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March 2008 Archives

Fame has not Changed Lang Lang


Pianist shines for new generation of classical music fans

By Chris Shull

Lang Lang may be known for his pyrotechnic performances of the great piano pieces of the 19th century, but he is truly a musician of today.

The 25-year-old is as at home on the Internet as he is in the world's great concert halls. He's appeared as a cartoon "avatar" in the online virtual world Second Life, and he's serenaded the Muppets on Sesame Street. He's a regular on YouTube, and he soloed with Herbie Hancock on George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue during the recent Grammy Awards telecast.

Although Lang says he embraces TV and the Internet as tools to attract his generation to classical music, some critics argue that his fame has interfered with his development as an artist and a performer.

Read more about this including an interview with Lang Lang at the Star-Telegram website:

The Founder of Naxos

Klaus Heymann, CEO of Naxos

Klaus Heymann profile


Klaus Heymann may not know how to read music or play a musical instrument, but he has been attending classical concerts with his parents since he was 9 years old. Today he is best known as a successful entrepreneur, who is a classical music amateur.

Heymann began his career in his native city of Frankfurt, as an export advertising and promotion manager for Max Braun AG, a manufacturer of audio equipment, household appliances and electric shavers.

After working for an American newspaper, The Overseas Weekly, for five years in Germany, he came to Asia in 1967 to start up its Hong Kong office, and subsequently started his own business.

Heymann's Pacific Mail Order System began as a direct-mail advertising company, which later evolved into a mail-order firm for members of the U.S. Armed Forces serving in Vietnam. It provided cameras, watches and audio equipment, including Bose loudspeakers and Revox tape recorders.

Read more about this at the CNN website:

Haydn's Creation

Michelangelo's Creation

The quiet master behind the masterpiece

By Dr. David MacKenzie
The Sentinel

Franz Joseph Haydn's great oratorio The Creation is acknowledged as one of the greatest musical achievements of Western Civilization. It is certainly the crowning glory of a composer whose creative output was immense – more than 1,000 works – and who is credited as the creator of the Classical-era symphony and string quartet.

The Creation will be performed at 8 p.m., Friday, April 4 at the Fireman Center for the Performing Arts at Tabor Academy in Marion, and will feature as soloists soprano Rebecca Grimes, tenor Thomas Oesterling, and Baritone, John Murelle. There will be a pre-concert prelude for ticket holders, which will take place one hour prior to each concert. Tickets are $20 and may be purchased by calling 508-999-6276, or in person at the Marion General Store, Seaport Village Ice Cream and Coffee, Sail Away Studio, and Bev Loves Books.

Haydn's life spanned a period of enormous changes in the world, in the arts, and especially in music, and most musical trends during the 18th Century were pioneered and perfected by him. Born in 1732, he was 18 years old when J. S. Bach died. He outlived Mozart and was still a revered musical figure in Vienna when Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony, a work considered by many as ushering in the Romantic era, was performed in 1805. Both Mozart and Haydn owed great debts to Haydn. Indeed, Haydn was the only contemporary composer for whom Mozart held any regard, acknowledging that it was from Haydn he had learned how to write string quartets, and commenting at one point "Haydn alone has the secret both of making me smile and of touching my innermost soul."

For all of that, most concert-goers today can more readily name and recognize works by Haydn's older contemporaries Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frederick Handel, or his much younger colleague and friend W. A. Mozart or his student Ludwig van Beethoven. Why is this?

Read more about this at the The Sentinel website:

Stravinsky - The Second Exile

Stravinsky: The Second Exile: France and America, 1934-1971 by Stephen Walsh

In glorious discord over Stravinsky

Few things are more fun to savour than a good old artistic feud, says Rupert Christiansen

The fallout can take several forms, from the vitriolic spat (Vidal v Capote, Oasis v Blur) to a purely intellectual combat (Wilson v Nabokov), to the serious lawsuit (Ruskin v Whistler), to the soured friendship (Lennon v McCartney, Vargas Llosa v Márquez, Theroux v Naipaul).

But the most interesting variety is the one that pitches competing conceptions of the truth, as when Mary McCarthy denounced "every word" of Lillian Hellman's account of her communist fellow-travelling as "a lie, including 'and' and 'the'."

Stephen Walsh and Robert Craft haven't gone quite that far over the matter of Igor Stravinsky, but they've come pretty close.

There's something of All About Eve to the story of Craft's attachment to the great Russian composer, and something of Boswell's relationship to Dr Johnson. A brilliant American music student, Craft latched on to Stravinsky in the late 1940s, becoming his secretary, minder, gatekeeper, amanuensis, conducting assistant and surrogate son.

Read more about this at the Telegraph website:

Earliest Sound Recording Found

Phonautograph 1857

Researchers Play Tune Recorded Before Edison

By Jody Rosen
New York Times

For more than a century, since he captured the spoken words "Mary had a little lamb" on a sheet of tinfoil, Thomas Edison has been considered the father of recorded sound. But researchers say they have unearthed a recording of the human voice, made by a little-known Frenchman, that predates Edison's invention of the phonograph by nearly two decades.

The 10-second recording of a singer crooning the folk song "Au Clair de la Lune" was discovered earlier this month in an archive in Paris by a group of American audio historians. It was made, the researchers say, on April 9, 1860, on a phonautograph, a machine designed to record sounds visually, not to play them back. But the phonautograph recording, or phonautogram, was made playable – converted from squiggles on paper to sound – by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif.

"This is a historic find, the earliest known recording of sound," said Samuel Brylawski, the former head of the recorded-sound division of the Library of Congress, who is not affiliated with the research group but who was familiar with its findings. The audio excavation could give a new primacy to the phonautograph, once considered a curio, and its inventor, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, a Parisian typesetter and tinkerer who went to his grave convinced that credit for his breakthroughs had been improperly bestowed on Edison.

Read more about this, including audio excerpts, at the New York Times website:

Stefan Sanderling

Florida Orchestra struggles to create balanced program

By John Fleming
St. Petersburg Times

The Florida Orchestra is in a terrible bind. On the one hand, music director Stefan Sanderling and the orchestra want to – need to – play contemporary classical music. An endless stream of standards by Beethoven, Brahms and the Russians is a programming strategy that leads to artistic oblivion.

But whenever the orchestra sprinkles some relatively new music into its concerts, such as a couple of 20th century French works heard in masterworks programs this season, it turns off a significant number of audience members. These usually are subscribers, the most loyal listeners the orchestra has.

This season, I have received quite a few letters from concertgoers complaining about mildly adventurous works by the likes of Messiaen, Dutilleux, Harbison and Helps, and I expect the orchestra has, too.

"We truly were not impressed with this display of contemporary music,'' wrote Carol Enters of Clearwater after hearing the Helps Symphony No. 2. "If, indeed, maestro Sanderling is impressed, let him mount a series all his own, so that those who appreciate such presentations can enjoy them .?.?. and those who do not will not have to suffer through them.''

This sort of response undoubtedly has something to do with the 2008-09 season's masterworks schedule, which includes just two works by living American composers, John Corigliano and Samuel Adler, and not a single premiere.

Read more about this at the St. Petersburg Times website:

World's Bravest Orchestra

Iraq National Symphony Orchestra

In Iraq, the Symphony Orchestra Plays On

By Melik Kaylan
Wall Street Journal

Karim Wasfi, age 36, arrives driving a white Range Rover and dressed in a blazer, vest and ascot. Sporting aviator shades, his ample form topped by lush black hair, he could be one of the Three Tenors – or a staunchly civilized orchestra director, which is, in fact, what he is. When orchestra directors go around the streets of Baghdad looking exactly as they should, you know that things are bucking up. Except that Mr. Wasfi has held that post at the Iraq National Symphony Orchestra since 2004, through the darkest of times, and he has always looked like this. We set off at speed out of Mansour toward downtown Baghdad listening to Wagner. "The Ride of the Valkyries" to be precise.

"In the car, I also listen to the Saint-Saëns requiem and the Mozart requiem – that's usually the right mood for Baghdad," says Mr. Wasfi, in his cultivated English, as the checkpoint militias gape incredulously and wave us on. He has lost count of the times he has just missed being caught in a bomb blast or a firefight. "I vary my route to work – which I think may be more dangerous. In '06 I had to leave town and disappear for six months for my safety, but we still kept going – I organized two concerts from afar. . . . At one point, I had to tactfully get a formal religious proclamation from a top cleric that music was not profane. That took care of one group only. Still, these days, it's certainly better than it was – I'm trying to up the concerts to twice a month, but that includes a lot of chamber performances which I initiated some months ago," he says.

"At the very least, the audience must know for sure that somewhere in the city there will be a concert on the last Saturday of every month," says Mr. Wasfi, who is also co-conductor with Mohammed Amin Ezzat. "Then we give out the location in the last moment, for security. We do it by email, word-of-mouth, phone calls – I tell everyone I know. Even then, many hundreds turn up, depending on the place. That's our problem: We don't have a regular home. Well . . . one of our problems."

Read more about this at the Wall Street Journal website:

Most Expensive Violin

1741 Vieuxtemps Guarneri

Prized violin plays again for Moscow's elite

By Helen Womack in Moscow
The Guardian

The most expensive musical instrument in the world was played in public for the first time for more than 70 years to 160 guests in Moscow on Saturday in a demonstration of Russia's growing economic and cultural status.

Lawyer Maxim Viktorov invited the cream of Moscow society to the private concert at Pashkov House to show off the Guarneri del Gesù violin he bought at Sotheby's in February for a record-breaking $3.9m (nearly £2m).

The Israeli virtuoso Pinchas Zukerman performed a programme of Bach, Mozart and Bruch with the orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre. "I tried out the instrument a little in London before I bought it," said Viktorov, 35, a violin collector who likes to play to the piano accompaniment of his wife, Anastasia. "But since then, I haven't been able to touch it. This instrument cannot bear any agitation. I want the maestro, who lives by his art, to be the first to play it so that the violin feels it is receiving the respect it deserves. Then I might find the strength to play it myself because it's a great source of energy."

Read more about this at the Guardian website:,,2267686,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=39

Britain's Favorite a Big Surprise

Ralph Vaughan Williams

Williams top of Classic FM vote


Ralph Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending has been voted best classical piece of music by radio listeners for the second year running. The piece, a musical version of an English landscape, came top in the Classic FM Hall of Fame poll, which attracted more than 100,000 votes.

His Fantasies on a Theme of Thomas Tallis also came third behind Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto no 2.

Pieces by Beethoven took fourth and fifth place in the survey.

The accolade comes half a century after the composer's death – he was born in Gloucestershire in 1872.

Read more about this at the BBC website:

Colin Carr

Hear how music history rolled out: Cellist, pianist play Beethoven cycle

By Celia R. Baker
Salt Lake City Tribune

Music history's march from Classicism to Romanticism followed the life story of one man: Ludwig van Beethoven. The whole journey – from innocent exuberance to heroic passion to profound introspection – unfolds in microcosm this week in Salt Lake City: English cellist Colin Carr will perform all of Beethoven's works for cello and piano with American pianist Tom Sauer during two concerts at Libby Gardner Concert Hall.

Carr, 50, is best – known in Utah for his three appearances here with the Golub–Kaplan–Carr trio, with whom he toured and recorded for more than two decades.

After 20 years of playing trios, Carr was ready for new challenges. Performing Beethoven's entire oeuvre for cello and piano, spread over two concerts, has proven to be "simply the best chamber music project that a cellist could ever wish to do," he said.

Amy Leung, director of the Virtuoso Series, studied cello with Carr at New York's Eastman School of Music and remembers him as "a phenomenal musician of the highest order." To Leung, the Beethoven sonatas are the mainstay of classical cello repertoire. She's thrilled that an agreement between her series and the Chamber Music Society of Salt Lake City is making it possible for Carr to give two concerts here – enough time to play all of them.

Audiences at both concerts will hear every note Beethoven wrote for cello and piano, but could trace the trajectory of Beethoven's musical development by attending either one, Carr said. Each evening includes music from the composer's early, middle and late periods, allowing listeners to make comparisons.

Although Carr has played Beethoven's cello sonatas and themes – and – variations for much of his life, juxtaposing them in this way brought fresh insights.

"When I hear all these pieces together, I see such stark contrasts that I'd never been aware of. It's fascinating," he said.

Read more about this at the Salt Lake City Tribune website:

Symphony Orchestra of India

Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI)

Sound of a hundred violins

By Warren D'Mello
The Hindu

Marat Bisengaliev, from Kazakhstan, is putting together India's first symphonic orchestra, in collaboration with the National Centre for Performing Arts, Mumbai. He talks about the challenges…

Besides creating a new orchestra from scratch, Bisengaliev's biggest challenge is to create an audience for Western classical music.

"The people of Mumbai love the opera," declares Marat Bisengaliev. "The storyline is something like Bollywood." The virtuoso Kazakh violinist is the founding music director of the Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI), the first professional orchestra in India. He has been assigned the mammoth task of building a symphony orchestra from the ground up, in a city where Western classical music is confined to a tiny section of the elite who frequent the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA) at Nariman Point, the uptown part of Mumbai. It is, seemingly, quite a formidable task for anyone to pull off, but Bisengaliev brims with optimism. This is not the first orchestra he's put together – he is the founder of the Kazakh Chamber Orchestra and the West Kazakhstan Philharmonic Orchestra (WKPO). Besides, judging from the sold-out performances of the Puccini opera "Madama Butterfly", Mumbai's audience certainly looks hungry for more song and dance.

There is no escaping from music at the NCPA. The rooms at the guest house are all occupied by the SOI's musicians, deep into their daily riyaaz. As we sit in a dark, empty corridor of one the NCPA theatres, low notes from a tuba reverberate in the distance, creating an evocative backdrop for the interview.

So how did the SOI come together? Bisengaliev points out that the orchestra is still in the process of coming together. The SOI was born in 2006, the result of a collaboration between the NCPA and Marat Bisengaliev, and now in its fourth season, is in a dynamic phase of growth. Bisengaliev's job is by no means easy, with sections of the orchestra to be perfected, new players to be auditioned and groomed, and the orchestral repertoire to be worked on. "We are discussing which direction to go. Should we go with operas which people love or should we have more symphony or chamber music or should we have the ballet? I think we should be diverse and do it all," says Bisengaliev.

Read the interview at The Hindu website:

It's Tough to Like Good Sound


The Swift Boating of Audiophiles

By Michael Fremer

The "Want to make an easy $1,000,000?" e-mail wasn't a scam from Nigeria but an alert from Paul DiComo, late of Polk Audio and now of Definitive Technology, about a double-blind cable-identification challenge made by The Annoying Randi, a magician and debunker of paranormal events who goes by the name of "The Amazing Randi."

I should have hit Delete and resumed my vacation. But a few months earlier, Randi, without the slightest provocation, had attacked me on his website and the revenge fantasy of relieving him of a million of his bucks filled my head.


At deadline time, yet another anti-audiophile piece appeared, this time in The New York Times' Arts & Leisure section, written by opera critic Anthony Tommasini, titled "Hard Being an Audiophile in an iPod World." Here's an excerpt from yet another letter to the editor that I felt obligated to write:

"The iPod is no more responsible for 'thinning the ranks of audiophiles' over the last decade than cheap, fast food has depleted the ranks of gourmets, or cheap wine has 'thinned the ranks' of oenophiles....Consumers are demanding higher quality food and seeking out better wine. Why? Because gourmet food and fine wine continue to receive enthusiastic coverage in the mainstream press and people who appreciate them are respected, while quality sound gets ignored, or worse, gets the kind of treatment you've chosen to give it this week – a perverse, gleeful dismissal – and audiophiles are looked upon as either 'odd' or 'deluded' for paying the same attention to sound that others pay to food or wine, or clothes, or cars, or you name it, except for sound. ..."

Read the complete account at the Stereophile website:

Kronos Plays Visual Music

Kronos Quartet

The brilliant classical ensemble Kronos Quartet searches the world over for new music and ideas

By Barbara Rose Shuler
Monterey Herald

Kronos! For countless music lovers, this word makes a full declarative sentence, complete with a scintillating noun, a virtuoso verb and a fountain of superlative adjectives. It's a word that means brilliant artistry, revolutionary ideas and fearless exploration of new frontiers in music.

The extraordinary Kronos Quartet has radically altered the perception of the scope of string quartet playing in the world today. Its mythic name is synonymous with the best of the newest in contemporary classical music. Kronos' players have flourished at the creative edge of the art form for more than three decades, reveling in the exploration of unchartered musical territory.

The ensemble has commissioned and inspired hundreds of new works, recorded more than 40 remarkable albums, performed thousands of concerts around the globe, engaged in many imaginative artistic collaborations and received numerous awards, including a Grammy for Best Chamber Music Performance and "Musicians of the Year" from Musical America.

Kronos, in short, ranks among the most influential groups of our time. Happily for us, Kronos resides in San Francisco and tours regularly to our region. Several years ago, audiences here enjoyed two especially dramatic and memorable multi-media spectacles produced by Kronos. One of these inventive masterpieces, "Visual Music," premiered at CSU-Monterey Bay's World Theater. The other, "Sun Rings" – performed early on in its run at Sunset Theater in Carmel – wove actual sounds of space as recorded by scientist Donald Gurnett with a score by Terry Riley accompanied by visual images.

Read more about this at the Monterey Herald website:

Thunderbird Records

Cleveland label releases its first CD of classical music by an American Indian composer

by Donald Rosenberg
Cleveland Plain Dealer Music Critic

Cleveland recording producer Alan Bise stands amid boxes filled with the first compact disc on his new label, Thunderbird Records, which is devoted to music by American Indian composers. Like aspiring writers who dream of their first novel being published, composers submit music to orchestras in the hope that a performance will ensue. The usual response: silence.

But a project that Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate, a native of the Chickasaw Nation and graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music, proposed to the San Francisco Symphony was too intriguing to ignore.

Last week, a recording by the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus of two Tate works with roots in American Indian soil became reality. The compact disc is the first release by Thunderbird Records, a Cleveland-based company founded by audio producer Alan Bise, who studied at CIM when Tate was taking baby steps as a composer.

The recording was made in June in the orchestra's home, Davies Symphony Hall, with former resident conductor Edwin Outwater on the podium. The flute soloists are Christine Bailey Davis, principal flute of New York's Buffalo Philharmonic and a CIM graduate, and Thomas Robertello, a former member of the Cleveland Orchestra.

Bise vowed to create a recording company devoted to classical music by American Indian composers in 2004 after hearing "Worth of the Soul," Tate's celebration of Indian warriors. Another year passed before circumstances leading to the first Thunderbird recording came up.

Read more about this and listen to audio samples at the Plain Dealer website:

Opera In English

Benjamin Britten

Inglese, Per Favore?

Mencken called opera in English "about as sensible as baseball in Italian." But it does have its charms.

By Justin Davidson
New York Magazine

Despite all the words that are sung in English every day, on every quadrant of the Earth, our language skulks around the edges of opera. Eighteenth-century Londoners believed it self-evident that the finest sung dramas should be unintelligible by design, which is how Handel, a German, came to pen operas in Italian for monoglot British society. Even now, arias in English seem to be a cultural error, like Finnish hip-hop or salsa from Dubai. The current Met season incorporates one opera by an American in Sanskrit (Philip Glass's Satyagraha), another that mixes English with Chinese (Tan Dun's The First Emperor), and Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel, sung in English translation for the benefit of the kids. Only Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes, the work that brought British opera back to life after World War II, makes an irrefutable case for the language's singable power and lyrical efficiency. You can pack a lot of sense into a very few English words; set those words to music, and pellets of plain speech bloom. Britten made the title character a taciturn Suffolk fisherman, and also a figure of overpowering eloquence.

Read more about this at the New York Magazine website:

National Classical-Music Summit

Seattle Symphony music director Gerard Schwarz

Education is the future of classical music

By Melinda Bargreen
Seattle Times

During the past decade, reports about the impending death of classical music have arrived with such regularity that doom-saying is practically a full-time activity for several arts journalists.

Today's pop culture, they say, with the idol-of-the-moment TV spectaculars and the cult of celebrity – combined with the serious decline of music education in many school districts – has built a society in which classical music is terra incognita to most people. Concert activity, buoyed up by a handful of aging donors, is confined mainly to blue-haired dowagers who make their increasingly decrepit way to the halls in order to hear the same stale pieces performed by the same bored musicians.

Or so they say.

Attendees at a national classical-music summit held at Seattle University last month, however, had a whole span of quite different views. Presented jointly by Seattle U. and Bellevue Philharmonic CEO Jennifer McCausland, the summit brought in representatives from coast to coast – Carnegie Hall, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony, The Washington Post, and several others – and described a classical-music industry that is doing considerably more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Most of them, in fact, took a line pretty close to that of moderator and Seattle Symphony music director Gerard Schwarz, whose introductory remarks included this observation: "This is the most positive time in my career for classical music. When I came to Seattle 25 years ago, the Symphony had 4,000 subscribers; now we have more than 35,000." And when you count education and community programs, the Symphony reaches 315,000 people a year.

Read more about this at the Seattle Times website:

Glimmer of Hope for Classical Music

William Wolcott

Classical music is enjoying mini-comeback thanks to the Internet

by John Pitcher
Omaha World-Herald

William Wolcott's violin studio is about the size of a large broom closet, yet it's often the site of amazing master classes.

Virtuoso Itzhak Perlman has held court there. Pinchas Zukerman, Sarah Chang and other fabulous fiddlers also have squeezed into the room.

They all fit because of a miraculous little invention: the Internet.

"There's an incredible amount of classical music now on the Internet, and it's really helping me teach my students," said Wolcott, an instructor at the Omaha Conservatory of Music. "We can sign on to YouTube right here in my studio and watch the world's greatest violinists perform and give master classes."

Visit the Web and you'll find thousands of classical musicians, critics and fans chattering away in a rapidly expanding classical blogosphere. Internet radio also is streaming performances from major opera companies, orchestras and concert halls. And perhaps most surprising, the Web is fueling a mini-boom in the classical recording industry.

Sales at ArkivMusic, an online classical CD emporium, rose 30 percent in 2007, an astounding figure considering that CD sales in general were down more than 15 percent in the United States last year, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Classical downloads likewise have been brisk. At eMusic, the world's second-largest digital music service after iTunes, classical music now represents 12 percent of its overall European sales, and its business in the U.S. is not far behind. That's a big increase for a genre that rarely made up more than 2 or 3 percent of total sales in record stores.

Read more about this at the Omaha World-Herald website:

Performing All of Mozart's Operas

Warsaw Chamber Opera

Classical music: Focusing on genius

The only Mozart Festival in the world which presents all the composer's operas has launched ticket sales

by Anna Kalembasiak
Warsaw Business Journal

While summer remains a long way off, some entertainments require seriously advanced booking, and the 18th Mozart Festival in Warsaw is one of them. Tickets for the event, which will take place between June 15-July 26 at the Warsaw Chamber Opera, have just gone on sale.

During the festival, concerts and operas will be performed by the best musicians from Poland and abroad. Concerts will take place on the premises of the Warsaw Chamber Opera as well as at the Palace on the Water in the Royal Lazienki Park, in the Royal Castle and in Warsaw's churches.

"Our Mozart Festival is the only one in the world which presents all 20-plus operatic works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Even the festival in Austria, the homeland of Mozart, does not present all his works [at one time]," said Jan Bokszczanin, the spokesperson for the Warsaw Chamber Opera. "There has never been another festival which fully covers the stage operas of this genius composer," said musicologist Janusz Ekiert.

Read more about this at the Warsaw Business Journal website:

Public Pianism

Piano Player

Pianos hit the streets

by Maev Kennedy
The Guardian

On the eve of his 19th birthday, Marvin Forbes did something which completely shocked his mates: he sat down at the piano which had appeared overnight on the corner of Orphanage and Mason roads, and played a few bars of Offenbach. "I never knew you could do that!" Thasawar Iqbal said, stunned.

"I knew," muttered another friend, Anthony Murrain. When the group had first walked past the piano on their lunch break, glancing at it out of the corners of their eyes with studied lack of interest, Forbes had insisted he could not play, never had played, and would not know what to do with a piano if it suddenly popped up outside the library with a spray-painted sign reading: "Play me, I'm yours."

This was not strictly true. Forbes is now a trainee mechanical engineer, but he got a C in music at GCSE. "Go on then," Iqbal said, incredulously, "play it!"

Forbes sat on the green plastic chair with reluctance, played a few random notes, a few chords, and finally, his fingers almost visibly remembering, a tune. Iqbal could not have been more astounded if his friend had sprouted wings and flown away over the war memorial.

The piano in the Erdington suburb of Birmingham is one of 15 which have just appeared, unguarded, across the city. There is one in the Rag Market, and one outside Cadbury World. There is another at Colmore junior school, where a teacher was persuaded into an impromptu recital dressed in white gown with veil fluttering in the icy wind. She had been on her way to her wedding.

Some of the pianos are under cover, others have been placed outside. All were professionally tuned, but some appear to already be suffering from exposure: Forbes brushed off praise for his playing, muttering that the keys of the piano were starting to stick.

The pianos are the brainchild of the artist Luke Jerram, and are a project for the Fierce arts organisation, a collaboration renowned for getting odd things into odder places. Jerram previously has floated an orchestra in hot air balloons to awaken the sleeping city, and created a ghostly installation in an abandoned railway tunnel.

The pianos have been installed in public places allowing anyone to sit down and play: some were already in enthusiastic use yesterday, others barely noticed. They will remain in situ until after Easter - if they survive that long - those outliving the experiment given a permanent home. Some of the instruments were bought, others were donated: one man rang from Glasgow pleading for a baby grand to be taken on.

Read more about this at the The Guardian website:,,2265308,00.html

Does Hate Inspire Great Performance?

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Bad blood, great art

In CSO's search for director, history shows despised conductors can inspire best performances

By Alan G. Artner
Chicago Tribune

As the procession of guest conductors has crossed the podium of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and speculation has centered on this or that visitor as a possible candidate for music director, a consideration has appeared that largely was absent from past searches.

Reviews of concerts not only have described what has been heard by the audience but also have drawn upon backstage reports on how well the musicians enjoyed working with the conductor, in some cases characterizing the interactions as "love fests."

Such regard for player opinion is inevitable at a time when orchestras have more to say about their destinies than ever before. But the theory that musicians' liking a conductor personally or musically will foreshadow a distinguished partnership is false. Some of the conductors most admired today were, in fact, hated by their musicians.

The greatest musical partnership in Chicago, confirmed by recordings that for 50 years have continuously been available, was between the CSO and Fritz Reiner, an artist described as a precisionist, perfectionist, conductor's conductor, martinet, tyrant and sadist. Critic Paul Griffiths delicately wrote, Reiner's "insistence on rhythmic precision and clarity from his players was unmoderated by any wish to be loved." Critic Harold C. Schonberg bluntly wrote, Reiner "would probably have run at the bottom in any kind of popularity poll taken among orchestral musicians." Yet Reiner raised a good provincial orchestra to one of North America's "Big Five," and had he not been averse to touring, would have gotten it recognized in Russia and Western Europe 20 years before Georg Solti did. It is no exaggeration to say the outstanding CSO began with Reiner, that is, not with love but with fear.

Read more about this at the Chicago Tribune website:,1,5650169.story

Auto Interpretation

Bill Milbrodt

Car Parts Orchestra

The man who turned a family hatchback into a 30-piece touring band

Jasper Rees
The Telegraph

Part of the signature of a car is the sound made by its engine.

If pressed, even the most L-plated among us could probably identify a Rolls by its self-satisfied purr, or a Ferrari by its neurotic throat-clearing. But the most fanatical of petrolheads would struggle to discern, in the ambient jazzy backing to Alesha Dixon's new iTunes download, For You I Will, the snappy hatchback sound of the new Ford Focus.

The advertising industry's reverence for the tangential uses of disembodied cars is a fairly recent phenomenon. In 2003, the award-winning commercial for the Honda Accord fashioned the car's entrails into a hypnotically complicated mechanism. In 2006 a large choir of human voices imitated the clunks and whirs of a Honda Civic. The new ad for the Focus goes a step further, and puts car parts to musical use.

The Car Parts Orchestra consists, among others, of a weirdly bent flute, a bonnet recycled as a gong, a wheel-rim drum kit with gearknob for pedal stick and, the pièce de résistance, a double bass whose body takes the bulging form of a bumper, with a neck made from a roof support, which can be either plucked or bowed with a windscreen wiper.

Read more about this including video interviews with composer Craig Richey and inventor Bill Milbrodt at the Telegraph website:

Authentic Portrait Of Mozart

A portrait of Mozart painted in 1783, during his early years in Vienna when he was in buoyant mood after his marriage to Constanze

True face of Mozart revealed

Dalya Alberge,
Arts Correspondent
A portrait of Mozart painted in 1783, during his early years in Vienna when he was in buoyant mood after his marriage to Constanze

His image in curled wig, embroidered red tunic and lace ruff stares out from kitsch portraits, decorative porcelain and chocolate boxes without number, but nobody really knew what Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart looked like – until now.

To the great excitement of musical scholars, two previously-unknown oil portraits painted from life – and which can be traced back to a close friend of the composer's father – have been discovered.

They were identified by Cliff Eisen, Professor of music history at King's College London, who has found documentary evidence that links them to letters written by Mozart and his father, Leopold.

One was painted in 1783, during the composer's early years in Vienna when he was in buoyant mood after his marriage to Constanze. Measuring about 19in by 14in (47x35cm), it is by Joseph Hickel, painter to the imperial court. It is now considered so important that it has been insured for £2 million.

Read more about this at the Times website:

Rescued from the Synthesizer

A.R. Rahman

Global Digital Classical

The Telegraph Calcutta

Indians, according to A.R. Rahman, have to be rescued from the synthesizer. But they could be brought back to it once they are musically better educated. No one would know better than Rahman the complex relationships among music, entertainment, digital technology and globalization, particularly in the context of contemporary film-music. But in all this postmodern music-making, what is the place of the Classical? This seems to be the idea, question and problem at the heart of Rahman's new brainwave – the KM Music Conservatory at Chennai and the national symphony orchestra that would come out of it.

Calling it a "conservatory" suggests a rigorous education in classical music in the Western mode. And this is what Rahman wants to initiate with both singers and instrumentalists, according to proper international standards. But he is equally interested in teaching his students state-of-the-art music technology, and how to "market" themselves professionally. The other synthesis he wants to bring about is in teaching both Western and Indian classical music in this conservatory. So, what his symphony orchestra will play, and what the newly trained composers will compose for it, would be not only Western classical music, but also more hybrid work incorporating elements of both traditions, and then "modernizing" each in different ways. The significant thing here is that Rahman sees a proper grounding in the classical traditions as essential for such forms of musical synthesis.

Read more about this at the Telegraph Calcutta website:

Welsh Composer Alun Hoddinott

Alun Hoddinott

Tributes to "inspiring" composer Hoddinott

Karen Price

Tributes were paid last night to eminent Welsh composer Alun Hoddinott who has died at the age of 78.

Mr Hoddinott's work was commissioned by leading orchestras and was recognised throughout the world.

The night before he died, the world premiere of his last string quartet was performed at London's Wigmore Hall.

The Bargoed-born composer produced symphonies, piano sonatas, operas (including two for television and four with leading parts for Sir Geraint Evans), concertos for all instruments, and a wide range of vocal, choral, instrumental, chamber and orchestral music.

Read more about this at the icWales website:

A Vote for Modern Music


The energetic Berg Orchestra gets into the spirit

Berg Chamber Orchestra

By Frank Kuznik
Prague Post

The Berg Orchestra is opening its spring season with a great musical marketing gimmick: a contest to decide the best new work that the group premiered last year. Seven pieces by young Czech composers were chosen for the competition, which was decided by popular public vote and a professional jury of eight foreign composers.

The contest attracted more than 250 voters – a good number for any modern music event in Prague – and was close, according to Berg artistic director and conductor Peter Vrábel. "There was no single runaway winner," he says. "With the jury alone, there were three first-place winners."

No matter. Through a complicated vote weighting system that was a bit difficult to sort out in translation from Czech to English, a clear winner was determined, and will be performed at the group's concert Thursday night, along with modern music works by Glass, Martinů and Honegger.

This is not the way an orchestra usually operates. But there's little that's typical about Berg, from the music it plays to the venues that it plays in, which have included the Svetozor cinema, Museum Kampa and the city's old sewage treatment plant (now the Ekotechnické museum). "We always try to discover something new for the audience," Vrábel says in a classic bit of understatement.

Read more about this at the Prague Post website:

Is Conducting An Art Form?

Nigel Kennedy

Nigel Kennedy criticises "egocentric" conductors

By Robyn Powell and agencies

Violinist Nigel Kennedy has criticised star conductors for their egocentric behaviour, for being more interested in promoting their image, than spending time with an orchestra.

Kennedy said some conductors spent only a few weeks with an orchestra. He told The Times: "How many will develop an orchestra rather than feeding off its achievements? They're straight off for the dollar. Round the corner to get a better job. All they're interested in is strutting about, wielding a bit of power.

Nigel Kennedy denounced conducting as an art form

"A conductor can galvanise the troops and evolve an artistic programme and identity of style. If they only give five or ten weeks a year [to an orchestra], how can they do that?" However, he declined to name any specific conductors. But denounced conducting as a form of art for his preference for playing music. "Why would you want to stand there waving a stick when you could be playing an instrument?" he said.

Read more about this at the Telegraph website:

A Virtuoso's Life

Glenn Gould

Method & madness: The oddities of the virtuosi

The Independent

What is it about elite pianists? Some are charmingly eccentric, others just insane. Michael Church looks at the oddities of the virtuosi

"It's like a horse before the race," said the great Vladimir Horowitz of his feelings before a recital. "You start to perspire, you feel already in you electricity. I am a general, my soldiers are the keys."

Marshalling their mountains of notes from memory, concert pianists need the skill of jugglers and the strength and stamina of athletes. Meanwhile, in their fusion of instinct and intellect, they must be supreme aesthetes. And they must do all this without safety nets: if their memory fails, or their fingers foul up, all they have is an unforgiving crowd. It takes an unusual person to put their life on the line like this. No wonder many pianists are oddballs; no wonder some go mad.

Such thoughts are prompted by the recent release of yet more posthumous discs on the BBC Legends label of those wonderfully eccentric Russians Shura Cherkassky and Sviatoslav Richter; and by two other massive projects: the four-CD box plus book from Naxos entitled A-Z of Pianists; and the 80-CD box of the original Sony-Columbia recordings by Glenn Gould, who was both a god of the keyboard and more than a little mad. And these are just the tip of the iceberg: we can now survey an entire century of pianism's brilliant weirdness, thanks to the voluminous evidence that record companies are now putting out.

Read more about this at the The Independent website:

The Return of Grigorovich

Yuri Grigorovich

Bolshoi's choreographer back

By Tony Halpin
The Australian

He ruled the world's most famous ballet company with an iron fist for three decades until he was ousted in a revolt against his authoritarian style.

Now Yuri Grigorovich is returning to the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow to oversee the Soviet-era repertoire that earned him global fame as a choreographer.

Grigorovich, 81, was the Bolshoi's artistic director from 1964 until 1995, when he was forced out amid accusations that its reputation had stagnated and crumbled with the Soviet Union. His appointment this week as a ballet master by general director Anatoly Iksanov marks a stunning return.

Grigorovich received the invitation to return to the theatre at the funeral last month of his wife, Natalia Bessmertnova, the legendary ballerina whose name means immortal in Russian. She was among 15 dancers who protested against Grigorovich's departure with a one-day strike. They appeared on stage in jeans and T-shirts before a shocked audience expecting to see Romeo and Juliet, the first time that a performance was cancelled by a dancers' protest since the Bolshoi was founded in 1776.

Read more about this at the The Australian website:,,23351747-16947,00.html

Van Cliburn 50 Years Later

Van Cliburn in Moscow

Cold War, Hot Pianist. Now Add 50 Years.

By Anthony Tommasini
New York Times

Fort Worth, Texas
A half-century after meeting him, the Russian people still adore Van Cliburn. That was the message conveyed by Aleksandr S. Sokolov, the Russian minister of culture, and Yuri V. Ushakov, the Russian ambassador to the United States, during toasts at a black-tie dinner and musical tribute here on March 1. Sponsored by the Van Cliburn Foundation, the event commemorated the 50th anniversary of Mr. Cliburn's victory in the first Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in Moscow in April 1958.

Before nearly 1,000 guests in an elaborate 40,000-square-foot tent on the grounds of the Kimbell Art Museum, Mr. Sokolov read a message of congratulations from President Vladimir V. Putin, an honorary sponsor of the event, who could not attend. Mr. Ushakov paid tribute to the "two Van Cliburns," as he put it: the proud Texan who conquered Russian hearts with his magnificent artistry and the honorary Russian who was mobbed by Muscovites on the streets hugging and kissing him amid shouts of "Van KLEE-burn!"

Mr. Cliburn, 73, as trim, bright-eyed and effusive as ever, his bushy hair still thick though gray, looked overcome with emotion. He offered a few phrases of gratitude in well-practiced Russian, then delivered an endearingly rambling speech about "200 years of friendship between Russia and America," starting with an exchange of warm letters between President Thomas Jefferson and Czar Alexander I.

But this had to have been a bittersweet evening for Mr. Cliburn, who for nearly 30 years has largely been missing from the classical music field that he electrified during his glory days. Many towering creative artists make their lasting contributions during their youths. Orson Welles and Tennessee Williams come to mind. Some might add the Beatles to that list.

Van Cliburn is another such artist. For a good dozen years he was the best known and most popular classical musician in the world. His recordings routinely sold in the hundreds of thousands. His success was hard won and much deserved. But over time the expectations that this cultural emissary and musical superstar faced were impossible to fulfill. His playing declined. After a dispiriting concert in Toledo, Ohio, in 1978, he announced that he was taking a sabbatical. By the late 1980s he had begun playing again, but infrequently. He left his New York apartment and moved to a spacious house in the suburbs of Fort Worth.

Reflecting on his current life during a visit to New York in January he seemed wistful but at peace. "I do play concerts from time to time," he said. "I work at home quietly, go to the opera, hear concerts, see friends. I like making up now for what I was not able to have then. And I still have to practice."

Read more about this at the New York Times website:

Spring Festival will Clean out the Cobwebs

Budapest Spring Festival 2008

200 performances in the main event from rap to romantics; 360 shows at Fringe Festival

by Julia Brühne
Budapest Times

Even if the weather is not yet cooperative, the Budapest Spring Festival is set to lighten your step from Friday. The festival between 14 and 30 March is in its 28th year and is one of Europe's largest and most celebrated cultural festivals. The 200-or-so theatre performances, exhibitions, classical concerts, jazz shows and other events are expected to attract 200,000 guests.

The classics

The festival will open with the Bavarian State Orchestra led by the internationally renowned Kent Nagano.

On Thursday 20 March, the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, under well-known Hungarian conductor Ádám Fischer, will perform Haydn, Mozart and Dvorák adaptations at the Palace of Arts.

The beautiful Hungarian State Opera will not go unused: Wagner's Parsifal, Puccini's La Bohème and Bizet's Carmen should light up the evenings of fans of romanticism.

Not-so classics

In the lighter entertainment genre, the gospel choir Blind Boys of Alabama, some of whose members are now in their 70s, is sure to make an impression.

Those who are interested in contemporary dance should watch out for the performance of the American dance group Philadanco. The group performs major works of modern American dance with individual use of form and technical perfection.

Scheduled at the last minute, but no less worth watching, is a concert by the "enfant terrible" of classical music, Nigel Kennedy who replaces Maxim Vengerov.

Read more about this at the Budapest Times website:

Brendel's Swan Song

Alfred Brendel

Pianist Alfred Brendel to give his final Chicago performance

By John von Rhein
Chicago Tribune

The great pianists are a hardy breed who would look at you horror-struck if you even whispered the word "retirement" in their presence. In fact many celebrated artists of the keyboard have been known to continue playing, their powers practically undimmed, well into old age. Think of Arthur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz and Claudio Arrau, all of whom were still going strong into their 80s.

Alfred Brendel certainly could have kept his thriving international career going for another decade or so; instead, he has chosen to bow out gracefully at age 77. The celebrated Austrian pianist is to give his final performance in December, playing a Mozart concerto in Vienna with the Vienna Philharmonic.

Before stepping into the good night of retirement, Brendel is playing a farewell concert tour of Europe and America that is to include stops in major cities including Chicago, where he will make his final Orchestra Hall appearance Sunday afternoon.

Read more about this at the Chicago Tribune website:,1,7748443.story

Enjoy the Classic

Richard Yongjae O'Neill

Violist Richard Yongjae O'Neill's Art of Giving

By Lee Hyo-won
Korea Times

Violist Richard Yongjae O'Neill reminds you of the Energizer Bunny. He keeps going and going. For the 29-year-old violist, it would be typical to go on a cross-country tour with Schubert across Korea, and then fly to Los Angeles to teach for eight hours before heading to New York. After a few days of playing chamber music at the Lincoln Center and fiddling contemporary pieces at the Guggenheim, he's on the move again. Following a quick stop to lecture at UCLA, he's in Milan with John Zorn, making modern music history. This is how 2007 zipped past for the musician.

One of the few violists to ever receive the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant as well as a Grammy Award nomination (Best Soloist with Orchestra), Richard Yongjae O'Neill is rising to prominence as one of the leading artists of his generation. But it seems to be more than a deep passion for music that keeps him going. It is the power of sharing through music.

"An artist should give of oneself. It's important to give, to share, to reflect on the human condition, our finite existence, life, pain, death, all of these things,'' O'Neill told The Korea Times in January when he visited Seoul. He was celebrating New Year's with his New York-based chamber group Sejong Soloists at one of their sellout performances.

Read the complete interview at the Korea Times website:

Business Intelligence - Middle East

Arabic Don Giovanni Earns Standing Ovation

by Maria Karam

The region's first Arabic performance of Mozart's celebrated opera Don Giovanni closed with a standing ovation in the Garden City of the United Arab Emirates Thursday to raise the curtain on the eighth, and largest, annual Al Ain Classical Music Festival.

Having played to a near capacity audience in the Al Ain Municipality Theatre, the cast – of eight soloists from Egypt and Lebanon with a chorus from Lebanon Chorale de l'universite Antonine and superbly accompanied by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra under conductor and musical director Zbigniew Graca – drew tremendous applause as they emerged on stage to take their bows with the production's Polish director Ryszard Peryt.

It was an evening when Al Ain wrote itself into the classical music record books – the first Arabic performance in the region of the Mozart masterpiece with the libretto ably translated through 14 months of dedication by Egyptian opera lover, Dr. Aly Sadek.

It was also a night never to be forgotten for young Lebanese soprano Nadine Nassar who made her operatic debut in the production in the role of Zerlina.

Holding back tears at the end of the performance, Nadine said the evening had been "highly emotional" for her.

"I would like to thank the Al Ain Classical Music Festival Committee for this opportunity. The chance to perform with fellow professionals and under professional direction and accompaniment from such a great orchestra is something I will never forget. Al Ain will be a place I will always now remember."

With a simple, yet dramatic, stage set designed by Ryszard Peryt and rich, period costumes designed by Poland's Katarzyna Stolarczyk, the production was a triumph in combining the libretto, music and theatre talents of both Europe and the Middle East.

Read more about this at the Business Intelligence - Middle East website:


Strings attached

Guardian News

Some musicians like nothing better than to settle down for decades in a chamber ensemble. Others prefer to pick and choose. Who gets the better deal? William Howard and Steven Isserlis compare notes

The 25-year stalwart
William Howard, pianist and founder of the Schubert Ensemble

I met a festival director recently who has a policy of never booking established chamber groups. The best way to get exciting performances, he claims, is to put individual players together for a particular concert. Such a view is not, fortunately, shared by all promoters - but even so, it is a challenge to an ensemble such as ours, which is celebrating its 25th birthday this year.

Spontaneous concerts can be very exciting - and all of us in the Schubert Ensemble enjoy the opportunity to play with others in this way - but I would challenge the view that long-term musical relationships inevitably lead to dull performances. When I think of the most memorable chamber concerts I've heard, I think of the Amadeus Quartet bringing their glorious years of experience to Haydn and Mozart, or the Smetana Quartet at the end of their career giving electrifying performances, by heart, of the Smetana and Janácek quartets.

I sometimes wonder if part of the excitement of one-off performances is caused by a sense of precariousness that can be communicated - often as something quite positive - from players to audience. But for an ensemble to take real risks in a concert, they need to have a history of performing the music together regularly. As any connoisseur of football knows, imaginative and flowing play is more likely to come from a finely honed club team than from a national team of star players who have had little time to train together. When a concert goes well for us, we can achieve what an audience member once described as "group bungee jumping" - the feeling that you can take a performance to its limits and trust everyone else will come with you. ...

The fly-by-night
Steven Isserlis, cellist

One of my favourite musical activities is organising chamber music concerts. Since I spend most of my time playing concertos with orchestra or recitals with piano, the groups I work with are almost invariably one-offs - one-night stands, so to speak. It is exciting, enjoyable - and challenging.

Nowadays, I am very careful only to work with trusted friends and colleagues. It is essential that we get along personally, as well as musically. Actually, the two are related: everyone knows the feeling of being introduced to a stranger and finding you have absolutely nothing to say to them. The same applies in music; you can play chamber music with someone, and feel that you are playing a completely different piece - no conversation is taking place. ...

Read more about this at the Guardian News website:,,2262784,00.html

Dance Theatre of Harlem Remerges

Dance Theatre of Harlem

Regrouped Dance Theatre of Harlem to focus on education

By Susan Reiter
L.A. Times

The organization's financial picture improved after a hiatus, but not enough to put its company back on tour.

Until a few years ago, whenever Dance Theatre of Harlem was on a tour of U.S. cities, it routinely held auditions for its school's summer program or to spot potential apprentice dancers. But that was before September 2004, when financial realities forced the umbrella organization to put the professional troupe on hiatus.

At the time, DTH founder and artistic director Arthur Mitchell says, he expected an interruption of a year at most. But although the sizable deficit and the grim overall financial situation that threatened the organization in 2004 have diminished substantially, no one will be seeing the professional company in the near future.

Instead, DTH is conducting a 10-city audition tour devoted solely to the intensive student summer program at its spacious Harlem headquarters, which continues to hum with activity. The Los Angeles tryouts will be held Sunday at the Lula Washington Dance Theatre.

"We made up our minds that we wanted to fill that gap that existed because the company was no longer on tour," the indefatigable and eternally youthful Mitchell, who will turn 74 this month, said the other day. Just outside the conference room where he sat hung posters from DTH's foreign tours -- souvenirs of engagements in Monte Carlo, Verona, Germany, Barcelona.

Read more about this at the LA Times website:,1,994856.story

The Mathematics of Music


Ryoji Ikeda

By Donald Eubank
Japan Times Online

So forward-looking that it's hard to categorize him - Is he an artist? A musician? A conceptualist? - Ryoji Ikeda makes the music that we'll lull the robots to sleep with when they ultimately try to take over. Or that we'll use to convince ourselves that we are the robots.

For performances, Ikeda - who says the most important aspects of his works are "ideas and results" - matches his dense electronic compositions with visuals that could come from a monitor of whatever machine would produce such sounds. The scale of his works feels immense - his last performance in Japan was of "datamatics [prototype]" at the Tokyo International Forum's cavernous Hall C, in which a screen stretched across the full stage projected digital noise. James Brown it's not.

Earlier, Ikeda worked with Hiroshi Sugimoto to produce the crunching sonic backdrop at the Mori Art Museum's exhibition of the photographer's iconic prints of ocean horizons. For his latest, the multitalented artist is revising "datamatics" as a "[ver. 2.0]" in Itami on March 13 and Tokyo March 16.

Read the interview with Ryoji Ikeda at the Japan Times Online website:

Musick has Charms to Sooth

Sleeping Dog

New classical CD aimed at calming dogs

By Amy Hollyfield ABC 7 News

Classical music can often calm our heart rate down in traffic, but can it also affect our dogs? A music teacher in Half Moon Bay has just released a new CD specifically targeting out of control canines.

The call of the wild isn't always welcomed indoors. You can't exactly tell that to Sanchez and his friends, but what if music can call the wild right out of them?

Music teacher Lisa Specter accidentally discovered that certain kinds of music she played seemed to bring the energy level down a notch in the dogs she was pet sitting, and also in her very energetic yellow lab.

"I noticed that when I played the piano and when I played certain kinds of music, that he would slow down, lie down and go to sleep within a very short period of time," said Lisa Specter, creator and composer.

She started leaving the music on when she left Sanchez home alone, and he never ate another pair of diamond earrings or destroyed parts of her piano again. Until one day when she couldn't find her CD and tried some different music.

"It was still slow and I thought 'oh this will work, it's really ok,' and I came back and pillows were torn apart and tissues from the trash were all over the place. He was not a happy dog," said Lisa Specter.

Now she realized she was on to something. So she took her discovery and her questions to psycho acoustic sound researcher Joshua Leeds. Four different CDs and 150 dogs later they zeroed in on the music that can calm our canines.

Read more about this at the KGO/ABC 7 News website:

Staatskapelle Dresden

German Orchestra Takes Richard Wagner to Abu Dhabi

Deutsche Welle

The New York Philharmonic is hardly the only orchestra to have visited a "hostile" country. DW spoke to Jan Nast, orchestral director of Dresden's Staatskapelle, about whether music can build bridges between cultures.

The tradition of "classical diplomacy" in Germany runs long and deep. In the 1970s and 1980s, Romanian-born conductor Sergiu Celibidache and the Munich Philharmonic were very active in Communist Eastern Europe and often enlisted by the West German government as cultural ambassadors.

Since 1999, the Argentina-born musical director of Berlin's State Opera House, Daniel Barenboim, has led the East-Western Divan Orchestra, which united Israeli and Palestinian musicians. In 2005, the Berlin Philharmonic made an extensive trip to China, which is the subject of a film released this week.

On Saturday, March 8, the Saechsische Staatskapelle Dresden -- Saxony's state orchestra -- is scheduled to perform an all-Wagner concert in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. DW-WORLD.DE spoke to orchestra director Jan Nast about high culture and the everyday task of creating cultural understanding.

Read the complete interview by Jefferson Chase at the Deutsche Welle website:,2144,3167157,00.html

BBC Proms Not Inclusive Enough

British Culture Minister Margaret Hodge

Culture minister criticises Proms

by Peter Apps

Culture minister Margaret Hodge stirred up a storm on Tuesday by criticising the annual promenade classical music concerts in London's Albert Hall as not inclusive enough for a modern multi-ethnic society.

The Last Night of the Proms each September sees hundreds of concertgoers in the hall and across the road in Hyde Park waving flags to patriotic songs like "Land of Hope and Glory," "Jerusalem" and "Rule Britannia."

But challenging the arts sector to better reflect modern Britain, Hodge said they were reaching too narrow an audience.

"The audiences for many of our greatest cultural events -- I'm thinking particularly of the Proms -- is still a long way from demonstrating that people from different backgrounds feel that they are a part of this," she said in a speech to a London think tank.

[See for yourself: Schedule for the 2007 BBC Proms]

Read more about this at the Reuters website:


Radio 2 plans less weekday classical music

Guy Dixon
Globe and Mail

For the final phase of its overhaul of Radio 2, the CBC plans to play less classical music weekday mornings and late afternoons and more pop, showcasing a wider variety of Canadian music and aiming to appeal to a broader audience.

The new weekday morning show from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. will be a mix of much less classical and much more pop, leaning toward established musicians such as Joni Mitchell and Diana Krall, with around 50-per-cent Canadian content. There's no decision yet on who the host will be.

The midday show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. will be entirely classical, playing both CDs and live performances, with around 40-per-cent Canadian content. But the drive-home afternoon show will be the biggest departure from current programming. That show from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. will ignore classical entirely and instead air a wide variety of genres from contemporary pop and world music to blues and roots, with an emphasis on newer songs and artists such as Feist and Serena Ryder.

In September, Radio 2 will also launch separate all-day all-classical, all-jazz and all-singer-songwriter stations on the Internet. Radio 3 will remain an Internet- and satellite-based service. However, one petitioner among a vocal group of listeners, musicians and composers who have criticized the overhaul argued yesterday that even an all-classical Web-based service wouldn't rectify the fact that Radio 2's on-air, non-classical programs are moving away from what had been the network's core listeners.

Read more about this at the Globe and Mail website:

The Beautiful Music that Surrounds You

John Work III

Exhibit revives musicologist's work

By John Gerome
Associated Press

When people say John Work III had "big ears," they're not being unkind.

Work, who died in 1967 at age 65, had a gift for finding and collecting black folk music. He traveled the South recording blues singers, work songs, ballads, church choirs, dance tunes, whatever struck him as showing the evolution of black music.

And yet what might be his greatest achievement went largely unnoticed for 60 years, stashed in a file cabinet at Hunter College in New York. Now, with the opening of a new exhibit on Work's life at Fisk University and a companion CD, some say Work is finally getting his due.

"He was seeking out music that many African-American academics at the time had no use for," said Evan Hatch, a professional folklorist who helped compile the Fisk exhibit, "The Beautiful Music that Surrounds You," which runs through May 11.

A classically trained musician and composer, Work taught at Fisk University, a black college founded in 1865 to educate newly freed slaves. He also directed the school's famed Jubilee Singers and ran its music department.

Read more about this at the Louisville Courier-Journal website:

More Than One Way to Play the Cello

Frances-Marie Uitti

Changing the Rules of Cello Playing

by Joshua Kosman
San Francisco Chronicle

The cello is a very fine instrument - just ask Yo-Yo Ma - but it has some fundamental weaknesses. The most obvious one is that there's no way to play more than two of its four strings simultaneously.

Fortunately, a solution is at hand. Scratch that: two solutions.

One comes from the German cellist and composer Michael Bach, who has developed a curved cello bow with loosely strung hairs that can be drawn across all four cello strings at once. The result is a rich, warm mass of overtones that is a far cry from the broken chords cellists generally have to use to play, say, Bach's Suites for Solo Cello.

Frances-Marie Uitti, an American cellist and composer now living in Amsterdam, has a different idea. Over the course of several decades, she's become expert at playing with two bows at once – one in the normal position atop the strings and the other between the strings and the body of the cello – so that the number of string combinations available to her increases instantly.

Read more about this at the SF Gate website:

Tales of Music and the Brain

Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks

The Musical Mystery
By Colin McGinn

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain
by Oliver Sacks
Knopf, 381 pp., $26.00

Music is so ubiquitous and ancient in the human species – so integral to our nature – that we must be born to respond to it: there must be a music instinct. Just as we naturally take to language, as a matter of our innate endowment, so must music have a specific genetic basis, and be part of the very structure of the human brain.

An unmusical alien would be highly perplexed by our love of music - and other terrestrial species are left cold by what so transports us. Music is absolutely normal for members of our species, but utterly quirky. Moreover, it is known that music activates almost all the human brain: the sensory centers, the prefrontal cortex that underlies rational functions, the emotional areas (cerebellum, amygdala, and nucleus accumbens), the hippocampus for memory, and the motor cortex for movement. When you listen to a piece of music your brain is abuzz with intense neural activity.

Read the complete review at the New York Review of Books website:


Call for Submissions
(Papers, Panels, and Tutorials)

The Ninth International Conference on Music Information Retrieval will take place September 14-18, 2008 (Sunday through Thursday), at Drexel University in Philadelphia, USA. Since its inception in 2000, ISMIR has rapidly become the premier venue for the multidisciplinary field of accessing, analyzing, and managing large collections and archives of music information. The expansion of the music information retrieval (MIR) community reflects the enormous challenges and opportunities presented by the recent and tremendous growth in available music and music-related data.

Throughout ISMIR 2008, space will be available for publishers, software companies, booksellers, service providers, system vendors, and any other businesses interested in exhibiting their MIR-related products.

Read more about this at the ISMIR website: