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JULY 2002

Wednesday July 31

THE WORLD'S LARGEST CHAMBER MUSIC FEST: The Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival is the largest chamber music fest in the world. "Last year, with 106 concerts, attendance reached 57,000." How did the nine-year-old festival get so popular? Director Julian Armour says "he has succeeded by refusing to pander to his public, with relatively unknown composers such as Lutoslawski, Dutilleux and Romberg co-habiting alongside Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. This is an event for purists: unlike some 'classical' music festivals in this country, in Ottawa there are no Celtic fiddlers or Dixieland bands." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/31/02

ROADMAP THROUGH A FLOOD: Last year a tropical storm flooded the Houston Symphony's home and damaged its extensive music library. Now the orchestra is trying to salvage what it can. "Though the restored music cannot be reused, musicians use it to re-create lost pencil markings on scores that contain unique musical imprints of Sir John Barbarolli and other esteemed conductors. Without handwritten dynamics of phrasing and tempo or bowing symbols for strings, a score of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony would read like a city map without street names." Dallas Morning News 07/31/02

HITTING STRIDE: Tony Hall has been running Covent Garden for a year now. It's a job that has eaten up lesser incumbents, but Hall has had a good year. He "has successfully wrestled with the pricing policy, gone some way towards encouraging new audiences and young artists with the studio theatres run by the former Royal Ballet dancer Deborah Bull, and increased the number of live relays on to big screens, which have included the ballet company for the first time. He will also shortly announce a £200,000 surplus." The Independent (UK) 07/29/02

Tuesday July 30

MOSTLY CANCELLED: Critics might be looking forward to a revamped Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center, but the musicians evidently have their reservations. The festival orchestra went on strike Monday afternoon, forcing the cancellation of 17 concerts. Andante 07/29/02

WHAT GOES AROUND... Emile Subirana, the union boss in Montreal who made headlines this spring when he wrote a venomous letter on behalf of the musicians of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, is facing removal from his position at the head of the guild following a unanimous vote in favor of his ouster by 100 guild members. Subirana had faced intense scrutiny in recent months over his salary and request for "consulting" payments from the union. In addition, his open letter to the MSO accusing music director Charles Dutoit of being a tyrant and abusing his power led directly to Dutoit's abrupt resignation from the post he had held with the orchestra for 25 years. Montreal Gazette 07/30/02

ISRAEL PHIL CANCELS AMERICAN TOUR: The Israel Philharmonic has canceled its American tour. "There were reports that the group could not find an insurance company willing to cover them for the trip, and that security firms were reluctant to guard the musicians and audiences." BBC 07/30/02

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST: "The Washington Chamber Symphony, which presented a series of venturesome and enormously popular concerts at the Kennedy Center for more than a quarter-century, has voted itself out of existence, effective tomorrow." The decision is a somber reflection of the state of many smaller orchestras - the WCS was wildly popular in the district, and had no problem selling tickets to its performances, and yet still could not manage to stay afloat after multiple budget cuts and retoolings. Washington Post 07/30/02

WOULDN'T SOUNDLESS VIOLAS BE BETTER? "If traditional concert performances leave you sighing for more, you can look forward to an opera where musicians squeeze squishy embroidered balls, play soundless violins and bang on glowing bugs with antennae... These instruments, [designed at MIT,] allow users to concentrate on some of the essential, holistic aspects of music like phrasing, texture shaping, variation or collaborative performance -- activities that are quite difficult for children who are concentrating on mastering traditional instruments. The toys are designed to cover a gamut of experiences, from fun and play to serious concentration, analysis and synthesis of information." Wired 07/30/02

NEW LEADERSHIP IN PALERMO: "The governing board of the Teatro Massimo in Palermo has appointed the retired baritone Claudio Desderi as its next superintendent, effective with the 2002–03 season. He will succeed Francesco Giambrone, a cardiologist-cum-music critic whose term as superintendent expired last month... Teatro Massimo, inaugurated in 1897, is the second largest historic opera house in Europe (after the Paris Opéra's Palais Garnier). Following an extensive, costly and contentious renovation that dragged on for 23 years, the Massimo provisionally reopened in 1997 but still faces major problems." Andante 07/30/02

ODE TO SILENCE: Silence is much underrated - in our music, and in our everyday world. It's increasingly difficult to find quiet. “Once the air was filled with music. Now it is filled with noise. The young have never heard silence. In our polluted world they will never be able to hear it.” The Times (UK) 07/30/02

COMPETITION CORRUPTION: At its best, the tradition of musical competition is a way of preparing young musicians for the pressures of the professional world, and a proving ground for young soloists on the verge of greatness. But the world's great competitions haven't been at their best for quite some time, and these days, corruption and cutthroat tactics are the rule at most events. Pianist Nikolai Petrov, a veteran of the circuit, is proposing major reforms, and many observers are saying that the competitive world would do well to listen before it becomes completely irrelevant. Andante 07/30/02

PERHAPS, FINALLY, THE END, MAYBE: We should know better by now, of course, than to believe the dozens of death knells which have been sounded for Napster over the past year. Several months back, the song swapper appeared to be on the verge of shutdown, only to find itself being bought up by European media giant Bertelsmann. But the executive who drove the acquisition and who reportedly saved Napster from being folded earlier has resigned, and analysts say it's unlikely the project will survive without him. BBC 07/30/02

Monday July 29

WORST OF TIMES FOR ENO: "The past weeks have indeed been the stuff of nightmare for the English National Opera company. It has lost its general director, Nicholas Payne, amid rows over falling box-office revenues, widespread criticism of its artistic standards and questions over the future. Audiences have been averaging just 60 per cent this season, at a time when ENO needs to fill seats to cope with an alarming £500,000 deficit. So far it has failed to find its form, despite efforts to produce innovative interpretations of classic operas, as well as new work." The Independent (UK) 07/28/02

SAN JOSE BANKRUPTCY: The 123-year-old San Jose Symphony has decided to file for bankruptcy. The orchestra shut down in June, "has debts of more than $3 million and its only assets are its sheet music, acoustic shell and office equipment, which even by liberal estimates are only worth $300,000." San Jose is the largest American city without an orchestra. Nando Times (AP) 07/28/02

GOING IT ALONE (IS SO MUCH BETTER): As recording companies drop top artists and orchestras, more and more are making and selling their own. "The big companies are becoming obsolete. There's no need for them at this point. They can provide tremendous exposure. Now, with the Internet, you can get that yourself. Good recordings can be made for as little as $20,000, and break even with sales as modest as 1,500." Philadelphia Inquirer 07/28/02


IN SEARCH OF DIVERSITY: The Chicago Symphony recently hired its first-ever African-American musician as a member of the orchestra. Many critics wonder why it took so long. The answer is far from simple. Chicago Tribune 07/28/02

MUSIC IN THE MOUNTAINS: The Aspen Music Festival is one of the largest teaching camps in the US. Few if any of the 750 young people here will be the new Yo-Yo Ma, yet they swarm through this chic town, eager and hoping for the best. The most beautiful of arts offers career success to several and frustration to many. There is a kinship here with history's ambitious laborers and their largely unprofitable mines. Beauty beguiles the soul, but finding a way to make it feed the stomach is less easy. Quite rightly, such paradox is ignored at places like this." The New York Times 07/29/02

SING SING: Minnesota is full of choirs. "Known as a 'choral mecca,'the state is about to greet singing pilgrims from all over the world as host to the Sixth World Symposium on Choral Music, with 3,000-plus attendees from more than 50 countries. A concurrent International Choral Festival will entail some 40 public concerts - almost all of them free - by 31 choirs from six continents." Minneapolis Star-Tribune 07/28/02

Sunday July 28

MOSTLY (SAVING) MOZART: For decades Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival has been an audience favorite. But it was time for it to be overhauled, and Lincoln Center Programmer Jane Moss was up for the job. "Mostly Mozart was the Vatican, and I was spray-painting it. In reality, it was like a wonderful landmark hotel, frayed at the edges. It needed renovation. But of course everybody wants change until you start to change it. Then everybody gets nervous." The New York Times 07/28/02

Friday July 26

ENO DENIES CUTBACK REPORT: The English National Opera denies a report that it is considering drastically scaling back its operations and becoming a part time operation (see story below). A "spokeswoman said the reports were 'speculation and rumour'and called the idea of a part-time company an 'illogical scenario'. And the spokeswoman dismissed suggestions of large-scale job losses." BBC 07/26/02


  • A "DISASTER" FOR BRITISH OPERA? "The troubled English National Opera is considering closing for 16 months, making large numbers of its 500 staff redundant, before shrinking to a part-time company. The ENO, which received £13m in public funds last year, is battling to redress its deficit with a two-year plan to save £700,000, as well as fielding criticism over risky 'toilet humour' productions and mildly disappointing box office figures this season. Across the company, jobs left vacant have not been replaced." And just last week, Nicholas Payne, the ENO's adventurous director was pushed into resigning. The Guardian (UK) 07/26/02

THE NEW (OLD) SALZBURG: The Salzburg Festival, as envisioned by Gerard Mortier, was an adventurous and often controversial romp through music of many eras, with a damn-the-torpedos spirit which occasionally alienated some high-profile performers. But Mortier is gone, and new festival director Peter Ruzicka has taken a decided turn towards safety and tradition. Mortier's beloved contemporary music series is dead in the water, the ultra-conservative Vienna Philharmonic has been returned to festival prominence, and Mozart and Richard Strauss will be the most prominently featured composers for the foreseeable future. Outrageous? Cowardly? Maybe. But ticket sales are up 16%. Andante 07/26/02

LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE: The debate has been raging for decades now: are period instruments the only real way to appreciate old music, or is the whole "performance practice" movement a bunch of overblown pomposity masquerading as sophistication? This year's Glyndebourne Festival aims to explore both sides of the issue as one of the world's premier 'authentic instrument' ensembles and one of the UK's finest symphony orchestras work alongside each other in a bold experiment in period opera. The Christian Science Monitor 07/26/02

SOME GOOD NEWS IN ST. LOUIS: The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is doing pretty well for an ensemble which was on the verge of bankruptcy less than a year ago. The SLSO announced this week that it is more than halfway towards a $40 million fund-raising goal which would trigger a matching gift from one of the city's wealthiest families. The vast majority of the funds raised will go towards boosting the orchestra's sagging endowment, and the rest will be used to cover operating expenses and debt. St. Louis Business Journal 07/24/02

WORKING AGAINST MUSIC: An archaic law in Britain requiring pubs to obtain a music license if they feature live performances is cutting down the number of clubs with music. "The difficulty for pubs is often that the cost of the licence can be up to £5,000 in some areas, a crippling extra cost for small community pubs. The result is a collapse in the number of pubs with live music, particularly pubs formerly well known among musicians for informal sessions." The Guardian (UK) 07/26/02

MEET THE CLASSICAL SPICE GIRLS: Introducing... the Opera Babes. Yes, you heard right, and no, you don't need to see a picture to get the basic gist of their success. (But here's a hint: their publicity shot finds them sprawled on the hood of a car.) They can actually sing, although their program is decidedly on the light side, and the blatant marketability of their act has brought the wrath of critics down on their heads. But it seems to be that word that sticks most in everyone's mind: babes. In fact, the Opera Babes are hardly the only ones to be exploiting the sheer political incorrectness of such a moniker for box office success. The Christian Science Monitor 07/26/02

VIVALDI.COM: "Within twelve months, Antonio Vivaldi's musical output — or at least a substantial portion of it — will be available to all Web users, who will be able to listen to pieces and read their scores simultaneously... Should promises be kept, this will be the first step in the actual implementation of a long-planned program, known to specialists since 1997 as Archivio Digitale della Musica Veneta." Andante 07/26/02

TWO ORCHESTRAS NAMED PHIL: After a name change by one of them, Seoul Korea now has two orchestras with the same name. One is owned by the city, while the other is fielded by a private company. "The infighting was caused by the private orchestra, which was founded in Nov. 1991. The former New Seoul Phil deleted the ``new’’ on the ground that this gave the impression it was an offshoot of the Seoul Phil, which prompted the strong protest by that orchestra. The Seoul Phil was founded in 1945 and is the oldest orchestra in the country." Korea Times 07/26/02

Thursday July 25

WORST CONCERT SEASON SINCE 70s: This is shaping up as one of the worst years ever for the pop concert business. "Touring concerts in the first six months of 2002 generated $613 million, down more than 14 percent and $100 million from the same time period last year, according to the trade publication Billboard Boxscore. Pollstar, another industry journal, reports that about 10.6 million tickets were sold for the top 50 concert tours in North America this year, compared with 12.9 million tickets sold in 2000." Denver Post 07/25/02

EVERYTHING BUT THE MUSIC: This year's opening Proms concerts have been marked by bite-size pieces of music and distracting light shows. "This vulgar farrago was not for the benefit of those of us in the hall who had already demonstrated our commitment to concert-going. It was for the (supposedly) less discerning television audience, with their (supposedly) fickle attention spans. It was another example of the BBC treating the Proms series and its loyal Albert Hall audience as of secondary importance to the whims of television programme-makers. And it raises wider questions about the corporation's stewardship of what has, with reason, been called the world's greatest music festival. Until now." London Evening Standard 07/24/02

SOMETHING CRUCIAL MISSING: Why is British jazz ailing? "The majority of new releases in this country are substandard, half-hearted affairs that deserve praise only in comparison to some of the real rubbish that gets out. There are two problems here. One is the general standard of musicianship, which just isn't as high as it is in America... New Statesman 07/22/02

SIGNIFICANTLY SPAIN: "Music celebrates instinct and irrationality; and the Iberian peninsula serves as Europe's nether region - a zone of fierce, loud, foot-tappingly infectious pleasure. For Russian composers, condemned to the snow, Spain has always signified release, irresponsibility, a perpetual rite of spring. It allowed them to be capricious. Stendhal said that Italian music relied on melody, German music on harmony. The life of Spanish music derives from rhythm and its bodily agitation." New Statesman 07/22/02

CAMPING WITH THE PERLMANS: Toby and Itzhak Perlman had the dream of a summer camp where talented young musicians could learn without being tortured for their talent. "In Toby's dream all gifted young musicians are nurtured with kindness and respect. They develop social skills and learn to share the spotlight. If they don't master the music, it is the teacher's failure. And if they burn out young, an overly ambitious parent may be hovering backstage." The New York Times 07/25/02

LIFE AFTER CLASSICAL: It's been three years since Jacksonville, Florida's only classical music station abandoned the format to become a talk station. So how's it going? Well - ratings are up 70 percent. But that's little consolation for the small but loyal classical music fans who miss the old WJCT. Florida Times-Union 07/24/02

Wednesday July 24

MUSICIANS ALLEGE FRAUD: Musicians testified before a California state senate committee Tuesday that the recording companies "routinely underreports royalties and cheats artists of millions of dollars." One attorney charged that the companies "underpay 10 to 40 percent on every royalty and dare artists to challenge it without killing their careers." Nando Times (AP) 07/23/02

SEARCHING FOR DIVERSITY: The classical music world is not exactly a racially diverse work environment - nearly all orchestral musicians are white or Asian, and African-Americans are virtually non-existant among the throng. The Sphinx Competition in Michigan is one of the few programs designed to combat that lack of diversity, and it got a big boost this week when the Detroit Symphony Orchestra agreed to donate the use of its hall, its resources, and itself to the Sphinx. The DSO is one of the only orchestras in the world with a demonstrated commitment to increasing racial diversity in music. Detroit Free Press 07/24/02

BAD BOY OF MUSIC: Recent translations of Mozart's letters are more exact - and more explicit - than previous versions. The composer's coarse language and preoccupation with body functions is off-putting. The question is - how does his foul demeanor square with the elegance of his music? Andante 07/23/02

Tuesday July 23

SAME OLD SAME OLD: Why does contemporary opera seem so flat? Greg Sandow writes that "if all they do is tell familiar stories in familiar ways, they carry a built-in risk of disappointing audiences. For one thing, ordinary media — movies, books, TV, and theater — already tell these stories perfectly well. What can opera add? Secondly, there's no accepted way to write an opera in our time, no common operatic language that composers all agree on. Each opera — implicitly, at least — has to explain itself. Why does it exist? Why should anybody listen to it? What does it give us that we couldn't get anywhere else?" Andante 07/19/02

WOULDN'T YOU LIKE TO BE A COMPOSER TOO? New music software programs have become so powerful they have put the power of professional studio setups in the hands of the average consumer. "In many ways, the explosion in the power and popularity of these programs is a parallel to the explosion of MP3s and digital distribution of music. MP3s allow artists to work around the traditional record label channels, distributing music directly to fans. Meanwhile, digital music creation tools have given aspiring artists access to tools and sounds that were found only in professional studios (at a prohibitive cost) just a few years ago." Wired 07/23/02

ALL ABOUT THE STORIES: At 36, David McVicar is "widely ranked the hottest talent on the international opera circuit; and his special genius is for telling stories on a big scale but with clarity and focus. At a time when opera staging seems in danger of abandoning narrative responsibility in favour of interpretative fancy - the bourgeois-battering aesthetic of Figaros set on futuristic rubbish dumps and Don Giovannis on a slip-road to the M6 - McVicar has emerged as something like a champion of old-fashioned values." The Telegraph (UK) 07/23/02

RING-A-DING-DING: Cell phones going off during performances is a major irritation for audience and performer alike. But one composer has written an entire symphony for an orchestra of cell phones. It's called - groan - The New Ring Cycle, and it was performed last weekend in England by the 30-piece mobile orchestra, Cheltenham SIM-phone-ya. Nuff said. BBC 07/23/02

Monday July 22

THE STRAIN OF STANDING IN FOR ELGAR: In the four years since composer Anthony Payne's fleshing out and completion of Elgar's Third Symphony, the piece has been performed an amazing 150 times. Yet, after the premiere of the piece, Payne almost lost himself. "Everyone thought it was because of the strain of the Elgar, but it wasn't really, it was the strain of 30 years of freelance life, not taking holidays. We all overwork because we love music so much, but that's bad. You get so obsessed, you wear yourself out without realising it." The Telegraph (UK) 07/22/02

AND IF YOU DON'T LIKE THEM... A collection of traditional Mafia songs has been recorded and is about to be released in the US. And Italians on both sides of the Atlantic aren't happy. "The songs, a mix of more sedate strummed folk forms and fast accordion-laced tarantella dance, are filled with lyrics in Mafia slang that expound on its bloody code of honor and respect. 'Whoever took the liberty to neglect their duties, I'll slaughter him like an animal,' goes one song. 'And if someone dares to talk, I'll whet my knife for him'." The New York Times 07/22/02

BANDING TOGETHER: The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District in North Carolina had 4000 5th grade students enrolled in its orchestra programs this past year. But that didn't stop the school board from cutting the program to solve budget problems. Concerned parents and volunteers quickly mobilized to start new private band and orchestra programs and so far have created a program for hundreds of students. "Still, even these optimistic educators say, it will be impossible to replicate the equal opportunity the school system created: The public school programs were largely free, though students did have to rent instruments. Privately run programs cost money." Charlotte Observer 07/21/02

ABANDONING ITS CORE? The English National Opera is one of the largest opera companies in the world. But the company says it plans to reign in the controversial productions for which it has been famous. Attendance is down, and the company recently forced out its adventurous general director. "Critics of the proposed strategy say that if the company abandons its venerated tradition of performing challenging works solely in English and opts for more obvious crowd-pullers instead, its distinctive edge will be lost. That is the justification for its £13.9 million-a-year subsidy from the Arts Council, which might then be reduced." The Observer (UK) 07/21/02

Sunday July 21

KICKING OFF THE PROMS: The BBC Proms in London may be the world's most successful large-scale classical music festival, and it kicked off again this weekend. "The 75th BBC proms features 73 concerts over two months, culminating in the famously patriotic Last Night." From crossover artists to football chants to contemporary music to the standards of the repertoire, the Proms usually has something for everyone - especially if everyone enjoys waving flags and tea towels and belting out 'Rule, Brittania" in drunken fashion. The Guardian (UK) 07/19/02

  • IT AIN'T PERFECT, BUT... "The Proms has already endured its annual dose of controversy with the decision to perform the instrumental version of Rule Britannia – with the public expected to add a few nationalistic sentiments – instead of the version with full seven verses and choruses led by a soloist." But controversy or no, the Proms remains one of the world's best-loved festivals, and certainly one of the most outsized displays of the love of classical music in a world increasingly determined to ignore it. The Independent (UK) 07/20/02
  • ALL THINGS TO ALL PEOPLE: "Got any complaints about the Proms? Does new music drive you nuts? Or do you feel that a fine patriotic tradition is being diluted by 'lunatic political correctness'? The buck stops with Nicholas Kenyon; director of the season of concerts that gets columnists – and colonels – in a kerfuffle." The Independent (UK) 07/14/02

A BIT OF BACH FOR EVERYONE: Leipzig, Germany, is not a large city, but ever since the great Johann Sebastian Bach served as kapellmeister at one of its churches, the town has been a revered dot on the musical map. And since the mid-20th century, Leipzig has been home to one of the most extensive, and exclusive, libraries of scholarly material on the composer. Now, the library's Harvard-educated director wants to open up the institution's vast holdings for public perusal, rather than continuing to restrict the majority of the material for scholarly use. Funding is tight, but interest is high. Andante (Deutsche Presse-Agentur) 07/21/02

MORE REASONS WHY YOU CAN'T HAVE A STRAD: In America, the largest roadblocks to a musician gaining access to one of the world's great instruments are prohibitive cost and hoarding collectors. In Russia, the biggest stumbling block may be the cost of insurance. Rates for coverage of a Stradivarius violin or Amati viola can run thousands of dollars per year, and even the concept of insuring valuable instruments is fairly new in the former Soviet bloc. Moscow Times 07/19/02

KC COMPLEX FACES FUNDING DELAY: Kansas City's proposed $304 million performing arts center took a financial hit this week when the city delayed a ballot initiative which would have provided $40 million of funding towards the construction of the complex. Arts groups in the area believed that the measure, which would have included a 1/8-cent sales tax increase, had a good chance of passage in the fall elections, and arts leaders were caught by surprise when the chamber of commerce announced that the initiative would be delayed until 2004. Kansas City Star 07/20/02

  • HARD TIMES ALL OVER: "Reflecting the financial woes of state governments across the country, both the Missouri Arts Council and the Kansas Arts Commission will have less money to fund grants to arts organizations in the fiscal year that began July 1. In Missouri, the state arts council began the new fiscal year with a budget of $3.9 million, about a 30 percent reduction from the previous year." Kansas City Star 07/18/02

HUSTLING FOR A MUSICAL BUCK: String quartets have cult followings, and major orchestra musicians are financially secure and tend to engender a certain respect from the public, but the vast majority of professional musicians enjoy no such prestige as they struggle to keep themselves in rosin and reeds. The freelance market in most big cities is brutally competitive, and it can be impossibly tough to crack the ranks of the top players. It's easy to become paranoid and cynical, and freelancers must keep their schedules completely clear and available for gigs, lest contractors quit calling after being turned down once or twice. But, as they say, no one gets into this business for the money. Chicago Tribune 07/21/02

BUT DO ANY OF THEM SPEAK CONDUCTOR? Boston's New England Conservatory has been famous for decades for its outstanding youth music program. NEC's various youth orchestras tour the world, playing to sold out crowds in cities as diverse as Caracas and Prague, and the school's legacy of turning out some of America's top young musicians is nearly unmatched. This month, NEC plays host to the Youth Orchestra of the Americas, a trilingual ensemble made up of 110 teenagers from 20 different countries, which will shortly be embarking on a tour of the Western hemisphere. Boston Globe 07/21/02

MANY ORCHESTRAS WOULD KILL FOR THIS PROBLEM: The Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra in Mississippi is seeing its concert hall get a complete overhaul at no cost to the orchestra. Great, right? Well, it seems that the renovation includes the removal of some 200 seats, which will likely leave the GCSO with fewer seats per performance than it has ticket buyers. The orchestra isn't objecting to the plan officially, but privately, officials are worried about the financial and public relations impact. The Sun-Herald (Biloxi, MS) 07/21/02

SEYMOUR SOLOMON, 80: "Seymour Solomon, who with his brother, Maynard, founded Vanguard Records in 1950 and turned it into the dominant label for American folk music, recording such artists as Joan Baez, Odetta, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Ian & Sylvia, died yesterday at his summer home in Lenox, Mass." The New York Times 07/20/02

ALAN LOMAX, 87: "Alan Lomax, the celebrated musicologist who helped preserve America's and the world's heritage by making thousands of recordings of folk, blues and jazz musicians from the 1930s onward, died Friday in Florida. He was 87." Calgary Herald 07/21/02

Friday July 19

ATLANTA OPERA CUTS: "Feeling the sting of an unstable economy, the Atlanta Opera is laying off staff members and dealing pay cuts to top administrators to keep its $823,000 deficit in check." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 07/18/02

DETROIT LOSES ITS LAST CLASSICAL MUSIC RECORDINGS STORE: "Harmony House Classical stocks tens of thousands of CDs, videos and DVDs, ranging from the latest by composer John Adams to the obscure operas of Alexander Zemlinksky. The store has been a locus for classical music in metro Detroit for more than a decade, offering not only a huge selection but also the welcoming feel of a neighborhood tavern." Detroit Free Press 07/18/02

POWER OF PROTEST: "The British and American charts no longer provide a home for political songs. No new bands with a political bent have emerged in years. Even redoubtable old stagers have apparently given up - it's always possible that Bob Dylan is still protesting about something, but as no one can understand a word he sings these days, his choice of subject-matter seems rather beside the point." Still, the power of protest songs is great. The BBC recently canvased world leaders to find out what protest songs they liked. The Guardian (UK) 07/19/02

ARE CONCERTS PASSE? Violinist David Lasserson has some concerns about the static nature of classical music concert. "If the life of the performance is in its sound, why should everyone face the same way, in a darkened auditorium before a lit stage? How could the mind fail to wander in such a situation? The classical concert has retained 19th-century performance protocol in providing an unchanging, formal setting for music. In the debate about how to attract young audiences to the concert hall, we have to ask questions about the concert hall itself. Is our culture too visual to support this activity? Is the end in sight for the static concert?" The Guardian (UK) 07/19/02

TO EVERY SEASON... Composer Philip Glass reflects on how the composition of music has changed since the late 20th Century: "The impact of digital technology has also been pervasive in the music world. It has influenced almost all aspects of composers' work: how their music is notated, how it is performed, how it is recorded and even how it is published. Furthermore, even when technology is used as a tool, it turns out to be much more than a passive collaborator." Andante 07/18/02

LOOKING TOWARDS HOME: James Conlon is that rarest of all musical beasts: an American conductor with a global profile and the trust of European musicians. Conlon, who left America for Europe two decades ago after surmising that American orchestras do not like to hire American music directors, is looking to come home as his tenure in Cologne and Paris comes to an end. Rumor has him at the top of the list of candidates to succeed Christoph Eschenbach as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's summer festival at Ravinia, but Conlon is likely to have many options for employment the minute he makes his return to America official. Chicago Sun-Times 07/18/02

Thursday July 18

HUZZAHS FOR HAITINK: Everyone loves Bernard Haitink, who was covered in praise at his farewell performances as music director last weekend at Covent Garden. "The tributes have been so fulsome that one hesitates to inject a note of realism - to remind ourselves, for instance, that Haitink has been threatening to resign almost from the moment the ink dried on his contract and that his role in the running of the company has been, at best, peripheral and, with the best intentions in the world, regressive. The issues that he fudged and the problems he stored up for future generations form a central part of his legacy." London Evening Standard 07/17/02

THE ART OF SOUND: "The borderlines among sound art, experimental music and contemporary composition used to be clearer, policed by mutual disdain. Sharing the same tiny ghetto in the rear-corner record store bins and 2-to-5-a.m. airwaves, the practitioners of these various strains of what a friend once summarized colorfully as "unlistenable, self-indulgent crap" gradually began to realize that they were playing to the same audience." LAWeekly 07/18/02

PROTESTING ABOUT PAYNE: Prominent figures in Britain's opera world are protesting the English National Opera's dsmissal of director Nicholas Payne. In a letter to the Times, nine prominent conductors and directors, including three ex-ENO leaders, wrote that "the ENO’s treatment of a great experimenter was as dangerous for the future of opera as it was shabby. Payne is the most experienced professional still working in British opera. His sin....seems to be that he has taken too seriously ENO's tradition of being at the forefront of operatic experiment." The Times (UK) 07/18/02

DEATH OF THE ICONOCLASTS: The recent deaths of American composers Ralph Shapey and Earle Brown recall a long-gone era in American music. "Musical New York in the 1960s - when both men were casting long shadows, and mine was considerably shorter - was wonderfully astir. New names carried new hopes: Pierre Boulez, Lincoln Center, the National Endowment. Every month, or so it seemed, there was something new from Shapey... LAWeekly 07/18/02

Wednesday July 17

VINYL CAFE: An increasing number of pop artists are releasing their music on vinyl. "Australian Record Industry Association figures show that unit sales of 12-inch vinyl, which plunged to an all-time low in 1998, had more than doubled by the end of 2000, since which time sales have steadied. In the same period, CD sales also rose, although more moderately, while cassettes faded into obscurity." Some audiophiles insist vinyl sound is superior to CDs (and the cover artwork is better, besides). The Age (Melbourne) 07/17/02

WORLDWIDE REQUIEM: In commemoration of the toppling of the the World Trade Center last year, there are plans for a worldwide Mozart Requiem. Each performance will take place at 8:46 AM in each time zone, beginning at the international date line. "So far, 30 choirs from Europe, Asia, Central America and the United States are scheduled to perform the piece and as many as 125 are considering participation in what organizers are calling the 'Rolling Requiem'." Nando Times (AP) 07/17/02

STARS OF TOMORROW? Last year London's Royal Opera started an apprentice program for promising stars of tomorrow, a program funded by star funder Alberto Vilar. So how has the first crop of singers fared? "Taking their first concert nine months ago as the point of comparison, all of them have clearly profited in some respect from their coaching and deserve further encouragement. But I didn't feel that any stars of the future had been hatched, and, overall, I was mildly disappointed. Is this really the best that we can do nowadays?" The Telegraph (UK) 07/17/02

THE ENO MESS: The English National Opera is a mess. And the sudden departure of director Nicholas Payne last week is only a symptom, not a cause. "Payne had plenty of fresh ideas. What nobbled him at once, however, was the disunited front presented by the artistic and musical management below him. Their wrangling meant that a lot of decisions were taken behind someone's back or over someone else's dead body, and, without any coherent sense of purpose, the company's performance continued to look shaky. Casting was erratic - old favourites were ignored, and young singers either over-used or under-used. The quality of the chorus and orchestra continued to decline. The Telegraph (UK) 07/17/02

Tuesday July 16

MONEY UP, NUMBERS DOWN: Concert grosses in the US were up 17 percent in the first half of 2002. But that's only because ticket prices are up. The average ticket price is now $51. The "top 50 concerts combined sold about 10.6 million tickets, down 300,000, or 3 percent, from last year. In 2000, 12.9 million tickets were sold in the first half of the year. 'When you've lost essentially 2 million ticket buyers in the space of a couple of years, you have to wonder where those people went and what it will take to bring them back'." Baltimore Sun (AP) 07/16/02

GOING IT ALONE: When it came time for the San Francisco Symphony to renogotiate its recording contract, it found it was unable to make a deal with its recording company. So the orchestra set up its own label. So far it's been a success. "Of the initial pressing of 10,000 copies of the Mahler Sixth, about 9,000 have already been sold - 4,000 internationally, 2,500 by traditional distribution routes in the United States and Canada, and 2,500 through the Symphony's in-house store and Web site." That's pretty good in an industry where selling 5000 copies is considered respectable. San Francisco Chronicle 07/16/02

VIRTUAL TINY: For tiny recording labels, getting product into record stores is more difficult than recording it. Large chains and corporate buying make it difficult for companies like New Albion, a specialist in offbeat music, to stay alive. Now the internet is helping. "When the Web site launched in 1995, we immediately got three orders - from Australia, Uruguay and Kansas, the three hardest places on earth to find our records. It showed me there is interest in non-mainstream music. We have this tiny little beacon out there now, and anyone can find it." San Francisco Chronicle 07/16/02

  • BUT IS IT STILL CLASSICAL? Traditional classical music might be a hard sell in the record stores these days. But "healthy sales for the Silk Road album, Billy Joel's Chopinesque Fantasies & Delusions and other crossover fare tend to confirm industry optimism. No one who witnessed the Three Tenors phenomenon or flutist James Galway's sprawling popularity can forget how expandable the market for classical artists can be when the public gets turned on. But the trend is controversial and has plenty of detractors." San Francisco Chronicle 07/16/02

Monday July 15

CHINESE CANCELLATION: A lavish 14-city US tour of a Chinese National Opera production of Turandot sponsored by the Chinese government and promoted by Three Tenors impressario Tibor Rudas, has been canceled because of poor ticket sales. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 07/15/02

THE MONSTER MASH: The latest thing in music? "DJs and tech-savvy geeks are using the latest music-manipulating software to merge two original, often classic songs into a single new tune with a wild sound. Fresh enough that no one has quite settled on a name, this newest musical species is called a 'mash-up' or 'bootleg.'The resulting concoctions are strange – simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar. As a market event, the mash-up signals a music-industry sea change that's toppling old-world notions of control and ownership." Dallas Morning News 07/14/02

EXCAVATING AMERICA'S PIONEERS: Conventional wisdom used to be that American music before World War I was derivative and not "distinctly" American. "Copland, Virgil Thomson and others of their generation wrote disparagingly of the musical 'childhood' and 'adolescence'of precursors they ignored or never knew. With the passage of time, this simple evoutionary scheme seems ever less supportable. In the case of American music for solo piano, it may even be argued that what came before 1920 was as impressive as what came after." The New York Times 07/14/02

IS CLASSICAL MUSIC DYING? If classical music is dying, then "how do you explain the surging popularity of live opera performances? Or the widespread excitement generated by organizations like the San Francisco Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic? Or the increase in concert attendance nationwide?" San Francisco Chronicle 07/15/02

  • SUPPLY W/O DEMAND: The classical music recording business is ailing, with sales falling each year. Maybe the market was oversaturated? ""At the end of the LP (record) era, let's say that 10,000 or 15,000 titles were available. Today you have 100,000 CDs. The number of titles has multiplied by eight or 10 in 25 years. This is just ridiculous." San Francisco Chronicle 07/15/02
  • DEAD AIR: Classical music radio is disappearing. "And the trend only seems to be getting worse. A recent Arbitron survey found that 34 of the nation's top 100 radio markets didn't have a classical station." San Francisco Chronicle 07/15/02

WHAT IS LOST: The English National Opera is foolish to let Nicholas Payne, its general director, get away. "Over the past four years, the house has been producing risk-taking, energetic theatre; the place has had blood pumping through its veins. Payne may not have done a perfect job, but it is hard to think of anyone who could do it better - even split down the middle into separate artistic and managerial roles, as is now being proposed." The Guardian (UK) 07/15/02

  • Previously: AN OLD STORY: "Surprise, surprise, another national theatre chief has resigned. It happened five times in as many years at Covent Garden before they got rid of the builders. It happened a couple of months ago at the Royal Shakespeare Company where building worries did for Adrian Noble. Now it has befallen English National Opera, where Nicholas Payne, one of the cleverest opera administrators, cracked yesterday under the burden of bricks and mortar." London Evening Standard 07/12/02

Sunday July 14

PAYNE-FUL SEPARATION: Nicholas Payne is out as general director of the English National Opera, following a disastrous year of controversy, massive renovation, and slumping ticket sales. The resignation, which came late Thursday night, was a surprise, although rumor has it that Payne had been clashing badly with the company's chairman. The Independent (UK) 07/12/02

  • BAD YEAR AT THE ENO: "The company, which received £13m in public funds last year, is battling to redress its deficit with a two year plan to save £700,000, as well as fielding criticism over risky productions while overseeing a £41m restoration of its Edwardian home, the London Coliseum. It has been said by some to be taking 'a slow skid on a long banana skin', with box office figures down slightly on last season." The Guardian (UK) 07/13/02
  • REBEL SPIRIT, WITH TOO LITTLE COMMON SENSE: "Worries over a deficit and a multimillion-pound restoration have overshadowed the achievements of a man who attracted young audiences, while occasionally failing to exercise enough judgement about some productions. The statement released last night by the ENO is a depressing one. It said the company had appointed an acting managing director 'responsible for the overall management of ENO as a business'. Those of us who have had many a memorable evening at the ENO in the past decade or two were not aware we were visiting a business." The Independent (UK) 07/12/02

BATTLING OVER LA SCALA: The world's most famous opera house - La Scala, in Milan - closed in January for a 3-year renovation which will allow the company to present more operas more often, as well as upgrading substandard rehearsal spaces and backstage areas. But not everyone is happy with the restoration, and a local architect has filed a petition to stop the work, claiming that the company is detroying a beloved historic landmark. BBC 07/12/02

TRIBUTE AT TANGLEWOOD: The Boston Symphony Orchestra paid tribute this weekend to the man who has been its leader for the past three decades, and the celebration, while a bit over the top at times, was apparently a hit with the crowds gathered at the orchestra's famous Tanglewood summer home in western Massachusetts. During the concert, it was announced that Ozawa had been named music director laureate of the BSO, after much apparent behind-the-scenes discussion and debate. Boston Herald 07/14/02

STORM CLOUDS GATHERING: Orchestras around the U.S. and Canada are continuing to struggle with rising deficits and slumping ticket sales. But while orchestras in Chicago, Minneapolis, and the like can count on hefty endowments and high-profile public support to assist them, North America's small, regional ensembles are increasingly finding themselves on the edge of complete fiscal insolvency. The latest examples are in Jacksonville, Florida, which is cutting staff; and Shreveport, Louisiana, where the local orchestra has barely avoided a shutdown. The Business Journal (Jacksonville) 07/10/02 & Shreveport Times 07/11/02

THINK OF THE CHILDREN: Today's society tends to take a dim view of child prodigies, assuming that children who excel at figure skating, tennis, or music are being unfairly pushed by greedy parents unable to control their insatiable desire for a superstar in the family. But where does that leave parents with a daughter who genuinely loves her violin so much that she can think of nothing else? Gwendolyn Freed meets a family walking that very tightrope, and doing so without any apparent ruination of anyone's right to a happy childhood. The Star Tribune (Minneapolis) 07/14/02

A GROUNDBREAKER LOOKS BACK: James DePriest faced more than the average number of roadblocks to becoming a successful conductor. He has polio, and must walk with braces and canes. He has kidney disease, and required a transplant last year. And he is black, which is still a shockingly rare thing to be in the world of classical music. Nonetheless, DePriest has achieved great success on the podium, and is preparing to step down as music director of the Oregon Symphony after nearly a quarter century. Andante (AP) 07/14/02

Friday July 12

AN OLD STORY: "Surprise, surprise, another national theatre chief has resigned. It happened five times in as many years at Covent Garden before they got rid of the builders. It happened a couple of months ago at the Royal Shakespeare Company where building worries did for Adrian Noble. Now it has befallen English National Opera, where Nicholas Payne, one of the cleverest opera administrators, cracked yesterday under the burden of bricks and mortar." London Evening Standard 07/12/02

SUPERSTAR STOPGAP: Itzhak Perlman has agreed to join the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra as 'artistic advisor' for the next two seasons, as the orchestra continues its search for a music director to replace Hans Vonk, who was forced to resign the position for health reasons. The SLSO has had a rough year, what with Vonk's departure, several months of speculation that the orchestra was near bankruptcy, and a difficults reworking of the musicians' contract. The Perlman appointment will not only give the SLSO a high-profile name with which to attract musicians and audiences, it will buy them the time they need for a careful and complete music director search. Saint Louis Post-Dispatch 07/12/02

FACE TIME WITH AN ORCHESTRA: Young composers need to know how to work with an orchestra so they can understand and explain exactly what they want. Young conductors need face time with orchestras. The New Jersey Composition and Conducting Institute is a new program run by the New Jersey Symphony to give composers and conductors opportunities to work with one another and with a professional orchestra. The New York Times 07/12/02

THRIVING BY BEING SMALL: Okay, so the major recording labels have abandoned classical music and "the future is bleak, but the past survives gloriously. Small labels have stepped up to fill the void - Now 'only the smaller labels - ECM, Nonesuch, Bridge, New Albion - operate as if such caring were still possible; I note with pleasure that none of those labels include in their catalogs such redundancies as yet another Beethoven Nine." LAWeekly 07/11/02

HARD TIMES IN RIO: "Rio de Janeiro's most important opera and classical music venue, the Theatro Municipal, has scaled back its plans for the current season, after the new state government cut its R$27 million (US$9.5 million) budget in half. The cuts are part of the state's plan to pay down its debt and reduce expenditures... Musicians and staff at the Municipal were angered by the cuts, saying that the government had reneged on a promise not to alter the current season. Artistic director Luiz Fernando Malheiro resigned in protest." Andante 07/12/02

THE BAD OLD DAYS? Composer/critic Greg Sandow wrestles with the historical context of atonal music. "What was atonal music about? Most important, what should it mean to us today, now that we're partly free of it? As I've been saying, here and elsewhere for quite a while, it badly needs a reassessment. We still have (just to cite one obvious example) James Levine, conscientiously conducting Schoenberg at the Met, convinced that Moses und Aron is a classic that the whole world needs to hear. I'm not going to say it isn't one (that's another conversation), but what's odd is the all but explicit subtext, that Schoenberg still is music of our time." NewMusicBox.com 07/02

Thursday July 11

TOUR TO GLORY: Washington Opera is working hard to upgrade its status. So the company is embarking on its first big-league tour. "The Washington Opera's tour in Japan - the company's first full-scale overseas tour (it took productions without chorus or orchestra to Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1984 and Israel in 1985) - is its bid to join the ranks of those companies. This is the chance to travel in the leagues of New York's Metropolitan, or at least the San Francisco or Chicago operas." Washington Post 07/09/02

JESSYE'S ROUGH NIGHT: Sopranos can rarely sing at a high level up to their 60th birthday. Jessye Norman is 56, and her first recital at Tanglewood in years was a disaster this week. Clearly not in good voice, she cut short her program, then "mouthed the words 'I'm sorry' as she swept from the stage after singing excerpts from Berlioz's Les Nuits d'ete.'' Boston Globe 07/11/02

Wednesday July 10

MAINLY MONTREAL: The Montreal Jazz Festival is eclectic independent-minded. "Twenty-three years old and one of the biggest and most respected festivals of its kind, it attracted some 1.65 million people to some 500 free and paid concerts over two weeks. But unlike the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, it did not necessarily celebrate a regional culture." The New York Times 09/10/02


HAITINK LEAVES ROYAL OPERA: This week Bernard Haitink steps down as director of London's Royal Opera, after 15 years. "As the press and public look back at his regime, two cliches recur. One is that Haitink ranks among the greatest of modern conductors, and that he has maintained the House's musical standards at a world-beating level. This is absolutely true. The other is that he has not been enough of a leader, proving 'unpolitical' in his outlook and remaining 'detached'from an institution which, over the redevelopment crisis in 1997-98, badly needed his muscle and influence. This is quite untrue." The Telegraph (UK) 07/10/02

HEIR APPARENT? If Pavarotti is getting out of the game, who is heir to the tenor throne? Some critics are ready to award the title of successor to 33-year-old Italian Salvatore Licitra, who replaced Pavarotti on short notice at the Met for what was billed as the older tenor's final performance there. But "Italian critics are somewhat uneasy about the wave of publicity that followed Licitra's Met debut. They fear that euphoria will outweigh considered observation of the singer's merits." Washington Post 07/10/02

STRIKE OUT: Outgoing Boston Symphony conductor Seiji Ozawa is a big baseball fan. So when the orchestra was planning his farewell, Ozawa suggested a final concert at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. Sure, said the orchestra, and quickly negotiated a date with the ballclub. But then the numbers came in - it would cost "at least $500,000 to build staging, a sound system, and other support for the show." So the plans were abandoned. Boston Globe 07/10/02

JACKO'S CRUSADE: Michael Jackson's tirade against the recording industry for being unfair to artists, particularly black artists, seems a stretch, given the mega-bucks he's made in his career. Last weekend he said that "the recording companies really, really do conspire against the artists. They steal, they cheat, they do everything they can, [especially] against the black artists." But Jackson has been locked in a dispute with his recording label, and his career hasn't been going well... Philadelphia Inquirer 07/10/02

Tuesday July 9

CHICAGO SYMPHONY'S LONG-OVERDUE HIRE: The Chicago Symphony has just hired its first-ever African American musician. "Tage Larsen, second trumpet for the St. Louis Symphony since 2000, joined the CSO as fourth utility trumpet, effective July 1." Chicago Sun-Times 07/09/02

  • AND ON ANOTHER FRONT... "Marin Alsop will become only the second woman to conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia when she makes her CSO podium debut there Friday in an all-Russian program, with Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg as violin soloist. Indeed, there have been only a few women conductors of the CSO at Orchestra Hall." Chicago Tribune 07/09/02

FOR STRUGGLING GERMANS - SUMMER IN SPAIN: Berlin may be struggling to finance its rich cultural treasures, including three opera companies. But one of those treasures - the Berlin Staatsoper - isn't sitting around waiting for who knows what. The company and music director Daniel Barenboim have moved for the summer to Madrid, where the city is happy to have the 27 soloists, 135 orchestral players, a chorus of 90 and assorted technical staff, not to mention 25 tonnes of sets and costumes. "It is plain that he and the Staatsoper are very popular in the Spanish capital. Local audiences follow the company’s fortunes and the development of the singers as if they were their own." The Times (UK) 07/09/02

NOSTALGIA DRIVE: What qualifies as a "golden oldie"? "For better and worse, radio is the closest thing the museum of pop has to a curator. The version of the past we hear on the airwaves is heavily filtered, strained through a series of agendas on its way to the transmitter. It is, in short, deeply and undeniably revision ist. For various reasons, there is a chasm between cultural perception and reality, between what radio tells us we bought and what we actually did buy." The Age (Melbourne) 07/09/02

PRICE POINT: Though album sales were down modestly last year, there were some bright spots. Where? In lower-priced CDs. They sold very well. "A lot of labels are coming to terms with the fact album prices have gotten too high and that we're competing with video games, CD burning and the Internet now. So pricing is a big factor." Washington Times (Copley) 07/08/02

NEXT ON SPRINGER: Really - if you think about it, Jerry Springer isn't far off the mark as grist for an opera. "Its subject matter may be wackier than classical opera, its language stronger, but the basic themes are all there." Operas have often used seamy everyday stories for their stories. "When you look at Titus Andronicus, the last scene of that when they are all intermarried and tearing each other apart, it really looks like a final scene of the Jerry Springer show." Glasgow Herald 07/09/02

Monday July 8

OUTDATED TRADITION? It's coming up on Proms season again in London, and once again controversy over the nationalistic traditional Last Night program has flared up. The BBC televises the even worldwide to millions. "Should it allow the Last Night bunfight to continue, with its emphasis on party-hats and imperialist-era songs? Or should it take a lead from last year's sombre event, four days after September 11, and jettison rituals that many regard as out of tune with modern, multicultural Britain?" Financial Times 07/08/02

  • PERSONAL TOLL: Proms conductor Leonard Slatkin is caught in the controversy. "With his second Proms season starting in just under a fortnight, Slatkin finds himself caught up in a fierce debate about musical tradition and national identity that has left him feeling wounded and misunderstood and, at the same time, chastened and contrite. There is a sense in which this dapper, genial, 57-year-old American has stumbled into territory that is puzzling, alien and littered with traps." The Independent (UK) 07/07/02


ROOTBOUND BY HISTORY? The jazz industry continues to churn out recordings. But "is it possible to be surrounded by too much history? That near-sacrilegious thought is prompted by the unstinting wave of tribute concerts and CDs that has flooded the market in recent years. Barely a month goes by without Billie Holiday or Thelonious Monk being honoured by singers and instrumentalists on both sides of the Atlantic." The Times (UK) 07/08/02

MICHAEL JACKSON VS PRODUCERS: Michael Jackson has joined the list of pop artists charging that recording companies take advantage of musicians. But he adds a racial element to the complaints. "The record companies really do conspire against the artists. Especially the black artists." Los Angeles Times 07/07/02

Sunday July 7

SEIJI AT LENOX: No other orchestra in the U.S. has a summer festival that even comes close to the prestige of the Boston Symphony Orchestra's summer home at Tanglewood. Arguably a more beloved institution than even the BSO's glorious Symphony Hall in Boston, Tanglewood has long been a jewel in America's cultural crown. And as Seiji Ozawa wraps up his tenure as head man at the BSO, even the critics who so often clucked at his performances in Boston admit that he has done more for Tanglewood than any BSO conductor since Koussevitsky. Boston Globe 07/07/02

  • BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN? Tanglewood is as much orchestral academy as musical showpiece, and it was as head of the center's summer school for young musicians and conductors that Seiji Ozawa found himself unable to get any respect. "If he wasn't present, or taking an active role in the school, he was the absentee landlord who didn't give a damn. If he was present, and throwing his weight around, he was meddling." Boston Globe 07/07/02

THE IMPERFECT MOZART: No composer is so enshrined as a monument to musical perfection as Mozart. And yet, in reality, few artists have embodied such a struggle between sniggering immaturity and highly developed genius as the beloved Wolfgang. In fact, Mozart's image has undergone multiple revisions over the centuries, with musicians and scholars portraying him as everything from a flawed and vulgar prodigy to a godlike purveyor of truth and beauty. The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in between. The Observer (UK) 07/07/02

DON'T FORGET EGO STROKER AND PEACEMAKER: "Wanted: Conductor-music director for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Must be outstanding musician, inspiring leader, charismatic educator, willing fundraiser and committed community activist. Godhood an asset. And you wonder why it is taking so long for the orchestra's search committee to fill the patent leather shoes vacated last June by Jukka-Pekka Saraste?" Toronto Star 07/06/02

OURS IS NOT TO REASON WHY: When Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra music director Mariss Jansons announced this past spring that he would be leaving the Steel City in 2004, it caught the entire music world by surprise. Worse, it will be difficult for the PSO to find a replacement, as so many orchestras have recently plundered the ranks of high-profile conductors for their own open music director positions. But the unanswered question still lingers in Pittsburgh: why did Jansons quit? And why isn't he talking about it? Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 07/04/02

MERGER MANIA COMES TO UTAH: The respective boards of the Utah Symphony and the Utah Opera will vote this week on a proposal to merge the two organizations, amid much controversy about what effect the merger will have on the direction of the Salt Lake City arts community. It's not helping that the boards appear to have created a supposedly objective analysis of the merger which was in fact intentionally slanted in favor of the move, shortly after an independent ombudsman blasted the idea. Salt Lake Deseret News 07/07/02

MONTREAL STOPGAP: When music director Charles Dutoit resigned (or was forced out) in Montreal, it left the symphony in a bit of a bind, schedule-wise, next year's concerts having already been dedicated to celebrating Dutoit's quarter century with the orchestra. The revised season was announced this week, with French Canadian conductor Jacques Lacombe stepping in as principal guest conductor while the search for a new music director continues. Montreal Gazette 07/05/02

UM, WHAT WAS THAT AGAIN? Soprano Renee Fleming once described opera as "hollering in an extremely cultivated manner." That may be so, but many of today's most cultivated hollerers seem to need a lesson in diction. Opera is storytelling, after all, so it seems odd that words are so often buried under mountains of musical extravagance. The Guardian (UK) 07/06/02

WHERE ARE THE SUPERSTARS? When John Entwhistle died last week, the press fell all over itself to eulogize The Who's old bass player, even though the band has been more or less irrelevant since the late 1970s. It's a pretty fair bet that a bass player in one of today's top bands would not have garnered the same type of posthumous stroking, which begs the question: Is the press a bunch of self-absorbed, stuck-in-the-past Baby Boomers with no sense of perspective, or are today's bands just not worthy of the attention paid to superstar musicians of the past? Chicago Tribune 07/05/02

TROUBLE IN SYDNEY? First, music director Edo deWaart announced that he would be significantly scaling back his duties as music director of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Now, the SSO has placed an ad in the city's leading newspaper announcing the creation of several new non-musician positions within the organization, and the probable elimination of others. Is Australia's best-known orchestra getting ready to clean house? Andante (Sydney Morning Herald) 07/06/02

RUBINSTEIN COLLECTION SELLS: "The vast art and music collection of pianist Artur Rubinstein fetched almost €800,000 at auction, French auction group Poulain-Le Fur said Thursday. The French auctioneers managed to sell off almost all of the pianist's collection, taking in a total of €793,580 ($776,606)... Russian [cellist Mstislav] Rostropovitch attended the auction, shelling out €7,000 for a letter from the collection signed by master composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky." Andante (Agence France-Presse) 07/05/02

Friday July 5

WHERE ARE THE BLACK MUSICIANS? "Since his breakthrough as a teenage pianist 40 years ago, the virtuoso Andre Watts has, until recently, been the only high-profile African-American performer in the traditionally white world of highbrow music. Now, however, classical concerts are beginning to show more racial diversity." Christian Science Monitor 07/05/02

YOUNG JAZZ REVIVAL: Is jazz dying? Audiences might be small, but "these days, both the artists in the world of jazz and the audiences that listen to them are getting younger. Artists such as Jane Monheit, Norah Jones, and Peter Cincotti are refreshing and reshaping the world of jazz – in some cases with original material, sometimes by incorporating pop in their repertoire, and sometimes by hewing steadfastly to tradition." Christian Science Monitor 07/05/02

ART OF SOUND: Not really music, sound art is finding more practitioners. "The term 'audio art' encompasses work ranging from high-end audio documentaries to sophisticated electro-acoustic compositions that may also involve live performers. Often based on sounds the composer records in nature then processes digitally, the audio art movement has strong ties to environmentalism." National Post 07/05/02

OPERA CONFAB: Representatives from opera companies from 12 Eureopean countries met in Vienna last month to talk about the state of the business. The number one issue? No surprise - money. Andante 07/04/02

WHAT MEANS TOSCANINI: "A half-century after his last concert, Arturo Toscanini remains an enduring symbol of classical music in the 20th century. Yet, beyond a general agreement that he played a key role in raising standards of orchestral performance, there is still no consensus on his historical significance. Indeed, many critics continue to regard his influence as chiefly negative." Commentary 07/02

LEAST FAVORITE INSTRUMENT: In a survey, children rank the recorder as their least favorite instrument. "The wind instrument was the least favourite of musical instruments in a survey of 1,209 pupils carried out by Susan O'Neill of Keele University, even though it was the one played by the largest number." The Guardian (UK) 07/04/02

Thursday July 4

HOW TO MAKE FANS: The Buffalo Philharmonic is having money problems. But the orchestra's board chairman doesn't blame the orchestra - it's the business community and individuals who won't open their wallets. "I am extremely frustrated by the lack of appreciation for the great asset that the BPO is. All I hear about is what happened 20 years ago, 15 years ago, 5 years ago. People don't talk about the Bills when they were 2-14. Why are they still complaining about the the way the Philharmonic used to be run? Purely and simply, this community isn't protecting its best asset. The passion is lacking." Buffalo News 07/04/02

SUING YOUR BIGGEST FANS: Recording company execs said last week they would begin suing the most active music file traders. Previously they had avoided going after individuals. "The problem is that it's bad business to sue the people who most want your product. That has been a lesson hard learned for music industry executives, many who believed they could control the Internet the way they controlled traditional sales outlets." Wired 07/03/02

FALL OF THE GREAT TCHAIKOVSKY: "The main significance of the 2002 Tchaikovsky Competition was its staggering loss of significance. This was, remember, an event that used to be a key Cold War indicator, measuring Kremlin tolerance of western winners and Russian losers. Winning the Tchaikovsky will mean little more to this year's crop than a medal on the mantelpiece and a dollar cheque - 30 grand for gold, 20 for silver. Privacy is no bad thing for the victors, who will lead much happier lives; but for a stressed-out music industry that relies on international competitions for identifying marketable talent, the Tchaikovsky's loss of impact is cause for near-panic." London Evening Standard 07/03/02

Wednesday July 3

MAJORITY OF ORCHESTRA MUSICIANS PLAY HURT: An expert in stress injuries who has studied orchestra musicians, says that "in any orchestra performing on stage, 60 per cent (of people) will be carrying some injury. Common injuries include muscle strain, carpal tunnel syndrome, thumb strain, tendonitis and shoulder injuries." Adelaide Advertiser 07/02/02

LACKING VISION IN TORONTO? The design for Toronto's new opera house is in, and musicians ought to love it. With the spectre of the acoustically miserable Roy Thompson Hall hanging over the city's music scene, architect Jack Diamond has taken great pains to insure a quality sound mix inside the new facility. But architecture critics claim that Diamond has sacrificed form to function, presenting a design that may be musically compelling, but lacks architectural focus. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 07/03/02

JUST THE WAY WE LIKE IT: In an age when many equate getting bigger with getting better, the Opera Theatre of St. Louis is a throwback. Its theatre is small, its programs modest and its ambitions reasonable. And that's just the way audiences seem to like it. Financial Times 07/03/02

WHERE TO END? Now that Pavarotti has named the date of his final concert, speculation is building about where and in what form the final performance will take place. New Zealand Herald (Independent) 07/03/02

TUNEFUL VICTORY: A violinist pulled out his instrument to play a disputed tune in British court this week. He was claiming joint copyright rights for a 1984 Bananarama song he said he had helped compose. The performance pleased the judge - the musician's claim was awarded. BBC 07/02/02

RAY BROWN, 75: One of the most influential jazz musicians of the 20th century has died. Bassist Ray Brown revolutionized his instrument's role in jazz, and was one of the creators of bebop. He played with nearly every legend of the genre and was a founding member of the Oscar Peterson Trio. He was still performing at the age of 75, and was finishing up a U.S. tour at the time of his death yesterday. Nando Times (AP) 07/03/02

Tuesday July 2

SMOKE GETS IN THEIR EYES: Glyndebourne was proud of its coup - signing British American Tobacco to sponsor a production of Carmen. "In an inspired piece of marketing, the tobacco giant is sponsoring the story of the heroine who labours in a cigarette factory, hoping to endear itself to the champagne-quaffing classes." But now politicians, anti-smoking campaigners and artists are attacking, especially because of a performance scheduled to be broadcast over BBC. The Guardian (UK) 07/01/02

HIGH TIDES RAISE TUNES: A "High Tide Organ" is being installed on the waterfront in Blackpool England. Powered by natural forces, "the organ will offer a concert-like performance. With a few short peeps heralding the high tide, the sea will lead up to the main show with a few intermittent notes and chords. At the point of high tide, the organ will gloriously strum out a rhythmic crescendo whose effect is supposed to be similar to an aeolian harp. Vulnerable to mood swings just like other artists, performances are expected to be wild and frenzied on stormy days and softly mellifluous on calmer ones." Wired 07/01/02

  • SOUND OF WATER: A water organ built in the 16th Century at the Villa d'Este in Italy was smashed in the 18th Century because villagers disliked its sound. Now it's being restored. "The organ works on a principle of creating air pressure with the suction of water plunging down a pipe. The water organ was one of the marvels of the Renaissance, but when it fell into disrepair, the skills necessary to maintain it had been lost." BBC 06/30/02

HOT NUMBER: Soprano Susan Chilcott was singing in Tchaikovsky's The Queen Of Spades at London's Royal Opera House when "a candle set fire to the train of her dress. Members of the audience shouted at her but Chilcott carried on with her aria, unaware of the danger. A member of staff and a fire officer then ran on stage and put out the blaze with a water extinguisher." BBC 07/02/02

Monday July 1

NEW (LEGAL) PAY-TO-PLAY: Rather than developing easy legal ways for consumers to get music over the internet, music labels have concentrated on trying to sue the free services out of business. Didn't work. So now several of the companies are launching internet sales. "We could be 100 percent correct morally and legally that it is wrong to trade copyrighted files, but from a business standpoint it doesn't matter. We need to construct legal alternatives." The New York Times 07/01/02

THE KING OF MARKETING: Elvis is at the top of the charts all over the world right now. Why? "In part, it has a lot to do with the approach being adopted by the executors of Presley's estate and a new marketing strategy by RCA Records. The single is the first song Presley's estate has officially allowed to be remixed. Still, the idea of pre-teens warming to a singer who, were he alive, would be old enough to be their great-grandfather is kind of scary." The Age (Melbourne) 07/01/02

MUSIC COLLEGE FACULTY MEMBERS QUIT IN PROTEST: Two of Britain's leading musicians, faculty members of the Royal Northern College of Music, "have walked out in disgust after the appointment to the staff of a man revealed to have previously had sex with several of his pupils." The Observer (UK) 06/30/02


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