It was found among bundles of his sketches and drafts in the British Library and published in 1970. Beethoven titled his draft "Concerto in A for Piano," with brief indications for other instruments." Miami Herald (AP) 01/28/05

January 27, 2005

The Passion Of The Bach - Well, Some Of It, Anyway Next month, conductor Roger Norrington will stage a recreation of Felix Mendelssohn's famous 1829 performance of Bach's St. Matthew's Passion, which many scholars consider to have been the catalyst for the widespread 19th-century revival of Bach's music. But fans of the famous choral work may be shocked by what they hear: "Huge numbers of the meditative arias and chorales have gone. The story line is there, but I suppose [Mendelssohn] thought people just couldn't handle four hours, three-and-a-half hours, or whatever it is." The Guardian (UK) 01/28/05

SLSO Cancels More Auditions, But Will It Matter In The End? The St. Louis Symphony has canceled another round of auditions - for principal and associate principal cello - as the ensemble's nearly month-old work stoppage drags on. "Throughout the past several weeks, the SLSO musicians have claimed that in order to attract the best of the best world class talent they need to keep pace with what their peer orchestras pay. The SLSO management claims this isn’t the case and the organization will be able to attract the same level of musicians they always have, even with a lower pay scale. The... cello audition cancellations may be the first real test of that philosophy." Adaptistration (AJ Blogs) 01/27/05

  • The Management Carousel Spins In St. Louis "The St. Louis Symphony has named Jeremy Geffen, artistic administrator of the New York Philharmonic since 2000, as its own vice president for artistic administration... Geffen replaces Kathleen van Bergen, who succeeded Simon Woods in a similar position at the Philadelphia Orchestra last fall, after Woods was named president of the New Jersey Symphony." PlaybillArts 01/27/05

iPod-As-New-DJ Jukebox At bars and dance clubs, customers are bringing in their iPods, plugging in to the clubs' sound systems and playing to the crowd. In one club, "on a typical night, about 10 people bring their iPods loaded with a special playlist for the occasion. They sign up, wait for their turn and then plug into the Tonic Room's sound system. They have 15 minutes to wow other customers or simply soothe their own souls." The New York Times 01/27/05

Elvis At The Opera Elvis Costello on his opera about the life of Hans Christian Anderson: "The 50-year-old singer-songwriter has consistently expressed his unwillingness to be remembered for "a handful of songs I wrote 25 years ago. All the music comes out of the same head. It's just using different methods to get at the solution to whatever motivated you to write it in the first place." The Guardian (UK) 01/27/05

January 26, 2005

The Bernstein Factor Leonard Bernstein's absence looms over classical music and its current dilemma: superstar conductors and dwindling receipts, "crossover" CDs and spiraling sales, and the ongoing burnout between academic composers and listeners. When Bernstein began his Young People's Concerts in early 1958, classical culture was different in ways he changed irrevocably: the concert tradition was "high culture" filtered through Europeans like Toscanini, targeted at an educated elite, and orchestras were the province of elderly white men. How quaint that all feels today... blog riley (AJBlogs) 01/26/05

Is Jay The "Greatest Composing Talent In 200 Years"? "Jay Greenberg is a child prodigy studying at the Juilliard School in New York City. Some of his professors claim he is the greatest composing talent in more than 200 years. He is composing his fifth symphony. He has about 150 fully orchestrated pieces on his hard drive and a further 300 completed works on manuscript paper." Financial Times 01/27/05

Elvis Costello Opera To Get Danish Production Rocker Elvis Costello is writing his first opera - The Secret Arias - and it's been chosen for a debut in the new Copenhagen Opera House. "The opera is based on famed adventure author Hans Christian Andersen’s romance with the Swedish soprano Jenny Lind. It will be performed on the opera’s experimental stage during the 2006–2007 season." Copenhagen Post 01/26/05

January 25, 2005

Florida Orchestra Signs Contract With Musicians After about 10 months of on-again, off-again negotiations, musicians of the Florida Orchestra ratified a labor contract Friday. Terms of their three-year agreement with the board of trustees include a base salary that rises from $25,120 in the current season to $30,090 in the 2006-07 season. St, Petersburg Times 01/22/05

The Integrated Orchestra "Black and Latino musicians account for about 3 percent of the musicians in American orchestras nationwide but about 30 percent of the Chicago Sinfonietta. Most orchestras have practically all-white boards of directors and audiences, but about a third of the Sinfonietta's board is non-white and about 40 percent of its audience is minority. Most orchestras rarely play music by minority composers, but the Sinfonietta integrates these works throughout its entire season." Detroit Free Press 01/23/05

Domingo's Farewell? Placido Domingo is singing in the Barcelona opera house he considers home. "The 64-year-old tenor will take the stage as Wagner's Parsifal in the Liceu Theatre in Barcelona on Friday, his first operatic role for 15 years in the theatre he considers home." Does this sound like the beginning of a farewell tour? The Guardian (UK) 01/26/05

American, Cuban Musical Ties Broken "The Bush administration has severed the fertile connection between Cuban and American musicians—and audiences—by reversing American policy. The security crunch following 9/11 has given immigration authorities the excuse they've long sought to exclude many foreign musicians from the United States. But against Cubans, the resistance runs far deeper. This is a Cuban music crisis—a development that has more to do with the Cold War than the War on Terror." Village Voice 01/25/05

Sills Leaving Met Beverly Sills, 75, is stepping down as chairman of the Metropolitan Opera, citing family reasons. "She said that her tenure would indeed be the last act of a 60-year career in the arts world that wended its way through the roles of soprano star, opera manager, Lincoln Center overseer, fund-raiser and, finally, Met chairwoman in 2002 - a volunteer job for which she had left a previous retirement. 'I am stepping down for good. I had already decided that I was not really serving any of the masters well'." The New York Times 01/25/05

The Next Superstar Violinist/Supermodel/Spokesperson? Seventeen-year-old violinist Nicola Benedetti is about to become a household name and one of the highest-paid performers of her generation after agreeing a £1 million-plus, six-album record deal with Universal. Last May she became the first Scot to win the BBC Young Musician of the Year award. "Between modelling, advertising and other personal appearances, she has been booked for a series of UK and US performances this year." The Independent 01/20/05

The Women Of The Vienna Phil It's only eight years since the Vienna Philharmonic admitted its first woman player. Now more women occasionally end up in the orchestra, but last week, a woman conducted the orchestra as it played for a production of "Così Fan Tutte." The New York Times 01/25/05

January 24, 2005

DePriest Named To Lead Tokyo Orchestra James DePriest has been named music director of the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra. "DePreist, who for 23 years was music director of the Oregon Symphony Orchestra, currently serves as principal artistic advisor of the Phoenix Symphony and is director of conducting and orchestral studies at the Juilliard School. After leaving the music director post at the OSO in 2003, he became the orchestra’s laureate music director." PlaybillArts 01/24/05

Springer: Opera Springer Is Offensive And what does Jerry Springer the man think of Jerry Springer, The Opera? Evidently not much. He finds it offensive. "I wouldn't have written it. I don't believe in making fun of other religions or in saying things that could be insensitive to other people's religions. You would have to talk to the people that wrote it. I don't make religious jokes so I wouldn't have done it. But it's not up to me." The Guardian (UK) 01/24/05

How Snow Changes An Orchestra Audience's Demographics What happens to an audeince when snow shuts down a major American city? Well, in Philadelphia, "the orchestra put $10 snow tickets on sale starting Friday, and so at least an audience of about 750 showed up. Not surprisingly, they seemed to come mostly from Center City, and perhaps through weather-induced natural selection, they were overwhelmingly younger. On this single night, the median age of the orchestra audience shed at least 35 years." Philadelphia Inquirer 01/24/05

Music: Moveable Feast How will you get your music? The music industry believes the future is portable. At a music industry conference in Cannes, mobility was the word of the day. "The offerings are nearly limitless: music through a wristwatch, hits played on a literally loud shirt or New Age themes on underwater headphones at the gym swimming pool during a hard-driving backstroke." The Star-Tribune (Mpls) (AP) 01/24/05

Downloading's Tower Of Babel Legal downloading of music is becoming increasingly frustrating as players and download stores support different formats designed to protect music from being copied on a mass scale. The problem? Music downloaded in one system won't play on another. Now there's an effort to standardize the digital rights management formats in hopes of making it easier for consumers. But will the plan catch on? BusinessWeek 01/21/05

Trying To Save Peking Opera With Computers Chinese researchers are setting up databases of traditional Peking opera, hoping to save it before it goes extinct. "The rapid globalization and the influence of foreign cultures in China have caused unprecedented challenges to the survival of Chinese traditional opera, which has been evidenced by more and more traditional operas vanishing. Statistics show there were 367 types of traditional operas in China at the end of 1950s, but the number has dropped dramatically to 267, and some of them are now extinct." China Daily 01/24/05

Dallas Symphony: Looking For A Leader To Love It's been 13 months since Andrew Litton said he was stepping down as music director of the Dallas Symphony. Is the orchestra close to naming a new leader? "We look for someone who's steeped in the European tradition and American music, who's beautiful and a great fund-raiser and can cure cancer at the same time. Nobody can do all that." Dallas Morning News 01/23/05

January 23, 2005

Orchestra Better, Audience Gone London's Philharmonia Orchestra is playing better than it ever has. But "it is ironic that as the quality and enthusiasm of orchestral musicians has increased, so the interest in orchestral music within the general culture has declined so markedly. 'We're in a period now where the broad population of this country is totally unfamiliar with orchestral music and reluctant to enjoy anything that requires some investment of time and thought. Our world is shrinking by the day because of the overwhelming impact of popular culture'." Prospect 02/05

Houston Symphony Declares Video-Free Sundays The Houston Symphony performs onstage with giant video screens. But the orchestra has announced "video-free sunday" performances. "All the pops people love (the system). Most of the classical people love it. A small minority don't," Houston Chronicle 01/23/05

Building A Better Piano? Paolo Fazioli thinks he's made a better piano. He "insists that he never wants to make more than 150 instruments annually (so far he hasn't topped 100), because of the personal attention given each one. 'The Steinway is a very good piano, but it is not the only way to make a piano, just as there is not only one way to make a car. There used to be many piano makers but after World War II, one piano came to dominate the market and I thought that was ridiculous. I wanted to make a piano in which there is an evenness through all the sections, with a very clean sound, a long sound. Not every pianist will prefer it, but they should have a choice'." Toronto Star 01/23/05

Maestro Switch - What If Philly And NY Had Gone Another Way? If not for a few details, Christophe Eschenbach might be leading the New York Philharmonic while Lorin Maazel could have settled in Philadelphia. "History could have been reversed. Eschenbach was a top contender for the New York position, and had Maazel not unexpectedly clicked with the Philharmonic in a November 2000 guest-conducting engagement, Eschenbach might now have his job. Just as easily, orchestra chemistry could have conspired to put Maazel in Philadelphia. If that had happened, would their talents have been wasted? Or better utilized?" Philadelphia Inquirer 01/23/05

Want Some Music Of Your Own? Why Not Commission It? "Patronage of music by individuals may seem like a throwback to the days when noblemen maintained court orchestras with composers to write for them. Today, a few private donors have made names for themselves commissioning new music (notably Betty Freeman, who since the 1960's has supported the likes of John Adams, Steve Reich, Morton Feldman and John Cage), but most of the big patrons of contemporary music are linked with institutions, giving money to symphony orchestras, operas and new concert halls. As it turns out, anyone can commission a piece of music." The New York Times 01/23/05

January 20, 2005

Gardiner: Do-It-Yourself Recordings Why did John Eliot Gardiner set up his recording label? "The catalyst came five years ago, when Deutsche Grammophon pulled out of a project to record all the 198 sacred cantatas that he, together with the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists, were performing on his millennial Bach Pilgrimage. The CDs were supposed to be, in every sense, a record of this historic tour, which began in the Bach heartland of Weimar and then criss-crossed Europe presenting the church cantatas on the feast days for which they were composed. In the event, DG issued only a handful of CDs from a potential 50 or more." The Telegraph (UK) 01/21/05

Internet Radio Is Taking Over "Thanks to broadband technology, the internet has created thousands of new radio stations that, generated simply by the home PCs of amateur DJs, cater to every music taste, no matter how obscure. These days, anyone can be a radio star. You don't have to be a technical whiz to join this radio revolution – all you need is a PC and a subscription to a radio website, such as Shoutcast or Live365." The Telegraph (UK) 01/21/05

Dreaming Of Bamberg English conductor John Nott has a dream job. In his five years as head of the Bamberg Symphony, he's remade the orchestra. "The Bamberg musicians play with a dark, rich sound, but also a sense of fantasy and adventure. But it's no surprise the players should seem so content: they are the only big cultural show in town, revelling in the astonishing statistic that 10% of the entire population - more than 7,000 Bambergers - are subscribers to the symphony orchestra." The Guardian (UK) 01/21/05

Salzburg On A Mozart Binge The Salzburg Festival will produce all 22 of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's operas and musical theatre works next year in a marathon 250th birthday present to the Austrian musical genius... Montreal Gazette (AP) 01/20/05

True Genius (According to Whom?) Attempting to make a list of American musical geniuses is an exercise doomed to fail, writes Joe Nickell. First there's the problem of how you define genius. And it gets even more difficult from there. "Why attempt to narrow the field of geniuses when so many have clearly existed, in many different cultures and traditions and disciplines, throughout history?" The Missoulian 01/20/05

Does Classical Music Cure Petty Crime? Anything Else? (Hint: Think Finland) So some rail stations in England are playing classical music to scare away hoodlums. Bust doesn't music have a more profound effect? "Which country achieved the best Year 10 results in science and mathematics last year? Finland is the answer. Yes, Finland, with a population the size of Scotland’s and an impenetrable language. What are the Finns doing right? Every child in Finland is given an instrument to play from the first day at school. They learn to read notes on stave before letters on page. They spend hours at drawing and drama. The result is a society of with few tensions and profound culture. Finnish Radio broadcasts in Latin once a week. Finnish railways do not need to play Sibelius, except for pleasure." La Scena Musicale 01/20/05

Dorian Goes Bust, May Liquidate Dorian Recordings, one of the last record labels truly devoted to classical music, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this month, and things may be even worse than that bit of news would make it seem. "Typically, companies that file under the code plan to negotiate a settlement with their creditors, and continue to operate. But language in court documents suggests the classical recording label might be planning a liquidation, a move seen more frequently under a Chapter 7 filing." Troy Record 01/20/05

Paying The Performers - What A Concept! "The growing popularity of satellite and Internet radio is creating a new source of royalties for performing artists... Under traditional copyright law, royalties have gone only to composers and music publishers. The new royalities, from airplay on the fast-growing XM and Sirius satellite services, are being paid to performers and the copyright holder of the recording -- generally a record label or, in some cases, the people who lease the master recording." Chicago Sun-Times 01/20/05

Is Eddins A Harbinger Of Change In Edmonton? The last few years haven't been the best of times for the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. Low pay, budget problems, and a lingering resentment from some musicians over the way the ESO dismissed former music director Grzegorz Nowak had some observers wondering if the orchestra could ever right itself. But the palpable enthusiasm emanating from all sides of the organization this week after the announcement that Bill Eddins would become the ESO's new music director seems to be having a restorative effect on a troubled institution. The musicians were so sure he was their man that they asked the orchestra board to suspend the search process after Eddins' last visit. Maclean's (CP) 01/19/05

San Diego's Newly Cooperative Partners The pact reached this week between the San Diego Symphony and San Diego Opera to share a common orchestra is significant for both organizations, and the deal appears to have been reached without much acrimony, an accomplishment for two groups which have not always played well together. Part of the success of the deal was getting away from traditional notions of a merger, which usually imply pending unemployment for some musicians and staffers. Instead, orchestra and opera officials are taking pains not to use the m-word, and are instead calling the pact a "contract for services." San Diego Union Tribune 01/20/05

January 19, 2005

Selling Off Some Jazz History Major icons of the jazz era are being auctioned. "Jazz artifacts have been auctioned before, through Christie's and Sotheby's, but there has been no single auction of this size entirely dedicated to jazz. And though there have been jazz collectors of one kind or another since the 1930's, it seems to have taken many of the families of jazz's royalty this long to dislodge the once mundane items, long buried in closets, that now have great value not only to jazz aficionados but also to the larger community of collectors." The New York Times 01/20/05

Big Music's Improving Downloading Business Legal downloads of music topped 200 million tracks last year, up from 20 million the year before. "The digital music industry is now worth £177m in Europe, a figure expected to double this year. Some record companies estimate that the digital market could be worth 25% of total sales by 2009, compared with the present 1.5%." The Guardian (UK) 01/20/05

Healthy Music Industry? Look North. "The Canadian recording industry, written off as obsolete after music downloading surged in popularity, has finally rebounded from a six-year slide. Record labels chalked up an increase in 2004 sales to everything from anti-piracy campaigns and consumers' frustrations with the glitches of file sharing to lower CD price tags and a popular crop of new releases." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/19/05

So The Sky Isn't Falling, Now? Music sales may have dipped slightly in 2004, but sales of legally downloadable music went through the roof, according to a new report from the UK recording industry. "Legal downloads from the 230 online music stores that now exist generated $330m (£175m) for the music industry in 2004." BBC 01/19/05

Eddins To Edmonton "American conductor William Eddins, well known in the classical-music world for his charismatic and outspoken style, is the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra's new music director." Eddins has formerly served as a staff conductor for the Chicago Symphony and the Minnesota Orchestra, and is the principal guest conductor of Ireland's National Symphony. He was reportedly the only candidate for the job to win the approval of ESO members. The Globe & Mail (CP) 01/19/05

Win-Win Situation In San Diego The San Diego Opera has signed an agreement to use the San Diego Symphony as its pit orchestra for all future productions. Previously, the company had hired its own orchestra from the ranks of area performers, many of whom were also SDS players. The deal means more revenue for the orchestra, more weeks of paid work for the musicians, and guarantees continuity without a lot of extra cost for the opera company. San Diego Union-Tribune 01/19/05

All Opera Isn't Local The Scottish government's plan to "save" Scottish Opera has looked a lot more like an attempt to destroy it, as many in the music world have noted. But politicians don't tear down public institutions simply for fun, so the question is begged: what exactly turned the Executive against the opera? Andrew Clarke thinks he has the answer: "In a small, newly devolved country, there is no political capital to be made from supporting the most capital-intensive art form. Rightly or wrongly, opera is perceived by many Scots as a class-ridden activity without local roots." Financial Times (UK) 01/19/05

January 18, 2005

Elvis Racks Up Another No. 1 Hit Elvis Presley hits the UK singles charts at No. 1 - again. "The king's latest triumph - if that is the word for a CD that managed to top the chart with just 30,000 sales - is also the 1,000th No 1 since the UK chart began in 1952. Low sales or not, the music industry is rolling out a series of promotions to tie in with the milestone." The Guardian (UK) 01/17/05

January 17, 2005

People Generally Like Their Fairy Tales Without Pimps Italian opera director Giancarlo del Monaco is mounting a new production of Engelbert Humperdinck's beloved opera Hansel & Gretel in Berlin, and the local punditocracy is up in arms over del Monaco's decision to rework the traditional fairy tale into a brutal commentary on pedophilia, child abuse, and urban violence. "The children's mother is a whore and their father an alcoholic. The 'sand-man' is a cocaine-snorting pimp, who pursues Hansel and Gretel with a video camera and hands them over to the wicked witch - the modern 'stranger' who could be the man down the road, the local pervert, the Catholic priest." The Age (Melbourne) 01/15/05

Better Late Than Never It's been three months since the musicians of the Cleveland Orchestra agreed to a new two-year contract, averting a strike and seemingly marking a truce between the players and their management. But a letter sent by the orchestra's president to key donors late in the negotiating process has the musicians still fuming over its assertion that they were making "financially unrealistic and institutionally ruinous demands." The musicians have now sent a letter of their own to many of the original memo's recipients in an attempt to repair what they view as their wrongfully damaged image. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 01/17/05

Music Sales Dip One Percent In 2004 Music sales were down again slightly in 2004, but there's hope for the industry. "Hit by piracy, Internet song swappers and saturated markets, music sales fell in 2004 by one percent to $32.1 billion. But 2005 will make up for the damage with a one percent increase, said research group Informa. Over the next six years, the music publishing industry will return to the $39 billion sales levels last seen between the years 1997 and 2000, before the invention of cheap CD burners and file swapping services such as Napster." Yahoo! (Reuters) 01/17/05

January 16, 2005

Turnaround In Minnesota By the standards of the orchestra industry, Minnesota Orchestra president Tony Woodcock did not have a smooth first few weeks on the job in 2003, as a bitter behind-the-scenes battle over his appointment spilled into the press. But in a little over a year on the job, he has "led a financial turnaround at the venerable institution and now plans to further strengthen it with a $50 million fund-raising campaign." On top of the financial success, Woodcock's employees say that he has begun to heal the deep wounds left by previous managements, and to reassert the orchestra as one of the Twin Cities' most valued cultural mainstays. Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal 01/14/05

O'Riley's Radiohead: More Than A Tribute By this time, it shouldn't come as news to anyone who follows the classical music business that pianist Chris O'Riley has developed a fairly major side career as a keyboard interpreter of the works of the alt-rock band Radiohead. But to anyone who isn't already a fan of the band, it can be difficult to put into words exactly what it is that O'Riley does with the preexisting material. "The songs are recognizable as Radiohead's, but their materials are deconstructed, tweaked, expanded into new time frames, new structures, new expressive possibilities." Chicago Tribune 01/16/05

Philly Looks To Beethoven. Again. A lot of eyebrows were raised in the orchestra world when Christoph Eschenbach, an enthusiastic promoter of new music, was hired to be the music director in Philadelphia, a city known for its ultra-traditional musical tastes. A look at the orchestra's just-released 2005-06 season calendar indicates that some compromise between the two philosophies may be in the offing: the Philadelphians will focus heavily on Beethoven next year, but there will be several world premieres hidden amongst the warhorses. Philadelphia Inquirer 01/16/05

Something Rotten In The Opera House Of Denmark Copenhagen's much-anticipated new opera house opens this weekend with near-unprecedented fanfare, but a lot of people aren't at all happy with the finished product. First on the list of malcontents: the architect, who claims that his vision was forcibly altered by the project's lead donor. The New York Times 01/15/05

Strathmore Nears Completion The Music Center at Strathmore, in suburban Washington, D.C. is very nearly ready for its close-up, and if successful in its mission, it will change the face of the arts in the Baltimore-Washington corridor. "The state-of-the-art building is unique in the way it embraces art from its tiniest beginnings to its loftiest expressions. Five-year-olds learn how to hold a violin correctly; 3-year-olds can take tap dance with their mothers or fathers. When the concert hall opens next month, cellist Yo-Yo Ma will be center stage; later, Sauvion Glover will bring his thrilling kind of tap to the hall." Washington Times 01/15/05

Jarvi In Newark: Where To Begin? It was a major coup when the New Jersey Symphony announced that Neeme Jarvi would become its next music director. But what will the legendary Jarvi need to accomplish to put the NJSO on the map? "The [major] task will be to make the woodwind and brass players perform with the polish, subtlety, warmth and cohesiveness of the string players, newly empowered by the orchestra's acquisition of a cache of valuable string instruments... [Jarvi,] with his obvious taste for Nordic music and with a readily available stable of maestros to extend the Nordic range... seems to be ideally placed to develop a specialty with this orchestra much the way Charles Dutoit did in French music with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra." The New York Times 01/15/05

Health Care Cut Off For St. Louis Musicians The work stoppage at the St. Louis Symphony has been remarkably civil thus far, but tempers are beginning to flare over the issue of health insurance, which was cut off to the musicians when they rejected management's final contract offer. The SLSO had prepaid the musicians' premium, and received a rebate from the cancellation. Meanwhile, the 2-year-old son of an orchestra cellist had a seizure last week, and his mother found herself stuck with a major hospital bill when her insurance was found to have been terminated. The musicians claim that their health insurance was never affected during previous work stoppages. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 01/15/05

  • More Concerts Canceled A third week of concerts has fallen to the St. Louis Symphony's work stoppage. This time, the scheduled soloist and conductor was Itzhak Perlman, and the SLSO chose to cancel several days sooner than usual, due to the unusually large number of tickets sold, and the possibility of patrons coming great distances to see the famous fiddler. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 01/16/05

A Phoenix Rises In Texas The San Antonio Symphony was supposed to be dead and buried by now, the victim of endless deficits, questionable management, and meager community support. Instead, SAS officials are in a jubilant mood after meeting the requirements of a major challenge grant, and are preparing to launch a major PR initiative designed to increase ticket sales and make the orchestra more attractive to high-rolling donors. San Antonio Express-News 01/16/05

Are You Ready For Some... um... Orchestral Music? A staid, refined art form like classical music just can't compete in a dumbed-down NFL/MTV world, right? Actually, maybe it can. "In an upset of Joe Namath proportions, orchestral music has been thriving in the realm of the football fan, rabid and otherwise. For 40 years, the highly regarded highlights of NFL games airing on such TV programs as 'Game of the Week,' 'This Is the NFL' and channels such as ESPN Classic and the NFL Network have been accompanied by an orchestra. Based in Mount Laurel, N.J., NFL Films currently has an unheard of two composers on staff -- Tom Hedden and David Robidoux." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 01/15/05

January 14, 2005

Adding Some Color To Classical Music Classical music may not be as elitist as some claim, but there's no disputing the obvious fact that it attracts almost none of America's famous racial diversity. In fact, an African-American musician in a symphony orchestra is such an unusual sight as to be jarring, and token attempts to bridge the racial gap have generally been short-lived and unsuccessful. So when an entire ensemble of minority musicians starts to achieve commercial and critical success with a classical product, it's worth taking note, and Imani Winds, which brings together African-American and Latino composers and performers with an interest in serious new music, is establishing itself as a unique voice in the lily-white classical wilderness. Hartford Courant 01/14/05

The Day Lang Lang Came To Dinner Pianist Lang Lang is much in demand these days, and like any soloist, his schedule generally demands that he flit from city to city, with barely enough time to accustom himself to the piano placed in front of him before it's time to move on to the next one. And yet, there Lang was in Detroit this week, taking an entire day off to entertain 80 schoolchildren at a private home. "It's difficult to convey how rare it is for a pianist of Lang's celebrity to find his way to an anonymous suburban home to play a free concert disconnected from any corporate sponsorship or commercial agenda or the kinds of formalized outreach and education programs that have become de rigueur in classical music. Maybe Brad Pitt accepting an invitation to your daughter's birthday party would be a similar jaw dropper." Detroit Free Press 01/14/05

Chicago's New Star Trumpeter? Succeeding an orchestral legend is no small undertaking, and the Chicago Symphony has proven itself most determined to find the perfect fit for the principal trumpet chair once occupied by 53-year veteran Bud Herseth. One hopeful was given the job in 2001, but failed to acheive tenure. Now, the CSO is preparing to announce the hiring of the Atlanta Symphony's young principal, Chris Martin. Chicago Tribune 01/14/05

January 13, 2005

The New Women Conductors Three women conductors lead orchestras in New York this weekend. "These artists represent a new wave of female conductors in their late 20's through early 40's. Others are Joana Carneiro, Sara Jobin, Sarah Ioannides, Sarah Hicks, Keri-Lynn Wilson and Anne Manson. They confront significantly less prejudice than did their counterparts who are only a few years older: Gisèle Ben-Dor, Catherine Comet, Rachel Worby, JoAnn Falletta, Marin Alsop and others, performers who have made women a familiar presence on the orchestra podium." The New York Times 01/14/05

English National Opera Soldiers On English National Opera's Sean Doran announces the company's new season. But there are plenty of questions about how well the company is doing (and why it's taking so long to find a new music director). The Guardian (UK) 01/14/05

UK Opera A Mess It's looking like a tough year for UK opera. Scottish Opera just lost its director, English National is having difficulty finding anyone to take its music director job, Welsh National is precarious, and Opera North is out of its home... The Times (UK) 01/13/05

ENO Commisions Gadaffi Opera The Ebglish National Opera has commissioned a work about Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi. The unnamed work is about "a man of humble origin, born into a Bedouin tribe who became a powerful and influential political leader... the volatile relationship between the Middle East and the West and... international politics and their representation in the media of both worlds". Sky News 01/13/05

Mozart - Portrait Of A Tired Man What did Mozart look like at the age of 34? Not good. "At the age of 34, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a chubby, greying man with heavy bags under tired eyes, according to a painting which has been authenticated this week by German art experts." Discovery 01/13/05

Adams' Atomic Opera Gets A Date John Adams' new opera about the nuclear bomb has a debut date at San Francisco Opera. "I basically don't have much interest in opera. But I do think it's an art form that can grapple with the deepest, most unknowable subjects. 'Doctor Atomic' is about that moment in history, July 6, 1945, when we went from being a species that inhabited the planet along with other species and with the flip of a switch became capable of destroying it." San Francisco Chronicle 01/13/05

Springer On National Tour After attracting a huge audience for a BBC broadcast, Jerry Springer, The Opera is set to close down in London. But it will be showing up on stages around the UK. "The show will end its West End run on 19 February and head to regional theatres around the country. Its broadcast on BBC Two on Saturday prompted 47,000 complaints to the corporation ahead of broadcast from people who saw it as blasphemous. And a motion has been tabled in the House of Commons condemning the BBC for the "mocking portrayal of Jesus". BBC 01/13/05

January 12, 2005

Rattle Weathers Criticism Simon Rattle is getting some of the first criticism of his career. "At 50, Rattle becomes a senior statesman, an establishment figure. He risks entering the kind of self-protective custody that turned Karajan from a powerfully engaged maestro into a misery on Parnassus, watching the world drift away from his concept and his grasp. Rattle has detached himself from his country without fully mastering German language or culture. He is perilously adrift from the way others are starting to perceive him. He may not enjoy reading bad reviews, but unless he gets to grips with shifting perceptions he will wind up in the ivory tower he has always struggled to escape. At 50, and on top of the world, Simon Rattle still has all to prove." La Scena Musicale 01/12/05

Terfel Mimes Wotan At Covent Garden Baritone Bryn Terfel loses his voices only hours before a Covent Garden performance of Das Rheingold. "The Royal Opera House was involved in a frantic dash to find a replacement, who stood in the orchestra pit to supply Terfel's "voice". BBC 01/12/05

Classical Music Cuts Crime In London Underground London's Underground has been piping in classical music into some of the most crime-ridden stations in the system. "Mozart and Pavarotti broadcast through loudspeakers has resulted in a drastic reduction in anti-social behaviour by gangs of youths. It is not that the music has a soothing effect - the gangs hate it and it has driven them away." London Evening Standard 01/12/05

SF Symphony Gets Major Funding For Multimedia Project The San Francisco Symphony gets a $10 million grant - the largest in its history for use in 'Keeping Score: MTT on Music,' the orchestra's multimedia effort, started last year, to build new audiences for classical music. The gift will be delivered once the Symphony raises $10 million during the next three years. "Keeping Score" was initiated with a two-part national television show last year, which featured Thomas and orchestra members talking about Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony and then performing the piece." San Francisco Chronicle 01/12/05

2004 - Great Year For Concert Business America's live-concert business did well in 2004. "The concert business not only survived 2004, it hit a new high of $12.8 billion in revenue, according to a report released yesterday by the trade publication Pollstar. That figure is a 12 percent jump over 2003, when the industry took in $12.5 billion" Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 01/12/05

Israeli Opera To Perform Beethoven In Buchenwald "The New Israeli Opera Tel Aviv will participate in the controversial staging of Beethoven's prison-based opera "Fidelio" at the site of Buchenwald concentration camp, German organisers of the production announced on Tuesday. The controversial production is the brainchild of Giancarlo del Monaco, guest artistic director of the new Erfurt Opera House." Expatica 01/12/05

January 11, 2005

Where Are America's Music Geniuses? "What musical geniuses has America produced? From the nineteenth century, the pickings are slim. If the idea of musical genius is defined by Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert , Brahms, Wagner, Mahler, Stravinsky and others in the list of immortals, it can't be appropriate to consider Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Stephen Foster, Scott Joplin in that category, however remarkable and special their gifts and contributions. In the 20th century, Copland, perhaps, Gershwin, but then when we talk about Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington, to pick a few others from a longer list, the term genius seems inapplicable." San Francisco Classical Voice 01/11/05

Haydn - Admired From Afar "Today, nearly all of Haydn’s music is available on CD—but he remains a composer who is more admired than played, at least in the concert hall. No celebrated conductor or instrumentalist champions him; no stylishly written English-language narrative biography has yet been published. The absence of such a biography from the extensive Haydn literature helps to explain one reason for his comparative obscurity, which is that his life, though interesting, was not notably eventful." Commentary 01/05

SF Opera Narrows Director Search David Gockley, the visionary longtime general director of the Houston Grand Opera, has emerged recently as a leading candidate to take over the reins of the San Francisco Opera... San Francisco Chronicle 01/11/05

Prompter As Air Traffic Controller Prompters sometimes take a very active role in an opera performance. "In the prompter's box during performances, she calls out the first few words of every line a second or so before the singer is to sing it, her linguistic repertoire including Italian, German, French, Spanish and Russian. Comparing her job to that of an air traffic controller, she is hyper-alert, keeping track of several performers at once." Newsday 01/11/05

Reviving The Juke Box In The Age Of Internet For a long time, juke boxes have been in decline. But attached to the internet, instead of offering a few hundred selections, juke boxes offer hundreds of thousands. And the choice is reviving the corner juke. With expanded choice, it's not just the big hits that get played. Turns out people aren't as hit driven as we've been led to believe. "A typical CD jukebox generates about $400 a month in revenue. With our product, a jukebox generates an average of $1,000 a month." Chicago Tribune 01/11/05

January 10, 2005

The Best Music Writing, 2004 Edition What was the best writing about music in 2004? Jason Gross has made a list on Rockcritic.com... Rockcritic.com 01/05

John Eliot Gardiner Launches His Own Recording Company Sir John Eliot Gardiner was stunned when his long-time recording company Deutsche Grammophon canceled his contract on the eve of his biggest project ever. "Sir John faced a crisis when the company pulled the plug just as he was planning the gargantuan project of touring with and recording live the complete Bach cantatas throughout the year 2000, which would have resulted in over 50 CDs." So Gardiner has started his own recording label to issue the music... The Guardian (UK) 01/10/05

January 9, 2005

America's Newest Orchestra Has A Season "The Boca Raton Philharmonic Symphonia has announced the schedule for its inaugural 2005-2006 season, and a very impressive one it is. The new chamber orchestra, composed largely of former Florida Philharmonic members, will offer five concerts that serve up a bracing and imaginative mix of the familiar and adventurous." The Sun-Sentinel (South Florida) 01/09/05

Kentucky Opera Ditches Orchestra For Students Kentucky Opera drops the Louisville Orchestra for performances of its next production in favor of using students from the University of Louisville. Why? The company explains that "scheduling conflicts made it difficult, if not impossible, to use the orchestra for this particular production, which involves parallel student and professional casts. When you are rehearsing two casts you have a lot of orchestral rehearsals, and there were several services where (the Louisville Orchestra) would be unavailable because of contractual restrictions." But an Louisville Orchestra spokesperson expressed surprise at the decision... Louisville Courrier-Journal 01/09/05

Music Singles Surge On The Web The single music track is staging a comeback - online. "Although sales of vinyl and CD singles declined again by 14% to 26.5m last year, more than 5.7m downloads were sold during the year. 'We have already announced that downloads will soon be included in the official UK singles chart and had downloads been included in the singles figures for 2004, the market would have shown a 4% increase'." The Guardian (UK) 01/09/05

Opera And Film - A Match Yet To Be Made "Where are the great films of opera? Yet to be made. The form has never conquered what might be called the tongue-and-teeth problem. While it makes perfect sense within the opera house that everything is sung, when transferred onto film, the opera illusion often breaks down. Suddenly one is wrenched from a world where it's normal for people to say hello and good night and I love you in song into a world where you notice huge gaping mouths, swelling diaphragms, quivering tongues and glistening teeth. And even when the films are dubbed, and the singers attempt to look as if they're speaking, there's an uncanny sense that the voice is emerging from a hole not big enough to produce it." Washington Post 01/09/05

Rachmaninov Ruckus "A legal battle will begin this week to determine who owns an autographed manuscript of Sergei Rachmaninov's best-loved symphony. The work was found last year after being lost for almost a century. Relatives of the Russian composer will argue that they are entitled to the manuscript of the Second Symphony in E Minor, Op.27, which is worth up to £500,000 and was to have been auctioned by Sotheby's last month. Sotheby's, however, is expected to say that it was entitled to sell the manuscript on behalf of a private European collector." The Telegraph (UK) 01/09/05

Is St. Louis A Canary In The Coal Mine? The work stoppage at the St. Louis Symphony may be indicative of a larger systemic problem that no one in the industry wants to face: orchestras are very, very expensive, and the majority of cities may simply no longer be able to afford them as they now exist. "Intense and often divisive contract negotiations consumed three of the nation's top orchestras last fall: Chicago, Cleveland and Philadelphia... [and] close to 90% of the country's orchestras ran a budget deficit last year." Los Angeles Times 01/09/05

Tsunami Benefit Goes On Despite Work Stoppage This week, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra will perform a benefit concert to aid the victims of the Asian tsunami. The event is notable because the SLSO is still technically on strike. (Or locked out, depending on whom you ask.) However, anyone hoping that the concert could lead to a reconciliation between musicians and management will probably be disappointed: the benefit, which was organized entirely by the musicians, won't be held at the orchestra's home at Powell Symphony Hall, and the official SLSO web site contains no information on the benefit. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 01/09/05

Babes In The (Chinese) Wood Touring China with a symphony orchestra is a tricky undertaking, but doing so with a youth orchestra has to be considered a Herculean task. But last month, Toronto's Royal Conservatory Orchestra spent 18 days touring the world's most populous nation, playing in conditions that would make professional orchestras blanch, adapting to culture shock after culture shock, and generally having the time of their lives. William Littler went along for the ride... Toronto Star 01/08/05

January 7, 2005

Pittsburgh Symphony Decides Against European Tour For the second year in a row, the Pittsburgh Symphony has decided not to tour Europe. "The PSO never signed contracts for the tour -- therefore it didn't officially cancel -- but the tour was listed as being in development for almost a year on the Web site of European concert promoter Hans Ulrich Schmid. It was to include stops in Italy, Slovenia and Austria." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 01/07/05

Mozart's Last Picture? Experts say a portrait in a Berlin gallery may be the last-ever portrait of Mozart. "The picture was painted by the German artist Johann Georg Edlinger in 1790, a year before Mozart's death. The picture was identified as a Mozart portrait when an expert on the composer used computer analysis to compare it with another painted 13 years earlier." BBC 01/07/05

January 6, 2005

Rattle And The Berlin: A Tempestuous Match Simon Rattle has been music director of the Berlin Philharmonic for two years. How does he get along with his musicians? "They always want to know why we are doing something. They don't just do it - they are not an obedient orchestra in that way, but they are a very creative orchestra. They are not that easy to deal with but it's a lot of fun. Big temperaments, big personalities. It's difficult." The Guardian (UK) 01/07/05

Takacs Quartet Steals SF Violist The Takacs Quartet has named a replacement for departing violist Roger Tapping, and the San Francisco Symphony can't have been terribly happy to hear about it. The SFS's beloved principal violist, Geraldine Walther, was tapped by the Takacs, and will leave the Bay Area later this year. Walther is widely considered to be one of the top orchestral and solo violists in the U.S., and will be joining a quartet which has had a great run of success in recent years. San Francisco Chronicle 01/04/05

Playing To The Crowd Chicago's Lyric Opera is tightening its belt a bit this season, and is going to extraordinary lengths to keep its subscribers and donors happy. Part of that effort can be seen in the company's choice of programs for next season: plenty of old warhorses, not a single American opera in the bunch, and a new staging of "Rigoletto" to replace the last new staging of "Rigoletto" Lyric mounted in 2000, which prompted dozens of furious letters from subscribers due to its, um, "frank sexuality." Chicago Sun-Times 01/06/05

SLSO Concerts Canceled With no end to the musician work stoppage in sight, the St. Louis Symphony has canceled this weekend's concerts with music director-designate David Robertson. Meanwhile, the musicians have issued a call to other orchestras for financial assistance, and spent yesterday walking a picket line in front of Powell Symphony Hall. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 01/06/04

  • Anatomy of a Work Stoppage At the heart of the dispute between the St. Louis Symphony's managers and musicians are the dueling issues of fiscal sanity and competent oversight. The SLSO flirted with bankruptcy in 2000, a financial crisis brought on by years of dipping into its endowment and mismanaging the money on hand. In the years since that low point, the organization has raised $130 million, bolstered its endowment, and paid off a lot of debt. The musicians, who accepted major salary cuts to allow the SLSO to get back on its feet, now believe that they've earned the right to get back some of what they lost. The management insists that it isn't yet financially stable enough to take that step. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 01/06/05

January 5, 2005

Zeffirelli: La Scala Season A Disgrace Franco Zeffirelli has attacked La Scala's comeback season. Zeffirelli accused the opera house of inviting second-rate conductors to perform. Writing to a journalist on the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, who had written approvingly of the programme, he said the situation "risks becoming utterly absurd and developing into a scandal of truly international proportions because La Scala belongs to the whole world". The Guardian (UK) 01/06/05

BBC Will Air Springer Opera Despite Christian Protest "The BBC yesterday promised to press ahead with plans to transmit the award-winning West End show Jerry Springer - the Opera this Saturday in the face of concerted complaints by outraged Christians led by the Bishop of Manchester." The Guardian (UK) 01/06/05

You've Been Warned: Put Not Your Trust In Fiddles Two recent violin speculation scandals (Isaac Stern's estate and the New Jersey Axelrod sale) have Norman Lebrecht wondering if there might be lessons to be learned. Sure. It's this: "put not your faith in fiddles. Musical instruments are made for playing, not for speculation. They inflict pain, as much as gain. Handle with care." La Scena Musicale 01/05/05

No Quick End In Sight To St. Louis Strike The St. Louis Symphony officially asked its musicians yesterday to return to work under the terms of their old contract while negotiations continue for a new agreement. But due to unusual funding terms of the previous agreement, any "play-and-talk" scenario would have the musicians playing for far less than the weekly pay rate they had been receiving, a plan which the musicians have rejected. Still, the SLSO's top exec is claiming that the offer of a paid return to work proves that the stoppage is a musician-called strike, not a management-imposed lockout. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 01/05/05

  • 33 Wannabes Left Hanging The work stoppage at the St. Louis Symphony came at the worst possible time for dozens of hopeful players who had spent the weekend piling into the city for two auditions scheduled to be held this week. The auditions were canceled after the musicians and management could not come to a contract agreement, and the orchestra is reimbursing the auditionees for their travel expenses. The SLSO musicians were willing to allow the auditions to go on as scheduled, but that would have required the audition committee to be paid a small gratuity, which the orchestra's managers refused to allow. The New York Times 01/05/05

Does Anyone in Florida Like Music? In the wake of the Florida Philharmonic's bankruptcy and the demise of Miami's lone classical radio station, many observers have been wondering aloud whether South Florida really just doesn't have any use for the form. Now, more evidence for the affirmative: the Palm Beach Chamber Music Society is slashing its current season by a third, and may close up shop completely before fall 2005. Poor ticket sales and sluggish donations are cited as the major reasons for the society's problems. A lack of local product may also be a factor - the internationally known Miami String Quartet decamped for Ohio last year, and many local performers have left town with the Philharmonic's shutdown. South Florida Sun-Sentinel 01/05/05

January 4, 2005

A Final "Tristan" For The Disks? EMI's Abbey Road Studio is hosting "a gargantuan, million-dollar recording of Wagner's 'Tristan und Isolde,' put together as a now-or-never enterprise for the tenor Plácido Domingo but also as a last, heroic stand from a classical CD industry so crushed by economic pressures that many consider it in terminal decline." It may be the last ever recording of the Wagner epic. The New York Times 01/05/05

A Music Camp's Controversial Modernizing Plans Large-scale changes are underway at Interlochen Music School, where faculty dismissals and program changes have riled some fans of the school. The school's board chairman says that the changes are essential because "declining enrollment, fewer applicants, higher cancellations and fewer returning campers were threatening the camp's reputation and even survival. At the same time, the student-staff ratio last summer was two to one. 'That is not a sustainable ratio'." The New York Times 01/05/05

A Website Where Musicians Get The Money A new UK music website promises to "democratize" how music is distributed. "TuneTribe is offering unsigned artists and acts with existing record deals an 80% share of royalties instead of the traditional 15% offered by majors such as Sony and EMI. Bands can set the price for downloading their own music, with the benchmark set at 79p a track by iTunes." The Guardian (UK) 01/05/05

St. Louis Symphony - Strike Or Lock-Out? Are musicians of the St. Louis Symphony on strike or have they been locked out? Drew McManus goes looking for answers... Adaptistration (AJBlogs) 01/04/05

What's Wrong With The Way We Teach Music? "In the music education of our young, listening—truly active processing and internalizing of sound—is not valued. And we are paying the price for this when audiences—and the composers they all too often come to dread—are not able to hear what is before them. In its passive stead, audiences seem more tuned out than in, experiencing a general wash of comfort or discomfort seemingly tied neither to thought nor feeling, process nor program." NewMusicBox 01/05

The Music Stops In St. Louis "Management called it a strike; the union called it a lockout. But whatever the terminology, for the moment, the music has stopped. Management's last offer was for around $72,000 this season - less than the $73,900 the players are making now." At a meeting of musicians "there was no pontification (from the floor); people just got up and said, 'I'm really sad, but I can't accept it.' We need to maintain our position of parity (with comparable orchestras), and we can't be bankrupt. We need to be able to afford things we've invested in, like instruments and houses and education and all of that." St. Louis Post-Dispatch 01/04/05

January 3, 2005

St. Louis On Strike Musicians of the St. Louis Symphony voted 85-3 to strike Monday. "The impasse comes as a blow to the symphony, which seemed to be making strides after nearly going bankrupt in 2000 and after the debilitating illness and death of its former music director, Hans Vonk. The hiring of David Robertson, a darling of the critics, as music director next season had brought a sense of excitement to the orchestra." The New York Times 01/04/05

St. Louis Symphony To Strike? Contract negotiations between musicians and the St. Louis Symphony broke down Sunday night, and the players will vote whether to strike today. "There are a number of issues under discussion, including benefits and work rules, but the biggest one is economic: Management has asked the musicians to take a pay cut, and they want a raise." St. Louis Post-Dispatch 01/03/05

January 2, 2005

Music In 2004 - Top 10 Disagreements This is the time of year when most publications put out top ten lists. "The most glaring trend in these lists is the lack of agreement as to what constituted the best music of the past year, not only among critics but also - especially - between critics and popular tastes (as judged by album sales and radio airplay). Comparing the 10 best albums as ranked by the New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and Amazon.com, one finds that exactly half of the albums mentioned appear only once among the lists. Only one record - Kanye West's "The College Dropout" - appeared on all of the lists; no other album appeared more than twice." The Missoulian (Montana) 12/30/04

Music In Time And Place "Today, the environments that music occupies have gotten either very small or very large: the isolation chamber of headphones or the anonymity of the stadium. Live, unamplified music still exists in the cloistered precincts of the concert hall; local bars soldier on and dance clubs still find new ways of embroidering a heavy beat. But for much of the world, music has become either a solitary experience or a form of mass ritual. Yet the history of music is inseparable from the history of places where people gathered." Newsday 01/02/05

Glenn Gould - 50 Years Ago Today It was 50 years ago today that pianist Glenn Gould made his American debut at the Philips Collection in Washington DC. "With the exception of his celebrated pan of singing first daughter Margaret Truman (which elicited a threatening letter from the White House), this is probably the most famous review Washington Post critic Paul Hume ever wrote. And rightly so, for Gould's debut stands out as one of the highest peaks in the history of Washington musical life -- an unheralded Sunday afternoon concert in a small venue that helped set a magnificent career into play." Washington Post 01/02/05

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