- The Detroit Symphony Orchestra booked an unexpected guest artist, and his name is: Kid Rock. They're doing a benefit concert together May 12 to raise $1 million for the struggling symphony, with tickets from $100 to $1500. Says the singer: "As a musician, and of course a Detroiter, I am proud to be supporting this longstanding cultural institution. And while I know these ticket prices are more than what my fans are used to paying, I am confident that whatever happens when we put the Twisted Brown Trucker Band, a 80-piece orchestra, and 'Bawitdaba' together will be well worth the price of admission."
- Remember how both Anna Netrebko and Valery Gergiev (among other prominent Russian musicians) recently appeared on a list of 499 celebrities endorsing Vladimir Putin? Well, the Putin campaign has just released a campaign video featuring Gergiev that's up on Putin's official YouTube channel. According to a translation Alex Ross posted, Gergiev says, "One needs to be able to hold oneself ... presidentially ... so that people reckon with the country. I don't know if it's fear? Respect? Reckoning."
- Trumpet legend Maurice André died last Saturday at age 78: "Along with his reputation for brilliant high notes and a seemingly endless supply of breath, André also expanded the repertoire for the trumpet by commissioning new works from composers André Jolivet, Henri Tomasi and Boris Blacher and transcribing music originally written for other instruments. But it is for performances of Baroque music by Bach, Purcell, Handel and Telemann that André will be best remembered."
- Howard Kissel, a longtime veteran critic for the New York Daily News, died this past Friday at 69 after complications from a 2010 liver transplant. Kissel was his paper's chief theater critic, but his interests ranged widely, and he frequently wrote about classical music and opera with keen insight.
- Conductor Myung-Whun Chung's plans to create a joint North-South Korean orchestra have stalled, but he is traveling to Pyongyang to conduct a joint performance by North Korea's Unhasu Orchestra and his French orchestra, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France.
- Plácido Domingo was just talking up Verdi's opera Simon Boccanegra on The Colbert Report, but the March 7 performance of Boccanegra starring the famous tenor with the Opera Orchestra of New York (OONY) has been canceled due to a $250,000 grant falling through. "It's simply the economic times we're in," said OONY board chair Norman Raben, who declined to name the donor who withdrew.
- Is this "Who Cares If You Listen?" redux? Hungarian-French composer Peter Eötvös said to Toronto's Globe And Mail that it doesn't matter if new music has an audience: "I don't think it's important. If you start from a point of view of doing something for the public, you won't create a new world."
- After visiting Venezuela with the LA Phil, Mark Swed has returned with insights about what the U.S. might learn from El Sistema: "Kids aren't given private lessons and then told to go off and practice for hours. The children in the núcleos learn together playing in kiddie orchestras. The older children help coach the younger ones. They rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, every day. They grow up together. The metaphor everyone in El Sistema uses is family ... This might rankle American educators who teach creative spelling and the like, but the fostering of individual creativity is simply not, for Abreu, a goal."
- Remember how Barcelona's Liceu theater was going to close for two months mid-season due to a budgetary deficit? Happily, the decision has been reversed. (link in Spanish)
- After two four-week extensions of her contract, Allison Vulgamore has been given the nod to helm the bankrupt Philadelphia Orchestra as its president and CEO for at least another three more years. Her base salary is $450,000 per year, but her extra compensation, including bonuses, could bring the number up to well over $800,000.
- Very upsetting: Mexican conductor named Rodolfo Cazares, who leads Germany's Bremerhaven city orchestra, was kidnapped along with 18 other members of his extended family (including three American citizens). Seven months later, Cazares and three other men are still missing, despite his family having paid four ransoms to the drug cartel presumed to be responsible.
- In the 2015-16 season, Chicago's Lyric Opera will premiere an opera based on Ann Patchett's novel Bel Canto. Worth noting: This is the first new work debuted by Lyric in more than a decade. The composer is the Peruvian 33-year-old Jimmy Lopez and the librettist is the Cuban-born Pulitzer Prize winner Nilo Cruz. The first composer to try to tackle Patchett's novel, Aaron Jay Kernis, didn't complete a Bel Canto opera commissioned by Santa Fe Opera after the death of both his parents in 2004. Also, according to the Chicago Sun-Times' Andrew Patner, all credit should be given to soprano Renee Fleming, who "continues to exert her considerable influence ... in her second year in her parallel career as creative consultant to Lyric Opera of Chicago, [she] has moved a conservative institution."
- Aloha, Hawaii! This weekend the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra gives its debut concert, featuring Beethoven's Fifth Symphony — a year after its predecessor, the Honolulu Symphony, folded. Conductor JoAnn Falletta is serving as artistic advisor.
- Critic Anne Midgette on musicians who write about music — and the state of classical music criticism generally: "If music criticism is flagging in today's newspapers, it's precisely because the way the profession has developed in newspapers has leached it of some of that creativity. Indeed, if the general loss of coverage of classical music means fewer formulaic, rote, checklist reviews, it's actually a good thing, particularly if it stimulates the growth of other forums and other more vital ways of writing about music ... And in today's changing climate, when classical music no longer occupies the central place in our cultural life that it did 50 years ago, we need this creativity more than ever — to lead us to new outlets and new forms of expression. Even if this means more musicians writing about music, and fewer music critics."
- Indie-music powerhouse Pitchfork ran a story this week on the indie classical music scene: "Over the past decade, indie-classical has grown past the point where it's some miraculous new fruit on pop culture's Big Tree. It's a high-functioning cottage industry now ... This scene is resourceful, optimistic, and building on the best lessons their teachers gave them. Stick together. Do as many different things as you feel like. Don't worry about big organizations. Make it happen yourself."
- And here's a lengthy but engaging primer on the music of Bach, introduced in a way that reminds how our language differs from that of mainstream culture: "Welcome to the world of classical music, where Beethoven is not a dog, Biber is not a teenage heartthrob, Alkan is not a DJ, Sibelius is not a piece of software, Humperdinck is not a sixties crooner, and fingering is not a dirty word."
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