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April 30, 2006

The Barenboim Doctrine "Suddenly, classical music has become sexy. In the course of a single month, one man - conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim - has achieved what generations of musicians and musicologists have strived to achieve: to find a way of talking about music that makes us see its relevance to our everyday existence." The Observer (UK) 04/30/06

Does Philly Have A New Horn Player Or Not? The Philadelphia Orchestra has announced, and music critic Peter Dobrin of the Philadelphia Inquirer has published, that St. Louis Symphony Orchestra principal horn Jennifer Montone is about to become the principal horn in Philly. Montone says she’s not comfortable with the announcement, though. 'It’s not a done deal yet'." St. Louis Post-Dispatch 04/29/06

Filling Leadership At The Chicago Symphony What to make of the Chicago Symphony's decidion to appoint Bernard haitink as principal conductor? For one thing, it means Leonard Slatkin (who really wanted the job) is being passed over. "In addition to its work with Boulez and Haitink, the orchestra will make a two-week tour of Europe under the direction of Riccardo Muti in fall 2007. Muti is believed to be the top choice for music director among the musicians, but he is prohibitively expensive and unlikely to want to take on another American music directorship after his tenure in Philadelphia in the 1980s." Washington Post 04/29/06

The Perfect Partner Accompanists spend their careers working on being complete partners. But what happens when star soloists fill in on the supporting role? Is the music better served by specialist accompanists or soloist-collaborators? Los Angeles Times 04/30/06

Measuring Joseph Volpe's Metropolitan Opera Career "During his tenure, the Met mounted 4 world premieres, 22 house premieres and 47 new productions, a record not seen since the tenure of Giulio Gatti-Casazza, from 1908 to 1935. The endowment tripled to about $300 million. The house installed titles. Customer care — including automated ticket sales and easier ticket exchanges — improved, he said. Labor peace was maintained, with contracts often settled ahead of schedule. The Met was widely seen as an extremely well-run house. But one thing Mr. Volpe could not achieve was halting an overall decline in ticket revenues..." The New York Times 04/30/06

Pitched By Pitchfork The indie band website Pitchfork has become a major force in the promotion of alternative music. "Pitchfork has achieved a sort of mythical status, like an indie-rock yogi: Readers climb the digital mountaintop to see what wisdom (and written weirdness) its team of freelance writers might dispense about this off-the-radar band or that one, and then they act accordingly..." Washington Post 04/30/06

New Orleans Music - Unending, Unknowing "New Orleans is two cities now—one inching toward renewal, the other caught in what David Winkler-Schmidt of the local Gambit Weekly called 'the horrible unending of not knowing.' Already Gambit's music section lists my favorite clubs hosting my favorite bands, many of whose members travel from Atlanta or Baton Rouge for gigs. But the great body of culture that long inspired and still shapes the sound of American music—in the form of jazz musicians, Mardi Gras Indians, Social Aid and Pleasure Club second-liners, neighborhood brass bands, and up-from-the-projects MCs— remains stuck in that unending." Village Voice 04/25/06

April 28, 2006

Two More Leave Baltimore Symphony Management Ranks The president of the orchestra's board and the orchestra's general manager have resigned. They follow the departure of executive director James Glicker. The orchestra recently raided its endowment fund to pay off debt, and is about to start negotiations with its musicians on a new contract. Baltimore Sun 04/28/06

Chicago Symphony Appoints Haitink The Chicago Symphony has named Bernard Haitink to the newly-created post of principal conductor, as longtime music director Daniel Barenboim prepares to depart. "Pierre Boulez, 81, the CSO's principal guest conductor since 1995, will become conductor emeritus." Chicago Sun-Times 04/28/06

Billy Joel Piano Concerto To Get Premiere "Pianist Jeffrey Biegel will perform the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra with the EMF faculty orchestra. Biegel had initially asked Joel to write him a concerto, but due to time constraints the pop star suggested that some of his solo piano pieces be reworked into a concerto." PlaybillArts 04/27/06

April 27, 2006

NYC Opera Close To Getting A New Home "The New York City Opera is close to a deal to build a concert hall in the base of a new apartment building planned for the former American Red Cross site near Lincoln Center... In the new building, the opera company is to have a theater of about 1,800 seats with the expected cost about $350 million..." The New York Times 04/27/06

The Jesus & Commerce Chain For mainstream rock fans, the very idea of Christian Rock can cause sneers and laughter. But the genre has exploded in the last two decades, and increasingly, Christian bands are nearly indistinguishable from their secular counterparts, save for two things: the lyrics are about God, and the Christian albums sell better. The New York Times 04/27/06

Toronto Opera House Gets A Sound Check Opening night may yet be weeks away, but a packed house got a chance this week to hear the first full test of the acoustics of Toronto's new Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. "It was immediately clear that music is truly front and centre in this space. The singing from the stage and playing from the orchestra pit sounded clean and mellow. The lyrics were clearly intelligible." Toronto Star 04/27/06

Philly's Brass Section Looking Considerably Less Male Hot on the heels of having hired one of the few female tubists in the professional orchestra world, the Philadelphia Orchestra has hired another prominent woman as its new principal french horn. Jennifer Montone, who has been principal horn of the St. Louis Symphony, will become the first female principal horn of any of the so-called "Big Five" orchestras in nearly sixty years. Orchestras have been hiring women for decades, of course, but the brass sections of many ensembles have remained overwhelmingly male. Philadelphia Inquirer 04/27/06

Charleston Sym Expects A Significant Deficit South Carolina's Charleston Symphony is on pace to end the current season $211,000 in the red, even after extra contributions to the orchestra's endowment fund by the outgoing board chair and his wife. There are also concerns about advance ticket sales for next season, which are down from previous years. Charleston Post & Courier (SC) 04/27/06

Europe's All-Star Chamber Orchestra A chamber orchestra can be a tricky ensemble to maintain - there aren't many that qualify as full-time employment, and that can hurt the ability of the orchestra to attract the best players. But the Chamber Orchestra of Europe has found a unique model which has attracted (and kept) some of the best musicians in Europe coming back season after season for what is sometimes described as the world's best pickup band. The Telegraph (UK) 04/27/06

April 26, 2006

Watching The Music Sway Anyone who says that classical music is a purely aural medium has probably never seen an orchestra in action. The movements of a conductor can range from subtle to violent, and musicians can be seen moving independently or in concert. Charlotte Higgins says that observing the physical movement of an orchestra is half the fun of the performance. The Guardian (UK) 04/26/06

Roanoke Orchestra CEO Quits; Musicians Cheer The chief executive of the Roanoke Symphony in Virginia has resigned after running $480,000 in deficits and clashing with the orchestra's musicians over cuts in the concert schedule. Paul Chambers had also faced criticism for contracting the orchestra's marketing work out to his wife. The musicians are openly celebrating Chambers' resignation, saying that "There wasn't any aspect of Paul's tenure that [we] felt really good about." Chambers had come to the Roanoke Symphony after running the Savannah Symphony in Georgia, which went bankrupt on his watch. Roanoke Times (VA) 04/26/06

San Antonio Lyric To Get Name Change And A New Home The eight-year-old Lyric Opera of San Antonio (which has already been through one name change since it launched as San Antonio Pocket Opera) will become San Antonio Opera next season, in conjunction with a move to a smaller theater more conducive to opera. The move will likely mean more than the name change to local audiences, who were in near revolt this season after the company began presenting its performances in the massive Municipal Auditorium, which reportedly does not sport the finest acoustics. Mike Greenberg reports that, while the company has made significant progress since its 1998 debut, it is still being run on a skeleton staff, and will have to continue searching for a more permanent venue. San Antonio Express-News 04/26/06

Phil Orch Fills Diaz Vacancy From Within It isn't often that principal positions come open in a major orchestra, so when the Philadelphia Orchestra's principal violist, Roberto Diaz, announced that he was leaving to accept a position as head of the prestigious Curtis Institute, there was no shortage of interest in succeeding him. Auditions for the plum spot were held this week, and when the dust cleared, the Philadelphians promoted longtime associate principal Choong-Jin Chang to the top chair. Philadelphia Inquirer 04/26/06

April 25, 2006

Of African Dictators & Experimental Electronica Did the world really need an opera about Libyan dictator Muammar Gadafy? Perhaps not, but English National Opera is preparing to stage one anyway. "The opera is a huge gamble for [ENO] - not just because of its incendiary subject matter, but also because of the experimental nature of the music. It's not often the venerable opera house plays host to an alternative electronica collective like Asian Dub Foundation, who specialise in breakbeat, dub, bangla and ragga. More challengingly, the opera will feature Egyptian and Libyan musicians alongside the ENO orchestra" The Guardian (UK) 04/26/06

NY Phil Wants A Summer Venue "The New York Philharmonic is stepping up efforts to create an outdoor concert venue for summer concerts... Public relations consultant Howard Rubenstein is working on behalf of the orchestra to enlist New York mayor Michael Bloomberg's support for a new venue within the city limits... The Philharmonic currently plays summer concerts in Central Park and other parks around the metropolitan area, but the city has no permanent outdoor music venue along the lines of suburban Chicago's Ravinia Festival, Cleveland's Blossom Festival, or Los Angeles's Hollywood Bowl." PlaybillArts 04/25/06

Scottish Opera's Year Of Reckoning Scottish Opera is performing again after its forced 1-year hiatus (imposed when the Scottish government refused to fund the company until an accumulated debt was paid off,) but the company has clearly been decimated. "The spiral of decline into which Scottish Opera has fallen in recent years has reached the make-or-break stage. Funding may have been guaranteed till mid-2008, but the next 12 months will decide whether the company continues as a main-stage entity or shrivels into a touring outfit. Scotland’s political class would tolerate the latter, and even encourage it." Financial Times (UK) 04/25/06

When The Weaver Met The Boss How can an octogenarian folk singer enjoy a career resurgence without singing a note? Just ask Pete Seeger, whose already impressive legacy is getting a major boost with the release of a new CD by rocker Bruce Springsteen. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/25/06

IU Music School Mourns Its Loss The plane crash that killed five students at the University of Indiana's School of Music has rocked the Bloomington campus, and students and faculty are just beginning to assess the impact of the disaster on the school. Indiana Daily Student 04/25/06

April 24, 2006

SPCO To Offer 35-Year Archive Of Concerts Online The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra has unveiled a new media agreement with Minnesota Public Radio which will allow online listeners to hear a large percentage of the orchestra's 35-year archive of radio broadcasts. Still undecided is whether the programs will be free to consumers, but the agreement is likely to get plenty of scrutiny from orchestras and musicians around the country, as the industry continues to debate how best to use new technologies, and how (if at all) musicians should be paid for such distribution. Minneapolis Star Tribune 04/25/06

You Can't Judge A Drunk By His Symphonies "The characters and life stories of composers are as varied as those of any other group - schoolteachers or greengrocers, farmers or soccer managers. It is true that some lived flamboyant bohemian lives, but just as many carried on like accountants... Does knowing about the composers help us to understand their music? It is tempting to think that there is an obvious connection between the way a composer lived and the music he wrote (and most of them were 'he'). Sadly, this isn't the case." The Telegraph (UK) 04/24/06

The Great Classical Dumb-Down Comes To Oz In Australia, some devotees of classical music are worried that some of the world's greatest art is being reduced to the level of a pop song, and that those intending to broaden the audience are, in fact, insulting its intelligence. "To be sure, classical music needs to reach out to new audiences if it is to survive in this country... But we are not going the right way about fixing the problem. Instead, we are dumbing down classical music through the constant release of 'best of' CD compilations and with programming that replaces quality with quantity. The main culprit is none other than the traditional champion of classical music in this country, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation." Sydney Morning Herald 04/25/06

April 23, 2006

Was Bach Fronting For His Wife? "A study by an academic who has spent more than 30 years looking at Bach's work claims that Anna Magdalena Bach, traditionally believed to be Bach's musical copyist, actually wrote some of his best-loved works, including his Six Cello Suites... He points to what he regards as the uniquely symmetrical nature of the work, and to the fact that the manuscripts included many corrections and adjustments, suggesting that they were original composing scores." Scholars are intrigued, but several prominent performers are skeptical. The Telegraph (UK) 04/23/06

BSO Debuts Podcast Following in the footsteps of other American orchestras which have recently begun to embrace new technologies, the Boston Symphony is launching a free series of video podcasts as part of its two-year focus on the music of Beethoven and Schönberg. "The videos, which range in length from one to five minutes, discuss important works by the two composers, illustrated with still photographs, paintings, images of scores, video, and musical examples. They originated on the orchestra's ambitious web site as part of its three-year-old Online Conservatory project, but are now available through Apple's iTunes music store." PlaybillArts 04/23/06

Revenue-to-Expense Is An Ugly Ratio in Baltimore The Baltimore Symphony is the latest ensemble to be facing down a series of crippling deficits, and eyebrow-raising endowment raids aside, there don't appear to be any easy solutions. "The symphony's operating expenses have been more than twice its operating revenue... Paring debt will help expenses only marginally, saving maybe a million or two in annual interest, assuming whomever covered the deficits charged interest. What really matter are demand for the symphony's product and the cost to produce it, and in these categories symphonic orchestras are working at a disadvantage in the 21st century." Baltimore Sun 04/23/06

Overexuberance May Be Hazardous To Your Strad The music world abounds with stories of soloist mishaps, usually involving a broken string or something equally innocuous. But violinist/heartthrob Joshua Bell added an unusual chapter of his own last week in Chicago: caught up in the passion of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, Bell took too large a swipe with his bow, and with a mighty thwack, knocked over the delicate bridge that holds up his strings. (Yes, the famous Strad Bell plays on is fine.) Chicago Tribune 04/22/06

Could ENO Actually Have A Hit On Its Hands? After years of absorbing seemingly endless criticism of its mission, its management, and its music, English National Opera may finally have scored a win with London's famously combative critics. A new staging of Monteverdi's Orfeo is "a magical mix of East and West which in no way impinges on the earthy drama of the score in all its filigree detail. The interaction of dance and music is, if anything, enhanced by their hieratic gestures, mirrored by the principals in more than usually convincing style." The Observer (UK) 04/23/06

Plane Crash Claims Five IU Musicians Five students at the prestigious Indiana University School of Music were killed Thursday night when the single-engine Cessna plane on which they were traveling to the school crashed just short of the Bloomington airport. Officials believe foggy conditions may have been a factor. Indianapolis Star 04/22/06

We Wouldn't Want Anyone Hijacking The Plane With An Endpin Any professional musician can tell you horror stories of trying to get his instrument onto a commercial airline in defiance of overzealous TSA screeners, overworked desk agents, and harried flight attendants. But Northwest Airlines appears to have hit a new low in musician relations: students from a Minnesota high school orchestra were shocked last week when Northwest refused to allow their insruments in the cabin, and charged $1600 to place them in the cargo hold, from whence several cellos and basses emerged broken and unplayable. The airline says it probably isn't liable. Minneapolis Star Tribune 04/22/06

April 21, 2006

EMI: Download Sales Soar Recording giant EMI says its sales of digital downloads has increased by 150 percent in the last year. "The world's third largest record company predicted that the jump would help its annual profits rise by 12%." Downloading sales now account for 5.5 percent of the company's music sales. BBC 04/21/06

Music Of The Street Street musicians - buskers - in New York can make $200 a day and up. "It’s interesting to see what the street looks like from this angle. You enter a new world when you put yourself out like this. In a club there’s an invisible wall between you and the audience. Here, there’s not." New York Press 04/20/06

April 20, 2006

Why Pop Doesn't Travel Well Why is it that pop music not sung in English doesn't do well in the UK? "Indeed, with only 15% of UK record sales going to acts from outside the UK or US, the window is barely open at all. William Luff, senior press officer at EMI, puts this down to the strength of Anglophone pop as much as our notoriously insular attitude." The Guardian (UK) 04/20/06

Apple: One Price Fits All (We Insist On It) Should different songs cost differnt prices? Steve Jobs thinks not. "Negotiations between Apple and the four major music companies - with which iTunes deals all expire in the next two months - have reached a crucial point as several record executives now say they are unlikely to convince Jobs to allow variable pricing, sources said. This marks a change of tune for the record industry as late last year several executives said they believed variable pricing - something the music companies have been pushing for - was imminent." New York Post 04/20/06

Parents Buying More CDs Than Kids "The top 100 is strewn with records that can only be described as easy listening. And it is all a reflection of a significant change in the music industry - the power of 'mum rock'. Forty-somethings now buy more than twice as many pop CDs as teenagers and the gap is growing every year." BBC 04/20/06

Royal Scottish Slashes Ticket Prices, Gets Casual The Royal Scottish National Orchestra is joining the expanding ranks of orchestras seeking to re-popularize their product by making it more appealing to the casual listener. "Principally, [this includes] two new series of concerts: Symphonies at Six, the RSNO's first rush-hour series, and Naked Classics, a series devised to dissect and popularise classical music. Other new elements feature a design-it-yourself subscription series, a kids-go-free policy, and a dramatic reduction in the cost of concert tickets." The RSNO's young music director, Stephane Deneve, will also be getting involved in nearly every aspect of the season, leading family concerts and a Hallowe'en special in addition to his more traditional duties. The Herald (Glasgow) 04/20/06

Hiring Outside The Box The Philadelphia Orchestra has tapped the dean of the Eastman School of Music to be its next president and CEO. James Undercofler is a surprise choice for two main reasons: first, it is very unusual for an orchestra executive to come from the academic world; and second, Undercofler officially took himself out of the running for the position and signed a contract extension with Eastman a month ago. Philadelphia Inquirer 04/20/06

April 19, 2006

Overnight Sensation "Gustavo Dudamel, a 25 year-old Venezuelan with a film-star look in his eyes and the physical stature of Paul Newman without heels, has been storming concert halls on scant rehearsal this past year as a last-minute substitute. He helped the Philharmonia out of a hole at the Beethoven Festival in Bonn, deputised for Esa-Pekka Salonen and Zubin Mehta in Switzerland and Israel and went on air worldwide by stepping in for Neeme Järvi at the BBC Proms. He's smart, he's cute and, in case you're getting interested, he has just married a ballet dancer, Eloisa Maturen. All the right moves, in just the right order, and backstory to break hardened hearts." La Scena Musicale 04/19/06

Overlooked - The Piano Duo "Nobody overlooks the qualities of a lone pianist, or the importance of the pianist in a trio. But when it comes to the pianist in a duo, the public seems to suffer from piano blindness." The Guardian (UK) 04/20/06

Organ-Makers Run Afoul Of New European Union Laws "Two European Union directives, which come into force in the 25 EU countries in July, ban the manufacture of 'electrical equipment' containing more than 0.1 percent lead. The statutes are intended principally to reduce the volume of lead seeping back into the environment mainly from discarded mobile phones and other disposable modern technologies. But the 1,000-year-old art of organ-building appears to have been swept up in the legislating zeal." Christian Science Monitor 04/17/06

Is Reggaeton Fading? Today's big music? Well, it was supposed to be reggaeton. But then again, maybe not. "In at least three markets -- Las Vegas, Dallas and Miami -- stations that gambled on the music's growing popularity have since switched back to more traditional formats. And in perhaps the most worrisome sign yet, turnout was disappointing for a reggaeton concert last month at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., headlined by Daddy Yankee, the genre's superstar, and rapper Snoop Dogg." Chicago Tribune 04/19/06

April 18, 2006

Chicago Music Fans Angry At Pub Radio Decision To Drop Music "Chicago Public Radio's recently announced decision to gut music programs from all three frequencies it controls -- most notably WBEZ-FM 91.5 -- has unleashed a torrent of criticism. Listeners who for decades have tuned in to WBEZ's jazz, blues and world-music programming are incensed at the plans, which will go into effect in early 2007." Chicago Tribune 04/16/06

Are America's Best Pop Singers From The South? Who wins on "American Idol"? "For five years, the most wildly popular talent contest on American television has been dominated -- thoroughly, totally and completely -- by kids from Southern Hicksville, USA. Seven of the eight top-two finishers in the first four years were from states that once formed the Confederacy, and five of the seven remaining finalists this season are, too." Washington Post 04/18/06

Mozart Tops UK Favorite Composer Poll Mozart's Clarinet Concerto has topped Classic FM's poll of Britain's most popular composer. "It is the first time the Austrian-born composer has come first in the radio station's annual Hall of Fame survey. Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto had previously topped the survey for five years in a row. Mozart has 24 entries in the Top 300, three more than his nearest rival Beethoven - three of whose works feature in the Top 10." BBC 04/18/06

April 17, 2006

Southeast Asia's First "Ring" "Thailand's decision to be the first Southeast Asian nation to present the work has surprised even the most ardent Wagnerians. The production, by the Bangkok Opera, has the official blessing of the composer's great-grandson Wolfgang, who inaugurated Bangkok's Wagner Society last year. But it is a huge undertaking for a country that has been producing Western opera for only five years. Will Wagner be raising a quizzical eye from beyond the grave?" The new York Times 04/18/06

Wyner Wins Pulitzer Yehudi Wyner has won this year's Pulitzer for music. "Commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra through the New Works Fund (established by the Massachusetts Cultural Council), the concerto was premiered by soloist Robert Levin and the BSO under the baton of frequent guest conductor Robert Spano on February 17, 2005." NewMusicBox 04/17/06

Cut The Talk - It's Time To Listen More and more, performers of classical music concerts are speaking to their audiences. Andrew Clark isn't impressed: "The trouble with speaking to the audience is that it limits the imaginative scope of the music. Listening to someone discussing a piece of music before you have a chance to hear it pre-programmes your responses. The music has no chance to communicate freely. You are left with a number of objective ideas about what to think and feel, circumscribing the subjective impressions that music seeks to create in the listener through the medium of sound." Financial Times 04/15/06

Email Intrudes Into The Concert Hall Gadgets of our electronic age are increasingly becoming a distraction in the concert hall. A woman next to Robert Hurwitz in a concert recently spent the performance working on her Blackberry while the music played. "The concert hall is not a church or a temple, but in many ways it is a sanctuary from modern life. It is not, and should not be merely an escape where we hear pretty, soothing melodies or music that relaxes us (for that, smooth jazz radio stations or New-Age records will do just fine). It is, rather, a refuge where we can go and still be fully engaged." The New York Times 04/16/06

April 16, 2006

Where Illegal Downloads Are Encouraged At a time that major recording labels are busy suing downloaders for illegally trading music, unknown bands are finding downloads (legal or otherwise) a benefit. "For an increasing number of acts, free or illegal downloads are a promotional tool more valuable than money." Denver Post 04/16/06

Michigan Opera In Transition David DiChiera is the "genial founding general director of Michigan Opera Theatre", and the builder of Detroit's $50-million opera house. "They are the products of his vision, his sweat, his moxie and his leadership. They are his destiny. But the 10th anniversary of the opera house, along with the 35th anniversary of MOT, captures the company in transition." Detroit Free Press 04/16/06

Science Of Music? Not Anytime Soon Last week scientists wired up conductor Keith Lockhart and some of his audience to measure physical response to music. But Richard Dyer is unimpressed: "Science may illuminate magic and mystery, but it isn't going to eliminate them anytime soon." Boston Globe 04/16/06

Rostropovich Channels Shostakovich Mstislav Rostropovich's days of playing the cello are receding, and he's been expanding his conducting activities, indulging a passion for Shostakovich. "He was the most important man in my life, after my father. Sometimes when I'm conducting, I see his face coming to me. Sometimes it's not really a happy face — I conduct maybe a bit too slow, so I conduct faster, and the face disappears." The New York Times 04/16/06

Page: Handicapping The National Symphony's Leadership Prospects Who should be Washington's National Symphony's next music director? The orchestra ought to have more respect. More stature. Matter more. The orchestra has always been tough to lead, and Leonard Slatkin is only the latest conductor to be told his services were coming to an end. There are brilliant conductors out there, but the National probably doesn't have the stature to play in the big leagues, writes Tim Page. So who can the orchestra get? Washington Post 04/16/06

April 14, 2006

Boston Station Expands Classical Programming We hear about classical music dying on radio. But Boston's WGBH is expanding its classical music offerings. The station is launch a new high-definition station to offer more classical music programming... Boston Globe 04/14/06

April 13, 2006

Will Downloading Revive The Single And Destroy The Album? Not too long ago, music journalists and industry observers were speculating that the music single was on its way out, and that no one bought anything but full-length albums anymore, anyway. But now, with downloading accounting for an ever-increasing chunk of music sales, the opposite may wind up being true. "As downloading becomes universal, the singles charts (for too long in thrall to the marketing power of record companies and tastes of teenagers) will once more start to reflect the real listening experience of the general population." And with that change could come the death of the traditional album. The Telegraph (UK) 04/14/06

This Is Why We Have Intermissions The BBC made international headlines when it announced that it would broadcast Wagner's complete "Ring" cycle in a single day. But how many people could actually stand to sit through such a thing, even in the comfort of their own home? One London critic decided to give it a go, and did just fine for the first seven hours or so. Then, well... "Whimper. Make the nasty music go away, mummy! ... This is apocalyptic, disturbing stuff, and it's rolling madly around in my head." The Guardian (UK) 04/14/06

Renewal Begins With A Brief Exile Russia's St. Petersburg Philharmonic will be playing a reduced home schedule and increasing its touring beginning this July, as the city's premiere concert hall closes for a major renovation. "The renovation is all the more challenging now that the [music director Yuri Temirkanov] has just removed the company’s executive director Vladimir Gronsky. The Philharmonic hasn’t had much luck with its managers, having changed three directors over the past ten years, with all of them being forced to resign before the end of their contracts." St. Petersburg Times (Russia) 04/14/06

Gergiev Wants To Conduct The LSO, Not Control It Russian conductor Valery Gergiev will take the reins of the London Symphony Orchestra next January, and anticipation is building in Britain's capital city. But what does Gergiev plan to do with his new toy? Well, for one thing, he plans to explore some of the Russian music that has fallen out of fashion since the collapse of the Soviet Union. But more importantly, he won't "pretend to take the orchestra to other planets" and would hope "never to block a truly artistic statement" from any musician. Gergiev seems particularly sensitive to the burnout that some music directors face with the world's great orchestras as a result of fundraising and gladhanding duties, and stresses that he wants his relationship with the LSO to be "purely musical." The Guardian (UK) 04/14/06

Want Young Faces At Your Concerts? Try Making Them Fun (And Good) To hear some classical music administrators tell it, you'd think that getting young people to a performance was a task worthy of Hercules and Sisyphus combined. But Washington National Opera doesn't seem to be having any trouble. "The company's sold-out performance of Gaetano Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore showed that it is about more than low-price tickets, though that certainly helps. It is about creating a social atmosphere and making sure the quality of the artistry is there." Washington Post 04/13/06

Fired Orchestra Chief Forces Bankruptcy Six years ago, Joseph Rescigno was fired from his position as artistic director of Orchestre Metropolitain du Grand Montreal. "Rescigno sued for lost salary, moving expenses, defamation of character and moral damages. The Quebec Superior Court ruled in Rescigno's favour in 2003 and this year the Quebec Court of Appeal upheld the lower court judgment in January. The orchestra now owes Rescigno more than $250,000. Early last week, demands for payment escalated. Letters of seizure were sent to the orchestra's bank," and the organization filed for bankruptcy protection. A benefit concert raised $200,000 for the orchestra, but like the rest of the orchestra's assets, that money can't be touched until the dispute with Rescigno is settled. Montreal Gazette 04/13/06

April 12, 2006

2006's Forgotten Composers As everyone even peripherally aware of the world of classical music knows, 2006 is the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth. It's also the 100th for Shostakovich, and you probably knew that, too. But two other influential composers would have been celebrating a century this year, and no one seems to care a bit. How could this be so, in an industry so in love with anniversary celebrations? Well, for one thing, they were both women. Beyond that, "there are, as you might suspect, a clutch of personal reasons, along with a whiff of scandal." La Scena Musicale 04/12/06

Band On The Rise Several years ago, the 42-year-old Philadelphia musical institution known as Concerto Solists changed its name to the more formal Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, and ever since, the ensemble has been moving towards becoming a major professional ensemble. "Some of the 2006-07 repertoire, from Beethoven's Symphony No. 1 to de Falla's El Amor Brujo, could easily appear in Philadelphia Orchestra programs across the Kimmel Center plaza. In fact, the 2005-06 season opened with Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, programmed the same week the Philadelphia Orchestra played it." Philadelphia Inquirer 04/12/06

The Money Man Palm Beach Opera's new chief executive, William Ryberg, has spent the last several years developing something of a reputation as a turnaround artist. He cut his teeth on an endowment drive at Michigan's Grand Rapids Symphony, then helped to stabilize a precarious fiscal situation with the Oregon Symphony. In Palm Beach, he takes on an organization with big plans, but not a lot of money to accomplish them. Palm Beach Daily News 04/12/06

April 11, 2006

St. Luke's Gets $5m Endowment Boost The New York-based Orchestra of St. Luke's, a much-lauded ensemble made up of freelance musicians, has received an anonymous $5 million gift intended to allow the organization to start an endowment fund. "Orchestra of St. Luke's has an annual budget of $5 million... The organization expects to raise about $280,000 this year from individuals and $250,000 to $300,000 from the board, with the rest coming from foundation gifts and ticket sales." Bloomberg News 04/11/06

The Finland Factor The rise of a new generation of prominent Finnish conductors has been well-documented in recent years, and with the international spotlight firmly focused on podium stars like Salonen, Oramo, and Vänskä, Finnish composers are starting to enjoy worldwide attention as well. "It would be difficult to characterise a Finnish school of composition, yet there are no shortage of Finnish composers of international standing." Throw in a sizable smattering of top-flight instrumental and vocal soloists, and Finland, a nation of only 5 million, might be able to claim the greatest per capita level of success in the classical music world. The Herald (Glasgow) 04/12/06

Oregon Symphony Prez To Head Florida Opera Company For the second time in three years, the Oregon Symphony is losing its president to another ensemble. William A. Ryberg, who is credited with reducing Oregon's annual deficits and increasing donated income during his short time in Portland, will take over as head of Florida's Palm Beach Opera this fall. It was three seasons ago that then-Oregon Symphony president Tony Woodcock resigned to accept the same position with the Minnesota Orchestra. The Oregonian (Portland) 04/11/06

What Do You Do When The Ride Ends? We tend to think of rock stars as having it made, rolling in dough, and assured of lifelong comfort and wealth. But the truth is that popular music is a fickle business, and even artists with long-standing track records can quickly fall out of favor. Chart-topping artists go broke every day, and why? Well, just try getting a 22-year-old phenom with a $10 million record deal interested in long-term financial planning. The New York Times 04/11/06

April 10, 2006

Whatever Happened To Letting The Music Speak For Itself? Charlotte Higgins has had about enough of the hyperbole and exaggeration being employed by London's opera companies in an effort to sell tickets. "It's a sad sign of an artform that's on its uppers when you have to resort to desperate measures to attract the crowds... [and] often enough promoters don't even need to make absurd claims for shows, since they tend to have carefully filleted press quotes to do it for them." Culture Vulture (Guardian Blogs) 04/11/06

Classical Brit Noms Announced "Singer Bryn Terfel and composer Karl Jenkins have both been nominated for two Classical Brit Awards alongside Scottish teenager Nicola Benedetti... US soprano Renee Fleming and German counter-tenor Andreas Scholl are nominated alongside bass-baritone Terfel [for singer of the year.]" The Classical Brits are a major event in the UK, with listeners to the country's popular ClassicFM service picking the winners. BBC 04/11/06

Edinburgh Sets Early Ticket Sales Record The Edinburgh Festival broke a house record this week, selling £200,000 worth of tickets on the first day of sales, a jump of 25% from last year. Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic, probably the most anticipated concert on the schedule, sold out almost immediately. The 2006 festival will be the final one coordinated by Brian McMaster, who has directed Ednburgh for 15 years. PlaybillArts 04/10/06

Seattle Still Hunting For The Right Leader The Seattle Symphony is approaching the two-year mark in its search for a new concertmaster, and orchestra higher-ups say they hope to have a new leader in place by the beginning of the 2006-07 season. For those who attend concerts at Benaroya Hall, the search process has been unusually easy to follow, with candidates regularly playing with the orchestra for a week or two, and a select few invited back for a second look. It's all a far cry from the usual secretive audition process most orchestra musicians go through. Seattle Post-Intelligencer 04/11/06

It's Lang Lang V. Yundi Li Two young Chinese pianists born in 1982 are locked in a rivalry. "The rivalry between two young pianists just out of protégé puberty has already gone too far. Nothing good — unless you think short-term record company profits are all that matter — can come from it." Los Angeles Times 04/09/06

April 9, 2006

Feels Like The Very First Time Those of us who get hooked on music can usually point to a peak experience or two that captured our affection and made us fans. So what was your "first" time? Sun-Times staff relate their defining concert experiences. Chicago Sun-Times 04/09/06

Daniel Barenboim On The Marketing Of Music: "We have the whole [phenomenon of] descriptive marketing in the United States, which is how to use music as description and how to market it that way. In other words, what they are saying to the public is that you don't have to concentrate, you don't have to listen, you don't have to know anything about it, just come and you will find some association, and this way you will go into the music. Is that the answer to the so-called crisis in classical music? Accessibility does not come through populism, accessibility comes through more interest and more knowledge." The Telegraph (UK) 04/08/06

The Stones In China The Rolling Stones finally make it to China, but play to an audience of only 8000. "The gig has been a long time coming and the fact that it is now possible reflects how the cultural and economic gap has closed between China and the West. When the band started in 1962, millions of Chinese were dying in the famines that followed the Great Leap Forward. In the decade that followed the only pop icon allowed to be worshipped was Mao Zedong. Even at the end of the Cultural Revolution, several attempts to arrange a Chinese concert were thwarted by financial concerns, political worries and, most recently, the outbreak of Sars." The Observer (UK) 04/09/06

Too Far, Too Much Work, And They're Playing That Again? Why are classical concert audiences eroding? Composer Libby Larsen has been studying the problem, and has some ideas. For one thing, suburbanites (and a majority of the population in most metro areas lives in the suburbs) already make an average of 13 car trips a day, and aren't terribly keen on battling traffic into the urban core for a concert. For another, technology and its constant advance means that even hardcore music-lovers don't actually need the concert hall to get their fix. And then, of course, there's the repertoire problem... San Antonio Express-News 04/09/06

No Classical Left To Cross Over From "Classical crossover isn't a new category, but it's one that morphs more ceaselessly than any other, and appears to be going further afield from core classical than ever. Originally, the crossover chart was created for artists who fell through the cracks, like harpist-composer Andreas Vollenweider. Now, any disc is fair game if issued on a classical label, if featuring a classical artist (even in nonclassical repertoire), or if featuring a nonclassical artist taking a crack at the classics." Philadelphia Inquirer 04/09/06

Why Would Anyone Want This Job? There may not be a more demanding job in the music world than that of the opera conductor. Among the challenges: the orchestra must be kept together; the singers (who cannot hear the orchestra) must be explicitly cued, and sometimes need the words mouthed to them from the pit; the audience expects a brilliant and original interpretation, while the orchestra doesn't want to be taken too far outside their comfort zone; egos must be massaged without appearing to suck up; oh, and everyone involved in the production will have already made up their mind about whether the maestro knows what he's doing within thirty seconds of the start of the rehearsal, so watch those first impressions, hmm? The Age (Melbourne) 04/10/06

April 7, 2006

Being Late There was a time, not so very long ago, when showing up late for a concert, an opera, or a play was no very big deal. You just made your dramatic solo entrance and allowed the room to focus on you rather than the stage for a minute (and for many latecomers, this was exactly the point.) But these days, especially in New York, the music is sacrosanct, and latecomers are seated at the discretion of the house. This is more complicated than it might seem. "Policies are surprisingly varied, and considerable thought is given to them. Some halls allow latecomers to stand in the back before proceeding to their places at a convenient break. Some let the artists pick an appropriate moment for late seating. Many halls provide audio and video during the wait, or a bar to pass the time (or ease the pain)." The New York Times 04/07/06

Two Finally Become One In Cleveland "Opera Cleveland, the long-anticipated merger between Cleveland Opera and Lyric Opera Cleveland, officially was born Wednesday during the first meeting of the new company's board. Made up of trustees from the two troupes, the board approved a business plan and signed merger agreements that call for the combining of artistic and financial resources. Opera Cleveland will receive $1.1 million in transition funding and working capital from a consortium of regional foundations." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 04/07/06

April 6, 2006

Domingo Double-Booked? The Bavarian State Opera has announced its 2006-07 season. Ordinarily, that's not the kind of item that would make headlines in America, but a few sharp-eyed journalists have noticed that the company has booked Placido Domingo to sing the lead in Parsifal next spring, on the same dates that the Washington National Opera has engaged him to sing the lead in Die Walküre. No one has yet explained how the mistake occurred, or which company will actually have Domingo on its stage when all is said and done. PlaybillArts 04/06/06

Are Music Schools Selling A Fantasy? Occasional pronouncements of doom from the press aside, young musicians appear to be more enthusiastic than ever about pursuing a career in classical music. "An estimated 2,700 music performance majors graduate from American centers of higher learning every year. The usual number of jobs available: 160 or fewer." That's great news for the top U.S. orchestras, of course, which are more or less guaranteed a steady flow of high-quality applicants. But with so few jobs available, should music schools be more up front with their students about the odds against them? Los Angeles Times 04/09/06

The Damnably Popular Scourge Of The Jazz World What is it about "smooth jazz" that so infuriates fans and practitioners of more traditional jazz forms? Is it the easy-listening thing? The lack of challenging harmonies and groundbreaking solos? Or could it be that jazzers resent the idea that someone else has figured out a way to make jazz palatable, even popular, with a wider public that has no use for Joshua Redman or Wynton Marsalis? The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/06/06

Big Expectations For The New SF Conservatory San Francisco Conservatory is preparing to move into its fancy new digs in the heart of the city's arts district next fall, and hopes are high that the $80 million facility will finally allow the school to compete with the U.S.'s major conservatories on something closer to an equal footing. "Serving roughly the same number of students and faculty with twice the usable space of [the current building,] it will have at least double the current number of classrooms and practice rooms. The library will be three times [the current] size, and boast a listening room, reading room, and far more computer stations... There will also be an electronic music studio and a recording studio, a café, and a genuine box office for concert ticket sales." Bay Area Reporter (San Francisco) 04/06/06

April 5, 2006

Yo-Yo Ma Begs Congress To Loosen Visa Rules Cellist Yo-Yo Ma made an appearance before a U.S. House committee this week to ask lawmakers to consider relaxing temporary visa requirements for foreign musicians wishing to perform in America. Meanwhile the State Department continued to defend its policy on visas in the face of media reports of unreasonable delays and inflated expense. PlaybillArts 04/05/06

Memorializing Katrina, But With A Universal Touch The first major work of classical music to commemorate the flooding of New Orleans gets its debut in Madison, Wisconsin this week. But composer Luna Pearl Woolf didn't want her "Apres Moi, Les Deluge" for solo cello and a cappella choir to be simply a one-hit wonder that would be forgotten once the shock of Katrina abates. "Message pieces are awful and I won't do them. This is an allegorical text. We tried to eliminate forms that are so specific that they would only apply to this one case. As you move from this one case and how we feel about it, the event becomes more universal and more worthy of being set to music and being listened to." Capital Times (Madison) 04/05/06

What Illegal Downloads Cost The Big Music Biz? A lot, says a new industry report. "The rise in illegal piracy cost the UK music industry £1.1 billion over the last three years, despite the fact that the number of Britons downloading illegally has fallen since last year. But the dent to the music industry coffers has increased largely because those downloading music illegally are the individuals expected to spend the most on music." The Guardian (UK) 04/05/06

April 4, 2006

Cancelling Out - Disaster Wrapped In Opportunity There's been a rash of cancellations in the classical music world this year. A cancelling artist sends an orchestra into a frenzy of looking for a replacement. But it can also be an opportunity; orchestras plan seasons in advance, and a sudden opening can be a chance to check out someone new or hot. Los Angeles Times 04/04/06

The Digital Music Corner Store "In the digital world, small record shops have to find creative ways to market their service. Sometimes, that means giving away their product for free in order to build traffic. Consider Tight Tunes—where, since July 2005, Queens natives Matthew Warren and James Reixach have been building a MySpace where artists can conduct monetary transactions." Village Voice 04/04/06

Surprise - Zukerman To Return To Orchestra Early Pinchas Zukerman, who abruptly left his national Arts Center Orchestra in Ottawa in mid-season, says he'll return early from his announced break. "No reason for the return was given to subscribers. Christopher Deacon, the orchestra's managing director, said yesterday that Zukerman first broached the idea of ending the sabbatical in a phone call from Europe 10 days ago. Details were firmed up last week." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/04/06

Recording Industry Renews Legal Action Against Downloaders "The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry is taking legal action against nearly 2,000 song-swappers in 10 countries. The British music industry says illegal file-sharing has cost it £1.1bn over the last three years. Research firm XTN data said that illegal downloads in the UK have increased by 3% to 28% of music downloads since last September." BBC 04/04/06

April 3, 2006

Five To Do The Work Of One Conductor So James Levine is out for the season at the metropolitan Opera? What does it take to replace him? Meet the five who will try... New York Magazine 04/03/06

Forecast: Bleak Summer Pop Concert Season It's shaping up to be a dry summer in the pop concert business. Few of the bigname stars of the 60s and 70s are touring And "steadily rising ticket prices, lack of proper development for promising young artists, stiff competition from other forms of entertainment and even age-old headaches like traffic snarls and limited (overpriced) snack-bar menus, are just a few of the reasons some fans have been staying away in recent years. Yahoo! (Reuters) 04/03/06

How Classical Could Be Better Online So it turns out that classical music is popular in the download world, and retailers are setting up to serve classical music fans. Does that make classical fans happy? Well... there are a few things on the wish list... The Times (UK) 04/03/06

Digital No. 1: Reviving Singles With Downloads Digital downloading has revived the singles market. "In the period between the start of the decline in sales of physical formats and the introduction of legal download services, the relevance of the top 40 was called into question. However, that didn't spell an end to the desire for singles by music fans - it just reflected a shift in the way many of us choose to purchase our favourite new tracks." BBC 04/03/06

April 2, 2006

Why Is Covent Garden So Expensive? "Because it has been forced to shake the collecting tin so vigorously at the private sector, Covent Garden is clearly now in an uneasy position, straddling the Atlantic. Like its European equals, it has a great annual grant from the government, but, like any first-class opera company in America, it also relies heavily on favours from the corporate sector. Which means that every night at the Opera House, the well-upholstered behinds of City donors are sitting on the best seats, which have been partially funded by the taxpayer. And although those donors are also taxpayers, it somehow grates that a publicly funded institution is essentially reserving its most glittering glitter for people who can cough up more than £100 per seat." New Statesman 04/03/06

Philadelphia New Music Group Takes A Turn "Philadelphia was once a haven for musical specialization encouraged by low rents, sympathetic academic communities, and generous philanthropic organizations. Artists could concentrate on creating marvelous new sounds that speak to the times and count on audiences to find them - with a little help from a marketing director. Now, with larger organizations claiming more public and private dollars than ever, specialists from early to modern music have to refresh and expand their relationships with local audiences if they aren't to be left behind. How do you do that, though, without losing what you have and who you are?" Philadelphia Inquirer 04/02/06

Slatkin To Lead Chicago Symphony? Speculation is increasing that Leonard Slatkin may be in line as the next director of the Chicago Symphony. "Asked whether he is, as rumored, actively campaigning to be the next CSO music director, Slatkin proved as skilled in equivocation as any media-wise senator or congressman with whom he lunches." Chicago Tribune 04/02/06

Utah Symphony and Opera Turns A Corner? A year ago, the fortunes of the Utah Symphony and Opera were on the rocks, and the organization looked in peril. "The outlook for the USO is now 'cautiously optimistic,' words recited like a mantra by management, musicians and patrons alike. Indeed, there is reason for hope: Ticket sales are up and donations are rising. But the institution isn't in the clear yet. Administrators need to keep the numbers moving upward and grapple with ongoing challenges." Salt Lake Tribune 03/26/06

The Software That Lets Anyone Compose Today's music software is getting sophisticated enough that even someone with no music training can "compose" music. Of course, the sounds are all chosen and mashed together by a computer, but does it make you any less of a composer? The New York Times 04/01/06

Apple - Out To Own The Music Business? "The music industry fled into Steve Jobs' arms in desperation as it watched piracy erode its sales, so Apple signed great distribution deals with all the major labels. The people who manage the iTunes inventory are developing a stranglehold over digital music distribution that is giving iTunes enormous power. The record labels have to deal with iTunes or face oblivion as the iPod population grows." The Age (Melbourne) 04/01/06

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