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Week of 02/18/02

"Morton Feldman once described his Second String Quartet as a nightmare. That has certainly seemed to be true from the standpoint of the groups that have played it... The piece is five hours long: 293 minutes, to be exact. If you lift your right arm into the position to hold a violin bow and imagine keeping it there for five hours, you will see the problem." Many groups have declined to perform it after originally agreeing to try, but a new recording attempts to breath life into the work, which can easily be seen as a microcosm of the controversial mid-20th century school of composition. The New York Times 02/17/02

MENOTTI'S GIFT: "In 1936 this Italian composer wrote what has become the most-performed opera in America. He founded the renowned Spoleto music festival and moved to a stately home in Scotland in the 1970s, where his plan for an arts centre for young talent has foundered in the face of indifference." Why can't Gian Carlo Menotti get more respect? The Guardian (UK) 02/16/02

HOW TO SUCCEED IN COMPOSITION BY REALLY TRYING: In an age when even fans of new music generally shun such ear-bending techniques as quarter-tones and minimalist repetition in favor of a new reassertion of melody and theme, a composer who embraces the inaccessible as firmly and unapologetically as Gyorgi Ligeti would seem to be in danger of falling by the wayside. But there is a quality to Ligeti's composition, a dangerous yet inviting subtext, that has kept audiences and musicians alike coming back for more. "New England is in the midst of an unofficial Ligeti festival, as it often is; Ligeti's new works tend to enter the standard repertoire with little delay." Boston Globe 02/17/02

EVOLUTION OF A CONCERT HALL: Laugh at the name if you wish, but reports suggest that Los Angeles's soon-to-rise Walt Disney Concert Hall will be nothing to sneeze at. The hall is coming together thanks to the collaboration of architect Frank Gehry, L.A. Phil music director Esa-Pekka Salonen, and world-renowned acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota, and the trio believes that the result will be California's first truly world-class concert hall, with a facade that cannot be ignored and acoustics to rival those in Boston, Vienna, and Berlin. Andante 02/15/02

SO IS THIS MUSIC OR ART? OR BOTH? "Sound art" is still a fairly controversial and largely unknown concept, and the fact that it takes place in traditionally silent museums and galleries rather than concert halls probably isn't helping its image. But a new travelling exhibit aims to unravel some of the confusion surounding the medium, and mainstream it as well. "Visitors will witness both the work of artists who create 'instruments' they play during live performances and the work of those who build soundscapes from abstract environments." Wired 02/15/02

COPYCAT FLUTE? Did Mozart plagiarize for one of his most popular operas? There are an awful lot of similarities in characters and music in his Magic Flute to an opera called The Beneficent Dervish, which was composed before Flute and which Mozart almost certainly heard. Slate 02/13/02

ADAMS DEFENDS SELLARS: Composer John Adams is being controversial again. This time he's defending director Peter Sellars and his role in the Adelaide Festival. Late last year the festival fired Sellars after he had revealed his programming for this year's event. Says Adams: "It's hard to believe that the people who hired him didn't know what they were going to get, knowing his history and his political sympathies.'' Adelaide Advertiser 02/13/02

ONE FROM COLUMN A... The music of choice for a new iconic Levi's commercial? A Handel Sarabande. But isn't classical music a sell for older folks? Surely not the 20-somethings Levi is playing to. "In the thick of the biggest technological, demographic and moral upheavals for two centuries, our cultural needs are changing gear. Classical no longer means what it did in the 20th century. It is not the elite preserve of the middle-aged middle classes, nor is it off limits to kids.." The Telegraph (UK) 02/13/02

SILENCING EUROPE'S ORCHESTRAS? A proposed European Union law would limit the amount of noise in the workplace. But under the law, symphony orchestras playing all out would exceed the limits. "The Association of British Orchestras (ABO) is fighting to be exempted. The parliament wants to reduce the decibel limit of noise in the workplace to 83, the point at which workers have to wear hearing protection. A single trumpet is said to play up to 130 decibels and the ABO fears that the directive would effectively silence performances. 'It will stop us playing any loud music whatsoever, affecting almost of all of the pieces played by orchestras'." BBC 02/12/02

ADAMS TO WRITE MEMORIAL: The New York Philharmonic has named composer John Adams to write a memorial piece to the events of September to be performed at the Philharmonic's opening concert next season. The piece will accompany Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on a program conducted by music director Lorin Maazel. Andante 02/12/02

PAY-FOR-DOWNLOADS A BUST: A new report says paid music downloading has been a failure so far, despite a $4 billion investment by music businesses. "Legitimate, paid-for music downloads earned only $1 million (£710,000) in the US and UK last year. At the same time, some eight billion tracks were exchanged by users of pirate sites offering free music downloads - and up to 2.7 million people at any one time are logged on to them." BBC 02/10/02

WHERE DID CITY OPERA'S MONEY GO? A benefit for victims of September 11 by New York City Opera sold tickets for as much as $100, and the house was nearly full. The cast and crew donated their services for the occasion. So why did only $18,500 find its way to the September 11 fund? "There has been no accounting - it's all a big mystery," a chorus member said. "We put our hearts into this. Everybody wants to know what came of it." The $18,500 would equal the sale of just 185 of the benefit's $100 tickets, although some tickets sold for $50 and $25." By contrast, the Metropolitan Opera's fundraiser donated $2.6 million to the fund. New York Post 02/10/02

Week of 02/11/02

THE MOST EXCITING ORCHESTRA IN AMERICA? In the past seven years, Michael Tilson Thomas has turned the San Francisco Symphony into one of the most talke about orchestras in America. "The charged chemistry among maestro, players and community undoubtedly owes much to the nature and size of the city and the Bay Area, and it may be hard to replicate elsewhere. Still, it becomes all the more striking now that several other major American orchestras have lined up their next music directors. In large part, those orchestras were seeking expertise in contemporary and American programming like that Mr. Thomas has long demonstrated." The New York Times 02/10/02

THE MUSICAL MEMORIAL: The New York Philharmonic is commissioning a piece of music to open next season with a memorial to the World Trade Center. Will this be a significant musical memorial? "The odds, it seems to me, are low that the music will be up to the occasion — that a composer, asked to interpret in tones a calamity mere months after it has happened, will have the clarity and the inner urge to write just the piece we need." 02/06/02

FIGHT OVER CD's: CD-maker Philips and the big recording companies are in a fight over copy protection. Recording companies want to embed "errors" into CD's that help prevent them from being copied. Philips, which helped determine technical standards for CD technology, says it won't go along. The fight could "hasten the death" of the 20-year-old format. Wired 02/04/02

BUDGET CRUNCH IN BALTIMORE: "Rising costs, an economy that made grants and donations hard to come by and a stock market that pummeled endowments have all converged to put the [Baltimore Symphony Orchestra] in a tight financial spot. Even though the BSO is making more money than it spends, the tight times ended up squeezing out the symphony's 147-person chorus last month... Wall Street's dismal 2001 took its toll. The symphony's endowment investments lost more than $9 million in value in 2001 compared with an almost $15 million profit from those investments a year earlier." Baltimore Business Journal 02/01/02

NOT JUST ANOTHER OPERA: What's the difference between an opera and a musical? Bruce Springsteen has announced he's writing a "rock opera." "Though one must not prejudge these things, it's surely likely to be more of a musical than an opera, just as in 1968 the Who's Tommy was a musical masquerading as this new-fangled genre, with its vaguely subversive label - the revolutionary language of rock imposing itself on the apparently elitist world of opera." The Guardian (UK) 02/09/02

PROMOTING THE YOUNG: "The historically low percentage of minorities in orchestras is a vexing issue. The lasting effects of racism play a role, say experts, but other factors include cuts in school music programs, the lack of role models and peer-group support and cultural forces that push young blacks and Latinos into pop and vernacular styles rather than classical." The five-year-old Sphinx Competition seeks to identify and encourage young minority musicians. Detroit Free Press 02/06/02

NATIONALISM TO A REGGAE BEAT? Worried that French school children increasingly don't know the French national anthem, the government compiled a CD with dozens of versions of the Marseillaise, and is sending copies to every school in France. Along with traditional versions, there's also a reggae version, an arabic version, and a samba version. "The aim of the project is to make children better understand their history and heritage," says culture minister Jack Lang. The Globe & Mail (Reuters) (Canada) 02/07/02

NAME THAT TUNE: Ah, pity those who cannot carry a tune. Not a happy condition. "There is nothing quite so vulnerable as a person caught up in a lyric impulse. The singing-impaired are forever being brought up short in one. When the singing-impaired chime in, they may notice a sudden strained silence. Or just a sudden loss of afflatus in the music about them. (The singing-impaired can tell.)" The Atlantic 02/82

PARIS - AN OPERA BARGAIN: So you're an opera fan and you live in London where going to see the opera is an expensive proposition. The budget alternative? Take the Eurostar to Paris, catch some first rate productions and stay in a "homey" hotel. The whole trip will cost you less than a ticket for the Royal Opera (and the experience might even be better). Really. Truly. The Times (UK) 02/05/02

TITLE TRADEOFFS: Some call supertitles at the opera one of the biggest advances in the artform in the past 50 years. But there are tradeoffs. "Over the course of more than four hours of dense, nonrepeating dialogue, the compulsive reader at War and Peace will be scanning some 1,000 captions, each conveying a potentially vital piece of information. For each, we sacrifice, say, two seconds' attention to the stage, which adds up through the evening to a whopping 33 minutes. How to sort out the costs and benefits of these constant illuminations and distractions?" The New York Times 02/10/02

STAYING THE NEW MUSIC COURSE: Nearly every American orchestra pays regular lip service to the concept of contemporary music, and occasionally even performs some in public. Very few orchestras, however, ever really make a lasting commitment to advancing the music of living composers. But in Los Angeles, the L.A. Philharmonic's New Music Group is 21 years old and going strong. "The New Music Group has survived changing administrations and budget crises, and in the process it has become part of what defines the feisty spirit of the Philharmonic." Los Angeles Times 01/31/02

THE POWERHOUSE FINNS: What is it about Finland, these days? "Half a century after the death of Jean Sibelius, his tiny Nordic homeland has emerged as a musical superpower of the new millennium. A fierce national commitment to musical culture has made the Finnish scene the envy and the talent reservoir of countries throughout Europe and North America." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/02/02

REINVENTING ST. PAUL: The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, which bills itself as "America's Chamber Orchestra," is reinventing itself, making changes in its home concert hall, and planning more tours to large cities. The goal? To be "the beacon for cultural excellence" in the Twin Cities. "Thirty years from now, when people talk about Twin Cities arts groups, we’d like the first thing off their tongues to be the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. It’s no different than what the arch did for the city of St. Louis." St. Paul Pioneer Press 01/31/02

L.A. OPERA LIGHTLY TAPS THE BRAKES: Los Angeles Opera has been ambitiously scaling up its productions, and the company has announced numerous new initiatives and plans in the past few years. Now, with the announcement of next year's season, some of those plans have been scaled back as part of the artsworld's generally sobering reassessment of risks. Los Angeles Times 01/30/02

DOTCOM MUSIC MELTDOWN SPURS BBC: Online e-music ventures have poured millions of dollars into trying to create viable businesses. But one of the most established, shut down last week, out of money, and its owners are looking for a buyer. Interestingly, as the dotcom meltdown continues, the BBC has rediscovered a commitment to broadcasting culture. It's about time, writes Norman Lebrecht. The Telegraph (UK) 01/31/02

AND YOU THOUGHT THIS STUFF ONLY HAPPENED IN ALABAMA: The Catholic hierarchy in Naples, Italy is taking a cursory shot at the city's leftist government, denying permits for the use of several of Naples's historic churches for concerts. Among the well-regarded guest musicians who may be left out in the cold is La Scala director Riccardo Muti. The local monsignor is questioning "whether performing artists should be chosen "mainly for their showmanship and social acceptance rather than for their personal commitment in bearing witness to the values of the Gospel." Andante 01/28/02

THE ONLINE ORCHESTRA: "All the evidence, anecdotal and otherwise, suggests that the virtual box office is changing the way orchestras do business." American orchestras are selling more and more of their tickets online - the Chicago Symphony, for one, has seen e-sales double or triple each year in the past four seasons. Andante 01/27/02

REPORTS OF MY DEATH... So some orchestras are struggling in the business of survival of late. And some may even go out of business. But the orchestra is hardly dying as an institution, writes David Patrick Stearns. There is too much evidence to the contrary. Besides, "those orchestras will survive, because the public, more unconsciously than consciously, knows that when its opera company and symphony orchestra go away, the only thing left in many cities will be congested strip roads, plastic burger signs, abandoned bowling alleys and cable TV." Andante 01/27/02

PARALYSIS CAN'T DERAIL CONDUCTOR: Mario Miragliotta was a promising conductor who had recently finished his term as music director of the Santa Barbara Symphony and had been appointed assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, when he got into a car accident last June that left him paralysed, unable to move his hands or legs. Determined to overcome the injuries, he's been working daily to get back on the podium, and he's got a concert coming up... Los Angeles Daily News 01/28/02

THE ALTERNATIVE MUSIC: Miami-area classical music fans were upset when WTMI, the area's only classical music station, changed its format to dance music in January. Now the University of Miami college radio station is taking up some of the slack by programming classical. Miami Herald 01/31/02

Week of 01/28-02/04

RETHINKING HINDEMITH: Few composers have had their reputations endure harsher cultural mood swings than Paul Hindemith. Rejected by academics in the mid-20th century after he rejected the atonalism of Schönberg, his music has never regained any real traction in the concert hall, even as other "accessible" composers like Shostakovich and Britten have been vindicated and popularized. What is it about Hindemith's music that doesn't interest today's music programmers? Commentary 01/02

ST. LOUIS CUTS SEASON: Musicians of the financially troubled St. Louis Symphony have agreed to take cuts in their season. The agreement "cuts 10 weeks from the playing season but keeps salaries at a level competitive with peer ensembles." What programs the orchestra will cut will be announced later this week. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 01/22/02

SONG RECITALS FOR THE CAPTION-IMPAIRED: Opera companies have used supertitles for several years now, and the captioning of operatic lyrics are popular. So why not use the system for song recitals? As it turns out, there are several reasons... The New York Times 01/23/02

CONTAIN YOUR EXCITEMENT: John Lennon is preparing to release a brand new set of songs. Yeah, we know he's dead. But fortunately, Linda Polley of Fargo, North Dakota is very much alive, and is apparently quite adept at channeling the former Beatle. "Since 1999, Polley claims, John has been stopping by her trailer in Fargo to deliver his latest offering from "the heaven sessions" -- more than 50 songs in all -- so she may record them on her electric keyboard and spread them to the world in an effort to save both the sinful masses and the chaotic 'Afterlife.'" National Post (Canada) 01/22/02

BOHEME ON BROADWAY: The movie Moulin Rouge is a wacky take on a modern musical form. Now the movie's director Baz Luhrmann wants to bring the opera La Boheme to Broadway later this year. "We're bringing it back to the audience for whom it was written. Opera was like the television of the time, created for everyone to experience, from the simple street sweeper to the King of Naples. So it seems a natural for it to play on Broadway. We're bringing it back to its popular roots." New York Post 01/23/02

ROYAL COMEBACK: The Royal Opera House at Covent Garden has been in decline for years, and tales of its mismanagement and often ill-considered offerings offered more drama than what went on the stage. But the Royal Opera appears to be back on track. "Indeed, the year-end London critics' reports last month were, as one the few dissenters put it, 'an epidemic of enthusiasm'." Los Angeles Times 01/25/02

MATTER OF MORALITY? National Post music critic Tamara Bernstein responds to Atom Egoyan's objections of her review of Salome: "The underlying issue here - and it goes beyond Mr. Egoyan's production of Salome - is that it's time the sleepy world of classical music acknowledged that in addition to being beautiful, opera is political - sometimes in very nasty ways. It's time we stopped pretending that just because a work is aesthetically 'great' it is automatically morally neutral - or superior." National Post (Canada) 01/25/02

FIGHT! FIGHT! It's not often these days that a true artistic brawl breaks out on the pages of a North American newspaper. But Canadian critic Tamara Bernstein, never one to pull her punches, picked one with opera director Atom Egoyan recently, and Egoyan has taken the bait, firing off a furious response to Bernstein's charges of anti-Semitism and brutality in his production of Salome. Better yet, the paper is promising a Bernstein response yet to come. National Post (Canada) 01/24/02 

SHOULD SALOME BE SANITIZED? Richard Strauss's Salome has never been an easy-to-swallow opera. It has been panned constantly since its debut nearly a century ago for being vulgar, anti-Semitic, and just generally shocking. A new Canadian production is drawing particularly nasty fire from one local critic: "I left the Hummingbird Centre in a rage after Friday night's opening, feeling violated as both a woman and a Jew." National Post (Canada) 01/21/02

IT IS BETTER TO SOUND GOOD...(BUT DON'T LET THAT STOP THE MARKETING): Magdalena Kozena is 28, and "the blue-eyed, blonde Czech mezzo-soprano is the classical recording industry's latest hot property. But does Kozena owe her success to her looks?" The Guardian (UK) 01/21/02

SOUND BEFORE LOOKS? "A tall and willowy 28-year-old, Kozená is a delightful girl with a crisp sense of humour and - sorry, chaps - a nice new French boyfriend. More important, she is blessed with an impressive vocal technique and a clean, warm and alluring mezzo-soprano that reaches, in the modern style of Anne Sofie von Otter, Ann Murray and Susan Graham, into soprano rather than contralto territory." The Telegraph (UK) 01/21/02

Week of 01/21-28/02

SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY GETS ITS $100 MILLION - AND THEN SOME: Qualcomm Inc. founder Irwin Jacobs and his wife, Joan were going to give the San Diego Symphony $100 million, but at the last minute kicked in another $20 million. It's the largest gift ever to a symphony orchestra. "The additional money is to go to the symphony's operating funds - $2 million a year for the next 10 years. Thus, the symphony will get $7 million a year over the next 10 years, with $5 million each year going into an endowment. The Jacobses have also pledged $50 million to be paid upon their deaths." Orange County Register 01/16/02

SOME PEOPLE REALLY ARE TONE DEAF: There's even a technical name for the problem: amusia. Usually, it's the result of head injury, or an illness. But some people are just born that way. All Things Considered (NPR) 01/16/02

UNDERSTANDING PERFECTION: Scientists are trying to determine why some people have perfect pitch - the ability to identify notes without other reference notes. "Based on the evidence so far, most scientists believe that genes do play at least a subtle role, perhaps by keeping a developmental 'window' open wider and longer during early childhood, when note-naming ability generally takes shape. Still, some experts argue the quest for an absolute pitch gene is akin to searching for a gene for speaking French; it doesn't exist." San Francisco Chronicle 01/15/02

IS ALL MUSIC THE SAME? "Especially in post-modern times where categories are being redefined, it is easy for many to assert that a tango, a rock tune, and a Beethoven symphony are all the same except perhaps for the musical parameters that define the style. This can have its positive as well as negative ramifications. The positive perhaps being that all types of music are understood as having similar importance, the negative that everything is considered in many ways as being the same." NewMusicBox 01/02

HISTORY OF A BACKSTAGE FRACAS: Just what the heck is going on in Edmonton, anyway? Since when do fired conductors start their own competing orchestras? And what kind of musicians are prepared to follow such a heretic? The answers are the stuff of bad TV dramas and David Mamet plays. Edmonton Journal 01/20/02

EDMONTON ULTIMATUM: "The lawyer who raised $4 million to form a new orchestra says he will give the money to the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra board instead - on one condition." The condition is that if the musicians of the ESO don't like the way the board is spending the money, they will have the right to fire the board members. If the ESO agrees (which seems unlikely,) the arrangement would be unprecedented in the history of North American orchestras. CBC 01/18/02

RIGHT OF WAY: The BBC has made a costly mistake. The corporation filmed an expensive version of Gian Carlo Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors that was set to air Christmas eve - "until it was found at the last minute that no one had checked who owned the copyright, and the programme had to be pulled." Seems an American company owns the film rights, and the company is not inclined to grant permission for another version. The Observer 01/13/02

WHERE ARE TODAY'S COMPOSERS? Why, at the start of the 21st Century, are our "mainstream musical tastes are still stuck so completely back then, in the 19th century. Not that there's anything wrong with listening to Wagner or Chopin, or even Mendelsson. But it is strange - isn't it? - that an absolute majority of the music performed by all the American symphony orchestras this season will be by just four guys. Four guys who were all composing music during the same hundred-year period that ended more than a hundred years ago: Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky. Who are our Brahmses and Tchaikovskys, the historically important composers of this time? Why don't we know their music? Why don't we even know their names?" Public Arts (Studio 360) 01/11/02

TENOR'S NIGHTMARE: It's the kind of scenario that causes performers to wake up screaming at night: for whatever reason, a singer suddenly loses his ability to sing, on stage, with thousands in attendance. It happened this week in Toronto to legendary Canadian tenor Ben Heppner, who was forced to halt a recital halfway through when he could not stop his voice from cracking repeatedly. Toronto Star 01/18/02

GEEK SQUAD 1, WRITER'S CRAMP 0: The worst part of being a composer, hands down, is the endless hours spent scratching out scores and parts for cranky musicians with dubious eyesight who are forever claiming that nothing is legible, or spaced right, or has the page turns in the right place. So what, other than a dungeon full of enslaved copyists, can make the drudgery easier? Why, a couple of British computer geeks, of course! Los Angeles Times 01/19/02

MUSIC TO THE PEOPLE: Digital music and file sharing isn't just about making copies and getting music for free - it is changing the music industry in a fundamental way. "The advent of new and accessible technologies has made the independent route much more possible. The 1960s aesthetic which caused some theatre practitioners to abandon the stage for the street, and visual artists to seek an audience outside formal galleries, has now visited popular music in a much more radical way than it did back then. The possibilities the Internet and related technologies offer to bypass major record labels and give the artist direct access to a potentially mass audience have changed the music industry forever." Irish Times 01/15/02

HOPE FOR THE DYING? Okay, so 2001 was a terrible year for the classical recording industry. The worst, in fact. "Still, if one looks hard enough, some promising signs can be gleaned from the cards dealt to recorded classical music, both in the major and independent sectors. Having survived the Tower debacle — in which the cash-strapped retailer demanded drastically extended payment terms from most of its independent accounts — a distributor like Harmonia Mundi might actually end up stronger, having now culled back its inventory and overhauled its retail sales/stock process. Universal Classics Group — a key industry barometer — finished the year not only with a bevy of crossover hits but also with the highest number of top-selling "straight" classical offerings, according to Billboard." Andante 01/15/02

Week of 01/14-21/02

AMERICA'S GREATEST LIVING COMPOSER? Who is America's greatest living composer? Here's a vote for John Adams: "Adams is the most consistently serious of them all - eclipsing trend-setters such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass, edging out older types like Ned Rorem, and dwarfing the semi- tonal postmodernist brigade. An Adams premiere is an international event. Unlike Reich and Glass, he is still evolving. In contrast to retro-Puccinians like Mark Adamo and Jake Heggie, his best works withstand repeated hearing. He has enough ideas - and craftsmanship - to sustain interest from beginning to end: in short forms or long, his music inspires confidence. Most important of all, it remains pleasurable to the senses." Financial Times 01/11/02

SAME OLD TIRED IDEAS: The Toronto Symphony, having just (barely) staved off bankruptcy a few months ago, is trying to broaden its appeal by offering pops concerts. But "two fake palm trees, the billboard-sized words 'Club Swing,' two lounge tables and a dreary raconteur who reels off showbiz names just don't work on this stage in this venue. And asking the TSO to metamorphose into a red-hot swing orchestra is asking for a manned spaceflight to Mars this year. Playing the nostalgia card at this stage cannot be considered wise." Toronto Star 01/08/02

WRONG ABOUT WALTON? It's the 100th anniversary of composer William Walton's birth. There not being a lot of great English composers, Walton is regularly trotted out as one of the very best. "To suggest, as I am about to do, that Walton is not worth the candle of retrospection is to risk the wrath of friends and the scorn of patriots. Walton was a talented composer. He was also, in objective terms, an archetypal English failure whose shortcomings cry out for critical examination. When a king walks down Centenary Lane clad in nothing but local adulation, there must surely be one voice in the throng to draw attention to his immodesty." The Telegraph (UK) 01/09/02

HOW THEATRES GREW UP: A study of Venice's La Fenice Opera House gives some idea of the evolution of theatres adapting to social customs. "During the 18th century, the theater was one of the most important meeting places in public life. In the boxes and the camerini allocated to them - Marcel Proust described these as 'small living rooms minus their fourth walls' - people ate meals, made love and hatched intrigues before, during and after the performances." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 01/07/02

SAN DIEGO GIFT: The San Diego Symphony, which once went bankrupt and is perpetually in financial difficulty, is in line for a major gift - perhaps the largest-ever individual gift to an American symphony orchestra. "The money - thought by some in San Diego's arts community to be as much as $100 million - eventually could place the organization's endowment near the top 10 of U.S. orchestras and bring unprecedented stability to the 92-year-old institution." San Diego Union 01/09/02

IN PRAISE OF THE WALKOUT: Walking out of a performance is pretty rare these days. Some audience members walked out of a recent Dallas Opera performance of Wozzek. Usually, "audiences are more passive, or at least more polite, than they used to be. It's hard to play a piano concerto anymore and not get a standing ovation. 'I sometimes wish more people would walk out. At least it would show some passion'." Dallas Morning News 01/13/02

ART VERSUS INTERPRETATION: Is an opera production a "work of art?" "Missionaries for opera keep touting it as the greatest art form, simply because it supposedly subsumes so many others. Drama and music and painting, maybe even sculpture and dance: top that, if you can. Actually, the essence of opera, even for Richard Wagner, who dreamed of an 'artwork of the future' based on just this model, remained what it had been since Monteverdi: drama embedded in music. In a classic Platonic sense, this constitutes the work (in more fashionable parlance, 'the text'). On the other hand, a performance, along with its physical trappings, falls under the heading of interpretation, commonly held to be a creative function of the second order, though it does not have to be." The New York Times 01/13/02

FIRED CONDUCTOR STARTS RIVAL ORCHESTRA: Conductor Grzegorz Nowak was told this week that his contract as music director of the Edmonton Symphony wouldn't be renewed. The next day he announced he'd put together a group of supporters and will start a new orchestra in the city. The plans are ambitious: "an immediate 45 per cent increase in concerts, a growth in orchestra size from 56 players to 93, a near-doubling in musicians' salaries over six years, and annual recordings and/or tours beginning in 2002." The new orchestra "would be based on a quite different attitude," says Nowak. "The new orchestra would put musicians' concerns first and would present more concerts with higher-paid musicians." Edmonton Journal 01/10/02

BRITAIN'S TOP SINGERS: Who are Britain's top ten opera singers? A poll of English singers ranks Bryn Terfel on top. The Independent (UK) 01/07/02

THE SELLING OF RENEE: Soprano Renee Fleming is said to have the most beautiful voice on stage today. "Though singing may be a private orgy, it is also a business, and if Fleming has become America's sweetheart it is because, behind her soft smile, she so shrewdly understands the country's values: the need to balance pleasure and profit, self-expression and the ambitious manoeuvrings of a career." The Observer (UK) 01/06/02

Week of 12/24-31/01

ANOTHER OPERA HOUSE FOR BERLIN? Does Berlin need a fourth opera house? There is a proposal to build one, devoted to music theatre written since 1945. The design is sleek - like a space ship, and the project is creating a sensation. But "there are a few problems. Berlin, which can no longer afford to maintain its three existing opera houses, is probably the European capital least likely to want to pay for another. The national government has already categorically said it will not provide money for the project; Germany already has some 80 opera houses." Andante 01/04/02

A PLEA FOR BACK TO BASICS: Why must opera directors muck up perfectly good classic operas? "The curse of the megalomaniac producer is not confined to Britain. In fact we get off quite lightly. It is now almost impossible to see a classic opera in Germany in a reasonably traditional production. There must be a new 'Konzept', good or bad makes no difference." The Telegraph (UK) 01/05/02

WILL OPERA SURVIVE? Gerard Mortier wonders about the future of opera: "For years now, like vampires, we so-called managers and artistic directors have been sucking fresh blood from film and theater directing to secure a little more eternity for opera. I have taken great delight in doing so. The experience was an important one - it brought about refreshing new interpretations of works. In the meantime, however, this process has itself become clichéd, possibly even a pure publicity reflex. Will it be possible to keep opera from becoming a dead language and gradually disappearing from our so-called educational canon, just as Latin and Greek are vanishing from our classrooms?" Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 01/04/02

CROSSING THE LINE: The problem with crossover music (the blending of classical with popular forms) may be that so much of it uses the moniker of "classical" to reinforce old elitist stereotypes of the superiority of high art music. "But is there any scale on which [Charlotte] Church could possibly be measured a greater, more valuable artist or musician than soul goddess [Aretha] Franklin? And is every Boston Pops concert automatically inferior to any performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra?" Boston Herald 01/03/01

KERNIS AT THE TOP: Composer Aaron Jay Kernis has been winning all the music world's top prizes for composers, including the Grawemeyer and the Pulitzer. He's also getting some of the most prominent commissions by major orchestras. "He's capable of irony and wit, but won't take cover behind those qualities. There's a lot of passion to his writing, and what ties his disparate pieces together are the grand gestures, the way he'll go for a big romantic statement." Christian Science Monitor 01/04/02

A NEW STANDARD OF SUCCESS? It is a strange phenomenon of an uncertain time in the orchestral world that many top ensembles are announcing year-end fiscal numbers that would have been considered horrifying a couple of years ago, but can still be said to place the orchestra well out of the danger zone inhabited by groups in Toronto, St. Louis, and elsewhere. Case in point: the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, which ran over $1 million in the red in 2001, but is going ahead with a massive venue expansion plan and shows no signs of making cuts. Detroit Free Press 01/02/02

HOPE FOR HIGHBROW? The San Francisco Opera's new director may be sick and tired of all the fundraising work her job entails (no surprise after the years she spent in Europe, where the arts are publicly subsidized,) but the necessity of catering to the interests of certain wealthy patrons isn't stopping Pamela Rosenberg from mounting challenging new productions. Among the costly and daring projects the SF Opera is planning: the American premiere of a Messaien opera that critics swore up and down would never be heard here. San Jose Mercury News 01/03/02

KEYS TO SUCCESS? Should classical music popularize itself like the visual art industry has? "Classical music doesn't suit that sort of hype. Its sedentary, spiritual quality tends to appeal to older people. Unlike the visual arts, it demands communal concentration - something most young people, raised on a culture of soundbites, are not prepared to do. It can't be sampled at a glance, it's not visually exciting. It also happens to be horribly labour-intensive. Worst of all, classical music is in the throes of an identity crisis, because its principal tools are 18th- and 19th-century creations, with a few 20th-century accretions. The vast majority of orchestras and venues have failed to reinvent themselves in a way that suits modern media." Financial Times 01/01/02

TROUBLE GETTING MUSIC: Many music fans looking for recent classical recordings in stores before Christmas were stymied. Selection in stores is lousy and distribution is limited. So where did all the music go? "It must be said that the downturn in the disc business doesn't herald the end of classical music. Box office figures for live performance remain good to excellent here and elsewhere. Yet veterans of the disc biz say it's rarely been worse." Philadelphia Inquirer 01/01/02

DALLAS POSTPONEMENT: The Dallas Opera has seen ticket sales fall by about 15 percent. One of the company's cost-cutting measures is to postpone the American premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage's The Silver Tassie to the 2004-2005 season. The opera is "based on a play by Sean O'Casey, tells the story of an Irish soccer hero who goes off to World War I and returns paralyzed by a battle injury." Dallas Morning News 01/02/02

Week of December 10-17,  2001

PATRIOTIC FOG: "Because of the events of September 11, John Adams finds himself accused of being an 'anti-American' composer, a label with uncomfortable echoes of the McCarthy era of the 1950s." In the New York Times, musicologist Richard Taruskin charged Adams with "romanticising terrorists" in his 1991 opera The Death of Klinghoffer - and, by implication, with romanticising the perpetrators of the attacks on the World Trade Centre, too. Taruskin's article provides some flavour of the atmosphere in the US today. "If terrorism is to be defeated," he wrote, "world public opinion has to be turned decisively against it." That means "no longer romanticising terrorists as Robin Hoods and no longer idealising their deeds as rough poetic justice". The creators of The Death of Klinghoffer - Adams, librettist Alice Goodman and director Peter Sellers - have done just that, he argued. The opera was "anti-American, anti-semitic and anti-bourgeois. Why should we want to hear this music now?" The Guardian (UK) 12/15/01

IS THIS GOOD OR BAD NEWS? Warner Music UK has announced that, contrary to previous reports which had it scrapping the classical recording business altogether, it will debut a slimmed-down Warner Classics division in January 2002. A Warner official also denied reports that specialty labels Teldec and Erato will cease issuing new releases. Andante 12/13/01

CLASSICS ON A BUDGET: "The American arm of the Naxos label, known for its budget classical catalogue of around 2400 titles, has signed a deal with Liquid Audio to distribute selected recordings via Liquid’s network of retail and music web sites." Gramophone 12/13/01 

BRINGING ART AND TECH TO THE TABLE: "With a glitzy splash, two Montreal universities yesterday launched Hexagram, a research institute that aims to do for song and dance what Silicon Valley did for the computer industry... Hexagram is an attempt to pull together research in the widely expanding field of digital arts with the needs of Quebec's cultural industry." Montreal Gazette 12/11/01

NEW FORM BEGGING: The Royal Opera House at Covent Garden is trying out a new way to raise money, saying it urgently needs new funds. The company is asking donors to "sponsor" props for performances - "£150 to pay for Macbeth's gold crown, £250 for Othello's sword, £500 for a wig in the production of Queen of Spades, £750 for a rifle in Il Trovatore, £1,500 for a sedan chair in Don Giovanni and £4,500 for a Madonna in the same opera." The Telegraph (UK) 12/12/01

MR CHRISTMAS CAROL: "In the world of music, John Rutter is Mr Christmas: the most celebrated and commercially successful carol-composer alive. Given the state of world affairs it's hard to predict the supply of peace and goodwill among the nations in the next few weeks, but one thing you can guarantee is that Rutter's choral packaging of those sentiments will be on the lips of countless millions in cathedrals, churches, chapels and mud-hut missions, from Nebraska to Nairobi." The Telegraph (UK) 12/14/01

LAMENTS FROM A BORED CRITIC: It looks like the Toronto Symphony has been bailed out of its life-threatening financial woes. But does it deserve its heroic rescue? "in recent months I've walked out of two TSO concerts because I was so bored and because I was enraged at the apathy radiating from most of the orchestra. The TSO as a whole has what I call bad morale genes - too many whiners who have an outrageous sense of entitlement and seem to bear undying grudges against the administration. Unless there is an outstanding conductor on the podium - and how often does that happen? - the TSO's 'house sauce' is note-perfect but soulless playing, redeemed by expressive solos from that consistent but relatively small group of players." National Post (Canada) 12/14/01

SPANO TAKES ATLANTA: Why conductor Robert Spano decided to take on the Atlanta Symphony: "What I could tell from the search committee was: `Here's this great orchestra, here's this very vital, thriving, growing, exciting city, and the two have absolutely nothing to do with each other. There's a total disconnect. We're not getting audiences.' That's a challenge that fascinates me. How do you get this credible, viable artistic institution to mean something to the community in which it lives? Because if it doesn't it's going to die." The New York Times 12/16/01 (one-time registration required for access)

CONDUCTING A BID: A 25-year-old from Arizona was browsing on eBay when he spotted an offer to conduct the Sydney Philharmonia Choir in a performance of Handel's Messiah. So he anted up his life savings of $7,500 and won the bidding, which was part of a fund-raiser for the chorus. "The funny thing was, no-one had bid on it when I saw it. So I thought, 'OK, I'm game'. And I won. It was as simple as that." Sydney Morning Herald 12/14/01

MORTIER TO TAKE PARIS OPERA: Outgoing Salzburg Festival director Gerard Mortier has been named director of the Paris National Opera beginning in 2004. "Mortier, 58, earned a reputation at Salzburg both for sponsoring offbeat productions and for clashing noisily with conservative Austrian politicians. The New York Times 12/08/01 (one-time registration required for access)

NOT MUCH TO SING ABOUT: Chorus members rarely - if ever - make money for their work; they get their rewards in other ways. But "a deep gloom has settled over the volunteer sector of the singing world - not the pros who bury Aida nightly at the opera or tweet exquisite Messiaenisms for the 32-strong BBC Singers, but the lawyers, plumbers and home-makers who, from time immemorial, have given up three nights a week for rehearsal, no expenses paid. The choral tradition is in trouble. Money is tight, the music is monotonous and ensembles are turning sloppy." The Telegraph (UK) 12/12/01

WHAT'S IN A PERFORMANCE? The hype surrounding the Philadelphia Orchestra's 2000 premiere of Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara's 8th Symphony was at a fever pitch by the time the first performances occurred. Sadly, conductor, musicians, and critics alike were disappointed with the results, and the premiere appeared to be an unusual failure for Rautavaara. But a new recording may be proving that it's all in the interpretation. Philadelphia Inquirer 12/04/01

AVANT GARDE - MISSING IN ACTION: What happened to the opera avant garde? Twenty-five years ago Philip Glass's Einstein on the Beach promised to energize and change the world of contemporary opera. But that promise was never fulfilled and today's operas act as if the avant garde never happened. Financial Times 12/05/01

YOUNGEST OPERA COMPOSER? Fifteen-year-old Sophie Serese "is believed to be the youngest person to have written both music and libretto for a full-length opera, although Mozart wrote the music to his first opera when he was 12." Her third opera premieres this week in Melbourne. The Age (Melbourne) 12/05/01

BET THE NY PHIL THINKS THIS IS HILARIOUS: In what may be the strangest development to come out of the current world tensions, renowned French conductor/composer Pierre Boulez was detained by Swiss authorities, and informed that he was on their list of potential terrorists. Apparently, back in his impetuous youth in the 1960s, Boulez publicly declared that opera houses should be blown up. BBC 12/04/01

LOSS LIEDER: "For whatever reason, vocal programs have shot up in number and quality in the past few years. The phenomenon has stemmed in part from an influx of talent: so many compelling baritones, mezzos, and light-voiced tenors have popped up that the names have begun to blur." The New Yorker 12/03/01

WHY THERE'S HOPE FOR CLASSICAL MUSIC: "The 'regression equation' - one of the preferred tools for understanding economies - shows that for classical orchestras, the likelihood of money being spent on orchestral music is linked to consumers’ increasing age, education, and income. Graying of classical music audiences is most often viewed as a serious problem rather than a valuable asset. Economic demographer David Foote offers telling arguments as to why aging baby-boomers are likely to increase the classical music market." La Scena Musicale 12/01/01

STAR SEARCH: Seven conductors in their 20s and 30s have gathered in Indiana to compete in the North American regional round of Alberto Vilar's and Lorin Maazel's worldwide conducting competition. "Following the North American regional round in Bloomington, there will be rounds at Krakow, Poland, in January; London in February; Sao Paulo, Brazil, in April; and Sydney, Australia, in August. One conductor from each round will advance to the finals in September in New York City's Carnegie Hall." Indianapolis Star 12/04/01

MUSIC IN DIFFICULT TIMES: "Do audiences need the continued comfort that familiar art provides, or do they need it to push them and force them confront and understand the world as it is?" This is the question facing programmers in the weeks since September 11. NewMusicBox 12/01

HOW CROSSOVER KILLED CLASSICAL: "This week's top-selling 'classical' album in the US is piano music composed by Billy Joel, a faded rock star. The top two albums in Britain are punched out by Russell Watson, an industrial-strength tenor who assaults football terraces with pop ballads and ice-cream arias in marshmallowy, Mantovani-like settings. These are the core of contemporary classics. Were the charts to be purged of such mongrelisms, there is little doubt that classical sales would fall below one per cent and the business would be shut down." And yet, maybe the efforts gone into promoting such crossovers is killing the legit classical biz. The Telegraph (UK) 12/05/01

EXPERIMENTING WITH THE FUTURE: The Atlanta Symphony has seen its box office sales erode in recent seasons; the orchestra was particularly hurt by a musicians' strike. This season, under new music director Robert Spano, the orchestra has aggressively experimented with its format, introducing light shows and installations to accompany music, and performing more contemporary fare. Some patrons object, complaining that the additions are distracting from the music. And yet, attendance is beginning to climb... Atlanta Journal-Constitution 12/07/01

BIG FIVE BEHIND NEW TWO: America's Big Five orchestras haven't been so big for a long time. That's not to say there aren't plenty of good performances or that these orchestras aren't relevant anymore. But as they enter a new era - most of them with new leadership - they will neeed to reinvent. And for a model - why not look to the New Two - the Los Angeles Philharmonic and San Francisco Symphony? Los Angeles Times 12/09/01

THE POTENT FORCE OF MUSIC: So the Taliban banned music in Afghanistan. "Musicians caught in the act were beaten with their instruments and imprisoned for as many as 40 days." But throughout history, those in power have often sought to control music." Why? Because of "the all but irresistible kinesthetic response that music evokes that makes it such a potent influence on behavior, thence on morals and belief." The New York Times 12/09/01 (one-time registration required for access)

LISTENING TO THE PHILLY'S NEW CONCERT HALL: The Philadelphia Orchestra has being trying to build a new home since about 1908. Next week it moves into the new $263 million Kimmel Center. This week the orchestra got its first chance to try out the acoustics: "The first impression is an overwhelming one, a wonderful one," says music director Wolfgang Sawallisch. "The musicians can hear each other. I can hear each section - individually and in ensemble. Of course, this will take time. You cannot do it in 15 minutes." Philadelphia Inquirer 12/07/01

WORDS OVER MUSIC: Supertitles at the opera have transformed the artform. Some believe it is the main reason why opera attendance has soared in recent years. But many stage directors and artists deplore them. "I have a terrible feeling that when you go to the opera now, reading the titles becomes the primary experience, followed by the music, followed by the visual [element], followed by the performance. Because words have an appearance of exact meaning, your mind gravitates to the specificity.... The opera becomes like text with background music." OperaNews 12/01

MUSIC AS KEY TO THE UNIVERSE: "The very idea of a 'key to the universe' today seems as quaint as the belief that the Earth is flat. We are more familiar with concepts such as Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, or chaos theory, or irrational numbers that can be calculated to an infinite and patternless number of decimal places. Even if a key to the universe could be discovered, the lock that it fits long ago disappeared. But for thousands of years, from the ancient Greeks to the Church fathers to the Enlightenment, the existence of such a key was not a fantasy but a premise of intellectual life, and the key was situated at the intersection of music, science, and religion." The New Republic 12/04/01

Week of December 3-10,  2001

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

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

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

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

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 

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 

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 

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 

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 

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 

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 

BUILDING A BETTER ORCHESTRA: Why do some orchestras flounder along - some even going out of business - while others always seem to thrive? Sure there's something to quality and repertoire and having enough money. But "the most important factor is the one that most audience members are probably least aware of: the board and its leadership. San Francisco Chronicle 12/02/01 

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 

Week of November  26-December 3,  2001

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

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)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week of November  12-19, 2001

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

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

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

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) 

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

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)

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

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

Week of Oct 29-Nov 5, 2001

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ST. MARTIN'S IN THE DOLDRUMS: The Academy 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

Week of Oct 15-Oct 22, 2001

FORFEITING ART TO EGO: This year's Salzburg Festival production of Die Fledermaus took a few, um, liberties with the original libretto. Nazi gangs, endless puns, and questionable added dialogue sent many critics shrieking for the nearest artistic high ground. "First and foremost, though, the Salzburg Fledermaus is but another installment in the great humiliation of music that has been going on for years in those opera houses, particularly in Europe, which have forfeited all power to the director at the expense of the conductor and the singers." Andante 10/14/01

BOOSEY & HAWKES FACES TAKEOVER: Music publishers tend to be companies steeped in history and rich in tradition. England's Boosey & Hawkes is one of the most venerable, with 200 years of publishing under its belt. But B&H has been in financial trouble lately, and now faces a takeover bid from an unnamed company. BBC 10/08/01

BRINGING DEMOCRACY TO NEW MUSIC: John McLaren's 'Masterprize' competition is a unique beast in the normally predictable world of classical music. Composers from all over the world are invited to compete for a large cash prize, with finalists' works to be performed by one of the world's finest orchestras. But unlike most such competitions, the winner will be determined by a unique mix of votes from celebrities, orchestra members, and members of the global listening public. The Times (UK) 10/09/01

AGE OF THE DIRECTOR: If singers were the stars of yesteryear opera, today "for better or worse, we have come to the age of the director. In many ways, the play has become the thing. Apart from three senior-citizen tenors, bigger-than-life singers aren't as big as they used to be. Divas have lost their cults. Hardly any larynges inspire box-office stampedes. Bona-fide individuality of timbre and interpretive approach are becoming rarities. The stars just don't shine all that brightly." Andante 10/06/01

THE EVOLVING ORCHESTRA: "The sound of a symphony orchestra is less traditional than most of us think. Even in the romantic period, conductor Phillipe Herreweghe says, instruments were evolving. Gut strings, as different from modern metal strings as a harpsichord is from a piano, were not superseded until about 1920. The antique woodwinds are softer. A modern orchestra is, he says, at least twice as loud as its turn-of-the-century counterpart. Styles of playing have changed even more. A Wagner opera lasted an hour less in his time than now. But the whole spirit, even of Debussy, has changed." The Age (Melbourne) 10/08/01

COMPOSER AT THE END OF THE LINE: Is Karlheinz Stockhausen a great artist, a great composer? "Stockhausen, like many other late modernists, is an artist at the end of a great experiment that failed. Modernism did not find a new answer to the problem of expression, it did not create a new tradition. It delineated the terms of the expressive crisis all too accurately, and in doing so, made it impossible to continue down the same radical road." Sunday Times (UK) 10/07/01

SILENCING MUSIC'S POTENTIAL: Afghanistan's Taliban rulers have banned many things since coming to power five years ago. Some of the bans, like education for women and shaving for men, had an immediately visible impact. But when the hard-liners banned music, they may have taken away one of the most powerful forces for national unity. Music unites, as patriotic anthems the world over show. But can lack of music actually divide a people? The Guardian 10/13/01

MUSIC AND THE TALIBAN: "[W]hen Can You Stop the Birds Singing?, a report into the censorship of music in Afghanistan was published in June, there was little interest. The report's publishers, Freemuse, are a Danish-based human rights organisation dedicated to campaigning against music censorship. Now that Afghanistan and its brutal Taliban regime dominate the headlines, this report resonates even more loudly." The Daily Telegraph (UK) 10/11/01

AMERICAN COMPOSER WINS MASTERPRIZE: Pierre Jalbert, a professor at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music in Houston, has won the £30,000 Masterprize, beating out four other finalists. The award was determined by a complex voting system that included massive amounts of public input through technological means. BBC 10/11/01

ONLY IN NEW YORK: A strolling violinist in a gold loincloth and very little else would cause the denizens of most cities to call the police, or at least cross the street. But in New York, such a man can become a minor celebrity, especially when he gains a reputation as the most talented street musician in the city. "In his soloperas, Thoth, a classically trained musician, is the composer, orchestra, singers and dancers. His music has elements of classical, overlaid with primal rhythms, but it defies categorization." New York Post 10/14/01

TWO VIEWS OF TORONTO: The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is on the verge of bankruptcy, and is asking its musicians to bear the brunt of the massive cuts to come. Some observers predict artistic doom for the TSO if such cuts come to pass, since lower salaries and fewer perks would drive yet more of Canada's top musicians south of the border to high-paying American bands. But others blame the unionized musicians for pushing the financial limits of Canadian orchestras far past what was reasonably possible with their contract demands. Toronto Star & National Post (Canada) 10/13/01

IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT THE MONEY: "The TSO is also divided from the city in which it lives, and becoming more so all the time... [It] has scarcely begun to react to changing demographic patterns in the city, where in the past decade 80 per cent of new immigrants came from countries with little or no tradition of European-style orchestral music. Capturing their interest is a long-term task, more likely to be served by education and outreach programs than by clever advertising." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 10/13/01

Week of Oct 1-8, 2001 

INSIDE THE TERRORISTIC MIND: John Adams's opera, 'The Death of Klinghoffer' has never been an easy concertgoing experience, but in the wake of September 11, the grim story of a man killed quite publicly by terrorists has become even more controversial and fascinating than at its premiere. "Opera is often called the most irrational art form. It places us directly inside its characters' minds and hearts through compelling music, often causing us to enjoy the company of characters we might normally dislike. Adams' opera requires that we think the unthinkable." Los Angeles Times 10/07/01 

THINKING TOO HARD: Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein had a reputation for having been a dense intellectual, a philosopher to struggle through. So why is composer Anthony Powers setting some of his thorniest writing to music? "Powers - whose BBC-commissioned Tractatus setting, A Picture of the World, is being broadcast on Radio 3 on Saturday - believes that the great Austrian philosopher has been thoroughly misunderstood. 'There's this idea of Wittgenstein as the most fearsome intellectual when in fact he was saying that most intellectualising is a waste of time." The Guardian (UK) 10/04/01

A FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH STOCKHAUSEN: A music novice goes in hunt of Stockhausen, wondering what the difficult composer's music sounds like. Finally locating a disc in a store, he takes a listen with a clerk. "This is what I've been waiting for - a new beginning. He's as excited as I am. I give him the thumbs up. He gives me a Masonic nod. It's ghastly. Truly bloody awful. Rats scurrying across a blackboard, a washing machine turning somersaults, a car horn hooting in temper. And when it's not quite so ghastly, it turns into a Monty Python sketch - a choir of cheeks being pulled at speed. The blow-job sonata perhaps?" The Guardian (UK) 10/06/01

THE CLASSICAL MUSIC PROBLEM: Who killed classical music? Well, it's a little more complicated than that. Yes the death rattle seems to be louder these days, and yes, almost every part of the "industry" you look at is in difficulty. From bad management, changing economics, overbuilding, and general malaise, classical music is suffering. On the other hand, people aren't just going to stop listening to music... LA Weekly [cover story] 10/04/01

CHICAGO SYMPHONY TO CUT BACK: It's been 15 years of good financial news for the Chicago Symphony. But it's come to an end. "At its annual meeting Wednesday night in Symphony Center, CSO board officers announced a $1.3 million deficit for the fiscal year that ended June 30, and projected a $2 million deficit for the coming year. The deficit for fiscal 2001 is the orchestra's first since 1992 and only its second since 1986. Moving to cut costs, the CSO will shutter ECHO, its $3.7 million, state-of-the-art education center, which it opened in 1998." Chicago Sun-Times 10/04/01 

WHY THE ST. LOUIS SYMPHONY SUFFERS: The St. Louis Symphony is in crisis. "If $29 million is not pledged to the symphony by the end of this year (with the money in hand by next summer), the SLSO will be facing bankruptcy." The orchestra has a small endowment compared to other orchestras of its accomplishment. "The sting of "elitism" sent the SLSO into a number of 'good works' projects, becoming more involved with school, church and other community organizations, as well as creating its own (costly) music school, in response to the loss of music education throughout the city school system. The SLSO made nice, became an exemplary orchestra, and ran up debts." Andante 10/04/01 

VANCOUVER SYMPHONY DEFICIT: "After seven debt-free years, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra is now struggling with a deficit of more than $900,000. A four-month transit strike kept some of the audience away." CBC 10/05/01

ATLANTA'S HIGH EXPECTATIONS: Robert Spano makes his debut as music director of the Atlanta Symphony and expectations are high. Spano has work to do, reports one New York critic. "These are evidently good musicians, and they play the right notes at just about the right time. But there is little unanimity of thought. String players seem each to have private and minutely different opinions on the shape of a dotted rhythm or the point of an attack. Wind players are not in themselves out of tune but sound unaware of pitch placements around them." The New York Times 10/04/01 (one-time registration required)

WRONG NUMBER: Two "sound artists" have copyrighted 100 million combinations of your telephone tones. So "next time you make a phone call, chances are you'll be in breach of international copyright law. If business can claim ownership over the elemental building blocks of human life, the composers say it's only fitting that artists lay claim to the 'DNA' of business and are paid for it." The Age (Melbourne) 10/04/01

RECORDING CARNAGE: "Over four years of classical tailspin, every corporate label has slashed its rosters, plunging dozens of artists, eminent and emergent, into a black hole of hopelessness. Very few get a second chance. The suits that rule the classical summits are investing only in novelties - such as the 14-year-old violinist Chloe and an eight-piece fusion band, the Planets, put together by Wombles songwriter Mike Batt on much the same 'personality' lines as Big Brother applied to its contestants." The Telegraph (UK) 10/03/01

FAMILIAR DIET: Why do the UK's opera companies play the same small number of operas over and over again? "Companies have been given the subliminal message that if they don’t play to full houses then they are failing in their task. Whether or not the task of publicly funded bodies should be endlessly to serve up box-office attractions rather than broaden the public’s operatic experience is another matter — but then art, or education in the broadest sense, has long ceased to be the primary concern of our Arts Councils." The Times (UK) 10/01/02

MUSIC WITHOUT THE NAME: So who says that a piece of music with a designer label on it - Beethoven, Mozart or some other - is superior to music without the name? Perhaps we listen too mindlessly to the greats and too easily dismiss worthy efforts by those composers we've forgotten. Orange County Register 09/30/01

Week of Oct 1-8, 2001

SMITHSONIAN HIT HARD: The world's most-visited musuem complex has been crippled by the September 11 events. "Some days Smithsonian-wide attendance has dropped almost three-quarters from the same day last year. For example, last Sunday only 22,000 people visited the Smithsonian's museums on the Mall, compared with 75,000 on the same Sunday a year ago." Washington Post 09/28/01

THREAT OF SLOWDOWN: Generally, the New York terrorist attacks won't have a big impact on the art and antiques business. "The big problem will be the economic slowdown. Some dealers are already doing less business, and finding it harder to extract payment on antiques sold. Fairs will also suffer. The first victim was this week's new 20th-century art fair organised by the indefatigable London dealers Brian and Anna Haughton in New York." Financial Times 09/28/01

WHAT IS POSSIBLE: "What was possible in Berlin in 1995 after decades of preparation was no longer thinkable today. The euphoria has faded, disillusionment and skepticism have taken over. Also, discourse in art has struck more solemn notes in recent years. The gestures and services known as "social action" are preferred to singular, monumental works." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 09/27/01

IS VAN GOGH ACTUALLY A GAUGUIN? Is a sunflower painting thought to be by Van Gogh really by Gauguin? "After examining letters between the two artists and other correspondence" a respected Italian art magazine says the painting "was copied by Gauguin from a genuine Van Gogh." National Post (Canada) 09/26/01

ART(ISTS) IN THE WTC: Few people knew that there were artists working in the World Trade Center. "For the last few years the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council had rented out floors to artists a few months at a time. There was always the occasional empty space in the towers because they were normally leased for 10 years at a time rather then piecemeal." At least one artist is thought to have died in the tower attack. The Art Newspaper 09/24/01

TO POSTPONE OR NOT TO POSTPONE: The Canadian Museum of Civilization scheduled an exhibition featuring the work of 25 Arab-Canadian artists, then decided to postpone it. One of the artists complained that the museum had "missed an opportunity to promote understanding of Arab culture at a time Arabs need it most." In Parliament, an opposition MP and the Prime Minister both agreed. The next move is up to the museum, which has so far been reluctant to comment. CBC 09/27/01

THE ON-LINE HERMITAGE: With 3 million items spread over 14 square kilometers, Russia's Hermitage Museum is one of the largest - and least-fully-explored - art treasuries in the world. Many of its prized pieces from each period are now on display on-line, along with views of the inside of the museum itself. The Moscow Times 09/26/01

POWER OF IMAGE: Looking at photographs of the World Trade Center destruction "I know that I am not the only person who is uneasy about the magnetic pull of these photographs, about the hold they have on us, about the need we seem to have to keep looking at them. What, I ask after a while, is the point of looking at such pictures, at least the point of looking at them so much? Perhaps some insight can be gained by thinking about the need that the English had to make a visual record of the calamities raining down on them, of the urge they had to record the weird horrific beauty of the Blitz." The New Republic 09/18/01

ENSURING ADDED COST: A new Australian law mandates that Aussie museums start getting commercial insurance for exhibitions. "The outsourced insurance policy supersedes a Commonwealth- managed, self-funded insurance program, Art Indemnity Australia, which for 20 years operated with internationally recognised success at almost no cost." The new commercial alternative will cost $1.5 million a year." Sydney Morning Herald 09/26/01

SCROLLING ON BY: The Dead Sea Scrolls were supposed to be put on display in Salt Lake City during the 2002 Olympics. But concerns over travel and the precious documents' security have forced cancellation. BBC 09/25/01

THE GREAT AUCTION FRAUD: Now it can be revealed that a glittering art auction held 11 years ago, involving work by Picasso, Modigliani, Dubuffet, Derain and Miró and netting £49 million, involved a tangled story of embezzlement, paper companies, and "the exploitation of two elderly art lovers who entrusted their collection's disposal" to the respected Drouot auction house. The Observer (UK) 09/23/01

WHY HER? What is it about the Mona Lisa that has made it such a cultural icon? "The renown and meanings of the Mona Lisa have been the product of a long history of political and geographical accidents, fantasies conjured up, connections made, and images manufactured. There is no single explanation for the origins and development of the global craze surrounding this painting." New Statesman 09/24/01

Week of Sep 24-Oct 1, 2001

NIELSEN AWARDS: Three Danish musical artists have received Nielsen awards. The awards, worth DKr500,000 ($62,000) each, were given to composers Tage Nielsen and Per Nørgård, and violinist Nikolaj Znaider, in a ceremony at the Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. Gramophone 09/21/01

ZINMAN DEPARTS BALTIMORE IN A HUFF: "In a move that has startled Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musicians and staff, David Zinman has resigned his title of 'music director emeritus' in protest of the BSO's current artistic direction, specifically a decline in programming of works by contemporary American composers. He also has canceled previously scheduled appearances with the orchestra in March." Baltimore Sun 09/17/01

BUT WILL IT MATTER? Zinman's departure from Baltimore breaks a long-standing code among conductors - never speak ill of your successor. But do his charges of the dumbing down of the BSO's programming hold water, or is Zinman the one who comes out looking silly? Baltimore Sun 09/18/01

ISAAC STERN, 81: Isaac Stern, one of the leading violinists of the mid-20th Century and one of the most powerful voices in the music world, has died. He was a foudning member of the National Endowment for the Arts and spurred the drive to save Carnegie Hall from the wrecking ball. Washington Post 09/23/01

BEETHOVEN'S DOCTOR: A retired Melbourne gastronenterologist has spent years diagnosing Beethoven's physical maladies. He's " always had an interest in suffering, and 'Beethoven is the suffering composer par excellence.' He was attracted to the idea of applying his medical skills to Mozart and Beethoven to better understand how their health and moods affected their music." The Age (Melbourne) 09/19/01

TOP 10 CONDUCTORS: Who are the top ten conductors in the UK, as chosen by conductors? A new survey reveals Simon Rattle on top, American Marin Alsop, the first woman to be music director of a major British orchestra comes second... The Independent 09/23/01

CAN HE DO IT? "As chalices go, the Royal Opera House seems pretty comprehensively poisoned. Rumour suggests that opera bosses around the world who were approached just laughed. And yet here is Tony Hall, an Oxford graduate in politics, philosophy and economics, a smiling, occasionally giggling and distinctly boyish 50- year-old, emerging from 27 years at the BBC to take over Covent Garden's cream gilded palace. Everything about this man is, in the context of the ROH, improbable." Sunday Times (UK) 09/23/01

SAYING THE WRONG THING: Composer Karlheinz Stockhausen said in a German radio interview Monday that last week's attacks on the World Trade Center were "the greatest work of art imaginable for the whole cosmos. Minds achieving something in an act that we couldn't even dream of in music, people rehearsing like mad for 10 years, preparing fanatically for a concert, and then dying, just imagine what happened there." The comments didn't play well; four concerts of his music that were to have formed the thematic focus of the Hamburg Music Festival this weekend were promptly canceled. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 09/19/01

SORRY FOR COMMENTS: Composer Karlheinz Stockhausen has apologized for comments he made comparing last week's attack on the World Trade Center to a work of art. The City of Hamburg canceled four concerts of his music this week. "Stockhausen told Hamburg officials he meant to compare the attacks to a production of the devil, Lucifer's work of art." Nando Times (AP) 09/19/01

TORONTO SEEKS A NEW LEADER: As the Great American Music Director Search draws to a close for most orchestras in the U.S., one of Canada's most prestigious ensembles is hoping to snare a gem from the enormous crop of promising maestros who, for one reason or another, don't show up on American radar screens. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra has faced a slew of problems in the last several years, but with a renovation of their much-maligned hall, the return of their nearly-deposed principal cellist, and the potential for an exciting new stick-waver, things may be looking up. Two candidates will conduct the TSO this month. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 09/18/01

Week of Sep. 10-17, 2001

MUSIC ON YOUR OWN TERMS: R Murray Schafer is Canada's best-known living composer. But on his own terms. Though his music is performed internationally, he picks the conditions. Many of his works are made to be performed outside the concert hall. He once refused permission for the Toronto Symphony to play his music because he believed its music director didn't believe in Canadian music enough. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/13/01

TRYING SOMETHING NEW: Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho may have hit on the way to finally drag classical music into the technological era without decimating its beloved institutions. With her first major-label release due to hit stores soon, Saariaho has been attracting attention with a unique blend of electronic and acoustic music, as well as a Debussy-like use of "scales that artfully avoid the gravitational pull of conventional tonality, giving her pieces the sense that they're constantly airborne." Philadelphia Inquirer 09/11/01

THE FUTURE OF RECORDING? "Since the German businessman Klaus Heymann founded Naxos in 1987, the major labels have reacted to it with a mixture of disdain, resentment, and efforts to buy it out or beat it at its own game. All the while Naxos has survived and prospered, seemingly indifferent to the threats facing the classical recording industry — shrinking sales figures, declining market share, abandonment of artist development and so on." Is Naxos a model for the future? Andante 09/10/01

BRITISH BUY MUSIC: British consumers buy more recorded music per capita than music lovers in any other country. UK residents buy an average of four cds per year, according to a new report. Gramophone 09/07/01

TELEPHONE MUSIC: Vivendi music said last week it would make music available over cell phones. But "all Vivendi has done is hitch together two media in decline: recordings are canned, mobiles have peaked." The Telegraph (UK) 09/12/01

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: The major stars of a modern opera production can't afford to stick around through the run of a production - they commute by air between engagements like others use their cars. Los Angeles Times 09/08/01

OPERA ON A BUDGET: Belgium's La Monnaie Opera is an international force. "Opera is about so many things other than just music theatre. It embraces corporatism, elitism, snobbism and, above all, money. Which is where La Monnaie is so remarkable. It seats a mere 1,152 people, about half of the capacity of the Royal Opera House. Its top price is just over £50, compared to £150 at Covent Garden." New Statesman 09/10/01

GOING HOLLYWOOD: "The L.A. Opera has never been on the radar internationally. For the most part, it's not even on the radar nationally. The arrival of Kent Nagano, a young, good-looking conductor at a company now headed by one of the best-known musicians in the world, gives the opera its first chance to make waves everywhere - to become a big, world-famous group, with a distinct Southern California identity. Because the company is young - this season is its 16th - the possibilities are still open in a way they're not at an august house like the Metropolitan Opera in New York or at the sturdy companies of Europe. And none of them have the glamour of Hollywood, which the company wants to cloak itself in." NewTimes LA 09/13/01

CRITICAL RESPONSE: Violinist and national ArtsCentre Orchestra music director Pinchas Zukerman takes criticism personally: "If I hear some really outlandish feedback from subscribers, I pick up the phone and call them. I say 'What the f--- did you mean by that?' And they go, 'Oh my God! Is that you?' And I say, 'Yeah, it's me. What do you think I should be doing here?' And usually they say, 'I didn't mean it like that' or 'I was misunderstood'." Saturday Night (Canada) 09/15/01

Week of Sep. 10-17, 2001 

AS SLOW AS POSSIBLE - LITERALLY: A performance has begun in a German town of John Cage's Organ2/ASLSP (As Slow as Possible). The piece was originally a 20-minute piano piece, but organizers of the performance have inflated it to 639 years. "The audience will not hear the first chord for another year and a half. All they will get is the mellow sound of the organ's bellows being inflated." BBC 09/06/01

ASSESSING A NEW SHOSTAKOVICH: In 1939 Shostakovich was commissioned to write a piece that the Soviets intended to use on the occasion of their defeat of Finland. The Finland thing never happened of course, and the music was forgotten. Now it's had its premiere; and what's it like? "Shostakovich can hardly have expected the suite to be a propaganda tool in a military campaign; if he did, he made sure there was nothing triumphalist in it. More likely, he wanted the Party men off his back, and threw them a bit of jobbery to keep them happy." The Telegraph (UK) 09/06/01

EVEN IN REHEARSAL, KRONOS IS DIFFERENT: Love them or hate them, you have to admit that the Kronos Quartet tackles projects others ignore. For instance, the "space-age bachelor-pad music" of Juan Garcia Esquivel. But should it be played like James Bond, or like The Pink Panther? Like a hotel guest, or silly like Mozart? [RealAudio] NPR 09/05/01

DEATH RATTLE: "As a business opera is doing very well. There are more performances today than ever. From Tokyo to Tel Aviv, you can be sure to find Puccini and prima donnas. Opera has become the opium of a rich and educated minority, a launch-pad for millionaire singers who jet from one hemisphere to the other, garnering bouquets of adulation for their silken-lunged arias. But they're all singing an old tune. Forget the composer - today, the interpreter is king. Look at the programme of any number of opera houses. Of the 22 operas to be performed in the new season at Covent Garden in London, just one was written in the past half-century." Financial Times 09/07/01

THE HOTTEST GROWING ARTFORM? It's opera. Audiences for opera have grown 25 percent since 1986. "But the potential for growth is limited by a lack of new operas to perform, a shortage of productions and the poverty of dozens of small opera companies." BBC 09/03/01

SPANO DEBUTS IN ATLANTA: Robert Spano debuts this week as the Atlanta Symphony's new music director. Though Atlantans are excited by Spano's appointment, they're a bit apprehensive too. "Although a skilled conductor, Spano is unproven as a director of a major symphony. That requires a different set of skills, including making sound decisions and forming the vision to lead an organization. At 40, Spano is still young for such a position. But the orchestra's administration is betting that a smart conductor, savvy with the media and ambitious, is more important than a lengthy resume." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 09/09/01

BRITISH BUY MUSIC: British consumers buy more recorded music per capita than music lovers in any other country. UK residents buy an average of four cds per year, according to a new report. Gramophone 09/07/01

AYE, MORPHEUS: A new file-sharing software program lets users download anything on the net. It's fast, efficient, and since there's no centralized computer system (like the one that hosted Napster), it's impossible to shut down. Free movies, music, pictures, books? it's all there. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/03/01

THE PRODIGY GAME: The music prodigy business is booming. "The increasingly tough competition scene is driving a growing market of 'music factories' and professional tuition providers." Sydney Morning Herald 09/07/01

Week of Sep. 03-10, 2001

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

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

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

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

THE PIANO-PLAYING COMPOSER: Artur Schnabel was one of the greatest pianists of the 20th Century. But he always considered himself foremost a composer. "And he was no dabbler; his catalog of works is substantial, including three symphonies, five string quartets, a piano concerto, songs, piano pieces, trios... The New York Times 09/01/01 (one-time registration required for access)

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

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

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

THE HOTTEST GROWING ARTFORM? It's opera. Audiences for opera have grown 25 percent since 1986. "But the potential for growth is limited by a lack of new operas to perform, a shortage of productions and the poverty of dozens of small opera companies." BBC 09/03/01

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

Week of Aug 27-Sep 03, 2001

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week of Aug 20-27, 2001

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week of Aug 13-20, 2001

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week of Aug 06-13, 2001

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

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

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

PORTRAIT OF THE YOUNG COMPOSER: Stuart MacRae is only 24, but his career as a composer is thriving. But 'when you have been touted as the next big thing in British classical music, the weight of expectation becomes almost impossible to bear." The Guardian (UK) 07/31/01

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

BOY, ARE THE RECORD LABELS GONNA HATE THIS: The U.S. Congress has taken up the issue of internet streaming, and apparently, the online companies have good lobbyists. "The legislation, introduced late Thursday night, would streamline royalty payments to artists, create open licensing that would allow Internet companies to easily obtain the rights to major label music, and allow webcasters to stream music in a more cost-effective manner." Wired 08/04/01

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

THE SKY ISN'T FALLING: On first glance, classical music recording may seem to be struggling. But the news isn't nearly so bleak as some suggest. And there are some encouraging signs that the business of recording may be evolving in positive ways. 07/30/01

BUYING AMERICAN: Six major British orchestras are now being led by American conductors. Why? "The answer, according to the orchestras and the Americans themselves, is that while continental, and particularly German, band leaders like to remain aloof and concentrate purely on their music, the Americans are prepared to muck in and get their hands dirty on the commercial side of the business." The Guardian (UK) 07/30/01

GETTING KIDS INVOLVED: Classical music hasn't been cool some time now. A night at the symphony might seem like a good way to impress a date with one's sophistication, but other than that, most of the younger generation has little interest in Beethoven and Mozart. But is it possible that the blame lies not with kids, but with those of us who continue to try to force our same musical tastes on our children? Is it possible that avant-gardists like Philip Glass and Steve Reich have more to say to today's youth than Brahms or Strauss? Boston Herald 07/27/01

Week of July 30-Aug 06, 2001

THE PROMENADE KING AS SERIOUS MUSICIAN: British conductor Malcolm Sargent was known as "Flash Harry," which said more about his personal life than about his professional skills. "It is the public figure, however, that merits this striking retrieval... not only in terms of Sargent's renowned abilities as a choral and orchestral conductor of enormous drive and popularity, but also with regard to his special relationship with contemporary composers including Walton and Sibelius." The Irish Times 07/25/01

THE REVOLUTION WILL BE BROADCAST: "With the signing of a deal with the operators of, all of the Philadelphia Orchestra's concerts in its new $265 million home next season will be available - for a fee - with the click of a mouse, the orchestra and its new Web host are to announce today. . . Also signing with Andante as 'founding artistic partners' are the Vienna Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestra, whose concerts also will be made available via the Internet. Kreisberger said partnerships with the Salzburg Festival, Berlin Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, and La Scala were expected shortly, and that talks were under way with the orchestras of New York, Chicago and Cleveland. " Philadelphia Inquirer 07/25/01

BETTER MANAGEMENT THROUGH ORCHESTRA: Conductor Roger Nierenberg has developed a program that "uses orchestral teamwork as a guiding principle for corporations." Using conducting and performance as a physical demonstration, "most of the demonstration is designed to show how orchestra members function as a team — with and without leadership." The New York Times 07/26/01 (one-time registration required for access)

THE ROSENBERG GAMBIT: Pamela Rosenberg is taking over as director of San Francisco Opera, and, if successful, her plans are sure to shake up the opera world. "Blending the classic with the contemporary, and adding new vocal blood and a kind of stage direction seldom seen in America, Ms. Rosenberg is certainly taking a risk — in the healthiest, most promising sense. If even a portion of the undertaking succeeds, she may be able to convince us that opera is a living art form after all." The New York Times 07/29/01 (one-time registration required for access)

MY IN-CREDIBLE LIFE: Tristan Foison listed an amazing resume when he moved to Atlanta in 1987: "winner of the 1987 Prix de Rome, first Prize in the Leningrad Conducting Competition, 1989; First Prize in the Prague Conducting Competition, 1985; First Prize in the Busoni Piano Competition, 1980..." Trouble is, none of it was true, and when he plagiarized note for note a piece he "composed" for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in May... Atlanta Journal-Constitrution 07/29/01

QUESTIONS OF GREATNESS: Conductor Riccardo Muti is 60 this year, a milestone at which great conductors are supposed to be arching to greatness (if they're ever going to). Is Muti that great conductor? The mixed evidence suggests... Philadelphia Inquirer 07/29/01

BARENBOIM BAN: An Israeli parliamentary committee has called for a ban on conductor Daniel Barenboim for his performance of Wagner in Israel. Barenboim had promised he would not perform the composer's music there. "The education and culture committee of Israel's parliament said on Tuesday that Israeli cultural institutions should shun Barenboim until he apologises." BBC 07/25/01

CBSO BAILED OUT: "One of Britain’s most important ensembles – the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) – has been saved from financial collapse by an Arts Council award of almost £2.5m. The CBSO – which rose to prominence in the 1980s and 1990s under the dynamic leadership of Sir Simon Rattle – has been teetering on the brink of bankruptcy for three years. The Arts Council award of £2,465,000 follows an earlier interim award of £494,000." Gramophone 07/25/01

SOME REGRETS: One music critic reckons that despite all the music world's advances of the past 50 years, it was still a lousy time to be a critic. "I hesitate to tot up how many hundreds of hours of my life have been wasted in half-empty concert halls reviewing convoluted nonsense — dry, charmless, bereft of emotion, drama and buzz — that has mostly never been heard since. Why did I sit there? Because, like most critics, I felt duty-bound to 'give new music a fair chance'." The Times (UK) 07/24/01

BUYING AMERICAN: Six major British orchestras are now being led by American conductors. Why? "The answer, according to the orchestras and the Americans themselves, is that while continental, and particularly German, band leaders like to remain aloof and concentrate purely on their music, the Americans are prepared to muck in and get their hands dirty on the commercial side of the business." The Guardian (UK) 07/30/01

Week of July 23-30, 2001

TWIN THEMES FOR THE PROMS: The 73 concerts of this year's Proms are structured around the contrasting themes of pastoral leisure and composer exile. BBC 07/19/01

KILLING OFF KENT: Norman Platt "founded a company called Kent Opera in 1969 and ran it until 1989, when it was killed off by the Arts Council in one of the most shameful episodes in this country’s artistic life." Platt was phenomenal at spotting talent; some of the opera world's brightest stars today were discovered by him. So why was Kent killed off? The Times (UK) 07/17/01

FRENCH YOUTH GROUP FORCED TO SELL: "The Jeunesses musicales of France (JMF) – which was created in 1944 to help promote and support young artists and has expanded around the world – has run up tax and social security debts of Euros 580,000 [US$498,500] since January. Now a court in Paris has ordered that the offices of both JMF and its associate, the Jeune ballet de France (JBF), be sold." Gramophone 07/18/01

CUTTING OUT THE MIDDLEMAN? Digital music and the internet were supposed to revolutionize the music industry. They did - but only for a short shining moment. The Economist 07/13/01

THE CD THAT CANNOT BE COPIED. NOT YET, ANYWAY: New CDs are on the market which claim to be pirate-proof. The anti-copying gimmick is tiny gaps in the music - "a consumer CD player bridges the gaps. It looks at the music on either side of the gap and interpolates a replacement section. But the computer's CD drive cannot repair the digital data going to the hard disc. So the hard disc copies nothing, or a nasty noise." The New Scientist 07/16/01

SELLING THE SOUL OF THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION: "The digital music revolution ended on Thursday. It died, at least symbolically, when agreed to work with two of the five major record labels to deliver songs using the Internet." Wired 07/20/01

PORTRAIT OF AN (AMERICAN) CONDUCTOR: Robert Spano is considered by some to be the leading conductor of his generation. His innovative programming of the Brooklyn Philharmonic is widely admired, and he's begun recording with his new orchestra, the Atlanta Symphony. Boston Globe 07/22/01

A BIT OF BRITNEY WITH YOUR SOCKS? Most recordings stores are loud and masculine. "HMV and Virgin tell us they are happy with that because their core customer is 18-24 and male. But we know that there is a massive market out there of women and lapsed buyers who don't go into record shops." So some producers are looking for unconventional outlets to sell to women. The Independent (UK) 07/20/01

WHAT DREAMS MAY DIE: Sapporo's Pacific Music Festival was founded by Leonard Bernstein in 1989 with a lot of dreams. Eleven years later, through a succession of illustrious maestros, the festival has flourished. But this year the mood "is one of unease, even stagnation, despite the enthusiasm of the current mayor. Too many bodies - including the Bernstein Foundation - seem involved in the festival, and despite the refreshing presence of the student- musicians and the charm of the drum-playing kindergarten children at the opening ceremony, it has an air of tired ritual about it." Financial Times 07/19/01

THE MAN WHO REMADE SALZBURG: "There are those who discount the importance of arts administrators, preferring (rightly, perhaps, in the greater scheme of things) to concentrate on creators and recreators, also known as performers." But Gerard Mortier's leadership of the Salzburg Festival shows how an institutions can be remade by one person with a vision. The New York Times 07/22/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Week of July 16-23, 2001

MENOTTI AT 90: One of the 20th century's most successful composers celebrated his 90th birthday in style yesterday. Gian Carlo Menotti, who won Pulitzer Prizes for his operas and founded both the Italian and American versions of the Spoleto Festival, was feted in Italy by a gathering of some of the music world's biggest stars. BBC 07/09/01

AGE VS MUSIC: "Does a composer's age influence the type of music he/she writes? At what point is one no longer considered a 'young' composer, and can a composer who is chronologically 'old' write in a young way?" NewMusicBox 07/01

MCGEGAN STEPS OUT OF CHARACTER: Conductor Nicholas McGegan, best known as an early music specialist, has been appointed music director of the Irish Chamber Orchestra, which is known for its commitment to new music. McGegan, who is currently affiliated with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Philharmonic Baroque Orchestra in California, will take up the reins of the ICO in fall 2002. Gramophone 07/11/01

FIRE, BATONS, AND BRIMSTONE: The conductor who brought alternate doses of success and controversy to the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra is jumping across Western Canada to Vancouver. Bramwell Tovey put the WSO on the map during a 12-year tenure during which he helped create one of the world's most successful new music festivals, but sparred endlessly with the Manitoba Arts Council and local critics. He insists, however, that such an outspoken style may not be necessary in his new home, saying, "I'm not the political hot potato I once was." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 07/09/01

UNDERSTANDING AMERICAN: "Lacking an indigenous core repertory, American classical music is to this day impossible to frame. It remains reliant on Old World cultural parents for its menu of masterpieces. It remains bedeviled by an ambiguous and uneasy relationship with jazz, Broadway and other native popular genres." How ironic that those taking the lead in sorting through the American genre are European rather than American. The New York Times 07/15/01 (one-time registration required for access)

HOW ABOUT A LITTLE MORE ELITISM? London's Royal Opera House has lost its way, writes Norman Lebrecht. "So long as Covent Garden plies [its chairman's] apologetic counter-elitism, it will offer grunge-level rail-station services. It's on the wrong line. The ROH needs to smarten up, to pursue unashamed excellence without discrimination. If this is elitist, so be it." The Telegraph (UK) 07/11/01

GETTING BEYOND "PARK AND BARK": "I love opera dearly, but it has exhibited on its stages a vast array of klutzy behavior," says Richard Pearlman. His approach to the problem: bring in a choreographer to teach movement. Now, on a typical summer afternoon, "a pianist pounds out boogie woogie while three young opera singers hop, dip and shimmy as they sing." Chicago Tribune 07/08/01

BERNSTEIN IN CUBA: "Leonard Bernstein was a 23-year-old vacationing in Key West, Fla., a half century ago when he first heard scratchy Cuban rhythms from a radio that was picking up a station on the island to the south. 'He was infatuated with the sound,' the late composer-conductor's daughter, Jamie Bernstein, said in Havana this week. 'And it later showed up in his music.' Now, she hopes to give something back to Cuba in two concerts aimed at introducing children to the work of her father." Ottawa Citizen (AP) 07/09/01

ODE TO THE STRING QUARTET: A string quartet festival in Ottawa mines a resource: "It seems safe to say that the string quartet has become the most thriving of musical cottage industries. Players break away from symphony orchestras to perform quartets and never go back. In America there are now reputedly a hundred or more full-time quartets, and in Britain, too, the numbers are growing." Glasgow Herald 07/11/01

BIG IS BIG: Is the notion of a Big Five list of American orchestras outdated? "The Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic and Philadelphia Orchestra — are still the brand names in American classical music in ways that the St. Louis Symphony, San Francisco Symphony and Los Angeles Philharmonic are not. Whether or not they deserve this status is beside the point." Andante 07/06/01

Week of July 9-16, 2001

STAYING POWER: The 20th century was a period of intense upheaval in the music world - composers' stars rose and fell with astonishing speed as new methods of composition came into vogue and then quickly fell out of favor. Philip Glass, who came to prominence in the 1960s as the leader of the new "Minimalist" movement, should, by all rights, have been just another flash in the pan. But where others stagnated, Glass constantly adapted, and his music continues to be some of the most often heard (and appreciated) of any contemporary composer. The New York Times 07/08/01 (one-time registration required for access)

REDEEMING THE SCAPEGOAT: Few prominent composers have ever inspired as much hatred in audiences as the father of twelve-tone music, Arnold Schönberg. Even today, a Schönberg listing on a concert program is nearly guaranteed to draw a smaller crowd than might attend otherwise. But there was much more to Schönberg than the dense atonality he has become known for, and, thanks to the efforts of persistent musicians, his works may finally be gaining acceptance with the concertgoing public. The Telegraph (London) 07/07/01

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Ruth Crawford Seeger was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. An atonalist and liberal activist in the fledgling days of the labor movement, the Chicago composer was stonewalled at every turn of her career, and the result was a tragically sparse output from a woman who might have become one of the century's greatest composers. The Guardian (UK) 07/07/01

GOVERNMENT BY THE PEOPLE... How much direction does a group of musicians need to perform a piece of music? How about the audience? A performance of John Cage's music in Amsterdam tests how much structure is really necessary - for both sides of the performance experience. Los Angeles Times 07/06/01

SO MUCH FOR CLASSICAL RECORDING? "The classical record is almost played out. The five big labels that command five-sixths of world sales have lost the will to produce. The minnows that swim between their cracks have lost the means to survive. This summer, it looks as if the game is up." The Telegraph (UK) 07/04/01

SEE THE MUSIC: The Emerson String Quartet collaborates with a theatrical director on a staged performance of Shostakovich's 15th string quartet. "All I wanted to do was to allow an audience to listen in another way, to try and open up the ears by using the eyes. I wanted to make it absolutely clear that this piece, rather than just being personal to Shostakovich, is in a way personal to all of us, to bring the music as close as possible to the audience so that they could realise what it's all about - memory, his own memories, death." The Guardian (UK) 07/04/01

GLASS HOUSES: "Philip Glass is probably the only American composer since George Gershwin whose music could work equally well in a cocktail lounge or a concert hall. The music world has not yet made up its mind whether this is a good thing." The Atlantic 07/01

LOOKING GOOD: Today's opera star has to look the part as well as sing it. "It's no longer enough to have a sexy, romantic voice, filled with artistry and musical allure. The visual criteria in opera have become almost as stringent as those of musical theater. Rare voice types, such as dramatic sopranos and Verdi mezzos, are allowed some leeway and some girth. But if you're a lyric mezzo or a Mozart baritone, you'd better hire a trainer, and fast." Opera News 07/01

BERLIN PHIL GETS ITS WAY: Sir Simon Rattle has won the game of political chicken in Berlin. The city parliament has passed legislation turning the orchestra into a self-governing foundation, and appropriating more money for its needs. The moves would appear to fulfill Rattle's demands, and he is now expected to sign his contract, which has him taking over the helm of the world's most prestigious orchestra in 2002. BBC 07/06/01

LACKING CREDIT: An Australian indigenous music company is suing the producers of the American Survivor series. The company allowed the Americans to use music for the show in return for screen credits, which then never appeared. ``They more or less said well thank you very much for your music - now get lost.'' The Age (Melborune) 07/04/01

Week of July 2-9, 2001

INTERACTIVE MUSIC: A 23-year-old Columbia University student composer has launched a phone service which callers can use to generate music based on the sounds of their own voices. The New York Times 06/25/01 (one-time registration required for access)

NOT JUST AMERICAN: What is it about the need of Americans to have their classical music come from "outside?" "The current version of this import-philia is the very public assimilation of non-Western music into an 'American' idiom. The United States is a rich and diverse land, but now identity politics, with an eye to the market, has entered into concert programming." Andante 06/26/01

OUT OF THE ARCHIVES: In the days before hi-fi, and long before anyone had ever conceived of a CD, some of the world's best classical recordings were put out by a scrappy little label called Westminster. Quirky, unpredictable, and with a commitment to recording young, underappreciated artists, the company was the darling of music aficionados until it folded in the early 1960s. Now, Universal Records is reissuing a large chunk of the Westminster catalog, to the delight of collectors. Philadelphia Inquirer 06/27/01

OPERA GOES DIGITAL: With DVD technology fast replacing analog videotape, countless movies have been enjoying renewed success on disc. Now, the classical music industry is starting to jump on the bandwagon, issuing a number of operas in the new format, which boasts superior sound as well as high-quality visuals. San Jose Mercury News (AP) 07/01/01

HEALING MUSIC: A new groundbreaking study says that patients who have suffered brain injuries can recover significantly faster by listening to music. "If this were a drug intervention, people would be clamouring for it. Patients like it, it's cheap and effective and it has no negative side effects." National Post (Canada) 06/25/01

TOWER OF DOUR: Tower Records, which has been, in many parts of the US, the most comprehensive place to buy recorded music, looks to be on the verge of bankruptcy. The company has closed down its book business, closed 10 of its music stores and laid off 250 employees. Los Angeles Times 06/23/01

THE BIONIC FIDDLER: "Although born without a right hand, 17-year-old Adrian Anantawan seems poised for a very real career as a violinist. He's headed this fall to the Curtis Institute of Music, arguably the world's most selective and prestigious music conservatory." Philadelphia Inquirer 07/01/01

BACKSTAGE BLOOEY: Is the Kirov the world's greatest opera company? Director David McVicar gets a bit of culture shock: "It's incredibly hard working there. My team and I are still trying to work out just what was so tough. There were so many contributory factors. The conditions backstage are antediluvian. The stage is a death trap. There is no backstage area to speak of, nowhere to store sets - and they're a repertoire house doing enormous productions night after night. It's crucifying for everyone involved." The Guardian (UK) 07/02/01

LITTLE THINGS MEAN A LOT: John Mauceri has a good job and a great resume. What more could he want? Publicity, for one thing. Tours. Recording contracts. But as long as his Hollywood Bowl Orchestra is trapped in the shadow of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, things are not likely to change. Los Angeles Times 06/28/01

OPERA ON A SHOESTRING: The Welsh National Opera is currently undergoing the agony of scrutiny for an Arts Council stabilization grant. Yes, it's in a bit of financial difficulty, but "WNO is a close-knit, sparely run, but immensely productive company of true international standing." The New Statesman 06/25/01

Week of June 18-25

DEFINING PLAGIARISM: When composer Tristan Foison was recently caught trying to pass off someone else's Requiem as his own, his response was breathtakingly audacious: he simply denied the charge outright. Even more shocking is that no one has yet been able to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Foison is lying. The fact is that music's tradition of "borrowing" and its overall abstract nature make it extremely difficult to catch composers who cheat. Philadelphia Inquirer 06/19/01

PIANIST OF THE FUTURE? When Canadian pianist Peter Elyakim Taussig lost the use of his hands several years ago, he turned to the computer. Now he's set his musical sensibilities to programming a computer that can play the piano with more nuance and technical skill than he ever had as a performer. National Post (Canada) 06/20/01

GRAND PLANS: "The Grand Canyon will serve as the panoramic backdrop for a single performance combining music, dance and theater in one of six huge-scale projects announced Monday by the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts." Nando Times (AP) 06/19/01

THEY KNOW WHAT THEY LIKE: Opera has undergone a transformation in the last couple of decades. It is no longer enough to stand onstage and belt out the notes - today's directors demand cutting-edge staging, head-turning costumes, and actual acting from the principals. In Italy, however, such things are considered distracting and unnecessary. The first nation of opera likes its staging minimal, its acting nonexistent, and its voices big, booming, and boastful. The Independent (UK) 06/24/01

THE SCIENCE OF POPULAR MUSIC: Scientists have analyzed thousands of songs trying to identify the popular "DNA" that makes them appealing. "The Music Genome Project is a computer assisted method of identifying songs that will appeal to particular tastes, regardless of conventional ideas of genre or style." New Scientist 06/18/01

PARTING SHOTS IN TORONTO: "He won't say it was a mistake, and he insists that the good memories outweigh the bad. But Jukka-Pekka Saraste, the outgoing music director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, says he might have stayed in Europe had he fully understood the depth of the ensemble's problems. . . His departure ends a seven-year tenure in which bold promise was often frustrated by dire circumstance." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 06/22/01

HOW TO MAKE AN AMERICAN MAESTRO: The dearth of top-quality conductors of American extraction is a favorite subject of U.S. critics, particularly at a time when many of the nation's top orchestras have been appointing new music directors. But while the press complains, the National Conducting Institute quietly continues its quest to train, enourage, and give exposure to America's top conducting talents. The New York Times 06/24/01 (one-time registration required for access)
o KNOWING GREATNESS WHEN YOU HEAR IT: Robert Spano is one of the few rising young stars of the American conducting ranks, and his decision to sign on as music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, rather than make a run for a more prestigious position in the Northeast, surprised many in the notoriously provincial classical music world. But Spano's first CD release with Atlanta proves what many already knew: he is a star no matter where he hangs his hat. Boston Herald 06/24/01

LISTENING WITH YOUR BRAIN: "Scientists believe they may be closer to understanding why some people like pop music and others like classical. Psychiatric consultant Dr Raj Persaud of Maudsley Hospital in London believes his studies of dementia patients show a link between taste and 'hard-nosed intellectual function' - in other words, appreciation of classical music may require more brain power." BBC 06/24/01

BOLSHOI EXPLANATION: Gennady Rozhdestvensky, who quit last week as head of the Bolshoi Theatre after one season, says he quit because the company didn't have the resources to keep the quality of its productions up. He said "his singers kept deserting rehearsals for better-paying jobs abroad. 'It's impossible to condemn these people. They want to eat'." Nando Times (AP) 06/18/01

Week of June 11-June 18 

LOVE AFFAIR: "How much does the San Francisco Symphony love John Adams? Enough to announce a 10-year commissioning agreement today with the Bay Area composer, which will result in the creation of four new works for the Symphony and its Youth Orchestra." San Francisco Chronicle (first item) 06/13/01

EAST MEETS WEST: For centuries, the musical traditions of Asia and Europe were so different as to defy any attempt to bring them together. But as art music struggles for survival in the West, it is often innovators from the Pacific Rim who are reinvigorating the form, bringing Eastern ideas to "classical" convention. Audiences and musicians alike are seeing the enormous potential in such cross-cultural partnerships. Andante 06/01

GETTING PAST THE CONTEXT: Is music the ultimate chameleon art form? Should we not listen to Carmina Burana because someone suggests it might have been conceived in a Nazi context? "Words and visual images are, by nature, specific, particularly when representing or expressing an idea. Not so music. It's a splendid vehicle for emotion but fares badly with the specificity that ideas require." Philadelphia Inquirer 06/17/01

RATTLE MIGHT PASS ON BERLIN: Superstar conductor Simon Rattle says he may not take over the Berlin Philharmonic after all if the German government doesn't agree to a series of changes he wants to make in the way the orchestra runs. These include an extra $1.5 million to bring players' salaries up to par with other top orchestras, and a measure of self-governance for the orchestra. The Guardian (UK) 06/16/01

  •   BERLIN FALLS: Berlin's city government collapsed Saturday amidst a sea of scandal and corruption. The Telegraph (UK) 06/17/01

  • SUMMING UP THE CLIBURN: What does the recent Van Cliburn competition tell us about the current state of piano playing? "All told, the 11th Cliburn Competition suggested that the technology of piano-playing – the speed and power – may have reached unprecedented heights. What I often missed was a sense of style and scale. And charm was in seriously short supply." Dallas Morning News 06/17/01

    TOO MUCH IS NEVER ENOUGH: You probably think that you appreciate a fine stereo system as much as the next guy. You have no idea. That is, unless you are one of the select few audiophiles who has ever spent more on a home sound system than most people spend on a house. Call it a fetish, call it a subculture, call it insane overkill - these enthusiasts live to find the perfect sound. Washington Post 06/13/01

    NOT YOUR TYPICAL STRING QUARTET: "If Bond's life on tour sometimes sounds like Spinal Tap with a twist of Vivaldi, that was almost the original idea. Bond have been touring the planet since last September, just like a teenage pop band. No awards show, interview or TV variety show is too trivial, and any appearance likely to scoop a bucketful of publicity is eagerly undertaken." It drives classical music purists crazy. The Telegraph (UK) 06/11/01

    ATTACKING MP3: "The MP3 format finds itself under attack from the major record labels. Almost every company intends to launch a digital music subscription site this year. 'Legal Napsters,' most of the companies are calling them. But none intend to support the format that 99.99 percent of the 75 million-plus digital-music listeners are using today. Quite the opposite actually: most companies would prefer to see the MP3 format disappear." San Francisco Bay Guardian 06/30/01

    PIRATE BOOM: A new study says that "36 per cent of the global market for recorded music is now taken by pirate recordings. Worldwide sales of pirate CDs rose from 450 million units in 1999 to 475 million in 2000." Gramophone 06/12/01

    Week of June 11-June 18 

    CATCHING A PLAGIARIST: In the world of new music, plagiarism can be hard to detect, and harder to prove. Composers borrow themes from each other and from their own previous works all the time, and who is to say where the line is drawn? And since most new music is not widely heard, many experienced musicians may be unaware that a plagiarized work has been performed elsewhere under a different name. In Washington, D.C., it took a member of the audience to catch a composer's deception. Washington Post 06/07/01

    FROM THE SIDELINES: Why do Americans "continue to marginalize the work of American composers and all but ignore the fact that there are other classical music traditions in the world besides the one that evolved in Europe over the past 800 years? NewMusicBox 06/01

    TOWER SQUEEZES CLASSICAL INDIES: Record store giant Tower Records is trying to set new terms for small independent labels of classical music. The chain has been losing money, and now it wants the labels to wait longer for their money. The indies say the changes would ruin them. The New York Times 06/07/01 (one-time registration required for access)

    LOOKING AHEAD: Ottawa's recent "Strings of the Future International String Quartet Festival" made a point of celebrating not only the classic sound and unique musical mesh of the form, but the time-honored tradition of pushing the limits of what two violins, a viola, and a cello can do. The future may sound very different than what we're used to, but quartets plan to be around, regardless. Philadelphia Inquirer 06/07/01

    JUST TRY NOT TO SMASH ANY OBOES: Cleveland's Contemporary Youth Orchestra will perform a world premiere concerto this week, with a member of the Cleveland Orchestra as soloist. Oh, and the concerto is actually a live version of an album by The Doors, and the performance will take place at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 06/07/01

    BEING PHILIP GLASS: "You spend your whole life pining for the moment when you can play as much music as you want to, and write as much as you want to, and interact and collaborate with anyone you want to, practically -- and it's taken me 40 years to get to this point from the time I was a student -- and the trouble with it is that it's a very demanding but very exciting life." CNN 06/04/01

    CATCHING ON: What becomes a catchy song? No formula, writes a musicologist in a new book on the topic. But it help if there is an "expressive melodic contour, attractive rhythm, and, not least, text (lyrics)." Christian Science Monitor 06/08/01

    QUEL SCANDALE! Want to get the latest academic dish on musical dirt? The New Groves Dictionary pokes its nose into the stories behind the music. "Sex – at least sex outside conventional marriage – is now considered an essential element in biography, a defining characteristic. Academic scholarship being as trendy as hemlines, The New Grove II, as it's being called, is plugged into the zeitgeist." Dallas Morning News 06/10/01

    YOU GOT RHYTHM: Research with a bunch of finger-tapping volunteers shows that people do have an innate sense of rhythm, and can adjust to changes in tempo which are too subtle to be perceived consciously. The next step is to see if these findings explain why musicians in a group can synchronize so well. The New Scientist 06/03/01

    BEAT THE ELITE: London's Royal Opera House has been fighting charges of elitism for years. Now management has ordered a ticket price freeze." Prices for cheap seats will be frozen so that more than half the tickets on sale will cost less than £50." BBC 06/07/01

    Week of June 4-8, 2001

    FINALLY, ACCEPTANCE: The music world has spent much of the last century bemoaning the state of contemporary music, and blaming the decline of the industry on scapegoats like Schönberg and Boulez, whose music pushed the envelope farther than most audiences were willing to go. But the tide may finally be turning in favor of the innovators. Andante 05/28/01

    UNDERGROUND MUSIC SCENE: "Deep beneath the streets of the city, from one end of Manhattan to the other, a daily symphony is playing itself out on subway platforms... The MTA holds annual auditions for musicians interested in performing as part of its Music Underground program. Passing the audition allows them a shot at the best locations and the approved use of amplifiers." New York Post 05/28/01

    UNDUE INFLUENCE: The only way to keep music fresh is to cross fertilize from other genres. "If both pop music and 'serious' music are to progress, rather than endlessly recycling themselves, such cross-fertilisation must be the way forward. On both sides of the fence, people must open their minds and their ears." The Times (UK) 05/29/01

    COMING TO TERMS: " 'Classical music' is a term, its composers and promoters and performers are beginning to fear, that may drive away as many potential listeners as it draws. The term presumes two unfortunately popular misconceptions: that music called 'classical' must depend entirely on its connection to the great (and thus, to some, hopelessly ancient) works of the Western tradition, and that listeners who want to enjoy new music should have extensive background knowledge of the canon." The New Republic 05/30/01

    HARRY'S WORLD: Harry Partch has always been one of those composers whom philosophers adore and musicians fear. First of all, he insists that there are 43 distinct pitches in a single octave (rather than the standard 12.) Furthemore, he finds traditional instruments sadly lacking in the sound quality his works demand, and so he invents new ones. Constantly. Los Angeles Times 05/28/

    WHERE ARE THE NEW OPERAS? Britain's opera companies seem to be pulling in, playing it safe and not taking any chances. "Anyone perusing the plans of our principal regional opera companies for the 2001-2002 season might be forgiven for reading 'stabilisation' as Arts Council newspeak for swingeing cuts." Sunday Times (UK) 06/03/01

    SO MUCH FOR REVOLUTION: Digital music on the net promised a new world for music fans. But "five years after it all started, the revolution is nowhere to be seen. The record labels, once railed against by those impertinent start-ups, now own their former enemies. Fiercely independent Internet companies have been picked off one by one by the same media conglomerates they once saw themselves as alternatives to. Through a brutal combination of business savvy, legal warfare and simple cartel power, the Big Five record labels have maneuvered the digital distribution industry into their control." Salon 06/31/01

    ROBO-DJ:DJ I, Robot is a computer DJ - the "first random-access, analog robotic DJ system. It's made up of a computer and three turntables that can mix, scratch, cut, and beat-juggle like a human disc jockey. The machine is hardly musical or expressive. It doesn't have a collection of old records it likes to scratch up. But it can spin platters up to 800 revolutions per minute, compared to 45 RPMs by a human hand." Wired 05/28/01

    SO MUCH FOR ARTIST-FRIENDLY: Canada's Song Corporation opened for business two years billing itself as an "artist-friendly" record label and offering musicians "such rare perks as a dental plan and stock options. The company raised $15 million and got listed on the stock exchange. But after 21 months in business Song fell short of producing a hit record and has filed for bankruptcy. National Post (Canada) 06/04/01

    A WEEK WITHOUT MUSIC: A critic proposes tuning out music for a week in July, refusing to listen to a single bar. "Our aim is to dismantle the apparatus for the music industry, to afford ourselves some peace and quiet, thus enabling us to rethink popular culture. This can only be done in total ascetic silence." The Guardian (UK) 05/31/01

    Week of May 28-June 1

    DON'T TRUST ANYONE OVER 30: "Since 1984 the adventurous New York Youth Symphony has presented a premiere performance of a new work by a composer under 30 on every one of its programs. This means that an orchestra of students ranging in age from 12 to 22 has arguably the best record for commissioning new music of any ensemble in the United States." The New York Times 05/23/01 (one-time registration required for access)

    RELIVING THE ICE STORM: Nearly every area has had a natural disaster that lingers in the back of residents' minds: in San Francisco, it's the 1987 earthquake; in northern Minnesota, the 1997 blowdown. In Quebec, it's an ice storm that left the province crippled in 1997. A French Canadian composer has written a unique piece commemorating the terrible event and the spirit of the Quebeckers who fought through it. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/22/01

    CROUCHING TIGER, STOLEN MUSIC? "A Chinese mainland-based composer is planning legal action for breach of copyright after his works were allegedly used without authorization in the Oscar-winning film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, press reports said yesterday. Ning Yong... said he had already contacted a legal firm in Guangzhou to sue Tan Dun, who won the best original score Oscar for his music in the film." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) (AFP) 05/22/01

      o NO THEFT HERE: Composer Tan Dun says he did not steal any of the music he used for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, as alleged by Chinese composer Ning Yong. Tan "said that the professor is confusing the film's original soundtrack with additional music chosen by director Ang Lee for the movie." BBC 05/24/01

    NO RECORD OF IT: The Scottish National Opera has lost its recording contract, including for a planned recording of Inés, by Scottish composer James MacMillan, commissioned by Scottish Opera in 1996. The opera has become one of the troubled company’s proudest achievements. The Scotsman 05/25/01

    IF YOU KNEW HARRY: Canadian composer Harry Somers (who dies two years ago) was one of the country's best-known composers. But that doesn't mean that many know his music. "As a country, we don't know our own music. Normally, a piece is played in a hall for maybe 200, or even 1,000 people. Maybe it will have a single broadcast. But then its life is, for all intents and purposes, over." Now a project to try to change that. National Post (Canada) 05/21/01

    NEW MINNESOTA MAESTRO: The Minnesota Orchestra has named Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä, 48, as the orchestra's 10th music director. Hopes are high for Vänskä, reportedly well-liked by the orchestra's players, to revitalize the orchestra's artistic fortunes, which have waned in recent years. St. Paul Pioneer Press 05/24/01

      o SWEDISH SPECIALIST: "Many of his recordings — some 50 of them, most for the Swedish label Bis — are devoted to Nordic music, a specialty that should strike a chord with the traditions of the northern Midwest." The New York Times 05/25/01 (one-time registration required for access)

    BEETHOVEN, ABRIDGED: Classical music broadcasters worldwide continue to trim the scope and length of the works they present, as aficionados scream and purists sigh in resignation. Even Canada's revered CBC Radio Two has resigned itself to playing single movements during drive time, to the disgust of even its own announcers. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/26/01

    MOVING FORWARD IN PHILLY: Philadelphia's ambitious Regional Performing Arts Center is the most-anticipated new concert hall of the last two decades, but the project has been plagued by management turnover, financial questions, and conflict between RPAC's planners and its primary tenant, the Philadelphia Orchestra. Now, with everyone concerned facing the deadline of this fall's planned opening, things are finally starting to run smoother, but many issues remain unresolved. Philadelphia Inquirer 05/27/01

    Week of May 21-28

    CHOOSING A CONDUCTOR: The Hartford Symphony has been auditioning conductors for its music director job. Some 250 conductors applied, and 12 were featured in try-out performances. Though Hartford isn't a major orchestra, the level of candidates was high, and it was interesting to see the individual stamp a conductor can bring to the same group of musicians. Hartford Courant 05/20/01

    ALL ABOUT THE $: Plans to broadcast a major new Australian choral symphony are scuttled over a dispute over money. Sydney Morning Herald 05/18/01

    FOUND MUSIC : Emmanuel Dilhac describes himself as "a hunter of sounds." Inspired, he says, by John Cage and Olivier Messiaen, he makes music with whatever comes to hand in nature. "His art involves a sort of reverse twist of ego. The less he has to do to make music with his instruments, the prouder he is." International Herald Tribune 05/16/01

    MOZARTSTER? NAH. BRAHMSTER? UH-UH. BACHSTER? HMMM...With all the legal and technical maneuvering for digital distribution of pop music, what's happening with the classics? "The Electronic Media Forum began a feasibility study that would allow the 1,800 orchestras in the United States to distribute their music online." Wired 05/16/01

    THE MOZART EFFECT INDUSTRY: "That classical music somehow relaxes our brains, reorganising and clarifying thought processes and thereby promoting a firmer intellect, is a supposition that has acquired the veneer of accepted wisdom over the past decade." Is it true? Who really knows, but there's a whole industry grown up around promoting the idea. Sydney Morning Herald 05/16/01

    STRING SOUNDS: "There are at least a hundred full-time professional string quartets in North America, plus an untold number of amateurs. To make a living in this field, you have to be willing to play almost anywhere and at any time." The St. Lawrence String Quartet is on the move. The New Yorker 05/14/01

    PAUSING FOR SUCCESS: The Chamber Orchestra of Europe is an unusual ensemble. Founded 20 years ago, its players get together only for half of each year. "Today, the COE draws its players from 15 countries, is the resident chamber orchestra of the Philharmonie in Berlin, and plays regularly in Graz, Cologne, Paris and Vienna." The Times (UK) 05/15/01

    MUGGLE MUSIC: The "Harry Potter" movie due out this fall will, of course, be huge. So who better to provide the score than the man who made Darth Vader, Indiana Jones, and Superman inseperable from their respective music cues? Boston Globe 05/18/01

    LEAVING CINCINNATI: After 15 years, conductor Jesus Lopez-Cobos steps down as music director of the Cincinnati Orchestra. "His tenure proved to be a rocky one. Mr. Lopez-Cobos struggled to find the right programming for his new audience, while the audience dwindled. He weathered a severe financial crisis, a threatened strike and questions about his musicianship. He never became an active member of the Cincinnati community." Cincinnati Enquirer 05/06/01

    YOU'VE GOTTA HANG ON TO THOSE THINGS! What is it with Strad-playing cellists and New York City cabs? Two years after Yo-Yo Ma had to use a taxi receipt to track down his forgotten instrument, Lynn Harrell left his $4 million Stradivarius cello in the trunk of his cab this week. One sleepless night later, he got it back. Andante (UPI) 05/16/01

    Week of May 14-21

    SINGING THE PRAISES OF NEW MUSIC: Getting tradition-bound classical musicians to embrace new music can be like pulling teeth. But choruses have been welcoming new works with open arms, and composers are willing to take less money in exchange for better attitudes and more artistic freedom. Philadelphia Inquirer 05/10/01

    DEATH OF AN INSTRUMENT? "The symphony orchestra is no longer available to composers as an instrument of change. As a result, much of today's most exciting music is not being created for it. It's not that composers have lost interest in the orchestra. It's just become prohibitively expensive." NewMusicBox 05/01

    SYMPHONY SPACE: For the longest time, it seemed that composers had simply decided not to write full-length symphonies any more. Orchestras commissioned short, program-opening works rather than major pieces that might put audiences off. But in the last few years, the traditional symphonic form seems to be making a comeback. Peter Maxwell Davies is the latest prominent composer to premiere a new symphony, and reaction seems to be positive. The Sunday Times of London 05/13/01

    CONDUCTOR OF THE YEAR: Pierre Boulez has been named "conductor of the year" at the annual Royal Philharmonic Society awards in London. BBC 05/09/01

    LIVING WITH MUSIC: Why is it that many art lovers' taste in contemporary visual art is so much more developed than their sense of contemporary music? Michale Tilson Thomas and Frank Oteri wonder if contemporary music is just a more in-your-face experience. NewMusicBox 05/01

    HOW TO SINK YOUR OWN CAREER: The orchestral world is full of conductors who work wonders with small, regional orchestras, yet never quite make the transition to the major leagues. The reasons can be many: orchestras that are loathe to take a chance on an unknown, musicians who take a dim view of a young hotshot come to "save" them, etc. But, says one of America's premiere critics, the conductor's biggest roadblock can often be his own ego. The New York Times 05/13/01 (one time registration required for access)

    LITTLE WOMEN, BIG PROJECT: The number one rule of selecting a libretto for your new opera is "keep it simple." The form doesn't really allow for many intricate plot twists or rambling narratives. So when composer Mark Adamo decided to adapt the Louisa May Alcott classic "Little Women" for the operatic stage, he had his work cut out for him. Los Angeles Times 05/07/01

    WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE? The final artistic authority in virtually every modern orchestra belongs to the music director, or principal conductor. Musicians, who are likely to spend many more years in service to their ensemble than any music director, are expected to defer in every way to the man with the baton. But why? A musician and union chief explores some alternative possibilities. Harmony 04/01 (PDF file - Adobe Reader required)

    THIS MAY TAKE A WHILE: Obviously, online music is here to stay, and various forces are vying to create the next industry standard in the post-Napster era. But with thousands of musicians to negotiate rights with, and so many conflicting regulations to worry about, it could be years before it all gets sorted out. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/10/01

    WHERE ARE THE GREAT CONDUCTORS? One of the world's most prestigious conducting competitions has concluded without awarding a first prize. Denmark's Malko Competition for Young Conductors awarded a second prize and a "special prize," but judges did not see any candidate worthy of the top award.  Gramophone 05/01/01

     Week of May 07-May 14

    WHY PEOPLE DON'T LIKE NEW MUSIC: It's not because they don't like music. "For most people, the appeal of music rests not in originality but in precisely the opposite - in the number of memories it can access. Put another way, although music is capable of reflecting as wide a spectrum of human experience as any other art form, in practice it is more limited, in that its value rests in its ability to provide an illusion of constancy in a changing world." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/02/01

    BIZET IN DA HOUSE, YO! This week, MTV is presenting Carmen in hip-hop form. Despite the network's over-stylized editing, this updated (and, truth be told, barely recognizable) retelling of Bizet's classic is the first ever attempt to draw the pop culture-saturated youth market into the world of opera, and if it achieves even a tenth of what recent Shakespeare "updates" have, the opera world may yet be grateful for the effort. Philadelphia Inquirer 05/06/01

    BATTLING FOR THE SOUL OF CLASSICAL MUSIC: "Nearly everyone says how wonderful it is that 'stylistic barriers' are breaking down, that Radio 3 and Festival Hall audiences have much broader tastes than 20 years ago, and that impeccably highbrow musicians such as Daniel Barenboim are winning new fans by applying their virtuosic skills to (in his case) tangos and Duke Ellington. But don’t be fooled. A vicious little turf-war is going on, as the various factions tug and heave at the proprietorial rights to those troublesome words, 'classical music'." The Times (UK) 05/01/01

    A LOT MORE THAN FIVE: For decades, the American orchestral scene has been dominated by the "Big Five" orchestras: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Cleveland. But these days, only two or three of these truly deserve to be ranked in the top five, and orchestras in several other cities have pushed their way into the upper ranks. So what will it take to get the media to pay attention to orchestras in Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis? Andante 05/01

    UGH, POLITICS: Nothing will get musicians and scholars arguing faster than the topic of politics in music. From Haydn to Wagner to Shostakovich, any number of composers have been said to be trying to communicate political messages through their music. But the most vexing issue is what to do when the music is as irresistible as the composer's personal politics are reprehensible. The newest target in the debate is the unlikely Carl Orff. The New York Times 05/06/01 (one-time registration required for access)

    THE NEXT BILBAO? Officials of Philadelphia's Regional Performing Arts Center planned a New York "coming out" for their project last night, inviting critics from around the country to see a presentation on the center. "The New York event, which was months in the making, had been designed to position the city as the new Bilbao and the concert hall as its Guggenheim Museum," and despite the resignation of the project's director a couple days before, the Philadelphians stayed on message. Philadelphia Inquirer 05/03/01

    DIFFICULT LABOR: The new arts center is plagued with problems. Money, of course, is problematic. And none of the major arts groups - the Philadelphia Orchestra included - has signed leases to perform in the hall. "Fees, of course, have been a major issue - although most groups have now accepted the fact that the arts center has reneged on its promise that rents in the two new halls would be no higher than rents paid by the groups in their current facilities." Philadelphia Inquirer 05/03/01 

    HARD TIMES FOR CHAMBER MUSIC: "It has never been harder since Haydn's time to make a living as a string quartet. But the challenge is yielding a gamut of fresh ideas as quartets struggle to reinvent their genre." The Telegraph (UK) 05/02/01

    A COPYRIGHT STATE OF MIND: When the New York Times Magazine put together a time capsule to show people in the year 3000 what life in 2000 was like, they natually wanted to include music. But there isn't any music in the capsule. Why? The recording industry wouldn't give copyright permission. Wired 04/30/01

    HAPPY IT UP: Director Franco Zefirelli is making a movie bio of Maria Callas. But he doesn't like the way she died. So he's rewriting her untimely end to make it happier. Nando Times (AP) 04/29/01

    Week of April 30-May 4

    REDEFINING "CUTTING EDGE": When John Corigliano won the Pulitzer Prize for his "Symphony No. 2" last week, a number of questions were raised about the piece, the composer, and the state of composition. The winning work is a rewrite of an earlier work, which apparently did not merit any similar recognition. The composer has been accused of playing to audiences while ignoring "serious" musical convention. But what good is convention if no one wants to hear it? Philadelphia Inquirer 04/24/01

    CLASSICAL MUSIC'S PROBLEM? "Mainstream music lovers are said to be indifferent or openly hostile to contemporary music. As long as classical music is perceived to be in the preservation business, it should come as no surprise that potential new audiences, who are instinctively drawn to new works in other fields, dismiss classical music as dated and irrelevant." The New York Times 04/29/01 (one-time registration required for access)

    (NEW) LIFE BEGINS AT 90? Composer Elliott Carter is still going strong at the age of 92. "Even now Carter's stature is more thoroughly appreciated in Europe than it is in his native US, where he has always been regarded with some suspicion. His music has always demanded concentration and never provided easy, ephemeral rewards." The Guardian (UK) 04/27/01

    MUSIC OR NOISE? YOUR BRAIN KNOWS: The same part of your brain that distinguishes between logical sentences and nonsense also can identify a false chord sequence - even if you have no musical training. "It raises the possibility that language and musical ability appeared at the same time in human evolution." New Scientist 04/23/01

    YEAH, BUT CAN THEY PLAY "DON JUAN"? Richard Lair is the conductor of the world's first and (one hopes) only orchestra made up entirely of elephants. They have a new CD. It is getting good reviews. Seriously. Philadelphia Inquirer 04/23/01

    RETHINKING GERSHWIN'S BIG 'FAILURE': "It's about black people so whites won't see it, it's written by whites so blacks won't see it, and it's opera, so nobody will see it." The Opera Company of Philadelphia mounts a production of Porgy and Bess which tries to overcome that clichéd analysis. Philadelphia Inquirer 04/22/01

    TOO SEXY FOR MY MUSIC... At the British Classical Brit awards, a controversy about sexing up classical music to sell it. Should the girl group Bond, with their skimpy clothes and popped-up music be part of the show? More traditional musicians object. The Independent (UK) 04/27/01

    MISSING TRIO: The classical music world has lost three important figures in the past few weeks - conductors Giuseppe Sinopoli and Peter Maag, and educator/composer Robert Starer. Boston Globe 04/27/01

    DSO SUBSCRIBERS INCREASE: Auto sales may be down in Detroit, but the Detroit Symphony is having a record-breaking year for subscription tickets. In fact, it's the third year in a row that DSO subscription sales have set a record. "If we can get someone to attend once a month, that person is really involved. We're a part of their life, and they're very likely to stay with us." The Detroit News 04/25/01

    PLAYING WITH BACH: Some classical music purists object to director Peter Sellars' stagings of a couple of Bach cantatas. But maybe experiments such as these are exactly what are needed to reinvigorate the art form. New Statesman 04/22/01

    Week of April 23

    ARTS-GRANT-IN-RESIDENCE? Nowadays almost every orchestra runs some sort of composer- in-residence program. But are such programs really useful to composers, or are they about getting money from arts councils? The Guardian (UK) 04/21/01

    'FRAID OF THE NEW: Why is it so difficult to get contemporary classical music performed? "Where contemporary music is concerned, we deny ourselves context and continuity: we label it difficult but its difficulties stem from our unwillingness to engage with it. It is a vicious circle that only we, the prospective audience, can break." The Guardian (UK) 04/17/01

    IN SEARCH OF ACOUSTICS: "Ever since World War II, cities from Paris to London, from Toronto to New York, have fallen victim to multimillion-dollar concert halls that embody the latest "advances" in acoustic science yet sound little better than transistor radios. But could architectural acoustics at long last be coming of age? Has one expert finally discovered, as one of his colleagues has claimed, the 'Rosetta stone' of pure sound?" Lingua Franca 04/01

    WHAT, JOHN CAGE WASN'T SEXY? Classical music is sexy again, apparently. To judge from the coverage the stodgy old stuff has been getting recently in Vogue and other high fashion mags, the new reliance on melody and accessible sound has made composers and performers of new music more desirable subjects for the mass media. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 04/19/01

    AT LAST, A PULITZER FOR CORIGLIANO: Every year John Corigliano worked up a nice level of rage in April, assuming he would be passed over again for the Pulitzer Prize. This year, they surprised him and gave him the award. What makes the Pulitzer special? "In concert music, it is the highest honor a composer can get." (RealAudio interview, requires free RealAudio player.) NPR 04/17/01 

    COURTING THE PUBLIC: "[T]he most seductive myth of modern opera is that of the New Audience, [which] is supposed to save the medium from becoming entirely a museum of its past... Tapestry New Opera Works is about to discover whether its most ambitious attempt to conjure the New Audience is a success or failure." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 04/19/01

    SAY IT AIN'T SO: A new study to be published in Britain's Journal of the Royal Medical Society makes a startling and, for music snobs everywhere, disturbing assertion: The Mozart Effect - the idea that listening to Mozart improves cognitive skills in children - apparently works with the music of new age sensation Yanni as well. [first item] The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 04/19/01

    SOUND THE REVOLUTION: "Either the opera houses of the future will succeed in rejuvenating and restructuring themselves, or else we had better close them down, with a few fortunate exceptions that we can then cherish as museums of lyric drama. At present they are almost all museums. Despite the current debate, and contrary to appearances, most opera houses suffer from the same malaise." Culturekiosque 04/18/01

    E-WORD OF MOUTH: The saviour of classical music recording might be the internet, as release of a recording of Mahler suggests. A somewhat obscure performance, promoted by Mahler cognoscenti on the web has made it a roaring success. The Telegraph (London) 04/18/01

    POWER TO THE PICCOLO: The traditional way of managing orchestras has been top down - a strong leader who decides everything. But for orchestras to survive, some believe the orchestra as an institution has to become more democratic. And some orchestras are finding success with this approach. CBC 04/18/01

    Week of July 16

    THAT AMERICAN PROBLEM: Why don't American orchestras play American music? "American orchestras would have you believe that recent American music is inferior to recent European music, which is patently untrue. Orchestras, being the Eurocentric entities that they are, naturally gravitate to composers from abroad. The fact that most American orchestras are led by European conductors doesn't help." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 04/15/01

    THE CONDUCTING COMPOSER PROBLEM: Should composers be allowed to conduct? The Scottish Chamber Orchestra is touring Sweden and composer James MacMillan is conducting. And apparently not well. "Many rank-and-file players were just plain angry. It was their debut tour of Sweden and, if first impressions count, then they were worried about the impressions of the SCO's standard that audiences, promoters, and professional peers might be taking away." Glasgow Herald 04/13/01

    WING WAITING: Despite the fact the world's most-established orchestras seem to have taken a conservative turn in their recent choices for music directors, a crop of impressive young conductors is on the way up and ought to be given some opportunities. The Economist 04/132/01

    LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MUSIC? A "laughter choir" has been started . It "has already released a CD, starts by trying to render a known piece of music by going 'ha, ha, ha' until the inanity of what they are doing strikes one of them who then dissolves into real laughter. Sooner or later, the rest follow suit as Thomas Draeger attempts to 'conduct' them and shape the laughter into something resembling music." The Guardian (London) 04/15/01

    LET THE WINNER TAKE ALL: There is a sense of relief - almost euphoria - after settling the battle for control of the Bayreuth Festival. In truth, little has really changed, but by wresting control of the festival away from Wolfgang Wagner, an important step has been taken. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 04/10/01

    MASTER OF THE CHAMBER: No other type of classical music inspires as much devotion and passionate advocacy among its practitioners as chamber music. The heroes of the chamber world are not only world-class musicians, but dedicated teachers and promoters of their art. Canada's Andrew Dawes is one of these, and those musicians who have been gathered into chamber music's fold by his example remain, years later, in awe of his skills. Ottawa Citizen 04/10/01

    WHAT, NO "HILARY & JACKIE"? The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition is diversifying, adding a seven-film mini-festival centering around classical music to the usual hoopla that surrounds the main event. Films to be screened include "Song of Love," "Song Without End," "A Song to Remember," and "Gosh, What a Neat Song!" (Okay, we made that last one up.) Dallas Morning News 04/10/01

    CONDUCTOR MARISS JANSONS is pessimistic. "I feel that the world is going in the wrong direction. Although the material side of life may be getting better, we are neglecting the spiritual side, including art and music. Political leaders should regard it as an obligation to introduce young people to the arts. Instead, they talk about the subject as a luxury or entertainment - take it or leave it." Financial Times 04/09/01

    PRAGUE IN PERIL: The Prague Philharmonic has a long and proud history. But since the Velvet Revolution, the orchestra has suffered - problematic leadership, outdated ways and attitudes, and some scrappy playing. "Without a strong artistic vision for the future, orchestral standards will continue to decline. Without the resources to solve its material crises, the orchestra will continue to ignore long-term issues." Financial Times 04/13/01

    NEW CARNEGIE HALL DIRECTOR TAKES OVER: Its autocratic (and much disliked) executive director out of the way, Carnegie Hall welcomes its new leader, and attempts to soothe. "An institution that is 110 years old and has been as successful as Carnegie Hall is a lot larger than any one person's vision." The New York Times 04/09/01 (one-time registration required)

    Week of April 16

    THAT AMERICAN PROBLEM: Why don't American orchestras play American music? "American orchestras would have you believe that recent American music is inferior to recent European music, which is patently untrue. Orchestras, being the Eurocentric entities that they are, naturally gravitate to composers from abroad. The fact that most American orchestras are led by European conductors doesn't help." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 04/15/01

    THE CONDUCTING COMPOSER PROBLEM: Should composers be allowed to conduct? The Scottish Chamber Orchestra is touring Sweden and composer James MacMillan is conducting. And apparently not well. "Many rank-and-file players were just plain angry. It was their debut tour of Sweden and, if first impressions count, then they were worried about the impressions of the SCO's standard that audiences, promoters, and professional peers might be taking away." Glasgow Herald 04/13/01

    WING WAITING: Despite the fact the world's most-established orchestras seem to have taken a conservative turn in their recent choices for music directors, a crop of impressive young conductors is on the way up and ought to be given some opportunities. The Economist 04/132/01

    LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MUSIC? A "laughter choir" has been started . It "has already released a CD, starts by trying to render a known piece of music by going 'ha, ha, ha' until the inanity of what they are doing strikes one of them who then dissolves into real laughter. Sooner or later, the rest follow suit as Thomas Draeger attempts to 'conduct' them and shape the laughter into something resembling music." The Guardian (London) 04/15/01

    LET THE WINNER TAKE ALL: There is a sense of relief - almost euphoria - after settling the battle for control of the Bayreuth Festival. In truth, little has really changed, but by wresting control of the festival away from Wolfgang Wagner, an important step has been taken. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 04/10/01

    MASTER OF THE CHAMBER: No other type of classical music inspires as much devotion and passionate advocacy among its practitioners as chamber music. The heroes of the chamber world are not only world-class musicians, but dedicated teachers and promoters of their art. Canada's Andrew Dawes is one of these, and those musicians who have been gathered into chamber music's fold by his example remain, years later, in awe of his skills. Ottawa Citizen 04/10/01

    WHAT, NO "HILARY & JACKIE"? The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition is diversifying, adding a seven-film mini-festival centering around classical music to the usual hoopla that surrounds the main event. Films to be screened include "Song of Love," "Song Without End," "A Song to Remember," and "Gosh, What a Neat Song!" (Okay, we made that last one up.) Dallas Morning News 04/10/01

    CONDUCTOR MARISS JANSONS is pessimistic. "I feel that the world is going in the wrong direction. Although the material side of life may be getting better, we are neglecting the spiritual side, including art and music. Political leaders should regard it as an obligation to introduce young people to the arts. Instead, they talk about the subject as a luxury or entertainment - take it or leave it." Financial Times 04/09/01

    PRAGUE IN PERIL: The Prague Philharmonic has a long and proud history. But since the Velvet Revolution, the orchestra has suffered - problematic leadership, outdated ways and attitudes, and some scrappy playing. "Without a strong artistic vision for the future, orchestral standards will continue to decline. Without the resources to solve its material crises, the orchestra will continue to ignore long-term issues." Financial Times 04/13/01

    NEW CARNEGIE HALL DIRECTOR TAKES OVER: Its autocratic (and much disliked) executive director out of the way, Carnegie Hall welcomes its new leader, and attempts to soothe. "An institution that is 110 years old and has been as successful as Carnegie Hall is a lot larger than any one person's vision." The New York Times 04/09/01 (one-time registration required)

    Week of April 9 

    FINALLY, SOME RESPECT: Female composers have been making great strides in the classical music world in the last decade. Case in point: New Jersey's Melinda Wagner, who has watched her Pulitzer Prize-winning flute concerto take on a life of its own, even as she moves on to her next high-profile commission. Philadelphia Inquirer 04/03/01

    CONSIDERING STRAVINSKY: Was Igor Stravinsky the most influential composer of the 20th Century? Thirty years after his death, his music appears to have the staying power... Dallas Morning News 04/08/01

    THE SOUND OF MUSIC: For all the calculations, acoustics is more art than science. "Scale models and computer simulations can demonstrate the motion of sound waves, yet relatively few modern concert halls have stunning sound. Virtual reality cannot replicate the visceral sensation of sitting in a space and hearing it resound with real, unamplified music. Yasuhisa Toyota has spent 10 years working on the sound for LA's new Disney Concert Hall. Los Angeles Times 04/08/01

    CHOICE COMES TO THE CLIBURN: The Van Cliburn competition has announced that contestants will now have their choice of four pieces of new music to fulfill the contest's contemporary requirement. In past years, a single work had been commissioned, and was required of all players. The change is popular with contestants and composers. Dallas Morning News 04/04/01

    LONGEST MUSIC: Composer Robert Rich has recorded (on a high-capacity DVD) what he says is the longest piece of music ever. It lasts 7 hours, and "the work is designed to be played at such a level that the listener falls asleep as it begins, and then experiences it during the various stages of sleep. Rich notes that ‘You can listen to Somnium in your sleep with a small pair of headphones, although these can become uncomfortable if you try to sleep on your side'." Gramophone 04/05/01

    THE LITTLE OPERA COMPANY THAT COULD: How many opera companies commission and stage a new opera every year, and then see those operas performed all over the world? The only one we know of is in a small town in Canada. Granted, it's a series aimed at children, but even so.... Ottawa Citizen (CP) 04/05/01 

    BILLY BUDD COMES OUT: Critics have long speculated about the homoerotic subtexts of Herman Melville's "Billy Budd." When Benjamin Britten and E.M. Forster, both gay men, created an opera from the story, however, the idea of a gay Billy was largely ignored by conservative opera companies and their audiences. The Canadian Opera Company's new production meets the controversy head-on. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 04/05/01

    NEW NAME, NEW DIGS: The Concerto Soloists of Philadelphia, widely considered to be one of America's finest chamber orchestras, is getting a new name, The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, to go along with it's beautiful new home in the Regional Performing Arts Center that opens this fall. The ensemble will also be bringing in a higher caliber of soloists and guest conductors. Philadelphia Inquirer 04/02/01

    REINVENTING OPERA: "From Venice to Berlin, Europe’s opera houses are facing shrinking federal budgets, crumbling infrastructures, an aging core audience and accusations of elitism—not to mention the rapid incursion of mass media. In an effort to remain relevant—and solvent—European opera companies are being forced to radically overhaul everything from their repertoires to their management to their financial backing." Newsweek 04/02/01

    MOZART, MD: Researchers have discovered that playing Mozart can be therapeutic for some patients. "Short bursts of Mozart's Sonata K448 have been found to decrease epileptic attacks." BBC 04/02/01

    Week of April 2

    MADE IN CHINA: Some of the most prominent composers on the new music scene today are from China. But their music is better known and more widely heard in Europe and America than back home. The New York Times 04/01/01 (one-time registration required)

    NEW GENERATION: "A generation of Chinese-born composers has established a major and diversified presence on the American musical scene. They are by no means the first wave of immigrants to have done so. But perhaps not since the various infusions of African influences has a sizable contingent steeped in an idiom so far removed from Euro-American norms achieved such prominence." The New York Times 04/01/01 (one-time registration required) 

    SIMPLY THE BEST: Romanian conductor Sergiu Celibidache insisted on more rehearsals than anyone else. He was legendarily finnicky and he refused to make recordings. But "in the past four years, however, CDs of his live performances have been appearing, proving him to be, quite simply, the most revelatory conductor of the later 20th century." The Telegraph (London) 03/31/01

    THINK OF IT AS CLASSICAL KARAOKE: A jacket wired to a computer is helping music students learn to conduct. Sensors in the jacket read the student's movements and transmit that information to the computer, which correspondingly controls a synthesizer output. "[J]ust like the real thing, the cyber-orchestra only plays well if it's conducted properly, with the conductor's right arm signalling volume and the left arm beating time." New Scientist 03/28/01

    LOOKING GLASS: This summer's Lincoln Center Festival will focus on the music of Philip Glass. Nando Times (AP) 03/27/01

    SHOCK OF THE NEW: Why are English opera companies so reluctant to stage new operas? The Times (London) 03/27/01

    HOW DO YOU GET TO CARNEGIE HALL? After interviewing 100 candidates, Carnegie Hall has chosen Robert J. Harth, longtime chief executive of the Aspen Music Festival and School, to head Carnegie Hall. Carnegie's current director is making an early retreat after a controversial tenure. New York Times 3/29/01 (one-time registration required for access)

    THE NEW CALYPSO: "While calypso has always been a means for Trinidadians to critique the political elite, some singers are crossing a longstanding boundary and using their songs to advocate for the political parties." Christian Science Monitor 03/27/01

    BOSTON REBUILDS: Okay, so maybe on the face of it, it's just an appointment of a new oboe player. But the Boston Symphony's choice of John Ferrillo as its new principal oboe signifies to some observers a desire by the orchestra to rebuild its ranks and reputation as a first-class ensemble. Ferrillo, comes from the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra where he has held the principal's job since 1986. Boston Globe 03/28/01

    NO. 3 WITH A BULLET: A group of English nuns recorded a disk of Latin chants and it's shot up the UK music charts. "The album reached number three in just a week, and is also in the top 100 in the pop charts. Under the slogan "Get the nuns to number one", the canonnesses have a marketing budget equivalent to a Madonna campaign." The Independent (London) 03/23/01

    LOCKING IT UP: The recording industry is preparing to debut a new system of copyright protection which would make it impossible to "rip" tracks from a CD into digital MP3 files. However, the system would also make the discs unplayable on many CD players, which might not go over well with consumers. 03/27/01

    Week of March 19

    ELEVATOR MUSIC WITH A 20 SECOND REVERB: An enormous grain elevator in Montreal has been turned into a giant musical instrument. With the help of high-speed internet connections, the Silophone "transmits and receives sounds sent in from around the world, which are transformed, reverberated, and coloured by this historical hulk, leaving a cacophony of haunting echoes. Those echoes, in turn, are captured by microphones and rebroadcast on phone lines to Web and telephone users." The Globe and Mail (Canada) 03/14/01 

    TWICE DISPOSSESSED: A wave of talented Russian composers fled the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s for new lives in Britain and throughout Europe. But the thriving composing community they envisioned hasn’t reestablished itself, and for the most part their work - some of it very good - goes unplayed and thus unknown. "Shunned by compatriot conductors, undiscovered by westerners, Russia's emigré composers are the unheard ghosts at Europe's over-subsidised feast." The Telegraph (London) 3/14/01

    BACH IN BLACK? Classical music has always been influenced by popular tunes, although "serious composers" are often loath to admit it. Still, at a time when pundits are continually proclaiming the death of serious art music, it can be difficult for a composer who openly embraces the work of Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison to be accepted by his peers. Even when he's a professor at Princeton. Boston Herald 03/13/01

    CAN'T GET NO RESPECT: This week, the Metropolitan Opera premieres a new production of Prokofiev's rarely-heard and much-reviled "The Gambler." That the Met is performing the work at all begs the question: just what went wrong with Russian opera in the twentieth century? The world's leading expert on Russian music weighs in with the opinion that Prokofiev and his contemporaries were simply too disdainful of operatic convention, and too far ahead of their time. New York Times 03/17/01 (one-time registration required for access)

    PLUGGING THE HENZE: With a major new Henze opera set to debut and dismal advance ticket sales, London's Royal Opera House is taking to some old-fashioned PR to try and generate buzz. The company is comping TV celebs to the production, hoping to get them to plug the opera on their shows. The Independent (London) 03/15/01

    MUSIC + IMAGE = In some serious circles, describing a music score as "film music" is meant as derisive. But "there is a growing feeling that music in the context of film, performed as a live event, could be the most exciting new art form of the era. We have begun to notice that the combination of music and the filmed image can seduce us at the deepest level, with its ability to mimic the form of a dream." Financial Times 03/19/01

    WHERE ARE ALL THE WOMEN? "Conducting is a competitive field, but some say that for women, it seems bitterly so. America's best-known female conductors have little to show for decades of effort. None of the 27 American orchestras with the largest budgets has appointed a woman music director, and many insiders expect a woman president to be sworn in long before a female takes the helm of one of America's top orchestras." Minneapolis Star Tribune 03/17/01

    WORLDWIDE WEBCASTING: The big problem of streaming audio and video on the web is that such webcasts cross international boundaries, and require multiple sets of legal permissions. "To figure out what licensing agreements a business needs to launch a legal, digital music company is like searching for the beginning of an M.C. Escher painting –- everywhere you look, it seems like you've found the start of the maze, until you look somewhere else." Wired 03/17/01

    EXTRAVAGANT CLAIM: "It is only a decade-and-a-half since the London Symphony Orchestra hit rock-bottom, and now it is unquestionably the leading British orchestra. On a good night others can match it, but no other British band is playing consistently at the LSO’s level, and only the LSO could claim to have knocked America’s biggest heavyweights off their pedestals. Indeed, the LSO has surely become the first British orchestra to be mentioned regularly in the same breath as the Berlin Philharmonic and Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw." The Times (London) 03/13/01

    DO YOU HAVE AN EAR FOR MUSIC? If you do, you almost certainly inherited it. Research shows that you can't learn to judge musical pitch; it's in your genes. If you're not sure, there's an MP3 file to download which will help you find out. The New Scientist 03/08/01

    The BBC Symphony Orchestra's annual Composer Weekend at the Barbican traditionally focuses on the work of one twentieth-century composer; in 2001 it's Alfred Schnittke. This first retrospective of the Russian's work since his death in 1998 focuses on his symphonies and concerti grossi. Towards the end of his life, having suffered paralysis in his right-hand side, Schnittke annotated, but left incomplete, a work called Fragment , which will receive its world premiere by the London Sinfonietta who commissioned it. Other highlights include the string quartets played in St Giles, Cripplegate, by the Keller Quartet (13 Jan) and a study day at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama next door. (more)

    How music got its Grove back The new edition of Grove's Dictionary--to be published this week--has taken 20 years and 29 volumes to run from Abba to Zemlinsky. Its editor, Stanley Sadie, tells Michael Church of the Independent how he steered it through the squalls of publishing politics and political correctness. (more)
    Among the notable grants made by last week by the Rockefeller Foundation  through its  Multi-Arts Production Fund (MAP Fund)

    is a grant to Danspace Project, Inc., in New York City, to support the creation and
    production of an evening long dance theater work by choreographer Yin Mie, composer John Zorn, designer Xu Bing and writer Mark Strand (former Poet Laureate of the United States).  Using the I Ching (Book of Changes) as a choreographic lens, the work will be the parable of a woman's encounter with different men.  Another notable MAP Fund award has been given to the American
    Repertory Theatre Company in Cambridge, Mass., to support the production of
    Drawn to Death: A Three Panel Opera, a commission in which graphic artist Art
    Spiegelman (Maus) and composer Phillip Johnston chronicle the rise and fall of
    the American comic book. (more)
    Tenor Jose Cura, who was performing the lead role in Verdi's Il Trovatore at the distinguished Teatro Real has outraged Madrid society wth an outburst prompted by heckling during his performance. Cura - whose confrontational style has now earned him a reputation as opera's Diego Maradona - was booed and hissed during the last of seven performances this week. During the curtain call, when he was booed again, he turned his fury on the hecklers for four minutes, shouting , 'I sing for all of you, not just for the part of the audience that smells.' (more)
    Net4Music (Nasdaq: NMUS - news) and German publisher Schott Musik International have announced the Internet-only release of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana for piano. The sheet music for the popular piece, heard frequently in film and television, will be available for purchase and download at in a special arrangement for piano students. (more)


    Fifty-four composers, including Elliott Carter, Steve Reich, Joan Tower, Chen Yi, Stephen Sondheim, John Zorn, Wynton Marsalis and Meredith Monk will convene in New York for an unprecedented nine-concert festival. "A Great Day in New York," which will take place at Merkin Concert Hall and Alice Tully Hall in
    January, will celebrate composers who have drawn inspiration from living in the city and have played a role in its musical life. (more)

    The first staged production of Scott Eyerly's "House of the Seven Gables," a setting of the Hawthorne story, was staged  at the Manhattan School of Music. Eyerly studied composition at the Juilliard School, where he was a student of Elliott Carter, and at the University of Michigan, where his teachers included William Bolcom and Curtis Curtis-Smith. He wrote his own libretto and spent the last seven years composing the work. (more)
    Deutsche Grammophon (DG), the yellow label famous for its high-minded promotion of the classical repertoire, has effectively dropped John Eliot Gardiner after a partnership lasting the best part of two decades – a move that has shocked fans and musicians alike. In less rarified circles, he would be known as Britain's "Mr Bach". Gardiner's recordings of the great composer dominate the classical shelves of record shops and department stores. But now, like dozens of other top-flight performers, he has found himself dumped by his recording label. Sales of expensive new classical performances are plummeting, and the major corporations are cancelling contracts with all but the most bankable and attractive of celebrity performers. (more)
    The list of things that have been done right around San Francisco's Davies Symphony Hall is a long one, from artistic excellence to financial stability to touring and recording to education and outreach. But the masterstroke -- the one that right now is making every other orchestra in America look as though it's being run by dummies -- was the decision to hire Michael Tilson Thomas as music director. (more)
    The Jazz at Lincoln Center organization announced abruptly late yesterday that Rob Gibson, its executive producer and director since 1991, had resigned effective immediately. Gibson, 42, under whom Jazz at Lincoln Center has been fund-raising for a $115 million complex scheduled for completion in 2003 as part of a new construction project at Columbus Circle, refused to respond to questions about his reasons for leaving. (more)
    Tony Hall, the head of news and current affairs at the BBC, has been asked to be the next head of the Royal Opera House. Mr Hall, 49, is in the last stages of negotiating his contract, The Independent

    has learned, and an announcement is expected in the next few days. The choice of  Hall signals a change of direction for the ROH. For the first time they have gone for a chief with no experience in opera or ballet, of running an arts venue, or with an arts background at all.  (more)

    Augusta Read Thomas has signed an exclusive five-year composer contract with G. Schirmer, Inc., in which the company will represent the music formerly in Thomas's own company ART Musings, as well as her future compositions. In the past 12 months alone, Thomas has had six major premieres: Aurora: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, co- commissioned and premiered by the Berlin Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony; Invocations, performed by the Miami String Quartet at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival; Fugitive Star, performed at the Caramoor Festival; Ring Out Wild Bells to the Wild Sky (with texts by Tennyson) for the Washington Choral Arts Society at the Kennedy Center; Song in Sorrow for soprano, chorus and orchestra commissioned by the Cleveland Orchestra, and the orchestral work Ceremonial for the Chicago Symphony, led by Barenboim. (more)

    The San Francisco Bay Guardian, the Bay Area's largest alternative newsweekly, has honored Pauline Oliveros with a Lifetime Achievement Award, as part of their 12th annual "Goldies" awards program. Each year, the Bay Guardian arts editorial staff selects multiple "Outstanding Local Discovery Award" winners. A tribute to Oliveros in the Goldie Awards program book calls her the "godmother of experimental music in the Bay Area." (more)
    Herbert Brün, a pioneer in applying computers and electronics to the composition of music, died on November 6 in Urbana, Illinois. He was recognized within and beyond the field of music as an eloquent and original thinker, a contributor of ideas relating to composition and systems theory, language, thought, performance, and everyday life. He was 82 and lived in Urbana. (more)
    Steven Sloane, 42, has been named Music Director Designate of American Composers Orchestra. Sloane begins his artistic planning duties with ACO effective immediately, and will make his Carnegie Hall debut with the orchestra in March 2002. He will become Music Director beginning with the 2002-03 season, succeeding Dennis Russell Davies, ACO's founding Principal Conductor and Music Director, who will become Music Director Laureate at that time. Also effective immediately, composer Robert Beaser, ACO's Artistic Advisor since 1993, has been named to the newly created post of Artistic Director. 
    Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie and American composer John Corigliano are among the distinguished artists who will receive honorary degrees from Britain’s Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) later this month. The two musicians will be made Honorary Fellows of the College at the RNCM’s annual awards ceremony on Thursday December 14. Corigliano is currently the focus of the RNCM’s American Reflections Festival. The fellowships will be conferred by the RNCM president, the Duchess of Kent. (more)
    On a holiday note:  Channel Classics has released New Century Saxophone Quartet’s "A New Century Christmas" distributed by Harmonia Mundi.  The quartet’s tour begins with a holiday party at the White House  followed by Christmas concerts  throughout their home state of North Carolina.  The group previously played a Command Performance for President Clinton in ’96.  Featuring unusual arrangements by a wide range of American composers "A New Century Christmas" spans several different styles and genres, and highlights the diversity of the group in its performance of traditional carol-like arrangements, modern versions of old standards,  jazz and pop influenced styles, and contemporary original music.  Among our favorites:  "God Rest Ye Merry Gentle Mensch" & "Funkin’ With The Bells." (more)

    Fred Ho's "Warrior Sisters," which premiered at the Kitchen in New York last week is not the first agitprop American opera; remember Marc Blitzstein's 1937 "Cradle Will Rock." Subtitled "The New Adventures of African and Asian Womyn Warriors," it may be the first to have staging and slogans akin to the didactic "revolutionary operas" of modern China, with dastardly oppressors and blazingly courageous heroines. But the music has an American swagger, taking its doctrinaire text seriously yet making it swing. (more)
    A new full-scale opera called From Morning to Midnight, by the German author George Kaiser (1878-1945), is to be premièred by English National Opera next year. Based on a German expressionist play, the opera is currently being developed by British composer David Sawer in the ENO Studio. The opera, for which Sawer has written his own libretto, will première at the company’s home, the Coliseum, on April 27 2001. (more)
    French composer and 20th-century music champion Pierre Boulez has won the 2001 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition. The US$200,000 Grawemeyer Award – established in 1984 by industrialist H. Charles Grawemeyer – is the most lucrative prize in international composition. Boulez is the first French composer to win the award. (more)
    "I have the kind of temperament that tries to make rules for the pleasure of breaking them later,” says Boulez once said. He couldn’t have found a more apt description of the process that led to Le Marteau sans maître in 1954—a time of intense theoretical exploration during which he forged a new musical grammar known as integral or total serialism. (more)

    Speaking of the French temperment:  Strikes at the Paris National Opera are hardly rare, with four of seven scheduled performances of Prokofiev's "War and Peace" canceled earlier this season. But the labor dispute that erupted here this week is potentially the most serious in recent memory, with technicians at both the Palais Garnier and the Bastille Opera threatening to disrupt 41 opera and ballet performances through Jan. 21.  At the premiere of a new production of Mozart's "ZauberflÃote" at the Palais Garnier, the cast wore costumes and sang their roles, but no sets were changed (anticipating this, music critics were invited to Saturday's dress rehearsal), while this evening's performance of Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" at the Bastille Opera was given in concert version. (more)
    The Dallas Center for the Performing Arts Foundation (DCPAF) announced this week that a team of 23 people would spearhead the drive to build a $250m complex opera and theatre centre in Dallas. If an initial fundraising drive succeeds, the Texan city could see the complex open in 2006. It will be the new home for the Dallas Opera and other local groups. (more)
    Ten years ago John Corigliano wrote his First Symphony, a passionate response to the AIDS crisis. The Corigliano First, ''Of Rage and Remembrance,'' has since become the most-performed American symphony composed in the last half of the 20th century; more than 125 orchestras, including the Boston Symphony, have taken it up. Ironically, Corigliano never thought he would write a symphony. (more)
    The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) has named Julian Anderson, a 33-year-old British man as its third composer in residence. Anderson will take up his new three-year post with the Midlands ensemble from January 2001. Anderson, whose admirers include Oliver Knussen and Sir Andrew Davis, has cleared his composing diary for the entire period to concentrate exclusively on creating works for the CBSO musicians. (more)
    EMI Recorded Music and Streamwaves, an Internet-based subscription music provider, today announced a non-exclusive, multi-year license agreement that will allow North American consumers to stream music on demand. The streaming service, located at, is expected to launch officially at the beginning of 2001. For a monthly fee, subscribers to Streamwaves' service will have access to a wide selection of titles at any time. (more)
    Writes The Guardian:  "English National Opera's Italian Oddities season, as it should logically have been called, reached virtual topsy-turviness last week. Dallapiccola's The Prisoner (1949) formed the major part of a new triple bill. The other two works were not operas. One was a version of a film score, the other a group of folk songs for solo voice. Not that we need be strait-laced about terminology. Opera is a word of vague origin covering a multitude of sins and inviting a variety of spin. But it's fair to say that generally most people know what they think opera is and that by the light of even a loose trades' descriptions act it should tend to contain some singing." (more)
    eClassical, an online company specialising in downloadable classical music, has launched what it claims is a unique personalised search engine. Known as Giovanni, the 'search engine' is staffed by experts in classical music who will reply to any email enquiries about classical music within 48 hours free of charge. (more)
    Sydney Opera House, one of the busiest performing arts centers in the world, has won its case against an alleged cybersquatter, the United Nations (news - web sites) copyright protection agency said. An independent arbitrator named by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) ordered the domain name-  -- transferred to Sydney Opera House Trust, which manages the architectural masterpiece, home to a theater and concert hall along the famous harbor. (more)
    Thirty years ago Gidon Kremer was rated as one of the world's outstanding violinists. Then he really started making waves. Though Kremer does not shy away from the traditional repertoire - he was in London to rehearse the Sibelius concerto - his sense of adventure is at the heart of his identity as a performer. He is an explorer on the borders of the known musical world. (more)
    Profoundly pessimistic and troubled by ill health, Jean Barraqué died in 1973 at 45. Like his near-contemporary Pierre Boulez, he was a convinced progressive, but at the same time he felt an allegiance to the scale and the rhetoric of the great 19th-century composers, especially Beethoven. He was a modernist with an old-fashioned sense of music as powerful human communication. He was also realistic enough to anticipate neglect, from which he contrived to benefit: it gave him the freedom to be demanding. (more)
    Nikolaus Harnoncourt is a Habsburg by blood, a descendant of Holy Roman emperors, who used to earn his crust as a back-row cellist in Vienna's second orchestra until he decided that he knew better than most maestros how classical music should sound. Today, he's a one-man brand. (more)
    Opera Tampa at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center has launched a new website dedicated to the world- premiere opera by Anton Coppola, ``Sacco & Vanzetti.'' The 

    site provides users with easy access to information on all aspects of the opera and historical information on the crime and trial that inspired the opera. The world-premiere performances are March 16 - 18, 2001 at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center in downtown Tampa with Anton Coppola conducting the Florida Orchestra and stage direction by Matthew Lata. (more) Inc. (Nasdaq: EMUS - news), the Internet's leading seller of downloadable music, announced an exclusive, long-term digital distribution agreement with Qualiton Imports, Ltd., one of the world's premier independent distributors of classical music, and seven of its distributed record labels: Tuxedo, SayDisc, Amon Ra, Doron, Memoir, Telos and Avid. EMusic will begin to make approximately 500 albums available for purchase and download in the MP3 format -- including significant works from every major composer in the Western canon of classical music.(more)
    Gramofile, Gramophone magazine's world-beating database of classical CD reviews, is to relaunch next spring with a completely new design and vastly improved search facilities. The database, which currently contains more than 27,000 reviews of classical CDs and is free to access online, is the largest of its kind in the world. To coincide with the launch of Phase II of Gramophone's website in February 2001, Gramofile is being completely overhauled.

    Palle Mikkelborg – who was born in 1941 and has collaborated with artists from across the musical spectrum – has been named winner of the NOMUS prize. The DKr350,000 award is bequeathed by the Nordic Music Council.

    Mikkelborg will be presented with his award on April 2 2001 in Oslo. (more)
    Stepping into a fight between two rival Berlin operas, the German government is pledging $1.5 million to preserve the venerable Staatsoper and keep Daniel Barenboim as its artistic director. Barenboim's fame has bolstered Berlin's claims to being a cultural center, but he has threatened to leave after his contract ends in 2002 unless the opera's financial future is cleared up. The dispute was muddied further last month with reports that there was anti-Jewish sentiment against his tenure in Berlin. (more)
    James Levine first saw the New York Met at the age of eight. Now, in his 30th year as its conductor, he regularly clocks up two performances in a single day - with just a sandwich and a quick nap to keep him going. In a rare interview, the world's most successful opera conductor tells the Guardian's Martin Kettle what Britain can expect from his baton (more)
    Europeans hired to run American musical institutions have a way of running into trouble. Franz Xaver Ohnesorg, brought in from the Cologne Philharmonie in Germany to be executive director at Carnegie Hall, is the latest. Bitter and anonymous letters to the press, swastikas scratched on walls and fears of retaliation indicate that life within Carnegie Hall has at the very least changed drastically and at worst gone downhill. (more)

    Aaron Copland (1900-1990) is idolized as the creator of such folksy classical hits as "Fanfare for the Common Man" and "Lincoln Portrait," and ballet music like "Rodeo," "Billy the Kid," and "Appalachian Spring." He is the closest America has come to having a national composer.  He was gay, a leftist, 
    and Jewish. (more)
    Composer Pascal Dusapin (1955-) is one of the bright young stars of French music.  A new work, Granum Sinapis, recently released on France’s Naïve label, and distributed by Harmonia Mundi, may spread his fame.  Drawn from the speculative writings of Meister Eckhart, the 14th-century German mystic, the work is 20 minutes of mystery-drenched singing for a cappella choir. (more)
    German composer Aribert Reimann (1936-) has been drawn to the likes of Euripides, Strindberg and Kafka for his operatic subjects, and for his seventh music drama - which has just had its world premiere at the Bavarian State Opera - he has turned to Federico Garcia Lorca's grimly claustrophobic final drama, ''The House of Bernarda Alba.'' (more)
    Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, conductor, scholar, teacher, author and music publisher Gunther Schuller (1925) is the Maurice Abravanel Visiting Distinguished Composer at the University of Utah, visiting the campus this week. His stay includes two free public talks and a concert featuring three of his works. (more)
    Ronald Caltabiano's (1959-) chamber opera ``Marrying the Hangman,'' like the Margaret Atwood text on which it is based, turns on a compelling historical nugget. In 18th century Quebec, it seems, a condemned man could escape the gallows by signing on to be the local hangman -- and a woman could do the same by becoming the hangman's wife. (more)
    Lorin Maazel, one of the world's best-known maestros and the music director of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, is also more, as he has made clear in recent years. He is a composer of no little imagination, as he showed in 1996 at Carnegie Hall, in a performance of his Music for Cello and Orchestra, with Mstislav Rostropovich as soloist. And he is a violinist of no mean gifts, as he proved more recently in a televised New Year's concert of the Vienna Philharmonic. (more)
    For 39-year old bass virtuoso and composer Edgar Meyer, recording Bach's cello suites on the double bass has been a long time coming. He first transcribed them when he was 12 years old. Among his many upcoming projects, Meyer will be touring with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center this winter. (more)
    Super-budget label Naxos now accounts for one in five of all classical CDs sold in the UK, according to the latest available industry figures.The country’s biggest-selling classical label has just achieved its best-ever market share for the third quarter of 2000, with 20 per cent of the entire UK classical CD market, according to the Chart Information Network which compiles UK sales figures. (more)
    The best and the worst of jobs in British opera are currently up for grabs. Firstly, the post of executive director at the Royal Opera House has been exercising headhunters ever since Michael Kaiser announced in the summer that he was leaving to take over the Kennedy Center in Washington. Now Nicholas Snowman had resigned as general director at Glyndebourne just over two years into the job. (more)

    Steven Sloane, a 42-year-old American conductor, has been named music director designate of the American Composers Orchestra, the only orchestra today dedicated entirely to the creation, performance and preservation of music by American composers. The appointment was announced yesterday by Carnegie Hall, where the orchestra presents a yearly series of concerts. Sloane will succeed Dennis Russell Davies, the principal conductor and music director who founded the orchestra in 1977 with the composer Francis Thorne.(more)
    Czech-born composer and conductor Karel Husa recently donated his archive to Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. The Archive now exceeds in scope and volume the Husa documents in the Library of Congress. The Husa Archive at IC contains materials from his entire career. As a champion of new music, Husa's correspondence contains many letters to composers such as Bernstein, Carter, Copland, Foss, Ginastera, Penderecki, and Poulenc on matters pertaining to the interpretation of their works. In addition, there are 62 letters from Nadia Boulanger, dating from his student years in the 1950s until just before her death in 1979.(more)
    The 2000-2001 Visiting Composers' Series at the University of Texas will bring an impressive roster of composers to the school's Austin campus for four-day residencies, during which School of Music students, faculty, and guest artists will perform their music. The composers will present public forums on their music, master classes for UT student composers, and attend rehearsals and concerts of their works by the New Music Ensemble, UT Wind Ensemble, UT Symphony Orchestra, UT Jazz Orchestra, and UT Choruses. (more)
    German publisher Schott Musik International has signed a deal to put its entire catalog online. The 230-year-old firm has joined hands with the online sheet music retailer Net4Music. The firm's the extensive music catalog for which the company is best known. It includes the works of such contemporary classical composers as Stravinsky, Orff, Rodrigo, Ligeti, Henze, Penderecki, Takemitsu, and others. (more)
    The  Venetian composer Luigi Nono's "Prometeo," the culminating opus of his life, is not an easy work to love. At  2 hours 20 minutes, with no breaks between movements, with vast stretches of music in slow motion devoid of momentum, the work does not give a listener a lot of familiar ground to cling to. Still, the Ensemble Modern has been playing to sold-out houses in a European tour of the work, which began last August in Germany and concludes next August in Switzerland. (more)
    One of the most prestigious jobs in the arts became unexpectedly available Saturday, with the resignation of Nicholas Snowman as general director of Glyndebourne opera, after just two years. The move comes as the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, is scouring the world seeking a chief executive to replace the American, Michael Kaiser, who is also leaving after two years. (more)
    Tom Waits' latest project brings Woyzeck, a nineteenth century play by doomed playwright Georg Büchner (who died at age twenty-three of typhus), into the realm of the opera. And as with their theater productions of Alice and The Black Rider Waits has collaborated with his wife Kathleen Brennan and avant-garde theater director Robert Wilson, whose glowing resume of musical collaboration includes work with Phillip Glass (Einstein on the Beach), Lou Reed (Time Rocker) and David Byrne (The Trees). (more)
    Maestro Pinchas Steinberg has been elected to succeed Fabio Luisi as the new music director of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. He will not take up the position until September 1st, 2002. But he will become artistic director on January 1st, 2001, to prepare the 2002/2003 and 2003/2004 seasons. (more)
    No sooner had Daniel Barenboim concluded a successful tour with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to South America (commemorating the 50th anniversary of his performing debut, in Buenos Aires) earlier this month than he returned to Berlin, where he serves as artistic director of the venerable Deutsche Staatsoper, to find his ongoing struggle with the city authorities over funding had degenerated into racist name-calling. (more)
    Five of Carnegie Hall's top executives have resigned or been dismissed in the past six weeks. None of those who left would comment on the reasons, but a growing resentment directed at the management style of the executive director, Franz Xaver Ohnesorg, has manifested itself in widespread grumbling among employees, anonymous letters to the news media and ugly graffiti scratched on the inner door of Ohnesorg's concert box. (more)
    During his short tenure, George Steel, the director of Columbia University's Miller Theater, has turned the place into a hotbed of contemporary music and proved adept at reaching new listeners. His success suggests that if the setting is right, the players are enthusiastic and the program is bracing, rock fans who listen to Radiohead and the Beastie Boys might also groove to works like Gyorgy Ligeti's mesmerizing Piano Études. (more) and more
    The Greek composer Nikos Skalkottas will be the subject of a four-day convention at the Konzerthaus, Berlin, from November 30 to December 3. His work has grown increasingly familiar to music lovers worldwide, mainly through a series of BIS recordings, and the German event will be co-presented by the Konzerthaus and the Skalkottas Academy, in association with International Music Amphictyony. (more)
    Although Arthur Sullivan probably went to his grave denying it, the day in 1869 when he was introduced to W.S. Gilbert was the luckiest of his life. Today, Sullivan's serious works (choral anthems, chamber pieces, the "Irish" Symphony) are at best curiosities. The Gilbert and Sullivan operas are timeless glories. (more)
    Looking for the roots of New Age or Ambiant music?  Start with the Armenian-Russian guru George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff, a seer and mystic who promised that his guidance, known as "the Work," would bring his students a new enlightenment, a greater level of consciousness, a deeper sense of what it means to be in the world. (more)
    After a national search for its next president, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts is poised to name one of its own, Gordon J. Davis, the chairman of Jazz at Lincoln Center and a former New York City parks commissioner, to lead the organization through the nation's biggest arts rebuilding project. (more)
    Edgar Meyer has composed a five-minute duet for this year's recipients of this year's Avery Fisher Prize: himself and clarinettist David Shifrin. Shifrin and Meyer each received $50,000 at the ceremony, where they debuted the duet. (more)
    Sir SimonRattle was the big winner at the 23rd annual Gramophone Awards for classical music at London's Royal Festival Hall, Billboard Bulletin reports. Rattle took 

    home awards for orchestral album, opera album, and record of the year (Mahler/Cooke's "Symphony No. 10" by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra). (more
    Two years in the making, the opera ``Dead Man Walking'' had its world premiere at the San Francisco Opera. Composer Jake Heggie and award-winning playwright Terrence McNally adapted the story from Sister Helen Prejean's best-selling novel of the same name. The verdict?  Mixed. While Joshua Kosman of the San Francisco Chronicle described the premiere as "a triumph," The New York Times's Bernard Holland derided Heggie's contribution as an exercise in "the aesthetics of ingratiation."

    (more) and more
    A decade has passed since a heart attack claimed the life of Leonard Bernstein at the age of 72, but already his stature has reached Olympian magnitude. This month, the orchestra most associated with Bernstein, the New York Philharmonic, is remembering him with a series of concerts, with Leonard Slatkin and Mariss Jansons conducting; an exhibit, "Remembering Lenny" (October 11-December 13 at Avery Fisher Hall); and the release of a 10-CD box set, Bernstein Live.  (more)
    At school during the Nazi occupation of Holland Bernard Haitink says he ways, 'a lazy pig', but went heon to become a great Wagnerian conductor. Covent Garden's music director, he was seen as its conscience during the recent turmoil. He is taciturn, stubborn and driven, but his fourth marriage has mellowed him. (more)
    Boston's Symphony Hall, which turned 100 on Oct. 15, is regarded by many as one of the three top concert halls in the world acoustically, with Amsterdam's oncertgebouw and Vienna's Musikvereinsaal. Symphony Hall will hold a four-day centennial celebration beginning Thursday that will include a free concert, an open house, and a $2000- per-ticket dinner and concert to raise money for education programs. (more)
    Lang Lang, an 18-year-old Chinese native who studies at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, looks like something far out of the ordinary -- a virtuoso blessed with superb keyboard skills and the artistic mastery to turn those skills into musical expression of the highest order, writes Joshau Kosman in the SF Chronicle.

    Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally's "Dead Man Walking" premieres Saturday at San Francisco Opera, directed by Joe Mantello, conducted by Patrick Summers and starring Graham, newcomer John Packard as the convicted killer Joe De Rocher, and Frederica von Stade as his mother, Mrs. Patrick De Rocher. (more)
    Jay and Daisy get another shot this week when Lyric Opera of Chicago opens its second-chance production of "The Great Gatsby," John Harbison's adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's beloved novel which opened to mixed reviews at the Met last year. Harbison has made some modest cuts and tinkering--not nearly enough from the sound of it.  (more)
    Chamber Music America has announced the first recipients funded through New Works: Creation and Presentation, a new grant program supporting composer/performer-led ensembles in the creation of music in the jazz idiom. The grantees were selected from a pool of eighty applicants by an independent panel of jazz composers, who screened audio work samples without knowing the performers’ identities. (more)
    Bang On A Can All-Stars and the Australian Chamber Orchestra brought new American music to the Sydney Olympic Festival. The two ensembles collaborated on three works that received Australian premieres on the 12th: Hard Times, by British composer Steve Martland; Game Over, by the young Australian Brett Dean; and Haircut, jointly composed by Bang On A Can's artistic directors, Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe. All three pieces were jointly commissioned by the ensembles, and were given world premieres last April at the University of Iowa. (more)
    It took the folks at the San Francisco Opera nearly half a century to catch up with ``The Ballad of Baby Doe,'' composer Douglas Moore's sentimental, musically accessible tale of love and money in the Old West. But they've done right by it in the end, says the San Francisco Chronicle. (more)
    Things both change and do not change. That is perhaps the central lesson of Steve Reich's music, and through matching concerts he gave with his regular musicians at Miller Theater on Thursday and Saturday evenings, the lesson zigzagged through many dimensions.  (more)

    The Guardian writes:  "John Tavener is an improbable person to have become the British National Composer. He doesn't even live in Britain for much of the time, is positively hostile to almost all British music past and present, and he rejects many of modern Britain's cultural preoccupations. By turns reclusive, elusive and very much his own man, he seems to have few of the qualifications that go with any kind of public figurehead role."
    Brian Robison has been named winner of the 2000 Whitaker Commission, an honor that includes a $15,000 prize and world premiere performance by the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Chosen from among seven finalists in one of this country's most coveted opportunities for emerging composers, Robison won top prize at the American Composers Orchestra's annual Whitaker New Music Reading Sessions with his evocative orchestral work entitled Imagined Corners. (more)
    The Nashville Symphony makes its Carnegie Hall début this month under conductor Kenneth Schermerhorn with the world première of a new edition of Charles Ives' Symphony No 2. This edition, researched by Ives scholar Jonathan Elkus for the Charles Ives Society, incorporates more than 1000 changes from the symphony's original performing edition which was prepared by Ives, Henry Cowell and Lou Harrison and premierèd by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic in Carnegie Hall in 1951. Naxos has also released a new recording of the Ives piece. (more)

    The Houston Symphony named Austrian conductor Hans Graf as its music director, succeeding Christoph Eschenbach, who left the post of music director in May 1999 after 11 seasons.  Graf's five-year contract will begin with the 2001-2002 season. He is music director at the Calgary Philharmonic and the Orchestre National Bordeaux-Aquitaine in France. He will end his tenure in Calgary at the end of the 2002-2003 season. His contract in Bordeaux also expires then. (more)
    The Silk Road, the ancient trade route that linked East and West, from China to Rome, for almost 2000 years, still retains the power and romance to intrigue and captivate. G. Schirmer composer Bright Sheng, having already written three pieces about this commercial highway - his piano concerto RED SILK DANCE (1999), SEVEN TUNES HEARD IN CHINA for solo cello (1995), and SPRING DREAMS (1997), a concerto for Western cello and Chinese orchestra — recently decided  to trek down the Silk Road itself to deepen his knowledge of the area and its music, as well as gain inspiration for future compositions. You can follow his adventures here on G. Schirmer's server. (more)

    The Nashville Symphony makes its Carnegie Hall début this month under conductor Kenneth Schermerhorn with the world première of a new edition of Charles Ives' Symphony No 2. This edition, researched by Ives scholar Jonathan Elkus for the Charles Ives Society, incorporates more than 1000 changes from the symphony's original performing edition which was prepared by Ives, Henry Cowell and Lou Harrison and premierèd by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic in Carnegie Hall in 1951. Naxos has also released a new recording of the Ives piece. (more)

    A high-tech investor is giving a total of $24 million to the Los Angeles Opera and a Russian opera and ballet company to fund permanent productions designed to travel the world. Alberto Vilar, a billionaire who has given millions to classical music companies worldwide, said he is giving $14 million of that total to the Mariinsky Opera and Ballet of St. Petersburg, Russia. (more)
    English National Opera has quietly launched a £33.5 million programme of renovation and redevelopment of The Coliseum that it hopes will avoid the angst of the recent renovation at Covent Garden. When the company's new season opens today  the stage will have a new floor, there will be better ventilation, and various long-neglected safety requirements will be met. Next June, work resumes on more far-reaching structural changes, designed to rid the building of its creaking gantries and mouldering stairwells. This process as well as a 2001-2 season that will open a month later than normal. In June 2002, the Coliseum will shut until Christmas, in a push to restore the full Edwardian glory of Frank Matcham's original 1904 interior.(more)
    La Scala in Milan is replacing between 160 and 200 standing places in the traditional loggione (standing-space balconies) with 139 regular seats at the same low price. The work will be undertaken along with other renovations between 2001 and 2003. Opera fans are angry at the plans, which abolish an old tradition of balcony critics - standing fans with a reputation as being the house's most knowledgeable and rowdy section of the audience.
    The last and most violent of Alberto Ginastera's three operas, Beatrix Cenci, was given its European premiere by the Grand Theatre de Geneve. Ginastera, a native of Argentina, was living in Geneva when he composed Beatrix Cenci, and the opera opens with some explicit condemnations of the military junta that had banned his earlier opera, Bomarzo, from performance in Argentina. He died in Geneva in 1983. (more)
    Leonard Slatkin takes over as chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra on October 1. Slatkin, 56, is all-American, born in Los Angeles and best known for his work with the St Louis Symphony Orchestra, where he spent 16 years; the Chicago Symphony; the New York Philharmonic; and latterly the Washington-based National Symphony Orchestra, where he has been music director since 1996. (more)

    A BBC sound engineer named Andrew  Rose has just launched a new Web site devoted to the life and works of E J Moeran – just ahead of the neglected composer’s 50th anniversary. Rose was motivated to launch the site after discovering Moeran’s music at a local library. Moeran, who was born in 1894 and died in 1950, studied with composer John Ireland at the Royal College of Music whose lushly chromatic language was a lasting influence on his pupil. Although several of Moeran’s works proved popular in his lifetime, his music fell out of fashion and is now rarely performed on the concert platform. (more)
    Hell hath no fury department:  Opera legend Maria Callas bore the love child of Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis in 1960, but the baby boy died of natural causes within hours, Vanity Fair magazine reported in its October issue.  The magazine, in printing excerpts from a new biography of the enigmatic diva by Nicholas Gage, reports that Callas spoke of her loss to few people, instead telling most friends that Onassis had forced her to have an abortion six years later. (more)
    The case of an immaculate conception in wartime Germany has spawned a new music/theatre piece, Parthenogenesis, which will be premiered Tuesday, as part of Sounding the Depths, the International Festival of Contemporary Arts and Theology in Cambridge, Scotland. The 40-minute work, with music by James MacMillan and libretto by poet Michael Symmons Roberts and the archbishop of Wales, Rowan Williams, is based on a true story of a young woman who reportedly gave birth sans sex during World War II. (more)

    Though other U.S. opera companies have honorable records in commissioning new work, the Houston Grand Opera has been setting the agenda for new opera in America: twenty-five world premieres in as many years is surely an unbeatable record. And it's no coincidence that this impressive roster of commissions has coincided with the twenty-eight-year tenure of HGO general director David Gockley. More
    Michael Tilson Thomas is out to train accomplished young classical musicians, fresh from college, for key positions in orchestras around the world. For its 2000–2001 Miami season, the Tilson Thomas's "other" orchestra, the New World Symphony, will pursue a diverse series of programs. The season kicks off in October, with a collection of 19th-century Russian music featuring works by Nicoli Rimsky-Korsakov and Peter Ilyich Tchiakovsky. In December, the NWS tackle Philip Glass' The Canyon, John Adams' Century Rolls and Louis Andriessen's The Republic. Special concerts in March feature the music of Latin America, with selections by Joaquin Turina, Carlos Surinach, Robert Gerhard and Manuel de Falla. More

    If advance praise counts for anything, the Canadian Opera Company should be looking forward to brisk ticket sales for a new work in its coming season -- Venus and Adonis.
    It's the latest opera from celebrated German composer Hans Werner Henze.
    Henze's 70-minute version of the classic Venus and Adonis story had its premier at Santa Fe Opera earlier this month. It turned out to a major hit, especially with younger audiences. Critics described Henze's Venus and Adonis as "compelling," "brilliant" and "as swift and powerful as a summer storm." More

    Operalia 2000, the world opera contest founded by superstar tenor Plácido Domingo, kicked off — for the first time in the United States — on Thursday (Aug. 31). Los Angeles, where Domingo is artistic director of Los Angeles Opera, plays home to the competition at UCLA's Royce Hall. "For the past two years, we have made the preliminaries available to the public," Domingo told the Los Angeles Times. "Now we can see the singers react in front of the public — not only in front of the judges." More
    Edgard Varèse (1883-1965), who launched the percussion revolution, was a pupil of Roussel, d'Indy, and Widor. By the 1920s he had become a veritable guru of twentieth-century musical creation. Some dozen of his compositions are groundbreaking works, among them Ionization (1931), the first score in western music composed for percussion ensemble. Pierre Grondines explains why it was a "turning point in musical vocabulary."

    The Hollywood Bowl may lose the trademark orchestral shell that's made it a city landmark. After years of trying to repair the 71-year-old shell, which has notoriously poor acoustics, officials with the Los Angeles Philharmonic are proposing to spend $18 million for a bigger, more modern structure that would have a similar, but not exact design of the current shell. (more)
    How does Dorothy DeLay, the violin teacher   teacher of choice for the best, spend her summer vacation?  Teaching, of course, at the Aspen Music Festival.  (more)
    Leonard Slatkin bowed to take his punishment yesterday after a glib after-dinner remark about the size of musicians' posteriors struck a bum note with female colleagues, reports The Guardian. Slatkin,  who is due to take the baton of the BBC Symphony Orchestra in October, suggested that for amply endowed female musicians, trouser suits were best avoided. (more)
    Michael Nyman's
    second opera Facing Goya, with a libretto by playwright Victoria Hardie, was premiered in Santiago de Compostela last week and is now touring Spain. A British venue has yet to be organised. His first, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, based upon a case-study by Oliver Sacks, appeared in 1986, but despite the stream of concert works and film scores he has produced since then, there have been no stage works, until now. The starting point for Hardie's text is a fictional search for the whereabouts of Goya's skull, which the painter had asked to be removed from his corpse before burial.

    Quite possibly the first opera ever about ice hockey premiered at Festival Vancouver in British Columbia last week. The one-act opera titled Game Misconduct is by composer Leslie Uyeda with a libretto by Tom Cone.

    The story, according to the write-up, concerns eight characters — seven fans and a food vendor — who are watching the game from the stands. Larry, the lead, has been a vendor for 20 years and will lose his job when the arena is torn down.  Afterwards the audience will invited to go outside and watch the snow to melt. (more) 
    Philip Kennicott of the Washington Post on Karlheinz Stockhausen: "Stockhausen is a uniquely European phenomenon: an artistic idealist and megalomaniac genius with access to money and respectability. Enough money to be dangerous. Unlike many experimental composers in America, Stockhausen in Germany had the cultural resources to put his very grand schemes into action. The operas of "Licht," each named for a day of the week, have been produced as the composer has finished them. Even today, when the world would seem to have passed him by, when Stockhausen conceives of something as outlandish as a quartet for helicopters, he can find the backers to make it fly." (more)
    Lou Harrison has won this year's Edward MacDowell medal, making him the 12th composer to receive the award. Composer Chester Biscardi was chairman of this year's selection committee for the MacDowell Colony, which also included music historian Vivian Perlis and composers Meredith Monk, Alvin Singleton and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. (more) 
    John G. Schultz, a veteran record-company and talent-management executive, has been named Executive Director of Composers Recordings, Inc., the premiere independent label specializing in contemporary American Music. Schultz succeeds Joseph R. (Jody) Dalton, who resigned recently to pursue new career opportunities after managing CRI for 10 years. (more) 
    Daniel Steiner was recently named President of the New England Conservatory of Music by Board Chairman David W. Scudder. Steiner has been serving as Acting President since July 1999. The appointment concludes a year-long search by a Presidential Search Committee and follows its recommendation.


    Mariss Jansons hasn't been in Pittsburgh long but he's already found a young composer whose work he likes.  Michael Hersch, 29, is on a roll. (more)


    Dead Man Walking, the balleyhooed and yet unheard first opera by San Francisco composer Jake Heggie, will have life after its world premiere at the San Francisco Opera this fall. Irvine's Opera Pacific announced that it has booked the opera for its 2001-2002 season. Opera Pacific is the first company to schedule the opera after its premiere October 7 at the War Memorial Opera House. (more) 

    Composer Carman Moore and the librettist Ishmael Reed call their new gospel opera, "Gethsemane Park," a "gospera." Not a bad term for  an updated retelling of the story of Jesus' last days among his disciples set amid inner-city poverty -- which mixes musical styles, not just gospel and opera, but jazz, rap and popular song. (more)
    Iain Hamilton, 78, the Scottish composer who turned Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina," into an opera died this week. Born in Glasgow in 1922, Hamilton worked as an engineer before attending the Royal Academy of Music in London. He graduated with top honors and began a prolific composing career. (more) 
    Albert Takazauckas, a leading and widely beloved Bay Area director who was equally at home in the worlds of opera and theater, died at his home in Oakland. The cause of death was a heart attack, said his longtime partner Hector Correa, who was with him at the time. Mr. Takazauckas was 56. (more) 
    "If America cared half as much about its cultural giants as it does about its other heroes, Aaron Copland's distinctive profile, beak nose and all, would have been chiseled into Mt. Rushmore long ago. Copland, who was born 100 years ago this Nov. 14, was the greatest composer the American century produced. Like his Old Testament namesake, he was a high priest and public spokesman for his religion -- in his case, American music." Chicago Tribune music critic John von Rhein goes a little overboard on AC. (more) 
    Okay, so composer Osvaldo Golijov is an Argentine-born former Israeli.  Doesn't mean he can't write a two-hour St. Mark Passion. (more) 
    Opera Australia's 2001 season will go down in the company's history as the season that nearly wasn't. In an art form where cast, crews and conductors of productions, and indeed the productions themselves, are often signed and sealed two years in advance, OA was two months ago facing the possibility of a Sydney winter of scant content, still unable to confirm its program until the final outcome of Helen Nugent's Major Performing Arts Inquiry was known. (more) 
    Paul Griffiths writes in the NYTimes that "KAIROS, a new CD label specializing in recent and contemporary music, is well worth attention. Distributed here by Koch International, it is based in Germany, and several of its early releases feature Klangforum Wien, probably the most vital European group performing new music at the moment. The repertory indicates a definite taste for intensity and reaching to extremes. 

    The romance between the New York Philharmonic and Riccardo Muti has ended badly. After an intense courtship that led many people in the music world to assume that Riccardo Muti would be named the next music director of the New York Philharmonic, spokesmen for both the conductor and the orchestra said last week that the marriage was off. (more) 
    So, if not Riccardo, then who? Mariss Jansons has again been caught in the rumor mill. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's music director was mentioned in a New York Times news report yesterday as a possible replacement for outgoing New York music director Kurt Masur. Given that Masur leaves after the 2001-02 season, the New York Philharmonic now does not have much time to select a new music director, since conductors' schedules are booked far in advance. Jansons has a three-year evergreen contract with the PSO that he can renew every year. (more) 
    Covent Garden executive director Michael Kaiser, widely praised for having turned around the fortunes of the Royal Opera House in London,  will run  the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Kaiser will take up the post in February 2001. It follows his shock announcement that he would be leaving the ROH at the end of the coming season. (more) 
    The San Francisco Symphony has received a grant of $650,000 over three years from the James Irvine Foundation, which yesterday announced $2.6 million in grants to five California arts institutions. Other recipients are San Diego Opera, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Japanese American National Museum and Dell'Arte Inc. (more) 
    According to the Finnish Music Information Center, 16 operas by Finnish composers will bow during 2000, a remarkable statistic for a country of only 5 million people. But it shows what can happen when classical music is backed by a strong governmental commitment, including a school music program that ensures that no talented student goes unnoticed. (more) 
    U.S. Internet investor Alberto Vilar, whose love of music has made him one of the world's most generous arts patrons, said ``thank you'' to Milan's La Scala opera house this week -- with a gift of $2 million. ``I've been a lover of music all my life. I started with Italian opera and I've been going to La Scala for many years,'' he told Reuters this week. ``It's my way of saying 'thank you' to La Scala.'' (more)

    Jay Ignacio, a digital musician who scores original music and audio effects for the Web, is one of the new group of musical composers who are taking their talents to the Web, turning from more traditional formats like radio and television to online magazines, interactive games and Internet sites. (more) 
    Has Olivier Messiaen's time come? And if so, what does that arrival say about this time? Such questions are raised by Lincoln Center Festival 2000, with its central focus on the music of Messiaen, including three of his grandest statements. "Éclairs sur l'Au-Delà," "Des Canyons aux Étoiles," and the "Turangalila" Symphony. (more)  Plus, a dandy little piece on birds as composers. (more)

    The American Federation of Musicians is tallying the votes on whether to approve an agreement allowing 66 of the nation's orchestra, opera and ballet companies to start making money over the Internet. Musicians from organizations including the New York Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony and the Houston Grand Opera cast their ballots July 12. (more)

    The two largest collections of Maria Callas memorabilia are coming together again for a pre-auction exhibition that will open in Monaco on July 28 and travel to Tokyo and New York before returning to Paris for display before going to auction on December 2 and 3 (the auction itself will also be open to Internet bidders using the site
    On the wide front porch of a 19th-century farmstead, in the company of blooming yellow roses and an occasional stray farm cat, an American classic recently came to life. " The Tender Land, " American composer Aaron Copland' s opera about a farm family facing change, was performed in its proper setting at Gibbs Farm Museum in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. (more) 
    For 100 years, a statue of Stephen Foster in his hometown has portrayed the 19th-century songwriter sitting with a slave at his feet. Pittsburgh residents are now calling for a makeover for the statue which they say is an offensive relic of a time when racism was widely accepted. (more)

    "Writing to Vermeer," a 100-minute opera by Peter Greenaway, the experimental British movie director, and Louis Andriessen, the Minimalist Dutch composer, first presented by the Netherlands Opera in Amsterdam's Muziektheater in December, will have its American premiere at the New York State Theater on Tuesday when it opens Lincoln Center Festival 2000. (more) 
    The Spoleto Festival in Italy staged a special performance to honour the 89th birthday of its founder, composer Gian Carlo Menotti. L'Ultimo Angelo, subtitled 'An Elegy for Paradise Lost', is a musical representation of the angel 'through images of light and aerial choreography'. (more) 
    The English critic and musicologist Stephen Walsh has published Stravinsky, A Creative Spring: Russia and France, 1882-1934, which Terry Teachout says, is  "a superb first installment of a projected two-volume biography. This work, when it is finished, promises to be of landmark significance in reestablishing the real Stravinsky–rather than the "international" Stravinsky of myth–as the central figure in the history of modern music."

    Composer John Duffy has written a new opera called "Muhammad Ali" with a libretto by New York Times sports columnist Robert Lipsyte. The two have not yet found a producer for the work. Duffy has composed more than 300 works for symphony orchestra, theater, opera and film. His opera Black Water featured a libretto by writer Joyce Carol Oates. (more) 
    Scottish composer James MacMillan talks to Roderic Dunnett about composing sacred and liturgical music. (more) 
    Lotfi Mansouri is fond of saying that he saved countless lives over the years by making opera his profession. "My father wanted me to become a doctor," he recalls. "Unfortunately, I had no interest in medicine, and would not have been a very good one." (more) 
    The California Arts Council, which funds arts programs around the state, will get $32 million in fiscal year 2000-2001, $12 million more than last year. It's the biggest increase in the council's 24-year history. (more) 
    Centuries from now, writes Kyle Gann in the New York Times, "the years 1980 to 1985 may well appear one of the most significant watershed periods in the history of music if not, indeed, of culture at large. In those years, the advent of the personal computer, the affordable sampler, MIDI and music notation and sequencing software transformed electronic music from a collective, social activity into a private, personalized one." (more) 
    Steve Reich was recently awarded Columbia University's William Schuman Award in recognition of his lifetime achievements. The award, and its accompanying unrestricted grant of $50,000, will be presented to Reich at a special ceremony and concert of his music on September 21 in Columbia's Miller Theater. The Schuman family began the award in 1981. It has only been given five times in 19 years. Past winners were David Diamond, Gunther Schuller, Milton Babbitt, and Hugo Weisgall. (more) 
    Nine young composers, ranging in age from 19 to 25, have been named winners in the 48th Annual BMI Student Composer Awards. BMI President and CEO Frances W. Preston presented the awards at a reception held on June 6, 2000 at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Milton Babbitt, Chairman of the awards, and BMI's Ralph N. Jackson, Director of the Awards, joined in the presentations. (more) 
    The Kirov Opera Company began itstwo-week long season at London's Royal Opera House this week with the UK premiere of Semyon Kotko, Prokofiev's opera about a man's struggle through the Russian Revolution and the Great War. The production, and particularly Valery Gergiev's conducting, have been very well received by the critics - Geoffrey Norris of the Telegraph wrote "The music is in Gergiev's very soul" while John Allison of the London Times was impressed by "the blazing conviction of Gergiev and his orchestra." (more) 
    Entrusted with the premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage's Evening Songs, the teenage members of the Harrow Young Musicians Philharmonic revealed all the drama and colour of a complex but arresting new score. The music mattered to them, and they made it matter to us, wrote The Telegraph. (more) 
    Sir William Glock died on 28 June, aged 92. Glock is best known as the BBC's Controller of Music (1959-72).  Famous for his sweeping changes at the BBC, Glock was labelled 'Hitler' when he took over the programming of the BBC Symphony Orchestra's public concerts, previously organized by committee. He allegedly maintained a 'black list' of composers refused air time, and is the person most often blamed for the BBC's long-term neglect of certain composers. He transformed the BBC Proms, though, bringing in foreign musicians and greatly expanding the range of music performed. Glock was made a CBE in 1964, was knighted in 1970, and arguably, had a greater influence on post-war music in the UK than any other person. (more) 
    Charlotte Brontë's classic novel Jane Eyre premièred as a chamber opera by British composer Michael Berkeleyat the Cheltenham International Festival of Music. Berkeley's earlier opera - Baa Baa Black Sheep - like Jane Eyre, a collaboration with Australian novelist David Malouf - met with enormous critical acclaim and was released on Collins Classics (more) 
    Luigi Dallapiccola may be emerging from the shadows. The Long Beach Opera mounted his one-act opera Night Flight.. Earlier this year, Marino Formenti performed Dallapiccola's Quaderno Musicale di Annalibera at one of his County Museum piano recitals. (more)

    The Berkeley Symphony Orchestra's 2000-2001 season will include the West Coast premiere of Elliott Carter's one-act opera, "What Next?" a concert version of which headlines the opening program Nov. 10 at UC-Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall. (more) 
    With major record labels cutting back on classical music releases, 66 of the most prestigious American symphony orchestras and opera and ballet companies have reached an agreement with the musicians union that allows them to turn to the Internet as a prime distribution vehicle for their work.

    Written, composed and performed by Rinde Eckert, "And God Created Great Whales" is about a composer who has been informed by doctors that he is losing his mind. The deterioration is inevitable and unstoppable. And he hasn’t completed his opus yet: an opera based on "Moby Dick". (more) 
    Richard Dufallo, a conductor best known for his energetic, probing performances of contemporary music, died at his home in Denton, Tex. He was 67. He gave the American, European or world premieres of dozens of important works, among them scores by Iannis Xenakis, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Jacob Druckman, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Krzysztof Penderecki, George Crumb and Aribert Reimann. (more) 
    The Royal Opera House was plunged back into crisis with the resignation of its executive director, Michael Kaiser, after only 19 months in the job. Kaiser, an American who made his reputation rescuing arts organisations from financial disaster, has asked to be released "for personal reasons" by the end of next season. (more) 
    She's not a babe.  She's not prodigy. But 

    Ida Haendel just may be the best violin player alive, according to Norman Lebrecht. "Haendel is in her early seventies; her exact age is a matter of musicological confusion. As a child star in London before the Second World War, she sold out the biggest concert halls and never had need of the bijou Wigmore. In mid-life, she migrated to Canada. Now, playing as richly as ever, she is shunned by sexist orchestras that insist on female soloists (only females) being wrinkle-free." (more) 
    The Paris Opera has been returned to its 19th-century splendor by a bold renovation project that had experts tracking down precious materials across two continents. Workers using state-of-the-art technology labored for more than a year to remove grime that had accumulated since 1867, when the opera house was built to the greater glory of Emperor Napoleon III.  ``After years of grayness, the Palais Garnier has come to life, its exterior in full harmony with the passion and light of its interior,'' Culture Minister Catherine Tasca said. (more) 
    Lotfi Mansouri,  71, general director of San Francisco Opera steps down from the helm of San Francisco Opera after next season. Since his first professional production in Los Angeles in the 1950s, the Iranian American director-has staged works around the world and instigated many of the changes that opera has seen, including perhaps the most conspicuous and universally adopted late- century innovation, supertitles. (more) 
    New Albion Records has formed an alliance with to distribute titles from its catalog over the Internet. New Albion, considered one of the leading independent publishers of contemporary classical works, will offer excerpts of more than a dozen CDs from its 100-plus album catalogue including recordings by Henry Cowell, John Cage, Lou Harrison and Terry Riley--identified mysteriously on PlayJ's site as "Rerry Riely." (more )  Excerpts can be downloaded directly from PlayJ's Web site. 
    Voices of California, a three-year touring project produced by the Los Angeles Opera, kicked off June 8 with the premiere of On Gold Mountain, a tale of Chinese immigration. 

    The opera was written by author Lisa See and based on her national best-selling memoir of the same title. The production features an entirely Chinese-American creative team including See, composer Nathan Wang, director Andrew Tsao and conductor Leland Sun. (more) 
    The National Conducting Institute was recently launched in Washington, D.C. by the National Symphony Orchestra, its music director Leonard Slatkin and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The program provides intensive training to a small, specially selected group of musicians who now conduct amateur orchestras. "It took me years to get started," Slatkin said. "It is badly needed; there is no other program quite like it." (more)
    They boozed, they hung out with Cocteau and Diaghilev and they even wrote a little music.  But they had little in common musically. The main thing was that they were friends. They were Francis Poulenc, Darius Milhaud, Arthur Honneger, Georges Auric, Germaine Tailleferre and Louis Durey. The Guardian's Charlotte Higgins on the bright young things of 20s Paris's Les Six. (more) 
    The annual Holland Festival is known for its wide-ranging productions of theater, opera, dance and music (in 1995, the event featured the world premiere of Karlhaeinz Stockhausen's Helikopter Quartet). This year's festival includes the live premiere of Frank Zappa's 200 Motels, which was originally realized as a film that starred the composer, ex-Beatles drummer Ringo Starr and others. The Holland Festival runs from June 3–25. (more) 
    Beginning on Wednesday, Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony celebrate the independent spirit with the American Mavericks festival, a 12-concert program featuring music by some of the most trailblazing American composers of the past century, including John Cage, Steve Reich, George Antheil and 20 others.  (more) 
    Rupert Christiansen of The Telegraph calls the revival of John Adams' Nixon in China "one of the great nights in ENO's history."(more) 
    Kent Nagano has been appointed  Principal Conductor of the Los Angeles Opera, as of July 1, 2001. It is the first time in its 14-year history that the company will have an official post of this importance for a conductor. Nagano will become Music Director of Berlin's Deutsche Symphonie this September, by which time he will have relinquished his current post as Music Director of England's venerable Halle Orchestra after a tenure of nine years (1991-2000). (more)

    This year is Kurt Weill's centenary, so the calendar is full of Weill events -- and for once there seems to be a real urgency to the commemorative festivities, David Schiff writes in The Atlantic Monthly. "Weill remains a cult composer, known mainly for a handful of songs; most of his complete works are rarely performed, and critical opinion is still unsettled. Hearing his works again -- particularly the revelatory early Second Symphony and the overpraised "Broadway opera" Street Scene -- could restore balance to a reputation long skewed." (more) 
    The American Composers Forum has just opened a chapter in Los Angeles for the first time in its 27-year history. The "composer- service organization" got its start in 1973, when composition students Stephen Paulus and Libby Larsen sought to create performance opportunities for fledgling composers, and the Minnesota Composers Forum was born. (more) 
    The Ojai Festival ethos is a balancing act--between grandeur and intimacy, sophistication and the rugged outdoors. This year the weather behaved, and the alfresco intrusions were modest and sometimes even musical writes Josef Woodward in the LA Times. (more) 
    The Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation in the Library of Congress and the Koussevitzky Music Foundation Inc. have awarded commissions for new musical works to 10 composers. The commissions are granted jointly by the foundations and the performing organizations that will present the newly composed works. Award winners and the groups co-sponsoring their commissions are: Jason Eckardt and the Libra Ensemble; Richard Felciano and Southwest Chamber Music; Brian Fennelly and the Pro Arte Quartet; Pablo Furman and the San Jose Chamber Orchestra; Lee Hyla and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project; Scott Johnson and the New Millenium Ensemble; Steven Mackey and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; Roland Moser and Parnassus; Pablo Ortiz and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players; and Roberto Sierra and the Philadelphia Orchestra. (more) 
    The librettists came from Broadway. The composer from France. And the slapstick story about Indian Territory is set right here in Bartlesville. The opera ``Ochelata's Wedding'' premiered Saturday at the 16th OK Mozart International Festival. The book was written by the Tony-nominated team of Joe Sears and Jaston Williams (``Greater Tuna'' and ``Tuna Christmas''). The composer, Jean-Michel Damase, is known for lush, impressionistic music in the style of Francis Poulenc. Leon Majors of the Boston Lyric Opera directs. (more) 
    Adams in England. Not a PBS special but  John Adams' opera Nixon in China, first performed in Houston in 1987, has its English stage premiere at ENO this week. The Guardian's reporter catches up with "the most inventive and ebullient of contemporary American composers" in Vancouver.  (more) The Telegraph's take is here
    The big buzz at the Spoleto Festival this year is about The Silver River, a dance/theatre/ opera by Chinese composer Bright Sheng and American playwright David Henry Hwang, the author of M. Butterfly. The work premiered at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival in 1997, but has been revised and restaged for Spoleto. (more)

    A funny thing happened to minimalist composer Tom Johnson after he returned from living in Europe. Johnson went to Paris writing rigorously geometric chord patterns for piano—"I want to find the music, not compose it," he liked to say—and came back with Bonhoeffer Oratorium, a religious oratorio in German for four vocal soloists, large chorus, and orchestra. (more) 
    John Tavener, Judith Bingham, John Rutter, David Matthews, Paul McCartney (arranged by John Harle), Roxanna Panufnik, Michael Berkeley, Giles Swaynen, and Richard Rodney Bennett are the nine prominent, contemporary British composers who conributed choral pieces to A Garland for Linda, a  musical tribute to Linda McCartney, who died in 1998, at the age of 56, from breast cancer and liver cancer. Proceeds frm the CDs go to charity.(more)

    The BBC has discovered The Amato Opera in a narrow building at 319 The Bowery, New York. It is a 107 seat theatre with storage space for 55 opera sets. The tiny opera is supported by the Amato Opera Circle, a voluntary organization, tat has been active since 1953 and consists of approximately 300 members. (more)

    Thomas Ades, whose exuberant compositions will be showcased at the Ojai Music Festival, is a brash and sophisticated force in the classical world.  A Los Angeles Times reporter shows how to write a personality article about a composer without admitting that he couldn't get the composer to talk to him. (more) 

    In the news-about-considerably-nicer-g uys department, Simon Rattle conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic and its New Music Group in the U.S. premieres of two pieces by Mark-Anthony Turnage, both elegies. "Kai" is a jazz-tinged cello concerto memorializing a German cellist. "Blood on the Floor," is a thorny chamber piece inspired in part by the suicide of the composer's brother. (more)

    There's an orchestra in conservative Orange County that plays Arvo Pärt, Gyorgy Kurtag, Peter Maxwell Davies, Robert Simpson, H.K. Gruber, Michael Daugherty and James MacMillan.  Oh yes,  it’s the Orange County High School of the Arts orchestra.(more) 
    Hugh Wolff, long-time director of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, is packing his bags for a move to London and his new job as chief conductor of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony. (more) 
    Composer/impressario John Schneider's  MicroFest (as in microtonal)  2000 featured works by Harry Partch, Lou Harrison and the great unknown Ben Johnston.  (more) 
    Ben Sutherland, a University of Chicago music grad student, composer, percussionist, and music teacher, received the 1999-2000 George B. Walsh Award, a grant from the University's Humanities Division which encourages innovative use of computer technology in research and teaching. As the research portion of his dissertation, Sutherland is developing real-time, interactive computer music performance systems that respond to motions and musical sounds. (more)

    Long thought lost, Giuseppe Verdi's tragicomic opera I Giuliani (The Happy Few) unexpectedly received its world premiere last week at New York's Gracie Mansion. Though neither Verdi scholars nor New York's operaphiles were consulted in advance, both groups were among those who sat enthralled as the convoluted action rolled on. Because so little is known about this obscure, suppressed, and still unfinished creation, Michael Feingold of the Village Voice has put together a detailed synopsis. (more) 

    Jean-Pierre Rampal, who popularized the flute as a solo instrument and became one of classical music's brightest stars, died of heart failure in Paris. He was 78. Rampal, one of the most recorded classical musicians in history, was best-known for his love of Baroque music, though he played everything from jazz to Indian music to English folk songs. (more) 
    Graham Vick may be the most successful opera director in the world today. He has engagements stretching for years ahead at the Met in New York and in Paris, Munich and Florence. He has also been the director of productions at Glyndebourne since the early 1990s. (more) 
    James Conlon, the first American to hold the top musical job at the Paris Opera, is a busy guy. For the past decade, he has also been general music director of the City of Cologne. In 1995, he celebrated his 200th performance at the Metropolitan Opera. But, for the past 22 years, he's always returned to  Cincinnati for that city's  May Festival, which opens Friday.(more) 
    The four McCaw brothers, the cellular telephone moguls, gave their Mom a heck of a Mother's Day present. They donated $20 million to the renovation of the Seattle Opera House, which will be named Marion Oliver McCaw Hall in her honor. The gift from Bruce, Craig, John and Keith McCaw is the largest donation ever to an arts project in the Pacific Northwest. (more) 
    The Kansas City Symphony appointed a 29-year-old woman, Kanako Ito, as its new concertmaster, effective this September. The Japanese-born violinist, who lives in London, was selected from a field of three men and two women. She becomes one of only a handful of women worldwide to occupy this powerful post, traditionally held to be second in importance artistically only to that of the conductor. (more) 
    Christopher Rouse has always, he admits, been a pessimist, the kind of person who responds to good times not by saying, "Life is good," but "Life is not bad." But "Rapture," commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony and premiered this weekend, is an unabashedly joyful work. (more)

    The Classical Brit Award for Young British Classical Performer of Year  went to Daniel Harding, a 24-year-old conductor who is now music director of Bremen-based Deutsche Kammer- philharmonie. He beat out such formidable competition as Charlotte Church, the singing school girl and Vanessa Mae, best classical violinist ever to appear in a wet t-shirt. Harding he was glad to win an award on the same day Manchester United won  received a trophy for winning the English Premiership title.  (more)

    The New York Philharmonic has apparently asked  Riccardo Muti to succeed Kurt Masur as music director, but he hasn't said whether he'll accept the job. Muti, 58, currently music director of the La Scala opera house in Milan, has been chosen to fill the position when the 72-year-old Masur's contract expires in 2002. In addition, the Philharmonic is looking to Zarin Mehta to fill the position of executive director vacated by Deborah Borda late last year. (more) 

    Einojuhani Rautavaara's 8th Symphony "The Journey" (1999) was premiered last week at the Academy of Music, Philadelphia, by the Philadelphia Orchestra and Wolfgang Sawallisch. The symphony, which was commissioned for the Orchestra's 100th anniversary, will be performed this week at Carnegie Hall. (more) 
    Speaking of Sawallisch, the rumor mills are touting David Robertson, the 41-year-old music director of Paris' Ensemble Intercontemporain, as a leading candidate to succeed  Sawallisch as music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra--a development that could be the best musical news to hit Philadelphia in years. (more) 
    Last April, Eos Orchestra gave a program of six 10-minute operas by 20th-century composers, which earned praise from the audience and from critics. On Thursday and Friday, at the Society for Ethical Culture, near Lincoln Center, the orchestra will present "Six 10-Minute Operas II," this time with composers from Monteverdi to Milhaud and the premiere of a new work, "Again," by Jake Heggie. (more) 
    The American Academy of Arts and Letters has just announced that Libby Larsen is one of four composers to win an Academy Award in Music, which "honors lifetime achievement and acknowledges the composer who has arrived at his or her own voice."  Each winner will receive $7500 toward the recording of one composition.  The winners were selected by a committee consisting of Robert Ward (Chairman), Jack Beeson, Andrew Imbrie, Ezra Laderman, Ned Rorem, George Perle, Joan Tower, and George Walker. (more 
    What does Simon Rattle have in store for the nice folks in Berlin for his first concert when he takes over in September 2002? "At the moment - 

    and I'm sure this will not change - it does contain Thomas Adès's Asyla. That we know. And probably Mahler. It depends what order the programmes go in. The first weeks contain Schubert's Ninth Symphony, Bruckner's Ninth, Mahler's Fifth, but they also contain Magnus Lindberg's Gran Duo, Mark Anthony Turnage's Blood on the Floor, Ravel's L'Enfant et les sortilèges, a lot of French chamber music." (more) 
    Esa-Pekka Salonen is a young musical polymath whose day job is being music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Salonen has long been known as a conductor who composes but maybe it's time he switched places.  (more) 
    Louis Applebaum, 82, prolific Canadian composer long associated with the Stratford Festival who also wrote extensively for the National Film Board, died last week in Toronto. (more) 
    Laurie Anderson tells the Telegraph she's gone off technology: "I'm so burned out on it. Now everyone uses the exact same box of crayons, everybody's music sounds the same, everybody's images are the same, I'm bored stiff." (more)

    The work of  Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara, 71, is often linked with new spirtiualists like Arvo Pärt, John Tavener and Henryk Gorecki but he says his work is more "European, Faustian. Extremes and contrasts are important to me." (more). 
    The Kronos Quartet are up to their old tricks in their new recording called Caravan (Nonesuch).  Writes The New York Observor: "Blissfully unencumbered by conventional Western notions of musical structure or tension and release, the group has fashioned the string quartet, that invention of the 18th-century Austrian drawing room, into a kind of universal music-making machine."(more) 
    "Varèse shines as a lone Franco- American individualist of the last century. He is difficult to pigeonhole, and his music has few successful imitators, yet there are few composers and musicians who do not recognize his widespread influence (Frank Zappa and Charlie Parker among them)." Grant Covell on Edgard Varèse (more)
    Bertelsmann AG is gutting its BMG Classics label as part of a major company reorganization, The Washington Post reported this week.

    The BMG Classics group includes the flagship RCA Victor Red Seal, the reissues line Gold Seal and Living Stereo series, the Russian treasure trove Melodiya and the recently introduced value line Arte Nova. (more) 
    This year's Pulitzer Prize in Music went to composer Lewis Spratlan for his work Life Is a Dream, Opera in Three Acts: Act Two, Concert Version. Spratlan composed the opera on commission from the New Haven Opera Theater in the 1970s, but the company went out of business and the opera has never been performed. He received a commission for a chamber piece for a music group in Boston, the Dinosaur Annex Music Ensemble, and wrote a concert version of the opera's second act) (more) 
    Sir John Tavener is coming to New York City for the first time in 10 years to lecture and to participate in performances of his music by international musicians including Sir Paul McCartney, the Tallis Scholars, Patricia Rozario, Flux Quartet, Fred Sherry, and Lucy Shelton. (more) 
    Among the new works on tap for San Francisco Performances' 2000-01 season are ``Marrying the Hangman,'' a chamber opera by San Francisco composer Ronald Caltabiano, and a song cycle by William Bolcom based on the letters of Thomas Jefferson's mistress Sally Hemings, to be sung by mezzo-soprano Florence Quivar. (more)

    For one week, NPR's Performance Today(R) will take listeners on a classical music journey for youth --exploring how to introduce music to kids and keep them hooked. 
    Voices heard during the week will include National Symphony 
    conductor Leonard Slatkin, composer Bruce Adolphe, who has just written a new piece for children, critic Ted Libbey, radio host and pianist Christopher O'Riley. (more) 
    He writes for movies; he writes for plays; he even writes "serious" stuff.  Elliot Goldenthal, whose latest collaboration with Julie Taymor opens on Broadway this week, is one busy guy.  (more)

    Harrison Birtwistle's new opera, The Last Supper, receives its premiere at the Berlin Staatsoper on April 18. Commissioned by Glyndebourne with Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin and the Royal Festival Hall, the libretto is by Robin Blaser. Daniel Barenboim will conduct the premiere. (more) 
    Next year is the centenary of Gerald Finzi, one of the might-have-beens of 20th Century music.  His career interrupted by World War II, his life shortened by Hodgin's Disease, nobody knows for sure how good he might have been. (more)

    Other Minds released in March  a selection of the previously unrecorded rarities of composer Conlon Nancarrow on a new and historic CD, Lost Works, Last Works (OM 1002-2). Along with Other Minds' first CD release last year of The Virtuoso Pianolist, with English player-piano artist Rex Lawson, this Nancarrow recording extends the theme of the use of mechanical pianos in 20th century music. (more)

    Did Enrico Caruso sing in the shower?  Can wrapping patients in wet towels and playing oom pah music cure hypocondria?  A meditation on water music. (more)
    The Israel Symphony Orchestra is testing the longstanding taboo against public performances of music by Richard Wagner, the Nazis' favorite composer. The orchestra has announced that it will include Wagner's ``Siegfried Idyll'' in a chamber music series in the fall. A Holocaust survivor, Mendi Rotan, will conduct.  (more)

    "There is so much in the contemporary music vocal repertoire recently which has worked against the natural lyricism of the voice. That's not a criticism, it's just a statement of fact. But for me that goes against the whole point of the human voice, which is to link its musical utterances with a deep human universality." --James MacMillan (more) 
    John Corigliano's mother was so worried that he couldn't make a living as a composer that she found him a teaching job at Lehmann College in New York.  She needn't have worried. Lately, Corigliano has been everywhere--from rethinking Bob Dylan to accompanying Michelle Kwan's ice skating routine to winning an Oscar for The Red Violin.  (more) 
    Steve Reich and his wife, video art pioneer Beryl Korot, have been selected  as this term's Montgomery Fellows at Dartmouth College.  They will host a series of events in April including their three-act joint masterpiece, The Cave. The powerful audio-visual/ multimedia piece explores the Biblical story of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael and Isaac. The couple will also present their documentary, "Three Tales: A Documentary Video Opera" on April 13. Hindenburg, the first act of the three-part documentary, reflects on the role of technology in the 20th century. (more) 
    Psst. Want to sponsor the London Symphony Orchestra at a bargain rate?  Have we got a deal for you.  (more) 
    Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, who  sang the part of Daisy Buchanan's friend Jordan Baker in 'The Great Gatsby' at the Met this season will sing the role of Sister Helen Prejean in the premiere of Jake Heggie's 'Dead Man Walking' at the San Francisco Opera in October. (more) 
    Kurt Masur, the New York Philharmonic's departing music director, has been appointed to head the Orchestre National de France in Paris. Masur, 72, has already been engaged to become principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra starting next September. Beginning in the fall of 2001, his last season with the New York Philharmonic, the German maestro will be music director designate of the Paris- based orchestra and take up full duties the next year. (more)
    Naxos, the world's leading bargain classical CD label has commissioned the British composer, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, to write a series of 10 string quartets in a project believed to be unique in recording history. The first of five Naxos CDs - two quartets on each disc - is expected to be issued in 2002 and the series should be complete within five years. Each work will be given its world premiere on CD in advance of its first public performance. (more)
    The Brooklyn Academy of Music, is celebrating Philip Glass' legacy of film scores all this week in "Philip on Film." BAM Rose Cinemas is screening Candyman (1992), Mishima (1985), and The Thin Blue Line (1988) as representative works. 
    Bright Sheng was deeply influenced by Maoist policies and the Cultural Revolution.  The Shanghai-born Sheng, 44, eventually left in 1982 to live in New York. Now one of America's most prominent composers, he sheds light on a dark chapter of human history in his powerful music. (more) 
    Elliot Carter may have made the Guinness Book of Records three years ago, when he started to compose his very first opera at the age of 88 (Verdi was approaching 80 when he completed his last one, Falstaff) but the success of his brand new one-act opera, What Next has him planning another one. (more) 
    It shouldn't be hard to spot the diva when Elton John and Tim Rice's version of  "Aida," opens this week on Broadway. Wonder what Versace number Elton will be wearing to the premier? (more) 
    William Colvig, an instrument builder who collaborated with composer Lou Harrison on gamelan percussion orchestras and other percussion instruments, died March 2 in Capitola. He was 82 and lived in Aptos. 
    Thea Musgrave in Utah:  "I don't believe in being an ivory-tower composer . . . music's too important to be ivory tower. It's not an elitist thing. (My music) may need a little bit of preparation and education, but then it's there for everybody." (more) 
    The San Francisco Symphony has tarted up its web site to create a more "interactive" experience for visitors.  For instance, when users enter "explore the music," they can access biographies of all the composers, listen to audio clips, read the Symphony's program notes and other educational materials or see all the upcoming events by composer, series, date or conductor. (more) 
    The nice folks at Naxos, our favorite budget label, are said to be quite exercised with the British Chart Information Network (CIN), whose members decide what is classical and what is pop in terms of chart listings.  The listing of Madonna's producer William Orbit's Pieces In A Modern Style, a selection of dance pieces by, among others, Barber, Cage and Gorecki, as classical has kept Naxos' release of Elgar's Third Symphony out of the top spot.  Worst still, Orbit's producer Rob Dickens is chairman of the committee that advises the CIN on genre.  Stay tuned.  (more) 
    Argentinean composer Oscar Strasnoy, a 30-year-old Buenos Aires native, has won Italy's Orpheus 2000 prize for new chamber opera "Midea (2)," a reworking of an ancient Greek myth. The biannual International New Chamber Opera Competition, or Orpheus, is organized by Spoleto's Experimental Lyrical Theater Adriano Belli of Spoleto. "Midea (2)" will premiere at the theater in September. (more) 
    The Chicago Symphony Orchestra's resident conductor, William Eddins, was awarded the $50,000 Seaver/ National Endowment for the Arts Conductor's Award on Friday. 

    The 35-year-old conductor from Minneapolis joined the Chicago Symphony as an assistant conductor in 1995, near the end of a five-year assistantship at the Minnesota Orchestra. He also was an assistant to Daniel Barenboim at the Berlin State Opera in 1996. The career development grant, established in 1985 and now given every three years, was announced at a luncheon ceremony at Lincoln Center. 
    Composer Brett Dean, who returned with his family to Australia to live recently after spending almost 16 years as violinist with the Berlin Philharmonic, has reportedly been selected by Opera Australia to write a full-length opera based on the 1981 Peter Carey novel, Bliss. Bliss, which tells the story of Harry Joy, a middle-aged advertising executive who embarks on a frantic and often humorous search for meaning after a near-death experience, is expected for the 2004 season. 
    The full houses and rapturous response that greeted the Emerson String Quartet's recent Shostakovich cycle in New York suggest that the tortured giant of   20th-century music, is finally getting the recognition he deserves, independent of politics.(more) 
    As with Shostakovich, Alfred Schnittke's music is more readily grasped than decoded, and stands aloof from Western fads, writes Walt Mundkowsky in La Folia(more)
    Gérard Mortier, who had announced that he was quitting a year early as artistic director of the Salzburg Festival in protest at the neo-nationalist Vienna coalition, has now changed his mind. In view of "the impressive stand taken by Austrian citizens" in recent anti-government demons- trations, Mortier has decided to lend his "fullest artistic support" to the "resistance" against Jörg Haider's Freedom Party. He also pledged to make next year's festival a melting pot of multiculturalism, and to set up a fund to sustain artistic projects endangered by the Freedom Party. (more) 
    Meet The Composer and the American Symphony Orchestra League, have announced eight orchestra and composer residencies for the 2000-2001 kick-off season of Music Alive, a nationwide program bringing American orchestras and composers together in a mutual effort to generate ongoing, long-term support for today's orchestral music. The first eight participant orchestras, which represent a variety of geographic areas, budget sizes, and new music objectives, have each selected composers for residencies of two to six weeks in duration. The participants are: the Albany (GA) Symphony and Adolphus Cunningham Hailstork; the American Composers Orchestra (NY) and P. Q. Phan; the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra and Stephen Paulus; the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Osvaldo Golijov; the Milwaukee Symphony and Daniel Schnyder; the New Jersey Symphony and Bun-Ching Lam; the Philadelphia Orchestra and Roberto Sierra; and the Seattle Symphony and Bright Sheng. Each residency will feature the performance of at least one major work of the composer-in-residence, public presentations by the composer to generate interest in the orchestra's new music activities, and collaborations between the composer and the orchestra's artistic and administrative staff to design new music strategies. (more) 
    Gerard Mortier, director of the Salzburg Festival, one of the world's most prestigious music and stage festivals, has received lots of hate mail since announcing that he's quitting because he distrusts Joerg Haider's far-right Freedom Party.  He fears things will get worse now that half the Austrian government is controlled by the Freedom Party. (more) 
    Further proof of la plus ca change adage, Aaron Copland was so upset by the rise of Nazism in Germany  in 1936 that he wrote an opera called The Second Hurricane about children who overcome bigotry to help one another through a disaster. Copland hoped that his short opera could be performed by any high school in the country. (more)
    After 63 years of oblivion, The Eternal Road, Kurt Weill's vast musical pageant of Jewish history, is returning to the city of its premiereat the Brooklyn Academy of Music.  BAM will present the complete four-act version of the work, known in German as "Der Weg der Verheissung" in a production that originated last year at the Theater Chemnitz in Germany. (more) 
    It may not quite be a masterpiece--not a Peter Grimes for the 21st century-- but London critics are hailing Mark-Anthony Turnage's The Silver Tassie as "a thrilling new work which has legs, as well as a heart and mind that offers "a score of beauty, rich- ness and complexity matched to a drama that packs a strong visceral punch."(more) 
    The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra opens its spring season with 32-year- old British composer Frederick Stocken's Symphony for the Millennium. Stocken is perhaps best known as leader of a group of anti- modern malcontents called The Hecklers, who made headlines when they disrupted the first revival of Sir Harrison Birtwistle's opera Gawain at Covent Garden in 1994. (more) 
    The San Francisco Symphony's June  edition of American Mavericks will feature the West Coast premiere of "Hindenburg," a multimedia work by Steve Reich and Beryl Korot and programs devoted to Lou Harrison, Duke Ellington and two centenarians, Aaron Copland and George Antheil. (more) 
    Gerard Schwarz, music director of the Seattle SymphonyOrchestra, will become music director of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra next year. He will retain his position as music director of the Seattle Symphony and the New York Chamber Symphony. Schwarz also is music director of the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York but has announced that he will leave that post in 2001. 
    Robert Spano, who won high praise as conductor of the Brooklyn Philharmonic, was named music director of the Atlanta Symphony beginning with the 2001-02 season. Donald Runnicles, music director of the San Francisco Opera, was named principal guest conductor. Both men will keep their current affiliations. 
    Mariss Jansons said he was quitting as musical director of the Oslo Philharmonic after 20 years of struggling with poor conditions, notably bad acoustics at the city-owned Oslo Concert House. Under Jansons, who has been musical director since 1979, the Oslo Philharmonic became what many see as a world class orchestra, with frequent inter- national tours. He said he would still conduct concerts already scheduled.
    British composer Mark-Anthony Turnage turns 40 this year and as a kind of early birthday gift the English National Opera will perform the world premiere of his first full-scale opera on February 16 at the  London Coliseum. The Silver Tassie is an adaptation of a little-known play by Sean O'Casey. Set during the First World War, it relates the tragedy of a young amateur football champion from working-class Dublin who returns from the trenches blind and crippled. (more) 
    Was Shostakovich a true- believing Communist citizen- composer or a lifelong closet dissident?  Does it matter? Author Laurel Fay has returned to the fray with a new biography called Shostakovich: A Life. (more) 
    Like the elder Franz Lizst, who made a Jubilee Tour when he was 75, Pierre Boulez, the inde- fatigable ambassador for New Music, is doing the same. With the London Symphony Orchestra he is conducting 33 concerts in 10 European cities and New York: a triumphal progress that began at the Barbican in London and will end in August at Edinburgh. (more)

    The West Coast premiere of Philip Glass' "Choral Symphony No. 5 in 12 Parts" will highlight the Philharmonic Society of Orange County's 2000-01 season.  The Glass symphony, which received its premiere at the Salzburg Festival in August, attempts to chronicle the spiritual history of the world, from chaos to creation to death, through final judgment, to a future fully enlightened existence. Other new works scheduled include the West Coast premieres of "Keyboard Eclectic" (pianists Ursula Oppens and Aki Takahashi and composer Richard Teitelbaum), and Mikel Rouse's "Failing Kansas" (the first of his trilogy of operas based on Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood"). 
    New York Times music critic Paul Griffiths described as a "thrilling" occasion when the Columbia Sinfonietta presented the first New York performance of the opening three parts of "Les Espaces Acoustiques" by Gérard Grisey, who died over a year ago at 52. Wrote Griffiths: "Les Espaces Acoustiques" was a project of the 1970's and can now be seen to have got right much of what that decade got wrong. Grisey heard what was going on around him -- repetitive music, the rediscovery of bodily rhythms, especially the rhythm of breathing, the fascination with harmonic spectra, the idea that performing musicians are actors in an abstract drama -- and he made it all work." (more) 
    After a 12-month search, Paavo Jarvi, 37, will become the 12th music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. The Estonian-born American conductor signed a four-year contract on Monday. He will begin his tenure in September 2001. The 105-year-old orchestra and Music Hall were the two most important factors in his decision, he said. (more)