Thursday, November 19, 2015

Brian Alegant Honored as a Professor of the Year -- Excellence in Teaching and Service

Brian Alegant is named U.S. Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and he is the first music professor to have earned this award.  As a professor at the Oberlin College Conservatory, Mr. Alegant has explored the notion of "scuba diving" in his teaching, focusing on covering less material in greater depth. And he says he never teaches the same class in quite the same way. Instead of lectures, quizzes, and examinations, Mr. Alegant’s curriculum for budding musicians uses self-designed projects and self-assessment, drawing from every genre to help "students to engage with the music they love as deeply and rigorously as possible," he says. "I am motivated by a desire to share the transformative power of music — my awe of it."  More

Monday, November 9, 2015

Jim and Susan Neumann’s Bee Hive Records

Mosaic Records has recently released The Complete Bee Hive Sessions (#261) as a twelve-disc, limited edition box set, making this material available on CD for the first time ever.

Bee Hive Records was founded by Jim and Susan Neumann, donors of the James R. and Susan Neumann Jazz Collection in the Conservatory Library’s special collections.
The label was active from 1977 to 1985, releasing seventeen LPs that featured an impressive roster of established jazz talent.  All seventeen LPs have been individually cataloged and digitized by Oberlin and are available to stream for Oberlin students and staff.

The Mosaic box set features the majority of the material from the original LPs along with a variety of previously-unreleased content.  Oberlin’s copy is number 0149 of an edition limited to 5,000 albums.

Friday, October 30, 2015

New York Philharmonic May Be Headed to the East Side


The New York Philharmonic may move into the Hunter College auditorium during the planned two-year renovation of David Geffen Hall in 2019. Both sides say it's a strong possibility, although Hunter's 2,000-seat facility, located at East 68th Street between Lexington and Park Avenues, would first need some $25 million worth of renovations.

The orchestra still needs to raise an additional $400 million for the renovation of its home base. And since the first $100 million came from David Geffen, for whom the hall is now named, future naming opportunities for other large gifts would seem severely limited.

Hunter College President Jennifer J. Raab has confirmed "serious conversations" about the move; Philharmonic President Matthew VanBesien concurs.

Lucerne Fest to Feature Women of the Stick

The focus of the 2016 Lucerne Festival (August 12--September 11) will be women conductors and artists; organizers have chosen the title "PrimaDonna" as the theme. Conductors, who hardly fit that description, will include Marin Alsop, who will bring her São Paulo Symphony Orchestra; Barbara Hannigan, conducting the Mahler Chamber Orchestra; Emmanuelle Haïm, who will stand on the podium before the not-so-women-friendly Vienna Philharmonic; and Susanna Mälkki leading the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra in a new work for percussion and orchestra by festival composer-in-residence Olga Neuwirth. 

Coppock Retiring from St. Paul; Limbacher Exiting Cleveland Orchestra


Bruce Coppock, president and managing director of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, has announced that he will retire in January after 11 very productive years in the job. His position will be divided between John Limbacher, current chief development officer of the Cleveland Orchestra, and SPCO principal second violin Kyu-Young Kim, also senior director of artistic planning. Limbacher will tend to the administrative end of the St. Paul operation and Kim the artistic.

Limbacher is the fourth key player to exit Cleveland in recent months.

Coppock, 64, led the orchestra from 1999 to 2008; he was forced to resign when diagnosed with bile duct cancer. He managed to survive the usually fatal disease and returned to the orchestra in 2013. He and Limbacher have been working together since 1995, when Coppock was head of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. The best news is, he is retiring in good health.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Mozart's 'I Want My Music Back' Letter Fetches $217,000 in Auction

A letter written by Mozart to a close friend asking for the return three music scores A letter written by Mozart to a close friend asking for the return three music scores (RR Auction)
A letter by Mozart seeking to reclaim some scores from a friend fetched $217,000 at an auction in Boston on Thursday.  more

7 tips for performing from memory

Memory-playing is your next step towards advancement in music. It will open up many new and bigger opportunities to you as well as a higher standing and recognition.
Reginald Foort, The Strad, March 1928
First take a precise mental photograph of the bar as it looks in case your idea of the sound should not be trustworthy; secondly, when you have considered each detail of the passage, trust your fingers. When the student is about to perform in public for the first time without notes, let him leave his music in the dressing-room, because he is liable to feel, suddenly, that he cannot get on without it.
L.H.W., The Strad, February 1910
With the right concept and skills, any musician can successfully learn music by heart. Secure memorisation rests on a foundation of deep learning. more

Violinist Christian Tetzlaff and pianist Lars Vogt in page-turning disaster

Page-turner Anna Reszniak manages to prevent a performance by violinist Christian Tetzlaff and pianist Lars Vogt at Sendesaal Bremen from descending into complete chaos by catching pages falling in all directions.  Watch here

Friday, September 25, 2015

9 Classical Musician Program Bios That Aren't Terrible

Cameron Carpenter, organistCameron Carpenter, organist (

The Independent newspaper in London recently asked why classical musician biographies are so numbingly dull. Noting that these articles that appear in Playbills are usually formulaic lists of past and future performance dates, the piece demanded more interesting, personalized prose.
However, some performers are already writing more creatively about themselves, including the following nine, who share a quite a bit of personality in their texts. Read

One-hit Wonders!!

One-hit wonders refer to those with a single career success — from the playing fields to book publishing and everything in between.

But today, National One-Hit Wonder Day, is reserved for glorifying that special category of artists with one Top 40 hit or signature song.
Among the more recent staples of the not entirely flattering category are: Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love,” Vanilla Ice’s “Ice, Ice Baby,” Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy,” Los del Río’s “Macarena” and Baha Men’s “Who Let the Dogs Out?
The “one-hit wonder” label isn’t so easy to remove. Take the Norwegian band, A-ha. It’s famous for “Take On Me,” a No. 1 smash on the Billboard chart in 1985.
The band followed it up with a second Billboard Top 40 single, “The Sun Always Shines on TV,” and is still touring and recording (the ban released its 10th album, “Cast in Steel,” this month). But the band rarely fails to make a “one-hit wonder” chart.
“For us, you have to make peace with that song because it’s stronger than you in a way,” Morten Harket, a band member, recently said. “It’s not going away.”
The one-hit phenomenon is beginning to fizzle a little. Songs are staying on the chart longer, taking up space that would be going to new hits and the next potential contender for greatest one-hit wonder.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Must Opera Be 'Relevant'?

Željko Lučić as Iago and Aleksandrs Antonenko in the title role of Verdi's 'Otello'Željko Lučić as Iago and Aleksandrs Antonenko in the title role of Verdi's 'Otello' (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera)
The new opera season is upon us in New York as the Metropolitan Opera prepares to raise its curtain—though it rarely uses its iconic gold silk curtain anymore—on Monday. The company will present a new production of Verdi’s Otello by Bartlett Sher, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and starring Sonya Yoncheva, Aleksandrs Antonenko and Željko Lučić. 
In fact, September marks the reopening of most of the great opera houses of Europe and North America as well as many smaller companies everywhere that provide a huge service to the art form and to adventurous audiences who are willing to try something new.  More

New labels in Naxos Music Library!

naxos InformationTake a look at the new material available at Naxos Music Library!! offers access to all the labels of the Naxos group of companies as well as to Artek, BR-Klassik, C Major, Campanella Musica, Capriccio, Capriole, Carpe Diem, CD Accord, Dacapo, Cedille, First Edition, Ondine, Phoenix Edition, OUR Recordings, Solo Musica, Dorian Sono Luminus, TwoPianists, Vienna Philharmonic, White Cloud, Naxos Classical Archives and Naxos Rock Legends.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Key Igor Stravinsky work found after 100 years

Stephen Walsh, a world expert on the composer, tells how lost score was found in piles of dusty manuscripts
Stravinsky in exile: the expatriate modernist was regarded as a non-person in the Soviet Union. Photograph: Roger Viollet/Rex

An important early orchestral work by one of the greatest composers of the 20th century, thought for more than 100 years to have been irretrievably lost, has turned up at last in a pile of old manuscripts in a back room of the St Petersburg Conservatoire.

Igor Stravinsky composed his Pogrebal’naya Pesnya (Funeral Song) in memory of his teacher, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, shortly after Rimsky’s death in June 1908. The 12-minute work was performed only once, in a Russian symphony concert conducted by Felix Blumenfeld in the Conservatoire in January 1909, but was always thought to have been destroyed in the 1917 revolutions or the civil war that followed. Read More

Music copyright hits again -- Band unhappy with use of 'Eye of the Tiger' for Kim Davis

The use of "Eye of the Tiger" at a rally for Kentucky clerk Kim Davis has Survivor's Jim Peterik "risin' up to the challenge" -- and threatening action.
Peterik, who co-wrote the stirring "Rocky III" theme song, is upset that Davis emerged from jail Tuesday to the strains of his song. Davis, the Rowan County clerk, had been held in contempt of court for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses.
"I have not authorized the use of Eye of the Tiger for use by Kim Davis and my publisher will issue a C&D (cease and desist order). This does not reflect my views," Peterik wrote on Twitter.  Read more

Jon Batiste Will Lead ‘The Late Show With Stephen Colbert’ Band in a Style He Sees Fit

There comes a point in almost any scheduled performance by Jon Batiste when he pops up from the piano and strides into the crowd, tootling his melodica, a toylike wind instrument, with bandmates in tow. It’s a trademark shtick that happens to carry a whiff of the authentic, given Mr. Batiste’s lifelong familiarity with New Orleans second-line parades. Naturally, it was one of the factors that led to his role as bandleader on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” which makes its debut on CBS on Tuesday.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Opera Singer Performs During His Own Brain Surgery

The Slovenian tenor Ambroz Bajec-Lapajne was diagnosed last year with an aggressive malignant brain tumor immediately required surgery.
But it wasn't a conventional brain surgery: Doctors at the University Medical Center Utrecht kept the singer conscious under local anesthetic and asked him to perform. Recently, Bajec-Lapajne posted a video to YouTube of the operation.
Joined by a pianist in the operating room, the tenor delivers the first and last couplets of Schubert's "Gute Nacht" (in major and minor) so doctors could monitor his ability to sing and recognize key changes.
In the most dramatic moment of the video (at about the 2:40 mark), Bajec-Lapajne stops singing and appears to be drifting away, but he was able to restart his song from the beginning after a short break. watch here

Taking the Starch Out of Orchestra Attire

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Surgeons Perform Better with Music, Study Finds

Doctors doing a surgery. (Oleg Ivanov/Shutterstock)
When surgeons listen to music in the operating room, they're more efficient at closing incisions, and their technique improves, a small study has found.
Researchers asked 15 plastic surgery residents at the University of Texas Medical Branch to close incisions in pig's feet – which are widely accepted as similar to human skin – on two consecutive days. In the first trial, half the residents worked in a silent operating room, but the other half got to listen to music of their choice while they stitched. For the second trial, the two groups switched. more

As the Met Abandons Blackface, a Look at the Legacy of African Americans in Opera

A poster for Sissieretta Jones, 1889 (image courtesy Library of Congress) (click to enlarge)
A poster for Sissieretta Jones, 1889 (image courtesy Library of Congress)

In The Souls of Black Folk (1903), W.E.B. Du Bois portrays a newcomer to the world of opera, enthralled by the Prelude to Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin. John “sat in dreamland, and started when, after a hush, rose high and clear the music of Lohengrin’s swan. … Who had called him to be the slave and butt of all? And if he had called, what right had he to call when a world like this lay open before men?”  more

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Royal Opera House 'William Tell' with Gang-Rape Scene Draws 'Unprecedented' Booing

A scene from Rossini's 'William Tell' at the Royal Opera HouseA scene from Rossini's 'William Tell' at the Royal Opera House (ROH)
The opening night performance on Monday of a new production of William Tell at London's Royal Opera House was marked by loud and prolonged booing over a scene in which a woman is raped by soldiers.
The production, by Italian director Damiano Michieletto, updates Rossini's classic tale of the 14th-century Swiss hero William Tell to the 1990's Balkan conflict. Music critics – largely on the side of the booers – described the audience's reaction to the third-act ballet scene as unprecedented in the company's recent history  More

Q&A: Bartok's Biographer Addresses Questions of Asperger's Syndrome

Bela Bartok (center) collecting folk musicBela Bartok (center) collecting folk music (N/A)

Bela Bartok (center) collecting folk music Bela Bartok (center) collecting folk music (N/A)
Dvorak his Slavonic Rhapsodies, Brahms had his Hungarian Dances.

But few of history's major composers went as far to harvest melodies and rhythms as Béla Bartók (1881-1945), who published nearly 2,000 folk tunes and collected many more in journeys that spanned "awful roads and terrible carriages," as the composer once wrote during a visit to a small Transylvanian village.

Bartók lugged his primitive recording equipment across the countryside of Eastern European (including his native Hungary), collecting songs that were on the verge of extinction. He transformed many of them into string quartets, violin sonatas, dramatic works and orchestral pieces.

A new biography by musicologist David Cooper (Yale University Press) delves into the ethnic traditions that Bartók drew from and also explores his relationships with famous performers. It also raises some more disputed ideas. We spoke with Cooper about Béla Bartók.

Your book has generated some debate for its suggestions that Bartók may have had Asperger's Syndrome. How did this come to light?  More

Monday, June 29, 2015

Pride Quiz: Test Your Knowledge of Gay Composers

Aaron Copland with Samuel Barber and Gian-Carlo Menotti in Bernardsville, NJ, 1945 Aaron Copland with Samuel Barber and Gian-Carlo Menotti in Bernardsville, NJ, 1945 (Victor Kraft/Library of Congress)
Twenty years ago, RCA caused a minor stir with "Out Classics," a CD of music by Schubert, Saint-Saens, Barber, Copland and Britten, among other composers who happened to be gay.The compilation topped the Billboard Classical Chart – aided by a racy cover and some criticism over its dubious choice of pieces. But even if smacked of a marketing ploy, it also highlighted a facet of composers that was historically repressed by the classical music establishment.  More

Friday, June 12, 2015

Ornette Coleman, Composer and Saxophonist Who Rewrote the Language of Jazz, Dies at 85

Ornette Coleman performing at the Village Vanguard in 1961. CreditSam Falk/The New York Times
Ornette Coleman, the alto saxophonist and composer who was one of the most powerful and contentious innovators in the history of jazz, died on Thursday in Manhattan. He was 85.
The cause was cardiac arrest, a family representative said.
Mr. Coleman widened the options in jazz and helped change its course. Partly through his example in the late 1950s and early 60s, jazz became less beholden to the rules of harmony and rhythm while gaining more distance from the American songbook repertoire. more

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

New York Philharmonic Selects Anna Thorvaldsdottir for Emerging Composer Post

Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir is become the New York Philharmonic's Marie-Josee Kravis Emerging Composer, a one-year appointment that comes with a $50,000 stipend.
The Icelandic composer, 37, is the second recipient of the award, following Sean Shepherdwho was appointed in June 2012. Along with the stipend, Thorvaldsdottir will be commissioned to write a piece for the Philharmonic. She won the Nordic Council prize for her orchestral composition, Dreaminga quiet piece that "embodies a flowing world of sound," according to a program note.  More

Apple Music Brings Change to Streaming, but Is It Enough?

 When Apple launches its Apple Music streaming service at the end of June, it will affect things big and small in the music industry.
Hundreds of millions of iPhone and iPad users in more than 100 countries will get to try the $10-per-month service for free for the next three months when it is pushed to their devices with a free upgrade.
They'll get unlimited access to tens of millions of songs during the trial, and afterward be required to pay a monthly fee for access, instead of paying for each album or song download.
"It'll change the way you experience music forever," CEO Tim Cook promised Monday at Apple's annual conference for software developers, held in San Francisco. Read more

Tony Award Winners 2015: Full List

“Fun Home” was one of the biggest winners of Broadway’s biggest night at the 69th annual Tony Awards, taking home four awards including best musical and best performance by an actor in a leading role in a musical for Michael Cerveris.
As for plays, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” came out on top, winning best play, best performance by an actor in a leading role in a play for Alex Sharp, best direction of a play and best scenic design of a play.  More

Friday, May 8, 2015

Iconic Portrait of J.S. Bach Returns to Germany

Bach Portrait by Elias Gottlob Hausmann in 1748Bach Portrait by Elias Gottlob Hausmann in 1748 (Bach Archive in Leipzig)
BERLIN (AP) -- A portrait of Johann Sebastian Bach considered one of the most important paintings in the classical music world is being returned to his home city after a 250-year odyssey that took it as far as the United States, the Bach Archive in Leipzig said Wednesday. 
The painting is a bequest from late American philanthropist William H. Scheide, a lifelong collector of the Baroque composer's music.
It was previously owned for more than a century by the Jewish family Jenke from what is now the Polish city of Wroclaw, who fled Nazi persecution to England in the 1930s. There it was entrusted for some years to the family of Sir John Eliot Gardiner, now a leading Bach expert and president of the Leipzig archive  More

At Baltimore Symphony's Request, Design Students Restyle Orchestra Attire

As leather-clad fashion designers hovered nearby, conductor Marin Alsop inspected the outfits of several musicians. “It might be better to have the pleats on the left side since they face the audience,” she said, studying a women’s skirt. Later, she admired the lapel of a men’s jacket. "It looks very smart," she noted. 
This wasn’t a bizarro orchestra edition of "Project Runway" but rather the latest phase in amulti-year project to redesign the tradition-bound orchestra attire, involving students and faculty at Parsons School of Design and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, where Alsop is music director. The goal of the project, which began in 2012, is to use materials that are more utilitarian, lightweight, breathable and contemporary in appeal. It stems from a larger conviction that symphony orchestras must better reflect the world around them to stay vital and relevant – not only in what they perform but how they look.  More

Cinci Symphony Raises $26M, Expands Orchestra Size and Salaries

Finally, some good news from the world of American orchestras: The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra has, over the past 14 months, raised $26 million, much of which will be used to hire 14 players over the next five years. Orchestra President Trey Devey (pictured) announced the news last night from the stage of Music Hall, explaining that, at the conclusion of the hiring spree, the orchestra will have been restored to its full complement of 90 players.

Also, the musicians of this fifth oldest symphony orchestra in the U.S. this week ratified a new, five-year contract that, by its conclusion in 2020, will have brought base pay to $106,436 a year. The orchestra's season reaches 52 weeks because it also plays as the Cincinnati Pops and is the ensemble of record for the Cincinnati May Festival, Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Ballet, and the Cincinnati World Piano Competition.

The monies have come from 26 local families, individuals, and foundations.  

Monday, May 4, 2015

Did North Korea Execute Four Orchestra Musicians?

This file photo taken on April 15, 2012 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un saluting as he watches a military parade to mark 100 years since the birth of the country's founder and his grandfather. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty)
North Korea has always had a curious relationship to classical music, dating back to the late ruler Kim Jong Il, who claimed to have written six operas, and whose state-run orchestras would play entire Tchaikovsky symphonies by memory. On Wednesday came a report from South Korea's spy agency that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered the execution last month of four members of Pyongyang's Unhasu Orchestra.
The musicians were killed by firing squad on charges of espionage, according to separate reports in the Associated Press and the Korean Herald.  more