I hear the Malmo Opera in Sweden is getting a new music director, in place of Joseph Swensen.

All hail the indomitable Leif Segretsam, also known as Father Christmas.


Meet Ruth Jeffrey.

She’s 97 today and still playing cello in the Grand Rapids Symphonette (founded 1935).  Read on here.

ruth jeffery.jpg

She’s been doing that since she was 15. If you remember our debate some months back on longest serving musicians, I guess Ruth has got them licked.

Andrew Kazdin, a stalwart of the CBS Records team when it was the Tiffany label, has died aged 77.

Kazdin worked with Thomas Z Sheppard, Steven Epstein, Paul Myers and others as producer for Glenn Gould, Leonard Bernstein, George Szell and the rest of the glamour roster. Here’s Andrew at work, behind the glass wall.

One of his proudest edits was a TV  show titled ‘I Can’t believe It’s Schoenberg’.

And here’s another:

It used to be fun in those days… Sic transit harmonia mundi…

Here’s Steven Epstein’s tribute to Andrew on the Musical America site.

From the Gavrilov memoirs:

The Book.English version.

In 1981 Richter often lost his temper. It was the year when much that was inside of him died, when his feelings turned into habits. He was more conscious than ever of the agonizing sense of his own powerlessness before the Soviet machine, whose hostage he had become once he was the cultural symbol of the USSR, a Hero of Socialist Labour and owner of an exclusive apartment with a studio for his work, built by special order of the Politburo.

He was more conscious now, even, of this powerlessness than he had been in Stalin’s time, when he was fighting and winning back the right to life. Now, having attained the highest position in the cultural hierarchy of the USSR, he felt imprisoned in a golden cage where there was no potential to develop his still-powerful nature. He had driven himself into the “dead end of the fulfilment of material desires”. It was from this time that he started to die as a personality, as a musician and as a man.

I felt like an Untermensch who had been buried alive. I had a travel ban for life on the basis of a decision made by the government in 1979. By 1981 I had taken on the features of a political enemy, subject to annihilation. Slava knew what a threat his friendship with me could be. Someone who simply had a travel ban could just about still be a friend; but it was unbearable to spend time near a political dissident, which was what I had been transformed into by Andropov’s punitive machine. Richter tried to stir up the situation by throwing one last stone into the water – he took a personal risk and agreed with East German Gosconcert on a string of joint concerts in various cities across the GDR that had some connection with Handel or Bach. It was a well-thought out step. The GDR was loyal to the USSR. Gosconcert in the GDR was headed by a certain Frau Gonda, and was the central point of informers and spies of Moscow. Even so, the leaders of the communist USSR took a long time to reply.

The time was drawing near for the tour “organised by Richter”. There was about one week left before the first concert, and I was rather dispiritedly practising. I really didn’t want to perform, even if a positive ruling was made about my leaving the country. Richter was in West Germany at the time, storming away as best he could. He was using his own private channels. This was Slava’s last stand. Nobody took the slightest notice of him. Then Nina Dorliak joined in the process. She set off for the only address that would work – to see Comrade Suslov. Going to Andropov or Brezhnev was pointless, as it was they who were my persecutors. It really did make sense to approach an influential communist ideologist who might be able to convince his comrades of the total safety of the undertaking and the usefulness of calming down “our comrade” Richter. Nina came back from Suslov with an answer in the affirmative. She let out a deep sigh as she lowered herself onto the chair in the entrance hall, and announced to me in a categorical tone, “I told Slavochka that this is absolutely the last time!”

She made it blatantly clear to Slava that if he started to grumble she would immediately pack her bags and leave for her relatives in St Petersburg. Nina did not like to make jokes. Richter understood that without her he would turn into a derelict tramp. Dorliak wielded total power over Slava, and she held the reins in controlling his life. She was in charge of everything: his travel plans, his tours, his well-being and health. Without Dorliak, Richter turned into the little boy Slava who was granted a Moscow resident permit some time in the distant past.

Over the many years of living with his iron lady, Richter had attempted on several occasions to stand up for something of his own that did not match the line taken by his unsentimental common-law wife. Every time, however, he had capitulated unreservedly. Richter recognised that all the material well-being he had was due to the tireless efforts and immense political talents of his partner. Any argument with Dorliak would have taken from him the main thing for which all these dreadful sacrifices were made – the possibility of making music without being distracted or worried by the need to earn a daily crust. Dorliak defended Richter from external irritants, much like the concrete sarcophagus over Chernobyl. That was the whole meaning of their alliance. Wrecking that would have meant self-destruction for Richter. But living in her vice-like grip was a torment from Hades for the unhappy Mephisto. It was the classic situation of an artist who had established the ideal conditions for his creative work, but had lost himself.

After the positive ruling from “the comrades at the Politburo and personally, Mikhail Suslov”, I was bundled onto a plane with my minder and his bottle-glass spectacles; his bleached eyes fixedly followed my every movement. He appeared bleached all over, somewhat crumpled and mucky. We arrived in Halle, where Handel was born, Luther was baptised and where, for some reason, an old bronze statue stands outside the church where Handel was christened with the inscription “From the Grateful English.” We spent the night in the hotel. The following day Richter was due to arrive, having finished his tour in Western Europe and travelling, as always, by car. I went down to the hotel foyer at the appointed hour, with my minder following along behind in his crumpled, dirty suit, his bottle-glass specs and his ugly moonish face. The door banged open and Slava walked in – large, loud and lively (he was different in public in the Soviet Union). He was dressed in his favourite uniform – a dark blue blazer with gold buttons and grey trousers. We embraced under the wary gaze of my freak and several of his GDR clones, including Frau Gonda, who was accompanying the Maestro. Slava grew uneasy, and, while still playing the role of hail-fellow-well-met, he threw a glance at the photograph on the poster for the hotel sauna which showed a blonde German girl of quite voluptuous proportions lolling ecstatically in the bath, and asked in German, “Goodness, are we still in the FRG?” The GDR minders responded with putrid, servile laughs. I understood Slava’s hidden meaning – Richter found the whole situation pathetic and vile, and was resorting to giving vent to political sarcasm. It was unheard of! It must be remembered that one of the principal features of Maestro Richter’s official image was his generally recognised apoliticism, like a Holy Fool. He pretended that he did not know what the Central Committee of the Communist Party was, or the Politburo or KGB, and that he had no concept of the difference between East and West. His joke about the naked German lass on the picture was a manifestation of the secret rage that he was unable, or no longer wished, to conceal.

This concert tour of ours was sad and ridiculous. We both knew that it was our last. Our heated discussions about art, history, literature, sex and God knows what else were mere subterfuges intended to distract us from the subject that was really troubling us. We did not want to talk about the end of Slava’s life on the big circuit. We did not want to talk about my position. Slava held himself together better than I did, concentrating on the concerts and studying documents and artifacts from the time of Bach and Handel. I was only occasionally distracted from my lugubrious thoughts, often smiling for no reason or shaking my head inopportunely. The vile snoop left us alone only if Richter slammed the door in his face. We secluded ourselves in Slava’s room so that we could have at least a small chat without the all-seeing bleached eye and all-hearing ear of our Soviet Big Brother.

More from Andrei Gavrilov’s KGB memoirs:

The Book.English version.

I was on my way back home from Mosfilm studios one day. I looked and see a crowd of people standing by the front door of the flats. There was a dead body beside the steps. My first thought was – is it a coincidence? Or is it a sign for me from THEM? A body by the entrance is their language. Their poetry.

In the autumn of 1980 I had to spend a lot of time at the conservatoire as I needed to finish off all the loose ends that had accumulated over a number of years. If I was thrown out of the conservatoire, or if I completed successfully, I was still threatened with conscription into the army and deployment in Afghanistan. I understood that such a “clean” method of dealing with me was immensely attractive for Big Brother. I considered the option of post graduate study.

I met with two delightful, kind people in the conservatoire – the Head of the Department of Marxist-Leninist Philosophy, Konstantinov, and his faithful friend Kiselyov, lecturer in Dialectical Materialism. They were both genuine philosophers, perfectly aware of all the Soviet balderdash, and drank like fish. They both wanted to help me. In their own way – the Marxist way. They proposed my candidacy for elections to the Central Committee of the Komsomol! Just as the entire musical world was cheerfully trampling me underfoot, these, seemingly dyed-in-the-wool communists, were embarking on an unequal battle for my life!

The whole affair came to nought. Letters flew from activists to the district and city Party committees. They demanded that “Gavrilov’s disgraceful candidacy” be removed from the election. They got what they wanted. Karpov was elected to the Komsomol Central Committee. A few days later I found out their names. They were my old friends, male and female, dating back to our school days. My kind Marxists hid their heads in shame.

Thank God and Bach – I managed to pass all my exams without too much difficulty, and to be accepted for post graduate study. Soon the Minister of Defence signed a decree releasing two winners of the Tchaikovsky Competition from serving in the Red Army – Gavrilov and Pletnev.

In December I was called by a cultivated lady and invited to the KGB club to take part in a closed concert for the senior officers to celebrate their official “KGB Day”. She hinted that I might be able to use this invitation to turn my fate around through 180 degrees. I even believed her. Although I already knew by then the main, standard Russian wisdom, “Don’t believe, Don’t be scared, and Don’t ask for anything!”

I remember that first I drove Richter to his Beethoven concert, and then I went straight to the KGB club, a light blue mansion with plaster moulding in the lane just behind the main Lubyanka building. I would imagine that it still belongs to the glorious tribe of executioners of their own people, as it is a very handsome, expensive building. Anyone who wants to can check it out.

There is a buffet, with salad, brandy and caviar. My sweet lady, who is already in very advanced years but with delightful manners, smiles and waves at me in friendly greeting. Her grey hair has been neatly set, and dyed to look golden blonde. She has powder on her little face, a pretty petite nose, blue eyes, a little beret, a lively and intelligent face, long gloves up to her elbows and a beautiful blue dress with a print of white tea roses – she is a charming society lady!

I play my first programme. Applause. Everybody is happy. I chat to the officials. I am waiting for them to bring me something like a safe conduct paper, and to apologise for all the inconvenience caused. I am ready to forgive them all instantly and kiss them all. These things happen! Nobody presents me with any safe conduct papers. They feed me and pour me brandy, wholeheartedly.

The time comes for me to leave the party. I am on the point of looking at my benefactress – she holds out her little hands, glittering with tiny diamonds, in a helpless gesture and nods her head at me in encouragement, as though saying just have a little patience, your long awaited freedom is not far now. Stool pigeon.

I went home. It was a frosty December evening. It would soon be New Year. I should have been happy, but I wasn’t, I felt sick at heart. Once home, my metaphysical sickness materialised as something terrifying and real. I started to feel ill. Very ill. I felt dreadfully sick, my chest was being crushed until my ribs felt like they were about to crack, my heart one minute would stop and the next would leap out of my rib cage. I couldn’t stand, so I sat down. Then I couldn’t sit, and I fell onto the carpet in my room. I was suffocating. I crawled to the door of the balcony. I wanted to open it and breathe. I couldn’t.

Huge yellow stars were flashing and going out in my eyes, and it seemed that my blood was boiling and bubbling inside me, like champagne, and my breathing kept stopping. I tipped over on my side and lost consciousness. The last thoughts that flickered through my head were, “Aha, so this is what it’s like. It isn’t at all scary. It’s even nice. I feel so sorry for Mum.”

I came to my senses in the night. About three o’clock. I crawled to the telephone and called an ambulance. A melodious girlish voice sang down the receiver, “All right, we’re on our way, open the door you Dipso.”

Two beautiful saviours turned up in the form of girls in white coats. They were intending to pump the stomach of an alcoholic drowning in his own puke. They looked at my wealthy surroundings, at the paintings, the grand pianos, the gold records on the walls and grew quiet. They reported back to the station that it was a serious case and stayed with me through the night. Svetlana the doctor was a charming brunette, and Vika the nurse was a 19-year old blonde. Vika looked like Marilyn Munroe, only about 100 times prettier. The girls measured my blood pressure. 280 / 150. They injected me with magnesium.

“What’s the matter, pianist, a bit over-tired? Played too much? You need a rest! Otherwise you’ll end up playing yourself into an early grave. You mustn’t even walk. We’ll undress you, put you to bed and take some blood. You should really go to hospital, but we’ll treat you here, we’ll keep an eye on you, you lie here at home.

The next evening Vika came running to see me and said that my blood was “weird”. It was ordinary blood, although it had as much filth in it as a dustbin at a chemical plant – mercury, heavy metals and some other vile chemicals.

I told Vika everything that was on my mind. The sweet girl shook her head and burst into tears. She still came to see me for several years after that.

When Mariss Jansons became chief conductor at Bavarian Radio, it was on condition that the city build a new concert hall, the present facilities being acoustically appalling. That was in 2003.

Yesterday, the city earmarked a site for the hall. It’s the disused congress centre of the Deutsches Museum, itself due for a Euro 400 million uplift.

Mariss is a patient man, but this process seems to be taking forever. More here.

The memoirs of Andrei Gavrilov started to appear in the Russian press today.

The Book.English version.

Gavrilov, winner of the 1974 Tchaikovsky competition, was later overheard making critical remarks about Soviet leaders. His passport was confiscated in 1979, his telephone cut off and he was confined to a psychiatric hospital, then to house arrest. He was finally allowed to leave the country by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985.

An extract can be read here in Russian. For the benefit of his Facebook friends, Andrei is providing summaries in English. Here’s an extract:

(scenes from a musician’s life)

“Instead of a Foreword”

Andrei, Fira and Pitch deals with my life in the Soviet Union. It tells of the period between my graduating from the Central Music School in Moscow and my move to the West (1973-1985). It is the story of a young pianist who was sent by the Party and the government to lose the International Tchaikovsky Competition, but who won it. It recounts how the career of a musician who had entered the world’s performing élite was cut short at the whim of musical smugglers. It describes what happened at the Kremlin’s Georgievsky Hall during the celebrations for Brezhnev’s 70th birthday, and during celebratory concerts in the Kremlin Palace of Congresses. It is the tale of private, apolitical resistance by one musician to the Soviet totalitarian machine. I have tried to put into words what most affected me in my native land – the good and the evil, and to recall my peers, and to tell of the triumphs and tribulations of a performer… 
My recollections of Svyatoslav Richter, or Fira as I called him, occupy a particular place in the book. There is a well-known Latin phrase that states “Of the dead speak well or not at all.” I have always been against this rather suspect edict, and see it as the product of a patrician morality of dubious character. I am convinced that the opposite is true. It is impossible to analyse or seriously consider someone who is still alive, who has not yet completed their path through life, not spoken their final word and shuffled off this mortal coil. Any in-depth study into historical figures can and should begin only after their demise. If we go along with the Roman deception then we will never understand the actions and motives of dictators and tyrants and will be unable to benefit from the lessons that history has to teach us. On the other hand, we will also never be able to penetrate the characters and the mysteries of the works of great pioneers and thinkers. They will remain for ever gilded, lifeless, idols. Fira for me is not a dead musician, but a critical voice that lives within me; one of the most crucial voices, a tuning fork. Everything that I play he hears, appraises and passes comment. Ultimately, I have decided that to speak “well” in the saying means to speak “the truth” and that to speak “not at all” is cowardly, cynical, deceitful suppression! Therefore I intend to write about Fira in exactly the way I remember everything. With no preconceptions. He was an extraordinary man who needs no counsel for the defence. 

Andrei, Fira and Pitch is not an academic book, not a tome of musicological musings, nor is it analytical or political. It is a collection of semi-ironic texts which are somehow connected to music. There are dramatic and comic episodes from my life, opinions, portraits of people alive and dead, dialogues, concerts, thoughts about music, extracts from letters; in short, everything that I have LIVED THROUGH is reproduced here in the form that it has remained in my MEMORY. 

A minor incident, perhaps another sign of the times.

During a symphony concert in Bainbridge, Washington, a woman was hustled out of the performing arts centre after she shouted ‘boring’.

It appears her daughter was playing in the orchestra and she had some professional rivalry with the new conductor. Small town stuff.

Details are scanty. Read more (not much) here.


You need more knowledge of US pension law than I possess to grasp the latest twist in the Philadelphia Orchestra bankruptcy escape. But one thing is clear: old players lose out.

Read here.

UPDATE: And here’s more, more depressing still.



The threat of an EU ban on authentic violin strings appears to be receding.

Here’s the latest from our suppliers:

Caldogno, November 29- 2011

Thanks from my heart to all of you!
The Ministry of Health, Department of Veterinary Public Health and Food Safety, with praiseworthy promptness and courtesy has announced today a series of measures aimed to finally solve the situation of Italian string makers.

The first intervention allows to finally be able to import from some European and not-European countries ( not BSE free) the raw material required to produce gut strings.

The second intervention finally opens the possibility to use also Italian beef gut after nearly 20 years of total stop.

 We already informed the other Italian string makers of this important news.

We warmly thank all the friends that rose protest to the Italian authorities both by petitions, by e-mail and other legal means.

We thank the Ministry of Health for having quickly listened to rightful claims and proceeded to find final solutions.

We bring all our support to the initiative (petition) that asks that String Making Art is recognized as a World Heritage under UNESCO protection.

We would like to inform our customers that the restart of our gut strings production will require a certain period of time needed to find first of all raw material that meets our quality criteria and then for re-establishing our stock.

We will inform in our website when gut strings will be available again

Greetings and thanks again for your valuable support.

Mimmo Peruffo





That’s what Andris Nelsons has just told his orchestra, and more power to him. Let’s hear it for father’s rights.

Mrs Nelsons is the Latvian soprano Kristine Opolais. They married in April. I guess’ she’ll be taking some time off as well.

Here’s the Birmingham press release.

Media notice – December concerts with Andris Nelsons


Unfortunately, Andris Nelsons has withdrawn from his December performances with the CBSO due to the imminent arrival of his first child.


Nikolaj Znaider has kindly agreed to take his place at short notice on  7 Dec – Bruckner’s Seventh including the UK premiere of Ruders’ Symphony No 4 and 10 Dec – Tuned in: Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony

CBSO associate conductor Michael Seal will take his place on 14 Dec – Benevolent Fund Concert


Apologies for an inconvenience caused.


All review tickets are still available for the above performances.

In the US, that’s easy. The figures are in the public domain and widely discussed. $1.4 million is the current top rate, apparently.

Britain and other European nations are more secretive about these things. But they can be found.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra filed its annual accounts today and a copy was promptly sent my way.

The least adventurous of UK ensembles, conducted at present by Charles Dutoit, the RPO showed turnover up 15% at £10.05 million and pr-tax profits ip 88% at £1.15 million. The latter figure is about £100,000 in excess of the orchestra’s Arts Council grant. Perhaps the Council should ask for its money back.

Be that as it may, the orchestra is beating the global recession  y establishing residencies in such wealthy spots as Montreux, Switzerland, and Qebala in Azerbaijan.

Which brings us to remuneration. The report turns a little coy, telling us that two directors received joint emoluments of £205,362 plus pension contributions of £11,910, and that one of them ‘fell within the range £180,000-190,000’.

Seven years ago, the average pay for a London orchestra manager was £60,000. It looks like the RPO is driving wage inflation vertifcally up.

Hats off to Ian Maclay, the RPO’s CEO. Read the full report here: RPO 2011-0331

UPDATE: Here are the other London orchestral manager salaries from the latest accounts:

LPO 175,000
LSO 145,000
Philharmonia 138,983