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January 31, 2006

Plymouth Officials Condemn Springer City elders in Plymouth, England have joined forces to condemn a production of Jerry Springer, The Opera. "The show has been at the centre of a storm of protest since the BBC broadcast a televised version in January last year. The corporation received a record 63,000 complaints. In light of the controversy, the show's national tour was postponed. Only last week, Springer's producers blamed continuing protests by Christian groups, and by the British National Party, for poor ticket sales in the run-up to the now-revived tour." The Guardian (UK) 01/31/06

Showing Opera Video Sparks Parent Demands To Fire Colorado Teacher A teacher in Colorado shows part of a video of Gounod's Faust from a 33-year-old series titled "Who's Afraid of Opera?" to about 260 first-, second- and third-graders. That set off a firestorm of controversy that has led to an investigation of the incident by school officials and a demand by some parents that the teacher be fired. Denver Post 01/29/06

Louisville Symphony, Musicians Head To Arbitration The Louisville Symphony and its musicians have decided to go to mediation over their contract . But management warns that "forestalling bankruptcy would involve 'a complete rethinking of our relationship with the musicians, as well as the contract and the operating model for the orchestra'."
Louisville Courier-Journal 01/31/06

Bringing Opera To The Marines (Thanks To The NEA) "Opera is the latest joint venture between the NEA and the Department of Defense. The endowment first brought Shakespeare to 18 military bases in 2004. Last year, famous authors helped troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan write their stories. Bringing opera to 39 military bases around the country was even more adventurous, but NEA staff members have been pleased by the response. People had to be turned away from performances at Fort Carson, Colo., and Picatinny Arsenal in Wharton, N.J." The Plain Dealer (AP) 01/31/06

Chief Exec Out At Fort Worth Orchestra Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra president Katherine Akos has left the orchestra a year before her contract was to expire. Why? "The orchestra matured and so many great things happened at a speed that outpaced the internal infrastructure in the organization. They're having some growing pains, and it's unfortunate when people get caught up in it." Dallas Morning News 01/31/06

An Orchestra Comes Back To Life In Edmonton Four years ago, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra was "desperately in need of intensive care, after a five-week strike and a series of administrative setbacks put the orchestra (whose current budget is around $7-million) nearly $900,000 in the hole in one season. It had no music director and no great prospects for finding one. The ESO itself is having a pretty good time these days. It has an energetic new leader, ticket sales are hitting record levels, and a string of balanced budgets has tamed a once-fearsome accumulated deficit." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/31/06

January 30, 2006

SF Symphony, Musicians Agree On Contract The San Francisco Symphony and its musicians have reached an agreement on a new contract. "The 103 musicians have been working without a contract since Nov. 26. Last week the musicians threatened to call off the China tour -- the orchestra's first ever to the mainland -- but by week's end there had been enough progress that they agreed to let the tour go forward as planned." San Francisco Chronicle 01/30/06

Famed Boys Choir To Get The Boot? This week, the renowned Boys Choir of Harlem might lose its home. "After occupying space in a public school on Madison Avenue and 127th Street rent-free for the last 13 years, the nonprofit is facing eviction Tuesday unless its leaders and city officials come up with a last-minute resolution. The situation has angered and alarmed parents who say their children have thrived in the program, and has deeply upset the young choralists, who have taken to the streets with signs protesting the looming displacement." Los Angeles Times 01/30/06

Can Orchestras Survive The 21st Century? UK orchestras are debating their own survival. "We are at the tail end of a very, very long cycle of decline. This is really the critical point of whether they can engage with new technologies and make new technologies work for the art that they present - or whether they go out of business." BBC 01/28/06

Why Iran Bans Beethoven Western music was once welcomed in the Arab world. No longer. "The fact that Beethoven's Ninth is singled out for condemnation points to the reason why Western music is so mistrusted. It speaks of freedom, and the brotherhood of all men regardless of race or creed. This can't be music to the ears of Iran's President Ahmadinejad, who would like to see Israel wiped off the face of the map." The Telegraph (UK) 01/29/06

January 29, 2006

UK's Best Concert Hall - In Glasgow? Glasgow's City Halls have been under renovation for four years. "The main concert hall is now a comfortable auditorium with an acoustic even better than before. Indeed, it is easily among the finest in the UK. The main beneficiary is the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, which has moved into the building and will use the hall as its base." The Observer (UK) 01/29/06

Heavenly Savior Wanted: Conducting Skills A Plus "Finding the right conductor is one of the hardest yet most critical things an orchestra can do. As someone once observed, God himself would not be too impressive a candidate... The problem is analogous to love affairs, when initial attraction and subsequent passion are followed by a discovery of long-term incompatibility. As one veteran Toronto Symphony player has observed, 'we go out on a date with these guys once or twice and are expected to get married to them.'" Moreover, the list of duties assumed by a conductor once the title of 'music director' is bestowed has lengthened considerably in recent decades, meaning that orchestras are no longer looking merely for an outstanding musician. "More than catalysts, they almost need to be Messiahs." Toronto Star 01/28/06

San Fran Sym Contract Talks Won't Stop Tour The San Francisco Symphony and its musicians are deep in negotiations for a new contract, and tensions have recently exploded into press and public. But an agreement struck this weekend insures that next month's SFS tour of China will go ahead as scheduled, regardless of the status of the larger negotiations. San Francisco Chronicle 01/28/06

Rattle's Phil Ever since Sir Simon Rattle took up the reins of the Berlin Philharmonic, the critical press has been rife with discussion of his impact on the ensemble that many call the world's greatest orchestra. Rattle and his band are in New York this month, and David Patrick Stearns says there is no doubt that this is a changed orchestra. "Berlin Philharmonic concerts under [longtime chief conductor Claudio] Abbado were the ultimate deluxe experience. The orchestra's gold-plated sound seemed like such an end in itself that even minor fissures in the glistening facade - such as missed notes - felt like a betrayal. Now, the Berlin Philharmonic feels like an intense meeting of many well-defined voices, all of them luminescent and intensely colored." Philadelphia Inquirer 01/28/06

Digging Into An Ugly Orchestral Underbelly Orchestra musicians can seem like the ultimate team players, sitting on stage in their matching tuxedos, moving in harmony in the service of the music. But in reality, musicians have a long history of ugly problems - alcoholism, drug abuse, severe workplace bullying, hearing loss, performance anxiety and more. "The problems are so serious that this weekend the Association of British Orchestras launches the Healthy Orchestra Charter, creating a code of practice to help tackle or prevent the afflictions." The Guardian (UK) 01/28/06

Bringing Mozart Home Thousands gathered on Friday in Salzburg, Austria, for the culmination of the worldwide celebrations of the 250th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The Vienna Philharmonic performed, with Riccardo Muti on the podium and mezzo Cecilia Bartoli standing in for the hastily dismissed Renee Fleming. "There is much around Salzburg at the moment that smacks of unabashed exploitation of a composer whose relationship with it was, to put it mildly, ambivalent. But these concerts seemed to be genuine efforts to do right by the essence of Mozart." The New York Times 01/28/06

January 27, 2006

Alfred Brendel At 75 "The quality of Brendel's alertness — his sensual intellectuality or his intellectual sensuality, whatever it is — is breathtaking; and it is refined, solidified, by technique and scholarship and reflection, so that he never falls back solely upon the force of his own subjectivity. Like all musicians, he is an interpreter, but he is not another jolly manufacturer of "interpretations." It is the music itself that Brendel desires to disclose. He believes that at the piano he can narrow the distance from the real. Brendel's pianism is neither personal nor impersonal. That is its uncanny achievement." The New York Times 01/27/06

British Court Convicts Two On Illegal Filesharing Two men have convicted of illegal music filesharing in the UK. They are the first to be charged in Britain. "High Court judges ordered two men to pay the British Phonographic Industry between £1,500 and £5,000 for making thousands of songs available online." BBC 01/27/06

January 26, 2006

Springer Tickets Suffer Because Of Protests Producers of the "Jerry Springer, the Opera" tour say ticket sales are down because of protests by a Christian group. "Despite having a show which has won all the best musical awards and critical praise, I would say that it looks to me like (lobby group) Christian Voice are winning the audience battle." Backstage 01/26/06

Music's Great Growth Industry - Ringtones Ringtones are turning into a big money-maker for the recording industry. "In 2005, tones pulled in $600 million, 20% ahead of estimates and more than double the 2004 take. The year's leader, 50 Cent's Candy Shop, sold 1.9 million downloads, more than the top-selling digital song: Gwen Stefani's Hollaback Girl, with 1.2 million. As options build and the cellphone is positioned as a digital command post, growth seems inevitable." USAToday 01/26/06

Mozart As You Want To See Him "Accepting Mozart, and putting him and his aesthetic at the centre of the classical canon, also seems to require some distortion of what and who he was. People have been poring over his scores and letters ever since he died, and what they've written about the character revelations they find there often tells more about the authors than about Mozart. Like early-modern Europeans in the New World, they tend to see what they expect to see." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/26/06

January 25, 2006

The Renee Fleming Mozart Mystery Why was Renee Fleming suddenly replaced for Mozart celebrations in Austria this week? The circumstances raise questions. "Why was the Mozarteum so inflexible, refusing either to substitute another aria for the one scheduled or to hire someone else for the aria but let Ms. Fleming perform the rest of the program?" The New York Times 01/26/06

The Mozart Industry "The multinational music industry is gushing forth Mozart, calculating that one in four classical CDs has his name on it and the guy has brand recognition. Classic FM has produced a Mozart disc for babies. What we are witnessing is the rebirth of Mozart as McDonalds: everywhere you look, and always the same the world over. This coming weekend will serve up triple Mozart-deckers and Mozart-lite for weight watchers. I’m loving it...." La Scena Musicale 01/25/06

Wal-Mart Goes Online For Music Wal-Mart has launched its own online music service. Dubbed "Wal-Mart Soundcheck", the service features studio performances and interviews with new and established bands and musicians. Yahoo! (AP) 01/25/06

The Latest In A New Musical Instrument "The tenori-on, a prototype from Yamaha's product design laboratory, produces computer music through a grid of 256 illuminating buttons on a brushed-aluminum tablet. By pressing buttons along rows and columns, users can program melodies like plotting notes on a scale. When the tunes are looped and layered, the machine creates a symphony of synthesis, musical blips and bleeps matched with light patterns that bounce and ripple across the device." The New York Times 01/25/06

Louisville Orchestra Contemplates Bankruptcy The orchestra may not finish out its season. "The orchestra projects a $500,000 deficit for this fiscal year, no longer has any lines of credit and is not paying many of its bills. The orchestra's board planned a $3.5 million fund drive this year, but said that depended on reaching a contract deal by Dec. 31 with the 71 full-time players." The Courier-Journal (Louisville) 01/24/06

Cleveland In Miami - A Brighter Future? The Cleveland Orchestra has been struggling with its budget. Could extended residencies in Miami's new performing arts center help to balance the books? "The orchestra sees the residency, which will include subscription concerts, educational programs and collaborations with Miami musical institutions, as a critical means of enhancing not only its reputation but also its bottom line." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 01/25/06

January 24, 2006

Columbus Symphony Names New Conductor The Columbus Symphony Orchestra wraps up a three-year search by naming Junichi Hirokami as its new music director... Akron Beacon-Journal 01/24/06

Contract Dispute At San Francisco Symphony The San Francisco Symphony is locked in contract negotiations with its musicians. "At issue is the combination of base salary and extra payments that musicians earn after a certain period with the orchestra. Under the most recent contract terms, a player with at least 25 years with the orchestra earns a minimum of $110,760 annually. According to the musicians, the latest management offer would bump that to $114,140 in the first year, which would rank the Symphony last among the nation's top seven orchestras; they're asking for $117,104, which would put them squarely in the middle." San Francisco Chronicle 01/24/06

January 23, 2006

The Mozart Question "Who was this guy, and how did he do what he did? How is it possible that a mere human being could have created music of such unearthly beauty and emotional profundity, and apparently (though this point may be overstated) done it with such effortless facility? Mozart's life helps a little, but not much." San Francisco Chronicle 01/23/06

Lincoln Center Jazz Venue Gets Mixed Review It's been a year since Lincoln Center's new jazz venue opened. "Fans of the three new stages applaud the acoustics and aesthetics and say the new building - with its can't-miss-it marquee and snazzy marketing - has raised the profile of jazz as an art form nationwide. But the very qualities that make some people consider the new Jazz at Lincoln Center a raging success are those that others say amount to a disappointment." The New York Times 01/24/06

The Mozart Connection (Maybe) "Does Mozart still speak to us? The fact that we are celebrating his 250th birthday this month suggests so, and for some fraction of the elite culture, he surely does. Judging by concert halls, it's an old and shrinking fraction, but there are still a fair number of teenagers learning the "Turkish Rondo," so who knows?" The Weekly Standard 01/30/06

New Protests Against Springer Tour Jerry Springer, The Opera is about to begin a UK national tour, but theatres are bracing for protests. "Pressure group Christian Voice, which orchestrated 55,000 complaints when the BBC screened the musical a year ago, is planning a string of demonstrations." BBC 01/23/06

Grassroots Opera Seattle is seeing the birth of a new movement of new opera outside traditional channels. "These productions bracket an extraordinary and sudden flowering—a dozen or so examples in as many months— of what might be called 'homemade opera.' Singers and composers are taking the impresario reins, presenting small-scale productions both of new operas and of neglected works by established names, making their own opportunities to perform and be heard outside a mainstream operatic culture in which young singers face stiff competition and composers are all but ignored." Seattle Weekly 01/18/06

Classical Music - The Next Innovation Composer Osvaldo Golijov is "being hailed as classical music's Messiah," writes Andrew Clark. "The human fire of creativity today is not necessarily where people think it is. I don't think it lies in the classical conservatoire system. Maybe Björk will produce the next masterpiece rather than someone from classical tradition. It's a question of relevance to the world." Financial Times 01/23/06

Louisville Orchestra Musicians To Play Opera, Ballet Musicians of the Louisville Orchestra say they'll continue to play for the city's opera and ballet companies through the rest of this season even if the orchestra itself goes out of business. The musicians are locked in a contract dispute with management. Louisville Courier-Journal 01/23/06

January 22, 2006

Global Recorded Music Sales Down Global music retail revenues fell about 2 percent last year. In 2004 they remained flat at $33.6 billion, punctuating a four-year slide. The drop in overall sales came "despite a threefold increase in digital music revenue to $1.1 billion from $380 million, while illegal file-sharing volumes changed little. The new downturn, based on data from three-quarters of the global market, underlined major challenges facing record companies..." Yahoo! (AP) 01/22/06

Successful Partnership in San Diego When San Diego Opera decided to replace its in-house orchestra with the musicians of the San Diego Symphony last year, some in the city's arts scene were dubious. But one year into the partnership, the symphony and opera both pronounce themselves well pleased with the results. San Diego Union-Tribune 01/22/06

Louisville Orchestra Threatens Musicians With Shutdown The management of the cash-strapped Louisville Orchestra pulled out of contract negotiations with its musicians last week and went public with what it says is the musicians' "complete disregard for the challenges facing the orchestra." The orchestra's executive director says that the ensemble may shut down before the end of the current season and reorganize in bankruptcy. The musicians say they were "stunned" by the announcement. Louisville Courier-Journal 01/21/06

  • Dug In Over Health Insurance The stalled contract talks between the Louisville musicians and management can be summed up in two words: health care. "The orchestra now pays 99 percent of individual players' health-care premiums. In its first offer, management sought a $50,000 savings in overall health-care expenses through a variety of options. The musicians' Dec. 23 counterproposal included phased-in coverage for dependents -- calling for the orchestra to pay 100 percent of dependent/family premiums in the 2008-09 season. The orchestra deemed that absurd." Louisville Courier-Journal 01/21/06

Fort Worth CEO Resigns Under Pressure The president and CEO of the Fort Worth (Texas) Symphony Orchestra has been forced to resign after less than two years at the helm. Katherine Akos, who came into the job with an impressive resume including stints as a professional violinist and as a top fundraiser for the San Francisco Conservatory, reportedly had a hard time replicating her success in Texas, and her relationship with FWSO music director Miguel Harth-Bedoya was described as "frosty." Fort Worth Star-Telegram 01/21/06

Midori's Teachers Go On Strike "Music teachers who carry out the work of the foundation established by the violinist Midori went on strike on Thursday, denouncing what they said were a lack of raises, unfair pay and attempts to limit pensions." Teachers in the program are paid $40 an hour, but say they are given only a few hours of work per week and are asked to travel for hours between classes. "The foundation countered that the teachers were making unreasonable demands on an organization created to do good." The New York Times 01/21/06

January 20, 2006

St. Lawrence Get A New Violinist The St. Lawrence String Quartet has a new violinist. It's University of Toronto faculty-member Scott St. John. "When Barry (Shiffman)informed us he was leaving, we put together a short list of 'dream' candidates, Scott was the first name on that list, and when we sat down to play with him, we all realized he really is the perfect fit for the SLSQ." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/20/06

January 19, 2006

Glicker - A Short Tumultuous Time In Baltimore James Glicker's tenure running the Baltimore Symphony lasted only 18 months, and it was filled with controversy. "Glicker said he had managed to increase revenues this season and to lower ticket prices, as well as raising average capacity at concerts to 70 percent from 60. The orchestra said subscriptions increased for the first time in 15 years. 'I'm kind of a turnaround guy. That's what I've been doing" since the late 1990's'." The New York Times 01/19/06

Baltimore Symphony Chief Quits The controversial president of the Baltimore Symphony has resigned. James Glicker had been on the job only 18 months, and had drawn the ire of the BSO's musicians over the appointment of Marin Alsop as music director designate. The orchestra has also been struggling with accumulating debt and disappointing subscription sales, and Glicker's appointment as president roiled the organization from the start. Washington Post 01/19/06

Charleston Musicians: Don't Rush Us Musicians in South Carolina's Charleston Symphony have walked away from the bargaining table after being given an ultimatum by the orchestra's management that planning would not begin for next season unless a contract settlement was reached by February 1. The musicians' contract doesn't actually expire until the end of June, and the musicians claim that the ultimatum amounts to a "board strike." Charleston Post & Courier (SC) 01/18/06

  • Well, Someone's Lying The Charleston Symphony's board president is denying that musicians were ever given a February 1 deadline to sign a new deal. The musicians maintain that the ultimatum was real, and point out that they accepted an 18% pay cut in 2003 to help the organization right its financial ship. Charleston Post & Courier (SC) 01/19/06

January 18, 2006

Long-Lost Music Released To The Web Universal Music is releasing 100,000 music tracks digitally. They haven't been available for years. "Records are normally deleted once they cease to sell in sufficient numbers to justify shelf space in stores. It is also not economical for firms to produce low-selling records. No such constraints exist on the net, and both record companies and Hollywood have recognised the advantages of digital content's "long tail" - they can market a huge back catalogue even if they sell only in small quantities." The Guardian (UK) 01/19/06

Consolidating At Cooperstown The upstate New York-based Glimmerglass Opera will lose its artistic director this year when Paul Kellogg steps down from the position. Rather than replace him, the company has announced that general director Michael MacLeod will assume the duties of artistic director as well. "While MacLeod has no experience with an opera company, Glimmerglass emphasized in a press release that he had worked with such leading singers as Barbara Bonney, Ian Bostridge, Rodney Gilfrey, and Bryn Terfel while leading the City of London Festival" PlaybillArts 01/18/06

Embezzlement Alleged At Charlotte Opera Company Opera Carolina says that its former finance director embezzled nearly $50,000 from the company over the course of the 2004-05 season. Mary Lopes, who resigned from her position with the company last fall, is also accused of using a company credit card for personal expenses. "After an interim finance director took over last fall... the company discovered in mid-December that 'the financial records were in disarray.'" Charlotte Observer 01/18/06

January 17, 2006

Reconciling Mozart "Our feeling of disconnection from Mozart the man—what Copland speaks of as our inability to 'seize' him—extends to the works themselves. Except for the greater sophistication that came with age, there is no readily apparent relationship between the expressive qualities of Mozart’s music and the emotional landmarks of his life." Commentary 01/06

Denver's New Opera House Gets Acoustic Tweaks Denver's new Ellie Caulkins Opera House opened last fall. But "because of the tight construction schedule for the Caulkins Opera House and the need to have it ready in time for the 2005 fall season, the paint was barely dry when the hall opened. The first significant tests of its acoustics came during public performances." They've so far proven disappointing, so "tweaks" are being made. Denver Post 01/17/06

Philadelphia Orchestra Adds Colorado To Its Annual Summer Schedule The Philadelphia Orchestra is adding Vail, Colorado to its list of annual summer residencies. "The orchestra has struck a deal to become a resident orchestra at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival starting in 2007. The deal with the Vail festival, whose artistic director is flutist Eugenia Zukerman, runs three years. The orchestra will play six concerts each summer starting in early July. Philadelphia Inquirer 01/17/06

January 16, 2006

The Computer That Can Predict Hits "The computer can go out on the internet and read a bunch of weblogs and record reviews and get a grasp on trends and buzz and hype and that sort of thing. At the same time, it also can listen to the music - do some signal processing to figure out stuff like dominant key and pitch and rhythm and structure. For record company executives, this raises the tantalising possibility of knowing in advance whether their latest pop act will hit the charts at a strong position. Hit prediction is possible. The Guardian (UK) 01/16/06

Should Ottawa Orchestra Shed Itself Of Unprofessional Zukerman? Is it time for Ottawa's National Arts Centre Orchestra to part ways with music director Pinchas Zukerman, who ditched the orchestra in mid-season? "At his best, Zukerman's a wonderful violinist. We've occasionally heard him at his best, too, but, just as often, he just seems to phone in his performance, apparently bored by the music or the audience." Ottawa Citizen 01/16/06

LA Opera Expands Los Angeles Opera continues to expand. Next season the company will present 10 productions and 70 performances. "The aggregate number of performances, including the two recitals, is up from 61 in the current season, for an increase of nearly 25%. The total of 10 productions compares with eight this season." Los Angeles Times 01/16/06

January 15, 2006

Fliter Wins Gilmore Award Argentine pianist Ingrid Fliter has been chosen the winner of the $300,000 Gilmore Artist Award. "Ms. Fliter was among about 450 pianists nominated in a poll of music professionals and was chosen from a final handful by six judges from the music world who stealthily heard her perform in Washington and Tokyo as well as on privately made live recordings." The New York Times 01/16/06

Ailing Sawallisch Cancels Concert Dates Conductor Wolfgang Sawalisch is canceling concerts because of health concerns. "I cannot say if and when I will be strong enough to fly to America and to see you again. So I take the possibility now to thank you once again for the great collaboration in the past: The concerts in the Academy and in the new hall, the exciting travels to the most different parts of the world. The experiences remain always in my heart." Philadelphia Inquirer 01/14/06

The Music Vending Machines Is this the year music kiosks take off with the public? Lots of big players are getting in to them. But there is also a great deal of skepticism as to whether kiosks actually fulfill any consumer demand. Yahoo! (Billboard) 01/15/06

Leading From The West Whether New York is really losing its primacy as the undisputed American center of the arts is quite debatable. But it is becoming increasingly clear that the heart of the American orchestral organism is beating strongly 3,000 miles southwest of the Big Apple. The Los Angeles Philharmonic has achieved that rarest of confluences in recent years - a first-rate ensemble, a finely tuned promotional operation, a top-flight music director, and an outstanding and inviting concert hall. Perhaps more importantly, the LA Phil's success may provide a blueprint for America's more staid and stagnant orchestras (one of which resides in New York) to overhaul their own product. The New York Times 01/15/06

The Compositional Catch-22 Musicians and orchestras love to pay lip service to the concept of promoting new music, but increasingly, composers are facing a world in which their services are viewed as optional. "Something fundamental has changed in the music marketplace: Where once patrons consisted of people outside the music business - church leaders, emperors, members of the bourgeoisie, impresarios - today they are almost always from within. The world of classical music is becoming self-absorbed, for it is the musician himself who commissions new music with the flickering hope of selling it as a commodity to consumers. Consumers, in turn, are becoming too obsessed with iPods, the Internet and video-on-demand to bother with live concert performances." Charleston Post & Courier (SC) 01/15/06

NACO Players Divided Over Zukerman's Leadership Details are continuing to emerge in the sordid tale of Pinchas Zukerman's abrupt "sabbatical" from Ottawa's National Arts Centre Orchestra, and the divisive and outspoken Zukerman appears to have left behind a divided orchestra. "While it's not unusual for orchestra musicians to have varying opinions about their leader, some longtime NACO musicians say they've become polarized in a way they have never been before... The kind of reasonable debate musicians used to have about conductors has become difficult." Furthermore, some within the NACO are openly acknowledging that the orchestra's artistic standard has diminished under a conductor they see as authoritarian and uninterested in expanding his artistic horizons. Ottawa Citizen 01/14/06

Detroit Tries A Few Gimmicks Orchestras across the country are scrambling to attract new audiences with such gimmicks as video screens, loquacious conductors, and hot young soloists, but much of the experimentation is in the trial-and-error realm, since there isn't a lot of evidence concerning what works and what doesn't. The Detroit Symphony launched a new series this season aimed at cultivating demographics it doesn't currently see much of, but Mark Stryker says the idea will need a lot of tweaking before it yields dividends. Moreover, its possible that orchestras are barking up the wrong tree with the idea that younger audiences want less substance and more flash. Detroit Free Press 01/14/06

That Same Old Orchestra Sound Critics have long complained about a supposed "homogenization" of orchestral sound, an abandonment of the distinct traditions that used to characterize each city's unique orchestra. Some of the griping is overblown, but some stereotypes are rooted in truth. "North American orchestras still tend to show off their wind soloists at the expense of ensemble sound, a situation made more obvious by the players' polyglot origins and training... Orchestras used to have a much more localized identity, which helped give them a more individual personality." Of course, the nationalization of the audition process has also resulted in a surfeit of great orchestras, where many of the "distinctive" ensembles of the past used to be quite mediocre due to a lack of top-notch musicians outside the major urban centers. Toronto Star 01/14/06

The Mozart Obsession Mozart could certainly be said to be overexposed, especially in central Europe, where his visage graces everything from concert programs to chocolate wrappers. Many of his most famous compositions long ago entered the dreaded realm of Muzak, and the film adaptation of Peter Shaffer's Amadeus didn't exactly paint a flattering portrait. And yet, somehow, Mozart's life and music continue to captivate audiences and musicians in an almost completely unique way. Toronto Star 01/14/06

January 13, 2006

Nashville To Open Its New Hall With A Bit Of Down-Home Flair When the Nashville Symphony opens its new $120 million concert hall this fall, the celebration will be clearly designed to draw in more than just your average fan of Beethoven and Brahms. In country music's undisputed capital city, outreach is a must for a classical orchestra, and Nashville's opening concert at the new Schermerhorn Symphony Center will feature, among other guests, jazz/bluegrass banjo legend Bela Fleck and crossover bassist extraordinaire Edgar Meyer. Conductor Leonard Slatkin will lead the gala, as the orchestra is between music directors following the death of longtime leader Kenneth Schermerhorn last year. PlaybillArts 01/13/06

Pop Goes The Orchestra Manager The San Antonio Symphony has named local beverage industry executive David Green as its next president and CEO, continuing a long-demonstrated preference for executives plucked from the corporate world with little to no experience in the orchestral sphere. "Green has held several executive positions, including chief financial officer and vice president for operations, at San Antonio's Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of the Southwest. [He also] founded Logicor LLC, a company that makes productivity-enhancing equipment for soft-drink dispensers... Green becomes the symphony's seventh interim or permanent top administrator in less than seven years, and the fourth to have no prior experience in orchestra management." San Antonio Express-News 01/13/06

Alsop In Baltimore: You Can't Hear The Controversy Over The Music For the first time since her appointment as music director designate of the Baltimore Symphony and the subsequent controversy that erupted when the BSO's musicians complained that they had been shut out of the appointment process, Marin Alsop has taken the stage to conduct what will become her orchestra in 2007. Since those difficult days, Alsop and the musicians have been taking pains to demonstrate that there are no hard feelings, and "last night, the orchestra continued signaling its intention to work with Alsop, this time in the best possible way - giving her a strong, attentive performance of a program that very much reflected the kind of tastes she is going to bring to the organization." Baltimore Sun 01/13/06

Zukerman: NACO's "Rotten Apples" Must Be Eradicated Following a week of bad publicity and press revelations about his behavior as music director of the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Pinchas Zukerman has as much as admitted that it wasn't physical exhaustion that caused him to take a last-minute leave of absence from the ensemble for the remainder of the current season. Zukerman has been quoted saying that the NACO has some "rotten apples" who have created a divisive atmosphere within the organization that "has to be eradicated." Representatives of the NACO's musicians have shot back that Zukerman's single-mindedness and unwillingness to hear dissent is the real problem, and the orchestra's manager is backpedaling in an attempt to ratchet the rhetoric down a few notches. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/13/06

  • Previously: The Puzzling Case Of The Conductor Who Abandoned His Orchestra Why did Pinchas Zukerman abandon his National Arts Center Orchestra in the middle of the season? Officially the orchestra says the conductor is taking sick leave. But "his freelance schedule between now and the end of the season includes dozens of concerts on three continents, including a European tour with the National Orchestra of Belgium. That doesn't look like the agenda of a man dragging his feet with fatigue. Nor does it seem much in keeping with Zukerman's formal obligation, in the contract he signed with the NACO in 1998, 'to ensure that his role and responsibility to NACO are a top priority of his career'." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/12/06
January 12, 2006

Chicago Lyric Freezes Ticket Prices (Sort Of) Chicago Lyrica Opera used to sell out most performances. Now it sells 90 percent of its seats. Still good. But. "To help stop any further erosion and, at the same time, reward its longtime subscribers, the Lyric is coupling its announcement of repertory and casts for its 2006-07 season with the news that it also is freezing subscription prices next season. That's the good news. The bad news, for single-ticket buyers, is that the company (which has an operating budget of $58.2 million) is raising single ticket prices by about 3 percent." Chicago Tribune 01/12/06

Mozart And The Case Of The Boring Tenor Tenor Ian Bostridge loves Mozart, yes he does. "But there is a problem with Mozart, one I readdress every time I sing in one of his operas. It has been said - often - that Mozart tenor roles are boring. This is an opinion that I am anxious, for obvious reasons, to rebut. However, the evidence to support it is easy to find." The Guardian (UK) 01/13/06

A Flood Of Classical DVDs "While classical recordings dwindle, or self-feed on repackaged reissues, the flood of video operas continues unabated and, for the most part, rewarding. I can remember when experiencing just the sounds of Wagner’s Ring at home meant piecing together several albums of excerpts with varied casts and agonizing omissions. Now my shelves bend under the weight of five complete videos of the cycle." LAWeekly 01/12/06

Mozart's Diary Online "A digital version of Mozart's musical diary is being put online by the British Library to help celebrate 250 years since the composer's birth. The digitised diary lets people click on and hear music from the opening bars of many of the works it mentions." BBC 01/12/06

San Diego Chamber Orchestra Gets A New Leader In the midst of auditions for a new music director, the San Diago Chamber Orchestra suddenly canceled the rest of them and hired conductor Jung-Ho Pak, the San Diego Symphony's former artistic director. San Diego Union-Tribune 01/12/06

Prague - Home Of Mozart? Prague is staging major celebrations of the 250th Mozart anniversary this year. Is the city competing with Austria as Mozart-Central? "With more than 150 events costing more than 100-million koruna (around $4-million U.S.), Prague aims to highlight its special significance as the place where the composer met his greatest success." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/12/06

The Puzzling Case Of The Conductor Who Abandoned His Orchestra Why did Pinchas Zukerman abandon his National Arts Center Orchestra in the middle of the season? Officially the orchestra says the conductor is taking sick leave. But "his freelance schedule between now and the end of the season includes dozens of concerts on three continents, including a European tour with the National Orchestra of Belgium. That doesn't look like the agenda of a man dragging his feet with fatigue. Nor does it seem much in keeping with Zukerman's formal obligation, in the contract he signed with the NACO in 1998, 'to ensure that his role and responsibility to NACO are a top priority of his career'." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/12/06

January 11, 2006

Conducting Through The Ages What does it mean to be a conductor at the various ages of one's life? The Guardian (UK) 01/11/06

Library Reunites Mozart Manuscript The British Library has reconnected a Mozart manuscript that was torn apart by the composer's widow. "The single sheet of music was produced by Mozart when he was 17. One one side of the manuscript are two piano cadenzas and on the other a minuet for string quartet. But in 1835, 44 years after her husband's death, Constanze carefully cut up the manuscript so that the two cadenzas ended up on separate sheets - bar one note that she lopped off the upper piece by mistake." The Guardian (UK) 01/12/06

2005's Top Concert Draws Who did we buy tickets to hear last year? "Top honors go for the second time to the Rolling Stones, who posted a combined gross of almost $168 million, the vast majority of which came at the concert box office. U2 wasn't far behind with $150 million, and then Kenny Chesney at $109 million, the only other acts to top $100 million." Los Angeles Times 01/10/06

The Wind-Tunnel Tuba Concerto "James Crowder was a Boeing engineer whose primary work concerned flow visualization -- making it possible to see the movement of air over solid surfaces -- that required the use of the 1939 wind tunnel. For this, he achieved international recognition. He was also a tuba player and interested, not surprisingly, in the air flow inside the instrument. After his death in 2002, his widow, Sandra, an ardent connoisseur of music, wanted a vehicle to commemorate her husband." So she commissioned Samuel Jones... Seattle Post-Intelligencer 01/05/06

McManus: Musical 'Oversupply' No Excuse For Exploitation Are U.S. and European orchestras facing an oversupply of qualified young musicians? AJ blogger Drew McManus doesn't think so, since more musicians competing for fewer jobs can also mean a fresh supply of musically knowledgable individuals who might move into other areas of the industry. But "instead of seeing greater numbers of musicians as a benefit to the business, too many people may consider this as an 'oversupply problem' and attempt to force established musicians into accepting lower wages or, even worse, begin to establish new ensembles bent on taking advantage of inexperienced, yet highly trained, labor for personal or organizational gain." Adaptistration (AJ Blogs) 01/11/06

Is The iPod Generation Destroying Music, or Saving It? A recent British study declared that the era of downloadable music and portable MP3 players is creating "producing a generation that doesn't seriously appreciate songs or musical performance." But hasn't the real impact of music-on-demand been the newfound ability of consumers to bypass an increasingly marketing-driven music industry which insists on promoting style over substance? "Today, discerning music listeners aren't at the mercy of a few label bosses, marketing gurus and program directors. If they're willing to invest even a small amount of effort, they can go online, confer with other fans and have at their fingertips every imaginable artist in every imaginable genre. The result is that, more so than generations past, the current one really is appreciating musical performance." National Post (Canada) 01/11/06

Prickly Pinchas Pinchas Zukerman is having an unusually newsworthy season, even for him. Always an outspoken critic of people and music he sees as "mediocre" (don't get him started on the period performance movement), Zukerman has been taking some heat of his own lately for his decision to pull out of what remains of his obligations as music director of the Ottawa-based National Arts Centre Orchestra's 2005-06 season. Zukerman calls the journalists questioning his decision "mediocrities," but he admits to what has long been rumored within the industry: that his NACO is not a happy place at the moment. "In every orchestra, in every institution that has climbed to prominence quickly there's always going to be a few rotten apples. And they have created an atmosphere that has to be eradicated, quite frankly." Orange County Register (CA) 01/11/06

New Team In Place At SF Opera The new general director of the San Francisco Opera, David Gockley, has moved quickly to bring in his own administrative staff, appointing to two high positions men he had worked with in his last job at the Houston Grand Opera. Gockley took over the directorship from industry icon Pamela Rosenberg late last year. Rosenberg has moved on to a job with the Berlin Philharmonic. San Francisco Chronicle 01/11/06

January 10, 2006

Donor Rescues Audubon Quartet Members An anonymous donor has come forward with $200,000 to help members of the Audubon String Quartet pay a judgment against them and avoid having to sell their instruments. Former quartet member David Ehrlich won the judgment last year: "Why am I settling at this point? It's bothersome to me. I don't want them to lose every little thing that they had. If they can come out of this with something, then I would feel better about it too." He has said he never wanted the other members to lose their instruments but needed the funds from the judgment to pay lawyers. The New York Times 01/11/06

The Name Problem "Sure, we're no longer living in the era of Haydn, Beethoven, and the gang where everything was either Piano Sonata No. 28 or Symphony No. 6, but this strangest of naming games has yet to completely disappear from our collective reflexes. For the record, I don't intend to criticize folks who write piano sonatas or symphonies—I've even penned a couple of piano sonatas myself, though I've yet to attempt a symphony—but why must they be named as if they were volumes of the Encyclopedia Brittanica?" NewMusicBox 01/10/06

New Florida Orchestra Irks Fans Of Old Orchestra Last fall South Florida's Renaissance Chamber Orchestra abruptly closed, leaving patrons and subscribers angry. Now a new group has formed led by the old orchestra's president. "Normally a new musical organization arising from the ashes of a failed one would be a positive development greeted with enthusiasm. In this case, former Renaissance musicians and audience members are reacting to the new venture with emotions ranging from disbelief and consternation to intense anger." South Florida Sun-Sentinel 01/10/06

January 9, 2006

An Avian Duet A group of musicians in Pittsburgh try to provoke birds into singing with them. "Some of the birds were more than just stimulated by the improvisatory serenade. A few chose to interact with the performers, who used extended techniques on their instrument to mimic bird song." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 01/09/06

Sellars To Direct Mozart's "Muslim" Opera Director Peter Sellars is planning a "radical modern production" of Mozart's unfinished work Zaide. "Mozart was writing about Europeans in the Muslim world directly in his lifetime. The piece is not a historical vignette. Even then, Europe was obsessed with the 'menace' of the Muslim world. It's about how Europeans engage Muslims in a way that is positive, and the concept of mercy coming from both sides." The Guardian (UK) 01/10/06

Profitable Music With Low Sales Online music distribution is changing the economics of the music recording business. "In most music stores, CD's of, say, Chinese or Kenyan pop music would be consigned to the world-music bin as a good will gesture. But the economics of online stores is changing the financial calculations of the music business, making it profitable to sell a relatively small number of copies of a song, as long as a compact disc is not manufactured and distributed." The New York Times 01/09/06

Ohio University Killing Off 60-Year-Old Quartet? The Oxford String Quartet is 60 years old. But its future is in doubt as Miami University of Ohio has declined to replace a departing violinist. "A group of distraught fans in Oxford, Cincinnati and as far away as Cologne, Germany, are campaigning to 'save the quartet.' They say the school's prestige is at stake. But the dean of MU's School of Fine Arts, Jose Antonio Bowen, thinks it's a non-issue, and that eventually the school will want to emphasize other areas, such as world music." Cincinnati Enquirer 01/09/06

January 8, 2006

Mozart's Skull? Inconclusive Scientists have failed to determine whether a skull they tested is that of Mozart. "The scientists hoped to match its DNA to genetic samples taken from what they believed are the skeletons of Mozart's grandmother and niece. The scientists said on Austrian television Sunday that the skeletons do not match the skull, and that the skeletons are also unrelated - creating a whole new mystery of who is buried the Mozart family crypt." Voice of America 01/09/06

Wait For It! Second Chord In World's Longest Piece We're now two years into the performance. The abandoned Buchardi church in Halberstadt, eastern Germany, is the venue for a mind-boggling 639-year-long performance of a piece of music by US experimental composer John Cage (1912-1992). Entitled "organ2/ASLSP" (or "As SLow aS Possible"), the performance began on September 5, 2001 and is scheduled to last until 2639. Yahoo! (AFP) 01/05/06

Where Is The Singing? Singing seems to have disappeared from British public life. "The main reason people don't sing is that it's a very exposing thing to do. In Britain we're especially good at using the voice to cover our real thoughts and feelings. But in singing you can't help revealing yourself. It's like suddenly going naked, vocally speaking." The Telegraph (UK) 01/08/06

Berlin's Looming Opera Funding Crisis Berlin has three major opera companies. But the city has struggled to pay for them, and "some kind of funding crisis is almost certain to occur perhaps as early as late this year." Washington Post 01/08/06

Difficult Word - Writing About Music It's a tough time for music critics. "Along with the usual horrors that print pubs endure now, the music press has its own particular headaches. Not only are publications reigning in their use of freelancers (Rolling Stone, Red Flag), others are cutting their word count (Washington Post, Village Voice) or cutting their pay rates (the Voice again, which is also dealing with a recent takeover). And while 'zines are generally more open about accepting material, they're also feeling the crunch of ad dollars and the pressure from record companies to include more--and thus, shorter--reviews to make up for the space." Rockcritics.com 01/05/06

Getting Beyond The Same Old Song & Dance Americans have a tendency to narrow the focus of everything: chardonnay is the only wine, Friends is the only sitcom, and opera singers with "creamy, smooth," pop-influenced voices are the only stars. "It's a world where the serviceably 'pretty' has become the definition of the beautiful, threatening to crowd out all the other categories of beauty, for instance, the exotic, the interesting, the gothic." But there are still a few singers out there willing to break the mold American audiences are locked into, if only we're willing to give them a chance. Washington Post 01/08/06

The Accountant At The Helm Of ENO No opera could ever be as chaotic and melodramatic as the scandal currently enveloping the English National Opera. But as dark as things seem at the moment, the Australian financial whiz recently appointed to replace Sean Doran at the ENO's helm believes that she has a plan that will turn everything around. Loretta Tomasi is hardly a classic arts administrator, and comes from the world of finance and for-profit companies, a quality which immediately makes her suspect to many in the arts. But despite all the recent dust-ups in the press, the ENO is on the verge of retiring its accumulated debt and returning to normal operations after three years of emergency funding from the government. Of course, that doesn't alleviate the company's artistic problems... The Observer (UK) 01/08/06

Mozart's Vienna Mozart's 250th birthday is being celebrated worldwide, but predictably, no city is going quite as far as Mozart's adopted hometown of Vienna. Born in Salzburg, the composer spent the bulk of his adult life in Austria's capital city, and beginning later this month, there will be literally thousands of events dedicated to celebrating his legacy. Vienna has appointed an artistic director to coordinate events across the city, and some 80 new works have been commissioned in tribute to the master. More than 600 public concerts will be held in an effort to popularize the celebration, and the famous Albertina museum will unveil an exhaustive Mozart exhibit in March. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/07/06

  • Mozart's Screenwriter Mozart's operas are among the most celebrated in the repertoire. But as spectacular as the music they contain may be, half the secret to the success of works like The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni may be the engaging characters and artfully woven storylines created by Mozart's librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte. "A poet, priest and womaniser, who ended his days as a grocer, he also wrote the words to some of the greatest operas." The Guardian (UK) 01/07/06

NY Pols: Turnbull Must Quit Harlem Boys Choir New York Congressman Charles Rangel and former NYC Mayor David Dinkins have stepped into the middle of the dustup over the future of the Harlem Boys Choir, telling founder Walter Turnbull that it is time for him to step aside and turn the organization over to someone with better management skills. "Haunted by a sex scandal, the choir is battling eviction from its rent-free space in a city school as well as accusations of shoddy bookkeeping and financial ruin so severe it owes roughly $3 million in unpaid taxes. At least 59 liens and judgments have been filed against the choir by federal, state and local governments since 1988." Rangel and Dinkins are attempting to raise $500,000 to forestall the eviction, but are making it clear that Turnbull's ouster will be a condition of their continued assistance. New York Daily News 01/08/06

January 6, 2006

CD Stores - The Squeeze Is On Independent CD stores are having a tough time. "Album sales are in decline, music consumers continue to migrate to music downloading and CD-burning. The loss-leader approach to CD sales at giant chains such as Wal-Mart and Best Buy have smothered mom-and-pop outfits. And when prerecorded CDs are sold, more and more often it's through new-approach merchants that are as varied as Amazon.com and Starbucks." Los Angeles Times 01/06/06

January 5, 2006

Welsh National Opera Hires A Star "Glasgow-born John Fisher will take over the running of WNO in May. He replaces Anthony Freud, who has left after 11 years to take over Houston Opera in Texas. Mr Fisher's track record includes being the first non-Italian ever to run an Italian opera house - La Fenice, in Venice. He has also been head of music at La Scala, Milan, and is now director of music administration at the Met." The Guardian (UK) 01/06/06

Are Headphones Killing Our Hearing? "Sales of MP3 players soared by 200% in 2005 and the market for headphone entertainment continues to grow with portable video players and handheld games consoles. But the trend has prompted concern from Britain's leading hearing loss charity, the Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID). It found 39% of 18 to 24-year-olds listened to personal music players for at least an hour every day and 42% admitted they thought they had the volume too high." BBC 01/05/06

Mostly Mozart, Mildly Modern In case you hadn't heard, 2006 is the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth, and classical music organizations the world over are falling all over themselves to pay tribute. So you might expect New York's newly rejuvenated Mostly Mozart festival to be throwing the biggest party of them all, and you'd be right, but organizers are taking the unusual path of viewing Mozart through the lens of contemporary society. As part of its tribute, Mostly Mozart has commissioned four new works, "three of them 'inspired' by Mozart." Throw in a Peter Sellars staging of a Mozart opera, a dance interpretation of the master's piano works, and "a digital art installation tied to the Jupiter Symphony," and it should be anything but a dull summer in New York. The New York Times 01/05/06

January 4, 2006

Met Opera Gets Record Gift It's $25 million. "The gift - not the more usual pledge, but money that is available now - is mostly unrestricted and will go immediately toward plugging any deficit this season, a figure that at the moment is expected to be several million dollars, Joseph Volpe, the Met's general manager, said." The New York Times 01/05/06

Wigmore Hall Gets A New Lease The lease on London's Wigmore Hall has been renewed for 300 years. "The previous lease was to expire in 2012 and there were fears that rising rents could reduce the hall's activities. Of the £3.1m cost of the lease, £500,000 has already been raised." The Guardian (UK) 01/05/06

BBC Bach A Hit In the ten days before Christmas BBC Radio 3 broadcast the complete works of JS Bach. It was a hit. The BBC "website received a record number of hits in December, with 3.1m page impressions during the season itself and 2.4m in the runup to it. Precise listener figures will not surface, however, because Rajar, which measures radio audiences, does not monitor the period around Christmas." The Guardian (UK) 01/05/06

Harlem Boys Choir Evicted "After more than a decade based at a public school at Madison Avenue and 127th Street, where it helps run the Choir Academy of Harlem, the Boys Choir and its lesser-known sister chorale are being evicted by the city's Department of Education for what the agency describes as a host of financial and managerial improprieties. Although it has always had difficulty raising funds, the choir now faces its most serious crisis since it was founded in the basement of a Harlem church nearly four decades ago." The New York Times 01/04/06

Berklee Goes Bluegrass Boston's Berklee College of Music has long reigned as America's preeminent conservatory for non-classical musicians. Jazzers and rockers alike have emerged from Berklee, which has always cultivated an image that falls somewhere between the sophistication of Wynton Marsalis and the populist appeal of Sting. Now, the school is branching out to include a genre it has long disdained - bluegrass. "Berklee administrators credit interest in bluegrass to a growing appetite among students for a range of musical styles, spurred by the Internet. It also parallels the growing popularity of the style nationally." Appointing a new president with a Deep South upbringing didn't hurt, either. San Francisco Chronicle 01/04/06

Who Will Lead Dallas? The Dallas Symphony Orchestra's music director search is in full swing, and Scott Cantrell believes he has a handle on who might be a front-runner and who definitely isn't: "Philippe Jordan, a Swiss-born 31-year-old with movie-star good looks, made his Dallas debut with richly expressive performances of Brahms and Strauss... having his mug on billboards wouldn't hurt ticket sales. Claus Peter Flor, the DSO's principal guest conductor since 1999, keeps molding one stunning performance after another... Yan Pascal Tortelier got finely finished playing from the orchestra, in spite of a strange baton technique." And the up-and-coming Andrei Boreyko is making his Dallas debut later this year. Dallas Morning News 01/03/06

January 3, 2006

Mozart's Skull? (We'll Know Sunday) Scientists have been testing a skull found in an Austrian basement to see whether it belonged to Mozart. "Researchers said yesterday they would broadcast their findings on Sunday as part of a year of celebratory events marking the composer's 250th birthday." The Guardian (UK) 01/04/06

The End Of Wild-West File-Sharing "File-sharing barons are facing their own day of reckoning after a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision last summer. Over the last four months, several Napster heirs have shut down and others are contemplating what they once couldn't abide -- doing business by the entertainment industry's rules to survive." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/03/06

Audubon Gets Extension To Surrender Instruments Members of the quartet have been given more time before they have to turn over their instruments to the musician who sued them. "The extension came as progress was being made in negotiations with David Ehrlich, the violinist who sued Clyde Shaw, Doris Lederer and violinist Akemi Takayama after they ejected him from the quartet in 2000." Richmond Times-Dispatch 01/03/06

  • Previously: 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

Ears In The Seats "We think of concerts as fixed entities. In our age of mechanical reproduction, live performance has become - like a book, a movie, a painting - an object that can be recorded, examined and stamped with approval (or disapproval). So we tend to think that everyone who attends the same performance is hearing the same thing. But that's not true, and not only because of vagaries of taste or hearing. It makes a big difference where you sit." The New York Times 01/03/06

January 2, 2006

Mozart - Genius Or Hard Work? Mozart was a genius, right? Well, "as the 250th anniversary of the composer's birth approaches this month, one film-maker is setting out to prove that such astounding achievements were a product more of hard graft than genius, as has often been assumed." The Observer (UK) 01/01/06

English National's Melodrama (In Three Acts) The mess at the English national Opera is the stuff of operatic tragedy. "Since the music director Paul Daniel resigned, with cat-calls from another senior executive ringing in his ears, events have taken on a life of their own. The artistic director has gone, and a Greek chorus of the great and good penned a letter of open revolt aimed at the chairman. He duly resigned in December. Then 94 per cent of the staff voted last week to strike." The Independent (UK) 01/01/06

Mozart's Best Piece? His Clarinet Concerto, according to a poll on the eve of the composer's 250th anniversary year. "It was followed by his Requiem and the Ave Verum Corpus in the survey of 103,000 Classic FM listeners. Next on the list was the piano concerto No 21 and then The Marriage of Figaro." BBC 01/02/06

South Africa's Hottest Band (And The Color Barrier) The band is mixed race, even if most of its audiences aren't. "The racial mix of Freshlyground would draw little notice in Europe or the United States. But in a South Africa still struggling to unite its fractured population after centuries of rigid discrimination, the band has become a sensation, drawing audiences in both traditionally black venues and traditionally white ones." Washington Post 12/30/05

Missing Violin Turns Up After Reported Stolen "A $175,000 violin that was reported stolen turned up Friday on the steps of a San Bruno church, and San Francisco police said it was never stolen after all." The student who reported it stolen "admitted that the violin had never been stolen and that she had filed a false police report." San Francisco Chronicle 01/02/06

  • Car Prowler Nabs A $175,000 Violin A rare violin has been stolen from the trunk of a car in San Francisco. "The violin was crafted by Nicolo Gagliano in the 1760s and is valued at more than $175,000 US. Gagliano studied under legendary violin maker Antonio Stradivari. "I've always left my violin in the trunk and it has always been fine," said Sabina Nakajima, 23, a student with the San Francisco Conservatory of Music." CBC 12/30/05

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