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February 28, 2005

Sculptor Ices Performance A sculptor who created an entire orchestra of instruments from ice canceled his show in Sweden at the last minute because he didn't like the sound of the musicians warming up... ABCNews.com (AP) 02/28/05

Ringtones - Recording Gold Cell phone ringtones "cost about two dollars and are typically no more than twenty-five seconds long. Nevertheless, according to Consect, a marketing and consulting firm in Manhattan, ringtones generated four billion dollars in sales around the world in 2004. The United States accounted for only three hundred million of these dollars, although Consect predicts that the figure will double this year." The New Yorker 02/28/05

Conductor Arrested For Musician Employment Practices France has arrested a German conductor at a concert. "Fifteen members of the Cologne New Philharmonic were taken into custody, followed allegations that the 49-year-old conductor had been illegally employing musicians from eastern Europe without work permits. Instead of paying the standard rate, it is alleged, the conductor was giving his musicians just €30 (£21) a day and bussing them between hotels to different European venues." The Guardian (UK) 02/28/05

Is Public Radio Getting Out Of The Classical Music Business? "There are more hours of classical programming on the air now than five years ago, but total listening to classical public radio stations has remained flat. News programming is much better than classical music at raising money to keep a station going. A listener-hour of NPR news may generate twice as much listener income and much more business underwriting income as classical or jazz." Current 02/16/05

Springer Opera Tour Backer May Pull Out After Christian Pressure The backer of a British tour of Jerry Springer The Opera says he may pull out. The backer, who was to have provided 40% of the funding for the tour, was targeted by Christian Voice, an evangelical group that has condemned the musical — based on the American television show — as “filthy and blasphemous”. Sunday Times (UK) 02/27/05

Did Orff Write The Original "Springtime For Hitler"? Canada is in love with Carmina Burana. "Right now we're in the midst of a rush hour of Canadian performances of the whole cantata, with or without dancers and fireworks. Recent critical discussion has tried to determine whether, in effect, the Nazis were right. Was Carmina Burana "the original Springtime for Hitler," as musicologist Richard Taruskin has suggested, and is it somehow dispensing a toxic mist of Nazi mythology over all who hear it?" The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/28/05

Conductors Petition For South Bank Acoustics Thirty top conductors have signed a letter demanding that improving acoustics at London's South Bank should be the top priority in a renovation. "The roll of names includes such sworn enemies as Daniel Barenboim and Christian Thielemann; Riccardo Muti and most other Italian maestri; Simon Rattle and several of his less guarded professional critics. What unites them is a concern for London’s premier concert venue and a fear that it may suffer as a result of declining political regard for classical music and the general decay in British arts policy." La Scena Musicale 02/25/05

February 27, 2005

Curtis Institute At A Crossroads Philadelphia's Curtis Institute may be the most exclusive music school in the world. "Curtis has thrived under the smiling and benevolent leadership of Gary Graffman, who, himself a Curtis graduate (he entered the school at age 7) and major-career pianist, restored order to a turbulent institution after he took over in 1986. Now, Graffman has announced his intention to step down, and despite his strong leadership, the school will soon have to undertake enormous change if it wants to protect its much-envied traditions." Philadelphia Inquirer 02/27/05

Ford Pulls Out Of Detroit Jazz Fest The Detroit International Jazz Festival is in dancer after the Ford Motor Co. declined to renew its $250,000 title sponsorship. "If Music Hall, which produces the festival, cannot replace Ford's annual contribution -- 21 percent of the proposed budget for 2005 -- then one of the city's signature cultural events could fold on the brink of its 26th anniversary." Detroit Free Press 02/25/05

Back To Work In St. Louis, But At What Cost? It's been a very long two months for the striking musicians of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, but with a tentative agreement awaiting their official approval, most of the players are relieved and cautiously optimistic about the ensemble's future. Still, some veteran members say that this strike was different from past work stoppages in St. Louis, and are worried that the damage done to the orchestra's reputation and to the relationship between musicians and management will not be easily repaired. St.. Louis Post-Dispatch 02/26/05

Wexford Festival Outsources Its Orchestra Ireland's Wexford Opera Festival has anounced that it will contract with a low-cost Eastern European orchestra to play in its pit this year, snubbing the country's own National Symphony Orchestra, but saving €150,000. "Irish musicians have accused Wexford of using cheap labour, and will picket the festival again this October in protest. The Arts Council has expressed its 'serious concern' at the festival’s failure to nurture Irish artists, and has made it a condition of future funding that the festival 'respond with vigour to its concerns'." The Times (UK) 02/27/05

America's Invisible Composers America's classical music tradition might not stack up to Europe's centuries of acheivement, but in the oft-overlooked area of film scoring, American composers have carved out an impressive niche. "When the film and the music are great, the results can be stunning - with a score that plays almost continuously for longer than most great symphonies. Picture Psycho without Bernard Herrmann's electrified, staccato strings, or "The Third Man" without Anton Karas' burbling zither... For nearly a century, movie scores have helped to propel a popular medium, and at the same time have surreptitiously exposed audiences of millions to the joys of the orchestra without requiring them to buy a ticket to the local symphony hall." Newsday (New York) 02/27/05

Chicago Takes Its Time The Chicago Symphony doesn't seem to be in any big hurry to choose a successor to outgoing music director Daniel Barenboim, but John van Rhein says that the orchestra can afford to take its time. "It seems that the more people who are heard from, the lengthier the job description for CSO music director becomes. Beyond being a superior conductor, a fine musician and a strong leader who's respected by the orchestra, he or she should be thoroughly familiar with how American orchestras function in a changing social and economic landscape. And the next music director should be willing to help the organization stump for funds, a role Barenboim has declined to play but one that has become essential." Chicago Tribune 02/27/05

  • Chicago's Youth Movement "Forget the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's hunt for a new music director, for now. The organization is moving on a parallel track that, while not likely to grab headlines, also relates closely to the CSO's vision of its artistic future.The orchestra is developing relationships with a number of talented younger conductors, including Alan Gilbert, Mikko Franck, Andrey Boreyko and, next season, Daniel Harding. A few associations may bear fruit while others may fade. The important thing is creating opportunities for some of tomorrow's potentially important conductors to refine their craft." Chicago Tribune 02/26/05

The Exclusive Soprano Most major orchestras insist on exclusivity clauses in the contracts of "superstar" soloists, so as to insure that ticket sales aren't diluted. But such clauses rarely need to be enforced, since booking agents are well aware of the rules and make sure that their clients aren't double-booked in a single city. But this week in Minneapolis, the Minnesota Orchestra and the Schubert Club each announced their new seasons, both featuring appearances by soprano Deborah Voigt, despite an exclusivity clause in the orchestra's contract with the singer. Both groups agree that the mistake belongs to Voigt's manager, but the orchestra is enforcing its exclusivity anyway, forcing the Schubert Club to cancel Voigt's appearance, even though most of the club's brochures had already been printed. Minneapolis Star Tribune 02/26/05

February 25, 2005

Strike Settled In St. Louis The 8-week strike by the musicians of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is apparently over. One day after the SLSO management played its trump card, winning a ruling from the National Labor Relations Board that declared the strike illegal on a paperwork technicality, the two sides returned to the bargaining table and hammered out a tentative agreement. Details of the deal will be unavailable until the musicians vote to ratify it, but it is believed to be a three-and-a-half year contract. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 02/25/05

Merged Utah Group Looks To Save Itself "Pay cuts for staff, expense reductions and donation increases to $10,000 each from all 40 members of the Utah Symphony & Opera Board of Trustees are part of a three-year financial recovery plan approved Thursday by the board... At stake are 'structural' deficits in fiscal years 2003 and 2004 of $1.7 million and $3.3 million and a forecast structural deficit for fiscal year 2005 of at least $3.2 million." The board also voted to release details of an independent audit which had previously been kept from all but a handful of top executives and board members. The study cites anger and disillusionment over the recent merger of the symphony and opera as a major reason for a precipitous drop in donations. Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City) 02/25/05

  • Previously: Bad News? Really? Quick, Hide It! Last summer, during contract negotiations, the Utah Symphony & Opera's musicians became suspicious about ballooning deficits, and requested an independent audit of the group's finances. The results of that audit are now in, but the company is refusing to share the information with its full board, despite indications that the audit placed the organization near bankruptcy. Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City) 02/24/05

The Not-Quite-Live Recording "Next month sees the release of one of the most eagerly awaited classical recordings of modern times. Simon Rattle’s interpretation of Mahler’s 'Symphony of a Thousand' rounds off his EMI cycle of all nine Mahler symphonies, an achievement matched only by a handful of conductors. The CD will be marketed as 'live'. What no one will mention is that two long patching sessions, under studio conditions, were needed to complete it. Patching has become standard practice with so-called “live” recordings. Consumers are promised a listening experience that replicates that of the concert hall. The reality is a collection of edited highlights from different performances and back-up sessions, with all the flaws airbrushed out." Financial Times (UK) 02/25/05

Yet Another Great Violin That No One Gets To Play One of the finest Stradivarius violins ever made is the subject of a furious bidding war in the UK, as the Royal Academy of Music struggles to raise the £1 million necessary to keep it in Britain. The violin, known as the "Viotti" Strad, was recently played in public for the first time in 200 years, and is on display six days a week. "The Viotti is on a par with the 'Messiah', or Le Messie, Stradivarius in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, which, the conditions of its bequest state, must never be played." Belfast Telegraph (UK) 02/25/05

McManus To Symphonic Execs: Think Bigger Attracting competent managers to the comparatively low-paying orchestra industry is one of the biggest challenges an ensemble can face, and AJ Blogger Drew McManus sees some exceedingly dangerous and short-sighted philosophies among not only the current executives at American symphonies, but the rising young crop of new managers as well. Particularly at risk from bad management are smaller regional orchestras, where a "part-time" mentality can hamstring an ensemble and keep it in the very back of the symphonic pack for years. Adaptistration (AJ Blogs) 02/25/05

February 24, 2005

La Scala Fires Its Top Exec "Milan's La Scala fired its top executive on Thursday as the world-famous opera house battles to plug a growing budget hole. ... The theater's board sacked superintendent Carlo Fontana, citing 'differences' with temperamental conductor Riccardo Muti." Yahoo! (Reuters) 02/24/05

Maazel On Maazel, Or: Happy Birthday To Me "When Lorin Maazel bounds onto the podium at Avery Fisher Hall on Tuesday, he will be wearing formal concert dress. But in a certain way, this jet-setting superstar conductor and, to put it mildly, highly self-assured musician will be standing there naked. In a rare event, the New York Philharmonic program will consist entirely of music composed by Mr. Maazel himself." The all-Mazel program celebrates the Philharmonic music director's 75th birthday. The New York Times 02/25/05

The Oscars And Popular Music: An Odd Disconnect "There are occasional years when the Oscars intersect with popular music culture. Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen have both been past winners. Eminem picked up an Oscar in 2003 with 'Lose Yourself', his compelling theme from 8 Mile. It was the first rap song to win, brushing off stiff competition from U2 singing the 'The Hands That Built America' from (perpetually neglected director) Martin Scorcese's Gangs of New York and, er, Paul Simon performing the theme from The Wild Thornberrys Movie. But that is the exception." Why is the Oscar for Best Song in such a sorry state? The Telegraph (UK) 02/25/05

Labor Board: St. Louis Strike Is Illegal Following the collapse of mediated negotiations to end an 8-week-old work stoppage by its musicians, the St. Louis Symphony has obtained a ruling from the National Labor Relations Board declaring that the musicians are engaged in an illegal strike. The charge stems from the failure of the musicians' attorney to file the correct paperwork with the NLRB before the expiration of their last contract. The musicians, for their part, admit that they never filed the necessary papers (the attorney claims that he did it on purpose,) but have held fast to the view that they are not on strike at all, and that the SLSO management has locked them out. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 02/24/05

It's Tough All Over The Buffalo Philharmonic is consolidating several 2005 performances to balance its budget after losing more than $700,000 in anticipated public funding. The money was to have come from New York's Erie County, which includes Buffalo, but a budget crunch forced the county to trim its own expenses, leaving the Philharmonic several hundred thousand dollars short of a balanced season. WGRZ-TV (Buffalo) 02/24/05

Bad News? Really? Quick, Hide It! It was nearly three years ago that the Utah Symphony and Utah Opera merged their operations, supposedly in order to pool their resources and make both groups more financially secure. But last summer, during contract negotiations, the merged organization's musicians became suspicious about ballooning deficits, and requested an independent audit of the Symphony/Opera's finances. The results of that audit are now in, but the company is refusing to share the information with its full board, despite indications that the audit placed the organization near bankruptcy. Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City) 02/24/05

February 23, 2005

SF Opera In The Black (After Major Deficits) After two years of big deficits, the San Francisco Opera has finished its most recent fiscal year in the black with a tiny surplus of $27,000 on an operating budget of $54.6 million. "The result, contained in a recently concluded financial audit, marks a striking step forward after consecutive budget deficits of $7.7 million and $4. 4 million." San Francisco Chronicle 02/21/05

Which Instrument Is That? Whisper In My Ear. "Every concertgoer has wished at one time or another for a little guidance while listening to an unfamiliar piece of music -- an experienced voice that could subtly whisper, 'Here comes the second theme again,' or, 'That's a bass clarinet making that rumble' at the relevant moment. Now, thanks to wireless technology, that voice is available. Sotto voce, of course." The hand-held Concert Companion was inspired by art-museum audio guides and operatic supertitles. San Francisco Chronicle 02/23/05

Barenboim's Successor? Symphony Takes The Question To The People "At Tuesday night's packed Chicago Symphony Orchestra town meeting, the dominant tone was exceedingly civil -- more akin to placid chamber music than a crashing symphony. The gathering at Symphony Center's Buntrock Hall was called to let the public sound off on the CSO's search for a new music director to replace Daniel Barenboim after the 2005-06 season. ... Many had specific names in mind -- Pinchas Zukerman, Erich Kunzel -- to fill Barenboim's podium. One man delivered a prepared paean to National Symphony Orchestra conductor Leonard Slatkin." Chicago Sun-Times 02/23/05

February 22, 2005

More Classical Radio Woes Pittsburgh's non-commercial classical music station, WQED, just wrapped up its winter fund drive, with seriously disappointing results. The station is one of the few remaining in the U.S. to program its own classical music without the use of a satellite-based voice tracking service. Some observers suggest that 'QED listeners were angry over the recent dismissal of two popular announcers, but station officials have a gloomier perspective, pointing out that almost no one is making any money playing classical music on the radio these days. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 02/22/05

St. Louis: So Close, And Yet So Far The two sides in the 8-week-old St. Louis Symphony work stoppage are still wrangling, but mediated negotiating sessions very nearly produced a deal last week. The SLSO's president has claimed in the press that new musician demands derailed the deal at the last minute, but the musicians' chief negotiator has been speaking with ArtsJournal blogger Drew McManus, and he says that it was the management that reneged on an agreed-to framework, leaving the two sides stalemated a mere $4000 apart. Adaptistration (AJ Blogs) 02/21/05

February 21, 2005

Aboriginal Music Goes Industrial "An industry group dedicated to Canada's aboriginal music scene was launched at the East Coast Music Conference and Awards over the weekend." The National Aboriginal Recording Industry Association already has "more than 100 founding members, including 'movers and shakers within aboriginal music.'" CBC 02/21/05

Welsh National Opera's New Digs For the first time in 60 years, the Welsh National Opera has a home of its own. "In its opening weekend at its new home, WNO threw down its gauntlet, offering two trademark shows: Traviata, a company show that foregrounds the talents of its chorus, and a new production of Berg's Wozzeck from director Richard Jones and conductor Vladimir Jurowski, a partnership that has provided WNO with some of its most visionary stagings in recent years." The Guardian (UK) 02/21/05

Night Of the Living Dead (That's Germany's Music Biz) Germany's recording business is the third largest in the world. But it's having problems, says a leading exec. "The problem the music industry has got is that they aren't willing to accept that the classic way of doing business is over and out. So the music industry in its current form over here is pretty much in the state of a zombie."
BBC 02/21/05

Rappin' To The War "If rock 'n' roll, the sounds of Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane and Creedence Clearwater Revival, was the music of American service members in Vietnam, rap may become the defining pulse for the war in Iraq. It has emerged as a rare realm where soldiers and marines, hardly known for talking about their feelings, are voicing the full range of their emotions and reactions to war. They rap about their resentment of the military hierarchy. But they also rap about their pride, their invincibility, their fallen brothers, their disdain for the enemy and their determination to succeed." The New York Times 02/20/05

A Soapbox Issue: Where's The New Music? Andrew Druckenbrod likes the Pittsburgh Symphony's new season. But he's dismayed there's so little contemporary music. "This has became a soap-box issue for me out of concern for the field, not for selfish reasons. I love the classics as much as anyone, but if the industry stagnates, it will fall off the map. Not die, just become less and less important, and ironically, fewer canonical works will be heard. Presenting the canon is good for marketing and subscriptions in the short term, but years of that shortsightedness creates lack of relevance that eventually does show up in the box office, as it has for orchestras and the PSO even before Sept. 11." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 02/20/05

February 20, 2005

France's New Choral Craze "Singing, like most social activities in France, is driven by the whims of fashion. Suddenly, it has become le dernier cri de tout Paris. There is talk of young execs switching their gym cards for lunchtime choir practice. Parents are reported to be moving children to schools with better sol-fa teaching. The French Institute of Choral Art, with some 280,000 choir members, has been swamped with new applications. Choir practice is becoming to bourgeois Paris what the book group is in suburban London. The cause of the singing craze is a low-budget local film which, to industry astonishment, out-grossed Harry Potter, Spiderman and Shrek 2 across France, selling nine million tickets and 1.2 million soundtrack CDs." La Scena Musicale 02/18/05

World Music Through Downloading Downloading may be killing the rock star, but it's doing great things for world music in the US. "Before the digital revolution, the cross-border import of indigenous music was inefficient, cost-prohibitive and logistically challenging. The market for some content was too small for major labels to justify importing it through the usual channels, so the music generally could be found only in specialty stores -- which are not always opposed to selling pirated material. But legitimate online music services are beginning to feature larger selections of world music." Yahoo! (Reuters) 02/20/05

The Classical Music Blogs If space for writing about classical music in newspapers is shrinking, it's growing online. "Suddenly, a whole new world of writing about classical music has cropped up. Not everyone agrees, but some plotters of this revolution predict the blog- osphere will create an entry point for new listeners, because blog writing often is informal, energetic, underground-ish -- without the deadening preachiness that infects much classical music writing, driving people away. Seasoned journalists and critics blog, but so do musicologists, composers, performers, arts administrators, amateur writers and everyday concertgoers." San Jose Mercury-News 02/20/05

Outsourcing The Beethoven So the Cleveland Orchestra will be the new Miami Performing Arts Center's resident orchestra? Outsourcing comes to the orchestra world. "Much as American companies enlist overseas workers at considerably cheaper wages, so too the lack of a full-time professional symphony orchestra in South Florida has given way to paying outside ensembles such as the Cleveland Orchestra to provide Beethoven, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky to the region's seasonal audience members. On the surface, it seems like a win-win situation..." The Sun-Sentinel (Florida) 02/20/05

Milan, New York, Paris, London... Denver? Denver's $86 million Ellie Caulkins Opera House is in the final stages of construction, and the architects, acousticians, and civic boosters involved in its rise are not setting their sights low. In fact, some are suggesting that the venue could rank among the top ten opera houses in the world when it opens in September. "The facility will become the first permanent home for Opera Colorado, and it will be the principal venue for Ballet Colorado." Denver Post 02/20/05

What's Next In Chicago? As the Chicago Symphony prepares to bid farewell to Daniel Barenboim after next season, a lot of questions about the future remain unanswered. The first unknown, of course, is the identity of Barenboim's successor, and as usual, the CSO is keeping a tight lid on speculation. But almost as important is the orchestra's overall model for future success: "with attendance flat at 82 percent and an accumulated deficit of $19.4 million gnawing on the bottom line, the CSO, with its 2005-06 season, will introduce two new series in an effort to make its concerts more inviting to a larger audience." Chicago Tribune 02/19/05

St. Louis Players Reject Management Offer The striking musicians of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra overwhelmingly agreed not to even take a vote on their management's latest contract offer this weekend, sending their negotiating team back to the table with a renewed shot of resolve. But the orchestra's president was flabbergasted by the flat rejection of what he thought was more or less a done deal. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 02/19/05

  • Who Will Be There When The Dust Clears? As with any orchestra embroiled in a long work stoppage, the St. Louis Symphony is facing the spectre of eventually returning to work with severely depleted ranks, as musicians begin to audition for other jobs. "The basic issue is one of money: The players took a major cut in salary during the orchestra's financial crisis and now want to get closer to the pay scales of their peers. But just as significant is the issue of quality: the sense of ensemble and esprit that has set the Symphony apart in the excellence of their music-making, making them the artistic equals of better-paid orchestras in larger cities." St. Louis Post-Dispatch 02/20/05

  • Variations On A Theme By Houston Orchestral work stoppages tend to run on similar themes, and the St. Louis clash is no exception, bearing more than a passing resemblance to the Houston Symphony's 4-week strike of two years ago. Both conflicts revolved around a clash of business values and artistic quality, and focused on "ongoing deficit spending, the question of a relatively low endowment fund - although St. Louis' was a lot worse than Houston's - and the question of summer work." In the end, Houston settled its strike, but lost 14 of its best musicians to more stable orchestras. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 02/20/05

But Aren't Affairs Merely Retrograde Inversions of Marriage? One doesn't often think of serialist music as overtly sexual - overly cerebral is more like it. But a new scholarly take on Alban Berg's landmark Chamber Concerto suggests that it is explicitly based on the various infidelities of Mathilde Schoenberg, wife of Berg's fellow serialist Arnold Schoenberg. Baltimore Sun 02/20/05

Music Of The Now Chicago's five-year-old new music festival, MusicNOW, has become a bona fide hit, attracting large audiences of all ages and backgrounds to its performances of the type of avant garde music which is supposed to send everyone streaming for the exits. The key seems to be taking an open and inviting approach to difficult music, and insuring that listeners feel welcomed, not overwhelmed. Chicago Tribune 02/19/05

Treading Water In Kentucky The Louisville Orchestra, plagued in recent years by budget deficits and labor strife, has announced the formation of a special fund designed to allow the organization to balance its budget for the current season. The orchestra has been keeping its head above water with a special "bridge fund" from the city of Louisville and several private contributors, but that money runs out later this year. In addition to generating new revenue, the orchestra is attempting to dispel what it calls several myths in the community about its business practices and long-term sustainability. Louisville Courier-Journal 02/20/05

February 18, 2005

St. Louis Symphony Musicians To Vote On Contract Proposal After 14 hours of negotiations Thursday, the St. Louis Symphony and its musicians emerged with a proposed contract. Musicians will vote on the contract today, but a union representative isn't hopeful it will pass... St. Louis Post-Dispatch 02/18/05

Chicago Symphony Searches For Barenboim Replacement It's been a year since Daniel Barenboim announced he would leave the music directorship of the Chicago Symphony. So where is the orchestra with its search for a successor? Chicago Sun-Times 02/18/05

February 17, 2005

What's Wrong With The Classical Concert? "All the evidence is that millions of people listen to classical music, on Classic FM or downloaded from the internet. Quite a few listen to CDs too. But classical concerts are clearly a turn-off, especially for the young. This is worrying when so many other forms of live entertainment - comedy, theatre, pop - are doing so well. In just a few generations, the spectacle of a classical concert seems to have lost all its appeal. There are many reasons for this." The Telegraph (UK) 02/18/05

Can Jazz FM Be Jazz? Is there hope for the UK's Jazz FM? "Given the rude health of the jazz scene, many of us thought that one day someone would take a cool look at Jazz FM and transform the station into the real thing. Instead, it was announced last Monday that the London radio station (owned by the Guardian Media Group) is to be 'rebranded' later this year as Smooth FM. What a blow." The Guardian (UK) 02/18/05

Caetani Named Music Director Of ENO Oleg Caetani, 47, has been named music director of the English National Opera. He conducts three months a year in Melbourne, and has only conducted ENO once. "A source close to the selection process said the appointment of Caetani over his nearest rival, the American conductor Andrew Litton, came down to a choice between something safe and homely against someone who in performance really excited people - you can't run an arts organisation with something safe and homely." The Guardian (UK) 02/18/05

Legendary NY Clubs In Danger Of Folding "In the latest round of real estate brush fires to hit the [New York] rock scene, several clubs in the East Village and on the Lower East Side are facing their demise, including CBGB, the Bowery dungeon that was the birthplace of punk in the 1970's. Besides CBGB, the clubs in danger include the Luna Lounge, Fez and Tonic... Owners of endangered clubs complain that rents and insurance charges have skyrocketed and that city officials show little interest in helping them survive." The New York Times 02/17/05

AZ Opera Closes Budget Gap Arizona Opera has met a $500,000 fundraising goal and qualified for $250,000 in matching funds from the city of Phoenix, offsetting a budget shortfall created when the company was forced to temporarily move to a new home while its existing venue is renovated. Arizona Republic 02/17/05

Edinburgh Fest Scraps £5 Tickets A few years back, the Edinburgh International Festival sought to recapture some of the crowds and attention which had been diverted to the hugely popular Edinburgh Fringe by creating a new late-night concert series featuring some of the world's finest classical musicians, with all tickets priced at a rock-bottom £5. The idea was to try to draw new audiences who ordinarily wouldn't have come near the concert hall. Instead, while the Festival's existing audience found the £5 admission attractive, no one else seemed to much care. So this year, the Festival is pulling the series altogether, claiming that it had the opposite effect on ticket revenue from what was intended. Edinburgh Evening News (UK) 02/17/05

February 16, 2005

St Louis Symphony Strike Drags On The St. Louis Symphony musicians' strike is taking its toll. Musicians are hurting for money, the orchestra says it's lost $700,000 in revenue. "Fifteen subscription concerts have been canceled. Thousands of schoolchildren have missed out on educational concerts at Powell Symphony Hall, a cavernous former vaudeville theater built in 1925. Half a dozen of those were canceled, along with 20 concerts in churches, schools and homes for the elderly in poor neighborhoods that were part of the orchestra's lauded outreach program." The New York Times 02/17/05

Double Discs: Two-Sided Music If you're older than 30, you remember when music came on vinyl records and cassettes and you had to turn the record or cassette over to play the other side. Now the CD generation gets its chance. DualDiscs are here: CD on one side, DVD on the other. The cost is about the same as a conventional CD, with prices ranging from $12 to $19. Boston Herald 02/16/05

Kenyon: A Fascinating Time For Classical Music Classical music in trouble? Not at all, writes Nicholas Kenyon. "The fascinating question is why the repertory has been creatively disoriented in the way it has over the past couple of decades, why people now find gamelan music or 13th-century organum as meaningful to them as the classics. I believe there is a very simple answer to this: we have finally reaped the harvest of a century and more of recording and broadcasting, which has gradually made the widest possible range of music available to us, all at the same time, in an almost frighteningly all inclusive way. How could this overwhelming experience not have a drastic influence on our taste?" The Guardian (UK) 02/15/05

February 15, 2005

Machover's Music Game Composer Tod Machover has invented a new toy to teach children how to make music. "Working with the Fisher-Price toy company, Machover has come up with Symphony Painter, musical composition software that allows children ages four and above to draw music and have it played through a hand-held device. Selecting from a palette of 24 musical patterns and 24 instruments and zany sounds, the child draws his composition on a small screen called a Color Pixter. The device is fun but not mindless, and encourages the youngster to listen carefully while constructing a coherent piece." Bloomberg.com 02/15/05

Taruskin And His Thematic Music History Richard Taruskin’s new 3,800-page, 1.25-million-word history of classical music is a thematic telling of the story. "This notion – that even the most “transcendent” music is at the same time part of the complex political and social currents of its time – is Taruskin’s great theme. All that stuff we grew up with about composers being autonomous, divinely inspired geniuses is one of many shopworn intellectual heirlooms from German romanticism that Taruskin turfs out. In his book, composers take their place as “collaborative participants, along with patrons, performers, scribes, editors, publishers, critics, audiences and many others, in what the sociologist Howard Becker calls an ‘art world.’” CBC 02/15/05

February 14, 2005

What's Wrong With Orchestras What's wrong with modern-day symphony orchestras? How about "icompetence, naivety, venality, snobbishness, dishonesty and amateurishness"? (and those are just the mean things they say about themselves) The Guardian (UK) 02/14/05

Grammy Ratings Dive - Have We Lost Interest? Ratings plummeted for Sunday night's Grammy show. "An estimated 18.8 million people watched Ray Charles' swan song clean up with eight awards Sunday night, a startling 28 percent drop from the 2004 Grammys. After two years on an upswing, Grammy ratings sunk to their lowest level since 1995." Yahoo! (AP) 02/14/05

South Florida's New Music Glut Since the collapse of the Florida Philharmonic, an interesting thing has happened in South Florida: a proliferation of small music groups. New ensembles are forming everywhere. "But with the upturn comes irony: There's now a player shortage. It's common for a musician to perform in several groups, creating a scheduling headache for the organizations. Conductors complain that they aren't sure who'll be playing, say, second violin from concert to concert." Palm Beach Post 02/13/05

Classical Music As Bug Spray? Why are some cities using classical music to ward off hoodlums? "There's something very poignant about the idea of classical music as bug spray, as pest control. This is one of those many stories about what happens to classical music after it's 'classical.' Even as public understanding of the style has hit an all-time low, the music retains some residual prestige, whether it's played to children in the womb or hoodlums in the park. They're choosing it because the music is still in some ways exalted. It's now 'magical': We'll spray it around like some kind of incense." Los Angeles Times 02/14/05

February 13, 2005

Welsh National Opera Ups The Stakes With New Home The Welsh National Opera is moving into a big new home - the Welsh Millennium Center. Hopes are high the move will help restore the company's fortunes. WNO has "endured a number of setbacks in recent seasons: several flops, the unpopular organisational overhaul and the "sudden departure" last summer of the inexperienced young music director Tugan Sokhiev among them. Is the long-serving general director Anthony Freud thinking of moving on? Can the magnificent facilities of the WMC restore the company's fortunes?" The Telegraph (UK) 02/14/05

The Classical Grammys The New York Philharmonic's recording of John Adams' On the Transmigration of Souls won Classical Album of the Year, Best Orchestral Performance, and Best Classical Contemporary Composition at the 47th Grammy Awards... PlaybillArts 02/13/05

The Jazz Grammys Pianist McCoy Tyner, vocalist Nancy Wilson, and pianist Herbie Hancock were among the jazz musicians winning Grammy Awards... PlaybillArts 02/13/05

The Orchestra Ritual "From dress to choreographed movements and the courtly interplay between conductor and musicians, the classical music stage is rich in etiquette and sometimes hijinks that are not always obvious to the audience. Chronicling this tradition goes back to Hector Berlioz and his classic "Evenings With an Orchestra," a collection of essays dissecting the world of 19th-century orchestras and musical culture." The New York Times 02/13/05

Passion Begets Passion; Blandness Breeds Indifference American orchestras seem to be making a very deliberate attempt to reel in concertgoers with non-threatening programs full of "standard repertoire" works which couldn't possibly cause anyone to have a strong adverse reaction. But the danger of such a strategy is that such "safe" programs frequently don't inspire any strong reaction, positive or negative. Alexander Coppock has had enough of this approach: "When you program idle, trite, and useless music for my education and protection, I feel condescended to, because I have a need for honesty. Would you be willing to program music that you love, so that I may love it?" Chicago Maroon 02/11/05

Can Orchestras Reinvent Themselves With New Music? The Minnesota Orchestra's highly regarded new recording of Beethoven symphonies might be a short-term success, but does it really bode well for orchestral recordings in the longer view? "The Beethoven series does nothing to distinguish the orchestra — countless other recordings of this music exist — nor does it further new music. Orchestras can't afford to ground their 21st-century futures on 19th-century music... By championing living composers as their own and entwining the recordings of their works with performances, orchestras can establish distinct identities regionally and internationally and ensure the vitality of new music." St. Paul Pioneer Press 02/13/05

Putting Grammy On A Diet There are too many Grammy awards. 107, to be exact, as compared with 28 for the supposedly interminable Oscars. And while every single one of those awards probably has its defenders, there is little question that the ceremony is in desperate need of a hatchet job. To begin with, isn't it time to dump most (if not all) of the classical catagories? "Classical musicians aren't wrong to feel slighted in a culture addicted to base pop music. But the current arrangement seems mainly therapeutic, like a teacher giving every kid a gold star just for coming to class." And on the pop side of the ledger, do we really need a Best Album, a Best Record, a Best Pop Vocal Album, and a Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album? South Florida Sun-Sentinel 02/13/05

  • So Bing Crosby Wouldn't Have Been Eligible? The Grammys have introduced a Hawaiian music category, agreeing at long last that the islands' rich musical tradition are worthy of separate recognition. But what exactly constitutes Hawaiian music? Can it still be Hawaiian if a singer performs in English? Must there be a ukulele involved? And most importantly, who gets to decide the answers to these burning questions? The New York Times 02/12/05

  • Everybody Loves An Oldie Picking the winners of the Grammy awards in advance may not be all that difficult. Jon Pareles thinks he's found the secret predicter: "The album with the oldest song wins." The rule seems to hold true in almost every year, and may point up the, um, veteran sensibilities of the majority of Grammy voters. The New York Times 02/12/05

Oboist Wanted - Apply Anywhere The position of principal oboe is currently open in three of America's major orchestras, and in several other second- and third-tier ensembles as well. When you consider how many aspiring professional musicians there are in the world, and how few high-profile positions available, the current surfeit of jobs has to be considered mannah from heaven for oboists. "The sudden raft of openings appears on the surface to be a confluence of health problems and retirements. But there is also a generational change under way, as the recent musical descendants of the father of American oboe playing, Marcel Tabuteau, who died in 1966, leave the scene." The New York Times 02/12/05

February 11, 2005

Super Trouper - Vanska Bringing ABBA Into The Concert Hall Osmo Vänskä, artistic director of the Minnesota Orchestra, will conduct his musicians playing his own arrangements of music by the 1970s Swedish pop supergroup ABBA as part of the 2005-06 season, announced today. While classical purists might view this as "Waterloo," Vänskä says that expanding musical horizons is "The name of the game." The Star-Tribune (Mpls) 02/11/05

February 10, 2005

Thoroughly Modern Fiddles More top violinists are playing modern instruments. "The great violinists from 1800 onwards always went back to the instruments by Stradivarius or Guarneri. For the 19th-century makers, there was never the thrill of building for the best violinists, so they didn't have the incentive. They were more like repairmen. They would build instruments, but they would build for the lesser player. There were quite a few good Italian instruments, but some of them have really died and are not playable any more. Now all of a sudden there is a demand. And so we go to the makers and say, sorry, we need a great instrument. We don't need something in between."
The Telegraph (UK) 02/11/05

Lebrecht: Frank Talk About The State Of Classical Music There is much to be gloomy about for the state of classical music, writes Norman Lebrecht. "Why the world has gone off classical concerts is a conundrum in which almost every reasonable assertion is disputable. Take the attention-span thesis. Many in the concert world believe that its decline stems from the public’s flickering tolerance for prolonged concentration. If politicians speak in soundbites, how can we expect voters to sit through a Bruckner symphony? It is a persuasive argument but one that I have come to find both fatuous and patronising." La Scena Musicale 02/10/05

The ENO's Quest For A New Conductor The English National Orchestra has had a rough few years. Now it's looking for a new conductor - but it'll be a tough job walking through the door. "There's a chance that a new chief conductor with a really solid knowledge of opera repertory and casting, and a commitment to the company's principles, could just turn the place around. The ENO orchestra is sounding much stronger now than it has been for a while." The Guardian (UK) 02/11/05

SLSO Strike Mediation Delayed Musicians and managers have finally agreed to mediation in the St. Louis Symphony strike, but bizarrely, the first session isn't scheduled until the middle of next week. Meanwhile "more of the orchestra's younger musicians than usual have been auditioning for other ensembles around the country. Though the SLSO is generally considered to be among the top 10 orchestras in the United States, St. Louis ranks 19th in base pay for its musicians." In other words, time is of the essence in this dispute, and the lack of urgency on both sides is beginning to grate. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 02/10/05

Cleveland Orchestra Headed To Miami Since the demise of the Florida Philharmonic two years ago, observers have been wondering just exactly who the under-construction Greater Miami Performing Arts Center is being built for. Now, an answer has emerged, courtesy of the chairman who presided over the Phil's disbanding: the center will open in 2007 with a 3-week residency by the Cleveland Orchestra. It's good news for South Florida music lovers, of course, but some former Philharmonic musicians are furious, suggesting that chairman Daniel Lewis, who has given $12 million to the Clevelanders over the years, allowed the Phil to die knowing that he could bring in a visiting orchestra more cheaply. South Florida Sun-Sentinel 02/10/05

February 9, 2005

Live Music While You Hold A UK company is experimenting with the music its customers hear while on hold on the telephone. It is presenting live music while you wait, with a string quartet. "The exercise reflects the increasing exploitation of the time customers spend on hold as a marketing opportunity - whether by subtly expressing corporate values via the choice of music, or taking advantage of a captive audience to "advise" customers about services or offers." The Guardian (UK) 02/10/05

Rock And Roll Museum Sues Website Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is suing two journalists and a radio company executive from putting up a website called the Jewish Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The trio "misappropriated Rock Hall's substantial intellectual property rights as well as the goodwill associated therewith. Unless restrained ... by the court, such conduct will, permit defendants to gain an unfair advantage over Rock Hall.' It said the Cleveland museum has suffered irreparable harm and was seeking damages in excess of $100,000." Reuters 02/09/05

A Design For Atlanta's New Concert Hall A design for Atlanta's new concert hall, designed by Santiago Calatrava, has been unveiled. "The building, roughly as tall as 13 stories, features a ribbed-glass roof surrounded by a metal collar. A smaller version, which houses a recital hall and learning center, nestles on the south side. Each is adorned with a free-standing, ridged steel arch that is 186 feet (about 18 stories) at its highest point. The Spanish architect calls it the feather." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 02/08/05

  • New Hall Sign Of Atlanta Symphony's Fortunes The Atlanta Symphony's new hall is just one more sign of the orchestra's soaring fortunes. "It might open in 2011, at the earliest. But in the short term, it's likely these designs further invigorate an orchestra that's already on a steep ascent, since the 2001 debuts of conductors Robert Spano and Donald Runnicles as its artistic leaders." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 02/08/05

February 8, 2005

Orchestra Victoria Finds Success Is Free Melbourne's Orchestra Victoria performs in the State Theatre. But its real griowth has been for free concerts outside the theatre. "This year, it expects to increase its audiences at free concerts in regional centres by 10,000, to more than 70,000, a jump of more than 16 per cent. Orchestra Victoria is expanding its pioneering scheme of free concerts supported by charities and philanthropic bodies in regional centres and suburban Melbourne. Now into its fourth year, the community program raised $1.4 million last year from Melbourne-based organisations. The Age (Melbourne) 02/09/05

Top Of The Pops - New Charts Redefine "Bestseller" What are the most popular songs in the land? As the music business has changed, it's been harder and harder to tell. Some songs have made the bestseller list for sales of only 5,000 copies. "This week, Billboard began figuring in download sales in its main pop singles list, mixed with the two other factors it long leaned on — radio play and retail sales. At the same time, the magazine has introduced a new, download-enhanced chart that more accurately measures those songs that truly are the most popular." New York Daily News 02/08/05

Indie Musicians And The Benefits Of The Web All this shouting by recording companies about getting paid and protecting the rights of the artists. Somehow, writes Lawrence Lessig, the voices of independent musicians have been lost. Take the band Wilco, which dumped its label, went to the net, and found themselves more popular (and profitable) than they had ever been... Wired 02/08/05

SF Opera Gets New Director The San Francisco Opera has named David Gockley, the longtime head of Houston Grand Opera, as its sixth general director. He will succeed Pamela Rosenberg in January, six months earlier than planned. San Francsico Chronicle 02/08/05

  • Bringing Opera Out Of The House San Francisco Opera's new director has some big challenges to solve. But David Gockley is looking outside the box: "In Houston, we've done a lot of outdoor performances and performed in smaller suburban theaters. One of the first things I want to do here is take an inventory of all the performance spaces in the Bay Area, both outdoor and indoor. I want to try to come up with a formula that would access those audiences and give them a taste that would make them want to come downtown, because this is where it really happens." San Francisco Chronicle 02/08/05

February 7, 2005

MacMillan: Of High Art And Classical Music Scottish composer James MacMillan has raised a furor over his comments about music last week: "One can’t listen to classical music and especially serious contemporary classical music with the ears - that rather distracted mode of listening - that one uses for other forms of musical styles. The orthodox and politically correct view that there is no meaningful difference between high and low art, I think, must be challenged anew." The Scotsman 02/07/05

Popular Music? What's That? "Popular music" is no longer a homogenised entity: the very narrow band of commercial pop that is sufficiently ubiquitous to register with national newspaper leader writers is the tip of the iceberg. There has been a great rise in interest in underground, non-commercial music (helped by the availability of information and music files on the internet). Many people are hungry for anything that sounds a bit different, uses sound in a new way and sets itself apart from the naked consumerism of commercial pop. The Guardian (UK) 02/08/05

Concert Companion, UK Version The Concert Companion, a handheld device designed to accompany orchestra concerts, is heading to the UK after undergoing several tests on audiences in the US. After a flurry of interest by US orchestra, the device has stalled there. Maybe it will find a better business model in Britain? The Guardian (UK) 02/07/05

Hit Factory Closes - Victim Of Digital Recording) "The Hit Factory, which opened 37 years ago, has played host to some of the biggest stars in music, including Paul Simon, Madonna and David Bowie. However, the rise in digital recording has affected business at the studio, which is relocating to smaller premises in Miami." BBC 02/07/05

February 6, 2005

The Baltimore Symphony's DC Gambit The Baltimore Symphony establishes a second home in the backyard of Washington DC's National Symphony. "The orchestra is taking on additional costs to play at Strathmore. It is also establishing a second acoustical home, which risks compromising its sound, a characteristic shaped by the hall in which an ensemble performs night after night. And there is that fascinating subplot: will the center draw audiences away from the National Symphony?" The New York Times 02/07/05

Melbourne's Opera Options Should Melbourne get a new state opera company? The government commissioned a study to find out. "The consultant's final report, handed to the Government shortly after Christmas, outlines five options. They range from increasing Opera Australia's state government funding and asking it to perform 10 to 11 operas at the Arts Centre (up from the current seven) to setting up a new state opera company that would also perform at the Arts Centre. It is estimated the latter would cost $5 million to $7 million a year. Neither of these options is expected to be taken up by the Government. The option emerging as the most favoured is to fund a new smaller-scale company whose primary focus would be to create innovative new work pitched at a youngish audience. It is believed this would cost the Government up to $3 million a year." The Australian 02/07/05

Montreal - The Next Big Thing? "The American pop music scene has frequently depended on cities at the edges of the cultural map to provide a much-needed shot of originality. Seattle, Minneapolis, Austin, Tex., and Athens, Ga., have all served as temporary pivot points, churning out bands and defining the sound of the moment. Even Omaha had its 15 minutes not so long ago. The momentary consensus seems to come out of nowhere - as if someone blows a whistle only those in the know can hear, and suddenly record executives and journalists are crawling all over what had previously been an obscure locale. So which American city is the next stop on this fickle, itinerant history? It's a trick question for the time being, because the answer seems to be Montreal." The New York Times 02/06/05

The New Christian Bands "Within the last several years, there have been a number of very popular bands - including P.O.D., Evanescence, Switchfoot, Sixpence None the Richer and Mercy Me - that got their start by signing with Christian record labels or by playing at Christian music festivals. These bands have succeeded in large part because, unlike Petra and the other successful Christian rock bands of the 80's and early 90's, they have avoided being too preachy and yet found a way to keep God between the lines." The New York Times 02/06/05

Playing Hardball In St. Louis The St. Louis Symphony strike is proving to be a power struggle between two competing philosophies, with no victor in sight. The musicians of the orchestra are courting public opinion with free concerts and media-savvy public events, in the hope that public pressure will force the SLSO management to back off their demands for pay cuts. But orchestra president Randy Adams is taking a decidedly corporate approach to the stoppage, "[putting] aside the gentlemanly conventions of most orchestra disputes. That has left the musicians in a state of shock, scrambling to come up with strategies... that will help them in this new game." St. Louis Post-Dispatch 02/05/05

America's New Two-Orchestra Town With the new Music Center at Strathmore open for business in suburban Washington, D.C., featuring regular appearances by the Baltimore Symphony, a unique head-to-head orchestral competition is shaping up in the nation's capital. "Indeed, with the Baltimore Symphony's incursion into the back yard of the National Symphony Orchestra, the capital area becomes the first metropolis in the country in almost 80 years to present listeners with a choice of programs by two full-size, full-time, regularly scheduled orchestras every week of the season." Washington Post 02/06/05

Pay-For-Play In Hartford? "It was all smiles and handshakes in October when state politicians, town officials and Hartford Symphony Orchestra administrators attended a groundbreaking for a $1.5 million outdoor band shell... But the good cheer has given way to some behind-the-scenes negotiating, as the town's first selectman is suggesting charging the symphony a fee [for the use of the shell]... Both sides say they are trying to reach an agreement and look forward to working together. But critics question whether the town should charge a cash-strapped nonprofit that brings culture, professional-level music and thousands of visitors to its downtown." Hartford Courant 02/06/05

de Waart Takes On Hong Kong Conductor Edo de Waart has lost no time in diving into the middle of political controversy in Hong Kong, where he is the new chief conductor of the city's Philharmonic. Protesting the government's devotion to a HK$40 billion "arts hub" project which doesn't include money for arts education or a new concert hall for the Phil, de Waart says that the plan severely miscalculates the city's scale. "For a city with no opera company of its own to build a 2,000-seat theater, it most probably would have to rely on flying in unknown numbers of performance groups because no home group will be able to regularly fill it. It's promoting glitz - a culture of events, not a culture of continuity. It's the completely wrong way to do things." The Standard (Hong Kong) 02/07/05

Music Education As Endangered Species: Exhibit 734B Ask just about anyone involved in classical music about the cause of the genre's decline in popularity, and you will likely get a speech about the lack of music education in U.S. schools. So the existence (and popularity) of a 28-year-old statewide classical music listening competition in Minnesota has to be considered a positive sign. But the competition is in financial trouble, having lost much of its corporate support this year when Minnesota Public Radio slashed its contribution. Minneapolis Star Tribune 02/05/05

Hunter Officially Tapped To Succeed Sills On the same day that a published report appeared naming Christine Hunter as the frontrunner to succeed Beverly Sills as chair of the Metropolitan Opera, the Met announced Hunter's official nomination to the post. "She already serves as chairwoman of the executive committee and has been on the board for 22 years. During that time her loyalty was divided between the Met and the Washington National Opera, where she had top jobs from 1974 to last year, including president and chairwoman." The New York Times 02/05/05

Talk About The Passion One of the most frequent modern criticisms of classical music and the people who play it is the aloofness of the form; the grand, formal presentation of performers who don't speak, don't interact with the audience, and acknowledge accolades with only a stiff bow. Offering the counterpoint to that perception is cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who seems to delight in passing on his passion for music to the next generation of young performers, and thinks nothing of offering a starry-eyed 17-year-old a chance to play alongside him. Baltimore Sun 02/05/05

February 4, 2005

Is The Met Opera's Hunt Over? It's looking very much as if the Metropolitan Opera's interim chairwoman, Christine Hunter, is in line to become the permanent replacement for Beverly Sills when the Met's board meets later this spring. Hunter was previously a well-known trustee at the Washington National Opera, and served as that company's president for the better part of two decades. Washington Post 02/04/05

Dutoit Reups In Philly Charles Dutoit has signed a contract extension which will keep him in front of the Philadelphia Orchestra as summer music director through 2008. The orchestra spends most of its summer at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in upstate New York, where Dutoit has led them since 1990. Philadelphia Inquirer 02/04/05

You Mean Classical Music Can Be Marketed? Who Knew? Say what you will about Charlotte Church or Vanessa Mae and the crossover dreck they peddle, there can be no question that such artists are popular, largely because the full marketing strength of major record companies are four square behind them. The days when classical music was important enough to sell itself are long over, and after years of bemoaning that fact while doing nothing about it, "classical music is using the tools of the pop industry to raise its profile. The old criteria for judging music and interpreter, based on informed opinion and a gradual evolution of talent, have lost ground. What counts now is sales volume." Financial Times (UK) 02/04/05

No New Opera For Melbourne "Hopes that a large-scale opera company will be established in Melbourne as the result of an inquiry ordered by Premier Steve Bracks appear to have been dashed... Government sources say there will be no return to the days of the Victoria State Opera, which disappeared after facing financial collapse in 1996. It is believed the costs involved would be too great." The Age (Melbourne) 02/05/05

February 3, 2005

Previn Wins Gould Andre Previn has won the $50,000 Glenn Gould Prize. "Awarded once every three years, the international prize is open to individuals from any country and in a range of fields, including musical creation or performance, film, radio, musical theatre and writing. Past recipients include Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer, jazz icon Oscar Peterson, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violist Yehudi Menuhin and conductor Pierre Boulez." CBC 02/03/05

Lloyd Webber: Music Is Healthy Julian Lloyd Webber takes exception to doom-and-gloom stories about the health of classical music. "The trouble with polemics on this scale is that they raise more questions than answers. But are things really that bad? The answer depends on your view of classical music. If you think it should remain a fossilised art that never changes its methods of dissemination or presentation, the answer is yes. If, on the other hand, you believe - as I do - that classical music is a living, vibrant art that evolves alongside society, the answer is no." The Telegraph (UK) 02/04/05

A New Direction For BBC Orchestra? Jiri Belohlavek on what he wants to accomplish as new director of the BBC Symphony Orchestra: "I came to the evaluation that I can offer a focus on the mainstream repertoire, the mastery of playing, sound quality and ensemble playing, qualities that I have focused on over a career of more than 25 years. And I will have a colleague who is focused on contemporary music. But we will not be putting up artificial borders, so that he does only Steve Reich and I do only Beethoven." The Guardian 02/03/05

February 2, 2005

A Theatre Plan To Help Scottish Opera "Glasgow City Council meets next week to consider a financial package to pass control of the Theatre Royal to the Ambassador Theatre Group, one of the UK’s largest stage entertainment companies. The complex deal is designed to rid Scottish Opera, which currently owns the building, of the heavy burden of maintaining it. But it also promises to bring high-profile touring works to Glasgow." The Scotsman 02/03/05

New Music... Or Whatever It's Called Frank Oteri edits a web magazine on contemporary music. But what to call that music? "For better or worse, everything has a name. Everything, that is, except the music we feature in this web magazine. Sure, we give it names like "contemporary classical" or "post-classical" or "new music" but usually we preface the name by clearing our throats or doing some other sort of mea culpa. For years, we've bemoaned our music's lack of a name in articles, conversations, editorials, you name it (pun intended). And many of the big names in our field have weighed in: Milton Babbitt with "cultivated music," David Lang with "other music," and on and on. I even posited Ivor Darreg's one-time "neoteric music" a few months back. (Hey, I can dream, can't I?)" NewMusicBox 02/05

A Cure For Waning Opera? Look To The Royal Ballet Opera fortunes have gone stagnant lately. But over at the Royal Ballet the company is flying high - "packed houses, rave reviews, and high internal morale are fuelling a run of triumphs that has put the company right back at the top of the international ratings." So maybe there are some lessons for opera? The Telegraph (UK) 02/02/05

Lebrecht: Why Is There Still A BBC Orchestra? The BBC Symphony Orchestra has a new music director (and a good choice it is, too). But, asks Norman Lebrecht, did anyone think to ask whether there there is still a need for a radio orchestra? "Broadcast orchestras belong, it could be argued, in the Natural History Museum alongside the dinosaur and the whittled stick. They came into being in the early 1920s as the cheapest means of filling airtime in an era when the best orchestras operated a broadcast ban and symphonic records were full of scratches and had to be changed every three minutes. But what, you many wonder, is the point of maintaining two orchestras in London and one in Manchester at a time when the BBC is making 15 percent cuts in all other areas as it battles for charter renewal?"
La Scena Musicale 02/02/05

Rhetorical Punches Finally Thrown In St. Louis The St. Louis Symphony strike/lockout (depending on whom you ask) is now a month old, and the odd civility that initially surrounded the situation appears to be all but gone. As the musicians crank up the PR machine, playing a free children's concert at a local church, they are also taking shots at the SLSO management for refusing mediation and failing to make any counterproposal to what the musicians offered several weeks back. In return, the orchestra's president is calling the musicians "really dumb" for not being willing to accept the management's last contract offer, which would have dealt them a pay cut of more than $10,000. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 02/02/05

  • Officially, It's A Strike Since the work stoppage in St. Louis began, musicians have been claiming that they're locked out, while the orchestra management insists that the players are on strike. Four weeks in, the state of Missouri has weighed in, and the verdict is that the stoppage is a strike. Adaptistration (AJ Blogs) 02/01/05

Forget Classical! Is Rock Music Dying? "Not quite. But judging from its performance on the charts - and compared to its biggest bands and trends from a few years ago - it's wheezing. Cast your eye down 2004's Top 10-selling album list and you won't see a single new rock band." Even as the popularity of country, hip-hop and R&B continues to soar, rock groups can't seem to buy attention, and many blame the influx of crossover sugar-pop acts for diluting rock's pool. "When rock was more muscular - during the eras of grunge (mid-'90s), punk-pop (late '90s) and rap-metal (turn-of-the-century) - no such tepid pop crossover was even necessary." New York Daily News 02/02/05

Classical Recording Dead? Don't Tell Naxos. At a time when many big record labels are shedding their classical divisions and many smaller niche labels are going dark altogether, Naxos is an unusual and telling success story. "Ten years ago, some people were more than a little sniffy about the Naxos phenomenon... [but] these days, Naxos is picking up awards, with two mentions in the New York Times last year for adventurous recordings of William Bolcom and Peter Maxwell Davies. The British Gramophone and Penguin Guide magazines regularly hand out praise." The label has released some 3,000 albums since its inception in 1987, and has made nearly its entire catalogue available online. The New Zealand Herald 02/02/05

Was This Actually In Doubt? The Last Night of the BBC Proms is not exactly what most classical musicians would consider high art - in fact, it's mainly a bunch of flag-waving and patriotic folk songs with a raucous crowd singing along - but it couldn't be much more popular, and so this week, shortly after being appointed the new chief conductor of the BBC Symphony, Jiri Belohlavek went through the usual motion of dashing the faint hopes of critics across the UK and assuring the public that Last Night would continue to be just as it has always been. The Guardian (UK) 02/02/05

February 1, 2005

The Composers And Their Letters "The best way to find out what the great composers of the past were like is to read their letters. Even those who left few or no other writings of significance (among them Haydn, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Verdi, and Ravel) often come through with special clarity in their correspondence with friends, colleagues, spouses, and lovers. As for those composers who doubled as part-time professional writers, their letters almost always supply strikingly fresh perspectives on their life and music—as well as no less strikingly candid opinions of the music of other composers." Commentary 02/05

BBC Orchestra's New Conductor Jiri Belohlavek, former direector of the Czech Philharmonic, has been named as the new chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, replacing Leonard Slatkin. BBC 02/01/05

The Language Of Music (Forget The Mechanics) Today, however, the teaching of music—even at the great conservatories—is often a more mechanical affair. The problem, Bob Abramson says, lies in what these students have been taught about what matters musically—not experimentation, but repetition; not invention, but perfection. His students come to Juilliard knowing how to decode the symbols of music but not knowing how to infuse them with meaning. "We teach reading without literacy," he says. Slate 02/01/05

Classical Music - All Good Stories Have An Ending Is Western classical music coming to an end? Every good narrative must have an ending, and Richard Taruskin's new six-volume Oxford History of Western Music is an epic story. So "why is the sky falling, according to Taruskin, whose motives are no doubt higher than to simply lend his work cultural resonance? To him, it is an 'ashes to ashes' sort of scenario, one that he describes without passing judgment. Simply put, it is electronic music, which needs no scribblers but rather "ear players" to compose, coupled with the advent of the recent phenomenon of "sound artists" which signals that this tradition is not so much headed for a dustbin, but destined to shake off the shackles of notation, free at last to simply be music." NewMusicBox 02/05

Beware The Composer-Critic There is a long and noble tradition of great critics who have also been composers. But Josh Kosman writes that he still has an innate distrust of the composer-critic. "The artistic marketplace is an adversarial arena—or at least a competitive one, like any marketplace—and that makes it a setting in which it's important for the participants to be clear and consistent about their allegiances. A critic's exclusive allegiance, I am convinced, should be to his or her fellow audience members. A composer, by contrast, has other allegiances entirely—to his or her own creative imperatives, to the larger community of artists, even in some cases to posterity." NewMusicBox 02/05

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