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November 30, 2005

Haven't Made It Big As A Pianist? (Invest In Yourself) "At the make it now or never age of 33, Simone Dinnerstein is among the numerous talented classical concert artists who are learning the realities of creating a career without the cachet of being a child prodigy or major competition winner. That means raising funds herself for recordings and concerts. Having begun a successful series of concerts playing J.S. Bach's 80-minute keyboard Everest, the Goldberg Variations, in Philadelphia in December 2002, she financed her own recording of the piece in February to circulate among the music industry (it has been featured on XM satellite radio)." She followed that up with a recital at Carnegie Hall..." Philadelphia Inquirer 11/30/05

The Self-Made Virtuoso The trouble with being a solo musician is that your career is frequently at the mercy of other people's priorities, whether they be agents, orchestra managers, or whomever. Rarely does a promising young soloist have the time (or the will) to fully manage her/his own career, and the result is a descent into an exhausting and unfriendly world of bookings, recording gigs, and an endless search for more recognition. But as 26-year-old British violinist Jack Liebeck is showing, there is a way to skirt the "usual" process and emerge with both a healthy career and an intact psyche - just do everything yourself. The Herald (Glasgow) 11/30/05

Rostropovich Walks Out On Bolshoi Mstislav Rostropovich has pulled out of the Bolshoi Opera's world premiere production of the Prokofiev opera, War & Peace, after becoming frustrated with the lack of professionalism at the company. The cellist and conductor had reportedly clashed with Bolshoi management, and was further upset by singers he found to be unprepared, and by an orchestra that featured a continually revolving roster of musicians. The production was to have marked Rostropovich's return to Moscow's musical fold, seven years after his last performance there met with unfavorable reviews. The Guardian (UK) 11/30/05

Who Knew Deadheads Could Move That Fast? Bootleg recordings are a mainstay of the jam band genre, with bands regularly encouraging fans to tape their concerts and trade the resulting recordings amongst themselves. But now, the very band that led the jam band explosion, is angering its fans by cracking down on a website that offered such bootlegs for free download. The Grateful Dead, which exists these days primarily as a business in charge of marketing old product, wants the bootlegs to be available only for online listening, rather than downloading. Already, the international Deadhead community has roared into action, circulating a petition protesting the action and threatening a boycott. The New York Times 11/30/05

November 29, 2005

Doran Out At English National Opera After a rocky two years, Sean Doran is out as director of the English National Opera. "His inexperience was flagrantly exposed as big operas were slotted in with small, causing chaos in the schedules and disgruntlement in the orchestra." La Scena Musicale 11/29/05

  • Doran Out At ENO After Clashes Sean Doran's abrupt departure from the English National Opera, follows a tumultuous tenure. "His resignation, which is to take effect immediately, followed rumours of clashes with the ENO's vice-chairman Vernon Ellis. According to a source at the ENO, following a board meeting three weeks ago Ellis, chairman of consultancy group Accenture, has been taking a "close interest" in the management of the company and has been at the Coliseum most days." The Guardian (UK) 11/29/05

Vancouver Symphony Boosts Audience, Ticket Sales The Vancouver Symphony had a great year at the box office last year. "Subscriptions jumped 11 per cent and single-ticket sales edged up 5 per cent, putting a shine on a year that also saw a 7 per cent increase in gifts from major donors." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/29/05

Air Guitar That Sounds Good Too "The Virtual Air Guitar project, developed at the Helsinki University of Technology, adds genuine electric guitar sounds to the passionately played air guitar. Using a computer to monitor the hand movements of a "player", the system adds riffs and licks to match frantic mid-air finger work. By responding instantly to a wide variety of gestures it promises to turn even the least musically gifted air guitarist to a virtual fret board virtuoso." New Scientist 11/29/05

Say Goodbye To CDs "It's clearly time to move on. Think about it: No more nails-on-chalkboard-style skipping. No more secret tracks that scare the stuffing out of you 15 minutes after you think an album has stopped playing. No more fumbling around with those impossible-to-unwrap jewel cases. It was fun while it lasted. The music industry has declared war on its customers. Now it's time to fight back." San Francisco Chronicle 11/28/05

November 28, 2005

David Robertson, Pied Piper "Not long ago, the typical maestro would ride into town, bark Central European-accented commands at the orchestra, conduct some concerts attend a banquet, and move on. These days, music directors have an expanded job description: they must not only convey the repertory to an extant audience of music lovers but also try to explain it to the great silent majority who rarely go to concerts. A singular thing about David Robertson, who was born in Santa Monica, California, and has led th Ensemble Intercontemporain, in Paris, and the National Orchestra o Lyon, is that he actively enjoys his evangelical duties." The New Yorker 11/28/05

Study: Illegal Downloads Rule A new study "suggests European consumers who download music from illegal file-sharing websites outnumber those using legal services. It says illegal networks are used three times as much as legal ones. It also warns that file-sharers, particularly young people, have little concept of music as a paid commodity." BBC 11/28/05

Conductus Interruptus - Columbus Symphony Waits For Conductor Two months ago, the Columbus (Ohio) Symphony confirmed rumors that it intended to invite conductor Junichi Hirokami, 46, to be its seventh music director. One problem: the orchestra hadn't even begun negotiations on a contract to hire Hirokami. Now some are wondering - does the conductor really want the job? Columbus Dispatch (Ohio) 11/27/05

The New Classical? "From Philadelphia to Sioux Falls, orchestras are embracing a growing breed of contemporary composer that emphasizes the classical tradition of writing to entertain, rather than to explore academic, less accessible theories. While the point is partly to please crowds, these new works are taken seriously. The popularity of this new classical music -- variously called "contemporary classical," "alt-classical" or "music of our time" -- represents the latest stage in a reaction to the 1950s and '60s, when the dominant composers were academics who invented tonal structures that broke with European musical traditions." Wall Street Journal 11/26/05

Putting Yale's $100 Million Music School Gift In Perspective "Those raising ethical questions about the gift to the Yale School of Music should first put the dollar amount in perspective. Private and corporate donors in America have to compensate for the government's negligible support of the fine arts. In 2004, the National Endowment for the Arts gave out grants totaling just over $100 million. In France, in recent years, the state subsidy for the Paris Opera alone has averaged roughly the same amount. That the Yale School of Music must contend at all with the charge of elitism is doubly discouraging, since it has long been committed to fostering music as part of an education in the humanities." The New York Times 11/28/05

November 27, 2005

Now Playing The Jazz Laptop... "Whether operating the computer themselves or engaging technicians to help them program it, today's most visionary jazz artists have embraced laptops, Apple PowerBooks and other computer technologies, thereby redefining the sound of jazz in the 21st Century." Chicago Tribune 11/27/05

Recording Companies Want To Use Anti-Terror Laws To Catch Downloaders "Big firms including Sony and EMI want to use new powers designed to track terrorists on the internet to crack down on music and film pirates - including the parents of children who download music - who are estimated to cost the industry £650m a year. Internet companies will have to log all the pages visited by surfers for at least a year so the security services can track terrorists using the web for fund-raising, training or swapping information. But the move has been greeted with alarm by human rights campaigners who say that the step is an example of the 'mission creep' of draconian new anti-terror powers." Scotland On Sunday 11/27/05

Making It Big As A Small Orchestra "About 600 professional orchestras now operate in the United States, according to a new study done at the University of Cincinnati. That would seem to be an astounding figure for an art form many industry experts predicted would be extinct by now. A higher percentage of smaller orchestras are operating with balanced budgets than the larger orchestras. The bigger orchestra's cost structure is more rigid; the small orchestras are much more flexible. They can adjust to financial difficulties much more quickly." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 11/27/05

Lost In The Middle Of The Pacific Orange County California's Pacific Opera and Pacific Symphony have a problem. "Now in its 20th season, Opera Pacific, which produces opera locally, is suffering from something of an identity crisis, and the financial woes that result. Seems that a relatively high percentage of people don't know that we have our own opera company here behind that Orange Curtain. The Pacific Symphony has discovered the same thing. In a survey taken several years ago, the orchestra found that only 10 percent could name the group as resident here, and only 5 percent knew the name of its music director, Carl St.Clair." Orange County Register 11/27/05

Polishing That Musical Backstory (Does It Matter If It's True?) "Record labels in recent years have made a point of introducing new, little-known acts as protégés of established stars. In some cases the two musicians might have grown up on the same block. Or perhaps they had shared the struggle of performing in the same unknown group. Either way, it's a rich backstory that can be woven into any future marketing effort. But what if the new singer doesn't have any long-lost pals who've gone platinum? For an increasingly desperate industry, that is but a minor obstacle. These days, label executives routinely shop their new prospects around from one star to another, trying to convince them to act as a mentor." The New York Times 11/27/05

Does Fat Make The Opera Voice Strong? "In recent weeks, the name of Peter Osin, a consultant at London's Royal Marsden Hospital, has been popping up in newspapers and on arts-related websites because the doctor has a new theory: Chubby opera singers — ladies as well as gentlemen — may be the victims of their own art form." Los Angeles Times 11/27/05

By Any Other Name An Opera? Turn "La Bohème" into a 1980s pop manifesto on AIDS and arty squatters? Scrub Verdi's "Aida" Disney-clean with a pop score by Elton John? The very thought makes opera purists cringe ... and reformers rejoice. Denver Post 11/27/05

Detroit Symphony Experiments With Giant Video The orchestra mounted two large video screens in its hall for a performance. "The concert was the first in the 'Classics Unmasked' series that marks a departure from the DSO's traditional format. The new style aims to attract a generation weaned on television and stimulated by music videos and the Internet. For the first time, audience members in the farthest seats could see the angle of a violin bow as it hit a string or even the veins of a musician's hands." Detroit Free Press 11/27/05

  • Detroit Orchestra: Video As A Tool Large video screens at the Detroit Symphony this week were intended not to be distracting. "We're not making a TV show. Our mission is to reveal things to the audience that they can't see, not broadcast the music. This is the society we've become. We want to teach people that it's OK to take the time to listen to music, but we have to be willing to meet people where they are." Detroit Free Press 11/25/05

The Invisible Canadians From Dublin to Dresden, Barcelona to Berlin, performances by Canadian singers can be almost daily occurrences in Europe -- and anyone determined to hear them all would soon rack up a lot of air miles. The not-so-good news, however, is that Canada's contribution to this most European of art forms tends to go pretty much unnoticed: Like Canadian movie stars in Hollywood, our finest opera singers are often assumed to be from somewhere else. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/26/05

The End Of The Jukebox? More and more patrons of bars are bringing their portable music players to play for the crowd. "People can bring their iPods and other portable music players and, for as long as the bartender allows, share their personal favorites with the crowd. Wired 11/27/05

Is Explosive Growth Of Digital Download Sales Cooling? "Early 2005 digital download results were staggering. By May of this year, about 6.4 million digital downloads were selling per week, three times that of the same period in 2004. But momentum has since stumbled. Average weekly downloads for the third quarter were up only slightly from May, to 6.6 million." Yahoo! (Reuters) 11/27/05

November 23, 2005

Why The Recording Industry Is Failing The Piracy Test "The biggest mistake the labels are making is they're letting their lawyers make technical decisions. Lawyers don't have any better understanding of technology than a cow does algebra. They insist on chasing this white whale." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 11/23/05

Cologne Orchestra - Opportunity Or Exploitation? Musicians of the New Cologne Philharmonic are freelancers and earn less than their European union colleagues. "While other major orchestras charge anything from $21 to $72 for a seat, the Cologne New Philharmonic has just one price — $24. It opts out of the familiar European formula of state support and job security, gets no state subsidies and relies on box-office receipts alone. The influential French and German musicians' unions contend that his use of mostly Eastern Europeans at nonunion wages amounts to exploitation." Los Angeles Times (AP) 11/23/05

Will Musicians Return To New Orleans? "The musicians of New Orleans have been blown to the wind and the big question is whether they will ever return. The thing about musicians is that they play to make a living so they go where the work is - and that place now is New York or Houston or even London or Lyon in France." BBC 11/23/05

A Plan For A Cole Porter Museum Citizens in Peru, Ind., have bought Cole Porter's boyhood home and are planning to open a museum dedicated to the songwriter. "Led by town mayor Jim Walker and working largely from donations, the group raised the cash to buy the house last year. They plan to refurbish it and open it to the public next summer." The Guardian (UK) 11/22/05

Seattle Newspaper Cuts Classical Music Critic The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reassigned its classical music critic, making him a general assignment arts writer. The paper says it's not cutting back on classical music coveraqge, and that it wants to cover it differently. But "even if the classical crowd winds up with as much coverage as ever, some fret that the switch from a staffer to a freelance critic might signify to readers a lesser commitment to the arts." Seattle Weekly 11/23/05

November 22, 2005

When Jazz And Hiphop Got Together "The jazz/hip-hop nexus is simply a cultural and genealogical fact. Turntablists, MCs, and jazz musicians are collaborating every day. And yet the impact of hip-hop on some of the best new acoustic jazz still isn't widely understood." Slate 11/22/05

Toronto Symphony - Can This Ship Be Turned? The Toronto Symphony "lost $2.19-million last year, boosting its accumulated deficit to a dizzying $9.47-million. That's more than half the orchestra's annual budget, and over $2-million more than the debt the TSO carried when it nearly went bankrupt four years ago. Last year's results include a climb in revenue of almost $2-million, and a rise in attendance to a respectable 85 per cent of capacity. Marketing and administration costs dropped almost across the board. And yet the TSO still couldn't balance its books. There just wasn't enough fundraising to cover the gap between ticket revenue and the expense of putting on concerts." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/22/05

iTunes Cracks Top 10 Music Retailers iTunes has become one of the largest retailers of music. "The Apple-owned computer store made the top 10 US record sales list for the first time. iTunes beat Tower Records, Borders, and Sam Goody. But it was beaten by others, including Wal-Mart and Amazon.com." BBC 11/22/05

November 21, 2005

South Florida Gets A New Orchestra It's in Boca Raton. "Those leading the new chamber orchestra are proceeding along a very cautious, slow-growth path, determined to avoid setting an overly ambitious agenda or digging a financial crater. With a modest annual budget of $365,000, the Symphonia is committed to being revenue-driven." South Florida Sun-Sentinel 11/20/05

Man Has Beethoven's Bones A California man says he's in possession of fragments of Beethoven's bones. "Paul Kaufmann made the announcement at the Center for Beethoven Studies at San Jose State University, which helped coordinate forensic testing aimed at authenticating the fragments and determining what killed Beethoven at age 56." Detroit Free Press 11/20/05

How Music Companies Are Screwing Us On Digital Music "Not many music lovers have warmed to the idea that they don't retain all the rights to the music they buy. The crux of the debate is this: When you buy a song, an album, or a movie, are you buying the content only in the form it comes in? If you purchase a song from Apple's iTunes store, should you be able to play it on any hardware you want?" Slate 11/21/05

The Case Of The Missing Conductor When the Austin Symphony took to the stage Friday night for its schedules concert, its conductor Peter Bay was conspicuously absent. "The mystery of the missing conductor deepened when the principal horn player, Tom Hale, bounded onto the stage, bowed and then rose to the podium. The principal horn player?" So what delayed Bay? The orchestra certainly didn't tell the audience... Austin American-Statesman 11/20/05

Rome's New Opera Sensation? A new piece by an aging rocker. "Two decades after Roger Waters broke with Pink Floyd, as bassist, lead singer and composer, fans flew here from across Europe to hear his latest creation. And it seemed to matter little that he had written a 19th-century-style opera called "Ça Ira," or "There Is Hope." The New York Times 11/21/05

November 20, 2005

Royal Opera Quits Blackface Covent Garden has abandoned a long-established practice of black-face portrayals on stage. "The Royal Opera has been forced into a last-minute U-turn over the casting of a white mezzo-soprano in the role of a black woman. Stephanie Blythe was blacked up during rehearsals of Un Ballo in Maschera (The Masked Ball), but when the production opened at Covent Garden last Thursday her skin colour was its natural white. The company said it made the change because of the need to be 'sensitive to issues such as racism'. In doing so it overruled the production's director, Italian film-maker Mario Martone, who was informed just hours before the curtain went up - and did not agree with the decision." The Guardian (UK) 11/20/05

Fulfilling The Promise Of Napster (Legally?) Napster creator Shawn Fanning is back, and he's got a new plan for music. "He doesn't simply want to impose fees for the same songs that are available through Apple's iTunes and other stores. He wants to create an open system that would allow anyone with music to share - big labels and garage bands alike - to register their works with Snocap and set the economic terms under which songs could be traded. Snocap would collect the fees, using software that listens to each song in participating file-sharing services, matching songs that listeners order with those in the registry and forcing users to pay the price the song owner demands." The New York Times 11/19/05

The Audubon Tragedy Enters Its Final Act There may never have been a more tragic or bizarre breakup in the classical music world than that of the Audubon Quartet. Six years ago, three members of the Roanoke, Virginia-based group fired their first violinist, David Ehrlich, who promptly sued to prevent the quartet from continuing to perform without him. Since then, recriminations and lawsuits have flown unabated, bitterly dividing Roanoke's musical community and making several attorneys very rich. The courts have sided mainly with Ehrlich, and this month, two members of the quartet will be forced to surrender their home, their possessions, and - no kidding - the instruments with which they make their living, to pay the $611,000 court award to Ehrlich. Roanoke Times 11/20/05

MacMillan: Populism Is Killing Serious Music Is classical music dying a quiet death in Scotland? Composer James MacMillan fears it may be so, and the evidence goes far beyond the dismal state of the temporarily shuttered Scottish Opera. "The de-sacralisation of our world, so enthusiastically cultivated by the new ruling elites, stands at a polar opposite from the potential for transcendence claimed by classical music. In that sense, the battles for serious music are part of a wider culture war apparent at various levels of modern Scotland. What is it about serious music that offends the triumphalistic trendies basking in the apparent victories of a demystified popular culture?" Scotland on Sunday 11/20/05

  • Dumbing Down Music Ed Is James MacMillan overstating the impact of pop culture on classical music? A glance at the latest standards for music education in Scotland would seem to suggest he is not. "The new Higher music syllabus... misses out key components that are essential for preparing pupils for serious careers in music. In the new curriculum, musical literacy is optional while listening papers have changed from deep analytical essays of musical scores to multiple-choice exercises." Scotland on Sunday 11/20/05

Now That's A Cool Boss The chief conductor of Iran's Tehran Symphony Orchestra has resigned from his position and left the country in protest of what he says is the unconscionably low pay afforded to the orchestra's musicians. TSO musicians earn approximately $90 a month. Conductor Ali Rahbari announced his decision to leave the orchestra to the audience at last week's concert, less than six months after he was appointed to the post. Payvand (Mehr News - Iran) 11/20/05

Radio, Recording Coming To San Diego The parent company of San Diego's daily newspaper has finalized a deal to become the principal sponsor of a series of local and national radio broadcasts of the San Diego Symphony, a project which will also allow the orchestra to archive its concerts and create marketable recordings from the master tapes. The 14-part local series will be carried by KPBS radio beginning in summer 2006, and the 6-concert national series will be distributed by National Public Radio, making the ensemble one of a small handful of American orchestras with a national radio presence. The recordings will all be made in high-definition, and the SDS plans to quickly turn them into in-house CDs for wide release. San Diego Union-Tribune 11/19/05

Rising Star Falls On Alabama The Alabama Symphony Orchestra, which emerged from bankruptcy in 1997 and has operated in the black ever since, has hired the young British conductor Justin Brown as its next music director. Brown beat out several higher-profile candidates for the job, and was supported for the position by both musicians and management. The ASO has been without a music director since May 2004, when Richard Westerfield departed following a 6-year tenure. Brown will take up the ASO's reins in fall 2006. Birmingham News (Alabama) 11/19/05

November 18, 2005

64 Orchestras Commission A Piece Small orchestras generally can't afford to commission composers. Composers have difficulty getting their work played by orchestras. So 64 orchestras around America banded together to jointly commission Joan Tower for a new work. Boston Globe 11/18/05

The Most Popular Instrument In Africa "In cities from Dakar to Durban, the guitar is now king. Whether acoustic or electric, the six-stringed axe has adapted itself to a huge range of styles, and introduced African artists to blues, rock, pop, jazz and Latin music."
The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/18/05

Cleveland Orchestra's $6 Million Deficit The Cleveland Orchestra posted a $5.9 million deficit for the 2004-05 season. "The deficit represents the difference between expenses of $39.9 million and revenue of $34 million. To help the bottom line, the association drew $7.5 million from the orchestra's endowment, which stood at $119 million as of June 30." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 11/18/05

November 17, 2005

Rebuilding New Orleans In Music New Orleans is still laid flat, but musicians are returning. "New Orleans has a uniqueness that no other city has, and that's part of all us. We need to get back, and when we do, in terms of its musical atmosphere, New Orleans will start to return to what it was. But it'll take a while, because the poor were such a big part of that city. They were the ones who made so much of that great music. You had your white collars and your blue collars - but you also had your dirty collars. And that's where soul and groove and all that came from." The Guardian (UK) 11/17/05

Music As Brain Food "Stanford University research has found for the first time that musical training improves how the brain processes the spoken word, a finding that researchers say could lead to improving the reading ability of children who have dyslexia and other reading problems. The study, made public Wednesday, is the first to show that musical experience can help the brain improve its ability to distinguish between rapidly changing sounds that are key to understanding and using language." San Francisco Chronicle 11/17/05

Winnipeg Scales Back New Music Fest For the last decade and more, the Winnipeg Symphony's annual new music festival has served as a shining example of how orchestras can present contemporary works without driving audiences out of the concert hall. But this year, the WSO has announced a stripped-down version of the festival in response to declining ticket sales and waning public interest. Gone will be the well-regarded composers' competition, and there will be no high-profile composer-in-residence, as there has been in past years. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/17/05

Russia's Dueling Opera Giants "Opera has long had a prominent role in Russian cultural life, and the Bolshoi and Mariinsky have dominated the scene since the outset." The two companies have survived political turmoil, societal upheaval, and other threats for well over two centuries. But in post-Soviet Russia, adaptability is an absolute necessity for arts organizations, and the Bolshoi and Mariinsky have been struggling to maintain their international profiles at a time when budgets are tight and classical music faces an uncertain future. Still, both companies are pushing ahead with ambitious plans for the future. Russia Profile 11/17/05

November 16, 2005

Doin' It My Way In Death The most popular music at UK funerals? Frank Sinatra sing "My Way." "When not organising the final sendoff of 80,000 Britons each year, Co-operative Funeralcare likes to compile charts of favourite numbers heard at funerals. Its research reveals that popular songs now account for 40% of all music chosen for funerals. Hymns account for 55% and classical works a mere 5%." The Guardian (UK) 11/16/05

To Download Or Not To Download, That Is The Question It seems that "MP3s have spawned a listening culture that has less respect for listening to a composition from start to finish. Of course, this already started with the fast forward button on CD players, which is probably still why am so attracted to LPs since lifting and dropping needles is harder to do than just letting the music play out. Nowadays, unless something is 100% compelling—and ultimately what is?—it's just too easy to tune it out and move onto the next thing, ultimately never truly listening to anything." NewMusicBox 11/16/05

Down With The Piano! (It's Evil) "Mistaken as a democratic instrument for its ease of playing, the piano has established a mode of experiencing sound that has led to the downfall of western music. Fast fingers, such as Liberace's with added diamonds for emphasis, delight the eyes and ears. Children and adults plunk keys to receive instant aural gratification. Something so beguiling and easy must have a price." NewMusicBox 11/16/05

November 15, 2005

Chicago Symphony In Multi-media 3D The Chicago Symphony launches a new multimedia program. "Designed by Gerard McBurney, a British music historian and BBC program host, the introduction deftly mixed vintage photos projected onto a huge overhead screen, excerpts from Strauss' letters, commentary from his contemporaries and short excerpts from the tone poem itself. The pacing was seamless, the information on Strauss and his era coming in easily digestible but never watered-down nuggets. When the CSO played the entire work straight through after intermission, the large audience couldn't help but feel like newly minted connoisseurs." Chicago Sun-Times 11/15/05

Youngest To Oldest - Detroit Symphony At 87, Felix Resnick is the oldest musician in the Detroit Symphony. At 23, Gina DiBello is the youngest. "Resnick began his tenure in 1943 during Franklin Roosevelt's third term, and allowing for the two years the DSO was dormant from 1949 to 1951, his 61 seasons represent the longest active streak in any major American orchestra. DiBello, meanwhile, joined in September. She is one of just a handful of players each year to land a job in a top orchestra while still in their early 20s." Detroit Free Press 11/15/05

In San Francisco: Symphony And Opera Initiatives "Both the San Francisco Symphony and the San Francisco Opera inaugurated projects over the weekend designed to cajole patrons or patrons-to-be into the groups' respective halls, and to better appreciate what they saw and heard once they got there. The target audiences could not have been more different, but the underlying impulse was not dissimilar." San Francisco Chronicle 11/15/05

Vienna Phil's First Time With A Woman Australian conductor Simone Young became the first woman ever to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic last weekend. "Although the mixed-metaphor reviewers were underwhelmed, we have it on good authority that they were generally courteous and even deferential -- a signal perhaps that while Vienna's musical life is stuck in the 19th century, it has some grace, intelligence and dignity." Straight Up (AJBlogs) 11/15/05

Recording Industry Launches New Wave Of Lawsuits The recording industry has launched another round of lawsuits against digital downloaders. "The International Federation for the Phonographic Industry said it was launching 2,100 legal cases and extending the action to five new countries in Europe, Asia and, for the first time, South America. It said file-sharers in Sweden, Switzerland, Argentina, Hong Kong and Singapore faced prosecution for the first time." Yahoo! (Reuters) 11/15/05

Why Are People Replacing CDs, Records With Digital? Because they lose discs. "The survey found 25% of people prefer to listen to music via their PC or MP3 player rather than a hi-fi. And 35% of those questioned by ICM opted for storing their entire music collection in MP3 format rather than CD or cassette. The figures show the average person owns 126 albums but 37 have had to be replaced for various reasons." BBC 11/15/05

November 14, 2005

Note-By-Note Scelsi "Giacinto Scelsi would have been a hundred this year. Given his mystica propensities, it might be better to say that he is a hundred, although he was observed to have died in 1988. Live performances of this composer’s works remain rare; Michael Tilson Thomas, in San Francisco, is the only American conductor who programs them. It is far easier to get to know the music on recordings, by way of the Accord, CPO, Kairos, and Mode labels. Scelsi’s methods were strange, but he had a command of narrative which no ghostwriter could have provided." The New Yorker 11/14/05

Filming At The Met "For the first time in nearly two decades, since the 1987 'Moonstruck' and its rhapsodic scene from 'La Bohème,' a movie is being filmed at the Metropolitan Opera. The rarity is a result of the Met's busy schedule as well as of the general absence of opera from movies and most of popular culture. But the filming is emblematic of the Met's future reign, in the person of Peter Gelb, who made his mark in the classical recording industry partly with crossover projects and movie soundtracks." The New York Times 11/15/05

Shulgold: A Second Listen To Denver's Opera House Marc Shulgold has some misgivings about Denver's new opera house. It's a cold space, for one. "Acoustically, the Ellie is quite nice. But then, great pains were taken to create a natural, unamplified space for singers. Still, this was not the vibrant, room-filling sound we had expected. From downstairs, the singing and talking during Carmen often faded away if the performers didn't project out to the house or put some oomph in their delivery." Rocky Mountain News 11/13/05

November 13, 2005

Italian Divas On Hunger Strike Over Proposed Funding Cuts Italian opera singers have gone on a hunger strike over proposed government cuts in arts funding. "Culture minister Rocco Buttiglione has threatened to resign over the matter, while opera singers and others in Italy's theatrical world came up with the idea of hunger strikes. Some people have gone on rotational one-day strikes, while others such as Vignudelli starved themselves for two weeks. She is also angry that Berlusconi claims La Scala employs too many people. Barbara Vignudelli has lost 13lb. 'I am a person who is healthy and takes care of herself, so to do this is difficult,' she said. 'But it shows how strongly I feel'." The Observer (UK) 11/13/05

What Bloggers Are Doing To Pop Music "In many ways, the writers at Pitchfork and the Village Voice bloggers are picking up where the late rock critic Lester Bangs - who wrote for Rolling Stone and, later, a pre-blog Village Voice - left off, adding a dose of irony lifted from satirical magazine the Onion to his self-referential, often impenetrable reams of excited babble. Thanks to the bloggers' often highly subjective rants, bands become much talked about on the internet long before they enter the charts. It's all about being in the know, or at least pretending you're in the know." The Observer (UK) 11/13/05

A Recorded History Of Washington's National Symphony Washington's National Symphony provides a portrait of itself with a release of historical recordings showcasing its 75-year history. The discs take the group from its formative years under Hans Kindler and Howard Mitchell through the tenures of Antal Dorati, Mstislav Rostropovich and its current music director, Leonard Slatkin.
Washington Post 11/13/05

Where Are The New Great American Voices? "American vocal training has long been bruited as the best in the world and is supposed to be better than ever. Yet there has been no commensurate rise in great new talents. One clear measure of the problem is the system's inability to deal effectively with large voices and talents like Ms. Wilson's. It seems to favor lighter, flexible voices that can perform a wide range of material accurately, rather than the powerful, thrilling, concert-hall-filling voices on which live opera ultimately relies for its survival." The New York Times 11/13/05

New Zealand Symphony's Mixed Year The New Zealand Symphony has had a mixed year. It recorded the sound track for Peter Jackson's "King Kong", but then Jackson decided to junk the music and start over elsewhere. The orchestra became an autonomous Crown corporation and has greater freedom, but also a $915,000 deficit. New Zealand Herald 11/11/05

Sony To Halt Making Antipiracy Software Sony says it will temporarily stop making antipiracy CDs that can leave computers vulnerable to hackers. "The antipiracy technology, which works only on Windows computers, prevents customers from making more than a few copies of the CD and prevents them from loading the CD's songs onto Apple Computer's popular iPod portable music players. Some other music players, which recognize Microsoft's proprietary music format, would work. Sony's announcement came one day after leading security companies disclosed that hackers were distributing malicious programs over the Internet that exploited the antipiracy technology's ability to avoid detection." Washington Post 11/11/05

Toronto Symphony In A Deep Hole The Toronto Symphony closed its financial year with a $2.1 million defifcit. That "boosted the orchestra's accumulated deficit to $9.47 million. The deficit stood at just over $7 million when the TSO teetered close to bankruptcy in 2001. Loan guarantees from the city of Toronto and the TSO Foundation helped stave off another near-death episode. The foundation also handed over $1.5 million in emergency financing, $1 million of which is repayable within five years." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/11/05

November 11, 2005

In Search Of Pianos "The piano-manufacturing business these days has gone the same way as many industries: the brand name is kept, but the instrument is made more cheaply in China, Korea, Japan, or Eastern Europe. Global competition means less variety. The Pearl River piano factory in China has 4,000 employees and is increasing production to 100,000 pianos a year, which they fabricate for more than twenty different companies around the world. How many people, when going to buy a piano, realize that their Bechstein could have been made in Germany or in Korea by Samick, depending on the model number (and price); or that the Boston piano designed and sold by Steinway is made by Kawai?" Times Literary Supplement 11/10/05

Looking For The Women Where are the women composers? "For centuries men have dominated the history, theory and politics of music. In addition to history books that glossed over women’s contributions, early music theory distinguished between harmonically weaker 'feminine' cadences and strong, resolute 'masculine' ones. It’s easy to see why a woman might find this offensive. Music itself is neither masculine nor feminine, Joan Towers argues. It’s either good or it’s bad. 'Everything in music goes counter to what we think of as feminine or masculine. It just doesn’t apply'." Kansas City Star 11/10/05

November 10, 2005

UK Orchestras Worth Saving Julian Lloyd-Webber is tired of hearing people dump on orchestras. "What, exactly, is so 'irrelevant' about classical music? Its basic precepts of harmony and tonality permeate all the music we hear, whether in films, TV ads, shopping malls or churches. Even some of the most popular mobile ring tones are taken from the classics. Moreover, new collaborations abound..." The Telegraph (UK) 11/10/05

The Band That's Proving The Internet Future? "The internet has been touted as the future of the music business ever since file-sharing became big news: bands, it was mooted, would cut record companies out of the equation by posting their music on their websites and building up a virtual fanbase. But nothing of the sort happened. Selling music via a website became the province not of hip new bands, but old stagers considered defunct by their labels. They were making a living, but the whole business still carried a slight taint, the modern equivalent of flogging your records from a car boot. Then, three weeks ago, Sheffield's Arctic Monkeys entered the charts at number one with their second single, I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor." The Guardian (UK) 11/10/05

The Singing Mormons The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is one of America's oldest musical institutions. "Its syndicated radio program, 'Music and the Spoken Word,' found on 1,500 stations across the world, started in July 1929; it is the longest-running broadcast in the medium's history. The choir has sung for every United States president since William Howard Taft, and in addition to its Grammy and Emmy wins, it has CD sales in the millions with two platinum records and five gold records." Denver Post 11/10/05

Michigan Opera: Subscriptions Down, Ticket Sales Up Detroit's Michgan Opera Theatre ran a very modest deficit for the past season. Michigan's weak economy continued to take a toll on corporate and individual giving to the company, which remained flat. Ticket income dipped slightly, but the bigger story is that subscription income fell short of goals by $140,000. Subscription sales have now declined for five straight seasons, which officials attribute to aging audiences and lifestyle changes that find younger patrons less willing to commit. Still, single-ticket sales exceeded goals in 2005 because of a surge for the world premiere of Margaret Garner." Detroit Free Press 11/09/05

The "Messiah" Network "Nobody does Messiah like the English. We own the score (at the British Library), the language, the history, the continuity, the board game. We have the music in our bloodstream, the motives in our national character. Band Aid, Live Aid and all similar philanthropic outpourings are, wittingly or not, offshoots of Handelâs example in his London Messiah. So when some continental comes along with a baton and tells us weâre doing it all wrong, we canât count crotchets in Comfort-Ye or tell a pp from a ppp, weâre not, for once, going to nod obeisance and say musical Europe always knows best. Hands to ears, we English donât need be to be told how to sing Messiah, right?" La Scena Musicale 11/10/05

November 9, 2005

The Prodigy Problem Stephen Moss has never been a fan of the hype surrounding child musical prodigies. "Great classical musicians should be planets, not meteors; careers built steadily, stealthily. A violinist, bowing arm permitting, can last 40 years; a pianist 60. When you are 12, don't play Carnegie Hall, play football." But upon meeting four of Britain's hottest young musicians, Moss finds that they have many of the same concerns he does: "Being labelled a prodigy can be a curse. It can be dangerous because it's not about the music; it's about business and hype... Young people are children first. They have social and emotional needs, and they must be in balance if the individual is to achieve his or her potential." The Guardian (UK) 11/10/05

Black Ink In Detroit, But Challenges Remain The Detroit Symphony ran a $100,000 surplus for the 2004-05 season, and raised the most money in its history to help pay down a $2-million accumulated deficit. "The single biggest factor in the orchestra's fund-raising success was a challenge grant that led to 3,100 new or increased gifts to the orchestra from individuals and businesses totaling $2.2 million... The DSO slashed expenses the last two seasons through negotiated pay cuts for the musicians and cuts in staff salaries, jobs and administrative costs. But this year, increases in musician salaries will drive up the budget by nearly $1 million." Detroit Free Press 11/09/05

Australia's Alsop Simone Young, who will shortly become only the third woman ever to conduct the notoriously all-male Vienna Philharmonic, is no stranger to controversy, or to taking on the challenge of leading Europe's best (and most difficult) orchestras. "Since Young's controversial departure from Opera Australia, the maestro has further consolidated her reputation in a variety of work, including guest conducting for Placido Domingo's Los Angeles Opera and at the Opéra Bastille in Paris. Young recently took the management and artistic reins of the Hamburg State Opera... In several interviews over the years she has talked frankly about the jeers and sexist attitudes of male colleagues. She stands her ground - in high heels, of course - and invariably wins them over with her focus, authority and style." Sydney Morning Herald 11/10/05

November 8, 2005

Opera's Little Label That Could (And Does) In an age when classical recording on the major labels is in the dumps, smaller labels are increasingly finding a niche and turning out high-quality product. But is such a thing really possible when we're talking about opera recordings, the most mind-bogglingly complex of all studio recording enterprises? Apparently, it is. "At a time when major record labels have all but quit making full-length opera recordings, [a small, independent label called] Opera Rara has never been busier, resurrecting forgotten works and putting them on disc to exacting musical and technical standards. Small but persistent, the company is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year." International Herald Tribune 11/09/05

Woman To Conduct Vienna Phil It's been nearly a decade since the Vienna Philharmonic was ordered by the Austrian government to begin accepting women into the orchestra, and after complying with the letter of the law by making its part-time female harp player a full member, the Phil has continued with its all-male hiring practices. But this weekend, an event which would be yawn-inducing to most other ensembles will make history in Vienna, when Australian conductor Simone Young will lead the Phil, the first woman to do so since Anne Manson in 1994. 7 News (Australia) 11/09/05

Three Familiar Names Shortlisted For Composer Prize "Harrison Birtwistle, Michael Nyman, and John Tavener are among the composers on the shortlist for the British Composer Awards, which was announced on November 4 by the British Academy of Composers & Songwriters. The awards, which are presented in association with BBC Radio 3, will be handed out at a ceremony at Ironmonger's Hall in London on December 9." PlaybillArts (NY) 11/08/05

Giving Whole New Meaning To "Crossover" The East Village Opera Company is almost guaranteed to make purists groan, but the bare-bones company has suddenly become the talk of New York. "It features [two vocalists], a seven-piece rock band and a string quartet... They take classic operatic arias and perform them to rock grooves with electrifying results. Are you ready for a version of 'La Donna E Mobile' that winds up feeling a lot like 'Bohemian Rhapsody'? You may not think so, but it works amazingly well and the group's debut CD on Universal is already causing ripples in both the classical and rock music scenes." Toronto Star 11/08/05

Baltimore Scales Back D.C. Season When the Baltimore Symphony announced that it would play an ambitious season of concerts at the newly constructed Strathmore Music Center in suburban Washington, D.C., in addition to its home schedule in Baltimore, critics noted that the move was a direct incursion into the National Symphony's territory, and questioned whether there was enough consumer interest to support the move. Apparently, there isn't. Ticket sales for many BSO shows at Strathmore have been sluggish, and with the BSO running a deficit, the orchestra has made the decision to cut back on its visits to Washington. Twelve concerts have been scrapped in the current season alone, with more cuts possible next year. The good news is that the BSO's traditional classical concerts at Strathmore are drawing well. Washington Post 11/08/05

Looking For The Perfect Fit In Philly The Philadelphia Orchestra needs a new president, and it's willing to go outside the industry to find one. "A job description being circulated by the orchestra and its search firm outlines a job that offers expanded authority, since the new president will also be the chief executive officer, a title currently held by the chairman of the board." Orchestra officials say that they are willing to boost the job's salary as well - former president Joe Kluger earned $285,000 per year, well below the income earned by his colleagues at other major American orchestras. Philadelphia Inquirer 11/08/05

The Hard Life Of UK Musicians The insurance crisis that recently hit British orchestras is threatening to have a profound impact on the players, too. But they're used to that by now. "These orchestras offer their members no pension schemes, no health insurance beyond in-house benevolent funds and, in some cases, no fixed retirement age. Players in salaried positions with the Hallé and BBC orchestras, for example, have increased stability, but less flexibility and less ready cash. Money was more plentiful in the 1980s; now there are fewer recording sessions, less sponsorship and more competition for work such as film scores and advertising. With house prices high and instrument prices soaring, players are increasingly turning to alternative sources of income: teaching, property development, massage and more." The Independent (UK) 11/08/05

  • Previously: UK Orchestras Face Crippling Insurance Bill Britain's symphony orchestras have been thrown into crisis, as the government says orchestras have failed to pay their share of National Insurance assessments and now owe £33 million. The debt could force several major orchestras to fold. "Since a change in working laws in 1998, freelance singers and musicians have been classed as employees for NI purposes, but self-employed for tax purposes. The issue affects ever major orchestra and smaller orchestra in this country and would have huge effects upon how they operate." BBC 10/31/05

As Schools Devalue Music, Outside Groups Step In With music education in many American schools having long since been whittled down to nothing, students with an interest in the subject have had to look elsewhere for the experience of performing in an ensemble. Youth orchestras have tried to take up the slack in most urban areas, and some ensembles have even begun to allow any child with an interest to join, instead of the traditional method of conducting auditions. Rather than learning about music during the school day, kids with an interest in music now have to give up a chunk of their weekend. Not that they mind... Washington Post 11/08/05

November 7, 2005

Musical Education or Indentured Servitude? "The last bars of Ravel's Bolero had just died away to applause, but when conductor Volker Hartung tried to return to the stage for an encore, dozens of police officers blocked his way. To the shock of spectators, Hartung was led from the concert hall in handcuffs. The German maestro spent the next two nights in jail as investigators questioned him for allegedly violating French labor law in a case that suggests the European dream of free movement of goods and services remains a long way off... Ever since that February 2005 night at Strasbourg's Palais de la Musique, Hartung and his orchestra have been embroiled in a costly and time-consuming legal mess... French and German unions say Hartung is exploiting young musicians from Eastern Europe and Russia, and the German union went so far as to call work in Hartung's orchestra 'a kind of modern slavery.'" The Moscow Times 11/08/05

Those Crazy Swedes In what must surely be one of the oddest pairings in awards history, Sweden's prestigious Polar Music Prize will be shared this year by conductor Valery Gergiev and rock band Led Zeppelin. The winners, who will be honored by Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustav in May, share a love of dramatic performance techniques, a worldwide following, and not a whole heck of a lot else. Monsters & Critics (UK) 11/07/05

Proving, Once Again, That People Love Free Concerts 13,000 people packed the Mall in Washington, D.C. last weekend to watch a simulcast of Washington National Opera's production of Porgy & Bess on a huge, 18-by-32 foot video screen. "When Angela Simpson sang Serena's lament 'My Man's Gone Now,' the applause was thunderous. And the cheers were repeated for almost every song from Indira Mahajan as Bess and Gordon Hawkins as Porgy. And for once, the cheers and the notes weren't trapped by the chandeliers of the Opera House but floated off into the blue sky over the Mall." Washington Post 11/07/05

Is Exclusivity The Future Of CD Retailing? As record companies and retailers struggle to adapt to the new, tech-heavy world of music consumption, a phenomenon has emerged that is gaining popularity in the industry, even as it is decried by consumers. A number of pop music's most sought-after acts have recently partnered with specific corporations for "exclusive" sales deals, wherein consumers can only purchase the new CD at a specific store, at least temporarily. Others have offered retailer-specific versions of a new CD with bonus material unavailable elsewhere. The idea is to drag music consumers away from their computers and back into the stores, and it seems to be working. Boston Globe 11/07/05

Free School? It Can't Come Soon Enough For Music Students. The $100 million gift that is allowing the Yale School of Music to go tuition-free is making waves across the classical music industry, and has the potential eventually to elevate Yale to the ranks of America's elite conservatories. Officials at schools like Juilliard and Curtis have long known the value (and necessity) of making music education as cheap as possible - most professional musicians will never make a great deal of money, and many are driven out of the profession altogether by the need for a steady paycheck. "Half the former art and music students surveyed by college lender Nellie Mae in 1998 had debts bigger than their salaries." Washington Post 11/07/05

Posthumously Rich Helsinki's major daily newspaper has recently taken an interest in how much money Finland's artists and musicians manage to pull down in a year. What it discovered is that the country's wealthiest artist has been dead since 1957. Jean Sibelius, the composer whose music defined Finland throughout the 20th century, is still earning royalties on performances of his music, most of it coming from abroad. Last year alone, Sibelius's heirs received €1.5 million in royalty payments, making the deceased composer Finland's most financially successful musician by far. The continuing windfall is ironic, since Sibelius had a terrible time managing money while he was alive, and frequently struggled to earn enough to take care of his family. Helsingen Sanomat (Helsinki) 11/07/05

November 6, 2005

Scottish Jazz Thriving Interest in jazz is soaring in Scotland. "What Scotland is doing is developing a very strong scene which has its own identity. A lot of people are fusing or mixing jazz with a Scottish idiom. Colin Steele is taking folk music and overlaying it with a Chet Baker feel but the result is a distinctive sound coming from, influenced and coloured by Scotland. There is very definitely a recognisable Scottish jazz influence now." Scotland On Sunday 11/06/05

Vienna Phil's Woman Problem It's been eight years since the Vienna Philharmonic let its first woman musician into the ranks. So has the orchestra's integration proceeded? Not quite... Straight Up (AJBlog) 11/06/05

UK's Opera Hotbed? Look North "A new study shows the north of England's love of the performing arts has surpassed that in the South. Those in the North-west are now three times more likely to attend an opera than those in the South-east, according to the figures. Nearly one in 10 in the North-west named opera as their favourite form of theatrical production, and those in the North-east joined the chorus of approval. Only 3 per cent of those in the South-east spoke of opera as their favoured form of entertainment, despite having two professional houses on their doorstep." The Independent (UK) 11/06/05

Minnesota's Orchestra Of Conductors This season three players in the Minnesota Orchestra are sharing assistant-conducting duties. "It's tough because you're up there for one week, then you're right back where you were among your colleagues. So I think you just have to keep your eye on the prize, which is getting the program done." The Star-Tribune (Mpls) 11/06/05

Back To The Future In Birmingham? Conductor Paul Polivnick had a good run as music director of the Alabama Symphony in the late 1980s, and even appeared to be making a stab at raising the orchestra from a little-known regional band to a big-budget ensemble that could have broken into the second tier of American orchestras. But when the ASO went bankrupt in 1993, the dream of bigger things for Birmingham's symphony died, and Polivnick moved on. Now, with the ASO back in business (it reincorporated in 1997) and in need of a new music director, Polivnick is back in town to guest conduct his old musicians, and there is much speculation that he and the orchestra would like very much to pick up where they left off more than a decade ago. Birmingham News 11/06/05

Are Orchestras Losing The PR Game? Are They Even Playing? The Oregon Symphony is facing a serious ticket sales slump, as audiences who packed the hall for the first two seasons following music director Carlos Kalmar's arrival have deserted the orchestra in droves this fall. "Kalmar's agenda -- his choice of music -- isn't resonating with ticket buyers. It's quirky, bordering on -- how shall we say -- bizarre." But the orchestra's problems may run deeper than programming choices. "Classical musicians aren't good at rousing the electorate. They don't know how to create buzz. They either think buzz is beneath them or they believe people don't care enough about them to justify buzz. And yet, in this digital age, it takes a rapid-response public-relations blitz to get anything done." The Oregonian (Portland) 11/06/05

Is Live-To-Tape The Future For Classical Recording? Large-scale opera recordings appear to be rapidly becoming a relic of the past, as record companies continue to cut costs and ease classical music out of their catalog. "But before we all get out our handkerchiefs, what are we really losing? Is a studio recording, especially of a complete opera, so much better than a live performance captured on tape? Is an edited sequence of perfect takes worth all the losses in continuity and physical atmosphere? And is the studio recording really finished, or is its rumoured demise just clever promotion?" The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/05/05

New Deal In Fort Worth The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra has finalized a new 5-year contract with its musicians which calls for a 14% raise over the life of the deal and makes changes to certain working conditions. There had been speculation that the musicians might refuse to ratify the contract, which was offered with only the faintest endorsement by the musicians' negotiating team. But when the votes were counted, the orchestra, which has been performing under an extension of its previous contract since August, could breath a sigh of relief. Fort Worth Star-Telegram (2nd item) 11/06/05

Are Orchestras Hurting Themselves By Pandering To Audiences? Symphony orchestras in North America are notoriously conservative in their programming choices, and if a glance at the history of American musical criticism is any indication, critics have been complaining about the lack of daring for as long as orchestras have lacked it. "Mainstream musical organizations in general and symphony orchestras in particular still prefer — allegedly for box office reasons — to comfort their listeners with the familiar rather than challenge them with the new... [But] repetition tends to stifle curiosity and it is curiosity that needs to be encouraged in the listening public if our concert halls are to be more than museums to past greatness." Toronto Star 11/05/05

November 4, 2005

St. Paul Chamber Orchestra Finds A Home In Chicago "Touring has become punishingly expensive for small orchestras, and the days of a concert or two each year in downtown Chicago are long gone for the Saint Paul musicians. But the ensemble, founded nearly 50 years ago, has always been eager to experiment. Tonight, with a concert at the University of Chicago's Mandel Hall, they are trying something completely different, a three-year Chicago residency that will take them into South Side elementary schools and the university's music classrooms as well as Mandel." Chicago Sun-Times 11/04/05

November 3, 2005

The Place To Become An Opera Star "All you have to do is consult the list of gold-medal winners from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama’s opera course to know that this programme is the real deal. Bryn Terfel scooped it in 1989; this year’s winner, Anna Stéphany, has already made her mark by winning the highly regarded Kathleen Ferrier Award. In between, the number of distinguished graduates from recent years is more than impressive." The Times (UK) 11/03/05

How Recording Has Changed Music "Recording has directed performance style into a search for greater precision and perfection, with a consequent loss of spontaneity and warmth. Various expressive devices once common in the early twentieth century have been almost outlawed: "portamento" (sliding from one note to another on a stringed instrument); playing the piano with the hands not quite together (Philip calls this dislocation); arpeggiating chords (not playing all the notes of the chord at the same time but one after another), and flexibility of tempo." New York Review of Books 11/03/05

Boston's 'CRB For Sale; Classical Programming Up In The Air The owners of Boston's commercial classical radio station, WCRB, are putting the station up for sale, but say they will require any buyer to maintain the station's classical format on at least a digital side-channel accessible to listeners with high-definition receivers. That isn't terribly reassuring to some listeners, since HD radios are almost entirely unknown in the U.S., and some in the industry question whether the format requirement actually carries any legal weight. Boston has two other stations that broadcast classical music, but WCRB is the only full-time classical station. Boston Globe 11/03/05

Yale Music School Scores $100 Mil, Eliminates Tuition The Yale University School of Music is poised to join Philadelphia's famed Curtis Institute in offering tuition-free enrollment to its students, following the announcement of new gifts to the school totalling $100 million. "Yale said it would also put the money toward increasing faculty, student and ensemble exchanges with foreign conservatories and toward Internet broadcasts of its events. The free tuition begins next school year and includes current students." The New York Times 11/03/05

Management Shuffle In NY, Chicago, and LA "Artistic administrator" is not exactly a glamorous title, but most major orchestras would have trouble functioning without one. So it was a notable event this week when three of the top US orchestras announced what amounted to an administrative carousel. "Chad Smith, the artistic administrator of the New York Philharmonic, will become vice president for artistic planning of the Los Angeles Philharmonic... Matías Tarnopolsky, currently senior director of artistic planning at the Chicago Symphony, will replace Smith in New York. Smith returns to the L.A. Philharmonic less than a year after he left the orchestra for New York." PlaybillArts (NY) 11/03/05

NJSO In The Black, But Questions Remain The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, which has been hit in recent years by deficits and a national scandal involving financier Herbert Axelrod's sale to the orchestra of a collection of valuable string instruments, has announced a surplus for the 2004-05 season, and increases in ticket revenue and donor giving. "But the orchestra is not clear of its primary threat: a debt load of about $19 million, composed of a $3.6 million line of credit it has not paid down in three years, and the balance owed on bonds and notes payable to creditors for the instruments. The orchestra restructured its debt to pay interest only for nine months last season, saving about $780,000 in cash... In all, the orchestra has made headway, but the financial report showed a seesaw of good and bad news." Newark Star-Ledger (NJ) 11/03/05

Musicians Strike Radio City "Musicians for the Radio City Music Hall's famous Christmas Spectacular went on strike Wednesday and announced they had the support of other unions at the landmark [New York] theater." With the annual show scheduled to open tonight, the strike was timed to cause maximum disruption. Nonetheless, the success of the strike may hinge on whether the show's other unionized workers - the stagehands and the famous dancers known as The Rockettes - honor the picket line. Radio City is planning to go ahead with a prerecorded soundtrack, and the stagehands have yet to commit to a sympathy strike. The Rockettes announced that they would not cross the picket line, but Radio City says they have a no-strike clause in their contract, and are expected to perform. Newsday (NY) 11/03/05

At Least Someone Will Get To Play It A rare violin once owned by 19th-century virtuoso and composer Nicolo Paganini was bought at auction Tuesday by the Moscow-based Violin Art Foundation, which plans to loan it out to the winner of its prestigious annual competition. The Foundation paid just over $1 million for the instrument, which was made in 1720 by the Italian master Carlo Bergonzi. The sale price was a record for a Bergonzi violin. BBC 11/02/05

  • Previously: Paganini's Violin To Hit The Block An 18th century Cremonese violin once owned by Nicolo Paganini will go on sale at Sotheby's next week with an asking price of £500,000 ($894,600). "Not only is it the first time one of Paganini‘s cherished instruments has come up for auction, it is one of only 50 surviving violins by master craftsman Carlo Bergonzi of Cremona." ABC News (Reuters) 10/26/05
November 2, 2005

Today's 10-Year-Old Music Fan: Denied Access As a child Rupert Christiansen spent countless hours in the music collections of public libraries, exploring and listening. "Could a 10-year-old budding maestro - or opera critic - enjoy the same adventure today? Only if he or she was the winner in a postcode lottery. Decent public music collections have become increasingly hard to find in a library structure which has replaced its old mission of humanising and educating in favour of providing value-free dissemination of information. I see the logic in this, but feel impelled to defend my own culture's corner." The Telegraph (UK) 11/02/05

Esa-Pekka Salonen On Conducting: "You know, in some ways conducting is counter-intuitive. It's like winter driving in Finland - if you skid, the natural reaction is to fight with the wheel and jam on the brakes, which is the quickest way to get killed. What you have to do is let go, and the car will right itself. It's the same when an orchestra loses its ensemble. You have to resist the temptation to semaphore, and let the orchestra find its own way back to the pulse." The Telegraph (UK) 11/02/05

CBC 3 Will Be Made-In-Canada Showcase "Based out of Vancouver, CBC Radio 3 will operate as a 24-hour music station that plays independent Canadian artists across all genres, from rock and hip-hop to electronica and alt-country. 'This is an unprecedented opportunity to get a lot of Canadian artists on radio, not just in Canada, but also exported to the United States'." The Globe & mail (Canada) 11/02/05

November 1, 2005

Cleveland Orchestra Tries Out Budapest's New Hall Budapest's new concert hall is part of a $153 million Palace of Fine Arts, and the Cleveland Orchestra took it for a test drive. "It is a state-of-the-art building, splashily modern without being ostentatious, with all sorts of pastel colors to catch the eye. The lobbies are sweeping spaces made airy by tall windows that provide stunning views of the Danube and the new National Theatre - itself an architectural dazzler - just across the plaza." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 11/01/05

New Homes For Troubled Orchestras If classical music in general and symphony orchestras in particular are in such dire financial trouble, wonders Frank Oteri, why are expensive new concert halls being built for them? NewMusicBox 11/01/05

New Life For New Operas? "For decades now, the pattern has gone more like this: An opera company, spurred on either by a particular dramatic idea or some generalized sense of wanting to do what's right, commissions a new work from a composer of greater or lesser renown. An initial run is scheduled, perhaps followed (especially if there are co-commissioners) by a second production elsewhere. The world premiere comes off with lots of fanfare, and for a week or two, all eyes are on the company giving the premiere. Critics fly in from throughout the United States and Europe and proffer their opinions. Then the run ends and the opera is never heard again." But there are signs this pattern is changing... San Francisco Chronicle 11/01/05

Pittsburgh Freelancers Finding Jobs Scarce With Pittsburgh Ballet opting for recorded music, and touring shows like the Rockettes doing the same, finding work for Pittsburgh-area freelance musicians is becoming tougher... Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 11/01/05

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