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Violin News & Gossip, Op. 3, No. 41

May 24, 2007 at 3:26 PM

5/20/07ABC News offers an update on the amazingly resilient Baghdad Symphony, which is still performing regularly. “Incredibly, only one musician has lost his life in the violence since the war. But recently, one of them lost something almost as precious. Mohammed Qassim plays the violin -- a beautiful 19th century violin that he bought in Czechoslovakia 25 years ago and has treasured ever since.

But in a raid on his apartment building by U.S. and Iraqi soldiers, his priceless instrument was taken out of its case and smashed to pieces. ‘The whole apartment was in a complete mess’, said Qassim, his face twisted in pain. ‘It reflected some basic hatred by these people. Some extremist soldier says, 'What's this?' and then goes, 'Bang! Bang! Bang!' and just leaves it’. Qassim picked up the splintered remnants of his lovely violin, which he still keeps inside its case. He cannot bear to throw it away, though it's beyond repair.”


5/20/07 – In praise of amateurs: In the Chicago Tribune, classical music critic John von Rhein writes, “Long before the phonograph turned a music-making society into a music-consuming society, amateur music-making was woven into our nation's domestic and social life ... If you wanted music in your daily life, you had to make it yourself. Sadly, that tradition is in decline at a time when you can access virtually the entire history of music with a click of your iPod. Despite this, amateur musicmaking lives on in the countless community and regional orchestras and bands, volunteer choruses and church choirs that dot the American landscape.” Von Rhein cites organizations like the Amateur Chamber Music Players, Inc. as well as the International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs, sponsored by the Van Cliburn Foundation, adding: “Musicians who play for love rather than money can teach even jaded ears something vital about what it means to make and experience music. They are one reason classical music remains a living art.”

Musician News

Conductor and composer Douglas Lowry has been named dean of the Eastman School of Music, effective August 1. He succeeds James Undercofler, who stepped down in April 2006 to become president and chief executive officer of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Lowry is currently dean of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, He earned a bachelor’s degree in music theory and composition from the University of Arizona, and holds master’s degrees from the University of Southern California in trombone performance and orchestral conducting.

5/22/07 - Maxim Vengerov made the London newspapers twice this week. The
Times of London
noted his pro bono visit to a hospital for those with severe neurological conditions and traumatic brain injuries. Then, on 5/19/07, The Telegraph reported that Vengerov is still troubled by the right-hand injury that plagued him last month: “After playing Mozart's Violin Concerto No 2, Vengerov switched the running order and launched the orchestra into Shostakovich's C minor Chamber Symphony in memory of his friend and mentor Mstislav Rostropovich. Then he announced that a hand injury meant he couldn't play any more violin, so he would only conduct. Since most of the crowd bought tickets specifically to hear sizzling fingerboard action from Siberia's super-fiddler, he was lucky the hall wasn't trashed by berserk classical cognoscenti.” The article goes on to describe him as “short and built like a bullock,” by the way…

5/22/07 – Violinist Lindsay Deutsch received a good review from the Los Angeles for a performance with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. The program featured Astor Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, “with ‘Summer’ from Vivaldi’s ‘The Four Seasons’ sandwiched in between the second and third movements as a ‘control’ sample. Here the spotlight was turned over to Lindsay Deutsch, a 21-year-old violinist who grabbed that light with a bold, aggressive tone and a body language that speaks loud and clear to audiences raised on rock videos.”

5/21/07 – Wire service reports indicate that violinist Leo Panasevich has died: “For all that Leo Panasevich loved music, it's possible that he was happier holding a golf club than a violin. When the Boston Symphony Orchestra played at Tanglewood, "he would see how many holes he could squeeze in between open rehearsal and afternoon rehearsal," said his daughter, Karen Panasevich-Cummins of Still River. "I think it was 12 holes." A first violinist who played with the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 46 years, Panasevich died May 5 at the age of 85.

5/19/07 – Jazz violinist Randy Sabien, dubbed , dubbed by National Public Radio's Jazz Profiles as "the past, present and future of jazz violin," led a session with ninth graders at an Indianapolis school, reports the Indianapolis Star.

Orchestra News

5/23/07 – The American Symphony Orchestra League reports that a $35 million increase in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) was approved by the House committee responsible for drafting the NEA’s funding bill. “This increase is significantly higher than the modest $4 million increase proposed by the President and represents a much more substantial restoration of NEA funds than has been proposed by the House committee since the NEA sustained a 40% budget cut more than a decade ago.”

5/23/07 – The Cleveland Orchestra is searching for a new principal trombonist, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer provides a window onto what the process is like: “…just about every interested, top-notch trombone player in America -- and some from overseas -- reportedly has come through Severance Hall with hopes for a future in Cleveland….The job first came open at the end of the 2002-03 season, with the retirement of orchestra veteran James DeSano ... Steven Witser, a member of the orchestra since 1989, has been acting principal trombone while the search for a permanent replacement continues.”

5/22/07 – According to the Charleston Daily Mail: “The West Virginia Symphony Orchestra celebrated a first since its move into the Clay Center in July 2003 -- a sellout crowd. The occasion was marked Saturday for the orchestra’s production of the fully staged opera, Carmen. A total of 1,716 seats were sold -- many of them by earlier in the week, said Paul Helfrich, the symphony’s executive director.” Helfrich comments: “Officially, it’s the largest crowd we ever had for a single performance.”

5/20/07 - The president of South Carolina's Charleston Symphony Orchestra, which nearly had to shut down mid-season because of financial problems, says that the ensemble should end the year in the black without needing to tap into its credit line, reports the Charleston (SC) Post & Courier.

5/18/07 – The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra has a new music director: 27-year-old Finnish former heavy metal guitarist and footballer Pietari Inkinen. He replaces British conductor James Judd. Inkinen conducted his first orchestra at the age of 14 and is the youngest person to hold the key NZSO position since the 1950s.

Other Music News

5/22/07 – The New York Times reports: “Carnegie Hall announced yesterday that it would embark on a major expansion that would create more offices, rehearsal and practice rooms and space for large ensembles, as well as renovate backstage areas. The plan would gobble up all of the studios in the building and its two towers, Carnegie said, and would mainly serve Carnegie’s expanding educational wing. While detailed plans have yet to be drawn up, the cost would be in the range of $150 million to $200 million, said Clive Gillinson, Carnegie’s executive and artistic director, to be financed through a capital campaign ... Residents [of the Carnegie studio apartments] received letters with the news yesterday.”

5/20/07 – The New York Times recently pondered the fact that different orchestra constituencies seek different traits in a music director. “When you ask the players of a major orchestra what they want in a conductor, they answer almost as one: a great musician steeped in the heritage and repertory, an interpreter of insight and depth with the technical skill to convey ideas and elicit results. In other words, they want someone who reminds them of the master teachers they revered in music school….There are notable examples, though, of orchestras that have thrived under younger conductors who were able to emulate the experience of collegial conservatory music making.” The article cites as examples Leonard Bernstein with the New York Philharmonic and Esa-Pekka Salonen with the Los Angeles Philharmonic: “Right now several major orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, are searching for music directors. It is essential for an orchestra to work regularly with leading international maestros. But these maestros can develop productive relationships with orchestras as guests. Day-to-day operations can be entrusted to an empowering younger conductor.”

From Maura Gerety
Posted on May 24, 2007 at 4:45 PM
Vengerov is such a class act. ;-) Thanks for the links!

At least now we know how he hurt his arm--slipped in the shower, for heaven's sake. Talk about undignified....

From Jodi B
Posted on May 25, 2007 at 1:00 PM
My husband keeps telling me about this luthier site that will take violins that have been really mangled and repair them.. and he swears you can't see the damage.
From gert schubert
Posted on May 25, 2007 at 10:01 PM
Dear Maura, please keep talking dignified about whatever...
About the Violin of the Iraqui Collegue: Why not make up a Campaign to find and buy another good Violin for him- it may be easy to find enough musicians who want to help him- of course I know its not really possible to replace an Instrument, you loved for so many years-
but at least...
So if I can help from Vienna...
From Maura Gerety
Posted on May 25, 2007 at 11:27 PM
Nice idea about the Iraqi guy's violin. But as for your comment addressed specifically to me--huh?
From Maura Gerety
Posted on May 25, 2007 at 11:27 PM
Nice idea about the Iraqi guy's violin. But as for your comment addressed specifically to me--huh? I was just joking...
From Maura Gerety
Posted on May 25, 2007 at 11:27 PM
oops sorry, double post and can't delete it. :-(
From gert schubert
Posted on May 26, 2007 at 8:24 PM
Hello Maura- if you were joking, I was too. Anyway we should not get too serious about being (or not being) somebody's fan...Nice greetings from Hungary-
I'll try something in Vienna for the other, more important matter- maybe I have news after next weekend.
From Nate Robinson
Posted on May 26, 2007 at 8:35 PM
That's awful to hear that about the Iraqi violinist. If every member of this site donated 5-10$ we could get him another nice fiddle. Can something like this be arranged???

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