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Violin News & Gossip, Op. 3, No. 25

March 29, 2007 at 3:21 AM

3/27/07 - Happy birthday to famed cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich, who turned 80 on Tuesday. According to the BBC, President Vladimir Putin hosted a reception for him on this date. President Putin visited Rostropovich while he was convalescing and last month awarded him Russia's 'Order of the Fatherland, First Class'.

3/25/07 - To celebrate Rostropovich’s 80th birthday, EMI is releasing its entire cache of his recordings on iTunes, reports "In addition to over 500 individual tracks, EMI is offering a discounted 80-track 'Special Edition Bundle,' a compilation that offers a musical snapshot of Rostropovich's career. Fifty of the tracks are iTunes exclusives, taken from the 11 unavailable and unreleased albums."


3/25/07 - In Sunday’s Los Angeles Times, Blair Tindall wrote about the “vast underground network of amateur chamber music, whose members meet through friends, at parties and seminars, in community orchestras and on the Internet to share a common passion and a unique social network. Some have switched careers after a disappointing job hunt as pros, while others dust off old instruments as a hobby. But many plan on music as a satisfying avocation from the start -- viewing their musical interests as a way to provide balance to demanding if often lucrative professions ... Despite their enthusiasm, amateurs are an exclusive group. Only 1.8% of Americans play an instrument in their leisure time, according to a 2002 survey by the National Endowment for the Arts. At the same time, though, 82% of the people who don't play instruments wish they did, says the National Assn. of Music Merchants.” Tindall quoted amateur violinist Eve Cohen: “The moment I realized I didn’t have to major in music in order to play, it was like a blinding light shining down.”

Musician News

3/27/07 – Violinist Sarah Chang performed the Washington, DC premiere of Richard Danielpour’s River of Light. The piece was commissioned by the charitable foundation established by the late violinist Isaac Stern and his wife, Linda, and was written for Chang.

3/26/07 – The reviews are starting to come in for Joshua Bell’s performances as concertmaster/conductor of the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields on tour. Here’s what the San Diego Union-Tribune had to say. Bell and Co. will repeat this program next week at Carnegie Hall, as well as other stops en route.

3/26/07 – the Great Falls (MT) Tribune ran news of Midori’s upcoming appearance with the Great Falls Symphony and, more to the point for many, her multi-day residence with the local youth orchestras. Three exceptional violinists will perform at a master class with Midori: Jesse MacDonald, the 15-year-old winner of the Montana Association of Symphony Orchestras Young Artist Junior Division; University of Montana student Lief Petersen; and Great Falls Symphony Orchestra member Casey Hodgson. Students from around the state will attend as observers.

3/25/07 – The Sacramento Bee included a profile of Margaret Heilbron, a 91-year-old violin teacher in Sacramento and former concertmaster of the Sacramento Symphony. “In her prime with the Sacramento Symphony, Heilbron's daily routine would have her cook and clean and see her children off to bed before pulling out her instrument and practicing into the early hours ... She performed with the Sacramento Symphony from 1934 to 1970. In her later years, Heilbron has preferred teaching to playing ... Heilbron is continuing a rich family legacy. Her mother taught music and her father founded the Sacramento Symphony. Heilbron's late husband, August, was a concert cellist who did a fair bit of teaching himself.” The article notes: “She has given lessons for so long that the children of children she once taught would return and sit next to her at the piano.”

3/3/07 – The Indianapolis Matinee Musicale announced their auditions winners, which included violinist Sho Neriki, an Indiana University student who won $600.

Orchestra News

3/25/07 – The New York Times carried an article that reported on the controversy caused by the use of software in pit orchestras that duplicate the sound of orchestral instruments. These products are “cheaper and more compact than human musicians. They do not get sick or have bad nights. And after years of gradual improvements, their sound is now good enough to fool many nonexperts, especially since they are almost always used, as recommended, alongside traditional instruments ... And the notes themselves are no longer digitally created but are based on thousands of samples from real instrumentalists.” Green quotes musical theatre-composer Michael John LaChiusa: “A machine-generated orchestra isn’t such a terrible proposition, if the music director and sound designer work in coordination ... To use or not to use a machine to supplement, or even replace, the orchestra for a revival isn’t an ethical or moral argument. It’s not even a sentimental one. It’s a question of aesthetics.” Mary Landolfi, president of Local 802, the American Federation of Musicians, comments: “We’re not Luddites opposed to technology ... But we feel that people come to the theater to hear live entertainment, and they should have it.”

3/25/07 – Also from the Times, on the same day: The Period Instruments movement has been well established for decades. With a sound distinct from modern ensembles, is it any surprise that Period Instrument ensembles should start commissioning contemporary music?

CORRECTION: In Sunday’s column, I erroneously stated that the Josef Gingold Violin Competition later became the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis based on faulty information. There is no connection between the two competitions.

From Maura Gerety
Posted on March 29, 2007 at 3:54 AM
How is Mr Rostropovich's health? Your post reminded me that he had been sick, is he better now?
From Mendy Smith
Posted on March 29, 2007 at 5:07 AM
If only 1.8% of Americans play an instrument in their leisure time, then there must only be 0.000000001% of Americans that play viola in their leisure time. I guess that the half a dozen or so of us violist lurking here on a violin website represent most of the American liesure violists :)
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on March 29, 2007 at 8:04 AM
When the L.A. Times says the first full-time orchestra in the U.S. happened in 1964, what do they mean exactly? Do they mean all those great old recordings were made by amateur orchestras? What do they mean by full-time? Whatever they mean, it's surprising!

Re: the underground network of amateur chamber music players; pre-internet there used to be a paper list that was circulated. It had a name, which I forgot. I heard it just the other day again somewhere, too.

From Darcy Lewis
Posted on March 29, 2007 at 1:05 PM
No one seems to be saying anything in print about Rostropovich's health. My guess is that his situation is not so good. Perhaps that makes the 80 milestone all the more sweet!


From Darcy Lewis
Posted on March 29, 2007 at 1:09 PM
Here's the passage Jim is referring to: "But until 1964, when the New York Philharmonic became the first full-time orchestra in America, most American musicians considered their instruments an occasional treat rather than a career."
That totally does not pass the common-sense test, does it? And it goes directly against what I have read in numerous sources and heard from members in the Detroit and Chicago Symphonies. Surely an error--no other explanation is possible, given that the '50s and '60s are considered classical music's heyday in the U.S.


From Jim W. Miller
Posted on March 29, 2007 at 4:34 PM
On one hand it doesn't make sense, but the reason I didn't write it off is that in the 60s there was an order of magnitude fewer people auditioning. Perhaps it means violin wasn't as popular, but I'm still wondering if something happened in 1964.

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