April 2006

Violin News & Gossip, Op. 2, No. 23

April 30, 2006 10:10

Is it possible that Bach did not write the Six Cello Suites?

The latest news from the UK is that a scholar believes that Bach’s wife, Anna Magdalena, may have been more than his copyist, reports The Telegraph (UK): "A study by an academic who has spent more than 30 years looking at Bach's work claims that Anna Magdalena Bach, traditionally believed to be Bach's musical copyist, actually wrote some of his best-loved works, including his Six Cello Suites... He points to what he regards as the uniquely symmetrical nature of the work, and to the fact that the manuscripts included many corrections and adjustments, suggesting that they were original composing scores."

Scholars are intrigued, but several prominent performers are skeptical. Julian Lloyd Webber insisted that the compositions were "stylistically totally Bach" and that "many composers had appalling handwriting, which meant better copies would naturally have been made, with the originals then discarded".

Steven Isserlis, who is working on a recording of the Suites, said: "We can't say that it is definitely not true, in the same way that we can't prove that Anne Hathaway did not write some of Shakespeare's work, but I don't believe this to be a serious theory."

It’s stories like this that show how wide the gulf between performers and musicologists can be. Of course, the academics are right sometimes. Witness the now-universal acceptance that Purcell’s beloved Trumpet Voluntary was really composed by one Jeremiah Clarke as “The Prince of Denmark’s March.”

But the Cello Suites? Now, that’s bordering on sacrilege for many people.


I received a nice note from Gennady Filimonov, first violinist of the Odeonquartet, telling me that the group is being featured in the Member Spotlight of Chamber Music America website.


“In our case, it has been a fantastic journey in the premiere of Wayne Horvitz's "These Hills of Glory" String Quartet #2 written for String Quartet and Improvisor,” writes Gennady.

Keep watching here for an upcoming interview with Gennady about what it’s like to play with an improviser and other important matters.

Musician News

Rei Hotoda has been named assistant conductor of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the first to hold this title at the WSO in several decades, reports the ASOL. Currently principal conductor of Chicago's contemporary-music ensemble Noamnesia and also a concert pianist, the WSO appointment is her first permanent posting with a symphony orchestra.

Wes Kenney, music director and conductor of Colorado's Fort Collins Symphony since 2003, has signed a contract extending his contract through 2009. Kenney is also music director of Opera Fort Collins and director of orchestras at Colorado State University.

5/9/06 – Violinist Sophia Mak will play Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major (first movement) with the Bard College Orchestra.

4/26/06 - Choong-Jin Chang has been chosen as the new principal viola of the Philadelphia Orchestra. The 38 year old Seoul native has been associate principal and is currently acting principal. Current principal Roberto Diaz has been phasing out his orchestra responsibilities as he prepares to become president of the Curtis Institute. Chang, a member of the Johannes Quartet, studied at Curtis with former Philly principal Joseph de Pasquale.

4/23/06 - Midori’s passion for contemporary music was explored in the New York Times: "Now, at 34, Midori has begun commissioning new music in a joint initiative with the violinist Vadim Repin. She has also decided that as a musician and teacher, she has to do more than simply perform contemporary music. She has to persuade everyone, from reluctant arts administrators to confused audience members, that there is a good reason to listen.” The article also notes that Midori teaches at the Manhattan School of Music and the University of Southern California. This fall, she will settle full-time in Los Angeles to direct the university's new Midori Center for Community Engagement, a clearinghouse for musical outreach activities, ideas and training.

Orchestra News

4/25/06 – A financial crisis and management turmoil at the Napa Valley Symphony will delay payments to the orchestra's staff and musicians and may jeopardize their future, reports San Francisco Classical Voice. The Executive Director has been let go, the Board President has quit and surviving administrators have raided the previously sacrosanct endowment. Music Director Asher Raboy, who has been with the orchestra for 16 years, becomes interim executive director, while the former boss is said to be contemplating legal action about being dismissed without notice, his severance and vacation pay withheld. Bob Williams, president of Musicians Local 292, told the musicians that "Napa Valley Symphony is not going bankrupt," warning them that their next paycheck may be late.”

4/23/06 – PlaybillArts is reporting that the Boston Symphony is launching a free series of podcasts. “The videos, which range in length from one to five minutes, discuss important works by the two composers, illustrated with still photographs, paintings, images of scores, video, and musical examples. They originated on the orchestra's ambitious web site as part of its three-year-old Online Conservatory project, but are now available through Apple's iTunes music store."

4/23/06 – The South Dakota Symphony will have a composer-in-residence program for the first time during the 2006-07 season, reports the Argus Leader (Sioux Falls, SD). Composer Daniel Kellogg "will be in town during the next three years," the paper writes, adding: "The orchestra performed two of Kellogg's pieces during its past season. Kellogg attended both performances, was part of the rehearsal process and taught several master classes in the region during his last visit. The orchestra is committed to performing two or three of his pieces during each of the upcoming three seasons. Delta David Gier, the orchestra's music director, comments: "It's a good step for us, and it is unusual for an orchestra our size to have a composer in residence.”

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Violin News & Gossip, Op. 2, No. 22

April 26, 2006 15:54

The venerable Shar Music in Ann Arbor, Mich.—one of my favored haunts in high school—has announced that it is seeking to hire 2005 and 2006 college graduates with degrees in either music education or performance. They seek musicians who are customer-oriented and interested in learning about the business side of music.

“This 10 month position offers a competitive base salary, performance bonuses and employee benefits, plus a monthly string supplies allowance, paid practice time and an audition travel allowance. You will be involved primarily with inside sales, by phone, email, and in our showroom, but will also spend time evaluating new products, and traveling either locally, nationally or internationally as part of our Conference and Show team.”

To apply, e-mail or send your resume and a letter of interest to:

Erin Salhaney
Shar Music
P.O. Box 1411
Ann Arbor, MI 48106


Violinist Susan Kirtz, cellist Leslie Lyons and bassist David Funderburk are the current crop of Shar apprentices.

Travel Woes

Everyone knows the logistics of traveling with a cello or bass have gotten more challenging in recent years. Unfortunately, students from the Cooper High School Orchestra in Minnesota had a nasty surprise when they flew Northwest Airlines on a late-March trip to California, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

At check-in, the orchestra was charged an additional $880 to stow the cases of 13 cellos and three basses. I was hoping we wouldn't be charged at all," said Sarah Chelgren, the orchestra's director. "We limited each of the kids to one bag so we wouldn't be over weight limits, even with the instruments." Northwest says it has a longstanding policy of charging for oversized musical instruments, reports the paper. The policy also says instruments must be in crushproof cases.

Chelgren, a cellist, put the surcharge on her personal credit card and the group boarded. When the plane landed in L.A., students were shocked to discover that four of the 13 cellos were damaged; of those, two were unplayable.

“On return day, Chelgren put another $720 charge on her credit card for transporting the instruments. This time, the airline did better. Only one bass, the zipper on a cello case and one student's suitcase were damaged. ‘I've traveled all over the world with my cello, and I've never had a problem,’ said Chelgren. ‘When you pay through the teeth, you'd think they'd take care of things.’”

Since the return, Chelgren has been learning about the airline's policy regarding busted baggage. She fears that damage to two of the instruments, a cello and a bass, won't be covered because the cases weren't damaged. Total damage will amount to several hundred dollars, she said.”

The students are currently back to fundraising to raise enough money to cover the surcharges and instrument repairs.

Orchestra News

The Canton Symphony Orchestra has received a $500,000 anonymous gift to endow the music director chair in honor of Music Director Gerhardt Zimmermann, reports the ASOL. Zimmermann is celebrating his 25th anniversary this season.

The Lubbock Symphony Orchestra will continue its search for a new music director into the 200-07 season, which marks the orchestra's 60th anniversary. The committee had reached unanimous consensus on a candidate who was not able to accept the offer. "Therefore, we are committed to continuing the search and finding the person who will inspire enthusiasm from all constituent groups," the search committee chairperson announced.

4/25/06 - The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra has unveiled a new media agreement with Minnesota Public Radio which will allow online listeners to hear a large percentage of the orchestra's 35-year archive of radio broadcasts, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “Still undecided is whether the programs will be free to consumers, but the agreement is likely to get plenty of scrutiny from orchestras and musicians around the country, as the industry continues to debate how best to use new technologies, and how (if at all) musicians should be paid for such distribution.”

4/20/06 - The Philadelphia Orchestra has tapped the dean of the Eastman School of Music to be its next president and CEO. James Undercofler is a surprise choice for two main reasons: first, it is very unusual for an orchestra executive to come from the academic world; and second, Undercofler officially took himself out of the running for the position and signed a contract extension with Eastman a month ago, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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Violin News & Gossip, Op. 2, No. 21

April 23, 2006 11:04

While, strictly speaking, this is not violin or string news, it is impossible not to be saddened by the deaths of five singers, all graduate students at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, in a plane crash around midnight Thursday night.

The five were returning to Bloomington in a single-engine aircraft piloted by one of the students following a rehearsal 90 miles away when the aircraft suddenly disappeared from radar. The badly damaged craft was found by emergency crews about four hours later, upside down in dense woods. All five singers are believed to have died instantly, according to the coroner.

Some 700 people attended a memorial service Friday evening in Bloomington, and a previously scheduled performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony today will be dedicated to the singers.

The victims are Chris Carducci of Monroe, Mich.; Garth Eppley of Wabash, Ind.; Georgina Joshi of South Bend and the plane’s pilot; Zachary Novak of Anderson, Ind.; and Robert Samels of Medina, Ohio.

Musician News

4/21/06 – Many performers have broken strings during a performance, but Joshua Bell was blazing through the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra when his bridge moved. “While I was taking an up-bow, somehow my bow caught the bridge and sent it over about a centimeter on the violin, rendering it unplayable. I went offstage to try to put it back in place. It was sort of like an athlete having his dislocated shoulder put back right,” Bell told the Chicago Tribune afterward. “When I walked back onstage, I was really scared about what was going to come out. Even though the violin was responding differently, I actually felt more relaxed for the rest of the performance.”

Bell had been nearing the first-movement cadenza when the audience suddenly heard a loud “thwack.” He motioned for conductor David Zinman to stop the orchestra while he fixed the violin offstage.

The drama apparently didn’t hurt his performance, though, reports the Tribune: “Bell re-emerged a few minutes later to deliver a flawless account of the rest of the concerto, rich in expressive nuance, every familiar phrase emerging as if newly minted. The crowd, which had cheered him wildly after the first movement, was beside itself at the end.”

4/21/06 – Maxim Vengerov just received a favorable review from the New York Times for his performance of the Shostakovich A minor Violin Concerto: "Maxim Vengerov's powerful violin playing suited [the concerto] well. He sustained interest in the Passacaglia's drawn-out solo cadenza and simply overpowered the terribly difficult Scherzo and Burlesque."

4/21/06 - Violinist Mark O'Connor performed at the grand opening of the Youngstown Symphony’s new Eleanor Beecher Flad Pavilion with a performance in the Ford Family Recital Hall. The new recital hall and pavilion are part of the DeYor Performing Arts Center.

4/21/06 – This was Nicholas McGegan Day in San Francisco by declaration of Mayor Gavin Newsom. The honor recognizes McGegan's 20th anniversary at the helm of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. McGegan led the period instrument orchestra that same day in its debut at Davies Symphony Hall. McGegan will also be honored in a series of written tributes and an appearance by the consul general of Great Britain, the Honorable Martin Uden.

Mischa Santora, a violinist turned conductor, is profiled in the May issue of Minnesota Monthly magazine. Santora is associate conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra. The magazine notes that Santora originally studied violin at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, but a hand injury led him to conducting.

Orchestra News

4/20/06 - The National Endowment for the Arts announced its 2006 grants in the categories of Access to Artistic Excellence (Part Two), Learning in the Arts for Children and Youth, and Arts on Radio and Television. In this second round of Access grants, orchestras received 45 awards, totaling $744,000 in support for projects focused on touring, outreach, recordings, technology, and music appreciation. The Learning in the Arts for Children and Youth awards included 13 grants to orchestras, totaling $385,000 to support projects that take place in schools and community-based settings. Direct grants to orchestras in the category of Arts on Radio and Television were up this year, with five orchestras receiving grants totaling $250,000.

This is the second major wave of FY06 NEA Grants for Arts Projects. Final FY06 awards will be announced later this year in the category of Summer Schools in the Arts. Today's announcement, added to the NEA awards announced in December, 2005, brings total FY06 funding to orchestras in these major NEA grant categories to $2,562,000, and 111 awards. Awards to all arts disciplines through these three largest categories numbered 1,744 and totaled $37.8 million.

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Violin News & Gossip, Op. 2, No. 20

April 20, 2006 04:58

Musician News

Jayce Ogren has been named assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra and music director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra, effective in September. A native of Hoquiam, Washington, he is currently a conducting apprentice at the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and has guest-conducted orchestras in both Sweden and Finland as well as the New World Symphony, Boston's Callithumpian Consort, the Harvard Group for New Music, and the New England Conservatory Opera Theater.

Theodore Kuchar, music director of the Reno Chamber Orchestra, has renewed his contract for three years beginning with the 2006-07 season. He continues as music director/conductor of the Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra, chief conductor of the Czech Republic's Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra, and resident conductor of the Kent Blossom Music Festival.

The St. Lawrence String Quartet is currently on tour ranging from Texas to Canada. See them if you can; it may be your last chance to see the group before its September shakeup. As reported here previously, current second violinist Barry Shiffman will be heading to Canada’s Banff Centre as director of music programs. Scott St. John, from the University of Toronto faculty, will take Shiffman's place.

4/27/06 – If you’ll be in San Francisco on this date, you’ll surely want to attend a recital by Midori that builds upon an earlier session. In collaboration with Ruth Felt of San Francisco Performances, and with the help of a grant from the Bernard Osher Foundation, Midori has brought her Contemporary Music Recital Program, begun 18 months ago in Japan, to San Francisco, reports San Francisco Classical Voice. “The program consists of a full day of lectures, master classes, a panel discussion, audience Q&A, and reception (all constituting the workshop), followed by the actual recital. The program is split here: She conducted the workshop on traditional Tax Day at the Jewish Community Center; the recital will occur at Herbst Theatre on April 27.”

4/25/06 – Bassist extraordinaire Edgar Meyer is releasing a self-titled CD in which he plays the piano, guitar, banjo, gamba and the double bass.

4/13/06Victor Yampolsky will be much-missed in Omaha, Neb. The Omaha World-Herald reports that "This weekend, the Omaha Symphony's beloved Russian-born music director emeritus will appear with the orchestra for the last time as principal guest conductor.…Though Yampolsky will retain his title as the Omaha Symphony's music director emeritus indefinitely, he is not a scheduled conductor on the 2006-2007 schedule.” The paper adds: "Many think he will be most remembered for ... bringing the musicians to a new level of professionalism." Yampolsky also is Professor and Director of Orchestras and Northwestern University and Music Director of the Peninsula Music Festival.

Orchestra News

4/13/06 - The Kansas City Symphony's concert in the Flint Hills has sold out two months before the June 10 event, reports the Kansas City Star. “Interest in the 5,000 tickets was so high that organizers say the open-air Symphony in the Flint Hills will become an annual affair. They are close to picking a date in June for 2007." For the event, the Kansas City Symphony and Chorus will perform with the world-music ensemble Paul Winter Consort in the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve near Strong City, Kan. -- for an all-day festival and evening concert. Concert patrons will park in a nearby plot and walk or ride hay wagons to the 10-acre concert site a mile into the hills. "Sales soared after the concert appeared on the cover of the 2006 Official Kansas Tour Guide and in Midwest Living, Kansas! and the American Automobile Association's Home & Away magazine." The article quotes Kathy Miller, chair of Symphony in the Flint Hills Inc.: "There is something pretty fascinating about the idea of a symphony playing out in the middle of the tallgrass prairie ... It has captured people's imagination."

3/29/06 - Britain's Halle Orchestra has canceled an impending tour to the United States because of the cost of visas, reports The Guardian (UK). "Managers said yesterday they had cancelled the tour when they realised that the cost of arranging the visas, estimated at £45,000, would render the trip uneconomic. Other agents said rock musicians, also fed up with the process and expense, were refusing to visit the US to work."

3/29/06 - The Music Toronto Chamber Society has played its last program, according to the Toronto Star.

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Violin News and Gossip, Op. 2, No. 19

April 16, 2006 08:27

I got a nice note from Nick Tavani, a student at the Cleveland Institute of Music who had just returned from participating in the Kingsville International Young Performers Competition at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. He wanted to let me know how it went.

Violinist Celeste Golden, a 22-year-old student of Paul Kantor and David Cerone at CIM, won the grand prize in the overall concerto competition, first prize in the senior divisions of the concerto and solo competitions, and the award for best overall solo performance. If I’m adding up her many awards correctly, it appears that Ms. Golden won $8,000 plus performances with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra and at Festival de San Miguel de Allende.

Violinist Susan Jeng, a 17-year-old student of Robert and Almita Vamos, took second place overall, first in the junior division of the solo and concerto competitions, and won the Bach prize for the junior division. Sifei Wen, a cello student of Eleonore Shoenfeld at USC, and Shannon Lee, a 13-year old student of Jan Mark Sloman in Texas, tied for third in the overall competition.

Sifei got second in the senior division of both solo and concerto, and the Bach prize for the senior division. Shannon got second in the junior divison of both solo and concerto. Violinist Rachel Harding, student of David and Linda Cerone at CIM, took third in senior solo and concerto, and Ken Hamao, student of Robert Lipsett, took third in junior solo and concerto. The judges were William Barbini (violin), Gilberto Munguia (cello), and Naoko Tanaka (violin). Congratulations to all and thanks for the update, Nick!

I’ve also learned that Thomas Wermuth, a terrific violinist, is the concertmaster of the Oberon Chamber Orchestra, a new group in the western suburbs of Chicago. This group, which is holding its debut performance on April 29, is comprised of faculty members from the Western Springs School of Talent Education and the Naperville Suzuki School. Wermuth leads the group from the concertmaster’s chair. The group hopes to create a three-concert season next year.

Orchestra News

4/13/06 – The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the Philadelphia Orchestra is returning to national radio in a deal with National Public Radio. “Performances will not be live; they will be culled from concerts during the course of this season in Verizon Hall, airing in two formats on two NPR radio shows, 'SymphonyCast' and 'Performance Today’…NPR's deal with the orchestra is for one year, with an option for two more seasons." The paper adds, "Unlike previous Philadelphia Orchestra national broadcasts, the orchestra on 'Performance Today' will share air time with recordings of other orchestras," noting: "The orchestra has had a sporadic national radio presence in the last decade, including four concerts last season, but has not had a sustained presence since the 1997-98 season… For these new broadcasts, musicians are accepting lower-than-usual fees -- $30 per week per musician for 26 weeks -- negotiated as part of their current labor pact."

4/13/06 - Six years ago, Joseph Rescigno was fired from his position as artistic director of Orchestre Metropolitain du Grand Montreal, reports the Montreal Gazette. "Rescigno sued for lost salary, moving expenses, defamation of character and moral damages. The Quebec Superior Court ruled in Rescigno's favour in 2003 and this year the Quebec Court of Appeal upheld the lower court judgment in January. The orchestra now owes Rescigno more than $250,000. Early last week, demands for payment escalated. Letters of seizure were sent to the orchestra's bank," and the organization filed for bankruptcy protection. The paper adds that a benefit concert raised $200,000 for the orchestra, but like the rest of the orchestra's assets, that money can't be touched until the dispute with Rescigno is settled.

4/12/06 - The Associated Press reported that Toshiyuki Shimada, who concludes his tenure as music director of the Portland Symphony Orchestra in two weeks, will devote "more time to his search for long-forgotten music tucked away at the Vatican library. Under a licensing agreement, Shimada intends to release a series of compact discs carrying the seal of the 500-year-old library." The paper adds that Shimada's Trinity Music Partners is in the process of hiring additional researchers to assist on the project: "The licensing deal between the Vatican Library and Trinity was signed a year ago. Since then, Shimada has been wrapping up his tenure at the Portland symphony while taking on a new job as conductor of the Yale Symphony Orchestra and trying to get the ball rolling on the Vatican music project. Already, he has identified a manuscript by Italian composer Alessandro Scarlatti that dates to the late 1600s."

4/11/06 – The Great Falls (MT) Symphony has received a $100,000 bequest, reports the Great Falls Tribune. The late Bertha Feaster, an "investor and self-made businesswoman" who died last year at 102, "left nearly $2 million of her estate to local organizations," include more than $100,000 to the Great Falls Symphony Orchestra. Carolyn Valacich, executive director of the Great Falls Symphony Orchestra, comments: "We did not know that Bertha had remembered the symphony in her will until after her death. It was such a generous thing to do." Szpaller adds: "Valacich said she plans to work with Feaster's heirs to determine how to use the money. 'We want this contribution to be something that will make a substantial difference in the future of the Great Falls Symphony,' she said."

4/11/06 - The Orchestra of St. Luke's, a much-lauded ensemble made up of some of New York’s finest freelance musicians, has received an anonymous $5 million gift intended to allow the organization to start an endowment fund. "Orchestra of St. Luke's has an annual budget of $5 million... The organization expects to raise about $280,000 this year from individuals and $250,000 to $300,000 from the board, with the rest coming from foundation gifts and ticket sales," writes Bloomberg News.

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Violin News and Gossip. Op. 2, No. 18

April 13, 2006 18:10

Major orchestra auditions are typically shrouded in secrecy, at least from the audience’s perspective. But the Seattle Symphony’s nearly two-year search for a concertmaster has been quite public, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Sixteen violinists have been invited to sit in the “big chair” as a kind of public audition. Of these, four candidates have been invited back, making it easy for patrons to follow along. The paper reports: "The process will continue through the end of the season, with key players from major orchestras added to the mix. By then ... the symphony hopes to have a decision." Music Director Gerard Schwarz comments on a concertmaster's requirements: "When you lead [the string section], you lead the orchestra ... The concertmaster is like a second conductor." The paper adds: "While orchestra members enjoy tenure, after a trial period, concertmasters traditionally do not. In one form or another, they often serve at the pleasure of the management, principally the music director."

Read the story here

Musician News

4/6-8/06 - Violinist and conductor Mikhail Agrest, a conductor and protégé of Valery Gergiev with the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra in St. Petersburg, Russia, replaced Gilbert Varga as the conductor of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Agrest studied at IU with Josef Gingold and was a competitor in the 2001 Maazel/Vilar Competition there.

3/25/06 - The Indiana University Jacobs School of Music recently held its Fourteenth Annual Travel Grant Competition to award travel money to promising students who have entered competitions. The preliminary round contained 30 musicians, which was narrowed down to eight finalists. Violinist Alexander Sprung was awarded $1,030 to travel to the Yehudi Menuhin International (Boulogne-sur-mer, France) and cellist Masako Watanabe will receive $1,530 to travel to the Cassado International Competition (Japan) and the Adam International Competition (New Zealand). Watanabe was also awarded an additional sum by being selected as an audience favorite.

4/11/06 – Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti was nominated for a Classical Brit award. "Her debut recording is in the running for Album of the Year, and she is one of three contenders for the Young British Classical Performer award," reports The Scotsman. (UK). The Classical Brits are a major event in the UK, with listeners to the country's popular ClassicFM service picking the winners. This nomination represents a validation of sorts for Benedetti, who recently lashed out at the UK press for veiled and not-so-veiled suggestions that her stardom was based more on looks than talent.

Music Festival News

4/11/06 – Napa County, Calif. is getting its own music festival this summer, reports San Francisco Classical Voice. IMG Artists owner Barrett Wissman is extending the Tuscan Sun Festival in Cortona, Italy, to another famed wine-making region, namely Napa Valley, under the name Festival del Sole, beginning this summer.

The festival will open July 16, with a roster of string players including Nikolaj Znaider, Sarah Chang, Joshua Bell and the Emerson String Quartet. Singers Renée Fleming, Frederica von Stade, Anne Sofie von Otter, and Samuel Ramey will also appear. The weeklong event will also feature meals and classes by some of the region's top chefs and, of course, local wines.

4/10/06 - The Edinburgh Festival broke a house record this week, selling £200,000 worth of tickets on the first day of sales, reports PlaybillArts.com. This represents an increase of 25 percent from last year. Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic, probably the most anticipated concert on the schedule, sold out almost immediately. How many Americans would relish the opportunity to hear Rattle and the Berliners?

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Violin News & Gossip, Op. 2, No. 17

April 9, 2006 13:21

Perhaps in recognition of his recent 79th birthday, the great Mstislav Rostropovich has told a German magazine that he will no longer perform in public on the cello, reports PlaybillArts. The renowned cellist/conductor was quoted as saying that a Penderecki premiere he played in Vienna this January would be his last performance, but "Rostropovich said that he would continue to maintain an active schedule as a conductor, noting that he was completely booked for the next two years."

As string players, we are more fortunate than, say, singers in that we can reasonably expect to play into old age. But how well, and under what level of scrutiny, can be another matter. At what point does one realize it is time to refocus one’s energies away from public performance?

This is often a ticklish issue in leading orchestras, who want to keep their level of artistry as high as possible while still honoring the contributions and knowledge of its eldest players. And, let’s face it, no one wants to face an ageism lawsuit in this litigious age.

What do you think: Is it time for Slava to step down?

Musician News

4/10/06 - Violinist William Harvey, winner of this year's Juilliard concerto competition, will perform the New York premiere of Behzad Ranjbaran's Violin Concerto. Gerard Schwarz will lead the Juilliard Orchestra as part of the school’s centennial celebration.

Harvey, who will perform on a Stradivarius loaned by the school, is a Juilliard graduate student. He is also founder of Music for the People, a non-profit organization that seeks to promote international cultural understanding through classical music. Having spent time in Turkey, Tunisia, and other areas with a strong Persian influence, he says the concerto is a powerful contemporary work that reminds him of those places.

"There's an element that's very seductive and mysterious that permeates and pervades the air and everything in it," Harvey says. "(Ranjbaran) captured those sounds beautifully in a way that's not clichéd. It's faithful to the source; it's very evocative of what we imagine Persia to be like."

4/6/06 – Of course, Juilliard’s centennial celebration included the obligatory gala, aired on PBS, no less. Itzhak Perlman and the Juilliard String Quartet were among the string players who performed. Other luminaries included John Williams, Emanuel Ax, Renee Fleming and Wynton Marsalis.

4/2/06 – Violinist Fredy Ostrovsky, who played with the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 41 years, died of Parkinson's disease in Venice, Fla. on March 21, reports the Boston Globe. He was 84. “A prodigy, he had played for the king of Bulgaria in a command performance when he was a child." The paper quotes Tamara Smirnova, associate concertmaster of the BSO and concertmaster of the Boston Pops: "He had this warm, beautiful sound, a sense of phrase." Ostrovsky played in the orchestra at Radio City in New York City after WWII, joining the BSO soon after. "In his years with the symphony, Mr. Ostrovsky played solos almost every year with the Boston Pops while Arthur Fiedler was conducting." The obituary also quoted a 1959 review in the Christian Science Monitor that called him "a suave young man, extremely poised and slightly aloof in a friendly sort of way ... He has a technique that is well nigh flawless."

3/31/06 - Raymond Kobler, concertmaster of the Pacific Symphony, was singled out as “excellent” in the Bonner Stadtanzeig (Cologne, Germany) during the orchestra’s first European tour. The review continued, “The music lover ... quickly realizes that this Orange County has an orchestra that could raise it to the level of a cultural capital ...”

Orchestra News

The New York Philharmonic's national radio broadcast series has been extended from 39 to 52 weeks per year, making it the only orchestra broadcasting nationally on a weekly basis. The additional thirteen weeks will air when the orchestra is not performing in New York and programs will draw on the Philharmonic's library of commercial recordings. The New York Philharmonic This Week series is syndicated nationally to more than 250 stations by the WFMT Radio Network. Concerts are also available on the orchestra's web site for one week following the broadcast. [As an aside, I hope this announcement makes the corporate powers that be in Chicago wake up and realize what a disgrace it is that the CSO is currently not on the air at all except for a weekly retrospective show.]

The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra's first commercial recording is now available. The recording of Carmina Burana features the Jacksonville Symphony Chorus, the Jacksonville Children's Chorus, soprano Andrea Matthews, tenor Christopher Pfund and baritone Kurt Willett. It was recorded in November of last year, with Music Director and Principal Conductor Fabio Mechetti.The CD is available through the orchestra’s website.

4/13/06 - The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra will begin a thirteen-week radio series featuring live performances from the current season and the 2004-05 season. Performances will be broadcast locally on New York City's WQXR and nationally by WFMT in Chicago and its 700-plus NPR affiliates.

4/9/06 - The newly formed El Paso Symphony Youth Orchestra will perform its inaugural concert. Benjamin Loeb is music director of the orchestra, which was founded last fall as part of the El Paso Symphony's education program. The EPSYO has more than 250 members in four orchestral groups.

4/2/06 – As Daniel Barenboim’s final season as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra wanes, the gossip mill is heating up regarding who will succeed him. According to the Chicago Tribune, “Speculation is increasing that Leonard Slatkin may be in line as the next director of the Chicago Symphony. Asked whether he is, as rumored, actively campaigning to be the next CSO music director, Slatkin proved as skilled in equivocation as any media-wise senator or congressman with whom he lunches." Stay tuned in the months ahead.

3/26/06 – Things are looking up at the Utah Symphony and Opera, reports the Salt Lake Tribune: "The outlook for the USO is now 'cautiously optimistic,' words recited like a mantra by management, musicians and patrons alike. Indeed, there is reason for hope: Ticket sales are up and donations are rising. But the institution isn't in the clear yet. Administrators need to keep the numbers moving upward and grapple with ongoing challenges."

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Violin News and Gossip, Op. 2, No. 16

April 5, 2006 18:59

Jason Chai-Soong Wang has been named section cello in the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. He succeeds Peter Wukovitz, who retired at the end of the 2004-05 season. Wang had served as a substitute player in the RPO before winning his permanent post, and is also a member of the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra.

4/5/06 - In an Associated Press article reprinted in Tuesday's Wilkes Barre Times Leader (PA), Minnesota Orchestra violinist Kristin Kemper, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, is profiled. "Kemper's first sign of a problem came four years ago," the paper writes, adding: "She waited more than a year after her diagnosis to inform the orchestra ... Since then, with strong support from [Music Director] Osmo Vänskä and her colleagues, she has continued playing full time, three to eight performances per week plus rehearsals. Other violinists rotate chairs and take concerts off. She doesn't." Kemper comments: "Sometimes I think, 'Oh gee, it would be really great to have the concerto off tonight,' but then I think, 'Well, I want to do it all while I can do it.' " Kemper takes “several medications at low doses, but part of her treatment plan is to take extra medication just before a performance to ensure that her muscles stay relaxed."

4/5/06 - The Toronto Globe and Mail is reporting that Pinchas Zukerman is unexpectedly cutting short his controversial sabbatical to return for the final concerts of the National Arts Centre Orchestra's 2005-2006 season. Zukerman, the orchestra's music director, will lead the NACO in concerts scheduled for May 11-12 and 17-18. "No reason for the return was given to subscribers. Christopher Deacon, the orchestra's managing director, said yesterday that Zukerman first broached the idea of ending the sabbatical in a phone call from Europe 10 days ago. Details were firmed up last week." Zukerman, who cited a need to "rest, plan and re-energize" as the reason for taking "an unpaid leave of almost six months," generated controversy when he continued to conduct and perform in other venues in this time period. Zukerman, the NACO players, and NACO management have planned a "facilitation process" to improve relations among all parties.

4/4/06 - Cellist Yo-Yo Ma testified before the House Committee on Government Reform, urging the committee "to simplify a visa process that he says has stifled cultural exchanges by creating 'extraordinarily high' barriers to bringing artists to the United States," reports the Washington Post. Ma, whose Silk Road Ensemble organizes international tours of musicians from all over the world, told the committee: "Encouraging artists and institutions to foster these artistic exchanges -- bringing foreign musicians to this country and sending our performers to visit them -- is crucial ... But the high financial cost and the lengthy timeline make these programs difficult to execute and to maintain." The paper adds that "other witnesses from the business and arts worlds sounded the same note," noting that "visa applicants in many parts of the world have had to endure months-long delays in obtaining interviews…Tony Edson, deputy assistant secretary of state for visa services, said the State Department is devoting more resources to meet growing demand, especially in China and India."

4/4/06 – Baird Dodge, principal second violin of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, earned a good review for his performance with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's MusicNOW series. This was the world premiere of "Carillon Sky" for solo violin and small ensemble by CSO Composer-in-Residence Augusta Read Thomas. "Dodge's violin was sweet-toned but assertive, dancing in and out of conversation with the accompanying ensemble."

4/4/06 – San Francisco’s Alexander String Quartet has taken to the airwaves. KALW-FM and San Francisco Performances have entered into a nonprofit partnership to broadcast recent programs of Beethoven's music. The concerts will be broadcast on Saturday mornings from April 16-June 18 and streamed on the station’s website.

4/4/06 – The upcoming San Francisco Symphony tour will have different soloists, reports San Francisco Classical Voice. Soprano Celena Shafer withdrew last week when she learned that she is pregnant with twins. Then mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson withdrew, citing a severe gall bladder obstruction.

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Violin News and Gossip, Op. 2, No. 15

April 2, 2006 19:24

In what seems like an amazing coincidence, Violinist.com has its second cover girl in just two months. Violinist Caeli Smith is on the cover of the Spring 2006 issue of Teen Strings magazine. Take a peek here

As a former writer for Strings for many years and the mother of a string-playing soon-to-be teen, I was very interested to learn of this promising magazine’s debut. I look forward to hearing comments from those who have already seen it.

Musician News

Happy belated birthday to Mstlislav Rostropovich, who turned 79 last Monday, March 27. He spent his birthday week conducting in San Francisco.

The Interlochen alumni newsletter had an interesting item: Last summer, cellist Josue Gonzalez posted a “missing cello” notice at Interlochen, where he worked. An Interlochen alum, Dr. Linda Kaplan, saw the sign and arranged for instrument importer Michael Bassischis to provide three cellos for Gonzalez to audition. Kaplan flew the cellist to Florida to play them, then Bassischis donated the preferred instrument to Gonzalez, now a student at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

4/9/06 - And anyone in the Hudson Valley area next Sunday should be sure to attend the free performance given by the Colorado String Quartet at Bard College.

4/5-9/06 – Violinist Ida Kavafian will be soloing with the Interlochen Arts Academy orchestra on its Midwest tour. Stops include Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit.

Orchestra News

Just as orchestra musicians seem to play musical chairs during the spring audition season, so do music directors. This week saw a spate of announcements, though none of the major orchestras currently seeking new music directors (Chicago, Detroit, National, etc.) have made matches yet.

Among the regionals publicizing appointments and renewals this week are:

Long Island Philharmonic, David Wiley – This is a three-year renewal. Wiley has been music director since 2001. The orchestra also announced the hiring of a new executive director, Stephen Belth.

Muncie (IN) Symphony Orchestra, Bohuslav Rattay – Rattay was also appointed director of orchestras at Ball State University. (Muncie, Ind.) and artistic director of the Muncie Symphony Orchestra. The Prague native is currently music director of the William and Mary College Symphony Orchestra (Williamsburg, Va.) and conductor of Maryland's Potomac Valley Youth Symphony Orchestra.

Santa Barbara Symphony, Nir Kabaretti – Kabaretti is also music director of the Raanana Symphonette in his native Israel.

National Ballet of Canada (Toronto), David Briskin – Briskin is leading the New York City Ballet orchestra this season and is a former conductor of the American Ballet Theatre.

New Hampshire's Nashua Symphony Association has announced that Royston Nash will step down as music director at the end of next season.

The financially strapped Toronto Symphony has just received news of a $5 million gift, its largest ever from a single donor. "With a Toronto building spree that includes an opera house, two museum makeovers and two great arts-education institutions, the TSO has been having a rough time wooing donors. After all, it has no building project — just a scarily mounting deficit, currently at $9.5 million," reports the Toronto Star. The donor stipulates that $4 million must go to the endowment, while $1 million will be used to seed a challenge grant.

3/24/06 – From the “American orchestras don’t have it this bad” department: David Handel has been rebuilding the Bolivian National Orchestra, reports The Forward. He has "increased the number of performances to 50 a year from 12, recorded the group for the first time, enlarged the symphony to 65 musicians from 40, raised salaries and increased the yearly budget to $1 million from $100,000. He also has lowered ticket prices for students and raised the number of season ticket holders to 1,000 from none. Finally, he found the group its first-ever home in a one-time vaudeville theater and has taken the symphony to locales where it never had performed." Now if only the bombs would stop going off outside the concert hall... Read the story here

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