8/27/07 – More on perfect pitch: Musicians and singers work for years to develop their sense of pitch, but few can name a musical note without a reference tone," writes Reuters reporter Julie Steenhuysen. "U.S. researchers on Monday said one gene may be the key to that coveted ability. Only 1 in 10,000 people have perfect or absolute pitch."
Dr. Jane Gitschier of the University of California, San Francisco and colleagues conducted a three-year study "that led researchers to conclude that one gene, or perhaps a few, may be behind this talent. Gitschier said those with perfect pitch were able to correctly identify both piano tones and pure computer-generated tones that were devoid of the distinctive sounds of any musical instrument." The study also found that pitch perception goes sharp with age and "the most commonly misidentified note ... is a G sharp. That may be because G sharp is overshadowed by A, its neighbor on the scale."
8/26/07 – The Scotsman profiled Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti, noting that she has recently received the loan of a Strad. Her new Deutsche Grammophon album, Nicola Benedetti Plays Vaughan Williams and Tavener, will be released on September 24.
8/24/07 – Violinist Helen Nightengale performed Kodaly's Duo for Violin and Cello with her husband, Lynn Harrell, at La Jolla Music Society SummerFest's “An Evening With Lynn Harrell,” reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. “The circumstances weren't ideal – Nightengale had an injured finger. But the couple succeeded in conveying the rhythmic and harmonic adventurousness of the 1914 piece influenced by Eastern European folk music.”
8/23/07 - Johannesburg metro police on Thursday denied "laying a finger" on a violist who claimed they assaulted her, breaking a bone in her hand, reports the Independent Online of Cape Town, South Africa. “Petite Marjan Vonk, 49, said she was pulled over while driving on the M1 freeway shortly before 9am on Tuesday. She was talking on her cellphone at the time. A male officer allegedly pulled her out of her car, put her in their car, dangled handcuffs in front of her and asked her if she knew what the inside of Leeuwkop prison looked like. They gave her a R500 fine for talking on her cellphone and claimed she resisted arrest.”
8/23/07 – The Community Press in suburban Cincinnati notes that, “On certain occasions, patrons of the Chic-fil-A restaurant in Union Township may have had the pleasure of hearing classical music performed by a world-class violinist.” It turns out that violinist Emma Sutton, daughter of the restaurant’s owner, has been busking there since she was 11. Now a junior at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Sutton is currently in China performing at the Beijing International Music Festival & Academy.
8/23/07 – The Malaysia Star ran a brief profile of 7-year-old violin prodigy Zhi Tong. The article notes that the Malaysia Book of Records last year recognized the girl as the youngest violinist in the country to release an album.
8/29/07 - The German orchestra Osnabrueck Symphony will perform in Iran this week, reports the CBC. Last year the Teheran Symphony performed in Germany. "’It's a very small step in improving relations between the people in the two countries’…As required in Iran, the female German musicians will wear headscarves — as the Iranian female musicians did when they visited Osnabrueck — and the program was submitted to Iranian authorities ahead of time.”
8/27/07 – The Toronto Globe & Mail offers more details on the lawsuit against six Saskatoon Symphony players, filed by the orchestra’s music director, no less. "With rehearsals for the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra's fall season scheduled to begin on Sept. 8, conductor and artistic director Douglas Sanford and a group of orchestra members are embroiled in a bitter dispute. A report by the union steward earlier this year was highly critical of Sanford, alleging a long list of abuses from haranguing players to choosing wildly fast tempos. Sanford, in turn, filed a $200,000 defamation suit on Aug. 14, arguing against the allegations."
8/26/07 – The New York Times profiled Scotland’s "This hottest of hot tickets is an Edinburgh band called the Really Terrible Orchestra. And were you to ask what it does, the answer would be that with true Scottish candor it lives up to its name, or rather down to it: an orchestra that plays terribly."
8/25/07 – The Honolulu Symphony opened its season with Sarah Chang soloing in the Sibelius Violin Concerto. Conductor Andreas Delfs made his first appearance as the orchestra’s music director.
8/24/07 – A controversial new book, In ``Das Reichsorchester,'' or ``The Reich's Orchestra,'' is making the rounds, reports The Guardian (UK). “Berlin-based Canadian historian Misha Aster writes that the relationship between the Nazis and the orchestra was a complex one in which each side exploited the other - although Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels held the upper hand over the orchestra and its star conductor, Wilhelm Furtwangler. The Berlin Philharmonic became a privileged servant of Nazi propaganda after Adolf Hitler's 1933 takeover. The pact with the Nazi regime resulted from the terrible financial situation of the orchestra since the middle of the 1920s, a certain feeling of superiority on the part of the orchestra collective and Goebbel's vision of cultural propaganda."
Hello all—After a week’s relaxation exploring Arizona and the craziness of filing columns in advance or via a shaky Internet connection, sitting at my own desktop in my own office feels like a luxury!
Sedona was charming, the Grand Canyon astonishing, the Mogollon Rim refreshing and Hopiland and Navajoland austerely beautiful. But it’s always good to come home to get the cold shoulder from the cats, at least for a few hours. Then the snuggling begins….
Maya Bogdanovic, a 25-year-old Serbian cellist, has won the first annual Aldo Parisot International Cello Competition. Bogdanovic was awarded a cash prize of $30,000, a solo concert at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall and several concerto performances in South Korea. The competition concluded the fourth season of the Great Mountains International Music Festival and School in Gangwon Province in South Korea, where Parisot has been teaching.
The August issue of The Roving Report, the From the Top newsletter, notes that the radio show’s first-ever alumni get together was held this month in Aspen, Colorado. Twenty three alumni attending the Aspen Music Festival and School, along with 17 parents and siblings, gathered with host Christopher O'Riley and crew for an afternoon of food and fun. Pianist Wei-Han Wu reflected on his April 2000 appearance, an episode that featured the late violinist Isaac Stern: "When I think of my experience on From the Top, he is what I remember the most. Hearing what he had to say and seeing him working with the young musicians on the show is something I'll never forget."
9/20/07 - San Jose State University will celebrate its 150th anniversary with a free performance by the Cypress String Quartet in the school’s concert hall.
8/24/07 – Violinist Philippe Quint is performing in Australia with the Melbourne Symphony. In The Age’s pre-appearance profile, we learn about his defection from Russia, that his mother is “the Russian Andrew Lloyd Webber” and that he relished Dorothy DeLay’s gentle teaching style, which did not include the corporal punishment common in Russia.
8/23/07 - The Los Angeles Times gave a positive review to 22-year-old Armenian violinist Sergey Khachatryan, making his Los Angeles Philharmonic debut playing Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2. “Winner of the International Jean Sibelius Competition in Helsinki, Finland, in 2000 (the youngest in its history) and the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels in 2005, Khachatryan first played in the Southland with the Minnesota Orchestra last year at UCLA and in Orange County… Poetic, introspective, effortlessly virtuosic, Khachatryan mined the classical lyricism of the concerto’s first movement, the sweet and sour nostalgia of the glorious slow movement and the fiery gypsy rhythms of the last. His sound was vibrant and rich, and his interpretation was mature, although surely it will deepen.”
8/29/07 - The San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas will be on their way to a 13-concert European tour, beginning with Aug. 29-30 appearances in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall. Other highlights include the Proms, Hannover, Cologne and Berlin. Their final performances will be at Switzerland’s Lucerne Festival on Sept. 13-14.
8/22/07 – According to the CBC, the conductor of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra is suing some of its musicians, “saying they accused him of abuse, stalking musicians, working under the influence of alcohol and intentionally sabotaging performances…Conductor and artistic director Douglas Sanford said he was defamed in a union report that was sent to the American Federation of Musicians and the Saskatchewan Arts Board. He's seeking more than $200,000 in damages, claiming his reputation has been seriously damaged and he has suffered distress and embarrassment. He also wants the courts to order an injunction on further publication of the allegations or similar words. The defendants named in the suit include six members of the symphony's players committee.”
8/22/07 – The Macon (Ga.) Telegraph profiled the new Ocmulgee Symphony Orchestra and its prime mover, Middle Georgia College Director of Instrumental Music Chuck Quinn. “‘People everywhere like classical music,’ said Quinn. ‘If you draw a circle around Hawkinsville for 30 miles there have got to be 30,000 people. If we can get just 1 percent of them to come hear us play, we will have a full house. We will find our audience, and they will find us.’…Hawkinsville is more noted for harness racing and high school football teams than turning out violinists. So this is a real leap of faith up the chromatic scale. ‘I can’t swear there’s not one out there somewhere, but I don’t know of too many towns the size of Hawkinsville that have a symphony,’ said Quinn. The first notes of the five-concert inaugural season will be played Oct. 13.” The new orchestra’s name “comes from the Hitchiti Indian words ‘oki’ and ‘mulgis,’ which mean ‘bubbling waters.’ ‘We won’t represent a single city or county,’ said Quinn. ‘We want to be heard by people from everywhere the Ocmulgee River flows.’ ”
8/16/07 – Breaking with American tradition, the Seattle Symphony has announced that it has chosen not one, but four, concertmasters, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "'There's no such thing as four (concertmasters) at one symphony in the U.S. or even two,' said Gerard Schwarz, SSO music director. 'In Europe, it's the opposite.' The four are Frank Almond, who is also concertmaster at the Milwaukee Symphony; Emmanuelle Boisvert, concertmaster at the Detroit Symphony; Ani Kavafian, solo violinist and music professor at Yale University and Maria Larionoff, a Seattle Symphony violinist who has served as acting concertmaster since Ilka Talvi was fired three years ago. He sued for breach of contract and the case was settled out of court. Schwarz said he didn't believe working with four different part-time concertmasters would be confusing for an orchestra used to working with one. "They (concertmasters) all play in a similar style, and they're all great," Schwarz said. "I think it will be refreshing.” Apparently, the three outside concertmasters will continue with their present obligations.
The Colburn School, the performing arts institution located across from Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles, celebrates the official opening of its expanded downtown campus in September. The expansion -- which more than doubles the size of The Colburn School’s facilities and features a new 200-seat concert hall, student housing, and public spaces that include a music library, plaza, and café -- will allow the school to grow its programming, serve additional students, and offer more public performances per year.
8/24/07 – The Berkshire (Mass.) Eagle warns its readers not to expect more pop music at Tanglewood. “‘We have an artistic mission, we have a pedagogic mission, out here,’ said Mark Volpe, managing director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, responding to calls by some Berkshire residents for more Popular Artists Series concerts. ‘The principal activity,’ he said, ‘is going to remain the Boston Symphony and the Tanglewood Music Center,’ the BSO’s internationally recognized school. The facilities are in use full-time for classical music, and ‘I would never violate the sanctity of the BSO’s eight weeks,’ he said. Tanglewood, Volpe declared, is also ‘at an enormous competitive disadvantage’ if it should want more pop than James Taylor’s annual concert and a July Fourth event, both of which occur outside the eight-week classical season. Because of pop artists’ financial demands, he said, most pop concerts don’t even earn money for a place like Tanglewood.”
8/23/07 - The first annual Grafenegg Music Festival will take place through September 9 on the estate of the 17th-century Grafenegg Castle near Vienna. Its first artistic director is pianist Rudolf Buchbinder, who will also perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 with the London Symphony Orchestra under Valery Gergiev. Also participating are the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under Zubin Mehta, the Czech Philharmonic under Zdenek Mácal, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra under Philippe Herreweghe, and the Tonkünstler Orchestra under Krzyzstof Penderecki, this year’s Grafenegg composer in residence.
8/21/07 – Bard College Conservatory of Music in Upstate New York announced that it is launching a preparatory division for children ages 5-18. The curriculum consists of weekly lessons, musicianship and chamber music training. Preparatory students and their families receive free admission to concerts and master classes at Bard, and are allowed to use the college’s athletic facilities. In this first year, enrollment is limited to violin, cello, flute, piano and guitar.
8/21/07 – The Pensacola News Journal included a report on a one-week summer music camp at the University of West Florida, which completed its first season with a Student Showcase on July 27. “Professor Kyle Marrero, director of fine and performing arts and chairman of the music department and the artistic director of Pensacola Opera, founded and directed UWF’s High School Music Camp. …This was the camp’s first year, and Marrero said a second summer music camp will be scheduled for next year. ‘We’re toying with the idea of expanding it to two weeks next year because the kids love it so much.’ ” UWF Director of Bands Richard Glaze “was one of 12 instructors provided by the college and Pensacola Opera. ‘We covered everything from Renaissance music to modern-day pop,’ Glaze said. ‘But we concentrated mostly on classical music.’ He said classes included music theory, technology and history, choir, orchestra and jazz.”
8/20/07 - EURweb.com reports that Jamie Foxx, will “return to familiar territory in the new DreamWorks film ‘The Soloist,’ a musical biopic based on the true story of a homeless, schizophrenic musician who dreams of playing at Walt Disney Concert Hall. The story is based on a 12-part series of articles by Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez about Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, who developed schizophrenia in his second year at Juilliard and ended up homeless on the streets of downtown L.A. where he performs the violin and cello.” Foxx, a classically trained pianist who himself attended Juilliard, “is being taught stringed instruments by a cellist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Lopez’s articles, ‘From Skid Row to Disney Hall,’ were published in 2005 and will serve as the basis for an upcoming book by Putnam.”
The Gryphon Trio is a finalist for the 2007 Toronto Arts Council Foundation Awards, which includes the Muriel Sherrin Award for International Achievement in Music -- a $10,000 cash prize presented to an artist or creator who has made a contribution to the cultural life of Toronto. The other finalist is oboist Lawrence Cherney.
Violinist and conductor Leonidas Kavakos, principal guest artist of the Camerata Salzburg for the past six years, has been named to a five-year term as its artistic director. His inaugural concert will take place October 5 at Mozarteum Salzburg.
Violinist Karen Galvin has been appointed assistant concertmaster of the North Carolina Symphony, effective this fall. She was most recently a member of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra and a freelancer with such groups as the Washington National Opera and Northern Virginia’s Eclipse Chamber Orchestra. Named to the assistant principal second violin position was David Kilbride, a Cleveland Institute of Music graduate who has played most recently with the Virginia Symphony. Christopher Fischer, was named assistant principal viola.
Jonathan Vinocour has been named principal viola of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.
8/22/07 – According to the Journal Gazette, violinist and conductor Jaime Laredo has been named artistic adviser at the Fort Wayne Philharmonic for the 2008-09 season. He will “consult on programming and hiring of guest artists during the music director search season. Edvard Tchivzhel, music director of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic for 14 seasons, said in January that he would step down when his contract expires in June 2008. In addition to being an interim artistic chief for the Philharmonic, Laredo will perform with or conduct the orchestra for two concerts during the season.” Laredo is music director of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra and professor of music at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music.
8/21/07 – According to the New Anatolian, an English-language daily in Turkey, Ozlem Adiguzel, a violinist from the Aegean Turkish city of Izmir, has become the first Turkish musician to join the orchestra of La Scala: "I am proud to be the first Turkish musician playing in the theater that was established in 1778."
8/19/07 – The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the Cincinnati Symphony struggled at the box office last season. "Attendance during the 53-concert season ending in May dropped 10 percent from the previous season, and subscription ticket sales slid by nearly 14 percent, orchestra officials said Friday."
8/16/07 – Still no firm deal between the Detroit Symphony and Leonard Slatkin, but it is sounding pretty positive, reports the Detroit News: "Slatkin, who turns 63 on Sept. 1, said that while he has not yet received a formal offer from the DSO, he was continuing discussions about the post with DSO president and executive director Anne Parsons and Peter Oundjian, the orchestra's artistic adviser and principal guest conductor."
8/18/07 - Violinist Philippe Quint will solo with the Queensland Orchestra in Bruch’s First Violin Concerto.
8/15/07 – Ralph Matson, concertmaster of the Utah Symphony, soloed with that orchestra in Spohr’s Violin Concerto No. 8, reports the Deseret Morning News. The paper notes that Matson takes an annual solo turn with the orchestra, where he has been one of four concertmasters for 22 years.
8/14/07 - The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) features an article about an envisioned rapprochement between classical music and surfing, a sport whose stereotypical accompaniment is the Beach Boys. Violinist Richard Tognetti, leader of the Australian Chamber Orchestra and an exponent of “what he calls friction-free surfing, in which the fins are removed from surfboards,” is also working on a “collaborative film project, Musica Surfica, exploring the intersection of so-called highbrow classical music with grassroots surf culture.” “For my generation,” says Tognetti, “there are a lot of us who do not feel the clunk of the gear change as we go from great pop to great classical. I’d much rather listen to great popular music than bad classical. But some people stubbornly stick to the worst 19th-century opera rather than go to a great Radiohead concert.”
8/13/07 – The Georgian Times, an English-language newspaper in the former Soviet republic, profiled Georgian-born violinist Lisa Batiashvili, who now lives in Germany. The piece includes a Q&A that touches on her feelings for her homeland.
8/13/07 – Violinist Sara Soltau, a recent high school graduate, was the Louisville Jazz Society's 2007 Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshop Scholarship winner. As part of her scholarship, Sara got to attend one of two weeklong workshops last month at the University of Louisville. Here is the story.
8/16/07 - The Detroit News speculates about Leonard Slatkin as the next music director for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. “His two recent appearances in Detroit, leading Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony at Orchestra Hall in May and Beethoven's Seventh Symphony at Meadow Brook Music Festival in July, excited everybody -- Slatkin, the musicians, audiences.” Slatkin would not be available until the 2009-10 season at the earliest. He recently began a three-year tenure as music advisor to the Nashville Symphony, and wraps up his long-running term at the helm of the National Symphony Orchestra in 2008.
8/15/07 - The Philadelphia Inquirer reports "In a surprise reversal of what appeared to be a deteriorating relationship between the Philadelphia Orchestra management and outgoing music director Christoph Eschenbach, the orchestra announced late yesterday that Eschenbach will have extended residencies in Philadelphia through the 2009-2010 season."
8/15/07 – The Australian Chamber Orchestra has had another windfall, reports the Adelaide Times. “….A $1 million 1729 Giueseppe Guarneri filius Andreae cello has been bought by an anonymous benefactor and is on loan to the ACO. To be played by principal cellist Timo-Veikko Valve, it is a close relative of the $10 million Carrodus violin, made by Guarneri's son Guarnerius del Gesu, which was bought by a benefactor last year for the use of ACO leader Richard Tognetti.”
8/14/07 - The government of North Korea has extended an invitation to the New York Philharmonic to give a performance in the nation's capital city, according to PlaybillArts.com. "We have just very recently received an inquiry about the possibility of [the orchestra] performing in Pyongyang," Philharmonic director of public relations Eric Latzky told the Reuters news agency yesterday. "It came from an independent representative as an official invitation of the Ministry of Culture."
8/14/07 - The Modesto Bee reports that the Modesto Symphony Orchestra, which has long performed at local high schools and colleges, has a new home: the Gallo Center for the Arts, in the orchestra’s California hometown. “The venue will showcase homegrown talent with its four resident companies. The Modesto Symphony Orchestra, Townsend Opera Players, Central West Ballet and the Modesto Community Concert Association have been a part of the city’s cultural life for decades. … The groups helped build audiences for the arts and generated support for the dream of the arts center.” The Modesto Symphony opens the new Gallo Center with a September 27 gala concert featuring Broadway diva Patti LuPone; the symphony then launches its own season on October 5 & 6.
8/12/07 – The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports on the increase in African-American musicians in classical music: “[N]ewly compiled evidence shows that black musicians doubled their ranks in the Top 25 American orchestras from 1995-2005. Yet blacks still comprise just a little more than 2 percent of those orchestras.” The article discusses the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s new program, the Orchestral Training Program for African-American Musicians, “which aims to bring more blacks into the highest echelons of classical music,” as well as the “Detroit-based Sphinx Organization, which was created 10 years ago to help black and Latino musicians break into classical music.” The article relies heavily on data provided by the American Symphony Orchestra League that charts the changing demographic in American orchestras. Additionally, interviews with black musicians offer more personal perspectives on the scene and the challenges that affect the number of blacks participating in classical music.
Well, today (8/15/07) is the centennial of the death of the great violinist Joseph Joachim. Be sure to read what the New York Times has to say about this pillar of 19th-century violin literatures and technique.
Israeli violinist Hagai Shaham has accepted an invitation to teach at the University of Southern California for one year. In response, the Israeli website Haaretz.com ran a profile of Shaham that both lauds the violinist and laments his absence from the local music scene, even though it is scheduled to last just one year.
10/6/07 - David Chan, concertmaster of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, will launch The Woodlands (Texas) Symphony Orchestra's year-long celebration of its fifteenth season. Chan is currently on the faculty of The Juilliard School. He and his wife, violinist Catherine Ro, and daughter Annalise, live in New York City.
9/15/07 -Jazz violinist Rodney McCoy will play in Salem, Ohio at a fundraising benefit for an athletic scholarship in the name of C. Elliott Dunlap, a 1970 Salem High School graduate, who died in 2004.
8/12/07 – Jazz violinist Carolyn Dutton is the subject of a brief profile in the Indianapolis Star. We learn that small-group swing, a little-appreciated form of music, is her passion.
8/10/07 – Former Cleveland Orchestra violinist Maurice Leysens has died at 96, reports the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times: “The night before, he gave a private violin lesson at his home, just like always... In 1951, he moved to Florida. Here, he played for the Florida Gulf Coast Symphony now the Florida Orchestra, the Florida Philharmonic and the Tampa Bay Symphony.”
8/10/07 – Violinist Staff Sgt. Sheng-Tsung Wang has joined the United States Marine Chamber Orchestra, reports the Ellicott City (Md.) View. “The orchestra is one arm of ‘The President’s Own’, and regularly performs at White House dinners and receptions, as well as other functions in the Washington, D.C., area. Every fall, the orchestra also goes on a national tour through about 44 cities. Its primary mission, however, is to provide music for the president of the United States and the commandant of the Marine Corps.”
8/8/07 – According to ejazznews.com, jazz violinist Christian Howes has a new DVD release out on Arkadia DVD, the new DVD division of Arkadia Records. “Christian Howes & The Horacio Icasto Quartet: Live in Madrid” includes jazz classics such as Nuages and I’ve Got Rhythm plus various original numbers.
8/8/07 – Opus, a new play about the offstage lives of a string quartet, opened in New York and earned a favorable review from the New York Times. Violist-cum-playwright Michael Hollinger moved on to theater after studying music at Oberlin. The actors are not musicians, incidentally, though they reportedly provide a good facsimile.
8/5/07 – Violinist Cho-Liang Lin, director of La Jolla Music Society SummerFest, has launched a new “An Evening With ... ” component to the series. The San Diego Union-Tribune asked him about why he chose the music for the first installment (8/8/07) and what it means to him. The first performance in the series was Aug. 8. Violinist Sarah Chang and cellist Lynn Harrell will perform a similar recital on Aug. 22.
8/8/07 - The St. Petersburg Philharmonic has announced that it will undertake a 20-city U.S. tour this fall, reports PlaybillArts.com. Their first appearance will be in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 23 and the tour will conclude in Seattle on Nov. 20. Violinist Julia Fischer will appear as soloist in the Beethoven Violin Concerto in a number of the tour stops.
8/6/07 – Musicians in the Philadelphia Orchestra will have an unusually large say in the selection of their next music director, according to PlaybillArts.com. Subcommittees of the Players Committee will quietly solicit input from their colleagues following guest conductor appearances.
8/10/07 – Is violin the latest and greatest instrument for pop and rock musicians? The
Bill McKenzie, the proprietor of The Violin Shop in Glasgow, says that there has been an upsurge in young people buying violins in the past couple of years. “I’d say more than 60 per cent of our customers are under 30,” he says. “I think it’s partly because the violin is so versatile. But also it’s always been said that the violin is the closest thing to the human voice – and maybe it’s on the same frequency range because it resonates deep down. It’s like there’s something about it that stirs the blood.”
8/7/07 - Newspapers have reported on the discovery of what is believed to be Hitler's record collection (at least in part) in the attic of former Soviet intelligence officer, Lev Besymenski. A Captain in the Soviet army, he kept quiet throughout his lifetime, but following his death at age 86 the records, along with a document explaining their origin, have now come to light. The discs include performances by both Russian and Jewish musicians. Here’s what Rob Cowan of Gramophone had to say.
8/8/07 - In The Guardian (London), cellist Steven Isserlis deems the presence of Jewish artists in Hitler’s collection “puzzling” but “perhaps not a complete mystery … he may have been struck with those (marvelous) performances; there was nothing like the choice we have today, when each famous masterpiece is available in at least 100 versions. Also, he may have reasoned like the concentration camp guards who demanded that their musical prisoners give them nightly concerts … Racial rules could be stretched where the glory and comfort of supermen were concerned.” The Der Spiegel article is also the subject of an 8/8 Associated Press story datelined Berlin.
As always, the New Yorker’s Alex Ross offers trenchant commentary on the trove’s implications. He notes that the presence of recordings in Hitler’s collection does not prove that the dictator approved, liked or even listened to them.
8/9/07 – The Worcester (Mass.) Telegram profiled violinist Wendy Putnam, who plays in the Boston Symphony and is the founder and director of the Concord Chamber Music Society in Concord. “When she was 9, she performed as a soloist with the Green Bay Symphony. At 16 she began attending Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, where she earned bachelor and master of music degrees. She was barely 21 when she became concertmaster of the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra (now the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra). Her performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the LPO under Maxim Shostakovich was named Best Classical Performance of the Year in 1995 by the New Orleans Times-Picayune.”
8/8/07 – The Boston Globe gave violinist Stephan Jackiw a favorable review when he filled in at Tanglewood for Janine Jansen: “Playing with a silvery, fine-grained tone, his phrasing -- expansive upbeats, lingering high notes -- was thoroughly Romantic, which put him at odds with Morlot, who seemed to want a more Classical, forward-moving rhythm. Jackiw's sensitivity to nuance and articulation, which carried him through the first movement, dulled somewhat in the second, where he retreated into the cocoon of his voluminous sound. But the quicksilver finale found both soloist and ensemble in precise, glittering agreement.” The review also notes that retiring BSO cellist Luis Leguía and bassist John Salkowski were honored at the concert. “After acknowledging the audience (Leguía bowing shyly, Salkowski blowing kisses) and applauding their colleagues, the pair punctuated a collected 85 years of BSO experience with a double high-five.”
8/7/07 – Talk about press releases commemorating musical oddities: violinist Shenzo Gregorio's stunt orchestra, 'Flying Paganini', wrapped up a string of performances in Dubai. “The group, consisting of four members, combines daring acrobat movements and exquisite music recitals in a display nothing short of magnificent. A combination of classical and contemporary music, the musicians play on electric instruments while being suspend at a height of up to 10 metres. The music played alternates between classic compositions, pop, rock, and familiar jingles.”
8/6/07 – Pittsburgh Symphony violist Raymond Marsh is retiring, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Marsh, who is 74, played in the orchestra for 48 years. “He was on the first orchestra committee that negotiated a contract for the Pittsburgh Symphony with direct involvement by the musicians.” Marsh “wants to be ‘schedule-less’ during retirement, but he may join one of the region’s community orchestras. He also will be involved in building an archive of the PSO.”
8/5/07 – The San Diego Union-Tribune profiled 12-year-old violinist Hannah Cho of Carlsbad, Calif. “Later this month, she'll add to her training by making her La Jolla Music Society SummerFest debut in a Coaching Workshop taught by the American String Quartet's Daniel Avshalomov… As a soloist, her concert schedule includes next Sunday's engagement with New Jersey's Ocean City Pops. She'll perform the third movement of Wieniawski's Violin Concerto No. 2.”
The Dallas Symphony has received $500,000 from the Texas Instruments Foundation to fund future guest soloists and artists.
9/18/07 – For the first time ever, the New York Philharmonic will invite New Yorkers to a free dress rehearsal of its gala opening night concert. Lorin Maazel will conduct an all-Dvorák program that includes the Symphony No. 7 and the Cello Concerto with Yo-Yo Ma.
8/28/07 – The Pittsburgh Symphony is back in the recording business, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “PentaTone Classics couldn’t wait for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s Brahms cycle -- its first commercial recording since 2001 -- to be issued as a three-disc set and will release one of the recordings on Aug. 28. In turn, Curtain Call, the Pittsburgh Symphony store, couldn’t wait until then to sell it and got permission from the label to offer the disc for sale now.”
8/17/07 - The Pasadena POPS Orchestra is sponsoring a book drive at its concerts in honor of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Seuss’s “The Cat in the Hat.” During three “Richie Ramone, 76 Trombones & More” concerts, which will focus on musical and other milestones from 1957, television actor J. D. Cullum will treat the audience to a reading of the book. The POPS is joining organizations across the country in an attempt to help alleviate a literacy crisis affecting low-income children.
8/10/07 – According to the Detroit Free Press, management and the musicians union at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra are at an impasse concerning contract negotiations, and that no further talks are scheduled. The current contract ends Sept. 2, with the season-opening concerts scheduled Sept. 13-16. The union states that points of contention include salaries, pensions, seniority pay, and work rules, while management counters that “the proposed contract was the best one it could offer given Michigan’s struggling economy.” Contractual negotiations between management and musicians at the DSO have been markedly smooth since a strike 20 years ago, and the two sides have worked together in recent years on retiring financial shortfalls. “The possibility of a strike by musicians threatens to impede the momentum the orchestra has built since 2004,” Stryker writes, “when the musicians agreed to concessions to help the orchestra deal with a $2.2 million deficit. The musicians’ salaries jumped considerably in 2005 to make up for the concessions. The orchestra has balanced its budget the past three seasons.”
8/6/07 – The Orlando Sentinel ran an interesting letter that recounted a performance Jascha Heifetz gave at the writer’s high school in the late 1930s. He recounted how Heifetz, partway through the program, broke the violin he was playing over his knee, then carried on, this time playing his Strad.
There’s no elaboration as to why Heifetz did this, though the writer’s point was that interesting young people in classical music is an effective tool for diverting them from criminal pursuits.
8/5/07 - Why is no one commemorating the death anniversary of Joseph Joachim, wonders the Boston Globe.
"Composers of any era can be immortalized through their scores, but posterity is not as kind to performers who lived before the advent of recordings. The Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim was arguably the most important fiddle player of the 19th century, and Aug. 15 will mark the 100th anniversary of his death. But don't worry if you've made other plans and can't attend the centenary tributes. There are virtually none, at least not in this country. Almost no one seems to have remembered."
The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra has announced the appointment of three new violinists: Fatima Aaziza, a native of Poland currently pursuing graduate work at The Juilliard School; Wendy Y. Chen, who holds a performance certificate from Shanghai Conservatory in her native China as well as a bachelor’s degree from Florida’s Harid Conservatory and a master’s from The Juilliard School; and Maya Shiraishi, a native of Japan with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Tokyo National University and prior experience in the Honolulu Symphony and Hawaii Opera Theatre. Upstage Magazine offers more complete biographical details.
Violist Christoph Huebner has joined Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. The New York-based conductorless orchestra announced that it plans to hire an additional violin and viola within the fairly near future.
8/9/07 – According to the Nhan Dan newspaper in Vietnam, violinist Bui Cong Duy will perform at the Ho Chi Minh City Opera House. A graduate of the Tchaikovsky Music Institute in Moscow, Duy now teaches the violin at the Hanoi Conservatory of Music and is a member of the Hanoi Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1997, he won the Tchaikovsky International Music Competition for violinists under 18.
8/5/07 - Violinist Stefan Jackiw, who made his New York Philharmonic debut last month in the annual Concerts in the Parks, replaced violinist Janine Jansen at the Serge and Olga Koussevitzky Memorial Concert with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the Tanglewood Music Center in western Massachusetts. Jackiw is a Boston native.
8/3/07 – Violinist Hilary Hahn performed at Ravinia with folksinger-songwriter Josh Ritter. The Chicago Sun-Times reported an interesting story behind their collaboration: her aunt and his parents are both neuroscience colleagues who introduced them.
8/7/07 – The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that the former finance director of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra admitted to stealing $160,000 from the group, “in exchange for a 10-year prison sentence and paying $24,000 in restitution... Robert David Lee, a 14-year symphony employee who had earned $42,500 a year, stole the money from July 2001 through September 2005."
8/5/07 – The Orange County Register looked at the offerings in Orange County's upcoming season and notes that, "for the most part, the new music that is being played isn't all that challenging (not that it has to be). But there is, and always has been, a huge lacuna in the modern repertoire that is performed here in O.C., and it makes it difficult for listeners to hear any new music with a perspective that will allow them to comprehend it or place it in some sort of historical continuum." Specifically, the writer examined the offerings of the Philharmonic Society of Orange County and the Pacific Symphony.
7/31/07 – The New York Daily News reports from the New York Jets training camp: “Instead of blasting hip-hop, rap and hard rock on their sideline speakers . . . the Jets have altered their playlist, mixing in classical music - namely Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - with their old standbys. It makes for an almost surreal setting: 300-pound men crashing into each other, with gentle melodies in the background.” Apparently, head coach Eric Mangini, “always looking for a psychological or physical edge” took inspiration from reports that listening to Mozart can stimulate learning. “The Jets usually play Mozart during the low-intensity drills, when the team splits up into individual units and the coaches are stressing mental work over physical.” The article adds, “It's no secret what music the players prefer. ‘Mozart, Beethoven, guys aren't feeling that,’ linebacker Jonathan Vilma said, smiling.”
The editors have invited readers and listeners worldwide to vote for "the artist they feel has made the most significant impact on the classical music scene in the past 12 months" at www.gramophone.co.uk. PlaybillArts.com also has more information.
7/30/07 – The Tacoma News Tribune reports, “Police and transit officials hope playing classical music at bus stops will shoo away unwanted gang activity. The first speakers are being installed at the Tacoma Mall Transit Center and should start piping classical music radio sometime this week … By playing classical music, Pierce Transit and the TPD hope to create an unpleasant environment for criminals and gangster-wannabes, [Lt. Kathy McAlpine] said … The approach is based on studies done in other cities that show that classical music deters negative behaviors at transit centers, [Pierce Transit public-safety official Rod] Baker said.” Psychologist Jacqueline Helfgott, chair of Seattle University’s Criminal Justice Department, “said the plan has the potential to work … ‘I don’t think classical music is a type that corresponds with criminal behavior,’ she said.”
8/5/07 – Violinist Joshua Bell is playing at the Verbier Music Festival in Switzerland this week. His performances include a program entitled “Homage to Ravi Shankar” with Anoushka Shankar and the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto.
8/2/07 – The Virginian-Pilot ran this obituary of violinist Barbara Henley Siegert: “The story goes that [she] closed her math book one day after class, walked out and never went back. She knew what she wanted to do with her life, and it didn't involve geometry. Her first love was the violin, and she earned her living by playing music right up until her 80s. She died July 15 at age 92.”
7/31/07 – Fiddler Ruby Jane Smith of Columbus, Mississippi has received the 2007-08 Daniel Pearl Memorial Violin, the Commercial Dispatch reports (via PlaybillArts.com). “The violin was made by Jonathan Cooper of Maine in memory of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reported murdered in 2002. Pearl was an accomplished violinist and ardent music lover who had dreams of becoming a violinist before studying at Stanford University. The award, established in 2003, is given annually to two rising young musicians, and grants its recipients use of Cooper's specially made violin for one year. Now age 12, Smith at age 10 became the youngest fiddler invited to perform at the Grand Ole Opry.”
7/31/07 – Violinist Janell Yeo has been awarded Singapore’s HSBC Youth Excellence Award. Yeo, now 13, started playing violin when she was five. At age 10, she moved to UK alone to pursue her music development at the prestigious Purcell School. As part of the award, HSBC is donating $200,000 to the National Arts Council.
7/29/07 – Atlanta Symphony concertmaster Cecylia Arzewski is quoted in an Atlanta Journal Constitution article on pernambuco wood: “No other wood pulls enough 'color' or gives you the variation of timbre, the richness of sound," explains Arzewsk, who says she can't imagine playing with anything but pernambuco.”
8/4/07 – The Boston Symphony had to scramble to find a conductor for this weekend’s concerts when Edo de Waart withdrew due to a back injury. PlaybillArts.com notes that, happily, Boston Symphony music director James Levine, who two weeks ago was himself obliged to withdraw from performances at the Verbier Festival, was able to stand in for de Waart, since he was already on hand to conduct a BSO program the previous evening.
8/2/07 - The Boston Globe reviewed a concert by the Boston Landmarks Orchestra under Charles Ansbacher that included the premiere of David and ‘Old Ironsides’. The new work, by Boston composer Larry Thomas Bell, is “the latest in the group’s ongoing commissioning of kid-friendly works for narrator and ensemble [that] tells the true story of David DeBias, an African-American from Beacon Hill’s North Slope community of freemen, who joined the ship’s crew at the age of 8 and saw action in the War of 1812.” The music “starts out promisingly,” he writes. “But as the story goes to sea, so does the piece.” Also on the program was Julian Wachner’s setting of Longfellow’s “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” a previous BLO commission that “combines music and narration far more cogently.”
8/1/07 – The Palm Beach Post reports on Boca Raton’s Florida Intergenerational Orchestra. “The orchestra’s mission is to ‘foster, nurture, and cultivate the love of music regardless of age and to create links and bonds across the generations in the process.’ The orchestra is open to musicians of all skill levels, and there are no auditions.” Conductor Lorraine Marks “said her love of music started at a young age … The idea for an Intergenerational Orchestra came from an experience Marks had as a child. The 14-year-old viola player was invited by a teacher to play with a group of elderly musicians. ‘They encouraged me so much, and each week I got better and better,’ Marks said. ‘In the process, I came out of my shell, and they gave me a reason to feel good about myself.’ ” Marks formed the New Jersey Intergenerational Orchestra in 1993. Ten year later she became orchestra director at a Boca Raton school, and in 2005 started the Florida Intergenerational Orchestra with help from her concertmaster, Maurice Kelhoffer.
7/29/07 – The Boston Globe profiled the Longwood Symphony Orchestra, a Boston-based orchestra whose players are medical professionals. “The LSO has a dual mission: medicine and music. The orchestra allows talented amateur musicians to strive for artistic excellence while supporting health-related nonprofit organizations through public performances.” The LSO was established in 1982 by members of the Harvard Medical School community, and has been awarded one of 2007 MetLife Awards for Excellence in Community Engagement for the ‘Healing Art of Music’ program. Music Director Jonathan McPhee “has long since gotten used to beepers and pagers going off in the middle of a rehearsal. But he has also gotten used to medical musicians who are focused, intelligent, and fearless.”
In July, the Mobile Symphony Orchestra launched its new “Big Red Ticket” outreach program by delivering vouchers for a free ticket “To a Whole New World of Music” to teachers at every school in Alabama’s Mobile, Baldwin, Clarke and Washington counties. The children will receive the vouchers once school resumes.
The Glens Falls (N.Y.) Symphony Orchestra raised $7,100 for the Bob Woodruff Family Fund for Traumatic Brain Injury at its two free summer pops concerts. At intermission for each concert, members of the Symphony Board of Directors and friends passed the hat. A check was presented to Bob and Lee Woodruff on July 21 at their Lake George summer home. ABC Newsman Bob Woodruff was severely injured while reporting on the Iraq war in 2006. He and his wife Lee authored A Family's Journey of Love and Healing, a book chronicling his recovery from traumatic brain injury.
7/29/07 – Given the meteoric rise of LA Philharmonic music director designate Gustavo Dudamel, American newspapers have written extensively about Venezuela's El Sistema. Now, the Observer (UK) tackles the topic: "The road taken by Dudamel... is one along which some 270,000 young Venezuelans are now registered to aspire, playing music across a land seeded with 220 youth orchestras from the Andes to the Caribbean."
I just received a note from the PR rep of the Brodsky Quartet with the news that, after a year-long search, violinist Daniel Rowland has joined the group as first violinist.
From his public statement: “I remember first being thrilled by the Brodsky Quartet's exciting dynamic and colourful performances as a student, and from the first note I played with Ian, Paul and Jacky I felt a very special chemistry. I'm delighted and excited to be joining, and look forward to many years as a ‘Brodsky’.”
7/29/07 – For more about violinist Eugene Drucker’s new novel The Savior, be sure to read the informative New York Times Q&A. It also includes a fabulous video of Drucker playing the Chaconne (of extreme importance in his book) and speaking about it. Also mentioned: Variations on the Beast (Dragon Press) by Henry Grinberg. The author, “a psychoanalyst, posits Hermann Kapp-Dortmunder, a powerful maestro, as a fictional rival of Wilhelm Furtwängler (whose qualms about working under the regime he does not share) and Herbert von Karajan (whose vaulting ambition he does).”
7/28/07 – The Minneapolis Star Tribune ran the obituary of violinist Joseph Roche. “A retired violinist with the Minnesota Orchestra and the Macalester Trio, he brought smiles to the faces of his listeners and colleagues with his personality and playing. Roche, retired to Sarasota, Fla., in 1994, but annually returned to enjoy the orchestra's Sommerfest. He died unexpectedly in Minneapolis on Tuesday.”
Mr. Roche was the father of my husband’s friend from their Curtis days, cellist Gita Roche. Our condolences go out to Gita and her family!
ABS-CBN News in the Philippines recently ran an undated look at busking in Jakarta, which apparently teems with street musicians. "’Trains are spacious, so we can entertain with various instruments’, explains 31-year-old Bali, a high school drop-out who is a self-taught violinist, guitarist and keyboardist. ‘We played on buses for years but the limited space hindered our creativity’, he says of his [six-person] band, Lavaza. The group plays from mid-morning until early evening to earn up to 50,000 rupiah (five dollars) a day each.”
8/8/07 - Chinese violinist Ziao-Dong Wang will perform at the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival.
8/1/07 – Violinist Rachel Barton Pine reports that she will appear on the famed Dame Myra Hess free noontime concert series in Chicago. This recital will be the first annual Al Booth Memorial Concert for the Dame Myra Hess series, honoring the founder of the International Music Foundation.
7/29/07 – Has conductor Robert Spano, music director of the Atlanta Symphony, peaked because he has not been snapped up by a Big 5 orchestra? A healthy debate is simmering in Atlanta now, sparked by an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article assessing Spano’s marketability and future job options.
7/29/07 – The Columbia (SC) State recently profiled Opus Two, a duo consisting of violinist William Terwilliger and pianist Andrew Cooperstock, who have been teaching at Brevard Music Center in North Carolina. Terwilliger is a professor of music at the University of South Carolina.
7/28/07 – The Elysian Quartet performs on a new CD by Gabriel Prokofiev, the composer’s grandson, that purports to bring classical music back to its populist roots, according to The Guardian (UK). “The first section of the latest Nonclassical CD contains four stark, challenging movements, written by Prokofiev and performed by the Elysian Quartet, which contain echoes of the excitable, repetitive patterns of techno. Those same tracks are remixed by Hot Chip, Conboy and US grime producer Starkey, who improvise hiccuping grooves from plucked strings and such. It's interesting, abrasive and, particularly UK hip-hop head EarlyMan's remix, outright joyous.”
7/26/07 – The Cincinnati Post reports, “James Conlon, music director of the Cincinnati May Festival, has been appointed to a multi-faceted, two-year residency at New York's Juilliard School. Conlon, a Juilliard alumnus, will conduct, coach and present symposia and master classes in all three divisions of the school -- dance, drama and music -- beginning this fall. A special focus of his residency will be examining the relationship between art and society, with a concentration on Europe between 1910 and 1945 and the United States in 2007.” As music director of the Ravinia Festival, Conlon has led a series called Breaking the Silence since 2005, spotlighting composers suppressed by the Holocaust.
7/24/07 – The East Bergen Record profiled violinist Eric Silberger, who is just preparing to enter the five-year combined program at Columbia University/the Juilliard School. Silberger entered both the recent International Violin Competition of Indianapolis and the Tchaikovsky Competition, the latter as one of only two Americans.
7/28/07 – Will Video Games Live fill the empty seats in the nation’s concert Halls? The Louisville Courier-Journal classical music critic discusses this question: He says there is nothing wrong with this kind of outreach, “so long as orchestras aren't fooling themselves into thinking that the sci-fi nerds and gaming geeks that turn out for such shows will be similarly tempted by a Mahler symphony.”
7/29/07 – The Boston Globe profiled the Adult Chamber Music Institute at the Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival in Blue Hill, Maine. The writer, an amateur clarinetist, vividly describes his quintet’s coaching with Abe Loft, former violinist with the storied Fine Arts Quartet. Ruth Jeka, a 79-year-old violinist from Cambridge, is briefly quoted in the article, which boasts the delightful headline of “Next summer, pack up your viola and play, play, play.”
Enter to win Leonidas Kavakos' recording of the Brahms Violin Concerto.
Darcy Lewis is from Riverside, Illinois. Biography
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