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Thursday October 31

DOING THINGS THE CALGARY WAY: To most Canadians, Calgary, Alberta, is the Cowboy City, a remote Western outpost boasting plenty of corporate bigwigs and independent-minded entrepreneurs, but little in the way of such traditional urban accessories as culture, art, or music. That view of the city appeared to be supported by last month's collapse of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, which closed up shop (at least temporarily) with nary a peep to be heard from the moneyed classes. One local columnist even suggested that the CPO deserved to die because his CD of the Berlin Philharmonic sounded better. But the CPO may yet have life, thanks to some distinctly Calgarian efforts from a local real estate magnate, and speculation has begun about what other work will be required to reinvigorate the ensemble. Calgary Herald 10/31/02

WATCH THE PAINT DRY LIVE! The renovation of Milan's famed La Scala opera house is causing no small amount of controversy among Italy's notoriously belligerant opera fans, due in large part to a modernist design which has raised the hackles of traditionalists. Now, the city of Milan has mounted a web site which will show the progress of the renovation and offer notes on the design. Andante (ADN Kronos) 10/31/02

Wednesday October 30

DETROIT SEES RED: Add the Detroit Symphony to the list of American orchestras posting deficits. The $500,000 shortfall on a budget of $28 million is smaller than other major orchestras, but it's the second year in a row the DSO has failed to balance its books. Detroit Free Press 10/29/02

YOUNG DEFENDS HER ROLE: Opera Australia artistic director Simone Young says that contrary to reports, her planned season would not have put the company $10 million in debt. Also that the company's board misunderstood her artistic role and expected her to also operate as a manager. In September Young was told that her contract would not be renewed. Sydney Morning Herald 10/30/02

MUSIC COMPANIES COULD ALIENATE CONSUMERS: A new survey suggests that consumers will feel alienated by copy-protecting measures by recording companies if CDs don't play on any player they own. The survey says that "the majority of music buyers questioned believed they should have the right to make copies of CDs they have bought, either as back up or for family and friends." BBC 10/29/02

Tuesday October 29

THE DEATH OF THE AUDIO CASSETTE: The audio cassette is for all intents dead. "The end, on some strange and intellectually picky level, of the crucial dialectic between Side A and Side B, and the idea that songs talk to one another and take you someplace. Is the death of the cassette as sweetly sad as the death, years ago, of the vinyl record? No, the professor sighs. Well, maybe yes. 'It's a mixed romance'... Washington Post 10/29/02

THE PROBLEM WITH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRAS: Symphony orchestras across America are struggling with money (or rather, a lack of it). "What's the problem with classical music? As it turns out, all unhappy symphony orchestras are unhappy in their own way, but the answer is surprisingly consistent. "It really is 'the economy, stupid.' It's affecting all those revenue sources - especially corporate, foundation, government and individual donations - that are crucial to an orchestra's bottom line." Los Angeles Times 10/29/02

Monday October 28

OLDER STARS ABANDON RADIO: Noticed that older musicians seem to be showing up on the tube more often? "Television - and not just MTV - has supplanted radio as the chief means of exposing new music, particularly for veteran artists. Shrinking radio playlists have less room for new music. Far more radio stations are likely to play James Taylor's Fire and Rain, for example, than take a chance on his new single." Nando Times 10/27/02

PLOT PROBLEM: Why are opera stories often so ridiculous? When one thinks of all the effort that goes into composing and producing an opera, it seems odd that plots are often so ludicrous. But many are classic stories, and "some stories grow over centuries - each new generation's projections and alterations ripening them until, eventually, they become mythic. With each successful retread, a story will gain in resonance and meaning - reinforcing its power to move and inform us." The Guardian (UK) 10/28/02

PLANS FOR COPENHAGEN'S OPERA HOUSE IN DISPUTE: Plans for Copenhagen's new Opera House were unveiled last week, but Henning Larsen, the project's architect, wasn't present for the event after apparent disagreements with the owner about what the project would look like. "It's an embarrassing situation at the moment, and it would be sad for Copenhagen if Henning Larsen resigned from the opera house project. I can't even bear the thought. It would be like the Sydney Opera House all over again." Copenhagen Post 10/25/02

Sunday October 27

THE MODERN ORCHESTRA MODEL: With orchestras collapsing and gasping for breath all across the continent, the San Francisco Symphony is firmly in the black, artistically sound, and universally acknowledged to be one of the most musically daring ensembles in the world. Is it the ultra-trendy city? The dynamic and flashy music director? Don't fool yourself: the SFS is where it is due to prescient long-range planning, an unswerving commitment to its audience, and a top-notch management team which foresaw the economic collapse five years before it happened, and had a 'Plan B' ready to roll. Dallas Morning News 10/27/02

ARTEMIS STYMIED AT THE BORDER: The Artemis Quartet has been forced to cancel a U.S. tour after cellist Eckart Runge's visa was held up by U.S. authorities. What would cause such governmental concern over a respected musician from a friendly European country? It seems that, 11 years ago, while a student at the Aspen Music Festival, Runge stole a 99-cent pair of tweezers from a pharmacy, which was enough to trigger a lengthy background check. The New York Times 10/26/02

NEW HOPE IN COWBOY CITY: Hold that funeral procession! The Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra may yet have life, after a prominent real estate company announced plans to help the ensemble sell 700 'voucher packages' to its corporate clients at $500 apiece. The company's CEO is confident the plan will work, and hopes that other Calgary business heavyweights will follow suit with similar innovative programs, saying "My salesmen can lease and sell office buildings and shopping centres, so we think we can sell symphony tickets, too. The old form of fundraising -- walking around and looking for money -- doesn't work anymore." Calgary Herald 10/26/02

THE NEW WAVE: "Every half century, history rolls at us another wave of composers who will change the way music is heard and played. At the beginning of the 20th century came Debussy and Schoenberg, soon joined by Bartok and Stravinsky. In the 1950's, those arriving ranged from John Cage to Milton Babbitt. Now it is time for another great sweep, perhaps going in even more diverse directions and prompted from farther out on the periphery. The 20th century's revolutions were led from Europe and then the United States; now may come the turn of China, Australia and Latin America." Exhibit A may be Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov. The New York Times 10/27/02

  • IS NEW MUSIC FINALLY POPULAR? Ever since the modernist and serialist movements of the mid-20th century, conventional wisdom has held that the concertgoing public cannot abide new music, and that any effort to program modern works must be counterbalanced with a healthy dose of 'safe' classics. But with the rise of accessible (and yet unquestionably serious) composers like John Corigliano, how can anyone still claim that new music is unpopular? Philadelphia Inquirer 10/27/02

REASSESSING WAGNER, AGAIN: Richard Wagner is perhaps the most bitterly debated composer in all of Western classical music. With historians constantly reassessing his role in the development of opera and the effect (or lack thereof) of his own vicious anti-Semitism on his work, the music itself can easily be lost in the shuffle. With London's Barbican Centre rolling out a new Ring cycle this fall, concertgoers have a chance to experience the composer from all sides of the historical debate. The Observer (UK) 10/27/02

WELCOME (BACK) TO HONG KONG: "In August of 2000, some 10,000 classical music fans in Hong Kong paid US$30 each to hear Russia's famous orchestra play a series of concerts. By most all accounts the evening was a success, with one local critic lauding the orchestra's 'exciting accelerandos and heart-stopping rubatos.' The only problem was that the real Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra was touring France, Spain and Portugal at the time. A group of apparently cash-strapped musical imposters duped Hong Kong's music aficionados." This week, the real Moscow Phil makes its triumphant premiere/return to Taipei. Taipei Times 10/25/02

Friday October 25

ON-AIR WOMEN: Women artists have always had a tough time getting airplay on American radio stations. Until very recently, most stations had a rule of not playing back-to-back songs by women. Now 12 of the Billboard Top 20 songs are by women artists. But while it's better, critics still claim bias. "It's indicative of the industry that programmers don't think that men, and especially boys, are interested in hearing what women have to say unless it's a sexy song." Christian Science Monitor 10/25/02

JUNKIFICATION OF THE CLASSICAL CHARTS: Simon Rattle's new recording of Mahler's 5th Symphony with the Berlin Symphony recently topped the Classical charts. It was the first time in a decade that a symphony held the No. 1 spot. Why so rare? Over the years the classical charts have been junked up with music that can hardly be classified as classical. "Over a dozen years, as sales slumped, the classical record industry dumped the serious stuff and embraced dubious surrogates." La Scena Musicale 10/23/02

HOW TO STAGE AN OPERA IN 36 HOURS: The saga leading up to the Kirov Opera's appearance in Los Angeles this week has been, well, operatic - cancellation of the originally scheduled opera, sets that floated away to Asia in a dockworkers' strike... This week the company itself showed up in LA. "The full dress rehearsal is scheduled for 7 p.m. and for the half hour leading up to it, it is difficult to imagine that somewhere within this building there is a 280-member opera company. The halls are silent, backstage is silent, the makeup people sit outside the silent wardrobe rooms, waiting, not really knowing what is going to happen next..." Los Angeles Times 10/25/02

  • KIROV REVIEW: "With the raising of the curtain, it was as though the black cloud that had hung over the first Kirov Opera L.A. tour finally seemed to lift. The Kirov company is large and full of life. The chorus is exceptional. And on Wednesday there was plenty of individuality in the performances." Los Angeles Times 10/25/02

WHY DOWNLOADING MAKES GOOD BUSINESS SENSE: Recording artist Janis Ian says that recording companies are wrong about downloading piracy. "Attacking your own customers because they want to learn more about your products is a bizarre business strategy, one the music industry cannot afford to continue. On the first day I posted downloadable music, my merchandise sales tripled, and they have stayed that way ever since. I'm not about to become a zillionaire as a result, but I am making more money. At a time when radio playlists are tighter and any kind of exposure is hard to come by, 365,000 copies of my work now will be heard. Even if only 3% of those people come to concerts or buy my CDs, I've gained about 10,000 new fans this year." USAToday 10/24/02


  • BURN BABY BURN: Music fans worldwide are downloading music files and burning their own copies at an increasing pace. Traditional recording companies looking to stop the practice are getting increasingly aggressive. To fight illicit copying, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry has set up a worldwide anti-piracy network, which has issued more than 10,000 prosecutions this year." The Age (Melbourne) 10/25/02

HOUSE BAND: "House concerts are exactly what those two words say - concerts that people hold in their houses - and they've become something of a nationwide phenomenon during the past 10 years. While there has always been live music in homes - classical drawing room salons, rural front-porch hoedowns, Harlem rent parties, rock bands in basements - the current style of house party has flourished because of a confluence of circumstances, the primary one being the graying of the baby boomers..." Washington Post 10/25/02

Thursday October 24

HARD TIMES AT PRODIGY CENTRAL: You know the music industry has hit hard times when the president of the Juilliard School is saying things like "I'm just as much thrilled if someone gets a job teaching junior high school music as if they get a job in the Chicago Symphony." Joseph Polisi also indicated that, with the job market in music tighter than ever, it will be essential for young musicians to find new ways of bringing music to the public if the form is to survive. Star Tribune (Minneapolis/St. Paul) 10/23/02

A NEW TAKE ON PIANO CONCERTS: A concert promoter brings his pop model to the classical piano recital. He's pairing big stars with young "opening acts," setting low ticket prices, performing in unusual spaces, and advertising in non-traditional (for the classical world) ways. The New York Times 10/24/02

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE ORCHESTRA BOOM? Only five years ago, many North American orchestras were convinced that the future was bright. New concert halls abounded, and ticket sales were up continent-wide. These days, though, it is a rare orchestra which isn't struggling in the grip of crippling deficits, and many smaller orchestras are finding themselves on the precipice. Case in point: the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. Edmonton Journal 10/24/02

TRYING SOMETHING NEW: "Taking a small but noticeable step away from the programming habits of the city's former orchestra, Symphony San Jose Silicon Valley on Wednesday announced its first four-concert season. Six of the 14 scheduled works are by U.S.-born composers, and there's at least one American work on every program." The orchestra was recently created by the San Jose Ballet to fill the void left by the demise of the San Jose Symphony. San Jose Mercury News 10/24/02

COPYRIGHT HYSTERIA: "People auction everything from stereo equipment to World Series tickets to used software on eBay. Why, then, did an indie musician who tried to hawk his own band's CD get fingered by the site as a copyright violator?" Wired 10/24/02

LEARNING LATIN: Latin jazz has been around for decades, but it's never had a full chair at the official jazz table. "Now several long-flowing streams of interest in Latin jazz are running together, and it seems that the form is becoming recognized as official culture in America, ready for heritage-building, specialized analysis and education." The New York Times 10/24/02

SHORTLISTED FOR TALENT, NOT SALES: The popular music industry long ago sunk into a mire of marketing gimmickry which has had the effect of shutting the door on countless talented artists who somehow didn't fit the profile of today's navel-baring, assembly-line pop stars. The Shortlist Music Prize aims to swing the balance back towards talent and originality, and that mission is visible in this year's shortlist, on which the most recognizable name belongs to Icelandic art-rock purveyor Björk. The Globe & Mail (AP) 10/24/02

Wednesday October 23

CHICAGO SYMPHONY DEFICIT: The Chicago Symphony reports a $6.1 million deficit for last season. The orchestra notes "challenging economic conditions,'' and says that "even record-breaking contributions to the annual fund could not close the 'widening imbalance' between operating revenues and expenses." Chicago Sun-Times 10/23/02

CANADA'S THRIVING CLASSICAL MUSIC RADIO: While classical music radio has been dying out in the United States in the past decade, "in Canada, looking over the last 20 years, there has been an obvious growth in the appetite for classical programming, as well as jazz, on FM radio." La Scena Musicale 10/22/02

Tuesday October 22

CHICAGO LOSSES: The Chicago Symphony will announce a season deficit of at least $4 million this evening. "This is uncharacteristically bad news for an orchestra that has been happily in the black for 14 of the past 17 seasons. It also marks the CSO's second consecutive annual deficit, following a $1.3 million dip into red ink on last year's budget of $59 million." Chicago Lyric Opera is also facing a downturn. To cut costs, both have dropped long-running radio broadcasts. Chicago Sun-Times 10/22/02

SINGLE-MINDED: The single record is dead of course. And yet, there have been heavy sales of a few recordings released as singles in the past year. Some believe the format should be revived. "We have been in a song-driven marketplace for a number of years, and yet the availability of singles continues to decline. When there is no way for the consumer to purchase just the one song they want, why are we all surprised that they take advantage of the widely available alternative - which is a free copy from one of the various file-sharing services?" Baltimore Sun 10/22/02

IN PRAISE OF M&M: "The worst thing about the record industry’s current infatuation with gorgeous violinists who don’t actually play the violin very well is that it steals the limelight from gorgeous violinists who do. Two of the best Midori and Viktoria Mullova - deserve attention right now." The Times (UK) 10/22/02

COMMITMENT TO NEW MUSIC, WYOMING STYLE: The Cheyenne [Wyoming] Symphony is a long way from a major city. But the orchestra decided to present a program of music by composer John Corigliano. The orchestra invited Corigliano to town for three days, found underwriting and sponsorships, and sold out the city's 1,500-seat civic center. "The concert was greeted with cheers, whistles and cascades of applause. Quite simply, it was a success in every way." Denver Post 10/22/02

Monday October 21

NJ SYMPHONY RUNS DEFICIT: The New Jersey Symphony ran up a deficit of $1.1 million last season. Alarmingly, the figure is about 7 percent of the orchestra's total budget. "The economy has basically moved orchestras from experiencing small surpluses to experiencing small deficits. I anticipate it's a short-term phenomenon." Newark Star-Ledger 10/18/02

OPERA IN L.A. - MISSED OPPORTUNITIES? A few years ago opera was a hot ticket in Los Angeles, particularly among the under-30 crowd. Now? "Did opera turn out to be another pop-cult fad, or did the L.A. company blow the opportunity to capture this most sought-after demographic?" Los Angeles Times 10/17/02

CALGARY PHIL DEMANDS LEADER'S HEAD: The Calgary Philharmonic, which suspended operations last week after a financial crisis, has asked for the resignation of its president. The orchestra's future is in doubt. "The CPO's recent aggressive marketing campaign to secure 2,000 new subscriber households by the end of October has only managed to gain about 800 new patrons." Calgary Herald 10/19/02

  • JUST SHUT IT DOWN: "The fact is that big orchestras are done for. Gonzo. They're an anachronism, an all-but-dead corpse kept on life support by tax dollars and an ever dwindling group of philanthropists and ticket buyers." Just shut them down. Calgary Herald 10/18/02


KNOWING WHEN TO QUIT: "Performing is a physical activity, and time takes its toll on the human body: on breath support, on lips, on strength, on coordination, on sight and hearing. Like athletes, singers and instrumentalists eventually have to come to terms with the fact that they can't do certain things as well at 60 or 70 as they did at 20 or 30. It's easy to stay too long, and those who do risk undermining their legacies." St. Louis Post-Dispatch 10/20/02

KEITH JARRETT'S NEW STYLE: Pianist Keith Jarrett became ill six years ago, and during the long rehabilitation when he didn't play, Jarrett re-evaluated his art. "I didn’t like a lot of my long introductions, and there were lots of things I wasn’t happy with about my touch. My illness gave me an opportunity that very few musicians have, to re-evaluate everything. I wanted to reconnect to the idea of sounding like a horn — a trumpet or saxophone." The Times (UK) 10/21/02

Sunday October 20

CHANGE AT THE TOP: Many of the world's top orchestras are introducing new music directors. "All this giddy change is partly coincidence; music directors come, and they go. But a new century also generates a new zeitgeist, and that surely motivates managements, some of which have gently or not-so-gently eased out aging, long-standing conductors. And these are turbulent times for classical music institutions." The question is - what does all this change mean? Los Angeles Times 10/20/02

OLD AND NEW - TOGETHER AGAIN: Wolfgang Sawallisch is conducting his last season as music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Christoph Eschenbach takes on the job next year. This week though, they both appeared on the same stage in performance. "The program had the aura of history, with music director Sawallisch escorting Eschenbach, here as piano soloist, out on stage. You could see [Eschenbach], between piano passages, surveying his future players, taking inventory." Philadelphia Inquirer 10/20/02

UNCOMMON CHANCES: The group Ethel is a string quartet. They play contemporary music. Often in places you don't usually find string quartets. But don't call Ethel a string quartet. It's a band. "What image does a string quartet put in your head? A dour group of people playing perfectly together in perfect harmony. That's not the path that I wanted to go down." The New York Times 10/20/02

RUNNING ON ABOUT RENEE: Renee Fleming is the diva of the moment. She's a breakout artist who's fame surpasses the concert hall. "One measure of her special hold on the American public is the constant stream of feature articles that have brought her personal history into the household of anyone who watches television or subscribes to magazines. Her girl-next-door upbringing. Her initial uncertainties in finding her direction as a classical musician. Her seemingly picture-perfect marriage.. The New York Times 10/20/02

CLASSIC CONFLICTS: More musicians are also showing up as critics in Philadelphia's music scene. Is this healthy? "It's the classic journalism-school question. How do you stay neutral as a reporter when the best way to cover a certain community is to be part of it? You can't easily reconcile these things." Philadelphia Inquirer 10/20/02

Friday October 18

ROCKED THE VOTE: "The music industry's engagement with politics has always ebbed and flowed. In the 1960s, when rock was part of a counter-culture, protest songs were both credible and glamorous. In the punk era, the Top 10 included a string of polemical singles by the Jam, the Clash and the Specials. Since then, thrilling music and political engagement have rarely coincided." The Guardian (UK) 10/18/02

JANSONS GETS CONCERTGEBOUW: The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam has named Mariss Jansons as its new chief conductor beginning with the 2004–2005 season. The only other serious contender for the post was Christian Thielemann. Andante 10/17/02

BAZ'S BOHEME: Baz Luhrmann took two years and 3000 auditions to cast his La Boheme. It's currently playing previews in San Francisco before moving to Broadway. Visually, it's unconventional - teeming with "energy and characteristic Luhrmann colour. Luhrmann says his goal was to reinvent opera for a new generation; to bring it from its lofty level to mass audiences, in the way Puccini's art was enjoyed. The opera is sung in Italian, but with English surtitles that include such Batman-era translations as Kapow!, Thwack!and @#!&% for a mock fight scene." The Age (Melbourne) 10/18/02

Thursday October 17

BAD DAY (CAREER?): Composer John Corigliano has had a successful career in music. But he's discouraged about his profression. "I'm so discouraged I just don't even feel like writing in classical music or concert music, because I truly feel that we're in a terrible state. The (classical) record industry has collapsed. No one's interested. No one cares. Can you imagine anybody having a riot like The Rite of Spring now over any piece of art or music? Do you think they care? No one does." Denver Post 10/17/02

LA OPERA'S EMERGENCY SETS: When the ship carrying sets and costumes for Los Angeles Opera's production of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk was unable to unload its cargo during the recent dock strike, the ship turned around and headed for Tokyo, triggering a "dramatic turn of events. Los Angeles Opera officials learned there was no way to get the sets back to California in time for opening night and decided to build the sets themselves - using a 30-pound roll of blueprints flown from Russia." Nando Times (AP) 10/16/02

CAN THE ENGLISH NATIONAL OPERA SURVIVE? "The case for keeping an English national opera has been weakened by a decade of weak administration and mounting debt. The deficit, I'm reliably informed, has topped £3 million. There is no cash in the kitty for new productions and the box-office is slow. These are bleak days at the Coliseum. Even the neon roof-sign is perpetually on the blink. So why keep ENO going? Because it's the only place this side of Paris where you can see professional opera for a fair price." La Scena Musicale 10/16/02

EARLY WORD ON BAZ'S BOHEME: One of the most-awaited productions on Broadway this season is Baz Lurhmann's interpretation of La Boheme. How will the director work his offbeat magic on one of the most familiar operas in the repertory? Lurhmann's Boheme has just opened in San Francisco for an out-of-town tryout. "What theatergoers get here, from celebrated Australian film and stage director Baz Luhrmann, is an intimately scaled, emotionally attentive, visually choice and musically lucid staging of a great opera about riotous love and bohemian bonhomie." San Francisco Chronicle 10/17/02

  • EXPERIMENTS IN OPERA: Steve Reich's new "video opera" opens at the Brooklyn Academy of Music this week. "Fat ladies won't ever sing in this one. A chamber ensemble sits below a screen on which video images unfold depicting three seminal events in 20th-century history." The question is: "Can it create an entrancing alternate universe that operagoers can enter and enjoy?" Philadelphia Inquirer 10/17/02

Wednesday October 16

ANOTHER ORCHESTRA GOES OUT OF BUSINESS: The troubled Calgary Philharmonic has suspended operations and filed a brief with a bankruptcy court, cancelling all concerts for at least the next 45 days and laying off 65 musicians and as many as 20 staff. Calgary's arts scene, never exactly a bustling one, is expected to suffer fallout from the CPO's slow and very public collapse over the last year or two, and many in the CPO organization seem surprised and disgusted that the city's wealthy residents didn't seem to do a lot to help when the chips were down. Calgary Herald 10/16/02

MUSICAL BIAS: The Missouri Supreme Court is considering whether to overturn the death sentence of a man who claims his jury was unfairly influenced when the prosecution played a violent rap song by Bone Thugs 'N Harmony during summation. At issue is not only the relevance of the music to the murders the defendant was charged with, but the very real possibility that prosecutors intended to play to jurors' racist tendencies. "If killing two people isn't quite enough, do you think just maybe the sound of disgusting rap music might play to any unknown racial bias lurking within one or two jurors? If Mo' Murdah helps get a man the death penalty, would a nice white lady singing God Bless America have spared him?" St. Louis Post-Dispatch 10/16/02

Tuesday October 15

CHINA PHIL EXEC ARRESTED FOR CORRUPTION: Just hours before his orchestra was to open the Beijing Music festival, the deputy executive director of the China Philharmonic Orchestra was detained by police at his Beijing home on charges of corruption. "Evidence against Zhao included 10 million yuan (US$1.2 million) in cash found at his residence and six deluxe vehicles registered under his and his wife's names, the total cost of which exceeded the couple's present salaries by a large margin." Andante 10/14/02

LEARNING ON THE JOB? Twenty-four-year-old Katharina Wagner, granddaughter of composer Richard Wagner, has been named by her father to succeed him running the Bayreuth festival. But in her first outing as an opera director, she's created a controversial production. "Storms of boos, alternating with bravos, buffeted the production team at the premiere. 'The reactions were very violent,' Ms. Wagner said. 'One woman said to me, `I know how Richard Wagner meant it.' That would be a real sensation if she really did'." The New York Times 10/15/02

YOUNG AT HEART: Two weeks ago Simone Young was fired as general director of Opera Australia. But not right away; she'll stay on running the company until her contract is up next year. Isn't it awkward working for the people who just fired you? Sure. But in the meantime there are operas to be produced, audiences to be made happy... The Age (Melbourne) 10/15/02

Monday October 14

BRITAIN'S FAVORITE OPERA: It's Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, as voted in a Classic FM poll. "Wagner — whose work was almost exclusively operatic — is the most notable absentee, with no entries in the list which features just four composers." Andante (PA) 11/012/02

COSTLY ADVENTURE: Franz Xaver Ohnesorg's abrupt resignation as manager of the Berlin Philharmonic ended a costly adventure. Ohnesorg's big salary must still be paid through 2006, and he exposed the orchestra to a lawsuit it is likely to lose. "This is a waste of money Berlin style, and it is the clear result of a cultural policy that has its eyes more on names and insider relationships than on concepts or programs." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 10/11/02

SERIOUSLY OPERATIC POLITICS: The brief yet fierce succession crisis which enveloped Florence's famed opera house Teatro del Maggio Musicale (formally Teatro Communale) this past month was worthy of an opera itself. The behind-the-scenes battle had all the elements of a classic operatic story: melodramatic plot twists, massive egos, a dangerous emperor (Italian P.M. Silvio Berlusconi - who says right-wingers don't care about the arts?), a loyal but ultimately betrayed servant of the benevolent and aged head of the household, and the eventual gathering together of the working class people of the community to force a happy ending. But don't expect these performers to be joining hands and taking a bow anytime soon. Andante 10/14/02

SAVE OUR SHEET MUSIC: "Unimpressed with the San Jose Symphony's efforts to save its music library, the musicians have taken fundraising into their own hands. The musicians have raised more than $20,000 to preserve the sheet music, which is valued at about $125,000. The library consists of more than 1,000 marked-on scores that could be lost when the symphony declares bankruptcy in coming weeks." The SJS ceased operations earlier this year, but a new orchestra being started by the city's ballet troupe might be able to make use of such an extensive library. San Jose Mercury News 10/14/02

GETTING PROACTIVE WITH THE KIDS: Ask a musician about the problem of aging and dwindling audiences for classical music, and you'll likely get an answer along the lines of "There's really nothing we can do. They just don't teach music in the schools the way they used to." The Cleveland Chamber Music Society agrees with the latter statement, and is determined to do something about it. The CCMS is sponsoring a new program to bring live music performed by top artists into Cleveland's schools, and creating an endowment to ensure that music education will not wither on the vine. The Plain Dealer 10/14/02

MUSICAL GAMES: Composer Sam Hayden has written an interactive piece of music for the internet that combines composition with video games. "3D Music extends to the Internet several important concepts in contemporary composition. For instance, it experiments with spatialized sounds, so that a listener hears different music in different locations. Surrendering control of the work's structure to individual online visitors challenges the notion of a classical composition as a fixed entity. Letting audience members determine 'how a piece of music sounds — to a large degree, not to a cosmetic degree — is clearly something very new and radical'." The New York Times 10/14/02

PLAYING ALONG: When talking movies first hit theatre screens, 55,000 musicians in the US who had accompanied the silents were thrown out of work within six months. "But some musicians still make a healthy living playing along to old movies at festivals around the world." BBC 10/14/02

COVENT GARDEN'S NEW MAN: Anthony Pappano is Covent Garden's new music director. It's a big and controversial position, the kind of job you have to grow into. But Pappano has confidence. "I think the house feels a new energy because I am always here and going to rehearsals and sort of going at 100 miles per hour all the time. And this opera house has needed that kind of investment." The New York Times 10/14/02

THE TRUTH ABOUT MARIA: A doctor who treated Maria Callas for dermatomyositis, a degenerative tissue disease, is speaking out about the famed soprano's illness more than 25 years after her death because, he says, he has been incensed by ongoing portrayals of Callas as a disturbed prima donna who retired from the stage as a result of mental instabilities. The doctor further asserts that the diva's death in 1977 came not as a result of heartbreak (her husband abandoned her to marry Jacqueline Kennedy) but from a heart attack brought on by her disease. Andante (AP) 10/14/02

Sunday October 13

BEVERLY'S BACK: Was it really only six months ago that Beverly Sills resigned her post at the head of New York's Lincoln Center, following a contentious debate over the complex's impending expansion and renovation? At the time, Sills said that she was retiring, and wanted to "smell the flowers a little bit." But apparently the quiet life wasn't all it was cracked up to be for Sills, 73, who has just accepted the chairmanship of the Metropolitan Opera. The Met is, of course, Lincoln Center's most powerful tenant, putting Sills smack in the middle of the same debates she so recently bowed out of. The New York Times 10/12/02

FREE CDs FOR IMMUNITY: "In New York last week the Big Five record companies struck a deal with the attorneys-general of 40 US states who were suing them for price-fixing. The Five agreed to give five and a half million free CDs to schools and public libraries after being accused of setting mimimum CD prices at three major retailers... Anomalies like these have provoked parliamentary inquiries in Washington, London and Brussels, but never a full prosecution. Governments do not mess with the music biz. It is too big, too generous at election time and too influential on young minds for politicians to risk a coalition of gangsta rappers, country crooners and opera divas converging on their doorstep in cacophonous protest. The biz has always got away with it in the lobby. Now, the US prosecutors have backed off again in exchange for a stack of free discs." La Scena Musicale 10/10/02

GREED KILLED THE RADIO STAR: With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Lyric Opera both killing off their local and national radio broadcasts, the Second City's classical music community is in danger of losing cultural cache and national recognition. Critic John van Rhein, who this weekend celebrates 25 years of observing the Chicago music scene, is disgusted by the lack of vision from all sides. "The classical music world is reaping the bitter fruits of American orchestras having priced themselves out of the broadcast and recordings market. The free-spending '90s are dead -- musicians in other cities have swallowed hard and accepted it. Chicago has yet to do so." Chicago Tribune 10/13/02

NOTHING HAPPENS BY ACCIDENT: To hear many people tell it, you would think that the recent resurgence of opera as a popular art form has happened purely by chance, and that the increasingly young age of opera patrons is due to nothing more than youngsters wandering into the opera house by accident. Not so: in fact, opera companies across North America have been making a concerted effort to draw in a more diverse crowd. The Canadian Opera Company is a prime example, with an 'Opera 101' education program, as well as a continuing series of classic operas directed by famous names like Atom Egoyan. Toronto Star 10/12/02

KNOWING WHAT'S IMPORTANT: As deficits mount and cost-cutting measures spring up at orchestras across North America, one of the hardest expenses to justify is the international tour. Short-sighted board members often question whether touring is an investment with no return, and the orchestra's regular patrons hardly notice whether their band tours or not. Besides that, touring is horribly expensive. Yet some orchestras seem to retain an unshakable commitment to it, and one example you might not expect is Baltimore. In the wake of 9/11, as other orchestras were cancelling international travel in a panic, Baltimore went to Europe without hesitation. Now, the BSO has just wrapped up a sucessful Japan tour, and continues to make inroads on the international scene. Baltimore Sun 10/13/02

FORGOT ABOUT THE BOTTOM LINE: No word yet on the acoustic success of the newly renovated Orchestra Hall in Detroit (only a pops concert has been played at the refurbished hall so far) but patrons already have found one serious flaw. It seems the hall refurbished the audience chairs in order to bring them up to fire codes, and installed new cushions as well as the legally mandated 'weight bars' on the back edge of each seat. The problem is, the cushions don't cover the bars, and many patrons came away from the performance with sore hind quarters as a result. The orchestra says that fewer than half the seats are affected, and they are offering extra cushions to any patron that wants one. Detroit News 10/12/02

FILLING DUTOIT'S SHOES: The Montreal Symphony Orchestra is one of the world's finest ensembles, with or without departed music director Charles Dutoit. But when an orchestra loses a leader of Dutoit's stature, regardless of how the musicians may have felt about him, no one can deny the importance of choosing a successor carefully. This is not to say that the next Montreal stickman needs to have Dutoit's international reputation or global experience, only that the conductor chosen must be someone willing and able to grow with the orchestra, to lead them into a new era without relinquishing a grip on the last 25 years of unquestionable success. Toronto Star 10/12/02

MUSIC AMID THE MUDDLE: This week, Shanghai launched an incredibly ambitious international music festival, and predicted that the huge gathering would 'make history.' The reality, says one critic, was that the city and the festival organizers were completely unprepared to put on a show of such magnitude. "The level of incompetence is hard to understand in a city that resembles a bizarre cross between the sci-fi optimism of Dan Dare and the dystopian nightmare of Blade Runner... How many Chinese men does it take to change a light bulb? Eight. This is not a joke. I happen to know the answer because I watched it happen. China is a country whose full employment policy creates ludicrous levels of over-staffing and a pass-the-buck culture." The Telegraph (UK) 10/12/02

FAME CAN BE FLEETING: "Hey! You've won the prestigious Van Cliburn piano competition! What are you going to do now? Answer: Go to Bakersfield; Allendale, Michigan; Hot Springs Village, Arkansas... Life isn't concertos at Carnegie Hall for Van Cliburn winners. After getting showered with attention and fame, finalists begin a two-year grind of recitals and mostly low-key orchestra dates. Even with all the hype, winning the Van Cliburn doesn't guarantee stardom." San Jose Mercury News 10/12/02

Friday October 11

SHORT-TERM RELIEF IN PITTSBURGH: The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, which is running a 7-figure deficit and threatening bankruptcy if the community doesn't step up its support, finally has a bit of good news to report. "Acusis, a technology and delivery service company with offices in Pittsburgh, has pledged $225,000 over a three-year period to the PSO." Officials say they are grateful for the donation, but stress that they still require a greater ongoing commitment from Pittsburgh's wealthy classes. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10/11/02

L.A. OPERA'S PRODUCTION WOES: Los Angeles Opera is having a tough time getting its October opera together. First it canceled a $3-million Kirov production of War and Peace because of money problems. Now its replacement - another Kirov offering, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk - is in trouble. Because of the lockout of West Coast ports, the sets, costumes and props for the production couldn't wait in LA's harbour, and now they've departed "on a slow boat to Tokyo." Los Angeles Times 10/10/02

SEATTLE OPERA HOUSE BAILOUT: In 1999, Seattle voters approved a levy providing nearly $30 million of city money towards the $128 million renovation of the Seattle Center Opera House, and were guaranteed that the city would not be responsible for any cost overruns or additional funding needs. But with the project nearly stalled over a gap between anticipated and received funding from King County and the state of Washington, Seattle's mayor is proposing an additional $27.8 million "loan" to the Opera House. That's money the city is unlikely to get back. Seattle Times 10/10/02

YEAH, AND NAPSTER CAUSED THE RECESSION, TOO: The global slump in CD sales is getting worse, with the latest figures showing a 9% drop in sales in the first half of 2002, following a 5% drop last year. It's all the fault of internet piracy, according to the industry, with free song-swapping sites "the greatest threat facing the music industry today," but the industry still hasn't come up with anything approaching a user-friendly legal alternative to free sites like Kazaa and Gnutella. BBC 10/11/02

UNDERSTANDING PYOTR: Tchaikovsky's music is much loved, but his work is widely regarded as sentimental and lightweight. Is it a bum rap? "The industry of speculation around Tchaikovsky has had an ambivalent effect on his artistic reputation. Tchaikovsky's cachet is good for shifting CDs and concert tickets, but it leaves us with the impression that listening to Tchaikovsky is a pleasurable vice to be indulged rather than the kind of worthy artistic undertaking we associate with Mozart or Shakespeare." The Guardian (UK) 10/11/02

ONE WAY TO PUT BUTTS IN THE SEATS: The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is taking a novel approach to filling the empty seats at Roy Thompson Hall. The TSO has teamed up with HurryDate, a local dating service, to provide prospective couples with a pair of free tickets to a concert, in the hope that some of them will return as paying customers. The gamble is just the most high-profile in a series of audience-building maneuvers by the TSO: others include a "Soundcheck" program designed to draw in young people, and a cocnerted effort to interest the city's immigrant communities in classical music. Toronto Star 10/09/02

AUSTIN OPERA FIRES DIRECTOR: Last week Austin Lyric Opera fired its general director Joseph McClain. "Budget deficits and advocacy of new operas had created friction between McClain and factions on the board for at least two years. The dismissal was predicated on recent projections that the company would face more deficits for the next three years." Austin American-Statesman 10/10/02

NATURALLY, IT WAS A COLLEGE STUDENT: The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra says it has solved the mystery of how pornographic phrases got into an internet database, and by extension, onto the computers of their subscribers when they attempted to listen to a promotional CD sent out free of charge by the NZSO. A college student playing the CD in his girlfriend's computer was prompted by the database to enter titles for the tracks, and he did so, believing his graphically descriptive phrases were only being saved to one computer. Upon hearing what he had inadvertently done, the student turned himself in to police. No charges will be filed. Wired 10/11/02

Thursday October 10

DON'T PUNISH OPERA COMPANY OUSTED DIRECTOR SAYS: Simone Young, who was told a few weeks ago her contract as director of Opera Australia was not being renewed, returned to Sydney Monday night, and got a standing ovation from the audience when she walked into the hall. She urged opera supporters not to cancel their subscriptions in protest of her firing. "If people want to support me, then the best thing they can do is make sure my performances are full, that all our performances are full." The Age (Melbourne) 10/10/02

WAGNER TO TAKE OVER WEIMAR: Nike Wagner, granddaughter of Richard Wagner, has been chosen as director of the Weimar Music Festival for at least three seasons. "Ms Wagner, a former culture minister in the Hamburg regional government, was also considered in 1999 to take over the Bayreuth festival, which showcases her great-grandfather's works." BBC 10/09/02

GOOD AS NEW: The Detroit Symphony Orchestra returns to its home hall this week following a $60 million renovation project which promises to make the venue a viable home for many years to come. Unlike other recent renovations to concert halls, this upgrade was mainly cosmetic, rather than acoustical, although part of the budget went to the building of a new 4-story annex with a 550-seat theater and musicians' lounge. In a bittersweet concession to the way American orchestras are run these days, the first performance at the rejuvenated hall will be a 'pops' concert this weekend. Detroit News 10/10/02

WHAT, US, WORRY? "In a difficult financial environment for symphony orchestras, the Florida Orchestra has bucked a trend. In the fiscal year that closed at the end of June, the orchestra reported a surplus of $480,000 in a cash budget of $7.8-million at its annual meeting Tuesday. The Florida Orchestra didn't have the weakened ticket sales that many other orchestras did after the terrorist attacks of last Sept. 11," and a pre-9/11 round of budget cutting may have helped the orchestra stay above the red line. St. Petersburg Times 10/09/02

OH, GOD, NO: "A Russian opera company is planning a comic opera that will tell the infamous story of Monica Lewinsky and the president. The Russian president, to be precise. The composer of Monica in the Kremlin is Vitali Okorokov, a classically trained musician who is well known to the Russian public for his pop hits. After a performance of one of his symphonic poems, Okorokoc was approached by the artistic director of the Saratov Opera, who asked him to write an opera on a contemporary subject." Andante 10/10/02

Wednesday October 9

AMERICAN MUSIC ONLINE: One of the biggest frustrations for composers is getting their music out to be heard. The American Music Center proposes some help - a new website that will make available access to the work of American composers. "New Music Jukebox offers a 24-hour 'virtual' listening room with streaming and downloadable sound files, as well as extensive composer biographies, works lists, publishers, performance data and other information, all cross-referenced." The New York Times 10/09/02

AND OFFLINE... It had to start happening, given the grinding economics. Citing costs, lack of revenues, and uncertainty over royalty rates for music streamed over the internet, Chicago classical music station WFMT has decided to drop its internet streaming. Chicago Sun-Times 10/08/02

OPERA WARS: British arts policy tries to promote opera in parts of the country where there isn't much. So regional companies get big subsidies. But bad facilities and lame programming choices undercut efforts. And knockoff foreign touring companies are an even bigger threat. "Audiences, depressingly, seem content to hear foreigners singing familiar tunes loudly, with scenery and costumes left over from the silent-film era." The Telegraph (UK) 10/09/02

OHNESORG JUMPS FROM ANOTHER JOB: Franz Xaver Ohnesorg's early departure as manager of the Berlin Philharmonic is officially for "personal reasons." But "it was common knowledge that Ohnesorg, who left his previous post as executive director of Carnegie Hall suddenly and prematurely following two turbulent years, had provoked the ire of many in the course of his year in Berlin." Andante 10/09/02

Tuesday October 8

X-RATED CLASSICAL: The New Zealand Symphony sent out 8000 promotional CDs to market its new season. But when recipients of the discs put them into computers to play, they discovered that someone had substituted the track titles with pornographic descriptions of sex acts. "It seemed the person responsible used an Internet media player to read the CD, made the changes and saved them on the database. This meant that whenever anyone else used a media player connected to that database, the X-rated version was displayed." The Age (Melbourne) 10/08/02

FIGHTING OVER BEETHOVEN'S PIANO: Two Austrian museums are fighting over a piano that once belonged to Beethoven. The piano - built in 1803, and owned by the composer until 1824 - has "for the past 15 years been in the exhibition of musical instruments at the Palace Museum of the City of Linz. But for most of that time, the Vienna Museum of Art History has been trying to get it back." Andante (DPA) 10/08/02

WHICH BEST IS BEST? The Donatella Flick Conducting Competition in London exists to spot new talented conductors and help them along. But by what criteria do you declare a winner? From a listener's perspective, the wrong guy won... The Independent (UK) 10/07/02

ORANGE COUNTY DELAYS CONCERT HALL: The Orange County Performing Arts Center is pushing back the opening of its new $200 million concert hall by a year. But it's not because fundraising has dried up, says the center's management. "About $100 million has been raised or pledged since the campaign began nearly three years ago. But, amid a plummeting stock market and other economic woes, only $3.5 million in new donations has been announced in the last 12 months." No, the reason is acoustical: "Because of its complex acoustical engineering, they said, the 2,000-seat hall requires a break-in time of three to six months to 'tune' it for peak sonic performance, and pushing to keep to the original schedule would have risked getting off to a bad start. 'A lot of cities have looked at the Philadelphia experience and are making sure they have plenty of time for the tuning period'." Los Angeles Times 10/08/02

Monday October 7

TOUGH SELL IN SOUTH FLORIDA: For 30 years orchestras have struggled in Miami trying to carve out an existence. And still, even with an ambitious new performing arts center rising, it's a tough sell. "The Miami Philharmonic did some interesting things and remarkable playing in its time. But South Florida wasn't ready to support an orchestra then - and I'm sorry to say I'm still not sure it's ready to do it today. Besides that, the economy isn't very good right now.'' Miami Herald 10/06/02

WILL MONTREAL FANS STICK AROUND? Charles Dutoit's explosive departure last season from the Montreal Symphony resulted in the high-profile cancellations of star soloists Mstislav Rostropovich and Yo-Yo Ma on this season's schedule. The orchestra is watching anxiously to see if its fans will continue coming to concerts after the departure of the highly regarded conductor. After a good first week, the orchestra's second week of concerts saw largely empty houses... Montreal Gazette 10/7/02

ACTIVE ANALYSIS: "To understand the significance of music for the musicians who created it and the society in which it was produced is a challenge to music-lovers. Perhaps no writer on music devoted more energy to this task than Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno, and the translations into English of his writings on philosophy and music and their diffusion have been multiplying in recent years while, at the same time, his ideas have become widely influential in the US and Europe." New York Review of Books 10/24/02

Sunday October 6

LATIN CAN'T FIND THE BEAT: This year's Latin Grammys broadcast was a bomb in the ratings. Does this mean the end? "It would be a shame if this year's poor ratings meant the end of the Latin Grammys. The awards have made a strong contribution to Latin music, acknowledging excellent artists we may never have heard of otherwise. Finally, Latin music was starting to get its due. But at this point in the Latin Grammys' brief history, it's time to either give up or get smart." Los Angeles Times 10/06/02

HOUSTON SYMPHONY WANTS TO REDUCE PAY: Musicians of the Houston Symphony say they are being offered a dramatic pay cut that would reduce their base salary to $63,000 from $74,100. Reports have been circulating in the music community about proposed drastic cutbacks in pay that could lead to a strike. According to an administrator at one Houston arts organization, the offer includes several weeks of unpaid vacation and reduction of health benefits for dependents." The orchestra recorded a $1.6 million deficit last season. Houston Chronicle 10/04/02

NEW SAN JOSE ORCHESTRA: With the defunct San Jose Symphony not likely to be revived any time soon, the the Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley has announced it's staring its own orchestra and planning a season. The new orchestra will perform 7 concerts and expand the ballet's orchestra of 45 players to 70 to 75. Many of those musicians also played in the San Jose Symphony. San Jose Mercury News 10/05/02

A HARD LOOK AT ORPHEUS AS IT TURNS 30: The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is 30 years old, and the musicianship of the conductorless band is often nothing short of breathtaking. But big challenges loom, and some of the orchestra's claims are overblown. "Can Orpheus survive the turnover of personnel in the orchestra? Thirty years is an eternity for a string quartet but not that long for a symphony orchestra. We're somewhere in between." The New York Times 10/06/02

A NEW MODEL FOR RECORD DEALS: It does seem that EMI's £80 million deal with Robbie Williams is just one more sign of recording company excess. But the deal may not be as outsized as it first appears. And it could change the way recording companies make deals with artists. "EMI will not only release Williams's next six CDs, it also gets a cut of his lucrative merchandising, publishing, and touring rights. In effect, it becomes a multi-interest entertainment business rather than a mere record label. The result could be more control for artists, for long a sore point with stars of Williams's stature, and greater financial security for labels." The Guardian (UK) 10/05/02

  • BAD NEWS FOR CLASSICAL? Classical music lovers despair at the Williams deal. Experience shows that big spending on pop artists means less for classical releases. "EMI insists this is "nonsense", and cites a balanced catalogue ranging from Simon Rattle, Daniel Barenboim, and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, to Nigel Kennedy and Vanessa Mae." Still, ten years ago EMI released 100 classical recordings; last year there were 43. The Guardian (UK) 10/05/02

Friday October 4

CLEVELAND ORCH CUTS CHAMBER SERIES: Back when the epidemic of orchestra deficits began sweeping North America, many observers assumed that the crisis would be tough on the small and medium-sized orchestras, but would barely cause a ripple among the biggest and richest ensembles. It didn't work out that way, and now, nearly every major American and Canadian orchestra is slashing and burning through the budget, looking for cost-saving measures. The latest victim is the Cleveland Orchestra's chamber music series, which will be suspended as part of a cost-cutting package which also includes a staff wage freeze and pay cuts for the new music director and executive director. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 10/04/02

ZUKERMAN TO GET FIRST STERN AWARD: At the National Arts Awards in New York later this month, conductor and violinist Pinchas Zukerman will be the recipient of the first-ever Isaac Stern Award for Excellence in Classical Music. Zukerman, who has stirred up controversy in Canada in recent years with his comments about Canadian composers and "authentic" period performance, was one of Stern's most beloved proteges, and often performed with him in Stern's later years. Ottawa Citizen 10/04/02

ANOTHER THING WRONG WITH THE RECORDING INDUSTRY: After losing millions and having to buy out Mariah Carey from her recording contract, EMI has signed a deal with Robbie Williams worth by some estimates - £80 million. That's the most lucrative contract ever for a British artist. Does EMI stand a chance of ever making its money back on the deal? Not likely... The Telegraph (UK) 10/04/02

THE CHECK'S IN THE MAIL (NOT): When the Washington Chamber Symphony ceased operations earlier this year, many of the folks in charge seemed to vanish into the ether. Months later, subscribers want to know where their ticket refunds are, and the WCS's creditors are wondering when they'll be paid as well. Meantime, the people who seem to have run the orchestra into the ground may be too busy pointing fingers at each other to figure out just how the defunct organization can pay off its debts. Washington Post 10/04/02

CRUNCH TIME IN CALGARY: The musicians of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra have offered to take a 12.3% pay cut to keep the orchestra solvent for the rest of the season. It would be the second time in two years that the musicians have taken a large pay cut, but even that may not be enough to save the CPO. Massive deficits and a lack of enowment funds have the orchestra on the verge of folding operations. CFCN-TV (Calgary) 10/02/02

20 SHORT YEARS WITHOUT GLENN GOULD: "If you're reading this at 11: 30 a.m., it is precisely 20 years since Glenn Gould left this life... Gould must be seen as Canada's greatest contribution to classical music, as his work continues to inspire a seemingly endless stream of books, films, documentaries and miscellaneous other monuments and remembrances in all corners of the world. He once said that be didn't believe anybody would come to his funeral. Three thousand people did, and every day many thousands more continue to pay homage to the man by listening to his music over and over again." Ottawa Citizen 10/04/02

Thursday October 3

JANSONS NEGOTIATING WITH CONCERTGEBOUW: Outgoing Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra music director Mariss Jansons has confirmed that he is in negotiations with Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, considered to be among the top five orchestras in the world, to become its new chief conductor. Jansons has also signed on to lead the Bavarian Radio Symphony in Munich, and says that he will limit his conducting in the near future to those two orchestras, plus those of Berlin, Vienna, London, and Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10/03/02

  • TANGLEWOOD WEST? For decades, wealthy Philadelphians have headed north to the Pocono Mountains in the summer to while away the hot Pennsylvania days at one of the luxury resorts in the area. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that one of the state's two major orchestras is building its new summer home there. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, most recently in the news for deficits and (probably) idle threats of bankruptcy, hopes that its Mountain Laurel Center for the Performing Arts will eventually rival Tanglewood in Massachusetts and Ravinia in Illinois as one of the nation's great summer music retreats. Certainly, the location can't hurt: Bushkill, Pennsylvania is 85 miles from New York City and 115 from Philadelphia. (Of course, it's 320 miles from Pittsburgh.) Philadelphia Inquirer (AP) 10/03/02

WHO NEEDS TASTE IF TASTE DOESN'T MATTER? Those who try to assign the blame for a decline in classical music are usually looking in the wrong places, writes Harvard composer Joshua Fineberg. "The lesson that has been taken from Cage and Duchamp is that if traffic noise and toilet seats are equal to Mozart and Rembrandt then so are Garth Brooks and black-velvet Elvis paintings. This view quickly leads to taste being the only legitimate arbiter. In the cultural realm this rapidly leads to the downward homogenization of taste toward the least common denominator, a phenomenon that makes almost everyone vaguely uncomfortable." Salon 10/02/02

(ALMOST) FREE SAMPLES: In an attempt to lure consumers back to buying music rather than pirating it, British recording companies have declared Digital Download Day. The scheme "will today offer consumers £5 worth of free downloads from one of five official music sites. More than 100,000 tracks will be available, ranging from Elvis and Coldplay to Kylie and Gareth Gates. For £5, users will be able to listen to 500 tracks online, download 50 tracks on to their hard disk or burn five tracks on to a CD." The Guardian (UK) 10/03/02

HELP WANTED - INSPIRATION: The English National Opera is looking for a new director. It's a desirable job (if you can overlook the unfortunate demise of the last incumbent) "True, there's a bit of financial sorting-out to do - but we are are pretty confident that we can achieve that. And the company will have a fantastic new home in 2004." So who are the early contenders? Well, almost anyone you can think of... The Guardian (UK) 10/03/02

CMF NAMES NEW DIRECTOR: Catherine Underhill has been named executive director at the Colorado Music Festival in Boulder. The CMF has consistently been one of America's top summer music festivals, but has struggled with attendance and budget issues in recent seasons. "Underhill, 46, has worked as executive director of the Arts and Humanities Assembly of Boulder (AHAB) and of the Boulder's Dairy Center for the Arts." The Daily Camera (Boulder) 10/03/02

ROLLING RIVER: Saint Paul, Minnesota, is a charming little city constantly overshadowed by its more cosmopolitan twin, Minneapolis. So when promoters told city leaders that they wanted to stage a massive arts, film, and music festival on Saint Paul's increasingly popular riverfront, sponsors and politicians were lined up to support it. But the Rolling River Festival crashed and burned before a single act took the stage, and wound up being basically a smallish film festival showing at various strip-mall-style suburban theaters. Worse, the festival's organizers are facing accusations that they built up expectations based on nothing more than talk, and never had anywhere near the amount of cash which would have been required for such a large-scale operation. Saint Paul Pioneer Press 10/03/02

BARENBOIM THE PEACEMAKER: Israeli conductor/pianist Daniel Barenboim, who has made waves in the Middle East twice in recent months, has co-authored a new book with Palestinian intellectual Edward Said calling for peace in the region. "The book, titled Parallels and Paradoxes, grew out of conversations between the two friends, both prominent cultural figures who first met a decade ago by chance at a London hotel... Last month, [Barenboim] and Said were named the winners of Spain's Prince of Asturias Concord Prize for their efforts toward bringing peace to the Middle East." Andante (AP) 10/03/02

Wednesday October 2

HOW BIG MUSIC IS RUINING MUSIC: The music industry is broken. As this week's $143 million price-fixing settlement shows, big music companies have colluded to artificially inflate the prices of CD's. Artists are attacking, demanding better contracts and a bigger share of the profits. And instead of fixing anything, the companies blame the people who consume their products. And we should feel sympathy because... Chicago Sun-Times 10/02/02

SF OPERA IN THE RED: Blaming a downturn in the economy and lower attendance since 9/11, San Francisco Opera announced a $7.7 million deficit for last season on its annual operating budget of approximately $60 million. It was the company's biggest financial shortfall in a decade. The company warns that "in the long term, the economic picture might compel the company to raise ticket prices and possibly even curtail some of General Girector Pamela Rosenberg's more ambitious - and costly - artistic plans." San Francisco Chronicle 10/02/02

MUSIC FROM A CAN: Something about the music you've been listening to this year that doesn't seem quite real? "More than two-thirds of the No. 1 hits this year have been by manufactured artists, who have been hand-picked and groomed for stardom by record company talent-spotters, or in television pop contests." Maybe that's one reason music sales are down 7 percent this year... The Scotsman 10/01/02

GRIN NOT SMILING: It's been almost a year since the San Jose Symphony shut down operations. Civic leaders are trying to restart the orchestra, and there's plenty of talk about how to revive the organization. But there's one man nobody seems to be talking with - Leonard Grin, the orchestra's music director. "I'm not involved in any of those committees. I never have been invited to any of those meetings. It's surprising and frustrating. Who better to help on these committees than the conductor?'' San Jose Mercury-News 10/02/02

LABELLING FOR LEGISLATION? Some US Congressmen want the recording industry to include more information in parental advisory warning labels on CD's. They may be able to force the issue too. "Rep. John Shimkus, Republican of Illinois, said the music industry should improve its labeling to prove its sincerity as it asks Congress for help to fight music swapping over the Internet that hurts record sales." The Plain Dealer (AP) (Cleveland) 10/02/02

DEUTSCHE OPER DIRECTOR TO QUIT: Deutsche Oper director Udo Zimmermann is quitting the company after his contract expires next July. Zimmermann says he "found himself unable to continue 'his sophisticated artistic concept in the Deutsche Oper beyond the 2002-3 season,' in part because of the Berlin's poor financial condition and the opera's $1.7 million deficit. Washington Post (AP) 10/02/02

Tuesday October 1

CD SELLERS SETTLE PRICE-FIXING SUIT: Top American music distributors and retailers have agreed to pay $143 million in cash and CDs to settle charges they cheated consumers by fixing prices. "The settlement brings to a close accusations made by attorneys general of 41 states and commonwealths who accused record companies of conspiring with music distributors to boost the prices of CDs between 1995 and 2000." Nando Times (AP) 10/01/02

BIRMINGHAM WINS: The City of Birmingham Orchestra, stepping neatly out of the long shadow cast by its ex-music director Simon Rattle, has won Gramophone's recording of the year, beating - among others - Rattle's new orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic. The Guardian (UK) 10/01/02

REFORM NEEDED FOR MUSIC SCHOOLS: A new report suggests radical reform of England's music schools. "Backed by leading figures from music and the arts, including Sir Simon Rattle, it concludes that a new range of decidedly non-classical skills should be on the curriculum - including business and technology studies and a knowledge of contemporary styles, including jazz and world music. Nine out of 10 professional musicians are self- employed, it says, and most can make a living only by turning to teaching, session work and composition, as well as traditional concert hall performances." The Observer (UK) 09/29/02

WINNING FORMULA: Naxos, the budget classical music label, is 15 years old. While other recording companies abandon classical music, Naxos has thrived. "As the pioneering budget-priced CD label, Naxos secured a market foothold it has never lost. With the release of 500 CDs annually and sales of 10 million, it is now the largest classical label in the world. 'Making a CD today costs not even one dollar. So we can even sell in China, where CDs sell for $2 or $3, and make a small profit'." Toronto Star 10/01/02

WHEN REHEARSALS GO WRONG: Toronto's Canadian Opera Company replaced its lead soprano for the opening night performance of Queen of Spades last week after the singer flew to Armenia to her father's death bed three days before the production's dress rehearsal. Though she returned in time for the rehearsal, the company replaced her, saying they had told her not to go if she couldn't be back well in advance of the rehearsal. and that she wasn't prepared. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 10/01/02

RATTLE'S NEW REGIME: Simon Rattle has only recently taken over as music director of the Berlin Philharmonic. But his presence is changing the very nature of the world's most celebrated orchestra. “It’s amazing that this collection of 130 very disparate and opinionated people is able to smell the changing of the seasons, almost like an animal. Many of us felt that there was no way to stop the clock, or turn it back.” The Times (UK) 10/01/02


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