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Violin News & Gossip, Op. 3, No. 64

August 12, 2007 at 4:36 PM

8/10/07 – Is violin the latest and greatest instrument for pop and rock musicians? The
Times of London
examines the trend of “string-mania” among British rock and pop performers. “Pop’s relentless, synthesised technical evolution has made many people start longing for a more organic sound. And in a way, the sound of violins is revolutionary; punk was once synonymous with electric guitars and shouting, but since that’s now the norm, it’s no longer shocking. It’s far more innovative to use a classical instrument in a way it’s never been played before.”

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.”

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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.


Musician News

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.”


Orchestra News

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.”



From Bill Busen
Posted on August 13, 2007 at 3:34 AM
When Pittsburgh played here (with Sarah Chang - Sibelius), Raymond Marsh was one of the folks who took time the afternoon of the concert to participate in a seminar about Life After Graduation for the students, and then have dinner with them. Nice guy - hope he has a fulfilling retirement.

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