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Friday November 30

TOUGH TIMES FOR ORCHESTRAS: What's wrong with orchestras? "The go-go years of the 1990s masked some structural problems in certain orchestras. Budget woes are forcing a reexamination of these cultural flagships and their relevance: What is the place of a 19th-century institution playing largely classical European masterworks in multicultural 21st-century North America? And what does it mean to a city to lose its symphony? Toronto has come perilously close to finding out. So has St. Louis." Christian Science Monitor 11/29/01

DEFENDING THE BSO: The Boston Symphony has endured a firestorm of criticism since announcing that it would replace John Adams's controversial "Death of Klinghoffer" with a Copland symphony on a November concert program. But one prominent Boston critic is defending the decision, saying the BSO did what was best for its audience, even if it wasn't the most courageous path to take. Boston Herald 11/30/01

WHAT IS IT ABOUT BERLIN? Kent Nagano, director of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester (DSO) and Bettina Pesch, executive director of Rundfunk-Orchester und Chöre (ROC), the association of five Berlin-based musical organizations established in 1994, are feuding. Nagano threatens to leave when his contract is up, and the showdown is rapidly forcing a choice to be made about who gets to stay. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 11/30/01

NOW THAT'S CROSSOVER MUSIC: "What is perhaps the most ambitious musical venture on the internet culminates in a live 48-hour interactive web broadcast this weekend... From midnight GMT on Saturday December 1, the webcast consists of both acoustic and computer music, live concerts and events from associated sites in New York, Boston, Atlanta, San Diego, Oakland, Seattle, Tokyo, Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Buenos Aires, Krakow, Amsterdam and Rome, involving well over 200 performer-participants." Gramophone 11/28/01

THERE GOES THE SUN: "George Harrison, the Beatles' quiet lead guitarist and spiritual explorer who added both rock 'n' roll flash and a touch of the mystic to the band's timeless magic, has died. He was 58." Hollywood Reporter (AP) 11/30/01

  • COME TOGETHER: In the years since the breakup of the Beatles, the surviving members and their families have often been something of a dysfunctional bunch. But with the death of George Harrison from throat cancer, Paul, Ringo, Yoko, et al, are united in their grief, and their respect for Harrison. BBC 11/30/01

Thursday November 29

AN EXPENSIVE ART: "Running opera is a task of byzantine complexity, involving vast sums of money. English National Opera turns over £26.3 million a year; Covent Garden £51.2 million; Welsh National Opera £13.6 million. The Arts Council of England doled out £38.3 million to opera in 2000/1. And yet only about 6% of the British population went to the opera in 1999/2000. More than three times as many people saw a play in the same period and nine times as many went to the movies. It's hardly surprising, then, that opera makes people cross." Charging £155 for a seat, how can it not make money? And yet it doesn't. The Guardian (UK) 11/29/01

HOW THE DEAF HEAR MUSIC: "Although music has been an important part of deaf culture for centuries, no one has known how the brains of deaf people experience sounds. Now a study of magnetic resonance images shows how brains "rewire" so they can use sound vibration to sense music using the same brain region that is used for hearing." National Post 11/28/01

STAR STRUCK: Six years ago 23-year-old Vladimir Jurowski's career as a conductor was "launched at one of those one-in-a thousand evenings when a young unknown steps up onto the stage and it's immediately obvious - a star en debut." Now he's Glyndebourne's new music director, and ready to do big things. The Telegraph (UK) 11/29/01

DOMB RETURNS TO TSO: "Daniel Domb, the injured cellist involved in a legal battle with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, returns to Roy Thomson Hall tonight to play his first TSO concert in 18 months." The principal cellist is one of the most respected in North America, but the TSO management tried to have him fired after publicly doubting his claims of disability. Toronto Star 11/29/01

A JAZZ EMPIRE: Jazz impresario Norman Granz "believed in jazz as the great American art form, and insisted that its artists get the same respect as those performing classical music. A non-musician, Granz became one of the most powerful and influential figures in a genre defined by musical invention. In the '50s, it sometimes seemed the jazz world was the Granz empire because of his omnipresence as impresario, concert promoter, label head and talent manager." Washington Post 11/28/01

Wednesday November 28

$4 MILLION BAILOUT FOR TORONTO SYMPHONY: "The Toronto Symphony Orchestra has struck a deal for a government-sponsored $4 million rescue plan. Under the deal, which involves the co-operation of federal and provincial cultural ministries, the money would be released to the TSO by its sister organization, the Toronto Symphony Foundation, which controls the symphony's $23 million endowment fund." Toronto Star 11/28/01

A FLORIDA HATCHET JOB: The Florida Philharmonic has big money problems. Are those to blame for the callous way conductor James Judd was forced from his job last week? He was provoked into resigning by musicians who thought his nods at programming new music "turned off subscribers." The players "made it a condition of their agreement last week to take pay cuts that Judd, the music director, no longer control programs. Naturally, he resigned." Miami Herald 11/25/01

  • Previously: FLORIDA ORCHESTRA ON THE BRINK: The Florida Philharmonic is the state's largest cultural organization. This week the orchestra announced that "if it doesn't raise between $500,000 and $700,000 by the end of next week, it could shut down operations." James Judd, "who led the Philharmonic for 14 years, personally raised funds and donated his salary during previous crises, has abruptly resigned from the orchestra. Miami Herald 11/20/01

ORCHESTRA TURNAROUND: Three years ago Ontario's small Windsor Symphony was struggling with a $425,000 debt. A change of management and a shift in attitude later, and the orchestra is thriving, increasing its ticket sales by 60 percent and cutting its debt in each of the last two seasons. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/28/01

YOUTH ISN'T EVERYTHING: European orchestras have recently gone on a binge of hiring young conductors, unproven conductors in their 20s and 30s. "Youth can, however, flatter to deceive. Many a bright new baton has been broken by orchestral intransigence or premature promotion. The sudden rush of young bloods is no proof of a podium renaissance. Europe's neophilia is but a reverse symptom of America's sclerosis, indicating that musical organisations on both sides of the Atlantic have simply forgotten how to pick 'em." The Telegraph (UK) 11/28/01

KERNIS WINS PRIZE: Composer Aaron Jay Kernis has won the high-honor award. Now he's also won one with some money attached - the $200,000 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition prize. Andante 11/27/01

Tuesday November 27

PAUL HUME, 85: Paul Hume, former music critic for The Washington Post, died Monday in Baltimore. He won the respect of such greats as Horowitz, Ormandy, and Bernstein, but not President Truman, who threatened to punch Hume in the nose after a negative review of Truman's daughter's singing. Washington Post 11/27/01

CRITICAL REVIEW: "Music criticism in a postmodern age has only two options: to become more fractured, or more inclusive. Different kinds of music have different purposes, and need to be attended to in different ways. An attitude that works at a stadium rock show may fail in a dance club. A newspaper critic who promotes rock or classical against every other kind of music is missing most of the picture. As Marshall McLuhan said, 'Point of view is failure to achieve structural awareness'." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/27/01

MORE LUMPS FOR THE BSO: "Art and music are not created just to make people feel good. If they did, three quarters of the world's masterpieces would not exist.  Great music and drama and literature allow us to experience the world in ways that are new and surprising and different from our previous perspective. By canceling the Klinghoffer concert, the Boston Symphony Orchestra missed a rare opportunity to engage the larger community in a valuable debate around issues that are directly affecting our lives today." Sequenza21 11/26/01

  • Previously: THE POLITICS OF CANCELING: When the Boston Symphony canceled a performance of excerpts from John Adams' opera The Death of Klinghoffer because of sensitivities over its terrorism subject matter, Adams protested vehemently. But the orchestra is defending its decision: "John is angry, and I feel terrible that this has hurt him. I'm a big supporter of his music. I perform it all the time, and I will continue to, and I'm sorry he took offense. But I don't agree with him that we did the wrong thing." The New York Times 11/14/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Monday November 26

REACHING OUT: Detroit's Michigan Opera Theatre mounts a new production of Armen Tigranian's Anoush, the Armenian national opera, in its original language. So what? So what because the company used the opera as a way to reach out to a part of its community in Detroit that now feels connected to the company. Toronto Star 11/24/01

THE FORBIDDEN SONGS: A new recording of Italian songs is prohibited in Italy. "The truth is, you would not be sitting listening to this music in Italy: the police there will not allow it to be performed. For now the only place that you are going to hear it is on a new compilation CD called Il Canto di Malavita. The musicians who play on the album insist that it is simply a record of rather gory folk songs, but gore is not the reason these songs have long been an illegal commodity in their home country. These are Mafia songs - blood-drenched ditties that document a secret strand of Italian folk culture." The Guardian (UK) 11/26/01

NEW ZEALAND'S NEW MUSIC: New Zealand is not a place that springs to mind when thinking of classical music. "In the field of classical music, evidence of vibrant indigenous creativity was, until recent years, embarrassingly scant. Those seeking high-profile careers had to leave their native shores and head for more established musical climes." A new festival in Scotland makes the case that "an exciting younger generation of composers is emerging." The Scotsman 11/25/01

JARVI RETURNS: Conductor Neeme Jarvi returned to the podium over the weekend with his first concerts since he suffered a stroke last July. "The instant Jarvi appeared from the right stage entrance for the first time Friday night, the audience of 2,200 rose and cheered 'Bravo, maestro!' and Bravo, Neeme!' " Detroit News 11/25/01

JAZZ IMPRESARIO DIES: "Impresario Norman Granz, who set the agenda for the business of jazz through most of the 20th century by producing legendary recordings and making the music accessible to a wider audience, has died. He was 83." Los Angeles Times 11/24/01

CONDUCTOR TO WATCH: Conductor David Robertson is a conductor everyone in the music establishment seems to be watching. He was mentioned as a candidate for the Philadelphia and New York Phil top spots this year. And while he got neither, "there is a growing sense in the music world that Mr. Robertson's day is coming. Traveling the circuit throughout the year, accepting guest assignments with top orchestras like those in Chicago, Cleveland and New York, he has become an audience favorite and a reviewer's darling." The New York Times 11/26/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Sunday November 25

CRACKING BACH'S CODES: A new cd that tries to unravel the compositional codes Bach used in writing his famous Partita in D Minor, has become a hit on the music charts. "As presented in Morimur, Bach was musically inspired, like Elgar, but went for symbolism, like Shostakovich. With chorale and partita movements set side by side, the listener must crack open all preconceived notions about the partita to hear references between the two. Close, repeated listening is needed. And something this heady is now so hot on the charts?" Philadelphia Inquirer 11/25/01

WHEN ART IS UNCOMFORTABLE: Should artists remove their work from public view if it might make people uncomfortable? The Boston Symphony evidently thinks so in canceling this weekend's performances of choruses from John Adams' Death of Klinghoffer. "But how patronizing for the orchestra's directors to presume what audiences will or will not find offensive. Of course, art can provide solace and comfort. Yet art can also incense and challenge us, make us squirm, make us think. The Boston Symphony missed an opportunity to present an acutely relevant work." The New York Times 11/25/01 (one-time registration required for access)

CUTTING TO THE MUSIC: "The portable stereo has become an integral tool for surgeons, who say the soothing strains of Bach, and Van Halen, improve their performance in the operating room. Scientific research supports his theory. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, background music chosen by doctors helps them excel in their work." National Post 11/24/01

KEYS TO A CAREER: In a time when concert pianists have an ever-tougher time making careers, Jean-Yves Thibaudet is an "unregenerate people-person on a roll: 200 concert dates a year at international music capitals, an exclusive recording contract with Decca and a discography numbering 30-plus." Los Angeles Times 11/24/01

Friday November 23

NEW LOOK AT NEW: The venerable Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival has a glamorous 32-year-old in charge, with some new ideas about presenting new music. "This is an extremely interesting time. There's a less rigid way of looking at the world of music, less distance between the experimental end of pop and some classical music. All this interests me, and I want us to be at the forefront of representing that." The Guardian (UK) 11/23/01

FIGHTING PIRATES: New Zealand musicians have begun a $250,000 campaign to try to stem the proliferation of illegally-copied cd's. "The music industry believes the trade in CDs that have been copied, or "burned", on a home computer has the potential to destroy New Zealand music." New Zealand Herald 11/23/01

FACTOR OF EIGHT: "Few besides students of music theory are aware that in 1600 what has become our modern scale was regarded as a heretical notion, which sought to substitute many of the numerological harmonic principles, passed down from the ancients as theological truths, with the inferior and unworthy demands of practical expedience. Its introduction was fiercely contested and still occasionally rejected as late as 1800. Without tempered tuning, however, the classical and romantic movements could not have found expression." The Economist 11/23/01

Thursday November 22

SOMETHING ABOUT FINLAND: In the past decade Finnish conductors and performers have become prominent on the world stage - prominent out of all scale to the country's tiny size and population. But as for composers, Finland has still been considered a one-composer country - and Sibelius stopped composing 50 years ago. Now a new generation of Finnish composers looks to emerge just as performers did in the 90s. The Telegraph (UK) 11/22/01

WHERE'S THE BUZZ? Just as the Tate Modern helped make contemporary art cool, so must classical music find a way to reinvent itself and acquire some buzz, warns the head of Britain's BBC Radio 3. "Standing still is not an option. Simply because organisations... have existed for a number of years does not mean that they have a right to continue as they have since they were founded, their work unchallenged." The Independent (UK) 11/22/01

FIGHT FOR JAZZ: When the City of Melbourne pulled its funding for the Melbourne Jazz Festival last week (thereby putting it out of business), "Melbourne City Council members expressed the view that the festival had failed to carve out a place for itself in the city; that its programming for 2002 was not sufficiently developed; and that it had `failed to meet the standard of audience development, diversity and international talent that we had hoped (for)'." But jazz fans say that in the four years since it was founded, the festival had become the second most important in Australia. The Age (Melbourne) 11/22/01

PLAYER PIANO: It's a misconception that pianos just got progressively bigger and more powerful since their invention in the 1820s. The Frederick Historic Piano Collection in New England has collected up a good sampling of instruments from across the eras, and unlike most museums, this one invites you to come try and hear for yourself what the differences are. What, for example did Liszt's music sound like on instruments of the day?. The New York Times 11/22/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Wednesday November 21

UNITING THROUGH MUSIC: Afghanistan has a rich heritage of music and art, and before the Taliban took over and banned such creative expression, "the nation's radio, more than any cultural bond beyond Islam itself, had helped unify the country's 32 tribes, which enjoyed their respective ethnic sounds too." Now that radio and music has been restored, will there be a new flowering of artistic expression?" Village Voice 11/21/01

LOCKING OUT THE ONES WHO LOVE YOU: Recording companies are trying trying to foil illegal copiers of CD's by embedding copy protection software on the disks. But some attempts at protection may be too good. Some buyers of Natalie Imbruglia's new album complain the security measures render the disks unplayable on their home machines. The Age (AP) (Melbourne) 11/21/01

YE OLDE CURIOSITY SHOPPE: This year's rage in the concert world is to dig up forgotten or newly-discovered pieces of music by long-dead masters like Beethoven or Handel or Mozart and trot them out on stage, paraded for their curiosity value. "But, before you dash up to the attic in search of the six-bar autograph Granny got from Grieg that can surely be extended into a new piano concerto, a word of caution:" None of these has legs beyond their immediate promotional value. The Telegraph (UK) 11/21/01

WILL TO BUILD: For the first time in the 25 years Toronto has been talking about building a new opera house, it suddenly looks like there might be support to do it. "The struggle to build this opera house has taken on a symbolic significance way beyond the sum of its economic and cultural parts. Getting it built will be a sign that despite having lagged behind competing U.S. cities for the past decade in terms of developing its arts attractions, Toronto is ready to move on and play in the cultural major leagues. Whereas not building it will forever label us as the City That Couldn't Quite." Toronto Star 11/21/01

DEADER THAN DEAD: As arts organizations begin to scale back to reflect shrinking ticket sales and donations, some casualties: "The Houston Grand Opera recently decided against two productions for the 2003 season, including Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally's Dead Man Walking, commissioned by the San Francisco Opera and a big hit last year." But the production is expensive and... San Francisco Chronicle 11/21/01

DEPRIEST TO GET TRANSPLANT: James DePriest, conductor of the Oregon Symphony, will get a kidney transplant December 3. DePriest has been on dialysis for two years, and the donor "is a close, personal friend of his" who wants to remain anonymous. The Oregonian 11/21/01

NO PAY, ADS INSTEAD: For months music and movie fans have been waiting for big recording and movie companies to introduce pay-to-play online music and movie services. But Vivendi, one of the world's largest producers, has decided against paid subscriptions. "The plan would radically alter the business landscape that online entertainment companies have been gearing up for, namely, the advent of subscription models. In its place would be a recycled advertising-based model that would keep consumers from paying for movies and music online." Wired 11/21/01

Tuesday November 20

THE SKY IS FALLING...ISN'T IT? Sure the classical music world's got troubles. Most businesses do these days. But why are so many people running around predicting the end of classical music? "Perhaps classical leaders are so pessimistic because they feel they are guarding something more important than the kind of commercialism that guides their pop-music counterparts. After all, if the execs at MTV need to goose up revenues, they figure out what's selling, develop product, and send it to South Beach in a bikini. Classical leaders don't have that much flexibility, and, more important, they feel the weight of being flame-keepers of an important body of culture." Philadelphia Inquire 11/20/01

WILLING TO PAY: Legal battles over transfers of digital music continue. But an industry consultant says sales of online music will top $1.6 billion by 2005. "There's a growing population of music enthusiasts that are ready to embrace paid downloads, streaming on demand, and online radio" Nando Times (AP) 11/19/01

PLAYING IT SAFE: Composer John Adams, reflecting on the Boston Symphony's canceling one of his pieces, thinks one of the reasons classical music has lost its way is its wariness about taking risks: "I was concerned about what the reasons given for the cancellation had to say about classical music. I do think that symphonies and opera companies are very skittish in this country, and I'm sorry that they are, because it confirms the distressing image of symphony-goers as fragile and easily frightened. That's really a shame, because I want to think of symphonic concerts as every bit as challenging as going to MOCA or to see 'Angels in America'." Los Angeles Times 11/20/01

TAKING A RISK ON CLASSICAL: "So what do you call three men who have sunk £3 million in a dot-com company dedicated to classical music? Ill-advised? Unwise? Stark, staring bonkers? Well, how about French? And their new baby — www.andante.com — has already pulled off some eye-popping coups." The Times (UK) 11/20/01

ARGERICH CANCELS: Pianist Martha Argerich has canceled all her concerts through February, on the advice of doctors. "The 60-year-old Argentine-born pianist, whose melanoma was believed to have gone into remission, had been scheduled to perform in New York, Paris and London. But those concerts have been canceled." Chicago Sun-Times (AP) 11/20/01

Monday November 19

THE SOUND OF MUSIC: Is sound art music? "If there's such a thing as sound art then it's certainly sound art as well. Sound is the consequence of an idea, and maybe that's sound art; and if you take that sound and make something else of it then maybe that's music." The Guardian (UK) 11/18/01

TORONTO OPERA PROJECT REVIVED: Toronto has been trying for some time to put financing together to build a new opera house. The project was presumed dead last year after long delays and political deadlock. Now Canada's federal government has approved $25 million for the project, and its fortunes are suddenly revived. Toronto Star 11/19/01

TRYING TO REINVENT: The Toronto Center for the Arts has presented some of the biggest and best of classical music. But in 1999 the suburban performing arts facility was in deep financial difficulty which only eased when the City bailed it out. Now the TAC is is a scaled-back operation trying to find a way to make its programming viable. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/19/01

Sunday November 18

PATRONAGE OR EXTORTION? Chicago's Bein & Fushi, dealers of some of the world's top string instruments, have been accused of price fixing, collusion, and generally unsavory practices for the way they buy and sell their Strads, Guarneris, and Amatis. But the company also runs the Stradivari Society, which lends priceless violins to promising young performers, courtesy of various rich patrons. What's the catch? The recipients of the Society's "generosity" are expected to kowtow to their patrons' every want and Bein & Fushi's every demand or risk having their instrument taken away. Chicago Tribune 11/18/01

FINALLY, SOME GOOD NEWS: To judge from what's being written on the arts pages these days, you'd think that every orchestra in North America is about to fold like a pup tent. "But the American Symphony Orchestra League, a New York-based service organization whose members include virtually every professional orchestra in the United States, says orchestra concert attendance increased almost 3 percent between 1995 and 2000, to 32 million. Meanwhile, the percentage of orchestras reporting deficits declined from 49 percent in 1990-1991 to 29 percent in 1999-2000." Dallas Morning News 11/18/01

  • OR IS IT? Even orchestras that are doing comparatively good business are suffering from the weakened economy and the supposed decline of interest in classical music. In Minnesota's Twin Cities, the presence of two major orchestras and countless smaller ensembles is making it difficult for anyone to take the chances necessary to stay ahead of the curve, musically speaking. St. Paul Pioneer Press 11/18/01

RATTLING THE ARTS COUNCIL'S CAGE: "The head of the [U.K] Arts Council, Gerry Robinson, is facing a revolt by some of the most senior figures in arts administration who say they have lost confidence in him and accuse him of 'a lack of confidence and a lack of integrity'. They have been joined by Britain's world-renowned conductor Sir Simon Rattle, who calls the council 'amateurs ... who don't listen and don't care.'" The Independent (UK) 11/17/01

  • BABY WITH THE BATHWATER: Britain's Arts Council has come under heavy fire recently from bigwigs like Sir Simon Rattle. "Indeed, it is difficult to see what the Arts Council is for at all. Widening access or preserving a cultural heritage are doubtful aims. Helping worthwhile ventures to start up or survive crises in the hope that they will later earn a commercial return seems suspiciously like Labour's failed industrial policy in the 1970s of 'picking winners'. In the end, the council has to answer the question: would the nation be culturally poorer if it were abolished?" The Independent (UK) 11/17/01

PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE MAN BEHIND THE BATON: "One of the pleasures of going to orchestral performances is the visual whirl of watching the conductor in action -- beating time, cueing players, emoting and shimmying to a greater or lesser degree. But there's one important thing audience members need to bear in mind when it comes to conducting. It's not about you." San Francsico Chronicle 11/18/01

  • WHAT THE GRUNTS THINK ABOUT THE MAESTRO: It's the man with the baton who takes the bows, and often, the brickbats from critics when a performance doesn't live up to expectations. But the conductor is more than a figurehead - he is the literal boss of each of the musicians arrayed on stage in front of him. So what do the musicians think of conductors? Well, let's put it this way: what percentage of the time do you like your boss? San Francisco Chronicle 11/18/01

ONE MAN, ONE OPERA, ONE CHECK: Dr. Douglas Mitchell is an opera lover, a breed known for their single-mindedness and unfailing devotion to the medium. He is also very rich. Opera Australia is glad for both of these facts, since they have now twice been the beneficiary of highly unusual gifts from Dr. Mitchell. Far more than a contributor, Mitchell is a literal provider, writing out checks for A$200,000 to pay for an entire opera's production. The Age (courtesy Andante) 11/18/01

IMG DOWNSIZES: In an unexpected move, IMG Artists, one of North America's largest talent agencies representing classical musicians, has laid off five relatively high-ranking staff members. The layoffs are being attributed to the economic downturn, as well as the general decline in interest in the arts since September 11. Andante 11/18/01

TAKIN' IT TO THE PEOPLE: "What do a gamelan orchestra, a St. Louis beer vendor and a Mississippi railroad have in common? They're all part of a project called 'Continental Harmony,' the largest music-commissioning undertaking in American history, according to its sponsor, the service organization American Composers Forum, headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota. The idea was to match new music to the new millennium by linking composers and communities in all 50 states to create work that would reflect the history, culture and ambitions of their residents." Los Angeles Times 11/18/01

Friday November 16

BOSTON V. ADAMS, CONTINUED: So exactly what did the Boston Symphony Orchestra do wrong when it substituted a Copland symphony for a potentially discomforting work by John Adams? Well, for one thing, art is supposed to reflect life, and life is a discomforting thing at the moment. For another, the BSO hasn't cancelled other non-soothing music on its schedule. Says one of Boston's lead critics, "The orchestra made a defensible decision for an indefensible reason." Boston Globe 11/16/01

MUSIC RETURNS TO KABUL: After years of exile, secular music returned to Afghanistan's major cities this week, as Northern Alliance forces swept across the country. Music had been largely banned by the Taliban, causing many prominent Afghan musicians to flee the country. Now, from synthesized pop to folk and classical traditions, Afghans are renewing their love of music. Hartford Courant 11/16/01

PROMO INSTEAD OF PAY: Microsoft's new video games contain music by numerous band. But in most cases MS isn't paying for use of the music. Instead, the company got musicians to give them music as a way to "promote" themselves with game players. Some bands aren't so happy with the arrangement, even though they went along. The New York Times 11/15/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Thursday November 15

LIFE AND DEATH: The Toronto Symphony is locked in negotiations with local and federal governments trying to come up with a bail-out plan to keep the orchestra alive. "But realistically, in a best-case scenario, even with hotshot new executives and a fresh board, how many seats a year can the orchestra hope to fill? And even if it improves its lacklustre performance in the area of corporate fundraising, how much money can it hope to raise given the current state of the economy and the TSO's affairs?" Toronto Star 11/14/01

FOR POP MUSIC THAT ISN'T POPULAR YET? Australia's Victoria government has decided to give $1.8 million to the state's pop musicians. "Fifty emerging artists will each receive $1000 to assist in producing quality demo recordings of original songs, finding gigs or getting songs played on radio. Unsigned artists will receive $15,000 to record and release CDs." The Age (Melbourne) 11/15/01

WHY PROFESSIONALS DO IT BETTER: "The brain waves of professional musicians respond to music in a way that suggests they have an intuitive sense of the notes that amateurs don't have. The research offers insight into the inner workings of the brain and shows that musicians' brains are uniquely wired for sound." Nando Times (AP) 11/15/01

BACK FROM THE DEAD: Five years ago the Hallé Orchestra was broke and playing like it was about to go out of business. Some thought things were so bad that the solution was to close down the orchestra. "Today, with [former conductor Kent] Nagano gone and Mark Elder a month into his second season as music director, the Hallé is one of the country's most vital artistic institutions. From the outside, it might seem a simple case of a new conductor saving an orchestra, much as legend has it that Barbirolli single-handedly brought the Hallé back from oblivion after the Second World War. The reality (in both cases) is more complicated." The Telegraph (UK) 11/15/01

MAYBE NOT A GOOD TIME TO BE AN ARTIST IN GERMANY? What is it this year with German arts institutions? Major Berlin houses have fought with their directors (and directors-designate) over money. Now the incoming director of the Frankfurt Opera is publicly taking on the board of his new company before he starts. " 'I want to know by the end of November what I am getting myself into,' Bernd Loebe told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Wednesday, 'otherwise I will not even bother starting'." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 11/14/01

Wednesday November 14

DAD, CAN I HAVE THE KEYS TO THE CAR? The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra just turned over its musical direction to a 25-year-old who's never been in charge of an orchestra of his own. Choosing "Ilan Volkov as the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra’s chief conductor is a brave one. Whether it is a wise one is a question no one can answer yet." The Scotsman 11/14/01

STARS IN A TIME OF WAR: Since September 11, "orchestral managers are using the emergency to cut back on soloists who have wavered in this crisis. 'We'll honour current commitments,' says one manager, 'but that's as far as it goes.' Festival dates are being dropped, programmes revised. 'We should all be pulling together,' wail the artists' agents, but solidarity was the first casualty after September 11, when stars looked to their own safety." The Telegraph (UK) 11/14/01

JAZZ FEST CANCELED: The 5th Annual Melbourne Jazz Festival has been canceled after the city pulled its $50,000 funding. The Age (Melbourne) 11/14/01

THE POLITICS OF CANCELING: When the Boston Symphony canceled a performance of excerpts from John Adams' opera The Death of Klinghoffer because of sensitivities over its terrorism subject matter, Adams protested vehemently. But the orchestra is defending its decision: "John is angry, and I feel terrible that this has hurt him. I'm a big supporter of his music. I perform it all the time, and I will continue to, and I'm sorry he took offense. But I don't agree with him that we did the wrong thing." The New York Times 11/14/01 (one-time registration required for access)

LA STUPENDA AT 75: Joan Sutherland is 75, an amazing age when you consider she was still singing romantic leads until 1990. What does she think about modern opera companies? Too many "don't care about singing, are not interested in whoever wrote the opera, know nothing of the period and try and dress it out of the cheapest shops". The Age (Melbourne) 11/14/01

Tuesday November 13

CUT-RATE 50TH: The Wexford Festival exists to showcase operas that once were famous but no longer are. But this year's edition - the 50th - was the worst ever. "The artistic director since 1995, Luigi Ferrari, has internationalised the whole affair (scarcely an Irish singer to be heard). The chorus (cheap) now comes from Prague. There was a dispute with the RTE National Symphony Orchestra, who were replaced by the not very good (but cheap) National Philharmonic of Belârus — for the 50th festival of all things." The Times (UK) 11/13/01

LA SCALA'S MURKY REBUILD: La Scala is set to shut down its house for two years while a major redevelopment plan is undertaken. If only it were that simple. The costs aren't nailed down yet, funding's a mess, and Italian politics loom large... Andante 11/12/01

NOVICE DEBUTS TO RAVES: Emmanuelle Haim "was almost unknown as a conductor" in Britain "just a few weeks ago, but if the critics are to be believed (and for once they were unanimous), Haïm's performance that night [in the opera pit at Glyndebourne] was "a revelation. Having made her name as a harpsichordist in her native France, she is a prodigiously experienced musician. However, Rodelinda was her first professional conducting job in an orchestra pit. What made Glyndebourne throw caution to the wind and engage a relative unknown?" The Guardian (UK) 11/13/01

A NASTY JOB, BUT SOMEONE'S GOT TO DO IT: "I don't pretend to be able to sing a song as well as somebody 20 years older than me. What people who criticise me for 'diluting' don't realise is that myself and Andrea Bocelli are keeping classical music alive," says Charlotte Church. And in echo, Andrea Bocelli says, "My passion is for opera, but the advantage of me doing 'popular' music is that maybe I can take people with me to the classical repertoire - so yes, in that sense it's being kept alive." The Irish Times 10/11/01

Monday November 12

KEYS TO CONDUCTING: Pianist Leon Fleisher makes his living as a conductor these days. "I had a couple of lessons from a couple of friends, but the secret of conducting? The eyes are very important. More than that, it's what the conductor hears in his inner ear. It has less to do with time-keeping and traffic control. As with any musician, it is a question of listening to the implications of the notes. Once an orchestra gets tuned into them it can be quite wondrous." Toronto Star 11/11/01

TUNED IN: To many ears, 12-tone music sounds difficult and confusing. But maybe it's not the listener's fault, writes critic Greg Sandow. Tuning atonal chords the way they're supposed to sound requires lots of practice, and how many ensembles have that much rehearsal time? Andante 11/08/01

LA OPERA REORGANIZES: A year-and-a-half into its "new era," under Placido Domingo, Los Angeles Opera has reorganizaed its management. . "It was not a smooth organization; it was not an optimal structure. Under this structure, Plácido will be involved in all the decisions. We can no longer have any finger-pointing. That's the beauty, or logic, of this organization." Los Angeles Times 11/12/01

MAJOR FAN: Serbian pop star Goca Trzan came out for her sold-out concert in Belgrade last week to find only one seat occupied. An unknown fan - a wealthy Serb businessman - had bought up all 4000 seats, and sat in the 20th row. The value of the tickets added up to $35,645. Sydney Morning News 11/12/01

AS SEEN ON TV: Once a staple of the television schedule, concert broadcasts have been absent from the small screen for many years. But increasingly, "pop concerts have become a programming genre of their own. 'The mainstream, middle American television audience in the year 2001 are people who grew up going to concerts and for whom concerts remain a regular part of their entertainment. that's different from what it used to be'." Nando Times (AP) 11/11/01

LA'S NEW THEATRE FOR A STATUE: Los Angeles has a new opera house. OK, it was designed for the Academy Awards, and it's located in a shopping mall. It was also designed "with blind eye and tin ear." It's designed for TV and it's an "ungracious building" for a human audience. "Inside the theater, the assault never ceases." And the acoustics? A mess. Los Angeles Times 11/12/01

Sunday November 11

IRON MAN DOMINGO: Five years ago Placido Domingo said he thought he had about five years of singing left in him. But one of the world's busiest musicians is making vocal commitments five years from now. Will he know when it's time to quit? "I have a good ear and a good sense, and my wife would tell me." The Sunday Times (UK) 11/11/01

EMERSON ON TOP: The most venerated string quartets tend to stick together for a long time. The Emerson Quartet is 25 this year, and arguably at the top of its field. A set of birthday concerts in London explain why. The Sunday Times (UK) 11/11/01

CLASSIC BILLY JOEL: "Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter announces the death of the age of irony, just as Billy Joel releases his first album of 'classical music'? Puleeze." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 11/11/01

OUT OF CUBA: "Five years ago, Ibrahim Ferrer, then 68, was a retired singer who could barely scrape a living selling lottery tickets and shining shoes. Then band leader Juan de Marcos Gonzalez unexpectedly asked him to join a recording session produced by the American guitarist Ry Cooder at the Egrem studios in Havana. The session produced the almost surreally successful (six million and still selling) Buena Vista Social Club album." It's one of the most amazing turnarounds in pop music history. The Telegraph (UK) 11/10/01

Friday November 9

SONY CHAIRMAN COLLAPSES CONDUCTING CONCERT: "Norio Ohga, 71, the chairman of Sony Corporation, was conducting the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra at the Beijing Music Festival last night when he collapsed during the performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. He is currently recuperating, in a stable condition, at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing." Gramophone 11/08/01

UNDER-PERFORMERS: For all the operas that have been written in the last few hundred years, the standard repertory is quite small. Opera Magazine asks a couple dozen music critics, artists and opera administrators which operas they'd like to see more often performed. La Wally? Really? Opera News 11/01

SYDNEY STAYS HOME: The Sydney Symphony Orchestra, citing tough financial conditions at home and in Europe, has decided to cancel next May's planned tour of Europe. Sydney Morning Herald 11/09/01

Thursday November 8

ZEHETMAIR WILL DIRECT NORTHERN SINFONIA: "Gramophone Award-winning violinist Thomas Zehetmair has been announced as the new music director of the Northern Sinfonia, based in Newcastle upon Tyne in the north of England. As a conductor Zehetmair has been developing an impressive reputation, particularly with some of the world's leading chamber orchestras. Zehetmair's contract will see him working with the Northern Sinfonia for six weeks each year." Gramophone 11/06/01

BELL REPLACES MUTTER ON U.S. TOUR: Citing anxiety over terrorism, Anne-Sophie Mutter has cancelled a US tour with the Trondheim Soloists, but will make three scheduled Carnegie Hall appearances this weekend. Joshua Bell will fulfill some of her tour engagements, including performances in Washington, Boston, Chicago, and Ann Arbor. andante 11/08/01

THE NEW HANDEL MUSEUM: "Whereas Salzburg, Paris, Budapest - in fact, most European cities that can boast a famous composer or two - honour their musical residents with 'house museums', until now, London has had none. "The house at 25 Brook Street, London, where George Frederick Handel lived for 36 years, looks as freshly decorated as it must have done in 1723, when the composer took a lease on a brand-new house in a brand-new area south of Oxford Street." The Guardian (UK) 11/08/01

THE KING OF MELODIOUS OPERA: Let's hear it for Bellini. Better yet, let's hear Bellini. Verdi said that his music was "rich in feeling and in a melancholy entirely his own," with "long, long melodies such as no one wrote before him." And even Berlioz, who didn't like Bellini, admitted that, near the end of the first act of I Capuleti, "I was carried away in spite of myself and applauded enthusiastically." The Irish Times 11/06/01

  • Previously: BUYING INTO BELLINI: Vincenzo Bellini was born 200 years ago. He was the darling of the French capital and died at the age of 33. "With the sole exception of Verdi, he is Italy's greatest opera composer. He is also one of the supreme tragic artists of music theatre, whose works, far from being exercises in melancholy, explore the limits of individual suffering and the outer reaches of the human psyche." So why is he so seldom given his due? The Guardian (UK) 11/02/01

Wednesday November 7

STUCK IN THE PAST: Why are North American orchestras in danger? "No other industry has been so resistant to renewal. Orchestras play much the same menu, at the same time, in the same venues, for the same duration and wearing the same waiters' uniforms as they did when Roosevelt was president. Experiment is ruled out by archaic rules. The culture is governed by compromise and fear." The Telegraph (UK) 11/07/01

DENVER DEBT: Colorado Symphony executive director Thomas Bacchetti quit the orchestra last week. The orchestra racked up a half-million-dollar deficit last season, and is making emergency cuts this year to head off a projected $700,000 deficit this season. The orchestra's "original 2001-02 budget called for an amazingly ambitious increase of $600,000 in annual giving. And, at the same time, the most recent five-year contract with the symphony musicians mandated a 7 percent raise for this season." Denver Post 11/04/01

CALGARY LOOKS TO REGAIN TRUST: "Now that the Calgary Philharmonic has resolved its four-week labour dispute, executives with the orchestra say their next task is to ensure the ensemble's future by increasing its visibility and value to the community." Calgary Herald 11/06/01

ADAMS PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE: John Adams has faced resistance, complaining, and outright hostility towards his music on his way to becoming one of this era's most popular and successful composers. On the heels of the Boston Symphony's cancellation, for reasons of subject matter, of Adams's The Death of Klinghoffer, the composer remains convinced that audiences are more adventurous, intelligent, and willing to be challenged than they are usually given credit for. Andante 11/07/01

  • SF CRITIC - BOSTON SCREWED UP: "Ladies and gentlemen, the Boston Symphony Orchestra will now soothe you with its rendition of 'Kitten on the Keys,' performed on kazoos. It hasn't quite come to that, but it just might, given the orchestra's ridiculous decision last week to cancel performances of "Choruses From 'The Death of Klinghoffer' by Bay Area composer John Adams." San Francisco Chronicle 11/07/01

Tuesday November 6

CALGARY PHIL SETTLEMENT: The Canadian orchestra has settled its contract dispute with locked-out musicians. The 64 musicians had been locked out since Oct. 7. Calgary Herald 11/05/01

DOUBLE BOOKING: Just how bad are the St. Louis Symphony's financial woes? One set of books "shows year-end deficits going back to at least 1994 and increasing to more than $8 million for 1999 and more than $10 million in the 2000 fiscal year. For 2001 and the current fiscal year, which began Sept. 1, [the orchestra's financial officer] calculated deficits of about $7 million each." But another set of "audited financial reports and statements filed with the IRS, show the Symphony operating in the black for some of the same years, sometimes to the tune of millions of dollars." St. Louis Post-Dispatch 11/04/01

NO HALL FOR MONTREAL: The Montreal Symphony has been hoping for a new concert hall for 20 years. But a hoped-for commitment from the provincial government for funding failed to materialize last week. Montreal Gazette 11/02/01

THE SKY IS FALLING: Why are orchestras in so much trouble now? "Orchestras are in trouble because they are losing patrons and sponsors. Technological advances in audio over the last 20 years mean classical music lovers can hear a world-class symphony on CD in their living room. Audiences are aging and it has been difficult to attract young patrons, especially considering the multitude of attractions that orchestras compete with for the arts dollar. Top that off with an economic downturn and it's a formula for disaster." Calgary Herald (CP) 11/05/01

WHITHER STOCKHAUSEN? It's now been over a month since the composer's ill-timed comments calling the NYC attacks the world's greatest work of art. What has the controversy done to the cult of personality that has always surrounded the iconoclastic Stockhausen? Um, strengthened it, actually. But at what price? Andante 10/06/01

Monday November 5

THE PROBLEM WITH ORCHESTRAS: "Ironically, overall attendance at symphony concerts rose in the 1990s by 18 per cent, according to the American Symphony Orchestra League. And yet, about 10 orchestras have had to declare bankruptcy or undertake major restructuring within the last decade and a half. The good news is that all but one of those orchestras have since returned to the stage. The bad news is that their problems have been recycled by other orchestras. Why this roller coaster between solvency and panic? Because our orchestras lack financial security. They are so inconsistently funded that they lurch from crisis to resolution and back to crisis again with frightening ease." Toronto Star 11/03/01

MY DINNER WITH MARTHA: Martha Argerich is the day's reigning piano diva. Alex Ross meets her for dinner: "Argerich is notoriously difficult to pin down. She cancels concerts, even entire tours, at the last minute, changes programs at will, and generally drives the programming people crazy. She has become a substantial presence in New York in recent years, but only because her stardom has given her unprecedented latitude to schedule events on short notice." The New Yorker 11/05/01

ST. MARTIN'S IN THE DOLDRUMS: The Academt of St. Martin's in the Fields is one of the most-recorded orchestras on the planet - its recording in the 60s and 70s were ubiquitous. But "does the orchestra fill any useful niche today? The period-instruments movement has produced groups that play the classical repertoire with more fire in the belly and more precision; and for those who refuse to abandon the old ways, there's a revival of interest in the big, puffed-up, imperial approach to the 18th century that flourished before the Second World War. Which leaves the Academy in no man's land, neither authentic nor truly retro. It's left trying to make a case for music that is merely pretty." Washington Post 11/05/01

NAPSTER ON STEROIDS: New instant messaging services by Microsoft, Yahoo and America Online allow trading of digital files between users. This could be bigger than Napster ever was for sharing music. And the recording industry? They're not happy, but they're not likely to sue giants of the digital world. Wired 11/04/01

ESCHENBACH SIGNS: Christoph Eschenbach has signed a contract to be the next music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra. "Orchestra officials declined to reveal his compensation but said it will be in line with what Sawallisch had been making [$918,000 last year], a salary plus a fee of "between $20,000 to $30,000 per concert." CNN.com 11/04/01

Sunday November 4

DALLAS OPERA TIMING: The Dallas Opera's musicians picked the wrong time to strike against the company. "In the midst of a serious economic slowdown – with tens of thousands of people laid off, the travel industry on life support, and the stock market shuddering – the part-time players were holding out for double-digit increases. Meanwhile, arts organizations all over North America are taking triple whammies in ticket sales, donations, and endowment income." Dallas Morning News 11/03/01

WAKEUP CALL FOR LONDON MUSIC: Why did conductor Simon Rattle choose to go to Berlin rather than working in London? "So much playing in London now is like a Pavlov reaction: turn it on and it happens. Of course it's remarkable, but it's not healthy - I want to be an architect, not just a make-up artist. Whatever I want to build, I want to build on some human foundation." The Guardian (UK) 11/03/01

THE TWO GEORGES: "George Rochberg tipped the world away from audience-alienating atonality, and is, in many ways, responsible for the neo-tonalists who are embraced by symphony orchestras around the world. George Crumb was a major pioneer of alternative ensembles and new ways of using old instruments, creating universes of sound, and bringing a whole new mystical element to music. Together, they developed the art of musical collage, taking disparate musical sources from pop tunes to primal cries, and showing that in art, as in life, integration and resolution aren't necessary." Now at the ends of their careers, two musical pioneers look back. Philadelphia Inquirer 11/04/01

PASSING ON ARAB: Last summer many music industry people were predicting that Arab music was going to be the next big thing in Worl;d Music in the US. Sept. 11 "altered those predictions. As panic set in and racist attacks escalated around the country, Arab artists such as the popular Algerian Rai singer Khaled canceled U.S. tours and DJs spinning once-hip Middle Eastern beats suddenly found themselves out of work." San Francisco Chronicle 11/04/01

WHEN HARD ROCK WENT SOFT: Looking for a little rebellion in dark times? Don't look to pop music. "Yes, the dark side of rock has abandoned them, going soft in the wake of the terrorist attacks. Scores of bands have altered their songs and even changed their names to demonstrate their patriotism, sensitivity and savvy sense of self-promotion." New York Post 11/04/01

SPANO IN ATLANTA: Robert Spano has taken an unconventional path in his career. Now, as he takes over leading the Atlanta Symphony, some wonder how his theatrical approach will play. Los Angeles Times 11/03/01

Friday November 2

NAGANO RE-SIGNS: Earlier this year Berlin's music world was in turmoil - the city's top music organizations had crises of leadership. This fall things have come together - Simon Rattle is committed to the Philharmonic and Daniel Barenboim is placated at the opera. And this week Kent Nagano renewed his allegiances to the Deutsche Oper, after threatening to leave. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 11/02/01

BUYING INTO BELLINI: Vincenzo Bellini was born 200 years ago. He was the darling of the French capital and died at the age of 33. "With the sole exception of Verdi, he is Italy's greatest opera composer. He is also one of the supreme tragic artists of music theatre, whose works, far from being exercises in melancholy, explore the limits of individual suffering and the outer reaches of the human psyche." So why is he so seldom given his due? The Guardian (UK) 11/02/01

Thursday November 1

TORONTO SYMPHONY REPRIEVE: The Toronto Symphony has got the federal and provincial governments to "write matching cheques of $227,000 each to keep the orchestra afloat for the next 10 days." The gives the orchestra a brief window to come up with a plan to bail itself out of oblivion. Toronto Star 10/31/01

  • HOW DID IT HAPPEN? Orchestras go bankrupt all the time these days, but how could one of Canada's most prestigious ensembles find itself in such a seemingly hopeless position? Some pundits would like to claim that the TSO's imminent collapse is yet another sign of the impending death of classical music, but a realistic look at the TSO's history shows a horrifying lack of executive leadership. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 10/31/01

CUTTING OFF THE MONEY: As the Calgary Philharmonic continues to lock out its musicians (the newest round of talks broke down yesterday,) an alarming note has been sounded by Alberta's business community. According to the CPO's chairman, local benefactors are refusing to contribute any additional funds to help the orchestra stay afloat until they are confident that it won't just be good money thrown after bad. Canada.com (CP) 10/31/01

CARNEGIE HALL POSTPONES HALL: Carnegie Hall has postponed plans for a new 650-seat underground hall. "The opening had been set for the fall season next year, but...the economic aftermath of the terrorist attacks had made Carnegie Hall rethink its plans." The New York Times 11/01/01 (one-time registration required for access)

BOSTON WON'T PLAY 'KLINGHOFFER': "The Boston Symphony Orchestra has canceled its scheduled performances of John Adams's controversial ''Choruses from `The Death of Klinghoffer''' later this month, citing ''the proximity of the events of Sept. 11.'' Both the composer and the librettist, Alice Goodman, have voiced their disappointment, and Adams has requested that the BSO not substitute another work of his." Boston Globe 11/01/01

GET READY TO HUM: Okay, so the Harry Potter soundtrack may not be John Williams's greatest work ever. (You try following up Star Wars and Schindler's List.) But the fact that it's one of a dwindling number of big-budget films to even bother with a full orchestral soundtrack says something about Williams's ability to draw us into fictional worlds, and at least one of the pieces in the score is almost guaranteed to stick in your head for days. Philadelphia Inquirer 11/01/01

SAYING GOODBYE: "It was Isaac Stern's last standing ovation at Carnegie Hall. After some six decades and 200 performances there, Stern was gone. And yet he wasn't. A month after his death at age 81, the man who prevented one of America's citadels of culture from being turned into an office tower was remembered Tuesday with a free concert inside the auditorium named for him." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) (AP) 11/01/01


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