After a week in which the Home Secretary Teresa May and the immigration authorities have stood accused of every kind of airport incompetence, here’s a piece of petty bureaucracy to make the blood boil.

The pianist Sunwook Kim, youngest winner of the Leeds International Piano Competition, was booked a year ago to play at the Wimbledon Music Festival, on the tenni-sgreen outskirts of southwest London. This week he was told he couldn’t. Why not? Because Kim is currently studying for an MA in conducting at the Royal Academy of Music and the gig was not included in his visa terms.

Kim offered to play for free. No deal, said the Home Office. Why? Cos we make the rules, don’t argue.

Happily for Wimbledon, the veteran John  Lill has stepped into the date. See the website for details.

But I want to hear young Sunwook Kim, and Mrs May won’t let me. What kind of free country is this, anyway? Will they ban Roger Federer next year?



The following letter has been received at Slipped Disc from the apparent perpetrator of the LPO Bruckner disturbance. I could not possibly comment. But you can.


From Alex Verney-Elliott 

The ‘man’ was me and I think it was a polite response in response to an impolite performance: I walked out in protest against the self-indulgent  bad conducting of Vanska and the terrible playing of the LPO where the woodwind and brass were often out of sync and out of tune: It was a slow-motion performance with no sense of line and forward momentum and the Andante just dragged with Vanska losing his pace almost bringing the music to a stand still; Vanska conducted a terrible discredited perverted edition that is a total travesty (with those kitsch Straussian cymbal swishes) and the LPO were obviously not well rehearsed and in very bad form. It is about time Royal Festival Hall, Barbican Hall and Royal Albert Hll Proms audiences became far more critical and shout out like I did otherwise we will continue to have ‘dumbed-down’ tenth-rate performances like this: For the record: I shouted out to the audience: “He’s dragging it!, “It’s far too slow”, “Whay aren’t you all more critical?” and ending up saying: “It’s rubbish!”

I stand by all my objective statements of fact and think others should have joined in with me and been less cowardly and more courageous and critical: I did not display bad manners: the conduor did in his bad mannered performance  which was indeed a very mannered perverted performance! One person in the annex did say: “I agree with you!”

Norman Lebrecht incorrectly stated: “I do hope the South Bank administration have taken measures to ban the man (who is apparently known to them from past eccentricities).” This is libelous slander as I am not at all “known” to the South Bank from “past eccentricities”: Please name one ‘eccentricity’ that  I am ‘known’ for? This is the first time I have ever made a protest at the Royal Festival Hall or South Bank Center.

I do hope the South Bank administration have taken measures to ban Lebrecht (who is apparently known to them from past eccentricities of admiring third rate conductors and performances). Why does Lebrecht and the Royal Festival Hall audience supinely accept impolite and badly mannered performances?

Here is Erica Jeal’s idiotic account in The Guardian:

“If the concerto seemed to flash by, the same could not be said for Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony – though the audience member who in the fourth movement felt moved to stomp out, complaining about Vänskä’s tempo, proved only that there’s no way to heckle classical concerts without appearing weird. The conductor’s ability to keep the music’s momentum spinning in mid-air, which had made for a cogent first movement and a second movement that seemed like a symphony in microcosm, began to flag somewhere in the bald exchanges of the third. For all the detail of his conducting, the finale didn’t have the impact those first two movements had seemed to promise.”

Enough said about our dumbed-down critics reviewing dumbed-down performances of dumbed-down editions!  Why are audiences and critics so uncritical today?

It starts out as a newspaper celebration of orchestral life, but lists are the lifeblood of journalists and Le Figaro cannot resist splitting 26 national orchestras into four merit leagues: premier three, up-and-coming, must try harder and still disappointing.

There are obvious flaws in the method, as well as many points of contention. The orchestra of Paris Opera is ranked top, despite being a bloody-minded bunch who ran a woman conductor out of town, and Orchestre de Paris is next, overlooking its daily battle of wills with conductor Paavo Järvi.

Few, however, would challenge Toulouse as the third of the top three.

Elsewhere, I am not sure the fast-rising Philippe Auguin, new music director of the Washington National Opera, would agree that his orchestra in Nice is one of the worst.

Or that Marseille is a synonym for nonchalant routine. Read on here.

Oh, and here’s one that got overlooked:


I once accompanied Mariss Jansons into the boondocks of Pittsburgh, a deprived area where the police only went in armoured personnel carriers.

We entered a public school where a bunch of kids were scratching and puffing on instruments. In two words and a gesture, he changed the sound of the band and the atmosphere in the classroom.

Now, he’s doing it again in what’s described as a ‘problem quarter’ of Munich. His playground companion is Anne-Sophie Mutter.  Next February they are giving a benefit concert for a children’s care centre. Read on here.

Isaac Stern called him a doctor for violins and Yo Yo Ma said there was no-one he would trust more if he needed surgery. All of Ivan Galamian’s best pupils at Juilliard went to him with their instrumental aches and pains. Others came from as far off as Peabody. René Morel had time for them all, even the violas. Especially the violas.

A Frenchman, descended from a long line of luthiers, he came to New York in 1955 after service in the French air force and never left.

Here‘s a full appreciation on

René Morel