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Marlboro Festival 2009


The Music Mountain

The classical world's most coveted retreat

By Alex Ross
The New Yorker

Mitsuko Uchida, one of the world's leading classical pianists, could comfortably pass her summers flying from one festival to another, staying in luxury hotels and private villas. Instead, she stays on the campus of Marlboro College, a small liberal-arts institution in southern Vermont. Since 1951, the college has hosted Marlboro Music, an outwardly low-key summer gathering that functions variously as a chamber-music festival, a sort of finishing school for gifted young performers, and a clandestine summit for the musical intelligentsia. Uchida and the pianist Richard Goode serve as Marlboro's co-directors, alternating the lead role from year to year; last summer, when I visited three times, Uchida was in residence from late June until early August. She plays a variety of roles in the Marlboro world – high priest, den mother, provocateur, jester, and arbiter of style.

Marlboro, whose fifty-ninth session gets under way next week, is a singular phenomenon. The great Austrian-born pianist Rudolf Serkin, Marlboro's co-founder and longtime leader, once declared that he wished to "create a community, almost utopian," where artists could forget about commerce and escape into a purely musical realm. Marlboro has been compared to a kibbutz, a hippie commune, Shangri-La, a cult (but "a good cult"), Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, and George Orwell's Animal Farm, where "all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." On certain lazy days, it becomes a highbrow summer camp, where brainy musicians go swimming in the local pond.

Read more about this at the New Yorker website (subscription and registration required):

Music School Enrollment Soaring

The Colburn School by Dennis Keeley

Music schools seeing influx of funds

By Howard Reich
Chicago Tribune

The numbers alone are staggering:

$90 million
for Northwestern University's new music school building in Evanston;

$120 million
for the recently completed Colburn School conservatory in Los Angeles;

$193 million
for the physical expansion of the Juilliard School in New York.

And that's not all. Tens of millions of dollars more are pouring into other music schools across the country – in an era when professional symphony orchestras are struggling to survive and jazz clubs are an increasingly endangered species (outside urban centers such as Chicago, New York and New Orleans).

Which raises the question: Why is so much money from foundations, individuals and universities funneling into institutions that train ultra-sophisticated musicians? Performance opportunities for classical and jazz artists – primary beneficiaries of higher education in music – would seem limited in a pop culture world.

Read more about this at the Chicago Tribune website:,1,6305410.story

Fiske Museum Collection Sold


A Departure Sadly Noted

Seldom shown for lack of funding, the Claremont Colleges' rare musical instrument collection is sold.

By Larry Gordon
Los Angeles Times

For lovers of rare musical instruments, the Fiske Museum at the Claremont Colleges long has been an astonishing if somewhat mysterious collection.

Its 1,200 instruments from around the world include an 18th-century Italian mandolin, unusual over-the-shoulder military brasses from the Civil War era, a gourd fiddle from Africa and a 9-foot-long temple trumpet from Tibet.

The museum had limited visiting hours at its home in the windowless basement of Bridges Auditorium for three decades, and then it closed altogether 16 months ago, partly because of a lack of upkeep funds. Now, almost the entire batch – harpsichords, pianos, clarinets, banjos and cymbals – will leave its home in Claremont and be sold for an undisclosed price to a music museum under construction in Arizona.

The move is triggering strong protests from some music faculty members, who say Claremont is losing a cultural treasure. But other officials are expressing relief that the collection will have a better-funded steward and a lot more public exposure at the new Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, an ambitious project financially backed by Robert Ulrich, chairman of Target Corp.

Read more about this at the Los Angeles Times website:,0,4155195.story

Top European Music Festivals

Ensemble L'Aura Soave performing at the Monteverdi Festival, Cremona 2001

Europe's top classical music festivals

By Alexandra Ferguson
The Telegraph

Time your holiday to tie in with one of Europe's classical music festivals. Alexandra Ferguson picks 10 of the best.

The final notes of a Bach partita reverberate in the still air of the Thomaskirche. A string quartet plays beneath flamboyant frescoes in an Austrian palace. And in Bayreuth, Brünnhilde charges once more into the flames.

Soon the summer music festival season will be upon us, and the world's top orchestras and conductors, soloists and chamber groups will converge on the towns and cities where the great composers lived and worked, to perform in palaces and churches, town halls and theatres.

From obscure suites played on period instruments to familiar orchestral works, there is music to suit the casual listener as well as the connoisseur. And with ticket offices open for advance bookings, if you are thinking of combining a holiday with some of the best classical concerts in Europe, you should be making plans already.

Read more about this at the The Telegraph website:'s-top-classical-music-festivals.html

Exploring Different Musical Traditions


Home from Japan

By Barry Davis
Jerusalem Post

Even in an era where cultural and ethnic boundaries are leapfrogged with ever increasing frequency, the idea of a Western classically trained Japanese woman immersing herself in Eastern Jewish liturgical texts and music takes some getting used to.

Today, Kumiko Yayama Bar-Yossef knows more than a thing or two about piyutim (liturgical poems) and, in fact, can enlighten most native Israelis about the subject.

Yayama – who is married to musicology professor Amatzia Bar-Yossef – first came to Jerusalem in 1992 to pursue a PhD in musicology, but her music education began much earlier. "I studied ballet from the age of four and I took up Western classical piano from the age of six," she explains in fluent Hebrew.

While Yayama didn't exactly come from a family of musicians, there was always something interesting to listen to at home. "My father was just a taxi driver. He didn't have a lot of money but he was crazy about stereo technology and we always had the best system going at home. We listened mostly to Western classical music and, at some stage, my father also taught himself to play guitar."

Read more about this at the Jerusalem Post 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:

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:

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:


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: