April 14, 2006 at 1:10 AMMajor 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."
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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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