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March 31, 2006

Downtown D.C. Finally Gets A Community Music Center "After years of planning, organizers of a proposed National Music Center announced yesterday that they are moving to the former Carnegie Library [in Washington, D.C.] and starting performances, classes and exhibitions this spring... 'The Gig,' as the center's public programs will be known, will test the waters for a more permanent, comprehensive museum of music." Washington Post 03/31/06

NY Phil Gets Year-Round Radio The New York Philharmonic and New York radio station WQXR have expanded the orchestra's national radio series from to 52 weeks (up from 39,) making it one of a very small number of American orchestras to have a year-round radio home for live concerts, and the only American ensemble with a 52-week national series. The New York Philharmonic This Week is currently heard on 250 stations across the U.S. PlaybillArts 03/31/06

March 30, 2006

Will Gamer Music Be The New Orchestral Pops? Video games have become such a huge part of the entertainment sphere that there are currently two competing international touring shows in which live professional orchestras perform the scores from such hits as Donkey Kong and Myst. Interest is so high in the shows that some in the music industry are beginning to wonder if such programs might be more than a one-time gimmick, and might represent the evolution of the "pops" program. As if to demonstrate the versatility of the form, one of the two tours focuses most of the attention on the music being played, while in the other, the orchestra is in the background while scenes from the games play out on a giant screen. Wired 03/30/06

$5 Million of Breathing Room In Toronto The Toronto Symphony, which has struggled to stay solvent in recent years, was significantly buoyed this week by news that it would be receiving a $5 million gift from a single donor - the largest such donation in the TSO's history. "With a Toronto building spree that includes an opera house, two museum makeovers and two great arts-education institutions, the TSO has been having a rough time wooing donors. After all, it has no building project — just a scarily mounting deficit, currently at $9.5 million." $4 million of the gift must go to the orchestra's long-term endowment, but the remaining million can be used to pay down debt. Toronto Star 03/30/06

Baltimore Sym Wipes Out Debt With Huge Endowment Draw The good news is that the Baltimore Symphony is about to rid itself of all the red ink it accumulated over the last several years. The bad news is that the cost of doing so will be nearly a third of its entire endowment. The move, which is extremely unorthodox, will pay off the BSO's $16 million accumulated debt all at once, and leave the orchestra with $8 million in cash on hand. The remaining endowment (around $62 million, low for a major American ensemble) will be transferred to a new, independent trust which the BSO hopes will give donors confidence in the organization's fiscal prudence. Baltimore Sun 03/30/06

March 29, 2006

Orchestra Of the Future - Laptops? "The Princeton Laptop Orchestra, or PLOrk as it is known, has caused something of a sensation in academic circles, and avant-garde musicians are queueing up to compose for them." The Guardian (UK) 03/30/06

UK Orchestra Cancels American Tour Over Visa Costs Britain's Halle Orchestra has canceled an impending tour to the US because of the cost of visas. "Managers said yesterday they had cancelled the tour when they realised that the cost of arranging the visas, estimated at £45,000, would render the trip uneconomic. Other agents said rock musicians, also fed up with the process and expense, were refusing to visit the US to work." The Guardian (UK) 03/29/06

Gold-Plated "Ring" (At Least The Tickets Are) "The Kirov Opera's Ring Cycle, which tours to the Wales Millennium Centre in November, sold out in just three hours on Monday. The cheapest tickets were £80 (standing, mind you) and the most expensive (wait for it) £750. My first thought was: you could have a luxury holiday for that. The second went something like this: stand? Eighteen hours? £80? What madness is this?" The Guardian (UK) 03/29/06

Where's The Operatic Shakesepeare? The Royal Shakespeare Company is staging the complete works of Shakespeare. So why don't the operas based on the Bard get performed more often? There are "more than 400 operatic adaptations of the plays - 40 of A Midsummer Night's Dream alone. The archive of Shakespeare in opera is also rich in aborted projects. Mendelssohn, Schumann, Glinka, Bizet and Prokofiev all dreamed of setting Hamlet." The Telegraph (UK) 03/29/06

Apple v. Apple (A Battle Over iTunes) Back in 1991, Apple Computer and Apple (the recording company of the Beatles) carved up the world. Apple-the-computer company promised not to be in the recording business. Now Apple-the-record-label is suing Apple Computer over using the apple logo on iTunes... BBC 03/29/06

SF Opera To Simulcast Outside San Francisco Opera is following the lead of other companies such as Covent Garden, and will simulcast its first opera of this summer's season. Tyhe broadcast will take place in an outdoor plaza. "What we want is to establish an overall image of the company as being community-friendly and very accessible, and to emphasize what I believe -- which is that opera as an art form is accessible. Civic Center Plaza could accommodate as many as 12,000 to 15,000 at the outside if the circumstances were right. But I'd be happy with 5,000." San Francisco Chronicle 03/29/06

Chamber Group Disbands Because Of Success The Music Toronto Chamber Society played its last program this week. But the group is disbanding not because it can't survive, but because its members have too much else to do... Toronto Star 03/29/06

Music By Phone Scores Big Music to Mobile phones is a huge hit in the UK. "Nearly 7% of all chart music bought this year has been downloaded through a mobile service. That represents nearly 70,000 chart singles bought every week by people on the move. Users of the 3G network 3 account for more than half the total sales with the rest coming from Vodafone and Orange." BBC 03/29/06

A First: Download Makes No. 1 On UK Charts For the first time, a song sold through downloads has reached No. 1 on the UK pop charts. "Until this month, download sales could only count towards a chart position if it was also available to buy in stores. But a change in the rules has enabled download sales to be considered - as long as physical copies of the single go on sale the following week." BBC 03/29/06

March 28, 2006

Cardiff "Ring" Sells Out In Four Hours Tickets for the Kirov Opera's production of Wagner's Ring in Cardiff, Wales, went fast. "Cardiff Fans from across the world have bought seats costing as much as £750 for the performance by Russia's Mariinsky Theatre - formerly the Kirov Opera. The shows in December will be their only planned UK performance. Tickets have gone to fans as far away as Russia itself, as well as the USA, the Middle East and France." BBC 03/28/06

Where Are Opera's Black Leading Men? One sight that remains exceedingly rare in opera?: a black tenor in a leading role from the standard repertoire. That could be changing, though. Black tenors are becoming more and more visible... Baltimore Sun 03/28/06

Conducting In The Highest City On Earth (And Dodging Dynamite) David Handel has been rebuilding the Bolivian national Orchestra. He has "increased the number of performances to 50 a year from 12, recorded the group for the first time, enlarged the symphony to 65 musicians from 40, raised salaries and increased the yearly budget to $1 million from $100,000. He also has lowered ticket prices for students and raised the number of season ticket holders to 1,000 from none. Finally, he found the group its first-ever home in a one-time vaudeville theater and has taken the symphony to locales where it never had performed." Now if only the bombs would stop going off outside the concert hall... The Forward 03/24/06

March 27, 2006

Will Digital Downloads Save Classical Music? "Proportionately, classical sells better digitally than on CD. Whereas classical accounts for about 3%-4% of total sales of music in shops, on iTunes it accounts for 12% of sales..." The Guardian (UK) 03/27/06

Aix - A Global Opera Hub? The new director of France's Aix-en-Provence opera festival says he'd like the festival to become an international hub for opera. "I would like the Aix festival to be a global opera hub. Festivals have helped the world of opera evolve, and they must reach beyond the place where they are held." Bloomberg.com 03/24/06

Orchestras Get The Tech Bug Orchestras are finally getting into technology in a big way, offering ringtones and MP3s. "What marks out classical downloading from pop-based genres is that classical music has so much more to gain. Digital technology is fast becoming the new vanguard in the fight for audiences." Scotland on Sunday 03/26/06

Louisiana Phil Back In New Orleans The Louisiana Philharmonic has resumed playing in its homeown. "The orchestra has started a 12-week spring season that was planned long before Hurricane Katrina hit and scattered the players everywhere. Members have since played with 61 different orchestras. The musicians [have gone] to great lengths to maintain the programs planned before the hurricane." Houston Chronicle 03/26/06

Are Lawyers Killing Musicians' Creativity? "Digital technology now makes it very easy for one musician to copy and modify some appealing element from another musician’s recording. Now lawyers hover over new records, listening for any legally actionable borrowing. Such cases are usually settled out of court — for undisclosed, but often enormous, sums. More interesting than the legal-sideshow aspect, I think, is the question of how artists deal with the situation. Imitation, allusion, parody, borrowing stray bits of melody or texture — all of this is fundamental to creativity. The line between mimicry and transformation is not absolute." InsideHigherEd 03/23/06

March 26, 2006

Kirov - Ringing With Confidence The Kirov Opera is touring - wait for it - Wagner's "Ring." "The Kirov is playing for very high stakes. Touring any opera is a complex and challenging business. The Ring, with its vast scale, huge technical demands and immense musical difficulties, represents a company going for broke. Still more remarkably, the Kirov, following its traditions, is casting entirely from its own ranks. This is an opera company with great confidence." The Guardian (UK) 03/27/06

The Castrato - A Very Bad Idea "For every superstar castrato who graced Europe's opera houses between about 1600 and 1828 (when Giovanni Battista Velluti became the last eunuch to appear on stage, in a crusader epic by Meyerbeer), there were hundreds whose ordinariness or unpleasantness of voice condemned them to a life in B-grade church choirs, or on the streets as beggars or prostitutes. And those were the ones who survived the operation..."
The Guardian (UK) 02/27/06

Orchestras Discover The Internet (Finally!) Want to download that orchestra concert you heard last week? Soon you may be able to. "Negotiations are under way with orchestras in London, Paris and three German cities. The current intention is for each orchestra to offer, on average, four concerts a season for digital downloading, and one of the four would also be released on CD. The project reflects a seismic shift in the way music is being discovered, distributed and heard." The New York Times 03/26/06

Minnesota Orchestra Gets Played In Big Land Deal The orchestra had bought land for an amphitheatre. When the plan fell through, the orchestra decided to sell the land. "Last summer, the orchestra officially transferred the land to MOA Property Co. On that same day, property records indicate, MOA sold the land to Target for several million dollars more than what it paid the orchestra. While the orchestra's board chairman said that an opportunity to make money may have been lost, he had no regrets." The Star-Tribune (Mpls) 03/25/06

March 23, 2006

Is St. Luke's Orchestra A Model For The Future? The orchestra is flexible in its numbers and its management. "This flexibility -- borne of necessity -- has become a great asset, enabling us to sustain a financially viable model with no deficit. As the orchestra world grapples with top-heavy, inflexible, deficit-ridden organizations -- many of which no longer respond to the changing needs of their communities -- we believe the distinctive structure we have created could end up being a model for the orchestra of the 21st century." BusinessWeek 03/23/06

The Risky Business of Chamber Orchestras Keeping a chamber orchestra alive, even in a city known for its vibrant cultural scene, is a tough assignment, and this week's announcement that Seattle's Northwest Chamber Orchestra would fold came as a harsh dose of reality, but not a big surprise. "There was a time when the loss of the Northwest Chamber Orchestra would have been grieved much more by the music community. The impact is less now, not only because its audiences were in a downward spiral, but because there are more opportunities to hear chamber orchestra repertory now." Seattle Post-Intelligencer 03/23/06

Wilkens Takes Ohio Christopher Wilkens, music director of the Orlando Symphony and formerly of the San Antonio Symphony, has been appointed to lead the Akron Symphony in Ohio as well. "Wilkins' audition concert caused a stir in the audience because of how Wilkins helped the orchestra overcome the famously dry acoustics of E.J. Thomas Hall to achieve a large, resonant sound." Akron Beacon Journal (Ohio) 03/23/06

All Concertmasters Are Pretty Much Alike, Anyway Philadelphia Orchestra concertmaster David Kim's appearance was to be the highlight of the year for California's El Camino Youth Symphony, but this week, as Kim prepared to leave for Silicon Valley, one of his assistant principals in Philadelphia was in a car accident, another went into labor, and he was forced to stay behind lest the orchestra go leaderless. Nonetheless, after a few phone calls, Kim was able to rustle up a passable replacement soloist for the El Camino kids - his good friend Robert Chen, concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony. San Jose Mercury News 03/23/06

Since We're Not Bankrupt After All... In the wake of the bitter, months-long battle that preceded the Louisville Orchestra's contract settlement with its musicians this week, the orchestra knows it has some public fences to mend. So with its April performances back on (the board had threatened to cancel them,) the orchestra is offering free tickets to several shows, and giving subscribers who exchanged out of the April shows extra passes. Louisville Courier-Journal 03/23/06

Honoring The Women In A Men's World The Detroit Symphony has created a new annual prize to recognize female composers. "The Elaine Lebenbom Award will be open to an international field and reward the winner with a $10,000 check and the world premiere performances of the selected work on the orchestra's classical subscription series." Detroit Free Press 03/23/06

March 22, 2006

Why Northwest Chamber Orchestra Folded Why did Seattle's Northwest Chamber Orchestra have to close? "A confluence of events forced the 33-year-old musical institution to draw its curtain. Chief among them, a decline in public funding of the arts and increased competition from other musical offerings. But the lion's share of the blame lies with the orchestra's history of dysfunctional leadership." Seattle Times 03/21/06

Stolen Strad Returned To Orchestra A rare Stradivarius violin has been returned after 21 years. "The instrument, which dates from 1725, had disappeared from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in 1985. The violin resurfaced when it was put up for sale at auctioneers Bonhams, which struck a deal with the vendor to see it returned to the orchestra." BBC 03/22/06

Apple Protests France's iTunes Plan Apple is criticizing plans by the French parliament to force it to unlock iTunes songs so they can be played on any MP3 player. "In a statement Apple said that if the law were passed it would result in state-sponsored piracy". BBC 03/22/06

EU Lead Regulations Could Ban Pipe Organs The European Union, known on the continent primarily for governmental overreach and excessive bureaucracy, is about to ban pipe organs. Seriously. "The reason? Organ pipes contain large amounts of lead, and the wind that blows through them is generated by electricity (rather than the older method of people pumping bellows behind the organ). The new directive, to come into force in July, limits the proportion of hazardous substances like lead, mercury or cadmium to 0.1 percent of a finished product that works on electricity." The law was not intended to apply to pipe organs, but officials have continually refused to create a broad exemption, saying that each organ manufacturer must apply separately to be exempted. The New York Times 03/22/06

France's iPod Assault: Anti-Capitalist Or Power To The People? As the French government tries to force Apple to give up the exclusivity of its iTunes technology, there will doubtless be many criticisms coming from the American business world. After all, goes the capitalist argument, Apple created this technology, so why should it be forced to share with less innovative companies? But music consumers may regret siding with Apple in the long run. "French lawmakers want to protect the consumer from one or two companies holding the keys to all of its culture, just as Microsoft holds the keys to today's desktop computers." Wired 03/22/06

Quartet Residency Saved By Donors The Azmari Quartet was informed in February that its contract as the resident ensemble at Northern Kentucky University would be terminated in June, due to a lack of funding. But when the news was made public, donors began to come forward, and this week, the Azmari, made up of musicians from the Cincinnati Symphony, was told that enough money had been raised to save the residency for the foreseeable future. Cincinnati Enquirer 03/22/06

Still Many Questions In Louisville The Louisville Orchestra averted catastrophe earlier this week with the approval of a new concessionary contract with its musicians. But the ensemble isn't out of the fiscal woods yet. "Unless substantial amounts of money can be raised on a regular basis, the endemic problems of the orchestra are unlikely to fade away. Serious questions remain about whether Louisville can or should support such a large full-time orchestra. The short-term fix doesn't answer them. Nor does it resolve the challenge of leadership." Louisville Courier-Journal 03/22/06

  • What's In The Louisville Deal? So what exactly did the musicians of the Louisville Orchestra give up to save their ensemble from bankruptcy? AJ Blogger Drew McManus has the details: "Among the larger concessions are reductions in base pay and season length. By the end of the five year agreement the base musician pay will be $743 less than the 2005-2006 concert season." In addition, musicians will lose between 3 and 7 of their 11 allowed sick days, depending on seniority, a major concern in an industry where musician injuries are rampant. Adaptistration (AJ Blogs) 03/22/06

March 21, 2006

French Parliament To Apple: Open Up! The French parliament has passed legislation to force iTunes to open up its digital format. "MPs backed a draft law to force Apple, Sony and Microsoft to share their proprietary copy-protection systems by 296 to 193 votes. The aim is to ensure that digital music can be played on any player, regardless of its format or source." BBC 03/21/06

America's Largest Free Jazz Fest May Have To Charge San Jose's summer jazz festival calls itself the "largest free jazz festival in the United States." But that designation may be about to change. The festival may have to start charging: $5 a person for an all-day pass. "The reason for the charge: rising operational fees coupled with a loss of corporate sponsors Ford, Chevron and Applied Materials. The festival costs almost $1 million and, much to their disappointment, organizers said, only $60,000 comes from a city that has just designated $4 million for a car race." San Jose Mercuty-News 03/21/06

UK's Tenor Phenoms (Oh Really?) So there are currently three tenors on the UK Top Ten charts. Or are there? "Just because somebody sings something in Italian doesn't mean it's opera. I suppose you could call them tenors, but don't call them operatic tenors. Their voices are not good enough and most of the repertoire is desperate." The Guardian (UK) 03/21/06

  • Previously: A New Generation Of Three Tenors Scores Top Ten For the first time, three places in the UK Top Ten music charts are taken up by tenors. "Newcomer Vittorio Grigolo and BBC One's Just the Two of Us winner Russell Watson are set for new entries in the top 10, according to mid-week figures. Andrea Bocelli's album Amore, out last week, could stay in the chart." BBC 03/14/06
March 20, 2006

Why Isn't Stravinsky More Popular? Stravinsky was one of the greatest composers of the 20th Century. And yet, he is not revered by audiences. Why, asks Anthony Tommasini: "One simple reason that Stravinsky, who died at 88 in 1971, is still waiting for his due is that audiences seldom get to hear the full range of his work." The New York Times 03/21/06

Louisville Orchestra Strikes Contract Agreement With Musicians The troubled Louisville Orchestra has reached an agreement on a new five year contract with musicians that averts the Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing that was threatened for early next month. Louisville Courier-Journal 03/20/06

New Life For Old Sounds "Curators at the University of California at Santa Barbara's Donald C. Davidson Library have digitized 6,000 late 19th-century and early 20th-century wax and plastic cylinder recordings -- precursors to the flat record. The audio, which includes ragtime hits, vaudeville routines and presidential speeches, encapsulates history with crackles and hisses, but archivists say preserving the sounds now is vital because the cylinders are deteriorating." Wired 03/20/06

New Opera - A Future On Which To Build? "Conventional wisdom holds that no one writes good operas anymore — not, at least, operas that anyone wants to hear. Yet in the United States, this view is yielding to the idea among presenters that new American opera — pieces by American composers based on American stories — may be the future of a field fighting the perception that it is static, Eurocentric and outdated." The New York Times 03/19/06

SXSW - Marketplace To Bypass The Majors "As the major-label recording business struggles with ungovernable competition online, many musicians have decided that the way to make a career is in the mode of troubadours from time immemorial: performing live and hitting the road. But where troubadours depended on word of mouth, now musicians can spread their own reputations online; at SXSW, as the event is known, many seek the next link." The New York Times 03/20/06

Castrati - Freakish Phenoms? "The castrati - or evirati, as they were politely called - are perhaps the most freakish phenomenon in Western musical history. Eunuchs had been a common feature of the courts of the Islamic world long before they appeared in 17th-century Italy, which seems to be the only Western country where castration was widely performed - the operation was illegal, but parents of the victims just mumbled about unfortunate encounters with wild boars, and prosecutions were rare." The Telegraph (UK) 03/19/06

Convention: A Narrowing Of Orchestral Repertoire "A certain culture has grown around the presentation of orchestral music. Because something in the programme requires the full might of a symphony orchestra, it has tended to dictate the scale of everything else on the programme. Because of the inherent and intrinsic tendency of symphony orchestras to programme concerts featuring pretty exclusively their total playing resources, the repertoire (and audiences) have, over a very long stretch of time, been thus starved of seriously interesting music that requires fewer musicians to perform, and has therefore become sidelined and neglected." Glasgow Herald 03/19/06

March 19, 2006

Band Sells Shares To Its Fans When Leeds band Four Day Hombre went looking for a record deal, they were unable to get the creative and financial control they were looking for. So they turned to their fans and recruited 30 investors to fund their debut album, which is out on Monday. The investment could be about to pay off, with the band being described as "somewhere on the radar between Coldplay and Radiohead." BBC 03/19/06

Glyndebourne Goes Hip Hop Glyndebourne is staging a hip hop version of Mozart's Cosi fan Tutti. "In putting on School 4 Lovers, organisers at the venue in Sussex, South England hope to attract more young people to Mozart's work - and opera in general - in the 250th anniversary year of his birth." BBC 03/19/06

David Robertson Wins Ditson Prize David Robertson has been awarded Columbia University's 2006 Ditson Conductor's Award for his championing of American music. The St. Louis Symphony music director gets $5,000 for the honor. PlaybillArts 03/17/06

March 17, 2006

Seattle's Chamber Orchestra Folds After 33 years, Seattle's Northwest Chamber Orchestra has declared bankruptcy and folded. The orchestra cited "incredible competition for ticket sales and contributions," as well as "declining audiences and financial woes," as the reasons for the orchestra's demise. Seattle Times 03/17/06

March 16, 2006

LA Phil Jumps Into The Download Business The Los Angeles Philharmonic unveils plans to begin making digital downloads of its concerts available. "Ten years from today, they might not be making CDs. We really don't know what the delivery system will be. The new technology takes investigation, investment and practice." Los Angeles Times 03/17/06

A New Plate Of ENO The English National Opera has hastily assmbled a new season for next year. "Opera companies usually plan and book years in advance but so deep has the crisis been at ENO that in December there was not one confirmed production for the 2006-07 season." The Guardian (UK) 03/16/06

So How Much Of A Factor Are Ticket Prices? "It's a truism in the classical music business that income from ticket sales rarely covers more than 50 percent of the cost of putting on a performance, and our look at some representative Bay Area groups supports that. Given this fact, every organization, regardless of its size or prestige, has to do a lot of fundraising just to break even. But how those prices are determined can still be a mystery to the concert-going public." San Francisco Classical Voice 02/21/06

First For What? What's all the fuss over new music premieres? New music these days usually only gets attention at its premiere. But just what is the definition of a premiere? And why do we care? NewMusicBox 03/15/06

Is Jazz Chamber Music? "Chamber music is not defined by individuals, it is defined by the collective zeitgeist, the pulse of the times. In these times there is an abundance of jazz that resembles modern classical music. It is valued in performances in small concert halls all over the world. To me, that answers the question. If we are talking about Chamber Music AMERICA (and not Asia or Europe) it defies logic to claim that it has no place at the funding table. Jazz IS America. Let's also remember that jazz is not one thing." NewMusicBox 03/16/06

Curtis Gets A New Chair With A True Philly Pedigree Philadelphia's prestigious Curtis Institute of Music has a new board chair. H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest, 75, will take over the leadership of the school's board in June, just as Curtis is also welcoming new director Roberto Diaz. Lenfest, pne of the city's most active arts supporters, donated $6 million to Curtis last year. He is also chairman of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the American Revolution Center. Philadelphia Inquirer 03/16/06

New BBC Awards Handed Out "The Takács Quartet won the disc of the year award at the inaugural BBC Music Awards, presented by the magazine yesterday in London. The Takács was honored for its three-disc recording of Beethoven's late string quartets, the final installment in its complete Beethoven cycle. The set also won in the chamber music category... Conductor Paavo Järvi and the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra won the orchestral award for a recording of Grieg's Peer Gynt. A recording of Vivaldi's Orlando Furioso led by Jean-Christophe Spinosi won the opera award; soloists included soprano Jennifer Larmore." Playbill Arts 03/16/06

March 15, 2006

The Case Of The Melting Orchestra An orchestra playing instruments made out of ice has to stop their performance when one of the flutes melted. "Instrument maker Tim Linharts has been able to transform frozen water into functioning flutes, violins, and a double bass out of ice. The instruments were played for the first time at a concert in a gigantic igloo that was deemed a complete success aside from the early melting of the flute." All Headline News 03/15/06

Musical Chairs Not So Popular In Pittsburgh If you're an orchestra looking for a quick and easy way to incense your season ticketholders, the Pittsburgh Symphony has a surefire technique for you: make them switch seat locations. A new set of ticket packages are forcing the orchestra to relocate 772 of its 9,650 total subscribers, and some are objecting, loudly. "Complicating things further, the PSO asks its subscribers to give to its annual fund-raising campaigns shortly before asking for ticket renewals." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 03/15/06

Less Music, But At Least The Tickets Are Still Expensive South Florida's recent history with classical music is an unhappy one, bordering on the tragic - the (some would say unnecessary) shutdown of the Florida Philharmonic removed the anchor of the local scene, and several smaller groups that sprang up in the Phil's wake have fared no better. So with the situation so precarious, why are some South Florida music organizations still charging $50 a ticket for a standard performance? Palm Beach Post Online 03/14/06

When Downsizing Isn't A Dirty Word As the Cincinnati Symphony prepares to announce its 2006-07 season, music director Paavo Järvi is turning up the heat on one of the orchestra's most pressing issues - its concert hall. "With 3,516 seats, it's the largest concert hall in the U.S., and despite having an audience any orchestra in the country would be proud to own (the CSO has more long-term subscribers than any U.S. orchestra), the cavernous hall swallows them up... There has been considerable speculation about 'downsizing' Music Hall, which was never intended as a concert hall in the first place, the CSO having left its home in Emery Theatre in 1936 to give Music Hall an anchor tenant." Cincinnati Post 03/15/06

March 14, 2006

A History Of Conductor Injuries They're worth thinking about as America's star conductors go down for the count. Let's see, there was Lully who jammed a stick down on his foot and died a few weeks later from gangrene... The Guardian (UK) 03/15/06

A New Generation Of Three Tenors Scores Top Ten For the first time, three places in the UK Top Ten music charts are taken up by tenors. "Newcomer Vittorio Grigolo and BBC One's Just the Two of Us winner Russell Watson are set for new entries in the top 10, according to mid-week figures. Andrea Bocelli's album Amore, out last week, could stay in the chart." BBC 03/14/06

Spano Joins The Conductors' Sick List The list of prominent conductors on the sick list is getting longer. Latest to join is Robert Spano, who's canceled out of a performance with the Pittsburgh Symphony because of bronchitis. Spano joins a who's who of big-name conductors who have canceled for various reasons this month: James Levine, Kurt Masur and Christoph von Dohnanyi.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 03/14/06

March 13, 2006

A Women's Music Fest Looking For An Audience Cal State University at Fullerton throws a women's music festival and few people show up. "Is it the women themselves who are scary? Their music? Ironically, this annual festival, created five years ago by Pamela Madsen, a composer on Fullerton's faculty, strives for inclusion. The attitude, and one rehashed in the panel, is that no one can really say what women's music is. Some women address gender issues, some don't." Los Angeles Times 03/13/06

Chart-Fixing Downloading Discovered, Disallowed Over-eager fans of a band tried to promote the group by buying multiple downloads of the group's new recording to boost them in the charts. But the buying was discovered and disqualified. "Due to over-enthusiastic members of the band's fans and family, an unacceptable number of records were ordered per person online. Sadly, rather than these sales ending up supporting the band, this has resulted in The Modern's chart position of number 13 being deemed invalid according to The Official Charts Company's strict rules and regulations." BBC 03/13/06

Juilliard Library Gets Ready For New Role Juilliard's library is getting ready for an unfamiliar role after landing a major trove of important music manuscripts. "Many of the manuscripts await the scrutiny of salivating scholars, who are ready to mine them in service to musicology. Juilliard has promised to make them available. 'Julliard, to my knowledge, has never been in the position of having to share such a treasure trove with the public, which will be beating a path to their door'." The New York Times 03/13/06

Ringtones Under Glass As a fundraiseer, the American Composers Orchestra is auctioning mobile-phone ringtones created by Philip Glass, Meredith Monk, Laurie Anderson, and other composers as part of its spring fundraiser. PlaybillArts 03/12/06

Big Step - Pacific Symphony's Europe Tour Orange County's Pacific Symphony is heading to Europe for its first tour. The orchestra has been talking about going on a tour for about a decade. But until recently it wasn't thought that the orchestra was ready for one, financially or artistically. Orange County Register 03/12/06

March 12, 2006

The New Great American Symphony? It's John Adams' "Naive and Sentimental Music" (note it doesn't say "symphony" in the title). "This three-movement, 45-minute 'emphatically tonal' piece can't escape its own nature though, though. 'It sounds like a symphony and it behaves like one, so it probably is,' admits Adams. Nor can its modest author escape the accolades that have followed his work." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 03/12/06

Decades Into The Minimalism Thing... The Los Angeles Philharmonic mounts the first retrospective survey of Minimalism by a major orchestra. Minimalism now seems old hat, but back in the late 60s, writes Mark Swed, it was something to capture the imagination... Los Angeles Times 03/12/06

The Real Mozart "Mozart has come not just to represent musical beauty but, in a way, to define it." But what about in the composer's own time? Certainly, many of the legends about poverty and despair have been overblown, but Mozart was a complicated figure in 18th-century Vienna, and his professional fortunes reflected that. Still, "the people in the streets never abandoned him." The New York Times 03/12/06

Levine To Be Out For Months James Levine's shoulder injury will require surgery, forcing the maestro to cancel the remainder of this season's engagements with the Metropolitan Opera and the Boston Symphony. He hopes to be fully recovered in time for the BSO's summer season at Tanglewood. Both organizations are scrambling to find replacements. The New York Times 03/12/06

  • The Great Conductor Bug Of '06 What is it this year with the conductors? If they're not falling off the podium (James Levine) or losing their sense of balance (Daniel Barenboim), they're coming down with shingles (Seiji Ozawa) or bronchitis (Christoph von Dohnanyi). "Have the terrorists (or maybe a cabal of ambitious assistant conductors) launched a stealth attack against Western classical music?" Boston Herald 03/11/06

  • Still Heard, If Not Seen James Levine's absence from the touring podium of the Boston Symphony is, of course, eminently noticable as the orchestra works its way down the East Coast under fill-in David Robertson. But Philip Kennicott says that Levine's most important work has never been what he does in concert, anyway, and as a result, his actual physical presence isn't required for his influence to be heard. Washington Post 03/11/06

Toscanini's Comeback Arturo Toscanini was already in his eighties when NBC began a seven-year series of live telecasts of the maestro and his NBC Symphony Orchestra. "This was the first major attempt to bring symphonic music to television; the Leonard Bernstein 'Young People's Concerts' began in the late '50s. Now virtually all of Toscanini's television work has been reissued on five DVDs by the enterprising Testament label, and it provides a terrific answer to that perpetual question: 'What is it that a conductor does, exactly?'" Washington Post 03/11/06

March 10, 2006

Flying Solo (And Blind) Why do the parts for classical musicians contain only the individual's part and not those for other instruments? "Imagine being an actor and being given a copy of a script that only contained your lines. Being an effective ensemble requires a fundamental understanding of what everyone else is doing in addition to what you're doing. In fact, in that sense, ensembles in theatre, dance, and music are art's most poignant metaphor for how individuals coexist in a society." NewMusicBox 03/8/06

March 9, 2006

ENO Staff Protested Leader's Appointment In December 458 staff of the English National Opera sent a letter to Arts Council England protesting the appointment of John Berry as the company's artistic director. "The lack of intention to recruit a leading artistic director is, in our view, very shortsighted ... and is not what is required to move the company forward. We invited you to explain ... what you intend to do." The reply from ACE's chairman, Sir Christopher Frayling, accepted the staff's criticism, but said: "It is not the Arts Council's job to intervene in the running of ENO or any other arts organisation ... To do so would be to act as a shadow director. The Guardian (UK) 03/10/06

  • Controversial ENO Director Speaks John Berry gives his first interview since being named to the top artistic job at the troubled English National Opera. "I think you can only do this job in a major house," he says, "if the artists trust you and are willing to go on a journey with you, and they feel you are willing to go on a journey with them. I've worked with 70 or 80 of the world's leading directors. My life has really been as a producer; that's what I do. It's all been about trying to get the best out of people and working in a collaborative way." The Guardian (UK) 03/10/06

New Toronto Opera House Gets $5m Gift - Finally A former president of the board of the Canadian Opera Company has stepped forward with a $5 million gift toward the construction of a new opera house in Toronto. "In the tradition of the melodramatic, [Hal] Jackman waited until the final act to make his move. Toronto's long-awaited opera house at Queen and University is now within months of completion, with opening gala concerts set for June." The project still needs to raise another $30 million before all is said and done. Toronto Star 03/09/06

MN Orch To Offer Free Online Concert Recordings Following in the footsteps of other American orchestras which have begun to embrace online media, the Minnesota Orchestra has announced a partnership with Minnesota Public Radio, under which some of the orchestra's live weekly broadcasts will be archived on MPR's web site, where listeners will be able to listen to them, free of charge, for up to a year. MPR has already been offering live streaming audio of the popular Friday night broadcasts for several years, but the orchestra hopes that the free archived streams will increase its profile outside its home region. Playbill Arts 03/09/06

McManus: Latest Louisville Proposal Doesn't Add Up The board of the Louisville Orchestra has made a new contract offer to its musicians which it says is less severe than its original plan to move 21 of the orchestra's musicians from full-time to part-time status. But the plan involves paying $5,000 bonuses to 19 musicians who would subsequently have their salaries cut to part-time levels, and AJ blogger Drew McManus wonders where the board is planning to get $95,000 for bonuses when they claim not to have enough money to continue operating past March 31 of this year. Adaptistration (AJ Blogs) 03/09/06

  • Famous Last Words The just-resigned executive director of the Louisville Orchestra acknowledges that he may have been in over his head in the job, but says that "I gave it my absolutely best shot." Scott Provancher had only run a small, part-time orchestra in Illinois before taking the Louisville job, but it appears that he may already have another job lined up - the orchestra's board president says that he was contacted by a headhunter recently about Provancher. Louisville Courier-Journal 03/09/06

March 8, 2006

A New Music Download Policy? Recording companies are reconsidering their policy of selling singles online for download. "If the industry determines that restricting digital sales pays off with bigger album sales, fans may soon find the instant gratification of snapping up new songs online becoming a little less instant. No one is talking about a wholesale shift away from the now-common practice of selling singles online ahead of new albums." The New York Times 03/09/06

SF Opera Taps Wallace/Tan For New Work "In addition to the previously announced Philip Glass commission, San Francisco Opera director David Gockley has tapped composer Stewart Wallace to work with Bay Area author Amy Tan on an operatic adaptation of her novel "The Bonesetter's Daughter." San Francisco Chronicle 03/08/06

Louisville Orchestra Exec Director Resigns Louisville Orchestra executive director Scott Provancher has resigned from the beleaguered organization. He "said that felt really good after the initial sessions but he became disappointed that the players decided to conduct a full vote on one of their initial offers before he felt that the offer was fully vetted." Adaptistration (AJBlogs) 03/08/06

It Stinks, It Bites, It Sucks - So Buy A Ticket! It's not often that a critic will mercilessly pan a performance, and then suggest that readers attend anyway. But David Patrick Stearns says that everyone within spitting distance of New York ought to hustle to see a new Metropolitan Opera production that he refers to as "breathtakingly vulgar, amazingly wrongheaded," and a disaster on the scale of the Exxon Valdez. Philadelphia Inquirer 03/08/06

Idol Hands Do The Devil's Work Fox TV's runaway hit, American Idol, is apparently making kids more interested in singing, and some school music teachers are even using Idol-style competitions to add some spice to their otherwise dry curriculum. But are the Idol worshippers really interested in music, or just in bandwagon jumping? And more importantly, are they really learning anything about music by prancing around in a classrom mimicking the godawful singing technique of the average Idol contestant? The Christian Science Monitor (Boston) 03/08/06

Conductors On The Run The past week saw two major music directors - Boston's James Levine and the London Phil's Kurt Masur - fall ill on the eve of a major tour. In both cases, podium replacements were quickly named, and the tours went ahead. But what about those substitute conductors? Were they just sitting around waiting for something to do? Not a chance - Marek Janowski, who stepped in for Levine, was in the middle of a two-week conducting stint in Minneapolis when he was asked to make a one-day, 3000-mile detour to conduct one of the most difficult programs imaginable at Carnegie Hall. Meanwhile, Minnesota's own hometown conductor, Osmo Vänskä, scrambled to reach Southern California to take over Masur's duties. Minneapolis Star Tribune 03/08/06

Baltimore In Trouble The Baltimore Symphony ran a staggering deficit of $7.3 million in fiscal 2005, and expects to tally another $4.5 million in red ink this season, raising the organization's accumulated debt total to a whopping $16.2 million. The numbers represent some of the largest deficits of any American orchestra in the last decade, even though Baltimore's annual budget ($30 million) is considerably smaller than those of orchestras in Cleveland and Chicago, which have faced similar-sized deficits in recent years. Oh, and the musicians' contract, which already included financial concessions meant to reduce debt, expires this September. Baltimore Sun 03/07/06

March 7, 2006

Another Proposal For Louisville Orchestra Musicians Louisville Orchestra management has made a new proposal to its musicians. The orchestra would be "a two-tiered structure with 55 full-time and 19 part-time players. Last month management had offered a plan with 53 full-time and 21 part-time players. Management also offered to pay a $5,000 bonus to each of 16 players who are now full-time but who would become part-timers." Louisville Courier-Journal 03/07/06

ENO Settles On Gardner Edward Gardner is the English National Opera's new music director. "The conductor Oleg Caetani was to have started as music director this month, but resigned at Christmas even before he began. The company has, since November, also lost an artistic director and a chairman. Gardner is music director of Glyndebourne Opera's touring arm, and a former assistant at the Hallé Orchestra to Mark Elder, who himself was 32 when he became music director of ENO in the 1980s." The Guardian (UK) 03/08/06

ENO Takes A Chance On New Leadership Edward Gardner is the "high-risk" choice to be music director of the troubled English National Opera. "The selection process, though swift, was admirably consultativen and transparent. The American Andrew Litton, much liked by the orchestra, was vetoed by the singing staff who felt he gave them insufficient support. Yakov Kreizberg, the Russian-born American, was top of the search list but he could not find room in a busy international schedule for the seven months a year that ENO required. Mark Wigglesworth, a British conductor who had commendably refused to work with Doran, was forced to make a choice between troubled ENO and the comfortable Monnaie in Brussels, where his appointment is expected shortly." La Scena Musicale 03/07/06

March 6, 2006

The Mozart Requiem, Brazilian Edition An unknown version of Mozart's unfinished Requiem has been hidden in the archives of a former Brazilian cathedral. A new recording of the Requiem on the specialist K617 French label has been released, "in a version written 30 years after Mozart's death by an Austrian-born composer, Johann Sigismund Neukomm. It has lain forgotten in a Rio de Janeiro vault for nearly 200 years." The Scotsman 03/06/06

Louisville Orchestra Rejects Musicians' Proposal "The Louisville Orchestra has rejected a proposal by its musicians to cut six weeks from the upcoming season, a move musicians say will save $400,000 in that contract year. But management believes that the cost savings would be closer to $200,000 because of the loss of potential revenue during those weeks and that the musicians' one-year proposal isn't sufficient to address the orchestra's longer-term needs." LouisvilleCourier-Journal 03/06/06

US Opens Investigation Into Download Price Fixing Are recording companies conspiring to inflate the price of music downloads? The US Department of Justice has opened an investigation. "The department of justice inquiry centres on the activities of the four largest record labels: EMI, Sony BMG, Universal and Warner Music. Subpoenas are believed to have been issued to all parties, with federal officials understood to be focusing on whether the companies have been colluding to keep the price of downloads artificially high." The Guardian (UK) 03/04/06

March 5, 2006

The Decomposing Opera A Philadelphia production of "Margaret Garner" seems to get worse with every performance. "Is it possible for an opera to deliver experiences so radically different without any significant revision of the score, change in cast, or alteration of production? That happens with Broadway musicals. But opera is supposed to be sturdier - and transcend things like the struggling orchestra heard on Feb. 24. Or can an opera be so eager to succeed with a mainstream audience that it lacks the anchor needed to overcome a performance that, for any number of reasons, loses its way?" Philadelphia Inquirer 03/05/06

Ode To The Bass Odd to say, given its enormous size, but the bass is a largely invisible instrument in the modern orchestra. "I think the size of it gives people the mistaken impression that you have to be a brute to play it. But it's a misconception, especially these days, with the advancements of the technical abilities of players and a more thorough understanding of body usage." Los Angeles Times 03/05/06

Elliott Carter - Hero Or Devil? Elliot tCarter is either "(a) America's great living composer or (b) an ogre who has alienated audiences with music of unfathomable density and dissonance." So which is it? The Star-Tribune (Mpls) 03/05/06

Peter Gelb New Old Met So Peter Gelb is reinventing the Metropolitan Opera. "Radical as Mr. Gelb's initiatives might seem to Met-goers who prefer tradition to innovation and opera-as-vocal-display to opera-as-musical-drama, Mr. Gelb's bold new vision is in fact a version of a bolder old one, as he acknowledges. Mr. Gelb made reference, in the news conference announcing his plans and in a separate interview, to Rudolf Bing, the Met's legendary general manager from 1950 to 1972. His ambition to focus resources on creating wholly viable theatrical productions echoes one of Sir Rudolf's top priorities when he took over as general manager at the old Met." The New York Times 03/05/06

Ailing Levine Pulls Out Of Important Tour After Fall James Levine has withdrawn from a national tour of the Boston Symphony after taking a fall last week. "The tour, with stops in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Newark, and Washington, D.C., is the orchestra's first major American tour in several years and is designed to show other important musical centers the excitement Levine has generated with the orchestra." Boston Globe 03/05/06

March 2, 2006

The Model Music Teacher What makes a good music teacher? Different approaches will suit different pupils, but the best practitioners are not always the best instructors... The Telegraph (UK) 03/03/06

March 1, 2006

Blurry Boundaries - Where Is Classical Music? "Where does classical music begin and end? I don't mean in terms of chronology - whether it starts with Josquin or Monteverdi, or finishes with Schönberg or Stockhausen. I ask the question in relation to generic boundaries, and I want an answer because so much effort has been expended recently on "breaking down the barriers" which supposedly surround classical music that it has become impossible to maintain any focused sense of what those barriers were originally intended to mark." The Telegraph (UK) 03/02/06

Two Opera Companies Form Partnership (But Don't Call It A Merger!) "The Pittsburgh Opera and Opera Theater of Pittsburgh yesterday announced they have entered into an artistic and marketing collaboration beginning in the 2006-07 season. But they are not merging, a move that has been tried in the past... A merger has been rumored since Pittsburgh Opera announced that its production next season of The Magic Flute will be directed by Opera Theater's head, Jonathan Eaton."
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 03/01/06

Smithsonian To Get Down With Its Bad Self You would never mistake the staid and distinguished Smithsonian Institution for the Rock Hall of Fame, but "at an emotional and at times rowdy news conference yesterday at the Hilton New York, a group of hip-hop pioneers gathered beside the dark-suited, white-gloved Smithsonian staff to announce a plan for a major new collection devoted to the music. Called 'Hip-Hop Won't Stop: The Beat, the Rhymes, the Life,' it is to be a broad sampling of memorabilia, from boomboxes and vinyl albums to handwritten lyrics and painted jeans jackets, as well as multimedia exhibits and oral histories." The New York Times 03/01/06

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