Breaking news: Another wheel comes off the big machine

Breaking news: Another wheel comes off the big machine


norman lebrecht

January 14, 2011

Last year’s turmoil in the classical music business is about to accelerate. One of the key managers in IMG Artists, the second largest agency, has walked out with most of her artists.

Shirley Thomson, deputy director of the vocal division, has joined HarrisonParrott, itself at the centre of corporate moves and upheavals. Thomson is responsible for such high performers as Anne-Sofie von Otter, Camilla Tilling, Kim Begley, Lawrence Zazzo, Olaf Bär and Patricia Bardon. All sides are staying very quiet until legal matters are resolved but it is expected that most if not all of Thomson’s clients will join her at HP.
Her defection, following Simon Goldstone’s walkout with Joyce DiDonato and 20 other singers, constitutes a massive blow to IMG’s aspiration to be a supermarket of classical talent. The agency has also lost senior v-p Maurice Whitaker, who looked after a range of instrumentalists. The ease (and contract loops) with which Goldstone took DiDonato has left IMG looking vulnerable to further raids, and HP were not slow to swoop.
Jasper Parrott had been trying to sell his agency last year to Universal Music, but his deal collapsed with a change of management at the record company (see Deal of the Century is Off). He faced a choice of bigging up or bowing out, and took the first course. Capturing Shirley Thomson and her artists is a considerable site forward in HP’s survival strategy.
Where that leaves beleaguered IMG is surrounded by question marks. Its owner, Barrett Wissman, removed himself from day-to-day running of the business after confessing to fraud in a high-profile US political prosecution two years ago. His ownership, however, has not been diminished, nor has his promotional interest in the career of his wife, the cellist Nina Kotova, and other artists.
In the past year, IMG’s only coup was to attract the conductor Semyon Bychkov after the sale of his former agency, Val Walsum. Several senior IMG managers have been seen whispering to their rivals, fostering rumours of further potential walkouts. The rot has not been stopped.
For other 2011 classical moves, see here.
Press release follows.
Anne-Sofie von Otter
 Camilla Tilling (IMG portraits)



January 2011, London



Thomson joins HarrisonParrott as a Director to lead the expansion of the Vocal


is pleased to announce that Shirley Thomson will join the Board of Directors
from April 2011. Currently Deputy Director of IMG Artists Vocal Division,
Shirley will lead the expansion of HarrisonParrott’s vocal list alongside
Associate Director Ian Stones and Special Consultant Paola Quaglia. Iarlaith
, recently appointed an Associate Director, will also
contribute towards the new team.


Chairman and
Joint Managing Director Jasper Parrott commented: “Shirley’s approach to artist
management reflects our own commitment to realising the long term aspirations
and career development of our artists. We are delighted that she will help us
consolidate and further develop the high quality list which Ian Stones has built
in recent years into a distinctive roster commensurate with our list of
conductors and instrumentalists.”


Stones added: “Shirley’s experience and outstanding contribution to the careers
of those artists she represents is well known and respected within the
international classical music industry. I am thrilled to be working with her in
developing the Vocal Division.”


“I am
thoroughly looking forward to this new challenge with Harrison Parrott, working
again with some former colleagues and getting to know many new ones”, commented
Shirley Thomson. “It is exciting to be involved in the development of a
department and I feel confident that, together with the excellent and
experienced team already in place, we will be in a strong position to create new
opportunities for both existing and future


her time at IMG Artists Shirley Thomson has helped shaped the careers of Stephen
Milling, Anne Sofie von Otter, Camilla Tilling, Juha Uusitalo and Jennifer
Wilson amongst many others. Her earlier work for the European Community Youth
Orchestra saw her work on tours with such celebrated artists as Claudio Abbado,
Carlo Maria Giulini and Mstislav Rostropovich.


current vocal roster includes Paul Agnew, Barry Banks, Richard Berkeley-Steele,
Orla Boylan, Susan Bullock, Klara Ek, Bo Kristian Jensen, Helena Juntunen,
Juanita Lascarro, Simon Lim, Garry Magee, Georg Nigl, Lilli Paasikivi, Eliana
Pretorian, Ville Rusanen, Andreas Scholl, Mark Tucker and Angelica Voje. A full
list of HarrisonParrott artists can be found at 


announcements regarding the expansion of HarrisonParrott’s Vocal Division will
be made in due course. 



For further information, contact:



Marketing and
PR Manager





  • anon says:

    And where is Ian Stones in all this story?