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November 30, 2006

Glimmerglass Finds It Already Had Its Man Glimmerglass Opera, the summer opera festival based in upstate New York, has removed the "interim" tag and officially named Don Marrazo as its new artistic director. Marrazo, who previously served as Glimmerglass's PR chief, took over on a temporary basis last fall following the departure of Nicholas Russell. Opera News 11/30/06

Or Maybe He Just Wanted To Watch Everyone Go Nuts Over It Exactly what was Lorin Maazel thinking when he, apparently out of the blue, publicly nominated Daniel Barenboim to be his successor at the helm of the New York Philharmonic? It's unlikely that Maazel will have any influence over the search process, and Barenboim was apparently shocked to be mentioned. "He might simply have highlighted the difficulty of finding conductors of the highest stature to lead such U.S. orchestras as those in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit, all of which are looking for new music directors." Chicago Sun-Times 11/30/06

Chicago Back On The Air And In The Studio "After more than five years, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will return to the national radio airwaves early next year as part of a comprehensive new media agreement that includes the launch of a new in-house recording label for compact discs and digital downloads, it was announced Thursday... The series will comprise 39 weekly programs, with interviews and special features augmenting the taped performances." Chicago Tribune 12/01/06

Major Fundraising Effort Underway In Pittsburgh The Pittsburgh Symphony has announced an $80 million capital campaign, with the bulk of the money to go to its endowment. "The operating reserve would save the Symphony the interest payments it currently makes for a revolving line of credit that is spent and repaid each year." Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 11/30/06

Good News From Milwaukee Things are looking up at the Milwaukee Symphony, which has struggled in recent years with budget deficits and declining ticket sales. New subscribers for the 2005-06 season rose a whopping 39%, and renewals jumped from 75% to 84%. "Fewer concerts and a big surge in single ticket sales led to several sellouts." The MSO still ran a $671,000 deficit for the season, but that's better than had been projected, and keeps the orchestra in line with its three-year plan to eliminate red ink. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 11/29/06

Welcoming Kurt Masur (All Is Forgiven) "If psychologists ever made a study of post-departure syndrome, they might begin with Kurt Masur’s return to New York with the London Philharmonic. In his time as music director of the New York Philharmonic Mr. Masur was received as something of a drill sergeant in charge of a wayward platoon, a kind of bitter medicine designed to purge the orchestra of its loose ways. But waves of friendship greeted him at Carnegie Hall on Monday and Tuesday nights, a genuine warmth like nothing he experienced during his years in New York." The New York Times 11/30/06

Jackin' Pop, Blog Challenger To Pazz & Jop The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop poll of music critics will go ahead despite the firing in August of its guiding force, critic Robert Christgau, but now it has competition. "This week Idolator, a newish music blog owned by Gawker Media, seized on the outrage and disappointment felt by critics around the country who saw Mr. Christgau — and Chuck Eddy, the Voice music editor, who was dismissed in April — as a force of credibility and journalistic continuity, by announcing its own poll, Jackin’ Pop." The New York Times 11/30/06

Barenboim: It's A Flattering Idea "Daniel Barenboim said he was flattered to be Lorin Maazel’s choice to pick up his baton at the New York Philharmonic, but, he said, 'nothing could be further from my thoughts at the moment than the possibility of returning to the United States for a permanent position.' ... Mr. Barenboim said it would be inappropriate either to embrace or reject the proposal, since it was a suggestion by a colleague, not a formal offer by the board of the Philharmonic." The New York Times 11/30/06

  • Previously: Maazel Wants Barenboim To Succeed Him It has long been known that Lorin Maazel would not be staying long as music director of the New York Philharmonic, and speculation as to who might replace him at the end of this decade has been rampant ever since Maazel took the job in the first place. Now, Maazel has made it known whom he believes his successor should be: former Chicago Symphony MD Daniel Barenboim. The New York Times 11/29/06
November 29, 2006

Sort Of Like Paying $200K For The Hammer That Built Your House A cello bow made in the 19th century by François Xavier Tourte sold at auction this week for nearly $200,000. The sale price is a record for a bow, and reflects the continued spike in the amount collectors and wealthy performers are willing to pay for string instruments. The buyer is reportedly a well-known European soloist, who is promising that the bow will be used in concert, and not displayed as an art object. PlaybillArts 11/29/06

Does Britain Need Another Distinctly English Opera House? Is London's Royal Opera House quietly returning to the days when it served primarily as a showcase for homegrown talent? Norman Lebrecht thinks so, and wonders what the ripple effect might be if he's right. "The consequences of this transition are considerable. As Covent Garden becomes increasingly a British house, a nursery of native talent, what role remains for English National Opera? Singing in English is no raison d’etre when the words are so blurry that surtitles have to be used, and if the ROH is route one to international class, why would any but the also-rans make a stop at the motorway café?" La Scena Musicale 11/29/06

Could The Secret Of The Strad Be A Chemical Bath? Joseph Nagyvary, an instrument maker and researcher who has devoted much of his career to uncovering the secret behind the superior sound of instruments made by the old Italian masters, believes that he may have found the long-sought after secret. After testing shavings taken from old Cremonese instruments, Nagyvary says that he is certain that they were made with chemically treated wood which affected the sound after construction was complete. LiveScience 11/29/06

Smooth Sailing (And A Surplus) At Canadian Opera The Toronto-based Canadian Opera Company rode a $600,000 boost in ticket sales and a $1.5 million increase in fundraising to a balanced budget for fiscal 2006. "The COC eked out a $20,000 surplus on the year, without receiving a penny from its foundation, which added $1-million to its treasury. Nor did the company take any 'transition funds' from its continuing capital campaign, which saved it from recording a loss in 2004." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/29/06

Maazel Wants Barenboim To Succeed Him It has long been known that Lorin Maazel would not be staying long as music director of the New York Philharmonic, and speculation as to who might replace him at the end of this decade has been rampant ever since Maazel took the job in the first place. Now, Maazel has made it known whom he believes his successor should be: former Chicago Symphony MD Daniel Barenboim. The New York Times 11/29/06

Baltimore To Get A Cool Million (That Could Become Two) The Baltimore Symphony has received an $1 million challenge grant from a longtime benefactor, which will match any contribution above $5000 that the orchestra can raise between now and the end of the 2007-08 season. The grant comes as the BSO attempts to bolster its endowment (which was tapped to pay off existing debt earlier this year) and restore itself to balanced budgets. Baltimore Sun 11/29/06

November 28, 2006

Carbon-Based Music The science of building a great string instrument has long been a subject of obsession for craftsmen and musicians around the world. Most believe that the secret to the old masters lies in the combination of great wood and perfect varnish. But if that's the case, why are some of today's hottest soloists trotting around with shiny black violins and cellos made from something called carbon fiber? Could there be such a thing as a great synthetic instrument? National Post (Canada) 11/28/06

Pop Goes The Conductor The Boston Pops has fired its principal guest conductor, who had been with the ensemble since 1979. Bruce Hangen says he wasn't told the specific reason for his dismissal, but "speculated that perhaps he angered management by turning down Pops concerts to accept engagements with other orchestras." The Pops, which is operated by the Boston Symphony and made up mainly of BSO musicians, isn't commenting on the reason for the change. PlaybillArts 11/28/06

A New Life For Newark's Symphony Hall? Newark Symphony Hall exists in the shadow of the New Jersey Center for the Performing Arts, but the city's revitalization efforts could mean a chance for the older, once-illustrious venue to redefine itself and recapture an audience. "There appears to be a fresh opportunity to transform the more than 80-year-old concert hall — perhaps into a version of the Brooklyn Academy of Music or Symphony Space in New York, community landmarks where the programming veers creatively away from the fare offered by Lincoln Center and other major concert halls." The New York Times 11/28/06

Too Few Music Teachers? Juilliard, Carnegie Send Reinforcements "Two pillars of the classical musical establishment, Carnegie Hall and the Juilliard School, have joined forces to give birth to a music academy whose fellows will go forth and propagate musicianship in New York public schools. ... Under the new program elite musicians will receive high-level musical training, performance opportunities at Carnegie Hall and guidance from city school teachers in how to teach music." The New York Times 11/28/06

Boxy Violins Made Of Balsa Wood And Graphite "From Australia to Germany to Maui, there is something of an explosion under way in the use of science and new materials to test the limits of instrument making. And the traditional violin-making and violin-playing world is taking note." The New York Times 11/28/06

November 27, 2006

Fort Worth Opera Overhauls Its Schedule "After 60 years of producing operas singularly over a fall and winter season, Fort Worth Opera has announced a major change in its presentation format: it will condense its entire schedule to an annual festival – with all of its operas and concerts being presented over a four week period" in early summer. The change will eliminate scheduling conflicts with the nearby Dallas Opera, and will hopefully make the company's operations more efficient. TexasGigs.com 11/26/06

Stretching Beethoven There are a lot of opinions on the proper way to perform Beethoven's 9th Symphony, especially when it comes to tempo. Recordings of the piece often differ in length by several minutes, in fact. But it's a fair bet that Beethoven never conceived of a performance of his groundbreaking work that would last 24 hours, take place in a grimy bar beneath one of Vienna's great concert halls, and play to an ever-revolving sequence of curious listeners who stop in to catch a few beats before moving on. Grotesque? Maybe. But Mark Swed says that the experience was well worth it. Los Angeles Times 11/27/06

You Want My Money? Show Me What You'll Do With It. When news broke late last week that the Charleston (SC) Symphony was perilously close to bankruptcy, it sparked a lot of questions about just how high the orchestra's costs really are. As it turns out, the CSO is something of a bargain compared to larger U.S. orchestras - the music director makes only $85,000 a year, and the musicians pull down just $21,000. Still, some local arts supporters wish the organizations they support would make greater efforts towards fiscal transparency. Charleston Post & Courier 11/27/06

And This Is An Improvement? Countless thousands of schoolchildren get their first exposure to musical performance on the dreaded (but cheap and sturdy) recorder. But a number of UK music teachers are reporting that the much-maligned ukulele is fast eclipsing the recorder in popularity. The Observer (UK) 11/26/06

Chicago's Unfinished Business When the Chicago Symphony spent $120 million to renovate its concert hall in the mid-1990s, critic John von Rhein was initially impressed with the results. But the passage of time has seen him (and many other observers) revise that opinion: "Musicians and veteran listeners came to realize the acoustics were and are worse for symphonic music in the 2,310-seat auditorium than before the renovation. The upper strings lack shimmer and warmth. Players on one side of the stage cannot properly hear their colleagues on the other side, uncertain about how they fit into the general sonic perspective." Chicago Tribune 11/26/06

Vienna's Newest Opera House "The question of how to keep Mozart fresh is certainly topical [in Vienna] this year, and at the Theater an der Wien in particular." The music house, which was recently converted to accommodate full time opera use, would seem to be a superfluous venue in a city chock full of performance spaces. But Theater an der Wien "wants to present cutting-edge directors and interesting productions, to attract a different kind of audience. [The] theater’s three main focuses will be Baroque opera, which has not really had a performance space in Vienna; contemporary opera (he is commissioning three new works for coming seasons); and of course Mozart." The New York Times 11/26/06

Charlotte MD Leaving Over Budget Issues The music director of the Charlotte Symphony is severely cutting back the number of concerts he conducts, and has announced that he will step down entirely when his contract expires in 2009. "Perick has improved the orchestra musically, but has been frustrated by its precarious financial situation; at the end of the 2004-05 season the CSO had a deficit of $1.25 million, which is expected to increase when the audit for 2005-06 is completed." PlaybillArts 11/26/06

Absentee Conductors Need Not Apply When the board and management of the San Antonio Symphony made the decision not to renew music director Larry Rachleff's contract recently, it caught the orchestra, the public, and the entire industry by surprise. But board members insist that, while they respect Rachleff as a conductor, they feel strongly that his primary job as a professor at Rice University in Houston, where he lives, was at odds with the needs of the SAS. San Antonio Express-News 11/26/06

November 26, 2006

Charleston Symphony On Verge Of Collapse South Carolina's Charleston Symphony Orchestra is on the brink of bankruptcy due to years of red ink and an inability to generate new donations, even after the orchestra's musicians took an 18% pay cut in 2003. "The orchestra finished the [2006] fiscal year, which ended June 30, to the tune of $179,000 in the red. At the same time, the orchestra's cash reserves have plunged 85 percent, from $606,223 to $93,010." CSO officials have set a February drop-dead date after which the orchestra will be unable to continue operations without a major influx of cash. Charleston Post & Courier 11/23/06

Proceed With Caution A major renovation of Cincinnati's overly large and technologically challenged Music Hall is long overdue - on this, everyone agrees. But actually mounting such a renovation is a process fraught with peril, all the more so because the building is a National Historic Landmark. "The mission is to create more intimacy between the players and the audience while preserving Music Hall's legendary sound." Cincinnati Enquirer 11/26/06

Using Mozart To Promote The New And Different It's the year of Mozart in Vienna, with festivals on top of festivals celebrating Austria's most famous son. So what is notorious provocateur Peter Sellars doing here? And why isn't his new festival (which claims to be "inspired" by the boy wonder) featuring a single note of Mozart? "The music of New Crowned Hope ranges from operas by John Adams and Kaija Saariaho to a concert series by illegal immigrants living in Vienna. Alice Waters is cooking; Cambodians are dancing a version of “The Magic Flute”; homeless women are serving tea." The New York Times 11/25/06

Taking Online Music Old School "Long before the closing of Tower Records was announced, the notion that a music store should offer a comprehensive selection of classical recordings had been abandoned. Older discs, which typically sold too slowly to help bricks-and-mortar stores meet their costs, were deleted from record labels’ catalogs. But they remained desirable to collectors, and the Internet music retailer ArkivMusic has recently introduced the ArkivCD program as a way to keep these recordings available." The New York Times 11/25/06

Embracing The New "Salvation may well come in digital form" for orchestras struggling with the bottom line. CD sales may be down, but classical fans are discovering downloading in droves, and several forward-looking orchestras are doing everything they can to take advantage. Toronto Star 11/25/06

Locking In The Conductor (And The Money) The North Carolina Symphony has extended the contract of its music director, Grant Llewellyn, through the 2011-12 season. "Since he started in 2004, donors have been giving more money. Major donors wanted to know how long the state would be able to keep Llewellyn, which helped extend his contract." Charlotte Observer (AP) 11/25/06

Are We Teaching Kids To Hate Classical Music? Many in the classical music world have long insisted that regular exposure to the form in childhood is the surest way of cultivating a new generation of listeners. But what if it isn't? What if, in fact, the constant forcing of classical music on children is driving them away? "If you want someone to like something, the only thing you can do is bring them together, once or twice, and then back off. If you try to force them together again and again, or try to play cute games to encourage familiarity and acceptance, you'll probably end up creating dislike." American Thinker 11/25/06

Speaking Up For Those Who Can't Hear The Music Superstar tenor Placido Domingo is teaming up with the Vienna Philharmonic for a unique project designed to bring assistance to the hearing impaired in developing countries. "A key issue is some people's reluctance to use a hearing-enhancing device for fear of appearing elderly or handicapped, or being ridiculed... Domingo and members of the Vienna orchestra were expected at a Carnegie Hall news conference on Tuesday to announce the new, non-profit Hear the World Foundation, based in Zurich, Switzerland." Newsday (AP) 11/25/06

November 24, 2006

Atlanta Symphony, Musicians Agree On Contract "The new contract calls for incremental pay raises over the next four years. The current 52-week minimum salary for rank-and-file ASO musicians is $79,300. That figure will rise to $88,400 by the 2010-2011 season." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 11/23/06

Why The Philadelphia Orchestra And Its Conductor Are Parting "For at least two years the players have been leaking to the press their complaints about Mr. Eschenbach, who is said to be willful in his interpretations and inefficient in rehearsals. Though he almost always seems a kinetic and limber presence on the podium, the musicians maintain that Mr. Eschenbach, 66, has gotten lost during performances." The New York Times 11/23/06

November 22, 2006

Miami Herald Hires A Classical Music Critic "Lawrence A. (Larry) Johnson has joined the Miami Herald as its classical music critic, effective immediately. In so doing, he exits the South Florida Sun-Sentinel after six years, where he had succeeded Tim Smith, now at the Baltimore Sun. The Sun-Sentinel will not replace Johnson and has apparently eliminated his position." Musical America 11/22/06

Is Salonen Story A Wake-up Call To US Orchestras? The LA Philharmonic music director has taken a post with London's Philharmonia Orchestra. "The cost of touring a U.S. orchestra, combined with union restrictions and post-9/11 fears, keep these ensembles mostly at home, to the mounting frustration of European maestros. Five top American orchestras -- Chicago, Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Detroit -- lack a music director. While it might be premature to say conductors are deserting the U.S. in droves, one has only to look at the burgeoning London landscape to compare crisis with progressive renewal." Bloomberg 11/22/06

November 21, 2006

Will Oldsters Control The Music Charts? Older people are now the biggest market for music. "The graying of the music market crept up on America. Now they control too much disposable income — and live too long — to be ignored. And nowhere is the shift in attitudes more pronounced than in the beleaguered pop music business, which desperately needs their money (who do you think is buying all those $750 Barbra Streisand tickets?) and shares their aversion to illicit music downloads." The New York Times 11/21/06

Mozart In Multicultural Vienna, By Way Of Peter Sellars In the current New Crowned Hope Festival, "Vienna has entrusted Peter Sellars, the festival's director, with creating a four-week event within the official Mozart Year 2006 festivities and has given him a budget of nearly $13 million with which to do so. The opera and theater director, who has previously created festivals in Los Angeles and Adelaide, Australia, that were more ambitious than those cities could accept, has now been allowed to think on the scale he has always wanted. And, as before, he has thought globally and controversially." Los Angeles Times 11/21/06

November 20, 2006

BMG Classical Reduced To A Shell "Late last week, Sony BMG Music Entertainment underwent a major downsizing. Among the casualties were the key staffers in what has come to be called Sony BMG Masterworks – encompassing Sony Classical, Columbia Masterworks, BMG Classics, RCA Red Seal, Deutsche Harmonia Mundi and pretty much every other classical or classical-related label under the legendary companies once known as CBS Records and RCA Records." Musical America 11/20/06

Why Beethoven Might Not Make A Good Movie So another movie about Beethoven lands with a thud. "As one of the titanic figures of Western culture, though, Ludwig surely deserves his own 'Amadeus.' Why has no movie captured the imagination of the masses on his behalf? It’s not for lack of trying. But there may be something about the nature of the Beethoven myth, and the bare facts of his biography, that challenges fictionalization in a way the Mozart myth doesn’t." The New York Times 11/19/06

Thai Officials Threaten Opera Ban Over Bad Luck A Thai composer says government officials threatened to ban his opera just before it was due to open. "The composer said officials told him that any misfortunes which befell those in power would be blamed on the opera." BBC 11/18/06

Music In The Laser "Miya Masaoka is a composer, koto player and inventor of the Laser Koto -- a tripod-mounted laser array that she plays by passing her hands through the beams, triggering a variety of sampled and processed sounds from her G4 PowerBook. Each flick of the wrist and twitch of the finger is interpreted as a stroke on the instrument's virtual strings." Wired 11/20/06

Pittsburgh Symphony Gets $29.5 Million "It is the fifth-largest private gift ever to an American orchestra, said Larry Tamburri, the PSO president. The gift is meant to give the orchestra some short-term breathing room while it restructures its long-term budgeting and goals." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 11/19/06

November 19, 2006

New Peabody Director Kicks Off Music Crusade "It may be a cliche that music bridges boundaries, but it's true - and it needs to be true. Music brings people together. Music reaches you on a profound, visceral level. I want to campaign for this art form, locally and nationally."
Baltimore Sun 11/19/06

London Orchestra Gets Salonen Finnish conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen is joining London's Philharmonia Orchestra as its principal conductor beginning next year. He will succeed Christoph von Dohnanyi, who has held the post since 1997. Salonen will keep his post as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The Guardian (UK) 11/18/06

Sorting Out The Vision For Orange County's New Concert Hall Orange County's new Segerstrom concert hall at the Orange County Performing Arts Center is working out the kinks in its acoustics. But the hall has some challenges, not the least of which is attracting audiences. At performances by two of the world's great orchestras - the New York Philharmonic and the Kirov - there were plenty of empty seats. "When that happens, something is wrong. And what is wrong is that prices are too high (a $200 top for the Kirov) and that there is not enough culturally curious elite in Orange County to support an elite showplace." Los Angeles Times 11/19/06

Opera's Big New Thing: Puppets! "Puppets and all that goes with them have had a place in opera for centuries. But mostly they have inhabited a parallel universe, miming on miniature stages to the voices of unseen singers, live or recorded. Why use them alongside breathing singers on the stage of a regulation opera house?" The New York Times 11/19/06

Duet For One + One Technology has made the "duet" album a big deal. Singers "perform" together, even though they may never have met and the list of live singers recording with dead ones and singers of one genre recording with those of a different one without really collaborating is getting longer... Slate 11/17/06

November 17, 2006

Berlin's Opera Mess Deepens The general director of the foundation that funds Berlin's opera companies quit, then recanted. Michael Schindhelm, "in office for only 18 months of his five-year contract, quit in disgust over a mandate by the federal government to cut the foundation’s budget by 16 percent by 2009, from $143.5 million to $127 million." Musical America 11/17/06

Cuban Heirs Trump US Publisher In Rights Fight "A copyright struggle over some of the finest music to emerge from Cuba ended yesterday after a six-year legal process in which a British judge presided over court hearings in London and Havana. Mr Justice Lindsay, ruling on a wrangle over rights to 'lively and expressive music' made famous on the Buena Vista Social Club album, declined to give a declaration sought in the high court by Peer International Corporation, a US publisher, that it owned the rights to 13 songs dating back to the 1930s." The Guardian (UK) 11/17/06

November 16, 2006

Toronto Finally In The Black The Toronto Symphony announced a small surplus for fiscal 2006 this week, the orchestra's first balanced budget since it nearly succumbed to bankruptcy five years ago. Ticket sales also increased slightly, and subscriptions held steady. But the TSO isn't completely out of the woods yet - it's still carrying a CAN$9.5 million accumulated debt, and further internal cost reductions don't seem feasible. Toronto Star 11/17/06

Come On, Smell The Noise Scratch 'n sniff music? Why not, say the organizers of this year's Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in the UK. "An electronic chamber opera that breaks new ground in the field of concert-going by combining sounds and smells" is the headline-grabbing phenomenon of the season. "Scent diffusers that look like spotlights are mounted on a heavy steel frame, controlled by a converted light mixer. There are 120 of these diffusers ranked above the audience’s heads, ready to produce bursts of specific aromas during the performance. Yet the audience is unaware of them, as this is a performance that takes place in pitch darkness." The Times (UK) 11/17/06

Eschenbach Says He's Out Because Musicians Hated Him At a closed rehearsal with the musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra, outgoing music director Christoph Eschenbach revealed that his decision to leave was sparked by a conversation with the orchestra's CEO in which Eschenbach was told that "80 percent of the musicians did not agree with his artistic interpretations; that 80 percent of the musicians left concerts feeling great anger; and that the orchestra was a 'ticking time bomb.'" Philadelphia Inquirer 11/16/06

  • More Philly Phallout The relationship between Eschenbach and the Philadelphia Orchestra may have had its bumps, but Peter Burwasser says that it's a shame the maestro will be departing so soon. "Eschenbach has, on so many levels, fulfilled his commitment splendidly. He has infused the Philadelphia Orchestra with a lively sense of innovation and connection to living music that hearkens back to the storied Stokowski era. More significantly, he has given us a beautiful sounding orchestra." City Paper (Philadelphia) 11/16/06

Korea's Ticket Price Problem South Korea is prime territory for touring orchestras these days, with a seemingly insatiable classical music audience lining up for tickets in numbers that most Western ensembles would kill for at home. But the popularity of the form has led to an explosion in ticket prices - how does $260 for a seat at the New York Philharmonic's concert sound? Or $400 for the Berlin Phil? And the numbers don't actually add up: there simply aren't enough music fans in Korea to justify the price spike. So who's buying the tickets, and who's getting shut out of the hall? The Hankyoreh (Seoul) 11/16/06

Lockhart Leaving Salt Lake Keith Lockhart will step down from his position as music director of the Utah Symphony & Opera following the 2008-09 season. "The orchestra has struggled financially in recent years and is in the middle of a recovery program. Some patrons have been perturbed by what they see as Lockhart's lack of community involvement; a professional consultant's study in 2005 said Lockhart needed to be more engaged with the orchestra." Lockhart has no plans to leave his other gig, as principal conductor of the Boston Pops. Salt Lake Tribune 11/16/06

Just Try Not To Smoosh The Soprano How do you get kids interested in opera? Well, writing one directed specifically at them wouldn't hurt - and if the main characters could all be gross (but lovable) bugs, that'd probably score you some points, too. For composer Geoffrey Hudson and librettist Alisa Pearson, the quest to bring their "Bug Opera" to life has been a five-year journey, with seemingly every aspect of the production kid-tested along the way. Boston Globe 11/16/06

SPCO Stays In The Black The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra has balanced its budget for the third year in a row, and posted a healthy increase in both donated income and ticket sales as well. In addition, the orchestra says it is only two years away from completely retiring an accumulated deficit that ballooned to nearly $800,000 as recently as 2003. Star Tribune (Minneapolis/St. Paul) 11/16/06

November 15, 2006

What's It Take To Get Young People To Listen To Classical Music? Greg Sandow reports some success: "You combine classical music with alternative pop (an umbrella term that may not really exist, but which I'm using here to mean all kinds of pop music that isn't on the pop charts, including alternative rock and electronica)." Sandow (AJBlogs) 11/15/06

Bill O'Reilly, The Opera (Okay, Oratorio) A Seattle composer is writing "a 31-part, concert-length baroque oratorio titled, rather theatrically, Mackris v. O'Reilly. The libretto opens with a reading of the original complaint filed by Mackris and runs through seven chorales, four recitatives, and numerous arias before the denouement, which features a dramatic reading of the settlement." Radar 11/15/06

SPCO Extends Contracts Of Two Conductors Solidifying its commitment to working with a diverse array of "artistic partners" rather than engaging a traditional music director, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra has extended its relationship with two of its more successful partners. Conductors Douglas Boyd and Roberto Abbado will continue leading the SPCO regularly through 2010 and 2011, respectively. St. Paul Pioneer Press 11/15/06

If Only Everyone Would Give Everything Away For Free... Technological innovations such as MySpace and podcasting have allowed many as-yet-undiscovered musicians to promote their careers and present their product for public consumption without the assistance of the ever-more-aloof recording industry. But for established musical acts, the online music world is still an uncertain place. Everyone wants to embrace new media, but no one has quite figured out how to do it without abandoning all control over the product and its distribution. BBC 11/15/06

Big Raise Coming In Liverpool As its home city prepares for its moment in the spotlight at Cultural Capital of Europe, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic has reached agreement on a 21% pay raise for its musicians. The RLPO's base wage lags far behind the UK's top orchestras - even at the end of the new contract, musicians will earn just £25,000 per year - but the deal is being seen as an indication that the orchestra has stabilized fiscally after several years of restructuring. The Stage (UK) 11/14/06

Smooth Sailing In Indy The Indianapolis Symphony has reported a budget surplus for the third year in a row, and increased overall ticket sales by nearly 10% over last season. "The ISO musicians and management also recently ratified a new three-year contract that went into effect retroactively to September 4. The new agreement calls for ISO musicians' salaries to increase between 3% and 5% annually, for a total of 12.6% over three years." PlaybillArts 11/14/06

November 14, 2006

Conductor Quits As Opera Job Loses Appeal Conductor "Daniele Gatti's resignation from the Teatro Comunale di Bologna leaves two of Italy's top opera houses musically depleted, amid growing confusion about the role and responsibilities of modern music direcors." Bloomberg.com 11/14/06

Refusing To Sing This Song "Once upon a time, songs referred exclusively to single-movement musical compositions involving a singer or singers." No more. Now most music is referred to as "songs", and Frank Oteri has had enough. "Everything is a song in popular parlance, whether it has words or not and no matter how long it is. As a result, the song paradigm—which still assumes a normative status of vocal, short, and in one movement—determines how all music is listened to. When's the last time an 'instrumental' got on the Billboard charts?" NewMusicBox` 11/14/06

November 13, 2006

(Real) Live Recording Sales Might Make The Charts Songs recorded at gigs and sold legally to fans as they head home have become eligible for the UK music charts. BBC 11/13/06

Puccini In The Rain? Naw! Washington National Opera is simulcasting some performances to giant screens on the National Mall. But unlike last year, the crowds didn't appear for this weekend's offering. "In fact, a quick tally suggested that between 200 and 300 people had chosen to spend the afternoon watching 'Butterfly' in the rain. They wore raincoats and huddled around heating lamps. Some sat on grimy patio furniture lugged from home; others shared wet blankets and shivers." Washington Post 11/13/06

The Odd Case Of Ivo Pogorelich The pianist's "once-moody temperament and unconventional dress gave him rock-star appeal during the peak of his popularity in the 1980s, but he has since devolved into a kind of keyboard oddity and largely disappeared from the scene." Denver Post 11/12/06

November 12, 2006

Back From The Dead New recordings are expensive. And better technology make it easier and easier to bring old historic recordings back to life, making them sound, in some cases, like new. "It really is amazing, after all, to put on a recording by Enrico Caruso that was made in 1920 and have it sound as though the tenor, dead 85 years now, is in the next room." Washington Post 11/11/06

NEA Blasts Public Radio For Giving Up On Music "A new report from the National Endowment for the Arts blasts public radio, saying it fails to fulfill its obligation to provide music that commercial stations won't touch. The NEA says public radio -- once dominated by classical, jazz and other minority forms of music -- is retreating ever further from that mission, choosing to focus on news and talk." Washington Post 11/011/06

Dallas Opera Wins New Contract With Musicians The Dallas Opera has avoided a strike by musicians. The new contract provides raises of 3 percent in each of the first three years, 4.8 percent in the fourth year and 5 percent in the final year. The cumulative impact will be a pay raise a little over 20 percent." Dallas Morning News 11/11/06

November 10, 2006

Sydney Opera House Needs Major Renovation Its facade may be one of the world's most recognizable sights, but inside, the Sydney Opera House is a cramped, outmoded and fast-aging structure. Some essential renovations are already planned, but "the big question is: should other work be undertaken at the same time that would ensure the Opera House has a future as a venue for the art form for which it was built?" It could cost as much as AUS$700 million... Sydney Morning Herald 11/11/06

  • Not Really Built For Opera Actually, the Sydney Opera House would probably not be that troublesome a space if not for the fact that some people continue to insist on performing operas in it. "We could fix its faults by admitting it is not an opera house at all, never will be. It is not, really, architecture. It is a fabulous, transcendent piece of sculpture. Iconography, even. No one expects the Eiffel Tower or the pyramids to do clever things with sound waves. Just bouncing the photons keeps the cameras happy. Ask Frank Gehry. Ask George Pell: isn't that what icons do?" Sydney Morning Herald 11/11/06

November 9, 2006

Underground Classical New York's classical music scene is moving out of the concert hall and into some unlikely locales. "Spurred on by a growing number of offbeat performance venues and enterprising young classical musicians, New York is experiencing a boom in small, largely below-the-radar concert series. There are opera nights at a Lower East Side dive bar, chamber music concerts at a boxing gym beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, contemporary music at a cabaret in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and avant-garde fare in a silo on the banks of an industrial canal." Musical America 11/09/06

Dallas Opera Orchestra Rejects Contract The musicians of the Dallas Opera orchestra have rejected a new contract that both sides believed was settled earlier this week. For the moment, the orchestra is continuing to work, though it hasn't ruled out a strike. At issue is a provision in the new contract which would have reduced, through attrition, the number of core players in the ensemble. Dallas Morning News 11/10/06

Radio 3's Long Evolution Earlier this week, BBC Radio 3, the Beeb's classical station, announced changes to its schedule which may (or may not) result in far fewer live performances being broadcast. The changes are causing no small amount of consternation in Britain's classical music world: "The station has ventured quite far from its traditional ground. In 1992, Radio 3 was described in the BBC's annual report as 'the UK's leading patron and broadcaster of classical music'. In the same document, in 2004, it was described as providing 'a broad spectrum of classical music, jazz, world music, drama and arts discussions'. That is quite a shift." The Guardian (UK) 11/10/06

SF Opera Reaches 5-Year Contract With Performers "A new collective bargaining agreement between the San Francisco Opera and the union representing solo singers, chorus members, dancers and the production staff promises labor peace in what has often been a tempestuous relationship." San Francisco Chronicle 11/09/06

November 8, 2006

Tulsa Gets Itself An Orchestra The old Tulsa Philharmonic went under four years ago. Friday night, the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra opened its first concert season ever with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. The Collegian (Tulsa) 11/07/06

San Antonio Symphony Won't Renew Music Director's Contract The San Antonio Symphony has decided not to renew music director Larry Rachleff's contract. "Rachleff lives in Houston, where he teaches at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music. He also is music director of the Rhode Island Philharmonic and the Chicago Philharmonic. The San Antonio Symphony Players Association issued a statement saying the musicians 'are deeply disappointed and disturbed' by the decision."
San Antonio News-Express 11/07/06

Signs Of Intelligent Classical Life On The Net "Make no mistake: there is intelligent life in classical blogworld and it is getting smarter. It is also getting read. Classical blogs come in two streams, pro and am. One the pro side are newspaper critics who blog on their employers’ website; on the am, there are buffs and fans and wannabes." La Scena Musicale 11/08/06

An Opera Cheesecake Calendar Chicago's OperaMode is making one of opera divas. "Some singers declined, fearing the exposure would harm their budding careers. Others stuck out more than their necks. Within a couple of weeks, OperaModa had 40 applicants for 13 slots." Chicago Tribune 11/08/06

Rzewski - Our Greatest? Frederic Rzewski is, writes Mark Swed, "the greatest pianist-composer of our time and something of a legend in modern music. Less a Beethoven, perhaps, than a latter-day leftist Liszt, Rzewski is also our anti-Liszt. He refuses to play the celebrity or music industry game. He operates as a hit-and-run artist, usually gone before you know what hit you." Los Angeles Times 11/08/06

November 7, 2006

Ho Hum, A Prize For New Classical Music? Why does contemporary classical music have such a bad image? "Compare this to the pull of contemporary visual art - the Turner Prize, for example, or the equivalent award for modern fiction, the Man Booker Prize. Both events generate reams of newspaper copy and huge public interest, leading to vast increases in the commercial viability of the prizewinner." New Statesman 11/07/06

Donors + Contact With Musicians = Real Money A new trustee of the Seattle Symphony has already implemented a program designed to raise significant cash: It's "a $500,000 multiyear challenge grant that will bring donors in direct contact with visiting artists. The program, called the Guest Artists Circle, enables participants to have a one-on-one dinner with a guest artist, appearing during the symphony season, in concert or recital; an opportunity to sit in the middle of the orchestra during a rehearsal with the guest artist, and premium seats for the performance." Dinner with Yo-Yo Ma, by the way, is still available for a mere $70,000.... Seattle Post-Intelligencer 11/07/06

What Rosie Did For Broadway, Maybe Dave Can Do ... Peter Gelb has been sending every possible signal that the Metropolitan Opera is a new place under his leadership -- the kind of place where great art intersects with mainstream American life. And now this: "Opera buffs can get a sneak peak at the Met's upcoming production of Rossini's 'Il Barbiere di Siviglia' (that's 'The Barber of Seville' for all of you barbarians) tomorrow on, of all places, 'Late Show With David Letterman.' It will be the first time Letterman, an opera fan, has had an opera production as his musical guest." New York Daily News 11/07/06

November 6, 2006

Prediction: CD Sales Down 50 Percent A UK recording exec says CD sales will be half what they are now in three years. "We figure the value of CD sales will be 50% less in three years than it is now. We predict digital growth of 25% per year, but it is not enough to replace the loss from falling CD sales. By 2010 we will be 30% behind in terms of revenues. We have to reinvent." The Guardian (UK) 11/06/06

Radio 3: More Classical, Not Less Britain's Radio 3 denies it will be cutting classical music programming. "We're doing full concerts. We are not going to do excerpts, we're going to do concerts. The rumours come from a complete misunderstanding of what we do, leave alone what we are going to do." The Guardian (UK) 11/06/06

What's So Perfect About Perfect Pitch? "So-called perfect pitch is supposedly innate and only achievable at the youngest stages of life. But while it is advantageous for someone to have developed his or her tonal ear as a child, it by no means precludes one from ever learning to hear music in such a way." NewMusicBox 11/06/06

Ross: How Steve Reich Changed Music Three decades ago, New York’s leading institutions would have nothing to do with Steve Reich. Yet, writes Alex Ross, "Reich changed music, and he also changed how music relates to society. In the face of early incomprehension, he took a do-it-yourself approach to getting his work before the public." The New Yorker 11/06/06

Musicians Get More Control Of Their Careers Getting that record contract with a big label is not so important as it once was. "The do-it-yourself circuit was once a patchwork of live shows and sporadic college-radio exposure, but the Internet has changed that. Now, the most obscure band can put up a page on myspace.com and have its music streamed on any Internet connection, any time." The New York Times 11/06/06

South Korean Pianist Wins "Eccentric" Honens Prize Minsoo Sohn was awarded the Canadian prize, which comes with a cash award of $35,000. The competition is eccentric, perhaps. "But the encores and lack of bloodsport help demonstrate what sort of personalities the musicians have onstage and how they might contribute to the overall audience experience." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/06/06

November 5, 2006

A Boom In Old Time String Bands "In this decade more and more musicians under the age of 30 have picked up banjos and fiddles and hit a burgeoning circuit of festivals, small-town theaters and big-city nightclubs. They don’t want to play their parents’ music, but they do long for a tradition older than themselves, one with memorable melodies, deep stories and a boisterous beat." The New York Times 11/05/05

A Theatrical Bent On Opera Director Bart Sher doesn't read music, and he doesn't speak Italian. So he's directing Italian opera at the Met. "Plays are harder to stage than operas, because in opera the musical form determines so much. If I were doing a play, I would work with the actors layer by layer, taking it slowly. You know, we’d go through a passage to show how Rosina is being evasive. Then to show how she’s being a bitch. Then we’d look at how the language moves and how it picks up. We wouldn’t get up to speed for three or four rehearsals. We don’t have that kind of time here." The New York Times 11/05/06

Cleveland Won't Be Orchestra World's Montreal Expos The Cleveland Orchestra is spending an awful lot of time in cities other than Cleveland these days, and it didn't take long for rumors to fly that the orchestra, unable to sustain itself financially in economically depressed Cleveland, would shortly be pulling up stakes for months at a time or even abandoning the city completely. But Donald Rosenberg says that "for many reasons, it is nonsensical to consider that the Cleveland Orchestra would leave town." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 11/05/06

Dreaming Of A Brighter Future Dallas Opera is three years away from the planned opening of its new home in the city's entertainment district, and this season's opening is in jeopardy from a potential work stoppage. But the company is eagerly looking forward to a time when it "finally will have the right-sized, properly equipped and acoustically supportive home it's craved for decades." Dallas Morning News 11/05/06

Popular Doesn't Always Mean Bad The gulf between what rock critics like and what the average radio listener hears on a daily basis has never been wider, and the frustration has caused many writers to adopt a bunker mentality. "We in the music press are, perhaps, sometimes guilty of making the bands we support appear to be bigger than they actually are. At the same time, we have a habit of ignoring the acts sprung from our midst that really do achieve massive numbers in radio and retail." Toronto Star 11/04/06

Christian Pop Moves Away From The Preachy It's getting very hard to tell what constitutes a Christian band anymore. "Much of Christian music's integration into the pop culture mainstream comes via the rockers who happen to be Christian - as opposed to the Christian rockers who wear their faiths on their sleeves and crosses around their necks. Each group of musicians is writing about what makes them tick, but one crafts its art with more subtlety, yet its intentions are never fully hidden by metaphor." Denver Post 11/04/06

November 3, 2006

Updating The Bernstein Thing "The field of classical music has long been waiting for some musician to come along who could use television with Leonard Bernstein’s galvanizing impact. The closest, it seemed, has been the dynamic maestro Michael Tilson Thomas, a natural who has masterminded some impressive shows. Until recently, though, TV had not been a central component of Mr. Thomas’s work. That has now changed." The New York Times 11/03/06

November 2, 2006

ICM Gets Out Of Classical Music "International Creative Management, one of the world's largest talent agencies representing actors, writers and musicians, said it will sell its classical music division to focus on its core entertainment business." Bloomberg 11/02/06

The Prokofiev Diaries Prokofiev's diaries have been published for the first time. "The diaries, translated by Anthony Phillips, were written by Prokofiev between 1907 and 1914." BBC 11/02/06

How Not To Attract A Music Director The West Australian Symphony Orchestra had egg on its face last week after publishing brochures touting Edo de Waart as its next music director, only to have de Waart pull out of the negotiations, which had not been finalized. Now, the WASO's board chair has publicly apologized to de Waart for comments made by the orchestra's president at the time, in which it was implied that de Waart's change of heart had to do with not wanting to pay Australian taxes. The West Australian 11/02/06

What's Next In K-W? Now that the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony has managed to raise enough money to stay afloat in the short term, the organization is looking to its long-term future. One possible model for a turnaround is the Calgary Symphony, which had to seek court protection from its creditors, only to reemerge with three straight years of balanced budgets. But there is no magic formula for orchestras on the brink, and little margin for error along the way. The Record (Kitchener, ON) 11/02/06

Music Hall Overhaul Begins With Parking The Cincinnati Symphony is one step closer to a much-needed renovation of its home base, Music Hall, with the unveiling of plans to construct a new parking garage and public plaza attached to the main building. While such amenities might seem to be putting the cart before the horse, the sad truth is that Music Hall is located in a crime-ridden neighborhood, and the hope is that the attached garage, which will allow concertgoers to go from their cars to their seats without braving the mean Cincy streets, will boost attendance at CSO concerts. Cincinnati Enquirer 11/02/06

Florida Orchestra Back In The Red Hurricane-related setbacks and a lack of expected government funding combined to put the Tampa Bay-based Florida Orchestra $676,615 in the red for fiscal 2006. It's the orchestra's third deficit in the last five fiscal years. St. Petersburg Times (FL) 11/01/06

November 1, 2006

What's Early About "Early" Music? The definitions of early music are fungible. But why? "So when does early music really end? Perhaps when new music begins. When is that? Ives and Schoenberg have been dead for more than half a century, and their music still frequently gets called new music." NewMusicBox 11/01/06

The Music Biz - The New Realities "New relationships between music companies, advertisers and file-sharing networks are signalling a major change in the corporate attitude toward illegal downloads. Instead of trying in vain to stop a trend that has spread like wildfire, record giants have finally figured out that when it comes to music piracy, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." Ottawa Citizen 11/01/06

Never, Never, Never Tick Off The Soprano Moscow's Bolshoi Theater is reimagining Tchaikovsky's grand opera, "Evgeny Onegin," and the project has drawn the ire of at least one important presence. "The great soprano Galina Vishnevskaya was so infuriated by a new production of “Onegin” at the Bolshoi in September that she canceled her 80th-birthday gala, which was to be held there last Wednesday." The New York Times 11/01/06

The Underappreciated Sibelius The BBC Scottish Symphony is mounting a complete cycle of Sibelius's seven symphonies this season, the second time in a decade that they have undertaken such a project. So why all the Sibelius? Michael Tumelty says that "however much we might feel the music of Sibelius to be in our blood, there is still a great deal of missionary work to be done." The Herald (UK) 11/01/06

The Orchestra Problem It seems like nearly every year, some small to mid-sized North American orchestra or other finds itself in danger of folding. Usually, some emergency funding is found, and the orchestra is "saved," at least temporarily. But why do orchestras continually find themselves in such dire straits? It has to do with a deadly combination of high fixed costs and executive burnout. Toronto Star 11/01/06

Questioning Motives Buenos Aires's landmark music hall, the Teatro Colón, is in disrepair and set to undergo a $25 million, 18-month renovation that will close the venue to the public for more than a year. "But the tight-knit community of musicians, craftsmen and others who ply their trades at the Colón have voiced profound concerns about the artistic integrity and the timetable of the government blueprint." Los Angeles Times 11/01/06

Mentors Wanted, Melanin Welcome It's one of the dirty little non-secrets of the orchestral world that African-Americans are nearly nonexistent among the musicians on stage. It's always been assumed that the reason for the inequity is economically based: instruments and lessons are expensive, and poor urban black families don't have the resources to purchase either. But the lone black member of the Seattle Symphony thinks something else is lacking: mentors. Seattle Times 11/01/06

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