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September 29, 2006

Musicians Fail To Collect Royalty Checks For Digital Music "Washington-based SoundExchange released a list of 9,000 recording artists with unclaimed royalties in what it described as a last-ditch effort to distribute $500,000 worth of checks to the musicians for digital broadcasts dating from the late '90s. And the clock is ticking: The artists forfeit the money to SoundExchange if they don't claim it by Dec. 15." Los Angeles Times 09/29/06

Davis To Leave Pittsburgh Symphony Conductor Andrew Davis won't renew his three-year contract as artistic advisor to the Pittsburgh Symphony. The job was an unusual one for the orchestra. "We are not wedded to this model. It is a new model for an orchestra in America to be trying. We have found parts of it that have been interesting and enlightening and parts that don't work as well. We will either have to find ways to make it work within the model or work outside of it. We want to do what is best for the artistic future of the organization." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 09/29/06

Hewitt Wins Top Artist Award Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt has been named Gramophone Magazine's artist of the year. ""Hewitt was competing for the fan choice award against conductors Valery Gergiev and Sir Simon Rattle, cellist Steven Isserlis, soprano Veronique Gens and fellow Canadian bass-baritone Gerald Finley." CBC 09/29/06

September 28, 2006

Of Bands And Brands "What is a band if not a brand, composed of three product lines: singles, albums and tours? Record companies generally lose money releasing and promoting singles - they are little more than adverts for albums. When you consider that most musicians do not really make serious money from album sales unless they are shifting units like James Blunt, then albums begin to seem like nothing more than adverts for tours, where artists can really start to coin it in." The Guardian (UK) 09/29/06

Downloads Stole The Singles Market "The singles market has largely moved online - and it has happened almost overnight. A couple of years ago there was no such thing as a legitimate digital singles market. But now digital makes up something like 80% of the singles market as a whole." BBC 09/28/06

Iraqi Orchestra Struggling To Keep The Music Playing Frequent Bush Administration protestations to the contrary, things have been getting worse in Baghdad for some time, and many of the niceties of everyday life (electricity, safety, clean water) have become unimaginable luxuries for the city's residents. And yet, somehow, the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, which became a symbol of the country's resilience in the aftermath of the American invasion, has continued to play. "But orchestra members are finding that while art can sometimes provide a brief respite from grim reality, it cannot stand forever as a bulwark against the maelstrom of conflict." The New York Times 09/28/06

(Almost) All's Well In Philadelphia The Philadelphia Orchestra has balanced its budget for the second season in a row, and its ambitious $125 million endowment drive is more than 80% complete. The hall is full, and a new five-year plan promises to expand the orchestra's community ties and promote ethnic diversity. Now if only something could be done about that lagging summer season... Philadelphia Inquirer 09/28/06

Uncommon Rise How can a young, unknown composer catch the attention of a major soloist, a conductor, and critics around the world, and get a new work premiered seemingly out of nowhere? Apparently, it helps to get the soloist drunk while ferrying her around Manhattan. (Oh, and the piece should be really good, too.) Philadelphia Inquirer 09/28/06

Classical Conversion Classical music fans are apparently more than ready to join the digital revolution, with 57% having already converted some of their collection to digital format, according to a new UK study. "One in five download classical music legally from the internet - though there are no figures for how many illegally download - and the same number prefer listening on their MP3 player or iPod." The Guardian (UK) 09/28/06

Rattling The Traditionalists Has Simon Rattle been good or bad for the Berlin Philharmonic? Is the world's greatest orchestra (arguably) declining under his leadership, or is the problem that Germans "want something fresh and new, but once they get it, they'd rather revert back to the evergreens? ... The fight over Rattle is really a fight between tradition and the new, many say." Deutsche Welle 09/28/06

Summers To Stay In Houston Houston Grand Opera has extended the contract of its music director, Patrick Summers, by five years, insuring that he will remain with the company through 2014. Summers made Opera News's list of the 25 most powerful people in U.S. opera this year, his eighth with the company. PlaybillArts 09/28/06

September 27, 2006

German Leader: Beware Of Censorship "German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned against 'self-censorship out of fear' on Wednesday, after a Berlin opera house cancelled a production of Mozart's Idomeneo over security concerns." CBC 09/27/06

Kimball: Canceling Bad Mozart Is Bad Roger Kimball is sure that Deutsche Oper's "Idomeneo" is terrible. But it shouldn't be banned for political reasons. "Today it was Mozart. Tomorrow perhaps it will be Shakespeare. Or Dante, who after all has a pretty hot place reserved for Muhammad in 'The Divine Comedy.' It is not - not yet - too late to put a stop to our habit of appeasing a murderous fanaticism that demands privileges and indulgences it refuses to grant to others." OpinionJournal 09/28/06

Taking The Safe Road, Or Kneeling Before Terrorists? Deutsche Oper's decision to cancel a revival of a 2003 production of Mozart's Idomeneo for fear that a scene depicting Mohammed would inflame Muslims is proving to be front page news in Germany. "Everywhere the charge Kniefall vor Terroristen - kneeling before terrorists - has cropped up," and Deutsche Oper director Kirstin Harms has come in for some vicious criticism. Musical America 09/27/06

No, It's Not Adam Sandler In A Dress Classical music organizations have been looking for ways to broaden their audience for years, but opera companies have frequently been the most reluctant to introduce anything that might offend their notoriously tradition-bound audiences. So this definitely qualifies as news: Pittsburgh Opera has unveiled the Opera Lady, an expert in the form who makes herself available to audiences both at performances and over the internet, answering questions, explaining operatic oddities, and generally trying to make the whole experience more fun. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 09/27/06

Another Orchestra Dives Into Online Retail The Royal Scottish National Orchestra has become the latest classical ensemble to embrace the digital age, forming a partnership with online retailer Classical World to offer downloadable versions of almost 60,000 recordings. "Live streaming of concerts and new recordings may also be added soon to the service, which costs around £8 per month. The price includes unlimited streaming of all audio tracks and up to eight downloads per month." PlaybillArts 09/27/06

September 26, 2006

Toronto's Back-To-Basics Opera House Toronto's new opera house is a plain Jane. It was also a bargain. "How did the COC come up with so satisfactory a facility for so little money? For one thing it chose to forgo, at least for now, what other theatres clamour for: state-of-the art stage equipment. Everything is manually operated – one reason, the company notes, it opened on time." Financial Times 09/26/06

Peter Gelb's New Met - A Hit? "The 52-year-old Met general manager arrived just in time to lead a bloated, tired and tiresome outfit that was drifting toward obsolescence with its creaky board, senior-citizen audience and slumping ticket sales. His appointment, while odd - -he had never run a theater and had toiled, not always happily, as president of Sony Classical -- appears to be energizing a company whose previous director, Joseph Volpe, was too pleased with himself and the status quo." Bloomberg 09/27/06

  • Met Opener - Buzz Over Opera The buzz about the new Metropolitan Opera is high. But, writes Martin Bernheimer, the company's opening night suffered a bit. "The result looks undeniably clever and endlessly artsy. Unfortunately, Minghella blurs many a narrative turn and seems embarrassed by the composer’s unabashed emotionalism." Financial Times 09/26/06

Fearing Security Risk, Deutsche Oper Cancels Production "Berlin's Deutsche Oper canceled four planned November performances of Mozart's 'Idomeneo' out of concern that the production's reference to world religions, including Islam, raises an 'incalculable security risk.' " Los Angeles Times (Bloomberg) 09/26/06

Metropolitan Opera's New Era Begins "The Metropolitan Opera embarked on a new era with a season-opening gala last night that dripped wealth and celebrity but also included an unprecedented dose of populism: a simulcast in Times Square, where the giant Panasonic, Nasdaq and Reuters screens beamed Puccini’s tale of love and abandonment north to a blocked-off section of Broadway." The New York Times 09/26/06

  • Cheering For New Met Opera's Debut "People certainly turned out for this opening night. It was quite a sight to leave the Met during the curtain calls and encounter a cheering crowd in Lincoln Center Plaza who had watched the simulcast performance on an outdoor screen. The Met is starting its own digital radio network and soon will be televising productions to movie theaters in America and overseas. You want to say to Mr. Gelb, 'More power to you'."

September 25, 2006

Cantrell: Toronto Opera House Gets It Right Toonto's new opera house is a gem, writes Scott Cantrell. "Architecturally, the Four Seasons is generic modernism understated to a fault. But an inaugural Canadian Opera Company production of Wagner's complete Ring of the Nibelung this month showed off well-nigh ideal acoustics for opera: almost eerily transparent but also spacious, with an even frequency response and a good balance between stage and pit." Dallas Morning News 09/25/06

Warning: UK Could Lose Historic Music Recordings The UK Music Archive warns that with a proposed copyright extension, some of the country's valuable historic recorded music archives could be lost. "The library's Sound Archive cannot copy audio from fragile or obsolete formats for posterity until copyright runs out. The library said a 'significant' part of the collection could 'decay and be unavailable for future generations'."
BBC 09/25/06

Performances - Live And On Computer? Computer software can now recreate a recorded performance live on a piano. "The concept of a dead pianist somehow giving a 'live' performance opens up a Pandora's box of issues. Who owns copyright on a pianist's keystrokes? Is it appropriate, using this technology, to improve on a recorded performance? How are today's young pianists to compete in a world that can hear concerts by the greatest interpreters of the 20th century? And in a classical-music culture that already suffers from a chronic lack of newness, isn't this just fetishizing the past?" The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/25/06

Pacific Symphony - Lost In (Cyber)Space The Pacific Symphony opened in its new concert hall last week. But why wasn't the concert streamed on the web? Demanding web fans wanted to know... Los Angeles Times 09/25/06

September 24, 2006

A Tale Of Two Concert Halls (One Built, The Other...) Nashville is celebrating the opening of a new concert hall. Meanwhile, Richmond, Virginia is mired in failed attempts to build itself a new hall. How come the different results? The Times-Dispatch (Richmond) 09/24/06

Inconsistent? Yes. Enigmatic? Sure. Worth The Trouble? Absolutely. Christoph Eschenbach has come in for no small amount of criticism since taking the reins of the Philadelphia Orchestra. But David Patrick Stearns says that there's no question that the maestro has earned an extension of his tenure. "He has made Philadelphia an island of European musical life in the best possible way... On good nights, Eschenbach isn't just exciting - he goes to the heart of every phrase with a conviction and specificity that few others match." Philadelphia Inquirer 09/24/06

  • A Failed Experiment Peter Dobrin respects Eschenbach's musical skills, but says that the partnership with a notoriously difficult orchestra in Philadelphia just isn't working out. "Eschenbach may have done wonders for the orchestra's endowment, but he's not creating a new sound for the ensemble, or even successfully layering his erratic interpretive thoughts on the orchestra's vaunted plushness. No, what counts as success these days is Eschenbach and the orchestra reaching the last measure of a piece without getting lost along the way." Philadelphia Inquirer 09/24/06

As It Turns Out, It Is Possible To Ignore America Now that Toronto finally has a proper opera house, William Littler says that it's about time the city's opera company expanded its repertoire to include American works. "Although Canada's largest opera company already boasts the country's broadest operatic repertoire, one important part of the literature remains almost completely ignored — that emanating from south of the border." Toronto Star 09/23/06

Paris Opens A New (Old) Concert Hall "This month, [Paris's] Salle Pleyel reopened after its most radical renovation to date, a $36 million makeover that involved gutting and redesigning its main auditorium. And along with the infamous echo, all traces of its past, except for its finely restored Art Deco foyer, have vanished. Put simply, 79 years after its inauguration, the Salle Pleyel is once again a new concert hall." The New York Times 09/23/06

The Friendly Neighborhood Met? New York's Metropolitan Opera has a well-earned reputation as a tradition-bound, buttoned-up organization. So for the Met to throw open its doors to allow the public to spend an afternoon behind the scenes qualifies as legitimate news. "The event was part of a carefully calibrated buildup of publicity set in motion by Peter Gelb, the new general manager, in the days leading up to Monday’s opening night." The New York Times 09/23/06

The Conductor As All-Purpose Ambassador For most orchestras, finding staff conductors who can both conduct at a high level and successfully engage a wide range of audiences, from children to the elderly, is a nearly impossible task. But the San Antonio Symphony thinks it has found one. "[David] Cho has made fans for his engaging, often boyish, interplay with audiences. He donned a red clown nose for a show last year, and often jokes with the crowd about his work and the music. It's like VH1's 'Pop-Up Video' for classical music. And Cho's work with community and children's groups has brought in new audiences." San Antonio Express-News 09/23/06

Is Syracuse Headed For A Strike? Sunday night, the musicians of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra will vote on a contract offer mere hours before their first scheduled rehearsal of the season, and no one seems to know what the outcome will be. "The current negotiations echo a last-minute crisis in 1998. That year, the musicians began a strike on the first day of rehearsal - four days before the first scheduled concert." Syracuse Post-Standard 09/23/06

How To Work The Downloading System Out of the mess that is the music industry's battle against online piracy have emerged two basic legitimate business models for downloading music: the per-song or per-album charge, and the rent-a-music-library-by-the-month system. So which is better, and how do you get the best value for your music dollar? The answer may be surprising. "With a few well-placed strategies, you can leverage the subscription model to make your days and nights more musical -- at home, at the office, or on the road." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 09/23/06

September 21, 2006

An Orchestra That Challenges Classical Music The Ambitious Orchestra (TAO) is the first and perhaps the only symphonic group in the world devoted exclusively to 'bringing the virtuosity back to rock and roll'. Churning out original tunes covering the usual (and not-so-usual) hot topics of the genre, the 20-piece classically-trained ensemble - which includes string, wind, horn, and percussion sections - draws a mix of teen groupies, 20-something hipsters and their concerto-loving parents." Christian Science Monitor 09/22/06

Scottish Orchestra Opens Its Own Internet Radio Station The Royal Scottish National Orchestra is opening its own music station on theinternet. There will be continuous streaming of classical music, enabling listeners to hear its productions round the clock. "Subscribers pay £8.80 a month for unlimited streaming of music to their computers and eight free downloaded tracks. 'We are using the RSNO site as a way to bring the whole concept of online music to our audiences,' the orchestra's chief executive, Simon Woods, said. 'You can pretty much use it as internet radio'." The Scotsman 09/21/06

Berlin Theatre Does Wagner Casting Backstage Workers As Singers Berlin's Volksbühne is the city's most controversial theatre. Now it is producing Wagner with an odd cast. "Cleaners, stagehands and ticket-punchers all appeared on stage last night in the German premiere of Wagner's three-act comedy The Mastersingers of Nuremberg. Around 45 staff took part in the chorus. Before last night most had sung only the odd Christmas carol. The staff, who could not read music, wore jeans and T-shirts and appeared for free." The Guardian (UK) 09/21/06

Canada Council Awards Rare Fiddles Every three years the Canada Council holds a competition for string players to use rare instruments for three years. "For the second time, Yi-Jia Susanne Hou, a 28-year-old violinist raised in Mississauga, Ont., has won first prize in the violin competition. That gave her first pick of instruments, and for the second time she has chosen a 1729 ex-Heath Guarneri del Gesu violin." CBC 09/21/06

The Barbican Finally Earns Some Respect London's Barbican Centre has been famously unpopular with critics and concertgoers ever since it opened, thanks to a monolithic concrete structure and legendarily bad acoustics. But in the last decade, the hall's managing director has made the absolute best of a bad situation, says Norman Lebrecht. "Today, on the eve of the Barbican’s quarter-century and his own final year, [John] Tusa has completed a £34 million pound refit that has remedied the acoustic, simplified the geography and create physical and intellectual cohesion." La Scena Musicale 09/21/06

The Evolution Of Orchestra Funding It has long been an article of faith amongst American orchestra musicians that the European orchestra model, under which orchestras are funded primarily by the state, is preferable to the American model, under which most of the money comes from private donors who must be wooed and kept happy. But these days, Europe's model is in trouble, and it is innovative orchestras with enterprising music directors and creative programming ideas that are raking in the cash. Taipei Times (Taiwan) 09/21/06

A Titan Gets With The Times "The sleek, unmistakable Philadelphia Orchestra logo makes its debut on tiny iPod screens today as the orchestra attempts to expand its audience by transmitting itself in miniature. Starting today, the orchestra will offer recordings of live performances unavailable anywhere else. Downloads... will be a third of the cost of a typical compact disc." Philadelphia Inquirer 09/21/06

Chicago Lyric Back On The Air? Lyric Opera of Chicago has a new contract with its orchestra musicians, and like several other ensembles around the country, the new deal takes advantage of new union rules to cut labor costs for recording and online distribution. Lyric officials also hope that the new contract will mean a return to weekly radio broadcasts for the company, which has been off the air since 2002. Chicago Tribune 09/21/06

September 20, 2006

Ross: Hunt Lieberson Was The Best It's taken Alex Ross a few months to write about the passing of mezzo Lorraine Hunt Lieberson; he couldn't find the words. "She was the most remarkable singer I ever heard. She was incapable of giving a routine performance—I saw her twelve times, and each appearance had something explosively distinctive about it—and her career took the form of a continuous ascent." The New Yorker 09/18/06

Canadian Opera - Victim Of "Ring" Curse? "Could it be that the Canadian Opera Company's opera house-opening production of the 16-hour epic has its own curse — a medical one? A rising casualty count makes it easy to think so." Toronto Star 09/20/06

Met Starts A Satellite Radio Station The Metropolitan Opera has made a deal with Sirius satellite radio to program a new channel of opera. Yahoo! (Reuters) 09/20/06

We Want Out (Of The Concert Hall) "From a certain angle, the Canadian Music Centre's efforts to turn Canadian composers loose on public spaces looks like a revolt organized by the same group that has spent decades lobbying to get contemporary music into concert halls, not out of them." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/20/06

September 19, 2006

Anyone Want To Buy Napster? "Napster has put itself up for sale and hired bankers to explore interest in the once notorious and now struggling music download service. Analysts have highlighted the service's dwindling subscriber base and failure to turn a profit." The Guardian (UK) 09/20/06

Canadian Opera "Ring": Not Much "Cringe" Factor At the end of 15 hours of "Ring" performances at the Canadian Opera Company last week, Robert Everett-Green surprised himself - hed' do a repeat this week. "It helped that the COC's production turned out to be good — better, in some ways, than the ones in those more famous opera houses I mentioned. There was a lot to admire and very little to cringe at, and the cringe factor is a large issue when you're dealing with a work that offers so many insanely difficult problems in performance and staging." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/19/06

Sydney Opera House To Screen Performances Outside The Sydney Opera House is going to start simulcasting some performances out to a giant screen in the plaza. "[Architect Joern] Utzon has created one of the great public spaces in the world and I'd really like to use it a lot more. I'm talking about great performances and great national events as well. It could be sporting events. The place has to be seen as a great community place." Sydney Morning Herald 09/19/06

Seattle Symphony Deficit Explained The Seattle Symphony's deficit of more than $2 million this past season is not the worst shape the orchestra has been in, writes RM Campbell. The orchestra has had a horrible summer, dealing with dissension with musicians over a decision to extend music director Gerard Schwarz's contract. And the orchestra lost Paul Meecham, its executive director. Seattle Post-Intelligencer 09/19/06

  • Seattle Symphony Ended Season In Red "The Seattle Symphony's 2005-06 season ended $2.15 million in the red, contributing to an accumulated deficit of $3.2 million. That's a tough deficit on an annual budget of $21.3 million, though it could have been worse." Seattle Times 09/19/06

How, Why Baltimore Contract Talks Succeeded "The successful conclusion of negotiations that led to a new, two-year contract for musicians of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra ends months of speculation and worry, and should help clear the way to a positive era. The result confirms two things above all else. One, the BSO musicians couldn't be more dedicated; time and again, they have been willing to forgo an awful lot for themselves in an effort to keep the big picture burning brightly. And, two, W. Gar Richlin, the personable and straight-talking businessman on the orchestra's board who agreed to step in as interim president and CEO last winter, was exactly the right person at the right time." Baltimore Sun 09/19/06

  • Previously: Baltimore Symphony Musicians Agree To New Contract "In the contract, the BSO agreed to increase the orchestra's size by one musician, to 91 full-time players, and to maintain a full season - both factors that will help preserve the orchestra's reputation and ability to retain and recruit members. There are 17 full-time orchestras in the U.S." Baltimore Sun 09/16/06

The Pops Format, Reshaped In Hollywood On the departure of John Mauceri, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra's musical director, Mark Swed examines his legacy. "Mauceri reinvented not only the pops format but to some extent himself. He made it his business to explore and elevate the music of Hollywood, both as history and as a living tradition. But he left plenty of room for the orchestra to survey Broadway. Pops performers, good ones and ghastly ones, got to share the stage indiscriminately. Mauceri premiered a significant body of new and rediscovered music, mostly American. The range was from drivel to, of all things, Schoenberg's astounding 'Fanfare for the Hollywood Bowl' (who knew?)." Los Angeles Times 09/19/06

September 18, 2006

Think You Know Classical Music? Here's a way to prove it (or not): The Guardian has another of its famously tough quizzes. (We won't reveal our own score.) The Guardian (UK) 09/19/06

What Ails Ya: Does Toronto Need One Big Super-Orchestra? Maybe what ails the Toronto music scene is too many orchestras, writes Robert Everrett-Green. How about combining them? "Simply put, a super-orchestra of 150 would be large enough to handle the increased schedules of opera and ballet, and to perform a shorter TSO season. That's how the Vienna Philharmonic functions, as one emanation of a 163-member pool that also provides players for all the ballet and opera performances at the Vienna State Opera." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/18/06

Checking Out Orange County's New Concert Hall Mark Swed likes the new $200 million hall on first encounter. "I like the way it feels. The light and airy interior is hospitable, the silver organ pipes (the instrument itself is still a year away from installation) intriguing. Architect Cesar Pelli's undulating glass exterior has a welcome, outdoorsy transparency. I like the firm, upright seats. I like the way I imagine Segerstrom will sound once it finds its bearings." Los Angeles Times 09/18/06

September 17, 2006

Comparing New Opera Houses In Oslo And Toronto "Where Toronto opted to build an opera house that serves its purpose and nothing beyond, Norwegians understood that such a project must address more than the narrow spectrum of opera lovers. Oslo is also in the process of burying its elevated waterfront highway and its railway tracks. The objective is to reintegrate the old harbourlands back into the city, and transform it into a mixed-use neighbourhood where people live and work. What better way to launch the regeneration than by building an opera house?" Toronto Star 09/17/06

The Met In Times Square Metropolitan Opera "General Manager Peter Gelb said on Friday the September 25 opening night performance of Puccini's 'Madama Butterfly,' directed by filmmaker Anthony Minghella, would be beamed live to Times Square on a giant screen." Yahoo! (Reuters) 09/15/06

Report: iPodders Prefer To Load Rather Than Buy A new report says that "on average, only 20 of the tracks on an iPod will be from the iTunes shop. Far more important to iPod owners, said the study, was free music ripped from CDs someone already owned or acquired from file-sharing sites. The report's authors claimed their findings had profound implications for the future of the online music market." BBC 09/17/06

What If Mozart Had Lived? "Mozart’s death in 1791 was probably caused by streptococcal infection, renal failure, terminal bronchial pneumonia and a matrix of other illnesses, some dating from his childhood, when the Mozart family spent years touring Europe to show off the boy genius and, to a lesser extent, his sister. Imagine how different music history would have been had Mozart lived..." The New York Times 09/17/06

Indianapolis Symphony Gets A New Contract The Indianapolis Symphony has a new contract with its musicians. It provides for wage increases in each of its three years, a contast to the previous contract, which got significant compensation concessions from the players. Indianapolis Star 09/17/06

Classical Music, The Alt Intro New To classical music and looking for a good introduction? Sure there are the classics, the greats to recommend. But Andrew Adler has an alternative list to try to tempt you. Louisville Courier-Journal 09/17/06

Runnicles Out At SF Opera David Runnicles will leave his post as music director of San Francisco Opera after 14 years. "We came to the conclusion that it was in mutual best interest of Donald and the company to maintain our relationship, but to give each party the freedom to pursue other options." San Francisco Chronicle 09/16/06

Baltimore Symphony Musicians Agree To New Contract "In the contract, the BSO agreed to increase the orchestra's size by one musician, to 91 full-time players, and to maintain a full season - both factors that will help preserve the orchestra's reputation and ability to retain and recruit members. There are 17 full-time orchestras in the U.S." Baltimore Sun 09/16/06

Tower Records Names A Top Bidder The lead bidder for Tower Records has offered $90 million for the bankrupt chain. The company is more than $200 million in debt. "To put a human face on it, Harmonia Mundi USA is out $1.2 million worth of inventory to Tower, which, even if liquidated, the label will not get back." Musical America 09/15/06

From The Top To TV From the Top has become one of NPR’s more popular programs, and is "distributed to some 250 NPR outlets and boasts some 750,000 listeners." Now it will be on TV too, in a new series broadcast from Carnegie Hall. Musical America 09/15/06

September 15, 2006

Diabetes Stalls Baritone's Career "The Canadian Opera Company announced yesterday that baritone Pavlo Hunka has withdrawn from singing in its current production of Richard Wagner's four-opera Ring of the Nibelungs cycle, which concludes on Oct. 1. He will also not be singing in the company's October production of Mozart's Cosí fan tutte. Hunka walked out of Ring dress rehearsals eight days ago. At a release party held yesterday at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts for the singer's new two-disc set of Ukrainian art songs, Hunka revealed that he has been diagnosed with diabetes." Toronto Star 09/15/06

Tanglewood Dips, Thanks To Mother Nature Ticket sales at Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony's summer home in the Berkshire hills of Western Massachusetts, were down nearly 3% this year, a drop BSO officials attribute to an uptick in rainy days (much of the Tanglewood audience sits on the lawn outside the main shed.) Another factor may have been that perennial Tanglewood superstar James Taylor only played one concert this summer instead of his customary two: one more sellout would have pulled ticket sales even with last year. Boston Globe 09/15/06

September 14, 2006

Paris Finally Gets A Home Back For Classical Music "Paris had become one of the last major western capitals without a world-class space devoted exclusively to symphony concerts and a permanent home for its orchestras. But the French government yesterday set out to reclaim the city's classical music heritage, unveiling a €30m refurbishment of the Art Deco Salle Pleyel in Paris." The Guardian (UK) 09/14/06

Ravinia's Record Summer The Chicago Symphony's Ravinia Festival had a record summer, with 640,000 attending. "We had an excellent year, and there were so many factors in expanding our audience. But the two key things were our strong pop lineup and the Full House initiative designed to build back CSO attendance in the pavilion." Chicago Sun-Times 09/14/06

Universal: YouTube, MySpace Are Stealing Music giant Universal says YouTube and MySpace are enabling the theft of music by Universal artists. "We believe these new businesses are copyright infringers and owe us tens of millions of dollars. How we deal with these companies will be revealed shortly." Yahoo! (AP) 09/14/06

Robertson Gets Extension In St. Louis The St. Louis Symphony has extended the contract of popular music director David Robertson through 2010. The orchestra has enjoyed a resurgence since Robertson took over in 2005, and the new contract continues the trend of American orchestras locking up their maestros long-term, once it becomes clear that the fit is a good one. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 09/14/06

UK To Allow Instruments Back On Board In response to public outcry (and what it says is a diminished threat level,) the UK's Department of Transport says it expects to relax restrictions on airline carry-on bags by next week. "The changes are likely to mean bulky items, including musical instruments, will be allowed as carry-on baggage." Some restrictions, including bans on liquids and gels, are likely to remain in place for the time being. The Guardian (UK) 09/14/06

Conducting Comp Has Its First Female Winner The Sir Georg Solti International Conductors' Competition is only four years old, but it has already become one of the top conducting awards in the world. This year, it's also making a bit of history, handing out its top prize to a woman for the first time: 31-year-old Shi-Yeon Sung of South Korea "receives a €15,000 prize and a concert date with the Frankfurt Museum Orchestra and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony." PlaybillArts 09/14/06

September 13, 2006

Lebrecht: Why Shouldn't Musicians Have To Fly Like The Rest Of Us? Norman Lebrecht is unconvinced by British musicians' protests over new airline carry-on restrictions. "If an exception were made for concert soloists, executives would demand to carry their laptops, nursing mothers their baby kits and would-be jihadis their special-mix drinks. It is not even in the musicians’ own interest to set them apart as a special case for that would separate them from the rest of the human race at a time when their greatest need, in classics and jazz, is to be seen as integral and essential to the emotions and rhythms of the modern world." La Scena Musicale 09/13/06

Indianapolis International Violin Competition Finalists Finalists include musicians from South Korea, Italy, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, the US and Germany. would be the "survivors." They're competing for $250,000 in prizes. Indianapolis Star 09/13/06

Top 200 - The Crowds At No. 1 Pretty much every week now there's a new song at the top of the Billboard charts. "There are multiple reasons behind the instability at the top of the Billboard 200, as the chart is officially known. For one thing, album sales continue to decline (they're off by about 7 percent this year), and the threshold for reaching No. 1 is dropping accordingly." Washington Post 09/13/06

Chicago Concertmaster To Retire After 48 years, the Chicago Symphony's long-time concertmaster is going to retire. "Samuel Magad made his debut with the CSO at 11 as the winner of the CSO youth auditions. He joined the first violin section in 1958 under music director Fritz Reiner and was named assistant concertmaster in 1966. Georg Solti appointed him concertmaster in 1972." Chicago Tribune 09/13/06

September 12, 2006

Birmingham Orchestra Launches Podcast The City of Birmingham Orchestra is launching a monthly podcast. "Members of the public will be invited to review recent concerts, and each recording will aim to explain how the musicians work together. Each free podcast can be downloaded through the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra's website." BBC 09/12/06

iTunes' Classical Top Ten Classical music sells on iTunes in greater numbers than in CD stores. But what are the most popular downloads? The list is revealing, writes Marc Geelhoed. Slate 09/12/06

Gottschalk Gone Louis Moreau Gottschalk was America's first great composer, writes Terry Teachout. "The near-complete failure of Gottschalk’s music to be taken up by American pianists is all the more inexplicable in light of the fact that so much of it incorporates elements of the folk and popular music of the Americas." Commentary 09/06

Baltimore Symphony Contract Talks Going Well? "Both sides negotiating a new contract for Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musicians have maintained a media blackout, but, with the current contract set to expire Saturday night after the annual BSO gala, there are a few favorable signs - and also potential concerns. ... As the orchestra's management aims to balance a budget after a string of annual deficits, negotiating points may include the orchestra's size and the length of its season - factors that can affect the BSO's reputation and ability to attract and retain talent." Baltimore Sun 09/12/06

September 11, 2006

Paris' Salle Pleyel Reopening After four years of renovation, Paris' Salle Pleyel reopens this week. The theatre is the Carnegie Hall of Paris. "The acoustics used to be a weakness of the Salle Pleyel. To improve them, architect Francois Ceria and Artec Consultants Inc., the acclaimed New York sound gurus, have encircled the platform with a wooden wall and added four narrow side balconies and a number of rows behind the orchestra, replacing the old Cavaille-Coll organ with a human reflector." Bloomberg.com 09/11/06

Claim: New UK Airline Carry-on Restrictions Killing Musical Life "Restrictions on hand luggage, intended to reduce the volume of baggage going through cabin security checks, have had a devastating impact on performers. Musicians who were used to stowing their Stradivarius in the cabin fear that irreplaceable instruments will be smashed by a careless baggage handler or wrecked by freezing temperatures in the hold. Instead, they are cancelling concerts or enduring exhausting train journeys." The Guardian (UK) 09/11/06

Soprano Denounces Bolshoi Production Soprano Galina Vishnevskaya has denounced a new Bolshoi production of Yevgeny Onegin. "To the end of my days I will not escape my shame at participating in that public desecration of our sacred national treasure," she told the Bolshoi's management in a letter. Ms Vishnevskaya's spokesman confirmed she had called off plans for an 80th birthday party at the Bolshoi in protest at the opera's "completely deformed" main characters. The Guardian (UK) 09/12/06

September 10, 2006

Is Pacific Symphony Ready For The Big Leagues? Orange County, California's Pacific Symphony is moving into an ambitious new concert hall desigtned for it. "The new hall puts the Pacific Symphony on equal footing with the great orchestras of the world. We are definitely in the big leagues now."
Los Angeles Times 09/10/06

A Classical Landmark In Country's Hometown Nashville's imposing new Schermerhorn Symphony Center opened this weekend with a gala celebration that some observers called the biggest party the city had seen in a decade. The opening night concert, conducted by Leonard Slatkin, had a distinct Nashville flavor, with standard works by Barber, Mahler and Shostakovich sandwiching a new triple concerto by country/jazz/folk legends Bela Fleck and Edgar Meyer. The Tennessean (Nashville) 09/10/06

No Risk, No Reward Minneapolis/St. Paul is the only metropolitan area in the US to support two major orchestras - the Minnesota Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra - and over the years, the Twin Cities have earned a reputation for adventurous audiences and daring programming. But Michael Anthony says that reputation is increasingly at odds with reality, as both orchestras stack their seasons with Beethoven, Brahms, and little else, "a reflection of economics, of orchestra boards and marketing departments running scared, hoping to avoid deficits and sustain their graying audience by programming the same old works they think the audience wants to hear." The Star Tribune (Minneapolis) 09/10/06

When Adulation Has Little To Do With Ability Pity the poor music critics whenever Andrea Bocelli is performing. Bocelli is as big a star as the classical music world has at present, and his fans are utterly devoted and will not hear a word said against him. So given all that, is it just bad form for critics to point out that, by any objective standard, Bocelli just isn't a very good singer? The Independent (UK) 09/09/06

Inner Beauty Toronto's new opera house is off to a successful start, garnering positive reviews from critics and audiences alike. And while the new building isn't going to win any daring architecture awards, its place in the city seems to fit with the mindset of its resident company. "Operagoers in Toronto are an adventurous lot, as befits a city where forty-nine percent of the population (as of 2001) was born outside of Canada. From its beginnings, [the Canadian Opera Company’s] artistic directors have made a point of programming works outside the standard nineteenth-century Italian, French and German repertoire." Opera News 09/09/06

September 8, 2006

The Official Coltrane Jazz at Lincoln Center is throwing a John Coltrane party this season. "So let’s approach Jazz at Lincoln Center’s opening concerts of the new season, a series of shows based on the music of John Coltrane on the 80th anniversary of his birth, as beginner classes," writes Ben Ratliff. The New York Times 09/08/06

Gaddafi Opera Debuts (But Where's The Music?) London's English National Opera debuted its opera about Muammar Gaddafi Thursday night. "But fans of conventional opera rich in arias and romantic duets faced in 'Gaddafi: A Living Myth' a bewildering mix of musical styles and critics complained it contained precious little rap and no opera." Yahoo! (Reuters) 09/08/06

September 7, 2006

How Would You Fix The Proms? The Last Night at the Proms is a cliche chockablock full of traditions that everyone complains about. So how would you fix it? The Guardian takes a survey... The Guardian (UK) 09/08/06

A New Trio Of Concert Halls Three new concert halls open this fall - in Nashville, Miami, and Costa Mesa, California. "Clearly, the live-performance hall game is a tricky one, especially when many companies struggle. From what can be seen in their near-complete state, the three new structures don't grab the passerby by the collar. Yet in spite of their lack of drama, they still may have the capacity to play a larger-than-life role in their communities because of what happens inside." Bloomberg 09/07/06

KC Music Director Pulls Out Of Season Opener "Conductor Michael Stern will miss the opening concerts of his second season as the Kansas City Symphony's music director. The orchestra announced yesterday afternoon that Stern has withdrawn from this weekend's performances due to the expected birth of his first child... Filling in for Stern will be David Robertson, the widely-admired American conductor who begins his own second season at the helm of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra September 23-24." PlaybillArts 09/07/06

Parsing Katie's Theme Lost amid all the armchair quarterbacking of Katie Couric's debut as anchor of the CBS Evening News is the fact that a new orchestral theme for the program also made its debut this week. Such a detail may seem unimportant on its face, but "viewers have come to rely on music to explain what it is they are feeling — something CBS, like all contemporary broadcasters, is well aware of." Los Angeles Times 09/07/06

Met's Massive New Media Deal The Metropolitan Opera's wide-ranging new deal with its unions (the flashiest aspect of which will see the company simulcasting six performances in digitally equipped movie theaters across the country) will also allow for "the possibility of digital downloads, video-on-demand, digital radio, ring tones, CDs, DVDs and instant CDs available after certain performances. One hundred additional live performances will be broadcast either over the Internet or on digital radio, with another 1,500 broadcasts from the past 75 years -- the Met's entire recorded history -- to be made available soon through an audio-on-demand service." Washington Post 09/07/06

Baltimore Taps Former Seattle Exec Two months ago, Paul Meecham abuptly resigned as CEO of the Seattle Symphony amid a firestorm of controversy concerning the orchestra's music director, Gerard Schwarz. He wasn't out of work long: this week, the Baltimore Symphony tapped him to be their next top executive. The BSO has had a few controversies of his own over the past couple of seasons, and the hope is that Meecham can bring badly needed stability to an organization that has seen little of it recently. Baltimore Sun 09/06/06

A New Day Dawns In Montreal Kent Nagano has taken his first bows as music director of the long-beleagured Montreal Symphony, and Arthur Kaptainis says that there's no question that the new boss has brought some big new ideas with him. "Textures were clear and rhythms distinct. It was as if we were reading the score with our ears." But the most striking aspect of Nagano's musical style may just be how seldom you notice him. "His podium style is so fluid and so naturally integrated with the sounds he creates that he seems less a conductor than a vessel for the music." Montreal Gazette 09/07/06

Detroit Will Wait Another Year For New Contract The Detroit Symphony Orchestra and its musicians have agreed to extend their current contract by a year, effectively giving the organization a 12-month wage freeze, and allowing both sides plenty of time to negotiate a new deal. DSO musicians agreed to hefty pay cuts in 2002 as part of a plan to revitalize the orchestra's fiscal picture, but that contract came backloaded with large pay increases this past season. Detroit Free Press 09/07/06

September 6, 2006

Universal Makes Deal To Buy BMG "If approved by the EU competition authorities, the deal would make Universal, already the world's largest record company, the industry's biggest music publisher as well, ahead of EMI and Warner Music." The Guardian (UK) 09/06/06

Why There Are So Many Empty Seats At The Proms Huge gaping blocks of empty seats for some performances, there are. But this summer's Proms sold more tickets than ever. There are, reports Norman Lebrecht, reasonable reasons that the Proms have empty seats... La Scena Musicale 09/06/06

LA Opera To Stage First "Ring" The company will mount the four-opera production with the help of a $6 million gift from Eli Broad. Yahoo! (Reuters) 09/06/06

Met Opera To Broadcast To Movie Theatres "The Metropolitan Opera announced today that it would begin broadcasting live performances into movie theaters across the United States, Canada and Britain, rubbing shoulders with professional wrestling and rock concerts." The New York Times 09/06/06

Shafer Out At Washington Chorus Robert Shafer, who has led the Washington Chorus since 1971, is stepping down as music director. "I had requested a sabbatical. And then I was called in at the end of July and told that the sabbatical had been granted, but that they had also decided to begin searching for a new music director." Washington Post 09/06/06

Director Walks Out Of Production Opera director Christoph Loy shows up to first rehearsal of London's Royal Opera House production of Mozart's "La Finta Giardiniera", then walks off the project, disappearing... The Guardian (UK) 09/06/06

At The Opera: Hip Hop And Dictators English National Opera is taking a big chance in presenting a hip hop opera who's subject is Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. "This is crunch time for the ENO. Can the company really attract a young Asian audience and persuade them that they might want to return for a Madam Butterfly or a Bohème? Or will they simply succeed in alienating their loyal opera fanbase in the attempt?" The Guardian (UK) 09/06/06

Hyping "The Next Mozart" (Isn't Nice) Jay Greenberg is a 15-year-old composer who's being touted for great things. The hype is building. "But although no one can prophesize what kind of composer Greenberg will turn out to be, he will not be the next Mozart. No one can be that, no one should be that. If we come away with nothing else from the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth, which is being celebrated this year, it should be that times have changed and that it isn't nice to exploit kids." Los Angeles Times 09/06/06

September 5, 2006

Dallas Symphony's Big Search The Dallas Symphony is looking for a new music director to replace Andrew Litton. So who are the leading candidates? Hard to tell, but there are some clues... Dallas Morning News 09/05/06

Two Southern American Cities Get Concert Halls "At first glance, the classical-music ambitions of Nashville and Atlanta look much the same: abandon a drab old hall and find fame and fortune with a sparkling new music temple. But on matters overt and subtle - from the balance of funding sources (public vs. private) to artistic vision - the two cities' approaches to building a concert hall have little in common." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 09/03/06

An Opera Lover's Generosity Wasted An elderly Australian opera lover leaves the Victorian State Opera $2 million. But in the four years since she died, $800,000 has been spent on lawyers' fees in a dispute over the money. The Australian 09/06/06

What Does Music Serve In The Human Scheme Of Things? "The fact that music is universal across cultures and has been part of human life for a very long time-archeologists have found musical instruments dating from 34,000 BC, and some believe that a 50,000-year-old hollowed-out bear bone from a Neanderthal campsite is an early flute-does suggest that it may indeed be an innate human tendency. And yet it's unclear what purpose it serves." Boston Globe 09/04/06

Gregorian Chant In, Guitar Mass Out? If Pope Benedict XVI's recently articulated personal preferences hold sway, traditional music like Gregorian chant will become more prevalent in the Roman Catholic Mass. "The pope's comments raise certain questions: What is sacred music supposed to sound like? And what's wrong with new music in church? It's a debate that has raged since 1963, when Vatican II reforms brought contemporary music to Catholic churches. Just as the Latin Mass almost immediately disappeared amid attempts to modernize, chants gave way to guitars and snappy folk tunes." Los Angeles Times 09/05/06

BMG Music Publishing Sale Almost A Done Deal? "The Warner Music Group, Viacom and the Universal Music Group are the final bidders for the BMG Music Publishing unit, according to people briefed yesterday on the negotiations. ... Bertelsmann, the German media company, is selling BMG Music Publishing to help finance a $5.8 billion buyback of a minority stake in the company. The music group’s roster includes contemporary artists like Maroon 5, Christina Aguilera and Nelly as well as catalogs of longtime musicians like B. B. King and Joan Jett, according to its Web site." The New York Times 09/05/06

September 4, 2006

MySpace Gets Into The Music Business MySpace is gtting into the music business, offering music from "three million unsigned bands". "MySpace is the latest company to try to take on Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes Music Store, but unlike many other start-up rivals, it already boasts 106 million users, as well as the backing of parent company News Corp." The New York Times 09/04/06

A Real Terrible Orchestra That Means To Be Bad " 'We are not professionals. We share our problems with our audience,' said conductor Richard Neville-Towle, before a wobbly rendition of the Gavotte from Bach's Fifth French Suite. It's the kind of concert where a critic might be prevailed upon to make remarks during the concert, rather than saving them for the paper, where the principal bass could explain the role of her instrument and which could end, after a sing-along South Pacific, with Tchaikovsky's 1812 complete with canon effects from the audience (bursting bags)." Glasgow Herald 09/04/06

Will Computers Replace Musicians? "A skilled computer operator can now create a commercial soundtrack that the casual listener would accept as real - without the cost of hiring an orchestra, renting a studio and paying union scale for sessions. Good news for budget-conscious filmmakers. Bad news for musicians who rely on income from TV and film recording sessions." Rocky Mountain News 09/04/06

Philadelphia Orchestra Proms Concert Canceled Because Of Fire "The Philadelphia Orchestra's sold-out program featuring Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 - which had been anticipated as one of the peaks of the BBC Proms season at Royal Albert Hall - was canceled hours before it was to start yesterday afternoon because of a minor fire in the hall's canteen. Nobody was hurt, and the orchestra's instruments are reported to be safe." Philadelphia Inquirer 09/04/06

A Season Of New Concert Halls "Five are opening in North America this fall, at a total cost of nearly $1 billion. They include the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville, the new home of the Nashville Symphony, which opens next Saturday; the Four Seasons Center for the Performing Arts in Toronto, the new house of the Canadian Opera Company, which had special inaugural concerts in June and opens its first season with a Wagner “Ring” cycle later this month; and the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, which comprises both a house for opera and ballet and a concert hall and opens officially on Oct. 5." The New York Times 09/03/06

Compleat Mozart For Pennies On The Disk A new set of 170 CDs contains the complete music of Mozart. It costs about 70 cents per disk. "The complete recorded works of composers are nothing new, but this issue is rare for its low cost and popularity, at least in Europe. And there is something compelling about its compactness: your fingers can walk through Mozart’s entire output in a few minutes." The New York Times 09/04/06

September 1, 2006

Boston Symphony's New Musicians Contract (And A Freelancer Pay Cut) "BSO players' salaries will rise from a weekly minimum of $2,170 last season to $2,270 this year, a 4.61 percent increase, and more in later years." Meanwhile, freelancers for some of the orchestra's pops concerts will be getting a reduction. "Those freelancers, who earned $434 per concert in 2005-06, will earn $378 for dozens of Pops concerts in the upcoming season." Boston Globe 09/01/06

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