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Friday, February 17, 2006

More China In SF Symphony Future? "Chinese musicians and musical institutions appear ready to enter a newer and more integrated relationship with the international musical community. And the San Francisco Symphony -- looking toward the Pacific Rim as any institution must that is situated on the American West Coast -- must surely be thinking about its role in that integration. This was an underlying theme of the recent tour, giving it a slightly different tone from the orchestra's visits to the major cities of Europe or the United States." San Francisco Chronicle 02/17/06

Amazon's New Digital Music Strategy "Amazon, the world's No. 1 online retailer, is in advanced talks with the four global music companies about a digital-music service with a range of features designed to set it apart. Among them: Amazon-branded portable music players, designed and built for the retailer, and a subscription service that would deeply discount and preload those devices with songs, not unlike mobile phones that are included with subscription plans as part of the deal." Wall Street Journal 02/16/06

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Sydney Takes Big Risk On Vienna Phil "The Vienna Philharmonic, one of the world's great orchestras, will play four concerts in Sydney in September at a cost of nearly $2 million, most of which will be borne by the Opera House. To break even it will need to sell 90 per cent of tickets, which range from $85 to $295 - more than double the price of the best seats in the Sydney Symphony's most expensive concert this year." Sydney Morning Herald 02/17/06

Disney Settles on Lion King Tune The family of the composer of The Lion Sleeps Tonight have settled their suit with Disney. "The relatives of South African Solomon Linda, who wrote the original Zulu tune, settled with the US owners of the copyright who had loaned it to Disney. The dispute over royalties arose when the song was used in The Lion King." BBC 02/16/06

A Matter of Choice "When it comes to consumer choice, it's hard to beat recordings of the popular classics. There are now around 100 different recordings of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, and nearly 200 of Vivaldi's Four Seasons." Conversely, you're lucky if you can find even a single recording of that contemporary work your local orchestra played last weekend, and finding more than one recording of a work written after 1970? Forget it. "But now things are changing. As new music loosens up, and finds a genuine public, so the record companies are taking an interest in it." The Telegraph (UK) 02/16/06

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Will The New Met Finally Crush The New Puritanism? Mark Swed says that the Metropolitan Opera's embrace of change under new director Peter Gelb comes just in time to counteract the creeping conservatism sweeping much of the rest of America's classical music scene. "The inclinations of big money normally are not adventurous, and the companies reflect that. But there is also a climate of fear of offending an increasingly puritanical public. Although political and moral issues are an essential part of much great opera, these are touchy, politically divided times, and few arts administrators seem willing to take chances." Los Angeles Times 02/15/06

Not Just Another Orchestra Crisis There's a different kind of orchestra crisis going on in Northern Ireland, where the Ulster Youth Orchestra was revealed last week to be in nearly complete disarray. The UK Arts Council stepped in when it was discovered that "bills had not been paid, the phone was disconnected and staff were no longer employed in [the UYO's] office." Now, a former vice-chancellor of a major British university has been placed in charge of overhauling the organization, and implementing an emergency plan agreed to by the orchestra and the council. BBC 02/15/06

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Just The Music You Want To Buy In Australia "Sanity Music, through its Sanity, HMV and Virgin stores, will introduce 'music kiosks' where customers can use touch screens and a vast digital library to order tracks and have the CD and packaging created on the spot." Sydney Morning Herald 02/15/06

Zukerman Returns To Ottawa Orchestra Pinchas Zukerman has ended his "medical leave" from Ottawa's National Arts Center Orcehstra. "Last week, Zukerman apologized to the NAC players in a letter. It was not made public but included the words 'I am sorry,' said orchestra manager Christopher Deacon. Initial reaction from the players was conciliatory. 'I think that sort of thing goes a long way to correcting the situation'."
The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/13/06

London Tube Cuts Crime With Mozart Classical music has been shown to reduce crime. So "the London Underground is broadcasting Mozart and Pavarotti through loudspeakers and claims it has resulted in a drastic reduction in anti-social behaviour by gangs of youths." BBC 02/13/06

Met Opera Slashes Ticket Prices The Metroploitan Opera is cutting the price of its cheapest tickets to $15. "The Met faces a box office shortfall of approximately $4 million this season as opera finds its harder to compete with other forms of entertainment. The Met's new general manager, Peter Gelb, unveiled his strategy on Monday, and promised to maintain the venerable institution's reputation for quality while broadening opera's appeal." Yahoo! (Reuters) 02/14/06

Monday, February 13, 2006

Levine Adds Two Years To Met Contract James Levine, "whose current contract as music director runs through the 2010-11 season, said Monday he will stay at least two additional seasons for a new staging of Wagner's Ring Cycle, which will be the centerpiece of the Met's 2013 celebration marking the 200th anniversary of the composer's birth." Yahoo! (AP) 02/13/06

How Does The UK Music Industry Work? Here's a graphic that connects the dots from artist to producer to consumer... The Guardian (UK) 02/13/06

Peter Gelb's New Met Peter Gelb has big changes in mind for the Metropolitan Opera, and the opera world is interested. "He said he would emphasize directors with theater and film backgrounds, embrace digital delivery of opera, bring in conductors like Riccardo Muti who have never conducted at the Met before and introduce major voices in new roles, like Karita Mattila as Tosca. Mr. Gelb will also establish a joint commissioning program with the Lincoln Center Theater, which would solicit works from musical theater composers as well as from more traditional classical composers. He will increase the number of new productions from about four a season to seven." The New York Times 02/13/06

  • A New (Crossover) Met? What do Peter Gelb's plans for the new Met mean? "If Mr. Gelb wants to connect the Met to contemporary culture, then he must make the company something it has not been: a place that cultivates living composers. He has big plans here as well, though one program will indeed raise the specter of crossover opera to his doubters." The New York Times 02/13/06

The Grammy Hawaiian That Doesn't Fit Last week's Grammy award for best Hawaiian album has provoked controversy. "No sooner had the award been announced, Hawaiian discussion boards, phone lines and radio shows began buzzing with the controversy: Slack key may be a Hawaiian art form, but it has won both years, and will most likely keep winning precisely because it is the Hawaiian style with which most non-Hawaiians -- and most Grammy voters -- are most familiar." Chicago Tribune 02/12/06

Baroque-Style Program Squeeze When Wu Han and David Finckel took over the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, they faced a programming challenge. The Society has traditionally performed all of the Brandenburg Concertos on a single program each year. But should the tradition continue? "Half of the board members told me, 'If you cancel the "Brandenburgs," I'm not supporting you.' The other half said, 'If I hear another six "Brandenburg" concertos, I'm going to go crazy'." The New York Times 02/12/06

Promoting Home-Grown On Hold The City of Seattle is replacing its generic Muzak with recordings by local musicians. Anyone calling City Hall will be serenaded by locally-produced music while they're on hold. "The program is a great way to support local artists and expose more people to the incredible diversity of music this city has to offer."
Seattle Post-Intelligencer 02/13/06

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Schoenberg Still Polarizes The Boston Symphony is playing an all-Schoenberg program this week. "The Schoenberg programming has had a polarizing effect, pitting the traditionalists, who would prefer their Beethoven served with a dose of Mozart, against the modernists, a group made up of musicians, students, critics, and subscribers who say they're inspired by Levine's commitment to a composer who, while long respected, has never been a hot ticket." Boston Globe 02/12/06

A Missing Strad And Its Lost Journey One day in 1967, David Margetts' Stradivarius was stolen from his car. Some time late a woman found it on the side of a freeway in Los Angeles. It took 27 years before the instrument surfaced again... Los Angeles Times 02/12/06

Radio Silence It's been five years since the Chicago Symphony lost its regular series of radio broadcasts, and a replacement series is nowhere on the horizon. Wynne Delacoma says that the continued lack of any radio presence is directly attributable to stubbornness on the part of the CSO's musicians and management, who have been loathe to challenge old compensation systems, even as other orchestras embrace new ideas. "Audiences in Chicago and around the world need to hear what the symphony is doing now, not simply what it did 10 or 20 or 30 years ago... It is a crime that [the CSO] is falling so far behind in the world of electronic media." Chicago Sun-Times 02/12/06

Leaderless, But Never Directionless The Chicago Symphony's music director search is now two years old, and no progress has been visible in the quest to find a proper successor for Daniel Barenboim, who leaves the position in June. But no one in the organization seems to be in any sort of hurry, and if there seems to be a dearth of well-qualified candidates, the CSO isn't bothered by it. Some are even suggesting that a music director isn't terribly important to the fortunes of a truly great orchestra. "The CSO's 2006-07 season, with trips to Carnegie Hall under Boulez and a residency in Florida next February, hardly signals an orchestra on hold." Chicago Sun-Times 02/12/06

Opera As Societal Mirror? Conventional wisdom says that the opera crowd is too mired in tradition to embrace new work, but several Canadian companies are enlisting big-name stars and media partners in an effort to ramp up public interest in a new wave of premieres. One of the city's artistic directors says that opera "has become a populist voice and an opportunity for creative artists to show society to itself." Toronto Star 02/11/06

Two Become One Cleveland's two opera companies are on the verge of combining operations while maintaining their separate missions. "Like many American opera companies, Cleveland Opera and Lyric Opera Cleveland have struggled in recent seasons with deficits and declining attendance. The two organizations view a merger, no matter how challenging, as a means of controlling finances and presenting a reasonable number of performances of varied repertoire." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 02/11/06

The Met's New Direction There may be no more conservative institution in American classical music than New York's Metropolitan Opera. For decades, the Met has catered to an audience that loves old chestnuts, respects tradition above all else, and generally abhors the experimental. So when the company's incoming general manager starts talking about wholesale change and using terms like "radical reinvention," a lot of people get very nervous. But Peter Gelb is apparently quite serious in his desire to remake the Met for the 21st century. The New York Times 02/11/06

Friday, February 10, 2006

American Idol Beats Grammys In The Ratings "For the first time in 12 years, the Grammys did not win its night in the ratings. From 8 to 9 p.m. nearly 29 million people decided they'd rather watch the lousy performances and histrionics of wannabe pop stars in Hollywood than be entertained by Madonna, Coldplay, John Legend and U2 at the [Office Supply Retailer] Center in downtown Los Angeles." Washington Post 02/10/06


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