The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra ends its European tour tonight in Verona, before returning home for the Jewish New Year.

The only disruption to its concerts was in London. Other pro-Pal actions promised elsewhere failed to materialise. In Spain, Queen Sofia attended their concert (pic’d here with Zubin Mehta).

Zubin with Queen Sofia

What can we conclude? Not much, except that London now has the best organised anti-Israel mob in Europe (possibly excepting Oslo) along with the most receptive left-wing media for encouraging concert disruptions. Last week, Charlotte Higgins in the Guardian warned that the London Philharmonic, which suspended four players for anti-Israel statements,  ‘will have only itself to blame’  if its concerts are ‘disrupted by protests’.

The Guardian is effectively inciting further attacks on live orchestral concerts, is it not?

He’s a sistema graduate, 27 years old, and he’s just been named chief conductor by the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, in Norway. His name is Christian Vasquez. Bookmark it.

Here’s the agent’s bio and promo pic.

Christian Vásquez

Stavanger, Norway’s oil capital, will get a brand new concert hall next year. Christian could be on a roll.

Ever since Gustavo Dudamel made the first breakthrough, half a dozen sistema conductors have launched careers on the international foothills, among them Diego Matheuz, Carlos Izcaray (presently at Wexford Opera), Ana María Raga and Ilyich Rivas. Who’s next?


The paper I posted recently about the effects of ovulation on the singing voice – studied in three countries from the perspective of heterosexual males – looks like a good candidate for the year’s least coveted international awards, the Ig Nobel Prizes.

Defined as ‘improbable research (which) makes people laugh and then think’, its recent laureates include a team who perfected a helicopter method of collecting whale snot, another which confirmed ‘the widely held belief that searing relieves pain’ and a third, from the University of Bristol who discovered that Fellatio by Fruit Bats Prolongs Copulation Time.

The 2011 award ceremony at Harvard will be shown online here. Seven genuine Nobel winners will present the awards, following the world premiere of a mini-opera, Chemist in a Coffee Shop.

2009 Public Health prize demonstration
Ig Nobel Prize Winner Dr. Elena Bodnar demonstrates her invention (abrassiere that can quickly convert into a pair of protective face masks) assisted by Nobel laureates Wolfgang Ketterle (left), Orhan Pamuk, andPaul Krugman (right). Photo credit: Alexey Eliseev, 2009 Ig Nobel Ceremony

My Shanghai translator, Dr Yun Sheng, has been visiting a panda reservation where curators attempt to persuade the shy and stubborn creators to change their timeworn habits and get breeding. She sent me these stunning pictures.

No particular reason for sharing them, except – why did they remind me of symphony orchestras? Oh, add your own metaphors…

Fiona Maddocks, in her Observer review today of Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s opera, applies a careful – though by no means cautious – distinction between masterwork and masterpiece. She argues that The Passenger is a major work by a master-composer without ever quite convincing the critical spectator that is belongs to the elite cadre of deathless masterpieces.

It’s an important view, and one that I respect and am inclined to share. On the other hand, exactly the same could have been said of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk between its first presentations in the 1930s and its ultimate acclamation 70 years later. I need to see The Passenger again. I have a feeling it will grow and grow.

John Allison, in the Sunday Telegraph, describes it as ‘one of the most unflinching engagements … ever made’ with a Holocaust theme. he gave it five stars. His Telegraph colleague Rupert Christiansen dismissed it with two.

The Editor of the Jewish Chronicle hated every minute of it. All are signs that the work needs time to settle.