3/27/07 - Happy birthday to famed cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich, who turned 80 on Tuesday. According to the BBC, President Vladimir Putin hosted a reception for him on this date. President Putin visited Rostropovich while he was convalescing and last month awarded him Russia's 'Order of the Fatherland, First Class'.
3/25/07 - To celebrate Rostropovich’s 80th birthday, EMI is releasing its entire cache of his recordings on iTunes, reports PlaybillArts.com. "In addition to over 500 individual tracks, EMI is offering a discounted 80-track 'Special Edition Bundle,' a compilation that offers a musical snapshot of Rostropovich's career. Fifty of the tracks are iTunes exclusives, taken from the 11 unavailable and unreleased albums."
3/25/07 - In Sunday’s Los Angeles Times, Blair Tindall wrote about the “vast underground network of amateur chamber music, whose members meet through friends, at parties and seminars, in community orchestras and on the Internet to share a common passion and a unique social network. Some have switched careers after a disappointing job hunt as pros, while others dust off old instruments as a hobby. But many plan on music as a satisfying avocation from the start -- viewing their musical interests as a way to provide balance to demanding if often lucrative professions ... Despite their enthusiasm, amateurs are an exclusive group. Only 1.8% of Americans play an instrument in their leisure time, according to a 2002 survey by the National Endowment for the Arts. At the same time, though, 82% of the people who don't play instruments wish they did, says the National Assn. of Music Merchants.” Tindall quoted amateur violinist Eve Cohen: “The moment I realized I didn’t have to major in music in order to play, it was like a blinding light shining down.”
3/27/07 – Violinist Sarah Chang performed the Washington, DC premiere of Richard Danielpour’s River of Light. The piece was commissioned by the charitable foundation established by the late violinist Isaac Stern and his wife, Linda, and was written for Chang.
3/26/07 – The reviews are starting to come in for Joshua Bell’s performances as concertmaster/conductor of the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields on tour. Here’s what the San Diego Union-Tribune had to say. Bell and Co. will repeat this program next week at Carnegie Hall, as well as other stops en route.
3/26/07 – the Great Falls (MT) Tribune ran news of Midori’s upcoming appearance with the Great Falls Symphony and, more to the point for many, her multi-day residence with the local youth orchestras. Three exceptional violinists will perform at a master class with Midori: Jesse MacDonald, the 15-year-old winner of the Montana Association of Symphony Orchestras Young Artist Junior Division; University of Montana student Lief Petersen; and Great Falls Symphony Orchestra member Casey Hodgson. Students from around the state will attend as observers.
3/25/07 – The Sacramento Bee included a profile of Margaret Heilbron, a 91-year-old violin teacher in Sacramento and former concertmaster of the Sacramento Symphony. “In her prime with the Sacramento Symphony, Heilbron's daily routine would have her cook and clean and see her children off to bed before pulling out her instrument and practicing into the early hours ... She performed with the Sacramento Symphony from 1934 to 1970. In her later years, Heilbron has preferred teaching to playing ... Heilbron is continuing a rich family legacy. Her mother taught music and her father founded the Sacramento Symphony. Heilbron's late husband, August, was a concert cellist who did a fair bit of teaching himself.” The article notes: “She has given lessons for so long that the children of children she once taught would return and sit next to her at the piano.”
3/3/07 – The Indianapolis Matinee Musicale announced their auditions winners, which included violinist Sho Neriki, an Indiana University student who won $600.
3/25/07 – The New York Times carried an article that reported on the controversy caused by the use of software in pit orchestras that duplicate the sound of orchestral instruments. These products are “cheaper and more compact than human musicians. They do not get sick or have bad nights. And after years of gradual improvements, their sound is now good enough to fool many nonexperts, especially since they are almost always used, as recommended, alongside traditional instruments ... And the notes themselves are no longer digitally created but are based on thousands of samples from real instrumentalists.” Green quotes musical theatre-composer Michael John LaChiusa: “A machine-generated orchestra isn’t such a terrible proposition, if the music director and sound designer work in coordination ... To use or not to use a machine to supplement, or even replace, the orchestra for a revival isn’t an ethical or moral argument. It’s not even a sentimental one. It’s a question of aesthetics.” Mary Landolfi, president of Local 802, the American Federation of Musicians, comments: “We’re not Luddites opposed to technology ... But we feel that people come to the theater to hear live entertainment, and they should have it.”
3/25/07 – Also from the Times, on the same day: The Period Instruments movement has been well established for decades. With a sound distinct from modern ensembles, is it any surprise that Period Instrument ensembles should start commissioning contemporary music?
3/21/07- Violinist Joshua Bell has been named the winner of this year’s Avery Fisher Prize, which carries a $75,000 honorarium. The prize, which Bell will receive in April, honors career achievement. According to the Associated Press, which posted a Q&A interview with Bell, “The award is named for the late classical music benefactor and electronics wizard who helped fund Lincoln Center. Previous winners include cellist Yo-Yo Ma, pianists Emanuel Ax and Andre Watts, and violinists Sarah Chang and Midori.”
When the reporter asks what Bell hasn’t yet done, the answer is illuminating: “I’m embarrassed to say what I haven‘t done — 20th century violin repertoire, I’ve done only a few. I haven‘t done the Bartok, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Berg (concertos). ... The problem is I am playing too many concerts and juggling all that I have done and introducing one concerto a year — often a new one. ...
Also, the older I get the harder it is to learn, particularly by memory. I don‘t like using music for concertos but I may just resign myself to all concertos I learn now. ... because anything I learned as a kid, I can drop it for 15 years (and) I can bring it up again and it will be right there. But things I‘ve learned as an adult, you have to keep drumming it back into your head again.”
Interestingly, the first place I encountered this news was in the Sky Valley Journal of Sky Valley, Wyoming, which posted the article on its website just a few minutes after AP did. For space, the paper edited out many of the AP reporter’s questions, which is amusing but confusing. So here’s a link to the Washington Post version, which managed to find room to print the Qs as well as the As.
For those who have been wondering how this prize-winning year would unfold for Augustin Hadelich after he won the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, I have received an update from IVCI.
On April 17, Hadelich will present his first concert in Indianapolis as the reigning Competition champion. His partner, for this and other tour appearances, will be pianist Yingdi Sun, the 2005 International Franz Liszt Piano Competition first prize winner.
The Indianapolis concert kicks off the American leg of the “Pure Gold Tour”, part of the prize package that each artist won as first prize winners in each of their respective competitions. During March, the artists are performing in six venues in The Netherlands and Germany. In the United States in April, they will perform several dates in Indiana and Pennsylvania, as well as on the famed Dame Myra Hess series at the Chicago Cultural Center. That April 25th performance will be simulcast on WFMT-98.7 FM and over the station’s website, www.wfmt.com.
At Lincoln Center in November 2007, Hadelich will present a solo recital at the Reade Theater. In January 2008, he will make his Carnegie Hall orchestral debut, performing the Brahms Double Concerto with cellist Alban Gerhardt and the Fort Worth Symphony. This will be followed by his Carnegie Hall solo recital debut on March 28, 2008 in Stern Auditorium. Then, in May 2008, he will perform in collaboration with Midori at the Rose Theater.
The 2007-08 season will also mark Hadelich’s professional recording debut with three orchestral CDs: the complete solo violin sonatas of Telemann and the complete violin concerti of Hadyn for Naxos; the Tchaikovsky concerto with the Saarbrücken Radio Orchestra; and a recital CD with pianist Robert Kulek on the AVIE label.
Congratulations again, Augustin!
4/7/07 - Violinist Tricia Park will perform a recital designed to celebrate the friendship between composer Johannes Brahms and violinist Joseph Joachim at the University of Iowa. She joined the Iowa faculty as first violinist of the Maia String Quartet in 2005.
3/31/07 - Philadelphia Orchestra violinist Kimberly Fisher will be the guest soloist of the Great Hall Chamber Orchestra at its spring concert at Bryn Mawr College.
3/24/07 – The Florida Orchestra presented a concert with a lot of “violin power”: concertmaster Jeffrey Multer soloed in a program of Mozart while another fine violinist was on the podium: Scott Yoo, who, as a violinist, won the 1988 Josef Gingold International Violin Competition, now the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis. Last year, Yoo made his first appearance as violinist and conductor with the San Francisco Symphony.
3/22/07 – The Worcester (MA) Telegram & Gazette ran a profile of violinist Kyung Sun Lee, who often performs with her pianist/conductor husband, Brian Suits.
3/22/07 - Lincoln Center presented the Daedalus Quartet with a 2007 Martin E. Segal Award. The $5,000 awards, to be used for career advancement, are given annually to two rising young artists in recognition of outstanding achievement. Mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey was the other recipient.
3/21/07 - More than a year after a series of ailments forced him to cancel all of his engagements, Seiji Ozawa has returned to conducting with a series of opera performances in Japan, reports PlaybillArts.com. “Ozawa, now 71, was obliged to withdraw from all of his performances through 2006 due to severe bouts of pneumonia, shingles and related ailments. His next scheduled appearance at the Vienna State Opera, of which he is music director, will be with a production of Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer beginning April 29.”
3/21/07 – Violinist Benjamin Hudson, concertmaster of the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, soloed with that orchestra in Bach's Violin Concerto, BWV 1056 in a Denver performance.
3/210/7 – Violinist Anna Lee is a recipient of the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award. She will receive an award of $10,000 to help her continue her music studies and assist her with music-related needs. You can hear Anna, who is 11, on the NPR website.
The Foundation for the Santa Fe Symphony and the Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra and Chorus have received a $1 million gift from Eddie and Peaches Gilbert, BGK Properties, and the Garfield Street Foundation. This gift will underwrite a series of showcase concerts featuring renowned soloists over the next six years, among other things.
The Houston Symphony’s “A Touch of Class(ical) and all that Jazz 2007” Ball on March 2 raised $1 million for the orchestra’s education and outreach programs. This is the second year in a row in which the Symphony Ball, organized by the Houston Symphony League, has reached the seven-figure mark.
The San Francisco Symphony and Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas have been nominated for a Rose d’Or award (for international television programming) in the category of Best Arts Documentary for their “Keeping Score” program on Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” A jury of international television professionals winnowed more than 350 submissions to a field of 72 nominees; this documentary series, seen in the United States on PBS since 2004, is the only American contender. In related news, the radio series titled “The MTT Files,” to be distributed by American Public Media beginning next month. Michael Tilson Thomas hosts the eight one-hour shows.
Midori’s Orchestra Residencies Program has announced its recipients for the 2008-09 season: the Elgin Symphony and Youth Orchestras and the Mobile Symphony and Youth Orchestras. During the spring of 2009, violinist Midori will spend about a week in each community, working with the youth orchestras, performing with the affiliated adult orchestras, and participating in community education and outreach projects.
3/23/07 – The Grand Rapids Press reports that the Grand Rapids Symphony has been awarded a $40,000 grant by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation “to develop a two-year plan to integrate diversity planning into other aspects of the organization, including marketing and recruiting board members and staff.” The paper adds: “Last year, the Grand Rapids Symphony received a $55,000 grant from the Battle Creek-based Kellogg Foundation to support a ‘Young, Gifted & Black’ scholarship fund to pay for private music lessons to promising young African-American students.”
3/21/07 – According to the Charlotte Observer (NC), the musicians of the Charlotte Symphony “have agreed to a pay cut next season, they announced Wednesday. They'll give up two weeks of work, and forego most of a pair of raises called for in their contract. As a result, the base salary will fall to $34,770 from this season's $36,000. The terms change the five-year contract agreed on in 2003, when talks broke down in a seven-week strike.” The changes are expected to save the orchestra about $400,000, compared with the original agreement. “Renegotiating the contract was one of several suggestions from a consultant who studied orchestra operations last fall. Orchestra board members, following another of the recommendations, increased their donations by a total of about $60,000, Osborne said. The board's action helped persuade the players to agree to the pay cut, said violinist Elizabeth Pistolesi, chairman of the committee that represents the players.”
3/27/07 - Violinist Korbinian Altenberger, who is completing his Artist Diploma studies at NEC, has been named concertmaster of the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra (WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln). A native of Germany, Altenberger will play his final Artist Diploma at NEC on March 27. Read more about him in NEC Today on the school’s website.
3/23/07 – Be sure to read the unusually meaty profile of Yo-Yo Ma appearing in the current issue of, where else, the Chronicle of Higher Education. The piece emphasizes Ma’s decade-long involvement with the Silk Road Project.
3/20/07 – The Mobile (AL) Press-Register carried the obituary of violinist Wendy Klopfenstein, the longtime principal second of the Mobile Symphony and the Pensacola Symphony. She died at 63 after battling breast cancer.
3/19/07 – A PlaybillArts.com update on pianist Jonathan Biss’ recent activities reminds us that he is the son of violinist Miriam Fried and his father is the violist/violinist Paul Biss. His grandmother was cellist Raya Garbousova, the dedicatee of Samuel Barber's Cello Concerto.
3/18/07 – Friends and colleagues of Phanos Dymiotis, who died recently in a car crash, elegized the violinist in Ocean Pines, Md. The Ocean Pines Independent reports that the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, where Dymiotis was both associate concertmaster and composer-in-residence, will perform the world premiere this weekend of his piece The Soldier’s Blues. Additionally, the orchestra’s concertmaster, Nicholas Currie, will perform the Bach Sonata No. 1.
3/18/07 – The Guardian (UK) reports from Iraq on the state of the country four years into the Iraq War and the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra. Hassam al-Din al-Ansari, orchestra violinist and composer, comments: “We are challenging the situation ... by trying to not be too far from the public. We are trying to put on a concert every month, but circumstances are very difficult.” The article adds that the performances that the orchestra do put on are private and rarefied, little events for a small audience who do not have to travel very far or have their own security, and put on mainly at the city's two subscription-only ‘country clubs.’ Other events are by invitation only, for government officials and diplomats from the Green Zone ... “Complicated symphonies, al-Ansari admits, are too difficult to prepare, especially with no certainty that all the musicians will be able to appear. Instead, their performances are dominated by overtures, fragments of larger workers and short pieces -- Rossini, Tchaikovsky, and Dvorak ... ‘We could just stop work. We could submit,’ says al-Ansari, ‘but we are determined to challenge the times we live in and to do our best.’ ”
3/17/07 – According to the East Oregonian: the Oregon East Symphony’s office was “destroyed by a blaze that collapsed the roof of the building Thursday afternoon. The fire started around 3:30 p.m. from a popcorn machine in the Order of the Eagles lodge [another tenant] and quickly spread to the rest of the building through a common attic space, fire officials said. Firefighters had the blaze under control by 8 p.m. and completely out by noon Friday.” Michelle Kajikawa, executive director of the Oregon East Symphony, tells the paper: “The damage is much worse than I hoped it would be. We have insurance but it's not going to cover near the cost of getting restarted ... We are going to be reaching out to the community to survive, basically.”
3/17/07 - The Cincinnati Post reported on the Cincinnati Pops’s decision to cancel a plans for a concert featuring John Schneider and Tom Wopat, stars of the 1970s television program “Dukes of Hazzard.” The article adds, “A statement by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra said it has had a long artistic relationship with Schneider and Wopat and had conversations about a possible 'Dukes of Hazzard'-themed program. ‘In the end, we decided that some of the messages conveyed in the program are not consistent with the efforts of the Pops to reach out to all members of our community,’ the organization said. The orchestra had never announced the proposed show or sold tickets for it, said Carrie Krysanick, orchestra spokeswoman. ‘We have not blacklisted these performers, and we look forward to working with them in the future.’ ” Former Georgia Congressman Ben Jones, a former cast member of the TV series, “is opposing what he calls a ‘blacklisting of these guys out of some kind of political correctness that is just plain wrongheaded.’ ”
Other Music News
3/19/07 - The Globe & Mail (Canada) reports that CBC's Radio Two is cutting back on classical music. "The non-classical music that the network had relegated to late nights and weekends is now being given a prominent home in the evening hours, all part of Radio Two's new programming lineup."
3/18/07 - The Globe & Mail (Canada) ran an important article on how composers who were prisoners during World War II generally never saw their work performed or receive the attention it might have had in other times. "Italian researchers hope thousands of nearly forgotten works will find new life as they assemble a library of music composed or played in those dark places between 1933 and 1945. 'We are trying to right a great wrong: These musicians were hoping for a musical life for themselves, and they would have had it if their destiny had been different'."
“A couple of generations ago, symphony orchestras were all-male, lily-white clubs. Today, women make up 46 percent of orchestra musicians and nonwhites 14 percent, according to a survey by the American Symphony Orchestra League. But women do far better getting positions in smaller, part-time ensembles, where they outnumber men (they constitute 67 percent of the Long Island Philharmonic, for instance) than they do in the most prestigious orchestras, where they constitute just over a third of the players."
3/17/07 – The Terre Haute Tribune-Star ran a fun historical piece noting the 135th anniversary of a local concert given by famed Norwegian violinist Ole Bull. “Charismatic, Bull was Norway’s first international star. Henrik Wergeland, a contemporary Norwegian poet, wrote, ‘The greatest marvel is that Bull has brought Norway home to Norsemen. Most people knew the country folk songs but were ashamed to admire them’.”
A Norwegian patriot, he founded a short-lived colony in Pennsylvania to help his impoverished countrymen and later married a young American woman, dividing his time between Wisconsin and Norway. “Largely influenced as a youth by German composer-violinist Louis Spohr and Niccolo Paganini, Bull became obsessed with mimicking the Italian violinist’s mannerisms. Bull numbered among his many friends Otto von Bismarck, Field Marshal Helmuth Karl Von Moltke, Hungarian freedom fighter Louis Kossuth, dramatist Henrik Ibsen, poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Hungarian pianist-composer Franz Liszt, Polish pianist-composer Frederic Chopin and German composer Felix Mendelssohn.”
National Symphony Orchestra Principal Second Violin Marissa Regni will be a judge on “America’s Hot Musician,” an “American Idol”-style show for instrumental musicians. The show, set to run for twelve weeks on the Oxygen Network, will begin taping in May and is now accepting applications. The winner will receive a one-year recording contract. For more information, visit www.americashotmusician.org.
3/17/07 – This weekend, Midori is playing recitals in Winter Park and Gainesville, Fla. Then, next Thursday and Saturday, she will perform the Adams Violin Concerto with the Atlanta Symphony.
3/17/07 – Violinist Elissa Cassini performed a recital at the Juilliard School.
3/17/07 - Violinist Laurie Smukler gave a recital at Bard College. In addition to being a Conservatory faculty member at Bard, she is also professor of violin and head of the string area at the Conservatory of Music at SUNY Purchase.
3/14/07 – According to wire service reports, the man arrested in Paris on suspicion of stealing two violins valued at $300,000 was charged in U.S. District Court Tuesday with interstate transportation of stolen property. “Anthony Eugene Notarstefano, 42, of Long Beach was charged with transporting the violins from Los Angeles to Amsterdam, and then to Paris, where he was arrested while attempting to sell them, authorities said. The violins were stolen Dec. 23 from the home of Mark Kashper, a violinist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.”
3/17/07 - The Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra presented “Play,” a conference for composers, young musicians, and video game players. The conference included a reading session, a composer’s workshop, a career session with information on how to break into video game industry, and a session on the composer’s vision with Mike Salvatori, who created music for the video game “Halo.” A concert on Sunday, March 18 will feature 165 string players from Elgin’s Prelude Orchestra, Philharmonia, and Youth Symphony, performing the theme from “Halo.”
3/15/07 - The New York Philharmonic has announced its European tour schedule. The orchestra and music director Lorin Maazel will tour Europe from May 3-18, performing in Warsaw, Budapest, Vienna, Frankfurt, Mannheim, Cologne, Paris and Luxembourg. Throughout the tour, the Philharmonic will perform highlights from “Brahms the Romantic: A Philharmonic Festival,” its ongoing event. A work by Brahms will be performed at each of the 14 concerts on the tour. Violinist Julia Fischer will perform the Brahms Violin Concerto, while concertmaster Glenn Dicterow and principal cello Carter Brey will perform the Brahms Double Concerto.
3/10/07 - The Fargo-Moorhead (ND) Symphony Orchestra celebrated its 75th anniversary with a gala concert. The program was designed to give today’s audience a sense of the most popular composers at the time of the orchestra’s first concert. It included Verdi’s Overture to La Forza del Destino, Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, and Wagner’s “Good Friday Spell” from Parsifal. The concert also included the world premiere of “Prairie Skies” by Peter Schickele, which was commissioned for the anniversary celebration.
3/12/07 – The Dallas Morning News weighed in on the Fort Worth Symphony’s plan to make some of its 2007-08 concerts more accessible (and shorter) by shaving movements out of larger symphonies. “Then the complaints started rolling in, and the orchestra had to make a quick course correction. But the effort to create a less formal and rigid concert experience without offending longtime fans is one faced by orchestras across the country.”
3/13/07 – The Denver Post reported on “the explosion of a new group of top-level female” violinists, citing Hilary Hahn, Nicola Benedetti, Julia Fischer, Janine Jansen, Leila Josefowicz, and Jennifer Koh. “ ‘We're probably just reaping the benefits of the changing society,’ said violinist YuMi Hwang-Williams, concertmaster of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. ‘The old-boys club, so to speak, of classical music and that image is fallen with this sort of new age.’ ”
The article continues: “Women have made up at least half of the violin students in music schools for at least 15 years, and the ratio has even reached 80/20 in certain classes, said [Aspen Music Festival and School Chief Executive Officer Alan] Fletcher, former head of the school of music and professor of music at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.” Fletcher comments: “It's still more men that jump to mind as major stars in the age range 40-60, but in 10 or 15 years, that's not going to be true. …More recently, violinists such as Kyung-Wha Chung, who was born in Korea in 1948, and younger artists such as Anne Sophie Mutter, 43, and Midori, 35, have served as trailblazers for this new generation of performers.”
Although Midori seems to have been onstage forever, I’m just unused to hearing her NOT classified as a leading “young” performer.
3/13/07 – The Baltimore Sun reports: “Funeral plans are being made for Theophanis ‘Phanos’ Dymiotis, a violinist, composer and adjunct music professor at McDaniel College who died in a Delaware car crash Saturday night. Mr. Dymiotis was returning from Wilmington after a performance with the Delaware Symphony Orchestra when he was killed, officials at the college in Westminster said yesterday ... The 41-year-old Lutherville resident had taught violin at McDaniel since 2004 and was a faculty member in the college's Summer Orchestra Camp. A member of the Annapolis-based Mariner String Quartet since 2002, Mr. Dymiotis also was co-concertmaster and composer-in-residence with the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra. ‘He was just a consummate artist,’ said Adam Gonzalez, the quartet's cellist. ‘He was always well-rehearsed for everything we did.’ "
3/12/07 – According to the Associated Press, French police have recovered two rare violins, together worth about $250,000, that were stolen from an Los Angeles Philharmonic musician in December. “French police say a burglar stole the violins in December from the West Hollywood home of violinist Mark Kashper. One was crafted in the 18th century, the other made in the 19th century. Word of the theft spread among American and European violin dealers and the owner of a Paris violin shop alerted police when an American man tried to sell them recently for just $65,000. Police recovered the instruments on Thursday. Paris police say the seller is an American who lives in Amsterdam and that he may be extradited. Officials say he has denied breaking into Kashper's house and that he bought the instruments from someone he did not know.” One was an 18th-century Carlo Tononi, while the other was a 19th-century Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume.
3/9/07 – Two young violinists, Derrick Wu and Sunhee Han—are the winners of the first concerto competition sponsored by a group that is itself new, the Fishers (IN) Chamber Players. According to the
3/3/07 – Violinist Leonidas Kavakos received a very positive review from the Boston Globe for his recent performance of Bartók's Second Violin Concerto: “It's hard to see why Kavakos doesn't have the big-name recognition that some other soloists do. His technique is immaculate: He navigated all of the concerto's virtuoso hurdles without much apparent effort. Even more impressive were the lucid, singing tone of his playing and his elegant phrasing. In the rare moments when he wasn't playing, he turned to watch the orchestra, seemingly enjoying what his musical partners were up to.”
3/2/07 – The
3/2/07 – The Press & Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, NY) ran a mini-profile of violinist Elmar Oliviera in conjunction with an appearance at Binghamton University. My favorite line: “You know you've made it when your violin has its own name: Oliveira performs exclusively on an instrument known as the ‘Stretton’, made ca. 1729-31 by Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu, and on an exact copy of that violin made by Curtin and Alf in 1993.”
3/1/07 – The Jewish Exponent reports that Eduard Schmieder has recently assumed the position of the Laura H. Carnell Professor of Violin at Boyer College of Music and Dance at Temple University. “Schmieder comes to Boyer after occupying academic chairs at numerous universities in Texas and Los Angeles. He is also the founding music director and conductor of iPalpiti (Italian for ‘Heartbeat’), a chamber orchestra of 26 professional international string musicians, aged 18 to 30, many of whom are his former students.”
3/13/07 - An Associated Press item notes: “The venerable Ravinia Festival has revised its summer concert schedule because of the buzz created by a certain red-eyed bug. Cicadas, known for their loud hum and unique 17-year life cycle, are expected to make a debut this June. So officials from the almost 103-year-old music festival will move several outdoor concerts indoors. They also pushed the date of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's annual summer concerts back to July 6, later in the season than usual. By then, the chirping critters should cease. The subtleties of the music ‘would get completely lost and drowned out,’ said Welz Kauffman Ravinia Festival president and CEO.”
3/13/07 – According to The Californian, “The Monterey Symphony wants a larger portion of the Salinas community to enjoy its music, and for this Saturday only, it's willing to share it for free. In a coordinated effort with the Alisal Center for the Fine Arts, the Carmel-based orchestra will offer 1,000 tickets to its final rehearsal of Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony and other compositions available -- at no charge -- to the city’s elementary and middle school students and their families. Through the giveaway, organizers hope to expose more city youth to orchestral music, said Orlando Castro, executive director of the Alisal Center. ‘Right now, they don't have a taste for classical music,’ Castro said. ‘We need to start building it up.’”
3/11/07 – The Columbus Dispatch ran a feature on female principals in American orchestras: “At the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, for instance, only two women are principal players ... out of 16 posts. The CSO is not dissimilar to other U.S. orchestras, which usually have two to five female principals…..During the past 10 years, women have made up 45 percent to 48 percent of the positions in U.S. orchestras, according to Julia Kirchhausen of the American Symphony Orchestra League.”
Other Music News
3/13/07 - The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the San Francisco Opera will broadcast its performances once a month beginning April 1 on classical radio station KDFC (102.1 FM) -- the first time in 25 years that the company's offerings will be heard regularly on the air. “In addition to the KDFC deal, the Opera has joined a coalition of opera companies whose performances will be broadcast nationally and internationally by the WFMT Radio Network in Chicago."
3/1/07 – In the Telegraph (UK), cellist Julian Lloyd Webber wrote an entertaining riff on a certain survey: “The UK music magazine Muso recently commissioned a study on the sex lives of classical musicians, and while musicians themselves were all too willing to participate, the usual array of pretentious classical critics has lined up to take shots. But really, who cares about them? What everyone wants to know is, in which section of the orchestra will you find the most promiscuous sorts? (It's the viola section, of course.)”
3/9/07 – The golden age of the New Jersey Symphony is apparently coming to an end. At least, the orchestra’s ownership of a famed Golden Age stringed instrument collection is, according to PlaybillArts.com via the New Jersey Star Ledger: “In a surprising move intended to help solve serious financial problems, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra has decided to sell the collection of rare "Golden Age" string instruments which it acquired with great fanfare in 2003. The orchestra's administration and board of directors announced the decision — which reverses a pledge made just eight months ago — yesterday afternoon.”
3/2/07 - The classical music critic of Newsday is publicly taking a stand against the Vienna Philharmonic and its persistent refusal to treat women as legitimate candidates for employment in a symphony orchestra. "A decade after it supposedly committed itself to entering the 21st century, I believe that the Vienna Philharmonic has relinquished its claim to serious consideration as a dynamic cultural organization... The geological pace of change is not merely a regrettable obstacle in the relentless pursuit of quality. It is product of a narrowly preservationist, antiquarian philosophy, which fetishizes sound at the expense of spirit."
3/23/07 - Violinist Monica Germino will perform Andriessen's double concerto for soprano and violin, Passeggiata in Tram in America e Ritorno, with Boston Modern Orchestra Project, NEC's affiliate orchestra for new music. Andriessen wrote this work for Germino and soprano Christina Zavalloni.
3/17/07 – According to the Japan Times, “promising” young Japanese-American violinist Ray Iwazumi makes his Tokyo debut at Opera City Recital Hall. “Born in Seattle, Iwazumi is the only violinist in the world to have studied concurrently with Dorothy DeLay and Hyo Kang at The Juilliard School, New York, and Igor Oistrakh at the Brussels Royal Conservatory of Music.”
3/7/07 – The Glasgow Herald noted a mixed reaction to a recital given by violinist Viktoria Mullova, noting that the performance was not to all tastes. “Indeed, at half time, her playing provoked a relaxed, though intense, debate. For some, it was too detached. To others, what we were hearing was ‘the best in the world’.”
3/7/07 – Violinist Hilary Hahn received an excellent review from the Arizona Star for her performance of the Sibelius Violin Concerto, which is one of the few reviews to note what a soloist’s tour schedule is like: “In the span of 22 days, acclaimed violinist Hilary Hahn will have played Sibelius' Violin Concerto in D minor 11 times.On Tuesday, it was Stop No. 2, Day 6, performance No. 4 when she played it with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. Seeing Hahn perform the Sibelius early in her monthlong run gave us a chance to see an artist who is still excited to play the piece and rehearsed enough to turn in a flawless performance on all fronts.”
3/5/07 - This month's Live from NEC audio stream is a performance of César Franck's Sonata in A Major for violin and piano by Artist Diploma candidate violinist Karen Gomyo.
3/4/07 – Be sure to read the Huntsville Times’ moving profile of an elderly violinist: “In the quiet hours of a winter morning, Esther Gilbert walks to the dining room of her south Huntsville home and opens her violin case. Inside is a Landolfi violin, made in Italy in 1745. She has played this violin almost every day since 1930, when she was taught by some of the most famous music teachers in the world….”
3/4/07 – The Arizona Republic gave a poor review to Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg for a recent recital: “What they heard was an uneven recital that began on a disappointing note. The first sonata suffered from poor intonation - not only some sour notes, at which Salerno-Sonnenberg visibly winced - but also poor tone quality, as if her bow had too much, or not enough, rosin. Her tendency to clip her notes also was a problem - phrases often ended abruptly, as if she lost interest in anticipation of the next.” Fortunately, things improved as the recital progressed….
3/2/07 – The Dallas Morning News had this to say about the first public performance of the orchestra’s newly recovered Strad: “The DSO's circa 1727 Stradivarius violin, recovered last year 21 years after it was stolen, had a big solo turn in the Glazunov Violin Concerto. Played by senior associate concertmaster Gary Levinson, it put out a big, gleaming tone but glowed sweetly when quiet ....”
3/9/07 - The New York Times reports that an anonymous donor has promised $90 million for the Frank Gehry-designed future home of the New World Symphony, but the news of the donation was leaked two years early.
3/7/07 – According to the Akron Beacon-Journal, the Cleveland Orchestra took a chance last month, making a new live concert recording of Beethoven's 9th Symphony without actually having a deal in place with any record label to market and distribute the disc. But it didn't take long to find a partner - Deutsche Grammophon, which has a long history with the orchestra, will release the recording this fall.”
3/7/07 - The Allentown Morning Call (PA) reports: “The Lehigh Valley Chamber Orchestra is folding. The orchestra announced Tuesday that its March 31 concert -- the final concert of its 26th season -- will be its final concert, period. The news comes three months after the death of a proposed merger between the chamber orchestra and the region's largest classical group, the Allentown Symphony Orchestra. The merger, designed to make both organizations financially stronger by combining resources, was rejected in December by the Allentown Symphony amid disagreements over finances and music directors. The Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra -- the Valley's other major classical ensemble -- dropped out of merger talks in July…LVCO’s announcement means an end to an orchestra known for its famous guests -- pianists Emanuel Ax and Lang Lang and violinists Joshua Bell and Sarah Chang, to name a few -- the premieres of 31 new compositions, a contest with the Julliard School of Music and the first collective-bargaining agreement for a local classical ensemble.”
3/7/07 - The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra has signed music director Miguel Harth-Bedoya to a three-year contract extension that will keep him in the post through June 2011.
3/2/07 – According to the Summit (CO) Daily News, the executive director of the Colorado-based National Repertory Orchestra (a prominent training program for young musicians) has been told that her contract will not be renewed when it expires at the end of this season. Terese Kaptur took over the NRO program in 2002 after serving for three years as the orchestra's artistic director.
Usually, we focus on news related to violinists. Today, however, we have lots of news about some famous violins…
4/2/07 – From a press release on News-Antique.com: “Christie’s is pleased to announce the Fine Musical Instruments sale on April 2 in New York will be led by a 1729 Stradivarius violin known as the Solomon, Ex-Lambert (estimate: $1,000,000-1,500,000).”
3/6/07 – According to San Francisco Classical Voice, “Philharmonia Baroque has added a 1660 Guarneri violin to the storehouse of rare period instruments that the orchestra's musicians use. The violin, from Cremona, will be available on loan to Elizabeth Blumenstock, one of the orchestra's concertmasters. ‘This goes beyond anything I could have dreamed of in my career’, Blumenstock says. ‘Musicians rarely have the opportunity to actually play instruments of this caliber. The process of selecting an instrument was one of the most informative experiences of my life. I’m immensely humbled and touched by the thoughtfulness and generosity of this gift and wish only that I could thank the donor, or donors, in person’." The violin’s purchase was financed by an anonymous donation.
3/5/07 – The trade magazine Insurance Journal ran an Associated Press follow-up to the story of the stolen violin that ended up in Billings, Mont. by unknown means: “A violinist whose missing instrument valued at about $50,000 was recovered by police says it will be auctioned…The violin's owner, Evan Price, said his insurance company plans to auction the instrument May 7. Price gave the violin, made in Italy in 1879, to the company after it paid the insurance claim he filed when the violin was lost. The company will try to recover its cost by selling the violin through the Skinner auction house in Boston, he said. Price, a member of the Turtle Island String Quartet of San Francisco, said he has replaced the stolen instrument with a violin made by American Andrew Ryan in 1999.”
Hilel Kagan will retire as principal second violin of the Lyric Opera of Chicago at the end of the season.
Violinist Kaitlyn Filippini is the subject of a full-page profile in the February issue of International Musician due to her business smarts as much as musical accomplishment. Filippini, a 19-year-old undergrad at Berklee, passed up Juilliard due to its lack of business training. As founder of Eloquent Acoustics, she figured she’d need to know about business.
The same issue also contained an article written by Christal Phelps Steele, acting associate concertmaster of the Indianapolis Symphony. The article recounts her struggles with injury and deconditioning, and praises what the discipline of physical therapy has to offer musicians. Steele suffered a series of nonmusical injuries that eventually sidelined her from the violin for 18 months. After intensive rehabilitation with a knowledgeable therapist, she successfully reauditioned for her orchestra.
The International Violin Competition of Indianapolis is accepting applications for its 6th Annual Orchestral Audition Workshop for Violinists, to be held June 9-11. Violinist Rodney Friend, former concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic and other major orchestras, will be on hand.
3/21/07 - The recital and master class to be given by violinist Pamela Frank at Bard College have been rescheduled for Wednesday, March 21 (these had been scheduled for March 6).
3/10/07 – According to a press release, Polish violinist Mieczyslaw Szlezer will present a recital in Valletta, Malta, in conjunction with the Maltese-Polish Friendship Society. The program will include sonatas by two Polish composers. These are Sonata da camera by Grazyna Bacewicz and Sonata in D-minor op. 9 for Violin and Piano by Karol Szymanowski. This will apparently be the first time that these two sonatas have been performed publicly in Malta. Mieczyslaw Szlezer is a professor of violin and chamber music at the Academy of Music in Krakow.
3/7/07 – Finally, an update on Mstislav Rostropovich, who checked into Moscow’s top cancer clinic last month: PlaybillArts.com reports that the cellist was in a Russian facility and "underwent a complex operation on the liver, and now [doctors] have prescribed therapeutic exercise and walks in the fresh air." Unfortunately, the beloved maestro’s prognosis does not sound too promising.
The New Mexico Symphony has announced that its music director, Guillermo Figueroa, will not renew his contract with his other orchestra, the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra The first native Puerto Rican to lead the San Juan-based orchestra, Figueroa that his decision to step down as music director in Puerto Rico was “one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made. New Mexico has become my home and this is where my heart is. I look forward to having more time to spend with my family and my adopted community.”
3/10/07 – This is the deadline to apply for the violin fellowship offered by the Montgomery (AL) Symphony Orchestra, a community orchestra that retains a violin fellow and a cello fellow every two years to “serve as the chief soloists and leaders in our musical community.” The violin fellow serves as the concertmaster and performs as soloist with the orchestra once each season. Additionally, the orchestra sponsors three recitals each year for the fellow, who must relocate to the Montgomery area and earns a stipend of $30,000 annually.
3/10/07 - Members of the University of Wyoming Symphony Orchestra will spend their spring break traveling and performing in Bolivia. Last December, UW violin professors Naomi Gjevre and Javier Pinell, a Bolivian native, conducted music clinics in El Alto, a community outside of La Paz, Bolivia’s capital. Now, the orchestra will perform three evening concerts, two school performances and work individually with the El Alto youth orchestra. Conductor Michael Griffith recounts just how vital the orchestra has become to the students of El Alto, a severely impoverished community comprised mainly of native Bolivians: "This orchestra was so important to the kids that during a time of political unrest a few years ago, some people set fire to city hall, where the instruments were stored," he says. "Kids went running into the burning building to rescue their instruments."
3/10/07 - The Hudson Valley Philharmonic is holding its 35th annual String Competition this weekend at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie. The winner of the Hudson Valley competition gets $3,000 and a solo performance with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic. “Notable past winners of the competition include violinist Ani Kavafian (1973), a soloist with the Lincoln Center Chamber Players; Adela Pena (1985), violinist with the Eroica Trio; and Judith Ingolfsson (1996), winner of the 1998 Indianapolis International Violin Competition.”
3/7/07 – The Honolulu Advertiser reports: “After more than two years without a principal conductor, the Honolulu Symphony has named internationally known maestro Andreas Delfs to the post ... Delfs, musical director for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, has signed a three-year contract with the Honolulu Symphony ... He succeeds Samuel Wong, who resigned in June 2004 as music director, a post he had held since 1995.”
3/04/07 – My favorite story of the week ran in The Argus (UK): “Music lovers came down from as far as Yorkshire to hear A Very British Symphony, by the Queen's choirmaster, Andrew Gant, in Brighton last week. As the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra concert was about to begin, conductor Barry Wordsworth announced Gant's work had been dropped and would be replaced by a Mendelssohn piece. He told the audience he 'did not believe in it' and later added it was a matter of artistic integrity… [According to] orchestra manager Ivan Rockey, a party of 20, who had made the trip especially for the premiere, received their money back. Mr Rockey said he had also refunded others who said they had come especially to hear Gant's new work. He said: ‘We have not refunded everyone because there was a large proportion of the audience who rather liked the change of programme’."
3/5/07 – This is not violin-related news, but I couldn’t pass it up. According to the Washington Post: “Today, [oboist H. David] Meyers will face the music in a courtroom in Greenbelt. Having pleaded guilty in November to three counts of operating an illegal gambling business and money laundering, he awaits sentencing by a federal judge. Meyers could receive up to 20 years in prison. …Those who knew Meyers for his musical achievements likely had no idea of his other pursuits. Between early 2001 and 2004, according to his plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Meyers operated a business called Sports International 2000 that solicited and helped place thousands of bets on college and pro football and basketball games from gamblers in Montgomery County, Northern Virginia and elsewhere."
3/1/07 – According to the Dallas Morning News, “Twenty-one years after disappearing in a robbery, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra's circa-1727 Stradivarius violin is back in town, newly reconditioned and ready for a new solo debut. In concerts tonight through Sunday, Gary Levinson, the DSO's senior associate concertmaster, will play the instrument in the Violin Concerto of Alexander Glazunov.”
The article explains that the orchestra bought the Strad in 1978 for then-concertmaster Eliot Chapo to use. “When [Emanuel] Borok took over the job in 1985, he got use of the violin. But three months later, while Mr. Borok was Europe, it was stolen from his apartment, along with a television and stereo equipment. Two decades went by with no news of the lost violin. The insurance company paid the $250,000 valuation on the instrument. But then in 2005 a retired DSO violinist, who doesn't want to be identified, spotted a violin that looked suspiciously like the DSO's pictured in an ad in the string magazine The Strad. The ad announced an upcoming auction by the London instrument dealer Bonhams,” and the orchestra began negotiations that eventually brought the instrument back to the DSO.
Here is a PlaybillArts.com piece that summarizes the Morning News’s story.
Boriovoj Martinic-Jercic, concertmaster of the Phoenix Symphony, will step down from that post to assume full-time duties with I Solisti di Zagreb in his native Croatia, announced the orchestra. He will be recognized at his final Phoenix Symphony concerts May 25 and 26. In addition to becoming concertmaster and music director of I Solisti next fall, Martinic-Jercic will join the music faculty at the Zagreb Conservatory of Music. He has been concertmaster in Phoenix since 1998, having earlier held the title of acting concertmaster for six years and associate concertmaster for one season.
3/11/07 - The crossover string group Time for Three will perform an International Violin Competition of Indianapolis-sponsored concert in Indianapolis. From the press release: “Formed in 2001, Time for Three is made up of two violinists and a bass player, all graduates of the famed Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Violinist Nick Kendall was a participant in the 1998 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis and has been performing as a soloist and chamber musician since graduating from Curtis. Zach DePue is a violinist with the Philadelphia Orchestra when not on stage with Time for Three. Bass player Ranaan Meyer writes much of the original material for the group and is an accomplished jazz musician. Time for Three will also perform at a $150-per-person IVCI benefit the night before.
2/28/07 – The Clarion Ledger in Jackson, Miss. ran an interesting Q&A with Israeli violinist Miri Ben-Ari, focusing on her food preferences as much as music. My favorite question: “If you packed your violin case with snacks instead of your instrument, what would you fill it up with? A: Chocolates, chai lattes and halva. It would be the Mediterranean halva, based on tahini, which is sesame paste. It's what I enjoyed eating while growing up in Israel.” Ben-Ari’s recipe for tahini follows.
2/23/07 - Violinist and composer Leroy Jenkins, a dominant force in the 1970s' free jazz movement, died in New York of complications of lung cancer at the age of 74, reports UPI. “Jenkins, who began playing violin at age 7, blended the lines between jazz and classical music, The New York Times said. In 1964, he joined the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, a co-op of jazz musicians who followed the structural advances of Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor and others who expanded traditional jazz. He took the organization's philosophy to Europe, founding the Creative Construction Company with jazz musicians Anthony Braxton, Steve McCall and Leo Smith. In the mid-1970s, Jenkins became a bandleader wrote music for classical ensembles, the Times said. He led the group Sting, making a series of his own records for the Italian label Black Saint. He also began to work in more classical situations, both in performing and composing. Eventually Jenkins collaborated with choreographers, writers and video artists.”
The Syracuse Symphony Orchestra has raised $3,000 to benefit the New Orleans String Project, a program formed by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra that provides music lessons for inner-city New Orleans children. The money was raised at SSO concerts February 8-11 that featured the Dukes of Dixieland, a New Orleans-based group. Allan Kolsky, SSO principal clarinet and a former New Orleans resident who has played with the LPO, suggested the idea of raising money to connect the two groups.
3/1/07 – According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra announced its Pittsburgh 250 Ambassador Tour of Europe, “a three-week affair starting in January ... The orchestra will be accompanied by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development to promote the Pittsburgh region to international corporations.” The orchestra will perform 13 concerts in six countries. Among the repertoire will be Brahms' Violin Concerto, performed by violinist Leonidas Kavakos.
3/1/07 – The other paper in town, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, reports: “After a seven-year hiatus, the musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra are primed to begin commercial recording again, starting with this weekend's concerts featuring the music of Johannes Brahms. The concerts, featuring endowed guest conductor Marek Janowski with the orchestra will be recorded by the Dutch company PentaTone. The project, which will include Brahms' four symphonies, will continue the following weekend and will be concluded over two November weekends of concerts.” This weekend's concerts also included the Third Violin Concerto by Camille Saint-Saëns with Chee-Yun as soloist.”
3/1/07 - The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported on subscriber reactions to the Seattle Symphony ticket price increases. “Although there were only modest price increases, from this season to next, for most of the seats in Benaroya Hall -- generally 10 percent and less -- the third tier (fourth level) was hit, in some cases, with increases of more than 300 percent. During the current season, there were two prices -- $279 and $387 -- for a subscription to third tier seats on Thursday and Saturday nights to the 18 concerts of the Masterpiece Series ... For next season, everything in the third tier will cost $999 for new subscribers ... Many of the 1,900 people who sit in those seats for various subscription series have objected strongly, with a surprising number directly contacting the Seattle P-I.” Mary Ann Champion, the symphony's interim executive director, comments: “The pricing structure for the new season was done after careful thought and analysis ... We are offering more seating options next year, so that in some instances, there are cheaper seats in the orchestra than on the third tier.”
2/28/07 – Meanwhile, across the country in Baltimore, the ticket situation looks considerably rosier, reports the Baltimore Sun. “The Baltimore Symphony is rolling out an unprecedented ticket discount to promote Marin Alsop's upcoming first season as music director. Thanks to a $1 million underwriting grant from the PNC Foundation, current and new subscribers will be offered $25 seats for all classical and pops performances -- any seat in the house, including the usually pricey boxes."
2/28/07 – According to the New Hampshire Union Leader, “the New Hampshire Symphony Orchestra is canceling all of its upcoming performances this season and may not play next year, either, if new revenues don't emerge, its trustees say... The orchestra, an institution since 1974, has faced difficulties before. Financial woes forced cancellations in 2004, when some of the musicians' jobs appeared to be in jeopardy."
2/28/07 - The San Jose Mercury News reports that an arrest has been made in the theft of San Francisco Symphony ticket proceeds: “San Francisco police arrested a Hayward woman Tuesday morning on suspicion of skimming more than $17,000 from the San Francisco Symphony's box office proceeds. Linda Simwa, 29, turned herself in to authorities after a warrant was issued for her arrest, according to police Lt. Kenwade Lee with the department's fraud detail. Simwa was hired in June 2005 to account for the symphony's ticket receipts and incoming donations. She is suspected of replacing the cash stolen from ticket proceeds with money that came in from donors. The donations came in sporadically, and management had no way of tracking the checks as they arrived, according to Lee ... Simwa is currently on probation for another embezzlement case in Alameda County. Lee said it's possible that when the symphony hired her, that case was still moving through the system and might have gone undetected.”
2/27/07 – The Mankato (MN) Free Press reported that a special concert performed by the Mankato Symphony Orchestra at the Minnesota National Guard Training and Community Center was sent to U.S. troops in Iraq via a live television feed. “The soldiers watched the concert from the Freedom Call Center in Iraq, which allows troops video access to friends and family. ‘It’s so strange to see people clapping from halfway across the world’, [Music Director Kenneth] Freed said. ‘They were into it the whole time’. Freed said he was inspired to play a free concert for the soldiers’ families after listening to Minnesota Rep. John Kline, who has a son in Iraq, grill U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on the toll war the war has taken on soldiers’ families.”
Revisit Violinist.com editor Laurie Niles' coverage from Canada of the 2013 Montreal International Musical Competition, including her interview with gold medalist Marc Bouchkov.
Darcy Lewis is from Riverside, Illinois. Biography
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