AJ Logo Get ArtsJournal in your inbox
for FREE every morning!


Friday August 31

MUSICAL CHAIRS: It's that time of year when orchestra music directors wrap up their seasonal assignments and make their moves to other orchestras. Andante (AP) 08/30/01

BUCKING THE TREND: As many of America's smaller orchestras are facing massive deficits and even bankruptcy, the Nashville Symphony, which recently added a plethora of new musicians, is turning up the heat in its quest for a new downtown concert hall. "In the wake of recent symphony successes, from a critically upbeat Carnegie Hall debut in New York to a ground-breaking labor deal the other day that secures things for six years, it's clear that the powers that be now are swiftly advancing on what has been only conversation." Nashville Tennessean 08/26/01

WAGGING THE MUSICAL ROBO-DOG: The New York-based American Composers' Orchestra is sponsoring "Orchestra Tech," a 5-day conference examining possibilities for antiquated symphony orchestras to modernize their presentation, repertoire, and audience. The conference will focus particularly on the integration of modern technology into symphonic performance. Gramophone 08/30/01

RUNNING FROM CONTROVERSY IN FLA: "Concerts by Cuban musicians in Florida have been cancelled after Cuban exile groups threatened to protest. Venues around the state pulled the gigs after receiving threats of demonstrations in letters, e-mails and phone calls. The cancellations follow the decision to relocate the 11 September Latin Grammy Awards ceremony from Miami to Los Angeles because of potential protests by anti-Castro groups." BBC 08/31/01

Thursday August 30

CANADIAN QUARTET MAKES IT TO THE BIG CANADIAN COMPETITION: A Canadian group, the Diabelli Quartet, will compete with nine other string quartets - from the US, France, Japan, Germany and the Czech Republic - at the Seventh International Banff String Quartet Competition. It's the first time since 1992 that a Canadian group is in the running for the more than $70,000 in prizes. CBC 08/29/01

DIALING FOR DELIUS: "Vivendi Universal – which owns the Decca, Philips and Deutsche Grammophon classical record labels – is launching a monthly subscription service in France, providing access to music and artist information through portable phones. It will enable users to listen to new releases and buy CDs and concert tickets." Gramophone08/30/01

THOMAS EDISON - GENIUS, YES, BUT NOT IN EVERYTHING: Thomas Edison might have been the one to invent a recording machine in 1877, but it was up to others to recognize vocal talent to record on the device. In an attempt to catch up, he launched "an unprecedented recorded talent search throughout Europe, with the hope of finding outstanding artists for his own company. More than 300 singers answered a call to [audition] their voices." Yet Edison was unable to identify a potential recording star among them. Washington Post 08/30/01

WHY NOT JUST CALL IT MUSIC? "Increasingly, museum- and gallery-goers are being asked to both look and listen to the art on display, as an emerging generation of artists explores a new territory between music and art that is known, generally, as audio art. So if an artist is interested in sound, why not become a musician? Many audio artists like to distinguish between music and noise, placing their allegiances firmly in the latter camp." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 08/30/01

Wednesday August 29

ORCHESTRAS IN TROUBLE, PART I: The Shreveport Symphony in Louisiana is on the verge of going out of business. Ticket sales and contributions have declined and the orchestra's board meets Sept. 10th to decide whether to begin the season or declare bankruptcy. The orchestra has a projected deficit this year of at least $400,000. The Shreveport Times 08/28/01

  • ORCHESTRAS IN TROUBLE, PART II: The Florida Orchestra has trimmed $500,000 from its budget, cut a few musicians and staff and scaled back its operations to deal with a $400,000 deficit. St. Petersburg Times 08/24/01

WHEN LIBERACE MET BOND: Does opera really have a future? Far too often composers wanting to write for the opera don't have a feel for it. A recent opera composition competition attracted some fairly unoperatic - make that undramatic - ideas: "operas about the decline of American farming, and about figures such as Rasputin, Mandela and Stephen Hawking. One composer wanted to write about a meeting between Liberace and James Bond; another wanted to do an opera about a lottery draw." The Guardian (UK) 08/29/01

REDEFINING A CLASSICAL TRADITION: What does 'classical music' mean today? If the term is to retain anything like its old aplomb, it must refer to a moment now past: to a genre and its attendant prestige and influence. In fact, we can already look back on classical music as a cultural phenomenon peaking in the nineteenth century and declining after World War I. What comes next in these post-classical times?" Andante 08/27/01

SURPRISE - LISTENERS PREFER FREE MUSIC: According to a new survey, "Consumers have not accepted purchasing and downloading music via the Web and are not likely to change with the new services being developed by the recording industry. The report reflects a contrarian view to many other research reports projecting huge spikes in online music sales in coming years." CNET (Reuters) 08/29/01

IT SEEMS TO ME I'VE HEARD THAT TUNE BEFORE: Rossini's Barber of Seville opened in Rome in 1816. Less than a year later, Cinderella opened, also in Rome. In between, Rossini managed to dash off La Gazzetta, which opened in Naples. Strange that the Naples opera is almost unknown, between the two bit hits. Then again, maybe not so strange... International Herald Tribune 08/29/01

Tuesday August 28

SOUTH AFRICA ORCHESTRA CANCELS: The Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra has canceled its season for lack of funds, only days before the start of South African Music Week. The orchestra was formed four years ago after the National Symphony went out of business. South Africa's traditional Western arts organizations have struggled to stay alive in recent years as arts funding has dried up. Daily Mail & Guardian (South Africa) 08/27/01

BASICALLY BARENBOIM: Conductor/pianist Daniel Barenboim has had a controversial year. Prodigiously busy musically, he's also been embroiled in spats from Berlin to Israel. Though critics increasingly pick holes in his musical interpretations, "he remains one of the most discussed musicians of our age — not least because, among his Protean gifts, is a talent for stirring up controversy that borders on genius. That is evident from the battles he has fought over the past few months." The Times (UK) 08/28/01

WALK DON'T RUN: Andante is a new recording label, website, magazine/resource that hopes to make a go of dragging classical music into the 21st Century. The New York Times 08/28/01 (one-time registration required for access)

SCHNABEL, 92: Legendary piano teacher Karl Ulrich Schnabel died Monday in Connecticut at the age of 92. "Schnabel taught master classes in Europe, Asia and in North and South America. He began teaching at age 13, preparing students who wanted to study with his father." Nando Times (AP) 08/28/01

Monday August 27

THE HEARING IMPAIRED: A new study says that the modern symphony orchestra is so loud, musicians should wear earplugs. "Some pieces cause musicians more pain than others - 79% reported pain while performing Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture or Verdi's Requiem." National Post (Canada) 08/23/01

CAN'T STOP THE MUSIC: Last year at this time universities were trying to figure out ways to restrict students' trading of music files over the internet. Napster was so popular that students were gridlocking campus computers downloading music. This year there's no Napster, but dozens of music file-sharing programs are flourishing and schools are having more difficulty blocking the downloading. Wired 08/27/01

SAVING BERLIN: Berlin is broke - and it has looked for some time like the city's impressive cultural institutions would suffer in a big way. But some recent developments suggest that all is not so bleak as some suggest. Andante (Deutsche Presse-Agentur) 08/25/01

Sunday August 26

THE ANXIOUS COMPOSER: It's a tough time for composers - with few opportunities to develop a craft and fewer to make and sustain careers. Is this precariousness eating away at what today's young composers trying to write? The New York Times 08/26/01 (one-time registration required for access)

REAL OPERA: How much reality is good for an opera plot? Eureopeans tend to go for literary themes, while Americans go realist. But is Jerry Springer, the Opera a good thing for the art form? Philadelphia Inquirer 08/26/01

CENTRAL STANDARD TIME: Most jazz standards are 50 or 60 years old. "Remarkably for a genre that is characterized by change and renewal, not many pieces have entered the jazz repertoire since then, it's not happening now and, the way things look, most likely never will again." So why not? Washington Post 08/26/01

NATIONAL EXEC RESIGNS: Washington's National Symphony executive director Robert Jones has suddenly resigned. Kennedy Center president Michael Kaiser will take over running the orchestra on an interim basis. Jones was popular with the orchestra's musicians, but thought not to be with music director Leonard Slatkin. Jones had also been a champion of the orchestra's independence from the Kennedy Center. "It's absolutely shocking," said one member of the orchestra. "And it's scary. This seems to be the Kennedy Center tightening its grip." Washington Post 08/25/01

THE POLITICAL MUSICIAN: Daniel Barenboim defends his playing of Wagner in Israel. One of his other summer activities was just as controversial (but in a smaller way). "This year Barenboim brought to America 73 musicians, a carefully balanced mixture of Israeli Jews, Palestinians, Lebanese, Jordanians and Syrians, none older than 25. They study, play and argue together in an unprecedented proximity, sharing meals, dormitories and night-club jaunts on a campus outside the city." The Telegraph (UK) 08/25/01

MAYBE IT WASN'T A SORE THROAT AFTER ALL: A Canadian soprano says she'll sue the Scottish Opera after they removed her from a production of Wagner's Ring cycle last week. Glasgow Herald 08/25/01

Thursday August 23

WRITING NEW BEETHOVEN: In 1810, Beethoven began writing an overture to Macbeth, then later abandoned the project. Now a Dutch composer and computer programmer has pieced together fragments into an eight-minute piece which the National Symphony Orchestra will premiere in Washington next month. But some critics argue it's not Beethoven at all; it's simply "an object lesson in Beethoven mania. 'There is no Beethoven overture to Macbeth'" BBC & Washington Post 08/23/01

CELL PHONE RAGE: Pianist Andras Schiff stormed offstage in mid-performance at the Edinburgh Festival after getting irritated at audience noises. "The Hungarian virtuoso was in the middle of his recital of Fantasia in C minor when the noise from phones, watches and the audience coughing became too much." He returned after a few minutes. BBC 08/23/01

ACCEPTING GAY SINGERS: Why do some gay opera fans have difficulty accepting gay singers? Countertenor David Daniels complains that "the most opposition I get is from the gay community. There's a lot of negativity from the gay community because I'm open, and proud and honest. It's very bizarre. It makes no sense whatever. Being gay affects my singing. It just does. That's a fact, and I don't agree with people who say it's not." The Guardian (UK) 08/23/01

NAPSTER'S BEEN HOBBLED, AND NOW THEY'RE AFTER MP3: "More than 50 songwriters and music publishers are suing free music download site MP3.com, accusing it of copyright infringement. The group has filed a lawsuit demanding damages for unpaid royalties as well as a permanent injunction against the site." BBC 08/23/01

Wednesday August 22

MONEY MATTERS: "As orchestras open their doors to players from all over the world, they are losing their individuality. Conservatories are forced to teach students to play not in national styles but with a one-size-fits-all technique that will allow them to get jobs anywhere. For orchestras from the former Soviet Union, however, the globalisation of music – the same is true for other forms of culture, too – has had an even more unremittingly destructive effect. Good orchestras are the result of many factors, but a prerequisite is money. Lots of it." The Independent (UK) 08/22/01

WHY MEDIOCRE MUSIC SUCCEEDS: "A large part of the symphony audience likes comfortable music. It likes familiar music. It likes repeating the same familiar music many times. And here we have a composer who repeats familiar sounds, repeats familiar feelings, and even repeats some of the familiar music that (except for Agon) his audience already likes. He touches on safe and tasty motifs from popular culture, even while his Greek themes make his music seem like art. Happily for sponsors, its style makes it sound like advertising. Even if he never gets to the Cleveland Orchestra, he's bound to get somewhere." NewMusicBox 08/01

RATTLE AND BPO COME TO TERMS: "Sir Simon Rattle has been confirmed as the artistic director of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, ending months of wrangles over the prestigious appointment." Rattle wanted the job, but held off accepting until the Berlin city government agreed to higher pay for the musicians and independent-foundation status for the orchestra. He begins the new job in September, 2002. BBC 08/22/01

RESTLESS DUTOIT? Conductor Charles Dutoit is talking these days like a man who knows the value of an elite conductor on the open market. He's not rushing to renew his summer contract with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and says he will give up his positions in Paris (French National Orchestra) and Tokyo (NHK Symphony), and perhaps Montreal (Montreal Symphony), too, in a "couple of years." Philadelphia Inquirer 08/22/01

Tuesday August 21

MUSIC SALES DOWN: Sales of recorded music were down by 10 percent last year, says the recording industry. Digital downloading and home-copies of CD's get the blame, they say. "An industry study found that half of those questioned had downloaded music from the internet in the last month, and 70% of those had burnt the songs onto CD." BBC 08/21/01

SEGERSTAM TO REPLACE JARVI: The Detroit Symphony has hired Finnish conductor/composer Leif Segerstam, the chief conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic and Royal Opera of Stockholm, to sub as conductor for Neeme Jarvi on the orchestra's upcoming European tour. Jarvi suffered a stroke earlier this summer and the orchestra has been scrmabling for replacements. Detroit Free Press 08/21/01

MOVING THE GRAMMYS: Organizers of the Latin Grammys have decided to move the event to Los Angeles from Miami, out of concern about protests from the Cuban-American community. Grammy officials said they "had no choice but to pull the show out of Florida once they felt they could not guarantee the safety of artists and guests who would be attending, especially those coming from Cuba." Los Angeles Times 08/21/01

CLASSICAL ONLINE: So interest in classical music is waning, eh? How then to explain the thousands of internet sites devoted to classical? Classical fans have more access to music and information about the music than ever before. There are signs that the internet is building a new audience. National Post (KCStar) (Canada) 08/21/01

BURGER BUGGING: The Glyndebourne audience had just settled on the lawn for picnic lunch, waiting for the performance to begin, when, "unmistakably, the smell of hamburgers, sausages and onions wafted over the South Downs and Britain's most glamorous summer opera festival was faced with one of the most embarrassing moments in its long history. An opera goer had done the unthinkable. He had constructed and lit a barbecue. For the staff his move presented an excruciating dilemma." The Independent (UK) 08/20/01

Monday August 20

NAZIS LOOTED VIOLINS: According to recently released American military documents, the Nazis looted rare violins - including dozens of Stradivari, Guarneri and Amati - during World War II. "The instruments, confiscated by a special team who followed German troops, were to be used in a proposed university in Hitler's home town of Linz, Austria, after the war." BBC 08/20/01

MIGRANT SINGERS: "Since the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, singers from the former Soviet Union, dissatisfied with conditions back home or drawn by the lure of hard currency, have flooded west, and it is widely thought that they have arrived just in time to solve some of our own operatic crises. But will these East Europeans ultimately change the shape of the operatic world, like the American singers who seized the opportunities in postwar Europe?" The New York Times 08/20/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Sunday August 19

REWRITING AMERICAN: In the 20th Century, America produced a full roster of classical composers, the equal of any in the world. But somehow that isn't enough, and there's a revisionist movement working to rewrite the what was important... The Telegraph (UK) 08/18/01

RECONCILIATING WITH THE NEW: Contemporary classical music became uncoupled from its audiences in the 20th Century. So why not find ways to get the two back together? The "need to raise new music's profile was something that attracted the concern of the former city financier, diplomat, novelist and music-lover John McLaren back in 1996. Rather than luxuriate in pious pontification - the critic's traditional preserve - he came up with an ambitious plan of action. Why not involve the vast music-loving public in what amounted to a worldwide opinion poll? Why not create a competition in which they would have as much say as the professionals about which work should win the prize? The result was the first Masterprize competition. Sunday Times (UK) 08/19/01

Friday August 17

VIENNESE HALL BURNS: Vienna’s Sofiensaal, the city's "most beloved historic music venue besides the Musikverein," burned down Thursday after maintenance work on the roof started a fire. Johann Strauss performed there, and it was Herbert von Karajan's favorite recording space. Gramophone 08/17/01

DOWN BUT NOT OUT: Is classical recording dead? The venerable Deutsche Grammophon "makes about 55 new records a year - half its output of a decade ago. The days of artists dictating what they want to record, of easily obtained, exclusive contracts, of limitless symphony cycles, are long gone. But that does not mean DG is grinding to a halt." The Guardian (UK) 08/17/01

Thursday August 16

THE NEW REALITY: "Shaun Fanning's invention of Napster has forever changed the ground rules for artists, the recording industry, and the music audience. In the end, no matter what tactic the industry attempts, the end result will be the same - a shift of power away from the recording industry and toward the music-buying/listening public, and further down the road, to the artists themselves. Here are the possible scenarios." Christian Science Monitor 08/16/01

SINGING FROM THE SIDE: When the tenor cast as Siegfried in Seattle Opera's new Ring cycle tripped on a treadmill and tore muscles that prevented him from acting onstage, the understudy went on, acting the part, while the original Siegfried sang the role from the side. But was this a good solution? The New York Times 08/16/01 (one-time registration required for access)

BARENBOIM WANTS TO CONDUCT AGAIN IN ISRAEL: "Conductor Daniel Barenboim, who stirred considerable debate in Israel last month by playing a surprise encore of Richard Wagner's music at a festival, says he still wants to direct again in his home country. Barenboim insisted that making Wagner's music taboo would only grant a posthumous victory to Hitler." Nando Times (AP) 08/15/01

  • Previously: BARENBOIM BAN: An Israeli parliamentary committee has called for a ban on conductor Daniel Barenboim for his performance of Wagner in Israel. Barenboim had promised he would not perform the composer's music there. "The education and culture committee of Israel's parliament said on Tuesday that Israeli cultural institutions should shun Barenboim until he apologises." BBC 07/25/01
  • Previously: BARENBOIM DEFIES WAGNER TABOO: Richard Wagner was a celebrated composer, a brilliant musician, and a vicious anti-Semite whose writings excoriating Jews were often invoked after his death by the leaders of Germany's Third Reich. Understandably, the nation of Israel has never been particularly interested in having Wagner's music performed there, although the unofficial ban has faced intense opposition in recent years. But this weekend, conductor Daniel Barenboim shocked concertgoers by leading the Israeli Philharmonic in a surprise encore from "Tristan and Isolde." BBC 07/08/01

Wednesday August 15

COMING TO GRIPS WITH POPULAR MUSIC: "We should have seen this coming. Ever since Elvis, it has been pop music's job to challenge the mores of the older generation; our mistake was to imagine ourselves hipper and more tolerant than our parents. The liberal values of those who grew up in the sixties and seventies constitute an Achilles' heel: we're not big on guns, consumerist bragging, or misogyny." The New Yorker 08/20/01

JEROME KERN AND VICTOR HERBERT, NO LONGER NEGLECTED: "I thought it was an astonishing gap. With Mozart, Beethoven and Bach we have serious scholarly editions. With much of Kern and Herbert, all you have are some 78's from the time the shows were produced and some sheet music." Now a music historian and a philanthropist with a Harvard classics Ph.D. are planning to fill that gap. The New York Times 08/15/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Tuesday August 14

BEHIND THE MUSIC: "How much do listeners need to know in order to 'get' a piece? How much should composers tell? At what point does self-disclosure shift emphasis from a work itself to the process from which it sprang? And can music ever be expected to accommodate explicit expressions of sexual identity?" Philadelphia Inquirer 08/14/01

BETTER YESTERDAY OR TODAY? It's a popular sport, reminiscing about the "old days" and how much better the opera at the Edinburgh Festival was back then. But maybe it's time to lift the haze of nostalgia and recognize how good things are in today's productions. The Times (UK) 08/14/01

JUST FOR THE LOVE OF IT: The first Boston International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs names a winner. "Listening to the five finalists, one observed that the difference between professional and amateur attainment came in various guises. Although all the players were well-schooled, some lacked just the slightest degree of technical command and brilliance. But, for most, the crucial difference was their relative inexperience playing for an audience. The resulting stress took its toll, whether in the emotional nakedness of the players' faces, the number of split keys, or - the performer's worst fear - the memory lapses." Boston Globe 08/14/01

Monday August 13

FO TAKES ON THE ITALIAN PREMIER: Nobel laureate Dario Fo decided to finish a Rossini opera. But he addded a contemporary touch - a "not-so-subtle dart aimed at Italy's new prime minister, conservative media mogul Silvio Berlusconi." Nando Times (AP) 08/13/01

HOW MTV WORKS: MTV is all about videos, right? Maybe when it started. But now, the music channel programs fewer videos and more TV shows. Which means that the 250 videos MTV decides to air in a given year are even more crucial to bands and producers wanting to sell cd's. The New Yorker 08/13/01

Sunday August 12

CLASSIC DILEMMA: Classical recording sales are down; jazz now outsells classical. Tower Records (a major classical outlet) may be on the verge of oblivion. And new recording projects are getting scarcer. Why is business so bad? Dallas Morning News 08/11/01

  • IN THE PARALLEL UNIVERSE: "Nonesuch, which began as a boutique classical label in 1964, has generated a profit for the Warner Music Group every year for a decade. Relying on instinct rather than focus groups, Nonesuch manages an increasingly rare trick: Its recordings receive glowing critical notices and, at the same time, sell enough to sustain the enterprise. Without benefit of radio hits or colossal budgets, the tiny New York outfit has blossomed into one of the last creative havens within the major-label system, a place where the deep thinkers of new music sit cheek by jowl with the glorious voices of 1950s Havana, and genre distinctions such as classical and jazz are gleefully trampled." Philadelphia Inquirer 08/12/01

CAN WE ALL PROMISE... "Rock simply should not be played by 55 year-old men with triple chins wearing bad wighats, pretending still to be excited about playing songs they wrote 30 or 35 years ago and have played some thousands of times since. Its prime audience should not be middle-aged, balding, jelly-bellied dads who've brought along their wives and kids. It should not be trapped behind glass in a museum display and gawked at like remnants of a lost civilisation. That is not rock'n'roll. Rock'n'roll is not family entertainment." The Observer (UK) 08/12/01

MENOTTI AT 90: Gian-Carlo Menotti is turning 90. "So much fuss. All of a sudden I'm famous not because I write good music but because I'm old and still here. My advice to composers is, try to reach 90, and everyone will love you." But though he is beloved in Italy and still has some champions, elsewhere his music has been passed by. The New York Times 08/12/01 (one-time registration required for access)

CLEVELAND WINNER: "Italian pianist Roberto Plano, 23, last night was awarded first prize in the 2001 Cleveland International Piano Competition. He wins $15,000, a New York recital debut, a compact-disc recording, two years of free management and a series of engagements." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 08/12/01

Friday August 10

PAYING TO PLAY: A mysterious Australian philanthropist has put up $5 million to bring three major foreign orchestras and their conductors to Australia next season. Sydney Morning Herald 08/10/01

SIEGFRIED DOWN: All set to make his debut in Seattle Opera's new production of Wagner's Siegfried, Canadian tenor Alan Woodrow tripped over some exercise equipment and severed some muscles. So for the performance he stayed in the wings singing while his understudy lip-synced the part onstage. San Francisco Chronicle 08/10/01

TEETERING MUSIC FESTIVAL: Wales's Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod is the country's most important music festival. But the festival is in crisis "after the event lost money for the third year running and its artistic director quit, accusing the administration of failing to back her efforts to modernise it." The Guardian (UK) 08/09/01

CAN'T WIN FOR PRODUCERS: The music recording industry seems to be winning its court battles against digital copiers. But it's an illusion. The copy/download battle has been lost. And as the record producers prepare to unleash their for-pay services, the courts are frowning... The Economist 08/09/01

FINAL FOUR: The Cleveland International Piano Competition chooses its Final Four. Concerto finals are Saturday night. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 08/10/01

Thursday August 9

PAINT CHICAGO RED: For the first time in 14 years the Chicago Symphony, is running in the red. The CSO has an operating budget of $55 million, and expects an upper-six-figure deficit for the 2001-2002 season. Gramophone 08/08/01

THE MUSIC CURE: Music makes you smarter, cures cancer, and takes away back pain. At least, that's what studies claim... Why the rush to try to prove music has all sorts of non-musical benefits? "Much as I would love music to cure cancer, foot and mouth, senile dementia and car accidents, I dread the day when it does - for that will be the day music loses its spiritual mystery and becomes a functional power tool in the hands of the ever more intrusive masters of the universe." The Telegraph (UK) 08/09/01

HOW TO SAVE THE CLASSICAL RECORDING BUSINESS: It's not easy to market yet another recording of, say, Beethoven's Fifth. One solution is to fall back on thematic programming. "You present music organized around an enticing notion people will be more likely to shell out for. When it's properly done, it can refresh an overfamiliar work or draw attention to a neglected one." Caveat: "Some of these albums reek so badly of desperation you don't need to know anything about music to know to stay away from them." Slate 08/08/01

LEADING SANTA FE: The Bayreuth Festival may be locked in a leadership crisis, but the American Santa Fe Opera - founded in the 1950s around the same time as the Wagner festival was revived - and itself undergoing a change in leadership from its founding director, has handled the transition in fine form. Financial Times 08/09/01

DUAL ROLES: The Gothenburg Symphony, Sweden's national orchestra, has named pianist/conductor Christian Zacharias as principal guest conductor and composer Peter Eötvös as its new artistic advisor and conductor in residence. Zacharias will specialize in classical and early repertoire, Eötvös in modern and contemporary. Gramophone 08/09/01

Wednesday August 8

OPERA IN THE LAND OF ITS BIRTH: "While there is indeed a great deal of opera in Italy - almost every city or large town mounts its own annual season - little of it is any good. Unions that down tools at the blink of an eye make planning or rehearsal almost impossible. The quality of orchestral playing is generally execrable, and the sector has been riddled with corruption and clientismo." The Telegraph (UK) 08/08/01

SO MUCH FOR NAPSTER: The recording industry worries about lost sales due to file downloading on the internet. But sales are sharply up so far this year. "The British Phonographic Industry has reported album sales of 46 million during the second quarter of the year. This is a rise of 12% on the first quarter, giving an 18% rise for the first half of the year." BBC 08/08/01

LEAVING SAN FRANCISCO: So what did Lofti Mansouri accomplish in his 13 years leading the San Francisco Opera? "Pretty much every success and every failure of Mansouri's regime - and there have been plenty of each - can be traced back to his view of opera as a popular art form, different in its particulars but not in its essential nature from the theatrical sideshow." San Francisco Chronicle 08/05/01

  • MANSOURI'S LEGACY: "He saved the company during one of the more agonizing crises in its history, yet he never restored the institution artistically to its vaunted reputation of the 1960s and 1970s, wonderfully heady decades when this really was the most innovative and respected opera company in the land." San Francisco Chronicle 08/05/01

MONOPOLY IS JUST A KID'S GAME: Apparently the Department of Justice antitrust investigation into on-line music services is not a new development; it has been going on for several months. What's more, "a bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives last Friday seeking to amend copyright law and ensure online music competition." The bill specifically targets the two services which the DOJ is investigating. ITWorld 08/07/01

  • Previously: NOW THEY KNOW HOW IT FEELS TO BE NAPSTER: The U.S. Justice Department has reportedly opened an antitrust investigation against two new online music services scheduled to be launched this fall. At issue is whether the record companies who own the new services are illegally colluding to regulate the price of their product, and whether such partnerships give the companies too much power over the industry. Nando Times (AP) 08/06/01

Tuesday August 7

MAAZEL'S STAYING POWER: Ever since he was named as the New York Philharmonic's next music director, Loren Maazel has endured a barrage of criticism from the Big Apple's notoriously catty critics. He's too old, they say, and too set in his unadventurous ways. But it cannot be denied that Maazel has enjoyed tremendous success in building the orchestras under his command into some of the world's top ensembles. Recent triumphs with his Bavarian Radio Orchestra underscore the point. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 08/07/01

SALZBURG THRIVES IN THE MODERN WORLD: "Salzburg Festival is arguably the most prestigious of all classical music events. Ticket prices are -- by design -- sky high, but tuxedos and gowns are now in the minority. Jeans and T-shirts may even be spotted among the younger members of the audience. Moreover, although Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was born here in 1756, still dominates the repertory -- in spirit, at least -- his two-century-old operas are subjected to irreverently modern interpretations and performed side by side with masterpieces of the century just ended." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 08/07/01

  • MIXED REACTION: The idea of resetting classic operas in contemporary times is nothing new, but the results can still be jarring to audiences, as a new Salzburg Festival production of The Marriage of Figaro proves. "One floor up, with stuffed farm animals scattered around. . . a scraggly figure lurked at an old piano. He turned out to be the continuo player." Dallas Morning News 08/07/01

NOW THEY KNOW HOW IT FEELS TO BE NAPSTER: The U.S. Justice Department has reportedly opened an antitrust investigation against two new online music services scheduled to be launched this fall. At issue is whether the record companies who own the new services are illegally colluding to regulate the price of their product, and whether such partnerships give the companies too much power over the industry. Nando Times (AP) 08/06/01

BIG BUCKS, BIG THANKS (EXPECTED): Alberto Vilar has given more than $200 million to the cause of opera. "The magnitude of his giving would guarantee his fame; the conditions often attached to those gifts, however, have given him a quirky notoriety. Vilar persuaded the Met to give the names of major underwriters greater prominence in its programs; this took some effort." Opera News 08/01

HARMONICA MASTER DIES: "Highly-acclaimed musician Larry Adler, widely acknowledged as the world's greatest harmonica player, has died at the age of 87." BBC 08/07/01

Monday August 6

BACKING UP JÄRVI: "Push has come to shove for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. The new season and the almost immediate preparations for a 17-day European tour are bearing down on its executive leader. With music director Neeme Jarvi released last Wednesday from a Finnish hospital to recuperate in seclusion from a hemorrhagic stroke, the probability is great that he will be unable to conduct the prestigious trek across Europe. And even though the DSO doesn't cross the Atlantic for another two months, the orchestra has not announced an alternate plan in the event Jarvi cannot go." Detroit News 08/06/01

BUYING AMERICAN: "As Americans complain that their orchestras look only to Europe when searching for new conductors, it is worth noting that Munich's orchestras, like many others in Germany, have looked to America. Certainly, there is an American prejudice in favor of all things European. But there is also a widespread German belief that Americans are better trained and easier to work with." The New York Times 08/06/01 (one-time registration required for access)

MUSIC ON THE BRAIN: "If the ability to appreciate music is ingrained in the human brain, could music making have evolved to help us survive and reproduce? Is it akin to language and the ability to solve complicated problems, attributes that have enhanced human survival? Or is it just 'auditory cheesecake,' a phenomenon that pushes pleasure buttons without truly filling an evolutionary need?" Discovery 08/01

WILL ANYTHING LAST? Hundreds of new American operas were written in the 20th Century. But will any of them find any real staying power? "It seems not to matter whether an American opera received praise or blame at its premiere; few entered the repertory. Of the more than one hundred new operas produced during the 1990s, only thirty-three received more than one production." Opera News 08/01

UNTANGLING TANGLEWOOD: Among the top music jobs looking to be filled, is the directorship of Tanglewood, now that Seiji Ozawa is leaving. Whoever gets the job, it will be a major transition for one of America's top summer music spots. New Criterion 08/01

SEATTLE RING RAKES 'EM IN: Wagner's famous Ring Cycle draws a crowd whenever someone decides to present it in full, and Seattle is proving no exception. All of the Seattle Opera performances were sold out a year in advance, and these Wagner enthusiasts aren't content just to sit back and watch the show. "They're also attending the symposia, tours, talks, discussions, receptions and all sorts of other corollary events, and presumably loading up on Wagneriana at the big "Ring" gift shop in the Exhibition Hall next to the Opera House." Seattle Times 08/06/01

Sunday August 5

WHAT'S WRONG WITH BAYREUTH? It should be a triumphant time for the Bayreuth Festival. This year is the 125th anniversary of the festival's founding, and the 50th anniversary of its "rebirth." But ugly power struggles, high-profile catfights, and incestuous infighting have left an awful taste in everyone's mouth, and observers worry that a full-scale meltdown may be inevitable. The Sunday Times (UK) 08/05/01

BEING JAMES LEVINE: He is coveted by Boston, beloved by audiences worldwide, and a legend in New York. James Levine, it seems, has everything a world-class conductor could ever want. So his decision to take over the helm of the relatively low-profile Munich Philharmonic is somewhat puzzling. The New York Times 08/05/01 (one-time registration required for access)

LABELS' ONLINE SERVICES MAY BE ANTI-COMPETITIVE: "The U.S. Justice Department has begun an antitrust investigation into two online music services, both scheduled to launch this fall, that are backed by the world's largest record companies. According to two senior executives in the record industry, federal investigators notified the record labels that they intend to examine possible anti- competitive aspects of the digital ventures created by the industry's big five [labels.]" Dallas Morning News 08/05/01

BOY, ARE THE RECORD LABELS GONNA HATE THIS: The U.S. Congress has taken up the issue of internet streaming, and apparently, the online companies have good lobbyists. "The legislation, introduced late Thursday night, would streamline royalty payments to artists, create open licensing that would allow Internet companies to easily obtain the rights to major label music, and allow webcasters to stream music in a more cost-effective manner." Wired 08/04/01
HAVEN'T WE HEARD THIS BEFORE? "The internet will generate almost a third of total global music sales in 2006, according to a new report from an international media consultancy." The world waits with bated breath... Gramophone 08/05/01

EDUCATION OR OPPORTUNUISM? Like all classical music purveyors, opera companies are desperate to attract new audience to their productions, and exposing children to the form is the most popular method of indoctrination. "But what is the 'educational' value of opera? Does introducing it to schoolchildren serve to build new audiences? Where is the critical debate distinguishing what is truly creative in the field from what is merely a waste of classroom time?" The Telegraph (UK) 08/04/01

PUTTING A NEW FACE ON TRADITIONAL MUSIC: A new organization of traditional Irish musicians is trying to improve communication and compensation in a notoriously disjointed sector of the music world. "FACE aims to help its members economically and to set up a complaints mechanism, a watchdog body on industry sharks, a law and contract library, an international tour-booking agency and a worldwide database of venues and promoters." Irish Times 08/05/01

Friday August 3

SHYLY OPTIMISTIC: Composer Gyorgy Ligeti is at the top of his profession - he's just won a prestigious award and $350,000. So why's he so glum? The Economist 08/02/01

Thursday August 2

PERLMAN WILL SUB FOR JÄRVI: Itzhak Perlman, principal guest conductor for the Detroit Symphony, will conduct the orchestra for the opening weekend of the 2001-2002 season, substituting for music director Neeme Järvi, who has been released from the hospital following surgery for a stroke. Järvi's doctor says that "most likely in two months he will be fit enough to perform his previous activities." Detroit News & Nando Times (AP) 08/02/01

  • Previously: FUTURE UNCERTAIN FOR JÄRVI AND DSO: Neeme Järvi's recent illness was in fact a stroke, according to family members. The music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra was stricken at a music festival in Estonia; he now is recuperating at a hospital in Helsinki, Norway. It still is unknown - and perhaps unknowable - whether he will be able to return to the DSO and his career. Detroit News 07/25/01

JERRY SPRINGER - THE OPERA: The Jerry Springer Show is being turned into an opera. "In the show, a pair of opera singers slug it out in profanity-laced songs like Do You Ever Wonder Why Your Imaginary Friend Committed Suicide? and Everybody Hates You." New York Post 08/02/01

A SIMPLE PREMISE: "MTV was launched in 1981 with a premise so simple that even Butt-head could have grasped it. Record companies made expensive videos to promote their acts, MTV showed them for free, ergo: high-quality, low-cost TV. The start-up budget was $25 million. Last year, revenues for MTV Networks were $3.04 billion (£2.17 billion). Over two decades, MTV has expanded to become a virtual empire, available in 140 countries and comprising 60 channels worldwide." The Telegraph (UK) 08/02/01

Wednesday August 1

ST. LOUIS SYM IN CRISIS, PART XXXVI: Over the past couple of decades, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra has gone from a little-known regional entity to one of America's premiere ensembles. But these days, despite a consistently high level of musical performance, the organization seems to be in constant crisis. Just last winter, a massive financial gift promised to all but end the orchestra's fiscal problems, but somehow, it hasn't happened. The orchestra's players, fans, and critics are worried that the orchestra may be headed for that dreaded flashpoint: the decision of whether to remain one of the best, or to retreat to regional status. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 07/29/01

  • GOING FOR THAT HIGH 'C': No question that the musical landscape has changed for orchestras. There are more of them playing at top levels than ever before. So how to sort out who makes the grade...? Philadelphia Inquirer 07/31/01

BSO AND LEVINE MAY BE GETTING CLOSER: The slow-as-molasses negotiations between conductor James Levine and the Boston Symphony Orchestra appear to be making at least some progress towards the goal of Levine being named the BSO's next music director. "Matters still on the table include compensation, details of schedule, the BSO's contractual work rules and the ratio of rehearsal to performance, and Levine's health. Any one of these could derail the negotiations, which is why the orchestra continues to explore and expand the pool of alternative candidates." Boston Globe 08/01/01

THE MEANING OF TAVENER: "Here, at last, is a contemporary British composer whose work finds its own way into people's affections - witness the clamour for recordings of his Song for Athene after it was played at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. Yet the more popular he becomes, the more obvious it is that sections of the musical world are anxious to keep him at one remove. Is Tavener mere cult or genuine culture?" The Telegraph (UK) 08/01/01

ORCHESTRA IN THE TIME OF WAR: Nineteen-eighty-nine, as the Soviet Union was coming apart was hardly the best time to start an orchestra. But the Moscow Symphony Orchestra was founded that year by two sisters, and "in the years since it has risen under their management to the ranks of Russia's top orchestras without taking one ruble from the government." International Herald Tribune 07/31/01

DOMINGO BLASTS BAYREUTH: Apparently, Wolfgang Wagner just can't get along with anyone. The grandson of composer Richard has been embroiled in a vicious battle with other members of his family over control of the Bayreuth Festival, and now he appears to have angered tenor Placido Domingo to the point that Domingo has said he will not return to Bayreuth ever again. At issue: Domingo actually dared to ask for some extra rehearsal time. The nerve. Gramophone 08/01/01

LOVE ME MINISTER: Pop bands wanting to perform in Malaysia will now have to get approval by the country's deputy prime minister. "Concerned that bands are polluting the minds of children, authorities will insist on vetting all material before a band is allowed to take the stage." The Independent (UK) 07/31/01

PRICE-FIXING AND THE THREE TENORS: "Warner Communications Inc., a leading music distributor, will halt a promotion policy that the Federal Trade Commission alleged involved fixing prices for recordings of the opera stars, The Three Tenors." Nando Times (AP) 08/01/01


Home | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy
Copyright ©
2003 ArtsJournal. All Rights Reserved