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December 29, 2005

The First Great Pianist Of the 21st Century? Following the release of two CDs this year, critics are prophesying that Yevgeny Sudbin - who spent part of his childhood in the basement of a refugee hostel - will be one of the greatest pianists of the new century. The Telegraph (UK) 12/29/05

Brits Fail Musical Literacy More than half of Britons polled do not realise that Elgar was English or that Beethoven was born in Germany, according to a survey for the digital arts and culture channel Artsworld. The Guardian (UK) 12/29/05

The Met: Volpe's Legacy Joseph Volpe caps 16 years running the metropolitan Opera. "Through various crises—a singer dying onstage, a bloated supersta cancelling, attendance figures falling in the wake of September 11th, Cuban billionaire patron turning out to be neither a billionaire nor Cuban—Volpe kept the great old house trundling along. Was he visionary? No. Did rival American companies—particularly the Sa Francisco Opera, with its history-making productions of Messiaen’s “Saint Francis” and John Adams’s “Doctor Atomic”—challenge th Met’s preëminence? Yes. But the chaos that has surrounded many bi houses elsewhere has been absent from the Met, and in this busines the absence of chaos is a considerable achievement." The New Yorker 12/26/05

Buying Music As A Political Act "Once upon a time, it wasn’t so. Thirty years ago, you just walked into your local music retailer, found the LP you wanted, then went home and cranked up the stereo. No thought was necessary. Thanks to the Internet, those carefree days are gone. To go to the trouble of actually walking into a record store and paying full price for an actual CD is now a transaction that carries with it all kinds of meaning. It signifies that a music lover is making a choice to support a particular group or musician." London Free Press 12/29/05

Detroit Listeners Sue Radio Station Detroit isteners angry over recent programming changes have gone to court, charging the city's NPR station with fraud. "The fury in Detroit over program changes at WDET-FM has listeners claiming they were tricked into contributing money to the station during a pledge drive while station operators were secretly planning to junk locally produced programming and replace it with national talk and public affairs shows. In a public radio world known for lowered voices and reasonable behavior, the class-action lawsuit filed in Wayne County Circuit Court last week is nothing short of incendiary." Chicago Tribune 12/28/05

Music Biz Moving Online Sales of CDs dropped seven percent in 2005, but downloads more than doubled. "Sales stood at 602.2 million during the year, down from 650.8 million in 2004, report analysts Nielsen Soundscan. Downloaded music reached 332.7 million for 2005, an increase of 148% on the previous year. More than 95% of music is sold in CD format, with Mariah Carey and 50 Cent proving the year's biggest sellers." BBC 12/29/05

December 28, 2005

More Chaos At English National Opera The English National Opera could scarcely be having a worse holiday season, what with the recent resignations of its artistic director and chairman, and the continued browbeatings the company is taking in the British press. Now, music director designate Oleg Caetani has apparently been relieved of the post he was to take up next month. "Sources say that the reason for Caetani's pre-emptive ejection was the lack of time he could commit to the company - an issue that had caused concern among observers from his appointment in March this year after a 14-month search." The Guardian (UK) 12/29/05

  • And A Strike, Too... "Members of the union Bectu, who work in the technical, managerial and administrative departments at the Coliseum, the English National Opera's London home, have voted by a massive majority - 94.6 per cent of those who voted - in favour of industrial action over its pay claim [against the beleagured opera company.] While there are no operas, only ballets, on stage until late January, strikes would hit rehearsals for new productions as well as the resumption of operatic performances [in] February." The Independent (UK) 12/29/05

The Best Instrument You've Ever Laughed At The trombone is one of those much-maligned instruments, like the bassoon or the viola, which plays a crucial role in the orchestra and yet seems to provoke more snickers than applause. The slide looks silly, the sound is frequently used for comic relief, and a recent episode of the UK's popular TV series, Doctor Who, featured a campy but sinister lineup of deadly trombone-wielding Santas. "One sometimes detects among trombonists a sense that the world is doing them down." The Guardian (UK) 12/29/05

Is Barenboim Headed To La Scala? He Seems To Think So. Daniel Barenboim is fueling speculation that he will soon be named La Scala's next music director, succeeding the ousted Riccardo Muti. Barenboim will be leaving the directorship of the Chicago Symphony next summer, leaving him available for the post in Milan. "In May, the governors appointed a Frenchman, Stephané Lissner, a friend of Barenboim, as general manager and artistic director. It was he who lured Barenboim, 63, back to La Scala, where he last performed 30 years ago. And, in what was seen by insiders as a possible pointer to the future, agreed to his being the first musician to use Muti's old dressing room." The Guardian (UK) 12/29/05

A Good Year For Jazz "Any year in which John Coltrane supplants Jamie Cullum as a topic of conversation is a very good year indeed. For once, the jazz art at its highest and the jazz business at its most lucrative have been completely in step, a reaffirmation of the music's core values at a time when they're far too often compromised for public consumption." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/28/05

December 27, 2005

Levine Remakes Boston Symphony "The BSO is playing better, and more consistently, than it has in years. Levine is not presenting much more contemporary repertoire than Seiji Ozawa did, but he apparently enjoys a more challenging kind of music, and he is programming it in a more systematic way." Boston Globe 12/25/05

Last Minute At The Dallas Symphony The Dallas Symphony has a new way of selling tickets. Patrons pay a monthly "retainer". The plan "allows patrons to pay a monthly fee in exchange for the best available seat at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center – generally seats that went unsold or were returned by subscribers." Dallas Morning News 12/25/05

Tokyo, City Of Orchestras "There is more of it here than in any other city in the world. Not only is more going on here than in London or Berlin, but one of the great attractions of over-the-top Tokyo is that it makes everything feel different. Tokyo is chock-full of concert halls and, better yet, concert halls full of listeners. Where other musical capitals consider themselves lucky to have two or three important large venues for concerts and opera, Tokyo and its outskirts boast 10, plus many more medium- and smaller-sized halls. The city is also home to about a dozen symphony orchestras." Los Angeles Times 12/25/05

A St. Louis Turnaround? Thank The Maestro... There may not be a tougher gig in the American orchestral scene at the moment than music director of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. And yet somehow, David Robertson, the young American conductor better known in Europe than in his home country, has already begun to transform the SLSO's fortunes in only a few months on the job. "By opening night, he had already motivated the most miserable musicians in any major American orchestra (at least to hear them publicly complain); turned on teenagers as well as dowagers; and begun reaching deep into a racially divided community." Chicago Tribune (LA Times) 12/25/05

Avoiding The Tough Issues For Australia's classical music institutions and those who purport to support them, 2005 was a year of standing pat and avoiding the hard debates about the future, says Peter McCallum. Orchestras which are unedeniably artistically vibrant seem at a loss when asked to describe their future, and the federal government first proposed, then backed off a plan for combining struggling ensembles and streamlining business plans. "In music, dissent is not the primary issue but the art form needs challenging work and it is not legislation that keeps this in short supply but a mood of risk avoidance and self-censorship." Sydney Morning Herald 12/27/05

December 26, 2005

Indie Music Benefits From Tech "Exploiting online message boards, music blogs and social networks, independent music companies are making big advances at the expense of the four global music conglomerates, whose established business model of blockbuster hits promoted through radio airplay now looks increasingly outdated." The New York Times 12/26/05

NY Attorney General Takes On Recording Studios Over Downloading New York's attorney general has filed subpoenas against music recording studios in an investigation of price fixing for music downloads. "Music industry sources said the current probe appeared to center on whether the Big Four music studios -- Warner, Sony Corp's Sony BMG Music Entertainment, EMI Group and Vivendi's Universal Music -- colluded to set wholesale pricing for song downloads." Yahoo! (Reuters) 12/26/05

Mom Fights RIAA Downloading Lawsuit A New York mom is standing up to the recording industry which wants to sue her for illegal downloading. She says she hasn't. "The woman from Wappingers Falls, about 80 miles north of New York City, is among the more than 16,000 people who have been sued for allegedly pirating music through file-sharing computer networks. The industry is demanding thousands of dollars to settle the case, but Santangelo, unlike the 3,700 defendants who have already settled, says she will stand on principle and fight the lawsuit." Wired 12/26/05

Who's Buying Recordings? Older People! "The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) report found 59% of over-50s had bought an album in the previous three months and 29% bought at least six CDs a year. Favourite artists include Il Divo, Rod Stewart, Tony Christie, Katherine Jenkins, G4 and Ronan Keating. The BPI said older music fans were driving a growth in sales. Nearly a quarter of all albums are bought by older music fans, and that percentage is set to grow as the UK population ages." BBC 12/26/05

December 23, 2005

Hyperion Pays Out On Settlement The beloved classical recording label Hyperion has settled its dispute with a musicologist who sued over copyright. "Hyperion last week settled costs with Carter Ruck, the firm which represented Lalande, Lionel Sawkins, after receiving an invoice for £758,000. The final settlement left Hyperion with a total bill of £950,000, which included their own costs and damages to Dr Sawkins - close to what Hyperion would spend on music-making over an entire year." The Guardian (UK) 12/23/05

Seatle's Northwest Chamber Orchestra Faces Rinvention Seattle's Northwest Chamber Orchestra has always survived on the financial edge. But, like most orchestras, in recent years it has seen its expenses rise and its income shrink. So maybe the orchestra needs to rethink its model? Seattle Times 12/19/05

December 22, 2005

Those Songs You've Hear A Million Times (You Really Have) "BMI regularly compiles its list of what it calls 'million-airs,' those songs that have received a million or more airings or plays on radio or television in the United States; multiple versions, whether by the performer with the biggest hit or remakes, are included. BMI says the Top 10 as of March 2005, not listed in any particular order, includes..." Seattle Post-Intelligencer 12/22/05

Has US/UK Musical Give-And-Take Ebbed? "Ever since America gave us rock and roll and we gave them back beat music, the ebb and flow of ideas and talent between these two great musical powers has been the creative engine of pop culture. But my recent encounter with Floetry, a British group apparently unwanted in the UK but lauded in the US, has led me to wonder if the special relationship is still special. In recent years it has all been a bit one-sided." The Telegraph (UK) 12/22/05

A New Tulsa Orchestra The Tulsa Philharmonic folded in 2002. Now there are plans for a Tulsa Symphony. "The plans include hiring 60 to 70 musicians. Former members of the defunct Tulsa Philharmonic are being contacted first. If positions cannot be filled that way, auditions will be held. Unusually, the musicians will be responsible for all aspects of governance, including marketing and fundraising. The orchestra will have a staff, but musicians will be expected to chip in and help with day-to-day operations." PlaybillArts 12/22/05

Where Pop And Classical Meet? "Musically speaking, the point where pop and classical meet is a no-man's-land of melodramatic orchestration and trite melody: Il Divo, in other words. Their music is neither classical nor pop but a sort of easy-listening hybrid, and listening to it I'm painfully reminded of the gushy power ballads my Brazilian neighbours are fond of playing. Perhaps this is the true significance of popera, in the UK." Financial Times (UK) 12/22/05

French Lawmakers Legalize Online Filesharing "A French government crackdown on digital piracy backfired Thursday as lawmakers rebelled by endorsing amendments to legalize the online sharing of music and movies instead of punishing it." Yahoo! (AP) 12/22/05

Soprano Cancels Carnegie Debut Russian soprano Anna Netrebko has canceled her Carnegie Hall debut. "After much thought, I have asked Carnegie Hall for permission to postpone my recital on March 2, 2006, to a future season. I have sung very few recitals in my career, and I do not feel artistically ready yet to present a recital program on the great stage of Carnegie Hall." Yahoo! (AP) 12/22/05

December 21, 2005

Lebrecht's Holiday List Of Orchestra Woes "Put starkly: since the millennium, the orchestral economy has been under siege on five fronts. Public funding has been frozen or yoked to energy-sapping political impositions – social inclusion, multiculturalism, primary school education. Faith in corporate and private support turned fragile in the aftermath of the Enron and Alberto Vilar scandals when donors failed to deliver cast-iron pledges. Boxoffice has been volatile since 9/11. Any terror or bird flu threat and music lovers stay at home. The over-60s, mainstays of the subscription list, avoid going into poorly lit parts of town on dark winter nights. The young are deterred by formality and predictability." La Scena Musicale 12/21/05

When A Violinist Has To Surrender An Instrument "As things stand now the cellist Clyde Shaw and his wife, the violist Doris Lederer, members of the Audubon String Quartet, will have to surrender their instruments to a court-appointed trustee in Roanoke, Va., at 4 p.m. tomorrow." It's not just that the instruments are valuable, there's a special bond between the musicians and their instruments... The New York Times 12/21/05

Zukerman's Curious Working "Vacation" Pinchas Zukerman's abrupt decision to skip out on the second half of the sesaon with his National Arts Center Orchestra is puzzling. "During the 5½ months he won't be performing with the NACO, Zukerman is booked for dozens of guest appearances with 14 orchestras on three continents. In sum, Zukerman is skipping out of his salaried gig, but keeping all the freelance work." Doesn't sound like a man "taking a sabbatical"... The Globe & mail (Canada) 12/21/05

Digital Conversion - CD Sales Fall, Downloads Rise "According to Nielsen SoundScan, the information system that tracks sales of music and music video products throughout the United States and Canada, sales of music CDs in the States are down almost 7 percent from last year. Album sales in 2004 totaled 480.6 million; sales through late October of this year reached 446.9 million. Meanwhile, legal digital downloading shows no signs of slowing down. Nielsen reported digital sales in 2004 of 101 million. Spurred by the iPod revolution, that number grew to 264.4 million this year. There are more than 230 online sites where consumers can buy music legally, up from 50 a year ago." San Francisco Chronicle 12/21/05

Smith Resigns From ENO Martin Smith has resigned as chairman of the English National Opera. A campaign was mounted against him recently after a series of black eyes for the company. "It is clear my ability to continue helping ENO has been damaged by a campaign against me." BBC 12/21/05

December 20, 2005

Cleveland Orch Gets $3 Million Boost The Cleveland Orchestra has received a $3 million grant from a local foundation to help the ensemble get back on its financial feet after running $10.3 million in deficits over the last two seasons. "At its annual meeting on November 15, the board of the Musical Arts Association, the orchestra's parent organization, adopted a plan for financial recovery that includes plans to widen its base of support beyond Cleveland and to cut costs." The Kulas Foundation offered the grant as a show of support for the recovery plan. Playbill Arts (NY) 12/21/05

Are We Too Hung Up On Acoustics? "Music lovers, critics and writers worry too much about acoustics. Truly bad acoustics - whether you hear too little or too much - cannot be ignored, but the imperfect world that lingers between the two extremes just has to be dealt with. The hall is too bright (Walt Disney in Los Angeles); the hall is dead (Royal Festival Hall in London). There are devils everywhere intent on spoiling your listening pleasure. Go to concerts, and hear people cough and cellphones ring. Stay at home, and your CD player skips or an ambulance goes by the door. Relax. Rise above it." The New York Times 12/20/05

Boston Opera Company Scraps Plans For Free Aida "Three years after Boston Lyric Opera staged a free production of Carmen that drew a stunning 140,000 people to the Common, the company has reluctantly shelved plans for a follow-up event, concluding that it couldn't find enough local corporate support to underwrite the show. After wrestling with funding for months, the opera company announced yesterday that it has scrapped a free production of Aida set for September 2006. The abrupt cancellation is a sign that local arts groups are starting to feel the impact of recent corporate mergers and acquisitions, which have diminished the number of companies with home bases -- and loyalty -- in the region." Boston Globe 12/20/05

Ugly Estate Battle Brewing In Edmonton The Edmonton Symphony thought it had $1 million or more coming to it from the estate of philanthropist Stuart Davis, but a dispute over the money has erupted between the orchestra and Davis's son, who believes that the money is rightfully his. At issue is a handwritten copy of Davis's will, which includes multiple revisions and crossed-out sections. The pbilanthropist distrusted lawyers to the point that he refused to consult them in preparing his estate for posthumous dispersal, leading to the dispute. Edmonton Journal 12/20/05

Concord Buys Telarc Cleveland-based classical recording company Telarc International has been acquired by the California-based Concord Music Group. In Telarc's nearly 30 years of existence, it has captured 46 Grammy awards and led the way in making compact discs the new standard for recording in the 1980s. "[Telarc's] catalog has 1,000 titles, including albums by the Cleveland Orchestra, jazz great Dave Brubeck and the South African vocal ensemble Ladysmith Black Mambazo." The merger will not mean the end of the Telarc name, and the business will continue to operate from its suburban Cleveland home. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 12/20/05

Zukerman Taking A Break From Nat'l Arts Centre Ottawa's National Arts Centre Orchestra has announced that music director Pinchas Zukerman will take a half-season sabbatical from the ensemble, effective with the start of the new year. He was scheduled to conduct five more concerts in the current season, but the NACO will find guest conductors to cover those dates. The centre says it fully expects Zukerman, whose current contract is up at the end of the 2006-07 season, to return in fall 2006, but news of the sabbatical came as a surprise to the orchestra's musicians. Ottawa Citizen 12/19/05

  • NACO on Zukerman: Don't Fret, He'll Be Back The Zukerman announcement had a predictable effect on the orchestra world - speculation is rampant concerning the violinist/conductor's longterm status with the National Arts Centre Orchestra. But NACO officials are taking pains to make clear that Zukerman's unexpected "sabbatical" is not a precursor to his leaving the ensemble, and the orchestra's managing director says that he expects to announce an extension of Zukerman's current contract soon. "There has been some tension behind the scenes in recent seasons, as musicians have become divided about Zukerman, but [one] musician said 'there's been nothing really that unusual that you would think might have provoked this.'" Ottawa Citizen 12/20/05

December 19, 2005

Government Continues To Bully Australian Opera "The Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra cannot budget for productions because the Federal Government is refusing to reveal the results of a review of its funding and management." The review is completed, but the government doesn't want to give away its funding priorities in advance of next May's budget negotiations in Parliament. Australian Opera has run significant deficits in recent years, and was forced to hire nearly an AUS$100,000 worth of extra musicians last month when new workplace regulations deemed sound levels in the orchestra pit legally unhealthy. Sydney Morning Herald 12/20/05

Iranian Leader Bans Western Music Iran's new hardline president, who has made waves in recent weeks with his comments questioning the scale of the Holocaust and calling for the destruction of Israel, has banned all Western music from state-owned radio and TV stations. The ban includes everything from American pop to European classical music, and is "an eerie reminder of the 1979 Islamic revolution when popular music was outlawed as 'un-Islamic' under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini." The move comes weeks after the conductor of the Tehran Symphony quit his post and left the country in protest of the government's ill treatment of his musicians. The New York Times (AP) 12/19/05

Pittsburgh To Record Danielpour Opera? Sony Classical has offered to record Richard Danielpour's latest opera, Margaret Garner, which drew positive reviews when it premiered in Michigan and Philadelphia last season with Denyce Graves in the title role. Operatic recordings are becoming increasingly rare, especially in the U.S., due largely to the cost of retaining an orchestra for the project. In this case, Sony has made a proposal to the Pittsburgh Symphony for the project, and press reports say that the musicians of the PSO are considering the offer. That the musicians would need to approve such a project at all suggests that Sony's offer may require them to accept a pay rate below the national standard enforced by the union, but several orchestras have begun to skirt such requirements in recent years. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 12/19/05

December 18, 2005

Want Butts In The Seats? Make Fewer Seats. "We've tended to lay the blame for the fall-off in classical music attendances on bad programming, lack of excitement, not enough targeting the young and that woeful branding, favoured by the politicians, of elitism." But could the real problem be something as simple as the fact that major concert halls tend to seat over 2,000 people, whether they are located in a metropolis of ten million or a city of 500,000? After all, the effects of a half-empty hall on audience behavior are well-established, and recent developments in Scotland's classical music scene suggest that less may, in fact, be more. The Scotsman (UK) 12/19/05

Finessing A Turnaround Two and a half years ago, news stories about the Minnesota Orchestra told a distressing tale of internal power struggles, musician dissatisfaction, board dysfunction, and seemingly endless red ink. Today, the deficits are in rapid decline, the organization seems to be healing, the orchestra is garnering rave reviews, and much of the credit for the turnaround is being given to Ronald Lund, who just stepped aside as the orchestra's board chair. Lund's success in a post which is frequently a magnet for criticism from all sides may be due in part to his emphasis on improving communication within the organization before trying to heal its external problems. Minneapolis Star Tribune 12/18/05

Met Opera To Slash Budget Facing slumping ticket sales and rising costs, the Metropolitan Opera is reportedly looking to cut its operating budget by 5% for the current season. "In the late 1990s, the Met often sold more than 90 percent of tickets for each season, but the box office slowed after the 2001 terror attacks," and has never fully recovered. Projections for the current season were made with an assumption of 80% capacity, but actual ticket sales have been closer to 76%. Backstage 12/16/05

The Critic Takes The Stage If anyone was expecting the music world Andrew Porter has spent his career critiquing to turn its back when the famed critic brought his own production of Mozart's The Magic Flute to the Canadian Opera Company stage this weekend, such hopes were dashed last summer, when the entire run of the show sold out months in advance. "Porter may well be the most eminent living music critic in the English-speaking world, a man who for 50 years has set the standard for erudition, fairness and grace in the writing of music criticism... [He] has no immediate plans to continue his directorial career, but he has a dream -- to direct Beethoven's Fidelio." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/17/05

The Overachieving Octogenarian Japan's Yomiuri Nippon Orchestra has named the Polish-born composer/conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski as its new principal conductor, beginning in spring 2007. What makes the appointment unusual is that Skrowaczewski, a former music director of the Minnesota Orchestra and of Manchester's Halle Orchestra, will be 84 years old when his tenure in Japan begins. Playbill Arts (NY) 12/16/05

You Never Give Me Your Money The surviving Beatles (and the heirs of the non-surviving ones) are suing the EMI recording company in an effort to recover what they claim are $53 million in unpaid royalties. Minneapolis Star Tribune (AP) 12/17/05

December 16, 2005

Met Picks Up new Sponsors For 75th Radio Season The Metropolitan Opera starts its 75th season of radio broadcasts. "Toll Brothers home builders has joined long-term supporters the Annenberg Foundation and the Vincent A. Stabile Foundation to finance the series, which this year includes 20 live broadcasts and a celebration of Mozart's 250th birthday." Boston Globe 12/16/05

It Was The Monster Mash... "An outfit calling themselves Dean Gray (ho, ho) had taken Green Day's American Idiot and fused each one of its tracks with other pieces of music, ranging from Bryan Adams to Queen. Then they changed the album's name to American Edit and set it loose on the Internet. This is a mashup, the on-line stepchild of the remix and the latest way to anger a music company. It's true that the concept sounds improbable; when pairing two different songs, the line between mashup and train wreck can be thin indeed. But the Zen of good mashing isn't about pairing random songs; it's about picking up on the similarities between two tracks, and tweaking the songs to have them create more than the sum of their parts." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/16/05

Saving The Met's Aural History The Metropolitan Opera has a trove of recordings of its week-by-week performances across seven decades. "The house is pressing forward with a project to preserve, and in many cases locate, nearly 1,400 recordings of its Saturday broadcasts. Met officials said they have completed 403 preservations, with 868 still to go, spending about $1.4 million in an open-ended project that is predicted to cost more than $4 million." The New York Times 12/16/05

December 15, 2005

Artists Call For Leadership Change At ENO Ten promient arts leaders have called for a change of leadership of the English National Opera. "Mr Smith's style of chairmanship, we believe, has been most damaging to this important institution and has brought about a crisis point," it reads. The letter demands an "urgent change of leadership to ensure a better future". The Guardian (UK) 12/16/05

  • So Who Is Martin Smith? Chairman of the English National opera board, "Smith has been the focus of criticism since the last time he sacked an artistic director of ENO, in 2002, when he was accused of having "shafted" former general director Nicholas Payne. While he has support from some upper management at ENO, he is passionately loathed by many staff and artists. The Guardian (UK) 12/16/05

December 14, 2005

Court Seizes Audubon Quartet Instruments A federal bankruptcy court judge in Roanoke, Va., has ruled that the three remaining original members of the Audubon String Quartet must turn over their instruments to a bankruptcy court trustee to satisfy a judgment won by the fourth quartet member. "The legal battle has been long and bitter. It has divided the music world and split loyalties in and around Blacksburg, Va., where the quartet moved in 1980 for a residency at Virginia Tech, which ended after the lawsuit." The New York Times 12/15/05

Ready To Overdose On Mozart? "Wherever you go in the coming year, you won't escape Mozart. The 250th anniversary of his birth on January 27 1756 is being celebrated with joyless efficiency as a tourist magnet to the land of his birth and a universal sales pitch for his over-worked output. The complete 626 works are being marketed on record in two special-offer super coffers. All the world's orchestras will be playing Mozart, wall to wall, starting with the Vienna Philharmonic on tour this weekend. Mozart is the superstore wallpaper of classical music, the composer who pleases most and offends least." La Scena Musicale 12/14/05

Florida Orchestra Seeks A Home Of Its Own The Florida Orchestra is raising money for a new administrative home in St. Petersburg. The orchestra has been leasing office space in Tampa.
St. Petersburg Times 12/14/05

Opera In The Popular Culture (What It Is) "Even as opera remains the butt of jokes, opera-styled pop -- big, booming voices delivering mellifluous melodies over lush, orchestral arrangements -- keeps popping up at the top of the charts. The field isn't especially large, but it encompasses a fairly wide array of stars, from the male quartet Il Divo to teen soprano Charlotte Church, and from former Andrew Lloyd Webber star (and spouse) Sarah Brightman to occasional Luciano Pavarotti duet partner Andrea Bocelli." The Globe & mail (Canada) 12/14/05

Omaha's New Symphony Space Omaha has a new concert hall. "For a mere $92 million, Nebraska's largest city has a sonically satisfying 2,000-seat concert hall and a 'black box' space that can seat as many as 450." Dallas Morning News 11/19/05

December 13, 2005

A Scottish Music Renaissance? The British Composer Awards have a healthy representation of Scottish composers this year. "In classical music, new works have never had mainstream appeal, but are audiences missing out on a Scottish renaissance?" The Scotsman 12/13/05

Study: Music Sharing Could Be Major Sales Force A new study suggests that online music sharing could become a major force in marketing music. "Nearly one quarter of frequent online music users say that the ability to share music with others is a key factor when selecting an online music service. And a third were interested in technology that helps them discover and recommend music, such as tools that allow Internet users to publish and rank lists of their favorite songs. Perhaps most important for the recording industry, a tenth of those surveyed said they frequently make music purchases based on others' recommendations." Boston Globe 12/13/05

December 12, 2005

A Symphony Based On Three Gorges' Dam "Personally, I was impressed by the passion of those who are working at the construction site. I used to think that passion or enthusiasm only has something to do with the artists and never connected it with the scientists or engineers until I stood at the site.' The song-symphony 'Echo from the Three Gorges' composed by Liu Yuan and performed by Xiamen Philharmonic Orchestra, will make its premiere at the Beijing Concert Hall." People's Daily 12/13/05

UK Leads Europe In Digital Download Habit "A survey conducted by Motorola into musical habits around the continent showed that the UK is more in tune with music downloading than any other European country. Britons spend an average of 75p a month on digital downloads, three times more than Germans, French or Italians. This reflects the widespread adoption of digital music in the UK, as well as a thriving legal internet music scene." The Guardian (UK) 12/12/05

Gardiner's Home-Grown Bach (It's a Commercial Success) John Eliot Gardiner was halfway through recording all of Bach's 198 cantatas when Deutsche Grammophon pulled the plug. He decided to continue and release them himself. And how's it going? "We have practically no overheads because it's run from home. And the musicians have agreed to accept royalties rather than fees. The break-even for each disc is around 5,000 to 6,000 and the first album sold 16,000. So far it's gone better than any of us could have hoped. We've got hundreds of subscribers for the whole series of 52 CDs. Any profit we make goes straight back into the financing of the next batch of records." The Guardian (UK) 12/12/05

The New Home Of Jazz: New Jersey? "The New Jersey Performing Arts Center has announced a residency program with the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. The collaboration with NJPAC will bring music, food, educational workshops and a Thanksgiving 2006 performance by the orchestra." Newsday (AP) 12/10/05

Going For Wows "After modernism, minimalism, postmodernism and postminimalism, a school of music is emerging that might be called wowism," writes Justin Davidson. And who is a leading exponent? Jennifer Higdon. Newsday 12/10/05

Music Critic Porter Takes To The Stage Andrew Porter "is about to direct his own first production of Mozart's opera, doubtless to the surprise of many of his admirers. Porter has not built his international reputation as a director but as a music critic, arguably the most widely respected of his generation. To those from whom he has drawn blood, it might seem the Canadian Opera Company has invited the fox into the chicken coop." Toronto Star 12/11/05

December 11, 2005

Italy - Where Opera Rules? (Maybe) "I'm not saying that a visit to the opera in Italy is a visit to a world of lost content in which opera is woven into the whole fabric of Italian vernacular life. It isn't. I love the true story of Verdi and a visitor driving a horse and carriage along a lane near Busseto one afternoon and encountering a party of farm workers who doff their caps and spontaneously break into a chorus from I Lombardi. But it's not like that now. Modern Italy, like Bertolucci's Novecento, starts with the death of Verdi. We must stop ourselves sentimentalising about it. And yet you can't be in Milan for long on the opening day of the Scala season without realising something peculiar to Italy is occurring." The Guardian (UK) 12/10/05

BBC At Home (Live And In Person) The BBC is organizing musicians to come into people's houses an play music for them. "Musicians from the BBC's five orchestras, as well as others including Northern Sinfonia and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, will be setting up in front rooms. Radio 3 listeners were invited to nominate friends or family members for their own personalised performance, given by anything from a solo performer to a quartet." The Guardian (UK) 12/10/05

Needed: A Turner Prize For Music? "The idea is taking root that contemporary music really ought to come out of its shell and tell the world it exists. 'We need a Turner Prize for Music' is the cry often heard. Which isn't to say that the composing world lacks prizes. Some of them, such as the Grawemeyer Award, awarded by the University of Louisville, have far larger prizes than the Turner. But they're invisible. There's no awards ceremony, no party, no TV cameras. The annual Royal Philharmonic Society Awards is a glitzy affair, but composers are only one category among many." The Telegraph (UK) 12/11/05

Why Does Springer Make A Great Opera? "The operatic potential of The Jerry Springer Show seems blindingly obvious, at least in hindsight. Like characters in an opera, Springer's guests come on stage and immediately reveal their innermost secrets, then pitch into emotional exchanges with their wives, boyfriends or boyfriends' girlfriends. Love, hate, sex, power: All the big operatic themes are there, minus the singing. There's even a built-in chorus: the studio audience, with its volatile sympathies and free-floating hostility." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/11/05

The Anti Anti-Piracy Backlash A backlash is developing against recording companies' anti-piracy measures. "Some at Sony BMG candidly say that copy-protection software, particularly a program which has since been discontinued, but which was embedded in a number of discs, such as the latest Burt Bacharach CD At This Time and Ray Charles's Friendship, has been a massive blunder at the worst possible time of year." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/11/05

Berlin's Rattle Effect "Simon Rattle — or 'Sir Simon,' as the Germans love to call him — is revolutionizing Berlin, both the Philharmonic and the city's musical life. The brass may gleam as brightly as ever, the winds glisten and the strings shine. But after three Rattle seasons, the Berlin Philharmonic is a different band than it has ever been, with a less defined sound, a much broader repertory, a new relationship to its community and a new spring to its step. Not everyone is happy." Los Angeles Times 12/11/05

Audubon: A String Quartet's Ugly Story "The feud pits the cellist, violist and second violinist against the first violinist, whom they ousted from the quartet in early 2000. He sued and won a $611,000 judgment, sending the other three to bankruptcy court. Now, after nearly six years of legal battling, what may be the last chapter is playing out in a Virginia courthouse. A bankruptcy trustee is seeking to liquidate the assets of the violist and the cellist, a married couple." The New York Times 12/11/05

Apres The Geriatric Rockers? Rien? Today's biggest pop music draws, those capable of filling stadiums and charging big ticket prices are getting on in years. Younger artists of their stature aren't coming along, and presenters are worried. "I don't know what the Social Security plan is for those of us in the concert industry who will be waiting for the Stones and McCartney to still be touring in 10 to 15 years. But we need to worry about how to fill those arena, amphitheater and stadium dates with an artist-driven or event-driven tour." San Diego Union-Tribune 12/12/05

Ratings Drop After DC Station Drops Classical Music For Public Radio News Last February, Washington DC public radio station WETA ditched its classical music format and went news. Did the switch backfire? "After two ratings books, two fund drives and nine months of the new programming -- a mix of news and talk shows from National Public Radio, the BBC and other outside sources, much of it oriented to foreign affairs -- WETA's audience is smaller, no more generous than the classical audience was, and no more reflective of the demographics of the Washington area." EWashington Post 12/11/05

December 9, 2005

Publishers Push For Jail Time For Illegal Downloaders The head of the Music Publishers Association wants to escalate its war on illegal downloading. He says the group does "not just want to shut websites and impose fines, saying if authorities can 'throw in some jail time I think we'll be a little more effective'." BBC 12/09/05

La Scala's Big Opening Success After much conjecture about it, La Scala's opening night went off as a success, and English conductor Daniel Harding proved himself. Thursday's headline in the Italian daily La Repubblica read, "Harding, the Boy Maestro, Opens the Era for the New Scala." And in Corriere della Sera, the headline was, "Harding Conquers La Scala." The New York Times 12/09/05

December 8, 2005

Blame For French Riots? How About The Rappers? "For more than a decade, French rap has been the voice of the banlieues, the poor suburbs, and it has long been full of warnings of violence to come in those areas. Last week, 200 politicians backed a petition by MP François Grosdidier calling for legal action against several hip hop musicians for their aggressive lyrics." The Telegraph (UK) 12/09/05

Rutter: Carols Rock John Rutter has written many a Christmas carol and he knows they're not "serious" music. But. "The carol repertoire is the richest and most varied collection of folk art: a wonderful historical ragbag of doggerel, some inspired poetry, much memorable melody and a few of those irritating ditties that lodge unwanted in the brain." The Guardian (UK) 12/08/05

Grammy Nominee List Released The Grammy nominees have been announced, and conductor Mariss Jansons, pianist Martha Argerich, and the Emerson String Quartet lead the pack of nominees in the classical categories. In the contemporary music category, composer Osvaldo Golijov's 11-song cycle, "Ayre," competes with works by William Bolcom, Ned Rorem, Peter Boyer, and Carlos Franzetti. Grammy.com 12/08/05

Harding's La Scala Debut "A Triumph" Daniel Harding had a lot on his shoulders last night at La Scala, as seemingly the entire opera world waited to see whether the boyish conductor and his vision of Mozart's Idomeneo could make Milan forget all about Riccardo Muti and his dramatic exit last spring. Apparently, he did. "After two curtain calls, Harding joined the cast on stage for 12-minute ovation. Members of the audience praised him for his 'energy and verve'. The president of Italy, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, who was present, said: 'I saw it with new eyes'." However, some Muti loyalists remain quite upset with what they see as La Scala's move away from serious, cutting-edge opera, and with the treatment accorded Muti, whom La Scala managers painted as a dictator. The Guardian (UK) 12/08/05

Orchestra Teams Up With Evangelical Mega-Church The Houston Symphony has an unusual new partner for its holiday concerts: Lakewood Church, arguably the world's most famous mega-church, seating 16,000, its services seen across the U.S. on television each week. "To Lakewood, the symphony offers cachet and a high-quality orchestra. To the symphony, Lakewood offers a large untapped audience and an extraordinary marketing machine... The church and the symphony readily admit that their usual audiences don't overlap much, [but] Lakewood has far more to offer the symphony than just an audience. Symphony management can also learn something from Lakewood about branding... And it's possible that further collaboration could provide a huge new outlet for the symphony's work. The two organizations are eyeing a long-term relationship." Houston Chronicle 12/08/05

December 7, 2005

Glimmerglass Makes Some Pragmatic Moves Bowing to the bottom line, Glimmerglass Opera has asked the creators of a new work coming next summer to take "whore" out of the title. The company says it is also scrapping a production of the 17th-century work "Giasone," by Francesco Cavalli, in favor of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance." The New York Times 12/08/05

La Scala's Biggest Night? Thirty-year-old conductor Daniel Harding is fronting this year's opening night at La Scala. "Silvio Berlusconi's tottering government is threatening to cut subsidies by 30 percent in a rage of scorched-earth legislation ahead of next year's election. This could be La Scala's last glamour night for a while and the designer-suit claques won't let it pass without ructions. No pressure, but our boy - who posed beneath gleaming chandeliers in a Manchester United shirt for Gazzetto della Sport – will need to play a blinder if he is to avoid backlash from off-pitch dramas." La Scena Musicale 12/07/05

ENO Staff Votes To Strike Staff at the English National Opera have voted unanimously to go on strike. "Union demands for a 5% pay increase and raised pension contributions were met with a pay offer by ENO of 2.77%. Staff at the opera company, based in central London, are unhappy about perceived low pay and unsatisfactory working conditions." BBC 12/07/05

New Atlanta Hall Waiting On Public Funding The Atlanta Symphony is continuing to rack up private contributions towards its planned new concert hall in the city's downtown district. But the space-age hall, designed by Santiago Calatrava, still faces an uphill battle, because the ASO's request for $100 million in city and state funding has yet to result in any action. Both Atlanta's mayor and Georgia's governor have paid lip service to the project, but the governor won't reveal whether he is including any funding for the project in his 2006 budget proposal, and the mayor says that the city doesn't have "even a fraction" of the $50 million the orchestra wants. Atlanta Journal-Constitution 12/07/05

Musicians Wanted - Democracy Promised The Pittsburgh Symphony is having a busy audition season, and the trend of open positions is expected to continue in the coming year, thanks to a buyout offered to 15 senior musicians in the orchestra. Additionally, the PSO recently tweaked its hiring process when it decided against hiring a single conductor as music director. Whereas, in most major American orchestras, the music director has absolute power to hire whom he wishes (while a committee of musicians serves in an advisory capacity,) the rule at the PSO is now an ultra-democratic system of one man/one vote. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 12/07/05

Nashville Hall On Track The Nashville Symphony has raised all but $6 million of the private funding it needs to fund construction of its $120 million new concert hall, and the Kresge Foundation is promising $1.5 million more if the orchestra finishes the fundraising process by next September. Meanwhile, construction of the new hall is in full swing, and the new pipe organ (to be installed one year after the hall opens) is being built in San Francisco. Nashville City Paper 12/07/05

Assessing SF Opera: The Rosenberg Years Pamela Rosenberg, who will step down as general director of the San Francisco Opera this month to take a job with the Berlin Philharmonic, was as prominent a figure as an opera company can have at its head. A true music lover, Rosenberg nonetheless found herself battling financial troubles throughout her 5-year tenure in San Francisco. "Beset by a post-Sept.11 free fall in ticket revenues and contributed income, the sobering contraction of a local economy reeling from the dot-com collapse and a dangerously thin endowment fund, Rosenberg was forced to mandate one of the largest cutbacks in the company's history... Embattled by financial woes and trying labor negotiations, Rosenberg was routinely blamed for problems that were largely beyond her control." San Francisco Chronicle 12/07/05

Christmas Gifts For The Gullible Audiophile Audiophiles are famous for their devotion to pure, undoctored sound, and for being willing to spend big money to hear it. But that devotion doesn't mean that every overpriced piece of stereo equipment is worth its salt, and clearly, some companies are deliberately practicing upon the credulous simplicity of their audiophilic customers. How about $6,820 for a volume control? Or $2,100 for a power cable? $30,000 for speaker wire? Or for a real bargain, how about $200 for a CD mat that promises to "create a very specific energy spectra that mechanically dithers the laser"? ILikeJam

December 6, 2005

Norway's Golden Age Of Jazz "As jazz heads into its second century as an international language, it's in Oslo that its conversation is now at its most animated and productive. Thirty years ago, when the saxophonist Jan Garbarek and the guitarist Terje Rypdal became the first Norwegian jazz musicians to make an international impact, no one could have predicted that their country, with its population of 4.5 million, would now be enjoying such pre-eminence." The Guardian (UK) 12/07/05

A La Scala First On Opening Night "No first night at La Scala is ever without its dramas, demonstrations and exaggerations, even now, when Italian opera is in historic decline. This year is likely to be no exception, since the first night of the 2005-6 season, a performance of Mozart's Idomeneo, is thought to be the first time an Englishman has had the honour of conducting on this grandest night of the Milanese year." The Guardian (UK) 12/07/05

San Francisco Symphony $2 Million In The Red The San Francisco Symphony posts a $2.25 million for its 2004-05 fiscal year on an operating budget of $56.1 million. The orchestra had projected a $2.4 million shortfall. San Francisco Chronicle 12/06/05

Sophie's Choice To Debut In DC "Washington National Opera will present the North American premiere of Nicholas Maw's "Sophie's Choice," based on the best-selling novel by William Styron, as part of the company's 2006-07 season." Washington Post 12/06/05

The Opera, Backstage "The sheer complexity of running a major opera house puts opera companies on the cutting edge of operations, with every step of the process scrutinized to maximize time and money, both precious elements in eternally short supply. Logistics, originally a military concept, is the science (and art) of getting the right people and equipment in the right place at exactly the right time. Since opera is a real-time performance, that means getting musicians into the pit, the audience seated, the lights down, the sets ready and the singers on and offstage at show time." International Herald Tribune 12/04/05

Plugging Holes At The ENO Why did the English National Opera replace its top leadership last week sithout advertising the jobs? Some are critical, but the company's chairman defends the decisions. "He wrote that as far as the appointment last week of former executive director Loretta Tomasi as chief executive officer and former programming director John Berry as artistic director was concerned, the board 'could either enter into an extended period of uncertainty and speculation surrounding these jobs, or confirm in post two individuals with proven artistic and managerial records who were already carrying out many of these responsibilities with full board confidence. It concluded that the latter course was in the best interests of the company'." The Guardian (UK) 12/06/05

December 5, 2005

What's The Right Price For Digital Music? "Piracy is clearly here to stay, but as iTunes has shown, the record companies' best strategy is to provide an easy-to-use service that offers music downloads at a fair price. But what price is "fair"? Apple says it is 99 cents a song. Of this, Apple gets a sliver—4 cents—while the music publishers snag 8 cents and the record companies pocket most of the rest. Even though record companies earn more per track from downloads than CD sales, industry execs have been pushing for more." Slate 12/05/05

Second Thoughts About Denver's New Opera House Denver's Ellie Caulkins Opera House opened to lots of praise this fall. "But it didn't take long for the positive to turn negative. Suddenly, according to certain music critics and members of the public, this, that or something else is wrong with the same building that was so effusively extolled just weeks earlier. Everything from the angle of the seats to the shortage of drinking fountains to even the positioning of the Dale Chihuly chandelier came under attack." Denver Post 12/04/05

Bernheimer: A Tragedy That Wants (Cautiously) To Be A Masterpiece Martin Bernheimer writes that Tobias Picker's "American Tragedy" gets a good production at the Met. But "Picker's score is undeniably crafty, also cautious and well-mannered to a fault. It deals knowingly in second-hand operatic devices, cranking out good mood music and gutsy cliches at every turn. There are no surprises here, no shocks, and very few dissonances. The first-nighters seemed grateful. An American Tragedy may be the perfect modern opera for people who hate modern opera." Financial Times 12/05/05

December 4, 2005

English National Opera's Doldrums "Those looking for proof of Robert Conquest's maxim that any major institution always seems to be run by secret agents employed by its enemies need only examine ENO's recent history. What next for the house? Well, come back after your interval G and T for more in this unmistakable vein of grand guignol. All this is very well and good, but it's obviously impacting on the artistic achievements of the house. For a long time now, it's been incredibly patchy." The Guardian (UK) 12/05/05

Davidson: American Tragedy Lives Up To Name Justin Davidson writes that Metropolitan Opera's "An American Tragedy" is a disappointment for all the effort spent on it. "Eight years after the Metropolitan Opera commissioned a new work from Tobias Picker – and five since the company's last world premiere - comes an opera that should have been half as long and twice as taut." Newsday 12/04/05

Scottish Opera To Go Pop? The embattled Scottish Opera will be branching out, becoming more adventurous, says its chairman. "I would like to see Scottish Opera doing West Side Story. It is a great piece, one of Bernstein's best and a dead ringer for Glasgow. This is because the Puerto Ricans and New Yorkers in the 1950s mirror the razor gangs in Glasgow of the same period. I am very keen on playing in a stadium. I am very keen on that. I saw Teresa Berganza singing Carmen in the Stade Bercy in Paris in front of about 18,000 people and it was electrifying." The Scotsman 12/04/05

Was Magazine Music Poll Fixed? Did the popular music magazine NME manipulate the results of its top 50 albums poll? "The allegations, first published by the blog Londonist.com on Wednesday, suggested that an early version of the poll, which is compiled each year by the magazine's editors and writers, had been radically overhauled prior to publication. It was alleged that artists including Beck and Patrick Wolf had disappeared from the top 50 entirely, while others, among them high-profile names such as Babyshambles, Oasis and Kate Bush, had seen their ratings significantly boosted." the Guardian (UK) 12/03/05

Jazz In Crisis? Maybe Not... "Perhaps it is an exaggeration to say that jazz is in crisis. It tootles along perfectly respectably, but inevitably lacks the resonance of its pioneering days. The same thing has been happening, for a couple of decades, to pop music too. The early 21st century has other wonders, so we should not worry unduly. An appreciation society is as good a way of saying it as any: this music is a magnificent part of our cultural history. Let us not be ashamed of looking back, and revelling in it." Financial Times (UK) 12/02/05

Why Naxos Rules The World "Klaus Heymann runs a lean global empire that in some countries has gobbled up half the retail market for classical CDs in numbers of discs sold. The catalogue for his Naxos label now lists about 3,000 recordings, many of unusual repertoire, all still available at prices well below those charged by classical labels at EMI, Sony/BMG and Universal. Naxos also seems to have outrun its rivals on the Internet. Last month, Naxos's entire recorded output of 75,000 tracks went on sale on eMusic, a U.S. subscription service that claims to shift 2.4 million downloads per month." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/03/05

Minnesota Orchestra Sees Red The Minnesota Orchestra posts a $1.19 million deficit. "In most respects, the report Friday was upbeat, even turning a bit zany at one point when music director Osmo Vänskä and orchestra president Tony Woodcock played "If I Were a Rich Man" on clarinet and piano. Expenses were cut by $2 million during 2004-05, which brought on a rare occurrence in the orchestra world: a budget actually being less than it was the year before, $27 million, down from $28.6 million. A key cost-cutting measure came when the musicians agreed to a one-year wage freeze." The Star-Tribune (Mpls) 12/03/05

Deep Cover - The Singers Who Save "Cover singers are opera's equivalent of the Broadway understudy, and like replacement artists in most forms of live performance, they are an essential but unseen part of the process. Without them, an incapacitated star can send a production scrambling. Even worse, they can bring it to a grinding halt." The New York Times 12/04/05

December 2, 2005

Solving Classical Music With Technology? "A growing number of classical music purveyors are looking to the new digital technology for solutions to some of their most vexing problems. Just as it makes sense for recording companies with declining CD sales to jump aboard the download bandwagon, so too does it make sense for classical groups seeking new audiences to break ground in cyberspace." Chicago Tribune 12/02/05

December 1, 2005

At The Met: Tragedy In The Making Tobias Picker's "An American Tragedy" opens this week at the Metropolitan Opera. The story "struck Mr. Picker as the natural choice for his Met debut: an opera by an American composer, based on a great American novel. More to the point, it was a compelling operatic story of love and murder, with a social undercurrent about the dark side of the pursuit of happiness and wealth - the American dream - that continues to resonate." The New York Times 12/02/05

The ENO's Continuing Mess Sean Doran's quick departure from English National Opera this week is only one indication of the company's deep problems. "So now what we are left with is more of the same mediocrity, with everyone keeping their backs to the wall and nobody in the mood for tackling the radical underlying problems that ENO faces. What, for example, was the point of spending over £40 million on restoring the Coliseum if the theatre is no more productive or efficient than it was? How can ENO reach out to new audiences and restore the buzz it had in the 1980s?" The Telegraph (UK) 12/02/05

The Orchestra That Has To Limit Its Sound (It's The Law) "Under a new interpretation of WorkCover rules, players in the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra can't be exposed to sound levels higher than 85 decibels averaged over a day. This will have implications for orchestral music generally, but its immediate impact is being felt on, of all things, the Australian Ballet's Sleeping Beauty. To avoid any one musician being exposed to excessive sound, the orchestra is working with relay teams of extra musicians: four separate horn sections, four of clarinets, four of flutes, and so on. The orchestra that begins a particular performance isn't necessarily the same one that finishes it." The Australian 12/02/05

Good News/Bad News at Milwaukee Sym The Milwaukee Symphony is still in the red to the tune of $2.61 million for the 2004-05 season, but taken in a larger context, the deficit may actually be good news for the ensemble. The shortfall is actually less than the MSO's board and management budgeted for the year, and easily met the goal for the first year of the organization's three-year recapitalization plan. Under that plan, the budget would be back in the black by the end of the 2006-07 season. The MSO has been hurting financially for quite some time, and a new executive director made severe cuts in the organization this past season to get the budget under control. The orchestra's musicians also accepted a temporary pay cut. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 12/01/05

Chicago Music School May Drop Music The Choir Academy of Chicago, a charter school serving underprivileged minority youth and operating in a model based on the Boys Choir of Harlem Academy, is "perilously close to dissolving its music-based curriculum, if not the whole institution." The school, which opened in 2001, has had financial problems from the beginning, and relations with the Chicago Childrens' Choir, which oversees the school, have been strained in recent years. The board collapsed in 2004, and as the school desperately tries to stay open, those in charge now appear willing to scrap the music that has always been at the core of its educational approach. Chicago Tribune 12/01/05

Rediscovered Beethoven Manuscript Sells for Nearly $2m "A unique manuscript by Ludwig van Beethoven that was lost for more than a century was sold at auction on Thursday for £1.13 million ($1.95 million) to an anonymous buyer. The final price was at the low end of the pre-sale estimates of up to £1.5 million... Discovered in July at the bottom of a dusty filing cabinet at a religious school in Philadelphia, the manuscript sold Thursday is a work in progress for the Grosse Fuge in B flat major -- one of Beethoven's most revolutionary works... Sotheby's said it was the most important Beethoven manuscript to have come to market in living memory and would prompt a complete reassessment of the German composer's works." BBC 12/01/05

Dead Wrong? Faced with virulent opposition from its fans, the Grateful Dead is reconsidering its decision to disallow free downloading of its concerts... The New York Times 12/01/05

  • Previously: 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

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