They taught them how to use their fists in the old KGB, usually on interrogation suspects.

Alexander Lebedev – owner of the Evening Standard, the Independent and the Independent on Sunday – now shows that he has lost none of his skill in a Russian TV debate. What he might be saying as he tries to beat up a fellow-businessman is ‘we ask the questions’.


Here’s the BBC report.


One last question: Would you say this man is a fit and proper person to own three British newspapers?

‘We just had a little artistic difference,’ says Roberto Alagna to Le Figaro, here.

And one of us had to go.

Le ténor, Roberto Alagna

photo: AFP/Le Figaro

The director of ‘A competition for conductors to avoid’ has written a response that attempts to rebut the main criticisms by young contestants who felt they were ripped off. Here is Raluca Chifane’s letter :


Dear Mr. Lebrecht,
I am the Director of the Festival and fortunately I have been informed about the existence of this blog.
I understand when somebody is not pleased or disappointed with things regarding organisation or methods of teaching. But I can´t accept when disgusting lies are part of a subjective report posted anonymously.
Please allow me to send the original informations to you.
We had planed to invite 36 participants for the competition. The possibility to participate to both competition and masterclass was open.
I received questions from many applicants such as: “Do I still have to send the recommandation letter and the DVD (as part of the documents for the competition application) if I come to the masterclass?” or : “I want to try also the competition. Is possible to apply for both?”
My answers were: Of course. It is possible as long as you´ll send the required documents and these will be accepted. The participation in the course will not change the terms & conditions of the competition.
The reason why we decided to accept more competitors (over the number of 36, which had been achieved long before the application deadline) was to give a chance, since many of them didn´t have the possibility to make a competition before.
Here I give the numbers of the invited participants (out of 252 applications): 27 masterclass participants, out of them 22 who took part in the competition. Alltogether 60 competitors (appeared 55).
If the author of the report has been thinking it would help to have a better chance in the competition by coming to the masterclass, this was really his interpretation and finally it was his decision to join both events.
The accusation of corruption and immorality is an outrageous allegation.
Regarding the chairmanship of the Maestro who as well led the mastercourse: this was from the very beginning mentioned on the site: “without voting”. We wanted to separate his functions very clearly.
Regarding the pedagogical part: He answered to all questions of the conductors within their podium time. Many questions came afterwords. The answers of course had to wait until the end of the colleagues´ podium times.
Then: the way how this participant is writting about a tired orchestra, about the prizes, even about the criteria of the jury is also very problematic. He mixes up numbers of competitors with numbers of masterclass participants and orchestra sessions. Why? The two orchestras have played in 8 sessions for the masterclass participants.
“overworked and exhausted orchestra that has been playing 7 full days with 59 different conductors” is rubbish.
In the competition the Radio Symphony Orchestra was engaged in two sessions, the string orchestra in one session.
And again strangely shown: “By then it was Wednesday. I was then informed that my 30 minutes with the radio orchestra would be until next Monday… 4 long days in Bucharest, 35 degrees celsius.”
Wednesday was the first competition day, no course, no announcement. On Thursday I was able to forward the information of an extra session with the Radio Symphony Orchestra for Monday afternoon. Coming for a mastercourse means to stay for the entire period following the course even when it is not your turn to conduct or to play. 35 degrees? Imagine that the orchestra was rehearsing in a hall and not outside.
Further there is a very big mistake which he wrote regarding the prizes: on the site was very clearly announced: “the 1rst prize is an engagement in the final concert of the next edition of the festival” (never this year). The final of the competition was not more or less than the final concert of the festival 2011.
Then there are again wrong presumptions regarding the money prizes. The jury decided to summarize the money prizes of the 2nd and 3rd prize for the 3 awarded finalists. As announced on the site, all finalists also did receive 150€ for travel costs.
In order to correct further comments:
– for the final decision the jury summed up the impressions of all rounds. The jury assessed the concrete work on technical skills, compository styles and their differences, esthetic messages and their ways of expression has still to be well structurated and implemented.
– everybody did get the same podium time.
– the “why” questions have been answerd to the finalists and of course because of discretion not to the audience.
– the special prize of the jury was awarded as encouragement to one semifinalist.
– since the audience of the opened rounds changed, it was not possible anymore to speak about an audience prize.
– the accomodation in the shared rooms (4-6 bed not 6 conductors!) was from the very beginnig announced on the site. Everybody could decide to make the reservation over there (the costs were 5€ bed&breakfast per day). Nobody was forced. I did several times remember about the status quo in my correspondance with the participants.
– the fees of similar events (very often with semi-professional orchestras) are much higher.
The main reason for me to organize this event was to inspire, encourage, support talented musicians. And I want to offer an exchange of artistic ideas based on the deeper truth of arts that we all should cultivate and promote.
The sense of the masterclass was from the very beginning to offer especially to young conductors a possibility of working with their intrument, as most of them finish their studies without practicing with a professional orchestra. Instrumentalists much more have the opportunity to play or practice on a very good instrument or to play in a renowned concert hall.
Even though we have had only 4 editions of these masterclasses, we got feedback from several participants who won competitions or post graduated study places because of working and playing at this Festival.
The competition especially is helping to achieve more psycological experience for the profession you´ve choosen. Increasing self-confidence allways will improve the career.
I hope I can rectify the misplaced statements.
By the way, I´m a romanian born and my team is working at this festival without getting any honoraries.


Here‘s a column I wrote when Kurt Sanderling laid down his baton in 2002, after 70 years in the podium.

May he rest in peace.

The quiet legend that was Kurt Sanderling is no more.

He died in Berlin on September 17, two days short of his 99th birthday.

Sanderling, a German refugee in Stalin’s Russia, grew very close to Dmitri Shostakovich during and after the Second World War. He was joint principal conductor of the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra with Yevgeny Mravinsky, effectively his deputy. He would get to conduct the second run of performances of each new symphony after his boss had given the premiere. Mravinsky, a man of deep reserve, had a cold and formal relationship with Shostakovich. Sanderling became a close friend.

When I asked him once to talk about it, he refused. ‘I don’t like to make myself look great through my contact with a man of true greatness,’ he said. (A longer interview about DSCH can be found here.)

He returned to East Germany in 1960 to direct the Berlin Symphony Orchestra for 17 years. A mild-mannered socialist, he was trusted by the regime and allowed to guest conduct in the west, where he worked productively with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and with the Philharmonia, in London. His recordings of Mahler’s 9th symphony and Shostakovich’s 10th and 15th are among the most impressive available.

Through a lifelong friendship with the composer Berthold Goldschmidt, he was among the first conductors to perform Deryck Cooke’s completion of Mahler’s 10th symphony, which Goldschmidt had premiered in 1964. Here’s a video clip.

Sanderling retired from the podium in 2002.

Two of his sons, Thomas and Stefan (below), enjoy international careers as conductors. A third, Michael, is a cellist and conductor.

Hundreds of people have responded to a previous post I published about long serving orchestral musicians. Out of these reports and suggestions, I have compiled a league of honour of 26 men and women who served in one orchestra for more than half a century.

One significant trend emerges from this exercise. Almost all the players reported served in US, Soviet or pre-1945 British orchestras. Senior service in orchestras is almost unknown in continental Europe, obliterated by social legislation.

I have excluded freelancers who played in many orchestras, such as the excellent Martin Ormandy (Eugene’s brother) who joined the New York Philharmonic in 1921 and was in every pickup orchestra until 1996 (75 years). Or Eugene Levinson, who started in the Leningrad Chamber Orchestra at age 14, then joined Mravinsky’s orchestra and went on to become principal bass of the Minnesota orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. Retired last year after 26 years in NY, a 60-year career.

Here’s the premier league (last updated December 2020):

1. Bass: Jane Little, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra – 1945 to 2016 – 71 years, 105 days.
Asst. Principal Bass Emeritus of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Jane Little, first performed with the ASO on February 4 1945 under their original name of Atlanta Youth Symphony for two years before the orchestra officially changed to Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in 1947.

UPDATE: Jane played in a concert on May 15, 2016. She suffered a collapse and died that day.

2. Violinist Frances Darger: Utah Symphony 1942 to 2012 – 70 years – retiring at the end of the 2012 season.

3. Principal Timpanist Richard Horowitz: Metropolitan Opera Orchestra 1946 to 2012 – 66 years – retired 2012, died 2015, aged 91.

4. Violinist Felix Resnick: Detroit Symphony Orchestra – 1943 until his death in April 2008 at age 89. 65 years.


= 4 Lois Fees, violinist, Oklahoma City Philharmonic, 1951-2016.

6. Bassoonist David Van Hoesen: Lake Placid Sinfonietta NY – 1947 to 2011 – 64 years –  retired.

7. Clarinetist Stanley Drucker: New York Philharmonic  1948 to 2009 – 62 years – retired.
In 1948, Drucker won a post in the New York Philharmonic clarinet section.
In 1960, he became the orchestra’s principal clarinetist. In January 2008,
the New York Philharmonic announced Drucker’s retirement from the orchestra
at the close of the 2008-2009 season, for a total of 61 years with the
orchestra and 49 years as its principal clarinet.  Guinness logs his career
at “62 years, 7 months and 1 day as of June 4, 2009?.
Drucker’s final concert with the orchestra was July 31, 2009 in Vail, Colorado.


8. Leonard Mogill, Philadelphia Orchestra, viola, 62 years (pictured on the right, 1967, with Irving Segall), 1930-1992

= 8. Violinist Earl Summers Jr.: joined the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra at age 12 as a section violinist in 1929, the founding year of the orchestra, and retired from performing in 1990 as Concertmaster of the WSO – 61 years.

10. Pat Francis, violinist, joined the San Diego Symphony in 1955 and retired, aged 77, in 2016.

11. Bassonist Oleg Talypine, 79, Leningrad/St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, c.60 years.

See/hear him here (fast-forward to 3′ mark).

= 11. Violinist Jerome Wigler: Philadelphia Orchestra – 1951 to 2011 retired – 60 years – age 91.


= 11 Paul Renzi, Principal Flute of the San Francisco Symphony from 1944 until 2004. 60 years


= 11 Victor Simon, cellist, Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra, Moscow, 60 years – still playing

= 11 Marcia Hinkle, violinist Omaha Symphony, started 1957. 60 years – retired 2018



16 Carole Nelson, Fargo-Moorhead, 59 years.

17 Richard D. Kelley, double bass, Los Angeles Philharmonic, 1956-2013. 57 years.

= 17 Mary Sauer, hired by Fritz Reiner as principal keyboardist of the Chicago SO 1959; 57 years. Retired November 2016.

= 17 Arnold Rosé, concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, 1882-1938. 57 years.

20 Principal Trumpet Adolph (Bud) Herseth: Chicago Symphony Orchestra – 1948 until 2001, and served as principal trumpet emeritus from 2001 until his retirement in 2004.  56 years.

= 20  Alexander Lepak – timpanist Hartford Symphony 56 years —

= 20 Emilia Moskvitina, principal harp, Moscow State Philharmonic and Bolshoi Symphony, appointed 96, still playing

= 20 Herb Light, violinist, Philadelphia Orchestra, 1960-2016 – 56 years.

= 20 Ernest Zala – violinist, Fort Wayne Philharmonic, 56 years

= 20 Norma Durst Violist with Seattle Symphony for 56 years Retired in 2004.


26 Percussionist Joe Sinai: San Francisco Symphony ”His career as a symphonic performer began in 1915 [and continued to 1970] … for 55 years with the San Francisco Symphony.”


= 26 Raphael Fliegel performed with the Houston Symphony for 55 years, almost half of that time as concertmaster.


= 26 Anthony Bianco, double-bass in the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for 55 years, 1944-1999

= 26 John Lambros, concertmaster and first violin, Charleston Symphony, 55 years. Died 2016.

= 26 Newton Mansfield, violinist. Joined the New York Philharmonic 1961, retired 2016.

31 Otto Müller, principal harp of the Berlin Philharmonic 1882-1936, 54 years

= 31 Donald Gibson of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra died in 2010 at 77 years of age. He was a member of the orchestra for 54 years.

= 31 Phil Blum, cellist with the Chicago Symphony from 1955 until his death in 2009, 54 years.

=31  Broderyck Olson, first violins, Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, in his 54st season.

= 31 Michele Zukovsky, principal clarinet Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, retiring December 2015 after 54 years.

= 31 Marylouise Nanna, Buffalo Philharmonic first violins, 54 years

37 Lynne Turner, harp player of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 1962. 53 years.

=37  Alvin Score joined the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 1960. He died, still playing, in 2013. 53 years.

= 37 Jules Eskin, principal cello Boston Symphony Orchestra, 1963-2016. 53 years

= 37 John Martin, principal cello, National Symphony Orchestra. Retired 1994.


41 Mario Difiore retired from the Detroit Symphony after 52 years.

= 41 June Shipper, 72, retired from the second violins of the Waco Symphony in May 2015, after 52 years

= 41 Roger Ruggieri played 52 years in the double-bass section of the Milwaukee Symphony, mostly as principal; he retired in June 2015.

= 41 Christopher Wolfe, Assistant Principal Clarinet of the Baltimore Symphony retired in June 2015 after 52 years of service.

=41 Kalman Cherry, Retired in 2010 after 52 years with the Dallas Symphony as the Principal Timpanist.


46 Mathias Meyer, principal viola in the Vienna Court Opera 1817 – 1868

= 46 Maurice Sharp, principal flute of the Cleveland Orchestra from 1931-1982. 51 years.
= 46 Timpanist Alan Taylor: Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra, 1951 to April 1, 2002. 51 years.  (d. May 15, 2002, aged 71)


= 46 Willard Darling, 4th horn of the Detroit Symphony, 51 years. September 1951 until 2002 (d. 2015).

= 46 Richard Graef, assistant principal flute of Chicago Symphony Orchestra, 1968-2019

=46 Broderyck Olson, first violins, Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, in his 51st season.


=52 George Rubino, double bass, Portland Symphony Orchestra. ‘over 50 years’.

= 52 Ann Stepp, viola, Portland SO. ‘over 50 years’.


= 54 Principal Harpist Sidonie Goossens: “…Her professional debut in 1921
at a Prom concert, and took part in the first tour by the London Symphony
Orchestra.  She was Principal Harpist when the BBC Symphony Orchestra gave
its first public concert under its founder, Sir Adrian Boult, in October
1930, and she was still in the post when the Orchestra celebrated its golden
jubilee in 1980, the year she officially retired.”
At age 91 in 1991, she became the oldest person to perform at the Last Night
of the Proms concert, televised by the BBC.  She died at the age of 105 on
December 15, 2004.    50 years with the BBC Orchestra.
55 “Violinist Newton Mansfield joined the New York Philharmonic in 1961? to 2011- 50 years

56. Shirley Rosin, Milwaukee 2nd violins, half a century, retiring June 2015.

57. Evelyn Pupello, violinist, Florida Orchestra. 50 years. Retired June 2015.

58 Thomas Thompson joined the Pittsburgh Symphony in 1966 (hired by William Steinberg). He retires in summer 2016 after 50 years.

59 Tom Battenberg, 75, principal trumpet of the Columbus Symphony. Retired summer 2016 after 50 years in the seat.

60 Monique Gunnels joined the Columbus (Georgia) Symphony as second flute, aged 13, in 1965. She retired in 2015. 

61 William Foster, viola, National Symphony Orchestra. Retired 2018.

62 Bob Jenkins, Omaha Symphony oboe, retired 2018

63 Molly Wisman, Topeka Symphony Orchestra 1969-2019

Otakar Vavra founded the Prague film school, FUMA, and taught Milos Forman and Jiri Menzel. Before the war, he discovered the actress Lida Baarova, who became a favourite of Hitler and Goebbels.

His first prize for Golden Queen at the 1965 San Sebastian Festival marked the dawn of international recognition for new Czech films.

Forman, who admired his early work from the 1930s, makes little mention of him in his memoirs. But Menzel, director of Closely Watched Trains, stayed close (they are pictured together below).

Menzel said: “He taught us that film was not only performing art but that it was part culture, and a very important part of art. So we had to know how to make film as a cultural phenomenon, not only for entertainment or for making money.”

The Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, was among many cultural and political leaders who honoured Vavra’s 100th birthday earlier this year.

Vavra died on September 15, aged 100. Here’s a comprehensive account of his life (in English) from Czech Radio.

Otakar Vávra

Anna Netrebko, 40 today, will open next Sunday as Anna Bolena at the Met.

She is also coolly contemplating a life after opera, with plans for opening a restaurant in Vienna.

But it is warming to know that, amid these excitements, she plans to launch at the end of the month a new charity, Anna Netrebko to Children.


The tour reporter on the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra website reports:

‘I have never seen a cheering audience jump to its feet quicker than the audience at the Gergiev Festival in Rotterdam.’

I donlt want to dampen his enthusiasm, but that’s the Dutch for you. They build concert halls with very little legroom for seated spectators and then breed children who are quarter of a metre taller than the rest of us.

At the end of a concert – especially in the Concertgebouw – the audience leaps to its feet to avoid deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

I’ve seen it many times. Does this happen anywhere else?