7/25/07 – Things have been looking up for the Nashville Symphony lately. But there’s been one lingering note of dissonance, reports the Nashville Scene: "Mary Kathryn Vanosdale, the NSO's longtime concertmaster, was forced to sit out the 2006-07 season because of an internal dispute."
But Vanosdale, concertmaster since 1988, "recently prevailed in a private arbitration case, and so she will reassume her old post as head of the first violin section starting in September." So what was the beef? The musicians are speculating that Vanosdale may have leaked details of the orchestra’s ongoing music director search prematurely.
7/26/07 - The Christian Science Monitor recently profiled Bob Childs, a luthier from Cambridge, Mass., whose “precise intuition makes him the go-to guy for New England folk-fiddlers and symphony players alike … Unlike many makers, who often leave their instruments in shops, Childs has never sold a violin on consignment. He crafts each $16,000 instrument with a person in mind -- who they are, how they play, what sound they need.”
Childs began playing at 18, and “took his fiddle to Maine, where he made furniture after college. When the instrument needed repair, he took it to Ivie Mann, a luthier in his 70s who’d never left the state. Mr. Mann invited Childs to be his first student.” Childs “gets new customers by referrals from old ones. And he’s collected the oldest and best of them in a band called Childsplay.”
With a Ph.D. in psychology, Childs also has a psychotherapy practice. “In some sense,” Moore observes, “it isn’t all that different from making violins. He listens for things without language and whittles away until a patient, like an instrument, finds a hidden voice.”
8/11/07 - Violinist Leland Chen will play in the final concert at the 15th Grand Scottish Prom at Glamis Castle in Perthshire. On the program: Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, not to mention Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, complete with cannon effects. According to the Perthshire Advertise, Chen was adopted by Scottish parents and won first prize at the Yehudi Menhuin International Violin Competition.
7/25/07 – Violinist Joseph Swensen earned a rave (and hyperbolic) review from the San Jose Mercury News for his part in a Tchaikovsky piano trio at Music@Menlo: “Swensen, after the first movement, was wiping the sweat off his violin and, as the next movement commenced, practically gasped for air while drawing down his bow, with huge strokes, like a tree-cutter, releasing those big melodies and their variations. Anyone who witnessed it would realize that classical music, when played with this level of commitment, is the real subversive music of our time, boiling away in the cultural underground.”
7/24/07 – The Ventura County Star profiled violinist Philip Ficsor in advance of the Sept.1 release date of his new CD of music by William Bolcom. Ficsor is a newly appointed professor of violin at Westmont College in Santa Barbara.
7/24/07 – The new issue of the Roving Report, the From the Top newsletter, has been posted on the From the Top website. Highlights include an account by V.com intern Caeli Smith of how she became From the Top’s Roving Reporter and an update on violinist/singer Heather Engebretson, whose unconventional From the Top performance of Praeludium and Allegro sparked controversy, and even, she noted gleefully, a discussion thread on V.com about the performance’s merits—or lack thereof.
7/19/07 – Love among the vines: French conductor Stéphane Denève and his intended tied the knot in a Napa vineyard, reports PlaybillArts.com. Violinist Dmitry Sitkovetsky played at the wedding.
The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra has renewed the contract of Andrew Sewell as music director through September 2013. He has led the WCO since 2000.
7/24/07 – The Santa Fe Opera has named Edo de Waart its new chief conductor, reports PlaybillArts.com. “De Waart's initial contract at Santa Fe is for four years, and he will conduct at least one opera each summer, beginning with Britten's Billy Budd next year. With the title of Chief Conductor (rather than Music Director), de Waart will be primarily responsible for the company's orchestra….He succeeds Alan Gilbert, who stepped down as music director in May and who was named the next music director of the New York Philharmonic last week.”
7/23/07 – According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the good news is that the Seattle Symphony overcame a $2.5 million deficit to balance its books this season. "The downside to the news is that the symphony has not made any payments this season to the musicians' pension plan, said Timothy Hale, chairman of the Seattle Symphony and Opera Players' Organization. Under terms of the symphony's contract with its musicians, it owes the pension fund $1.154 million annually to be made in four quarterly payments. The first three have not been made, Hale said."
Other Music News
7/24/07 - The Orange County Register reports, “Orange County now has its very own college-level music conservatory. Partly just a name change, but also a signal of bigger aspirations, Chapman University in Orange has announced that its School of Music has been redesignated as its Conservatory of Music … The Chapman Conservatory, says [Chapman University College of Performing Arts Dean William] Hall, joins just 22 other such accredited institutions in the country, out of more than 700 music schools. In California, it becomes part of a small club that includes the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and conservatories at the Colburn School in Los Angeles and the University of the Pacific in Stockton.” Hall “has been busily interviewing prospective faculty. Among his recent hires for the conservatory are Robert Becker, longtime principal violist with the Pacific Symphony, who will head the strings program, and Grace Fong, a young, prize-winning pianist who will join the piano faculty.”
I was delighted to hear from David Juritz this morning. David, an eminent London-based violinist, is currently busking his way through Asia. He is in the middle of a 5-month tour designed to raise funds for children’s charities and funded solely by his busking income. Read this
Times of London article for more on his odyssey.
Here’s what David had to say:
Am in Singapore at the moment, having been a bit held up by my lack of a visa for India. Am making a last minute diversion to Taipei instead. Re Joshua Bell and Tasmin Little; I reckon their experiences are pretty typical. It's hard work although I would recommend they give Sydney a try. Busker friendly and very generous. [This refers to my blog comment wondering what David thought about Bell’s and Little’s much-publicized busking experiments.]
I'm also discovering that one doesn't have much firepower with a violin. On noisy streets you aren't really heard from more than a few feet away, by which time people have already made up their minds about whether they're going to drop a coin in your case or not.
Also found in Cape Town that having a bunch of kids playing along will double your takings. My only problem is that I can't afford to buy air tickets for all of them.
Hopefully, David will keep us informed of his busking adventures!
7/23/07 – According to the Associated Press “James Levine, music director of New York’s Metropolitan Opera and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, canceled his weekend appearances at the Verbier Festival, citing health. Levine, 64, was to have conducted the opening concert Friday and another on Sunday. ‘My doctors have strongly advised me not to travel but to stay calm and collect my energies,’ Levine said in a statement on the festival’s Web site. Levine has been with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood…. He also takes the BSO on tour to Switzerland, Germany, France and Britain from Aug. 26 to Sept. 7. ‘He’s fine,’ BSO spokeswoman Bernadette Horgan said Monday.”
7/23/07 – The Lexington (Mass.) Minuteman reports that Yuki Beppu is the youngest member of the Lexington Players’ orchestra for its summer production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. “Yuki is 10 years old and a student at Fiske School. She has played violin since she was 4. The daughter of Yuko and Hideyuki Beppu, she studies at New England Conservatory’s Preparatory School. Yuki not only stands out in the Lexington Players’ production of Beauty and the Beast because she is the youngest musician; she’s also the sole violinist in the orchestra, which includes two oboes, a flute, and a French horn.”
7/22/07 – The Chicago Sun-Times profiled violinist Rachel Barton-Pine and delved into her latest project, an auditory tribute to American violinist Maud Powell.
7/22/07 – Violinists Lesley Chen and Jaime Herrera were quoted in an El Paso Times article that noted that a vast majority of El Paso Symphony members also teach music in the area.
7/22/07 – The Herald-Sun (Australia) recently profiled Dutch violinist Andre Rieu “[who] may be enjoying the rarity of having broken through musical barriers, but it is both a blessing and a curse. The purists view with suspicion a classical musician who likes to play tunes such as My Way and The Music of the Night. The populists may be equally suspicious, if more respectful, of the classic heritage and training.”
7/21/07 – “From her teens, Lisa Batiashvili has been hailed as a great future star of the violin - but only this week, at the relatively advanced age of 28, has she finally signed a major long-term record deal. What took her so long?” That’s what The Telegraph (UK) wanted to know, anyway…
7/21/07 – The Los Angeles Times ran an interesting profile of conductor Kent Nagano, who is completing his first year as music director of the Bavarian State Opera, "A Californian of Japanese heritage, Nagano is, for Munich, an exotic, which can work both in his favor and against it. He has the advantage of the novelty factor, and the city itself is cosmopolitan and even has liberal pockets these days. He treats people with great respect, and he drives expensive sports cars very fast -- two traits that go over well in Bavaria. But out in the less-tolerant countryside, Nagano says, he can be made to feel distinctly unwelcome entering into a provincial guesthouse."
7/20/07 – The Lancaster (PA) Intelligencer Journal recently conducted a Q&A with the violinist Midori in which she discusses her Partnerships in Performance program.
7/20/07 – The Register-Guard (Eugene, Ore.) recently wrote: “A little more than 10 years ago, Aaron Meyer found himself in a sadly common position after earning a degree from a liberal arts college: He wasn't trained for a profession. Although it had been six years since he'd estranged himself from his violin, the need for a paycheck drove him back to his most marketable skill. So the classically trained musician started free-lancing.”
7/19/07 – The NPR website contains a transcript of a Fred Child/Performance Today segment with violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter. In it, she talks about her recent rededication to the works of Mozart. The site, of course, includes audio files of Mutter’s visit to the studio.
7/21/07 – The Associated Press is running a fascinating story about a New York Philharmonic cellist resigning to follow her dream: “A blaring ambulance siren and a mellow-toned cello: They hardly make perfect harmony. But they're the main themes in the life of Nancy Donaruma, who is retiring from the New York Philharmonic to take on another job she loves — as a full-time paramedic. After 31 years in the top-tier orchestra, playing with conductors including Leonard Bernstein, Zubin Mehta and Lorin Maazel, the 59-year-old cellist will go from a hefty six-figure annual income to a ‘low five-figure’ salary. That's the price she's willing to pay to fulfill her lifetime fascination with medicine.”
Having written about medicine and EMS for years, I’m all the more surprised by this choice. EMS is widely referred to as a young person’s game because of the low pay, irregular hours and intense stresses it places on the body, particularly the back and neck. By age 30-35, many paramedics are considering moving into management so they can raise their incomes, spare their backs and have a normal family schedule.
Kudos to Ms. Donaruma for fulfilling her goals!
….Conductor Alan Gilbert’s appointment as the next music director of the New York Philharmonic:
1. The chief music critic of the New York Times is elated by this hiring.
2. The Phil’s musicians are also pleased, notes the Times.
3. The New York Sun weighs in, too, noting Gilbert’s strengths and weaknesses.
The Juilliard School has announced the appointment of several prominent artists to its faculty, effective with the 2007-08 academic year, including violinists David Chan, Kyung-Wha Chung and Sylvia Rosenberg.
Yosuke Kawasaki has been named concertmaster of the National Arts Centre Orchestra, effective with the 2007-08 season. A founding member of the D’Amici String Quartet, he is currently concertmaster of Century Orchestra Osaka and co-concertmaster of the Mito Chamber and Saito Kinen orchestras. He attended Juilliard for both pre-collegiate and collegiate training, studying with Dorothy DeLay, Hyo Kang, Felix Galimir, and Joel Smirnoff, and graduating in 1998.
8/8/07 - The Anti-Defamation League will honor conductor James Conlon with its Crystal Globe Award at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Ill., for championing the works of composers silenced under the Third Reich. As music director of the festival, Conlon launched Breaking the Silence in 2005, and each season the series focuses on the music of a different composer suppressed during the Holocaust. Thus far he has highlighted Viktor Ullmann and Erwin Schulhof, and this summer will feature works by Viennese composer/conductor Alexander Zemlinsky.
7/22/07 – Violinist Gil Shaham will play a Mozart Violin Concerto with the New York Philharmonic today at the Vail Music Festival in Colorado.
7/19/07 – The Adelaide (Australia) Advertiser reports that Canadian violinist Terence Tam, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra's concertmaster, has resigned just 18 months into his four-year contract. “Tam, 37, took up the role in March last year and will finish at the end of this year's season in December. ASO chief executive Rainer Jozeps said Tam, who moved to Adelaide with his concert pianist wife, Lorraine Min, and daughter Tallulah, had learnt his mother-in-law has cancer. ‘It's just one of those circumstances where they really feel they need to return to Canada’, Mr Jozeps said.”
7/19/07 – The Columbia (MO) Tribune profiled violinist Philippe Quint, who is Russian-born: "’The violin was not my choice. I thought it was a new toy - break it and move on to the next one’, he said. ‘It’s not like in America. Here they ask what would you like to do, what do you dream to be. And they ask that to a 4-year-old. In Russia, it doesn’t work like this. It’s like, “You’re going to be a violinist.” Trust me, I had no choice. But sometimes it’s a good thing not to have a choice. You’re pressed into doing one thing and doing it really well.’” Quint will make his acting debut in the upcoming feature Russian Blues, in a leading role alongside William Hurt.
The Albuquerque Youth Symphony has appointed Gabriel Gordon conductor for the 2007-08 season. A native of New York, Gordon was the founding conductor of the Chamber Orchestra at Tower Hill (comprising members of the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and New Jersey Symphony). A violinist, he was recently selected as a member of the New Mexico Symphony, and reportedly is a finalist for the concertmaster position in the Santa Fe Symphony.
7/20/07 - MusicalAmerica.com reports: “In one of the worst kept secrets in the music world, Italian conductor Daniele Gatti, 45, finally has been named successor to Kurt Masur as music director of the Orchestre National de France … Gatti takes the helm full-time Sept. 1, 2008 for a term of five years….In November, Gatti announced that he would not renew his contract as music director of Bologna’s Teatro Comunale when it expired in June after ten seasons in the post. Masur, who has led the Orchestre National de France since 2002, will become its honorary music director upon the arrival of Gatti.”
7/18/07 - The Chicago Symphony hopes to name its next music director by the end of the 2007-08 season, and its CEO says that a shortlist of "between three and seven" conductors is already in place, reports the Chicago Tribune. "Those generating the biggest buzz within the orchestra as likely candidates for Daniel Barenboim's former post are the Italian maestros Riccardo Muti and Riccardo Chailly
7/14/07 - The third annual Great Wall International Music Academy is underway, with young string players from around the world congregating in Beijing for four weeks of master classes, lessons, and concerts under the theme “Olympic Prelude.” Continuing through August 12, the academy is led by faculty from the University of Cincinnati, Beijing Central Conservatory, Ball State University, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, London’s Royal Academy of Music, the Hochschule für Musik Köln, Shanghai Conservatory, Manhattan School of Music, and the University of Iowa.
7/19/07 - Violinist Dylana Jenson is playing a pair of recitals at the Chamber Music Festival of Saugatuck for a salute to festival founder, violinist Elaine Richey. The programs include sonatas by Beethoven and Brahms, as well as Ravel's Tzigane.
7/18/07 – Violinist Lara St. John is playing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with the Brooklyn Philharmonic this week at four outdoor performances around the city, notes the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “On stage, Ms. St. John plays a rare, classic Guadagnini violin that dates to 1779. For many years, the violin was unaccounted for, but it was rediscovered in the early 20th century. In the 1920s, it was played by a child prodigy in the U.S. who died of tuberculosis while still in his teens, and his father buried it with his son in the family mausoleum, according to a Brooklyn Philharmonic spokesperson. In the 1930s, after it became clear how valuable the violin was, the father removed it from the mausoleum. From there, it passed through several hands, until an anonymous donor purchased it and gave it in trust to Ms. St. John several years ago. Before obtaining the Guadagnini, she played a Stradivarius, the spokesperson added.”
7/17/07 – San Francisco Classical Voice profiled the Escher String Quartet: “What struck [Emerson String Quartet cellist David] Finckel was their technical proficiency, both as individuals and as an ensemble. ‘They chose very difficult pieces — the Bartók String Quartet No. 5 and the Debussy String Quartet — and played them at the very highest level’, says Finckel. ‘That was unusual for a quartet that was playing together for only two years. As much as one could be, they are a string quartet prodigy’. The quartet consists of violinists Adam Barnett-Hart and Wu Jie, violist Pierre Lapointe, and cellist Andrew Janss.
7/16/07 - Violinist Ben Morrison, a 21-year-old student at the New Zealand School of Music at Victoria University has won both the Rotorua Concerto Competition and the senior recital category. He plans to use his $8000 prize money towards the cost of studying at the Graz School of Music in Austria where he is headed later this year.
7/12/07 - Vartan Manoogian, professor of violin at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, died on Thursday, July 12, according to a news release from the university. He was 71. “Manoogian served as associate concertmaster of the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra and later as concertmaster of L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, directed by Ernest Ansermet. He was artist in residence at the North Carolina School of the Arts and a member of the Claremont String Quartet before joining the UW-Madison faculty in 1980.” See the V.com discussion of Manoogian’s death here.
7/12/07 – From the Daventry Express in England: Violinist John Brine, 82, received the incredible gift of violin when his local newspaper covered him winning a music competition at age 13. The judges commented that he would be an even better violinist if he had a quality instrument. “One widow reading the paper decided to give Mr Brine her husband’s violin, on the condition that it was never sold and when he was finished using it he passed it on to the next generation of musicians. Now, after almost playing the instrument – which was made in France in 1894 – for more than 60 years, he has given it to 16-year-old Christine Andrews.”
7/17/07 – The big news in the music world this week: "The New York Philharmonic reached into its family tree and plucked Alan Gilbert, the 40-year-old son of two Philharmonic musicians, as its next music director, making him the first native New Yorker in the position and a rare American in the job,” reports the New York Times. “Philharmonic officials also said they would appoint an elder statesman, Riccardo Muti, 65, to serve in a supporting role equivalent to principal guest conductor… Mr. Gilbert’s mother, Yoko Takebe, is a violinist, and his father, Michael Gilbert, also a violinist, retired in 2001.”
7/17/07 – Musical America reports that the Jerusalem Symphony has managed to carry on, at least for a while. "The Israeli court ruled July 15 that IBA [the orchestra’s main funder] -- in the financial difficulty itself -- would have to continue funding the JSO, until additional means from other sources could be secured by the orchestra."
7/14/07 – The San Diego Union-Tribune profiled the East County Youth Symphony. “Music can be an expensive hobby for young musicians, and even joining a youth orchestra often requires the payment of hefty fees. But a new organization in San Diego is offering the orchestra experience free of charge to anyone who can pass muster at the audition. East County Youth Symphony wants to attract more members and enough donations to eventually purchase instruments and pay for music lessons for students whose families can't afford them."
David Carpenter, a 21-year-old violist from New York, has been selected as the new music protégé for the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, which pairs established masters with emerging artists for a year of collaboration in six disciplines: dance, film, literature, music, theater, and visual arts. Carpenter, who is the first American protégé selected to participate in the Initiative since its inception in 2002, will study with world-renowned violinist, violist, conductor, and Rolex Mentor Pinchas Zukerman. The philanthropic program is unique in linking international artists in a time-intensive yet flexible mentor-protégé relationship designed by the participants themselves.
7/12/07 – Violinist Rachel Barton Pine notes that “my most recent album, American Virtuosa: Tribute to Maud Powell has just debuted on the Billboard Classical Chart at #12. This is my first time on the Billboard chart.”
7/11/07 – The LAist ran an interview with hip hop violinist Paul Dateh. The article also includes a YouTube video of him in action.
7/10/07 – Violinist Sian Phillipps, a 29-year-old who plays in Salzburg, has received the use of a Strad from patron John Madejski, reports ICBerkshire. “The donation came after the Royals chairman dined with the Marquis of Zetland, who told him about an accomplished young violinist named Sian Philipps, and suggested he might like to buy her a Cremona violin.”
7/8/07 – In preparation for this year’s Vermont Mozart Festival, the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus ran mini-profiles of three violinists who will be appearing: Japan's Hamao Fujiwara, North Carolina's Clayton Haslop and Boston's Harumi Rhodes.
7/12/07 – The Australian took a look at the phenomenon of high-level youth orchestras through the lens of the Australian Youth Orchestra. Despite the terminology, the focus is on those groups for young professionals in their 20s, such as Daniel Barenboim’s East-West Divan Orchestra and Venezuela’s famed system. The article quotes violinist Clare O’Brien, now 24, who was self-taught until the age of 16.
7/11/07 - The North Carolina Symphony hopes to dramatically expand its orchestra roster in the coming years as part of a $50 million capital campaign, reports the Myrtle Beach Sun News. The orchestra currently has 68 members, but the goal is to be able to employ 80-85 musicians.
7/11/07 – The Tampa Bay Tribune reports: “The city has recommended a 20 percent cut in the operating subsidies for these and other nonprofit organizations. For the [Florida Orchestra], the figure could be $80,000 and will translate to fewer outdoor concerts and youth and education programs. The city this year had slated $400,000 in nondepartmental funds for the orchestra. 'Although the roughly $500,000 overall in recommended cuts is not drastic, it symbolizes the marginalization of the arts'."
7/11/07 – The Nashville Scene devoted a cover story to considering the Nashville Symphony and its relationship with advisor Leonard Slatkin. "For the moment, it seems hard to believe that Slatkin would seriously consider a permanent post in Nashville--if for no other reason than that he was earning about $1 million a year more in Washington than the Nashville Symphony could reasonably afford to pay a new music director."
7/9/07 - The Symphonica Toscanini has a new home in Milan. Teatro degli Arcimboldi, in a northeastern suburb of Milan, will be the permanent home of the beginning next year, The New York Times reports. Music director Lorin Maazel was appointed the orchestra's Music Director for Life in May 2006
7/15/07 – Violinist Joshua Bell wraps up an Asian tour with a trio of appearances with the Malaysian Philharmonic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, playing the Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 1. Immediately upon his return, Bell will play at the Festival del Sole in Yountville, Calif. on 7/18.
7/12/07 - The Park City and Salt Lake City Music Festival, Utah's oldest classical music festival, gets under way this week. Key performers this summer include violinists Manuel Ramos and Monte Belknap.
7/11/07 - Robin Hansen, concertmaster of the Bay Area’s Midsummer Mozart Festival (ready to launch its 33rd season, July 19-29), gave a free concert in San Francisco at Noontime Concerts of a Mozart Divertimento.
7/11/07 – The Herald-Democrat of Denton County, Texas, recently profiled luthier Steven Cundall. “He’s spent the past 32 years building and restoring quality bowed string instruments — violins, cellos and violas — in his workshop, The Luthier Shop at Crossroads in Aubrey. Upstairs above the front office and showroom, the workshop overlooks five and a half acres of property with a pond and scattered beehives. The Cundalls raise their own bees, using the waxy resin byproduct, propolis, as an integral ingredient in their varnish. The instruments must have a soft but wearable varnish, allowing the sound to move through. ‘It’s flexible and doesn’t impair the tone’,” Cundall said.”
7/10/07 – Among Bloomberg’s overview of the 2007 Proms lineup comes this surprise: “Some people find it hard to walk and chew gum at the same time. Maxim Vengerov can simultaneously play the viola and dance a tango, and he's going to prove it in a ``Viola Tango Rock Concerto'' during this year's 113th season of the BBC Proms.” Alas, concertgoers will have to wait until August 18 for this concert….
7/9/07 - Erik Schumann, a rising 25-year-old violinist from Germany, had been expecting to make his Philadelphia Orchestra debut playing Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, reports PlaybillArts.com. Instead, Schumann remained in Germany, grounded by a snag in receiving the necessary visa. Philly concertmaster David Kim stepped in, having just performed the work 10 days earlier.
7/5/07 – Midori won over at least one critic in Portland: “Midori, the great violin virtuoso, came to the Oregon Bach Festival on Tuesday and flat out wowed everyone with an incredibly beautiful and spellbinding interpretation of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto,” opines the Register-Guard.
7/8/07 – The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the Philadelphia Orchestra has landed a prime spot in Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, possibly for the next three years. "Few if any classical music institutions west of the Mississippi have flourished as Bravo has: What began in 1987 with chamber music now hosts three symphony orchestras in five weeks. And this in Vail - a ski resort that didn't exist before 1962. Bravo is considered, within the classical music industry, a very enviable gig. Festival audiences have doubled in the last 10 years, from 33,000 to 66,000, and those audiences have plenty to feast on."
7/7/07 – The Houston Chronicle reports that Hans Graf has agreed to continue as music director of the Houston Symphony through the 2011-12 season. News of the contract extension comes just a month after the Symphony and its musicians agreed to a new, three-year contract.
7/7/07 – The Toronto Star issued a disappointing report from Jerusalem: “A year short of its 70th anniversary, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra will close down for good on July 15 unless a solution can be found to the latest and most perilous crisis in a series of recent financial reverses ... Barring a change of heart by the Israeli Broadcasting Authority, the orchestra will cease to exist in little more than a week. All of its musicians, who four years ago accepted a 20 per cent pay cut, will be laid off. The rest of this season's concert series will be cancelled, along with a tour of the United States planned for next year. Earlier this year, the IBA stunned Jerusalem concertgoers by announcing it was slashing its $2.7 million contribution to the orchestra's budget by 60 per cent, to $1.2 million, citing financial problems of its own. Lawyers responsible for the orchestra's financial management say they will have no choice but to close the institution down later this month, unless the IBA relents or some other solution is found.”
7/10/07 – Violinist Gil Shaham will solo at the Hollywood Bowl; the Jewish Journal ran an advance feature on him. “Though Shaham's musical interests are wide-ranging -- he's equally comfortable performing Mozart and Beethoven or Stravinsky and Prokofiev -- he is at the moment in the thrall of a piece little known to Western audiences, the "Butterfly Lovers" concerto, a throbbing, romantic work of relatively recent vintage by two Chinese students who were later persecuted during the Cultural Revolution. If you don't know it, you're not alone, though Shaham hopes to change that with his recording of it, intended for release in the foreseeable but not immediate future.”
7/7/07 – The London Free Press profiled violinist Mary Elizabeth Brown, Orchestra London associate concertmaster. “Brown, 24, was appointed to the Orchestra London post last year, after deciding to take a chance at a professional audition. Recently, she hit the stage with her buddies in London rock band Hue at Toronto's NXNE fest, grabbed four hours of sleep and auditioned for the concertmaster job with Sinfonia Toronto. That approach worked, too.”
7/7/07 – The Toronto Star looked at what Palestinian classical musicians must do to get training, focusing on violinist Tyme Khleifi. "‘I think I had, in all my life, 11 teachers’, says the sloe-eyed, 17-year-old. The problem is not that Khleifi is a quarrelsome person or a difficult student. The problem is her address. Khleifi is Arab, and she resides in the Palestinian territories.”
7/7/07 - Florentino Dias, conductor of the Rio de Janeiro Philharmonic Orchestra, was honored by the American Bibliographical Institute and International Bibliographical Centre at their annual World Forum in Washington, DC, with an award established in his name. The Florentino Dias Foundation Award will be given annually and will recognize an international candidate’s achievement in classical music.
7/6/07 – Newspapers around the country have apparently decided that jazz violinist Johnny Frigo, who died last week at 90, must have indeed been noteworthy, because they have begun running obituaries of him, albeit belatedly. The Washington Post noted, “He accommodated a variety of musical styles, performing with such strikingly different jazz entertainers as clarinetist Pee Wee Russell, guitarist Charlie Byrd and bassist Oscar Pettiford as well as singers Barbra Streisand, Dinah Washington, Helen Merrill and Mahalia Jackson.”
7/6/07 - Violinist Lisa Batiashvili has signed an exclusive recording contract with Sony BMG Masterworks, reports PlaybillArts.com. The article includes a brief biography of the violinist, along with the announcement that Sony will release her recording of the Sibelius and Lindberg concertos in September.
7/6/07 – The Ellsworth (Maine) American profiled violinist Francis Fortier, who apparently seriously considered pursuing a professional baseball career before committing to music. “If things had turned out differently, he would have been wielding a Louisville Slugger instead of a 300-year-old Stradivarius, but Fortier turned down a career in professional baseball to be a concert violinist.”
7/5/07- The Seattle Post-Intelligencer notes that a pair of sisters will be performing at the Olympic Music Festival for the first time: violinist Elisa Barston and cellist Amy Sue Barston. Elisa is the principal second of the Seattle Symphony, while Amy Sue is New York-based and the cellist of the Corigliano String Quartet.
7/5/07 – The Orange County Register ran a round-up review of several new violin recordings, including those by Maxim Vengerov, Sergey Khachatryan, Baiba Skride, and Julia Fischer, who probably fared the best with the reviewer.
7/1/07 – The Seattle Times profiled violinist and violin collector David Fulton, who has recently sold seven of his violins, including some of the world’s best. “Fulton's mother once thought her gifted son would grow up to be a great violinist beloved by audiences the world over. Instead, Fulton quips, ‘I am beloved by violin dealers the world over’."
7/3/07 – As expected following last week’s announcement that Beverly Sills was gravely ill, the great coloratura has died of lung cancer. According to the New York Times, “Ms. Sills was America’s idea of a prima donna. Her plain-spoken manner and telegenic vitality made her a genuine celebrity and an invaluable advocate for the fine arts. Her life embodied an archetypal American story of humble origins, years of struggle, family tragedy and artistic triumph.”
7/3/07 – For violin-centered fiction, you might want to try Vivaldi's Virgins by Barbara Quick, published by Harper-Collins. A YourHub review notes that “Barbara Quick's Vivaldi's Virgins is a coming of age story set in 18th century Venice utilizing and transforming a literary form popular during that era. As a violinist, the narrator allows the reader to experience the richness of Vivaldi's music from a perspective unavailable today to modern listeners….
“This novel will appeal to a wide range of readers: those craving something of literary beauty, Vivaldi and classical music lovers, women wanting to experience history through the eyes of the women who lived it but for whom history rarely relates their story, and anyone wanting to peek into the lesser known history of Venice or music.”
Redbook magazine named it one of the summer’s 10 top reads.
We have another entry in the violin-related fiction category, one that has been eagerly anticipated by violinists everywhere. Eugene Drucker, violinist with the Emerson String Quartet, has published his debut novel, The Savior. The work tells of a violinist imprisoned in a Nazi death camp and how he befriends a music lover among the Gestapo. The Jewish Daily Forward has run a fairly positive review; like Vivaldi’s Virgins, The Savior can be ordered via Amazon and other booksellers.
According to the Montecito Journal, Westmont College in California is raising funds for two world-class violins, a viola, and a cello to be made for its music department. Luthier James Wimmer is doing the honors; he hopes the Hubert Schwyzer Quartet (named for an amateur cellist) play its first concert early next year. The college needs to raise $55,000 to accomplish its goal. The article also notes that violinist Philip Ficsor is approaching his first anniversary of joining Westmont’s faculty as assistant professor of violin.
7/5/07 – Quick: what’s your worst nightmare? The New York Times posits, “In the canon of every New Yorker’s worst nightmares, it has to rank high: Put in a long night at work. Fall asleep on a muggy subway platform waiting for a train home. Awake to find that your belongings, which happen to include an exquisitely sonorous 1913 violin handmade by Stefano Scarampella, one of the great violin makers of the past 100 or so years, have been stolen.” This is what happened to Brooklyn violinist Tom Chiu last week. Six days later, the thief returned the violin unharmed.
7/5/07- Johnny Frigo, a Chicago jazz violinist and bassist who toured with Jimmy Dorsey and co-wrote the jazz standard "Detour Ahead," has died. He was 90. Frigo died early Wednesday at a Chicago hospital after battling cancer in recent years, his son Rick Frigo told Fox News. “Johnny Frigo was born on Chicago's South Side and spent much of his career playing bass. After playing with the U.S. Coast Guard band at Ellis Island during World War II, he toured with clarinetist Jimmy Dorsey and his orchestra. Around that time, Frigo wrote "Detour Ahead" with Lou Carter and Herb Ellis, a song that became a jazz standard recorded by Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan, among others. He was in his late 60s or early 70s when he turned his attention to the violin, appearing twice on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson. Frigo was also a poet and artist with a keen sense of humor, his son said. When Carson asked him why he'd waited so long to launch his jazz violin career, he replied that he didn't want there to be enough time for him to become a has-been, his son said.”
7/4/07 – The Lexington Herald-Leader profiled Joe Beach, an 88-year-old violinist/violist and the Lexington Philharmonic’s oldest member.
7/2/07 – For more on the Tchaikovsky competition, we turn to the always-reliable PlaybillArts.com: “According to Agence France-Presse, violinist and conductor Vladimir Spivakov, who was on the jury, has already offered [gold medalist Mayuko] Kamio an engagement to play the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Russia under his baton. There was another unusual decision from one of the juries this year, according to The Moscow Times. The violin judges felt that 23-year-old Artyom Shishkov of Belarus probably deserved to make the finals, but for his poor-quality violin. Spivakov said frankly at a press conference last week that Shishkov "played very well, but on a catastrophically bad instrument. So we simply couldn't advance him." The jury wrote a formal letter to Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko asking that his government provide the young violinist with a decent instrument.”
7/1/07 – V.com’s own intern, Caeli Smith, had the substantial honor of having the New York Times publish her letter in response to “Music That Thinks Outside the Chamber” by Anne Midgette [June 24]: “As a 15-year-old violinist, I was drawn to your article about the death of chamber music. Chamber music may very well be moribund in the concert hall setting. But I can report from the trenches that it is alive and well. My string quartet, Seraphina, has performed in its share of concert halls, but our liveliest, most appreciative audiences have been in nontraditional settings.
“Recently, after playing for a group of philanthropists in a luxurious apartment, we went out to Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia and played until dusk. The crowd that gathered included commuters, joggers, homeless people and children.
“Whenever we do this, the response is overwhelmingly positive. If there is such apparent love for chamber music when it’s presented in a nonthreatening, unpretentious manner, how can it be dead?
7/3/07 - Chicago Symphony Orchestra President Deborah R. Card earned a salary of $423,300 for 2004-05, notes the Chicago Tribune. “But she was far from being the highest-paid symphony orchestra executive director that season, according to figures reported to the IRS and posted last week by Drew McManus on his Adaptistration blog (artsjournal.com/adaptistration). ... The symphony orchestra CEO who received the fattest compensation package by far was Card's colleague Deborah Borda, executive director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, who drew a whopping $1,325,542."
6/30/07 – The Brooklyn Philharmonic participated in a special concert held in celebration of composer Lukas Foss’s 85th birthday celebration.
The results are in for the violin portion of the Tchaikovsky Competition:
1st place: Mayuko Kamio (Japan)
2nd place: Nikita Borisoglebsky (Russia)
3rd place: Yuki Manuela Janke (Germany)
4th place: Soyoung Yoon (Republic of Korea)
5th place: Hyon-Su Shin (Republic of Korea)
6th place: Zhijiong Wang (China)
The Japan Times ran a brief article on Mayuko Kamio that, among other things, enumerates how many Japanese violinists have won this competition.
While this is not violin-related news, it’s impossible for any musician not to feel sadness at an Associated Press article datelined 6/27: “Beverly Sills is gravely ill with cancer. She is currently in a Manhattan hospital suffering from a broken rib after a bad fall, her publicist Edgar Vincent tells Reuters. ‘It's grave. This whole matter of this discovery of cancer has been just about four weeks now. Up until that she had no idea,’ says Vincent. Sills had cancer surgery in 1974, which is said to have been successful. She is a non-smoker. The 78-year-old retired soprano and administrative power house resigned as chairman of the Met Opera two years ago. She remains chairwoman emerita. The Met had no comment on her illness.”
7/1/07 – Violinist Soovin Kim will play the Vivaldi Four Seasons with the String Academy Orchestra at Indiana University in Bloomington.
7/1/07 – Violinist Ziva Patt-Rappaport will perform a recital in Overland Park, KS today. She subs with the Kansas City Symphony and is concertmaster of the St. Joseph Symphony.
6/30/07 – Violinist Jaime Laredo and cellist Sharon Robinson appeared in a live edition of Public Radio International's A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor, which will be recorded at Tanglewood. Laredo and Robinson will perform several movements from Suite for Two, which violinist Andy Stein wrote for them this year to celebrate 30 years of marriage and 30 years of performing together. Stein is the violinist/saxophonist/arranger listeners usually hear on A Prairie home Companion.
6/27/07 - Violinist Susanne Yi-Jia Hou made her debut at the Brott Music Festival playing the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the National Academy Orchestra.
6/24/07 – Violinist Rachel Denlinger, then a sophomore was the concertmaster at this year’s state Orchestra Festival in Pennsylvania. Ironically, her high school doesn’t even have a string orchestra program.
6/23/07 – ChannelNewsAsia.com ran an interview with pop crossover violinist David Garrett, who is currently touring Asia to flog his new album, Free. With Juilliard credentials, the violinist prefers to keep the emphasis off the time he spent modeling to pay the bills, he tells the interviewer, but the subject always seems to come up.
6/22/07 - Violinist Fangye Sun, the National Repertory Orchestra’s assistant concertmaster, performed the Glazunov Violin Concerto with that orchestra in Breckenridge, Colo.
The New York Philharmonic has received a $5 million gift from Didi and Oscar S. Schafer to help support the orchestra’s Concerts in the Parks, beginning this July. The gift provides underwriting of $1 million annually over the next five years, with the series to be known as the New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks, Presented by Didi and Oscar Schafer.
The New York Youth Symphony has named Ryan McAdams its next music director, beginning this fall. Now completing a Fulbright fellowship year as conducting apprentice at the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic under Music Director Alan Gilbert, McAdams has spent the past two summers at Aspen Music Festival and School’s American Academy of Conducting. He is a recent graduate of the conducting program at The Juilliard School.
The North Carolina School of the Arts has appointed flutist and conductor Ransom Wilson director of its symphony orchestra and artist-teacher of conducting in the School of Music.
Other Music News
6/28/07 – According to MusicalAmerica.com, the American Symphony Orchestra League is changing its name, effective in the fall, to the League of American Orchestras. “The 65-year-old organization is also using the name change to launch a new strategic plan, website and graphics in the fall.
6/27/07 – According to the ASOL, a major restoration of National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) funding moved one step closer to enactment as the House approved a $35 million increase - the largest single increase in NEA history.
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