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Violin News & Gossip, Op. 2, No. 89

December 22, 2006 at 1:18 AM

Last April, Turtle Island String Quartet violinist Evan Price suffered the theft of his $50,000 Eugenio Praga violin while in Billings, Mont. In the 12/20/06 Toronto Globe and Mail, we learn that the violin has been recovered: "The violin was feared gone forever because, as with the art world, legitimate instrument buyers want documented provenance and the black market is hard for inexperienced thieves to access. In this case, the would-be seller phoned a dealer thousands of kilometres away and had the misfortune of finding a personal friend of the instrument's former owner. [Violin maker and dealer Raymond] Schryer talked to him twice, keeping his surprise hidden, and then contacted police. Officers in Billings set up a sting operation and managed to recover the instrument intact." Most likely, more detailed stories will crop up in the next few days…

Musician News

12/20/06 – Australia’s Grainger String Quartet is currently affiliated with the Hong Kong Philharmonic, performing as orchestra members while receiving support for their quartet performances. The arrangement is profiled in The Standard, China’s business newspaper

12/19/06 – It turns out that composer Tan Dun, now with a work making its Metropolitan Opera debut, also plays violin. Read his fascinating account of surviving China’s Cultural Revolution and his life as a busker in New York City in this Associated Press story.

12/19/06 – The Warwick Courier (UK) ran a brief item on how 15-year-old local violinist Debbie Rothwell has earned a place in the National Youth Orchestra.

12/19/06 – An article about joint health and physical fitness on quotes Christal Phelps Steele, first violinist with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. “At 55, she faced early retirement because of musculoskeletal injuries and chronic pain from a combination of sports and 33 years of wielding a bow. She asked each of us [non-musicians in an exercise class] to play air-violin, holding our arms up and out at the necessary angles. ‘Hold that position as long as you can’, she dared us. Steele related that a carefully constructed rehab program with an athletic trainer got her back on track. She's now the acting associate concertmaster.”

12/17/06 – Violinist Wanda Becker is featured in a sobering St. Louis Post-Dispatch article about the difficulties of making a living as a freelance musician in the U.S. outside of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

12/5/06 - According to the Inverness (Scotland) Courier, the Edinburgh String Quartet is searching for a new first violinist. Charles Mutter is leaving to pursue other projects.

Orchestra News

12/17/06 – Arts executive Elaine Calder has been brought in to “clean house” at the Oregon Symphony. “What needs changing, according to her analysis? ‘We do a lot of classical programming’. Too much, she means. ‘At the beginning of the 21st century, you can no longer look at any market as homogenous. You've got to find niche markets, and I don't see too much of that here’. In The Oregonian’s article, Calder lauds a popular OSO gospel concert and favors more run-outs to churches. Oh, and shorter contracts so management is not locked in to the status quo is another of Calder’s recommendations. Read the article here.

12/16/06 – The New York Times profiled the Minnesota Orchestra and its music director, Osmo Vänskä, writing: "In discussions of Mr. Vänskä's relationship with the orchestra, the word chemistry keeps coming up ... The chemistry is right, we are told, though no one seems entirely sure how to analyze it." Vänskä comments: "People were ready to show what they could do, and maybe they were a little bit hungry. Then for me, who is a nut for working and trying to put things together, it was like heaven." Vanska has his sights set high—very high indeed—for the orchestra. Learn just how high here.

Other Music News

12/16/06 – You won’t want to miss the Twin Cities’ Star Tribune’s article about focal dystonia. “While it may not be as well-known as crippling conditions like Parkinson's, focal dystonia is wrecking the careers of a growing number of professional musicians. The terrifying disease, which causes musicians to forget the muscle movements necessary to play their instruments, "ended the careers of pianist Gary Graffman, Tokyo String Quartet violinist Peter Oundjian and Chicago Symphony Orchestra oboist Alex Klein." There are treatments, but no guaranteed fixes, and the condition frequently worsens when victims, ashamed of their deteriorating skills and unaware of the cause, fail to report the problem to a doctor.

12/16/06 – According to the Washington Post, Washington may not become the classical radio wasteland currently feared: "Public broadcaster WETA (90.9 FM) is considering dumping its news-and-talk programming and returning to being a classical broadcaster if the music dies on WGMS, WETA's management said yesterday. In a special meeting Thursday, WETA's board voted to give station executives the green light to consider switching back to classical if WGMS drops the format. Dan DeVany, WETA's vice president and general manager, said the station 'could move very quickly' back to classical if circumstances warrant. Redskins owner Dan Snyder has a preliminary agreement to buy WGMS (103.9/104.1 FM) from its owners, Bonneville International Corp. A Snyder-owned subsidiary, Red Zebra Broadcasting, intends to turn the station into a sports-talk outlet that probably would also air Redskins games."

From Christina Wilke
Posted on December 22, 2006 at 3:20 AM
Being a Washington DC native for most of my life, I'm very happy to hear that we aren't going to be without a classical station. It was a terribly depressing thought that the nation's capital might be void of a classical station, especially with art and music venues like the Smithsonian and the Kennedy Center which provide us with top-notch live music. I'm happy to hear that we'll still be able to say that we have a radio station that will play and feature classical music as well!
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on December 22, 2006 at 5:55 AM
Oops, your links are all messed up this time. You need to get rid of the that starts all the strings.

It it a symbolic thing? Aren't tbere lots of stations in outlying areas you can pick up? I can get a half dozen classical radio stations here.

The only format worse than sports format or talk format is sports/talk format.

From Ben Clapton
Posted on December 22, 2006 at 10:43 AM
"She asked each of us [non-musicians in an exercise class] to play air-violin, holding our arms up and out at the necessary angles. ‘Hold that position as long as you can’, she dared us."

I had a go at this, and didn't realise how much strain is in the upper arm to keep the right arm at the required angle... perhaps it is less when the violin is there... but all the same, violinists often have very nice arms. :)

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