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Classical Crib Sheet: Top 5 Stories This Week

The New York Philharmonic performing at the current incarnation of Avery Fisher Hall in January 2011. (courtesy of the New York Philharmonic)

  • Lincoln Center and the New York Phil have confirmed plans for a (long, long overdue) major overhaul of 50-year-old Avery Fisher Hall that "aims to redefine what it means to be a concert hall at a time of challenging orchestra economics and changing audience habits." This will be the third attempt at addressing the venue's acoustical challenges.
  • The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has a lengthy and fairly damning account of financial management at the Minnesota Orchestra in recent years: "For four years, the Minnesota Orchestra board has walked a tightrope between managing public perceptions about its financial health and making its case to cut musicians' salaries. ... Musicians have wondered why the orchestra is asking to cut their base salaries by about 32 percent after it had balanced its budget for four years before announcing a deficit in 2011."
  • In the wake of the publishing of that piece, the Minnesota musicians called a press conference on Monday in which the leader of their negotiating team, Tim Zavadil, "questioned the board's 'hiding large deficits' during the recession so as not to negatively affect fundraising for a new hall and a bonding request before the Legislature." And by Tuesday evening, they had issued a unanimous no-confidence vote in the orchestra's CEO, Michael Henson. (Then the board chair and the board's negotiating chair shot back with a furious piece, also in the Star-Tribune, accusing the musicians of "attention-diverting tactics.")
  • And even though they also have been locked out, the musicians of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra have announced that they will be playing two holiday concerts with two prominent and longtime SPCO-associated conductors who are championing their efforts: Pinchas Zukerman and Hugh Wolff.
  • Sticky fingers in the Peach State: Officials of Atlanta's Woodruff Arts Center, parent company to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, announced that a "midlevel employee" who left in October had filed $1.438 million in phony invoices. "The first way to re-establish credibility is to let folks know this happened," says the center's board chair, Larry Gellerstedt. "We take it very seriously, and we're on it."

Classical geek? Keep going ...

  • What's the return on investment been on Gustavo Dudamel for the LA Phil? The Phil has seen attendance gains early in Dudamel's tenure. "The recent filing of the Los Angeles Philharmonic's federal tax return for 2010-11 shows that Dudamel earned $985,363 in salary and benefits for 2010, his first full calendar year on the job. ... Its tax returns document a 21% overall increase in ticket sales for orchestral performances in L.A. over his first two seasons — although he does not conduct every performance. (The gains were in part because of 10 additional concerts during the 2010-11 season.)"
  • Steinway's Zurich offices were raided by Swiss authorities Wednesday as part of an antitrust investigation, in which "evidence indicates that there may have been agreements on sales territories and prices for Steinway pianos."
  • Composer Osvaldo Golijov has missed the fourth deadline for the premiere of his violin concerto. Originally commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic and the Barbican Centre for violinist Leonidas Kavakos, the work wasn't ready in time for any of those venues. The LA Phil passed the baton to Carnegie Hall for Philadelphia Orchestra performances with Kavakos this coming January; now that plan has been scrapped, too. In a statement, Golijov remarked, "Some works have a pleasant birth, while others a difficult one. ... The violin concerto belongs to the second type."
  • Remember that thing in the New York Times last week in which former Met violinist Les Dreyer harrumphed about how the "cacophony of rock" was killing off classical music? Readers' responses include this gem: "I appreciate your concern for the future of classical music, but please, please, never pit classical music against rock, because the latter will almost always win, and it isn't a choice anyone should ever have to make anyway." (Amen!) And: "Exposure to classical music (and sneaking it in through movies and cartoons) is fine, but what is really likely to make a difference is experience playing classical music. ... Performing powerful compositions puts music not just in the ears of children, but in their fingers, heads and hearts." (Yes. This.)
  • Four students at the Baldwin Wallace University Conservatory of Music in Berea, Ohio were busted this week for operating an Ecstasy lab; two were also charged with theft and burglary. The lead investigator says the group's text messages were actually "pretty funny" — when one student bragged about his really "sweet hat," another replied that a fedora is not for breaking and entering. "Basically it amounts to a written confession," says detective Dennis Bort of the Berea PD. "I love texting. It's the best thing that ever happened to me."
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