In August we reported the death in Hampstead Pond of Sussie Ahlburg, a photographer who specialised in classical music portraits.

We have now been informed by several mutual acquaintances of the death of her partner, Matt Fretton, former agent of Alina Ibragimova, who was one of Sussie’s favourite subjects (below). We send sympathies to their loved ones.

UPDATE: You can read more about Matt here.



UPDATE: Here is Matt’s last blog entry, dated October 23:

I seem to have ground to a halt. I tried working on a long song idea and spent two hours recording an A minor chord note by note using guitar feedback. When I’d finished it sounded like 10 minutes of A minor played with guitar feedback. . .

I feel despondent, stuck in limbo between past and future where what I have is what I’ve lost.


Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra, which has been going nowhere with Pinchas Zukerman for the past decade, has announced as his successor ‘one of the leading conductors of the new generation’. Details below.



Canada’s National Arts Centre announces Alexander Shelley

as its Music Director-designate


Renowned conductor to lead NAC Orchestra in 2015-2016


Canada’s National Arts Centre (NAC) announced today that Alexander Shelley has been appointed Music Director-designate for the National Arts Centre Orchestra. He will assume the role of Music Director as of September 1, 2015.

“Alexander Shelley is one of the leading figures in the new generation of international conductors,” said Peter Herrndorf, President and CEO of the National Arts Centre. “He is an exceptionally gifted musician, with a wide range of experience and a strong emphasis on the creation of new work and community engagement. He represents the dynamic new leadership we were seeking to succeed Maestro Pinchas Zukerman in 2015-2016.”

Over the past decade, Alexander Shelley has established himself as one of the most talented conductors in Europe. He has led the NAC Orchestra in performance five times in the last four years winning enthusiastic response from both musicians and audiences. Born in the United Kingdom, Shelley was unanimously awarded first prize in the 2005 Leeds Conductors Competition and was described in the press as “the most exciting and gifted young conductor to have taken this highly prestigious award. His conducting technique is immaculate, everything crystal clear and a tool to his inborn musicality.”

Now in his fifth season as Chief Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra, his tenure is acknowledged by both the media and audiences as an outstanding success.  He also enjoys a close relationship with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen performing with them regularly both in Germany and abroad and is artistic director of their Zukunftslabor project –an award-winning series which is designed to build a lasting relationship between the orchestra and younger concert-goers through grassroots engagement and through its use of music as a source for social cohesion and integration.

Shelley has guest conducted regularly in Europe’s major musical centres and recent press has singled him out as “a musician of considerable gifts and extraordinarily impressive interpretative qualities” (Strauss, Elgar and Sibelius in London), a conductor with “exceptional artistic authority” (Brahms with DSO Berlin, June) and described his Verdi Requiem in Salzburg in February as an “original, intelligent, thoroughly convincing and well crafted interpretation”.

The son of professional musicians, Shelley studied cello in London and Dusseldorf.  In 2001 he founded the Schumann Camerata in Germany with which he subsequently created “440Hz”, an innovative series of concerts involving prominent German television, stage and musical personalities, and conceived by him as a major initiative to attract young adults to the concert hall.

Maestro Shelley said: “My collaboration with the exceptional musicians of the NAC Orchestra has, from the first moment, been both tremendously exciting and fulfilling. I could not be more delighted to be assuming the Music Directorship of this dynamic institution with which I share so many ambitions: to engage with audiences and communities around the whole of this beautiful country, to promote and support the creation of new Canadian work and, with the help of the extraordinary musical talent in this country, to further cement the highest of artistic standards.”

Maestro Shelley was selected following an extensive and exhaustive Canadian and international search. A search committee, co-chaired by NAC Board of Trustees Chair Julia Foster and NAC Orchestra Principal Bassoon Christopher Millard, was struck in July 2012 to conduct the search. Its members consisted of NAC President and CEO Peter Herrndorf, NAC Orchestra Managing Director Christopher Deacon, former NAC Trustee Larry Fitchner of Calgary, NAC Orchestra Manager of Artistic Planning Daphne Burt, NAC Orchestra Concertmaster Yosuke Kawasaki, Associate Concertmaster Jessica Linnebach, and outside members, Ottawa journalist Paul Wells and Dr. Jean-Jacques Van Vlasselaer.

“Alexander is the ideal choice to lead our orchestra.  He will bring a fresh perspective to our core repertoire and a broad vision for our future,” enthused Christopher Millard. “We are all looking forward to an energetic and imaginative collaboration.”

NAC Orchestra Managing Director Christopher Deacon led the team that undertook the search. “Alexander Shelley has a proven track record of engaging in the creation of new work and collaborating with youth, notably at the Future Lab in Bremen. His concert this week at the NAC is another perfect example, combining a major new work in an innovative concert format.”

Four years ago, I broke the news that Universal Music Group had decided to abolish the Decca label. The report elicited a backlash that finally swept away the executive who launched the plan with the result that Decca was saved for humanity.

But not for all humanity. We’ve just had a release saying the name is being dropped in a corporate UMG reshuffle in the US. I’m sorry to hear that. riccidecca

Universal Music Classics Revitalized with New Label Name, Strategic A&R

Focus, Partnerships and Initiatives with Leading Arts Institutions & Key

New Appointments


October 30, 2013 (New York, NY) — Elizabeth Sobol, newly appointed President & CEO of Universal Music Classics, is spearheading the division’s revitalized commitment to the best that “classics” stands for – music rooted in the classical tradition, while also encompassing a variety of genres including contemporary, jazz, and world music.  Formerly known as Decca Label Group, the new Universal Music Classics (UMC) aims to “re-imagine classics,” with a new focus on U.S. based A&R signings, while remaining the American home of the prestigious Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, Mercury Classics and Panorama imprints, and continuing its long-standing relationship with the esteemed ECM label.


The division’s new strategies are highlighted by recent key staff appointments by Sobol, who was named President & CEO of the division earlier this year by Max Hole, Chairman & CEO of Universal Music Group International.   Elizabeth Sobol brings her wide-ranging and deep expertise to the role including serving as Managing Director of IMG Artists, and many years as personal manager to internationally renowned artists including Joshua Bell, Itzhak Perlman, Emerson String Quartet, Evgeny Kissin and James Galway.


Sobol’s first two notable executive appointments since taking up the role are Leslie Collman-Smith, who recently joined UMC as Senior Vice President of Marketing, and Collin Rae who has joined as Vice President of Digital Sales and Marketing.


Formerly of Sony’s Masterworks label, Collman-Smith was instrumental in campaigns for key artists including Joshua Bell, Yo-Yo Ma, The Piano Guys and Tedeschi Trucks Band, among many others.  She began her career at Sony Music Distribution in 1994, and joined Sony Classical in 2004 as Director of Marketing, later becoming VP of Marketing and Media for the label.  At UMC, Collman-Smith’s primary area of focus will be leading marketing efforts on non-core classical releases, as well as working on new initiatives, business development and revenue diversification.


In his new role, Rae joins UMC with a strong background in marketing and the digital space, having spent six years at Naxos of America overseeing both digital marketing and special projects.  In his new role he will be the main liaison with iTunes for the division and will lead the creation and implementation of strategic marketing plans for both frontline and catalogue UMC titles.  Collman-Smith and Rae both report to Sobol, with immediate effect.


With an emphasis on cultivating new artists for UMC, Sobol’s first signing is the Curtis Institute-trained Time For Three, who will be recording their UMC debut later this year with special guest Joshua Radin, with their release and a subsequent tour also featuring Radin planned for 2014.  Sobol has also joined forces with the Metropolitan Opera’s Peter Gelb to release the historic and triumphant return to the podium of James Levine, in concert with Evgeny Kissin and the MET Opera Orchestra recorded earlier this year at Carnegie Hall.  The recording was released September 30th on Deutsche Grammophon.


As part of UMC’s new strategy, the division is announcing partnerships with like-minded organizations who share UMC’s goal of engaging with a younger and wider audience for “classics.”  Epitomizing this approach, in November UMG’s international “Yellow Lounge,” a classics-meets-club initiative will launch in the U.S. “Yellow Lounge” presents a new generation of vibrant classical artists who break musical and cultural boundaries, in visually innovative and alternative spaces.  Yellow Lounge’s U.S. partners include The Sonos Studio in Los Angeles (11/5), Le Poisson Rouge in New York City (11/10), City Winery with WFMT radio in Chicago (11/11) and YoungArts new multidisciplinary arts campus in Miami at the new lounge/space designed by Frank Gehry, in partnership with Classical South Florida Radio 89.7 (11/22).


Max Hole, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group International comments, “Elizabeth has brought a new and exciting creative vision to Universal Music Classics. The new team are lining up a series of brilliant new releases by American based artists. UMC will be the label to watch”.


Elizabeth Sobol comments, “I am delighted to be welcoming Leslie and Collin to UMC.  Both have the passion and creativity that is so necessary as Universal Music Classics enters a new phase.  Despite certain challenges in the industry, we believe that state of actual music-making in America has never been more fresh or more vital.  Embarking upon new initiatives, we are relishing our reinvigorated role as artistic partners and change agents in the field.”

Amira Willighagen, aged 9, is a  superwow on Holland’s Got Talent. Watch.


We’ve been informed by one of the participants that Glenn Dicterow, outgoing #1 violin of the New York Phil, has formed a trio with Robert DeMaine, principal cello of the LA Philharmonic, and the pianist Jeffrey Biegel.

Dicterow was the highest paid concertmaster in the US. DeMaine belongs to the highest-paid orchestra. How do the three guys split the fees? If they follow Artur Schnabel’s method, they’d count the notes. That way, the pianist comes out tops.



Skip the first four paragraphs of the attached article and you will learn a great deal about how the violin was forced into the future by means of a wooden contraption. There is much here that I never knew. Click to read.




Louis Spohr

We’ve been informed of the death of Leslie Head, founder of the Kensington Symphony Orchestra, an amateur ensemble made up mostly of music industry professionals. Leslie and the KSO have been instrumental in boosting many careers. Our sympathies to family and friends.



The violin with which Leila Josefowicz premiered Esa-Pekka Salonen’s concerto sold today in London for close to $300,000. Full details below:

Sale Results:Musical Instruments

Auction by Ingles & Hayday at Sotheby’s:

29 October 2013

GRAND TOTAL: £2,080,000




No.87 £336,000 £300,000-500,000 US Private Collector

David Tecchler, (b Salzburg, 1666; d Rome, 1747), A Cello, Rome, 1705.

No.63 £276,000 £100,000-150,000 US Private Collector

Lorenzo Storioni, (Cremona, b 1744; d 1816), A Viola, Cremona, 1787.

No.138 £264,000 £180,000-250,000 Anonymous

Circle Of Carlo Bergonzi, (Cremona, b 1683; d 1747), A Violin, Cremona, Circa 1730.

No.139 £192,000 £150,000-200,000 US musician

Francesco Rugeri, (Cremona, b 1620; d c1695), A Violin,Cremona, Circa 1690.

No.32 £156,000 £100,000-150,000 Private Collector

Probably By Michele Angelo Bergonzi, (Cremona, b 1721; d 1758), A Violin, Cremona, Circa 1750.

Formerly the concert instrument of Leila Josefowicz.

No.126 £84,000 £60,000-80,000 International Trade

Andrea Guarneri, (Cremona, b c1626; d 1698), A Violin, Cremona, Circa 1675.

No.24 £60,000 £50,000-80,000 Private Collector

Giuseppe & Antonio Gagliano, (fl Naples, c1780-1800), A Violin, Naples, Circa 1790.

No.54 £42,000 £15,000-20,000 Asian Private Collector

Eugène Sartory, (b Mirecourt, 1871; d Paris, 1946), A Gold And Tortoiseshell-mounted Exhibition Violin

Bow After F.x. Tourte, Paris, 1900.

No.86 £36,000 £25,000-35,000 UK musician

Vincenzo Panormo, (b Monreale, nr. Palermo, 1734; d London, 1813), A Cello, London, Circa 1800.

No.20 £33,600 £12,000-18,000 Private Collector

Vincenzo Postiglione, (Naples, b 1831; d 1916), A Violin, Naples, 1910.

Following the sale, Auctioneer and Expert-in-charge, Tim Ingles, commented: “This was a very exciting sale

with furious competition for most of the top lots. We are particularly pleased with the results for the Viola

by Lorenzo Storioni (£276,000) and the Exhibition Violin Bow by Sartory (£42,000), both of which were

rare pieces in stunning condition. The strength and breadth of the market is very impressive, with bidding

from five continents and lots of new buyers. Bidders included collectors, foundations, musicians,

orchestras and dealers. We look forward to our next sale, which will be held on 13th May 2014.”

leila joseforwicz, bergonzi

The first time I swam in Herzliya, the translator of the only one of my books ever to appear in Hebrew warned me to be careful. ‘This is where Istvan Kertesz drowned, in April 1973,’ she said. ‘I was here. I saw it from the beach.’

Herzliya is subject to rip-tides. The only safe places to swim are beneath the eye of a lifeguard.

Kertesz was 43 when he died. The former principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, he was regarded as maestro in waiting for the next Big Five US orchestra to fall vacant. He had an open-ended contract with Decca and left, among other legacies, a set of Dvorak symphonies that has never been matched. I never visit this place without thinking of him.



Professor Cynthia Turner, a conductor at Cornell, thinks the new tech has potential. ‘It could be a game changer for anyone who needs two hands to do something,’ she says. Read here. Watch below.

Sheila Bromberg played harp on She’s Leaving Home. She also played sessions at Abbey Road sessions with lots of other pop stars. But was she, as she maintains, the first girl to pluck a Fab Four chord?

We await confirmation from resident Beatleologists.

sheila bromberg

A letter by Richard Wagner to the editor of a Spanish magazine has gone under the hammer in Barcelona.  Dated 1881, it was addressed to the editor of El Periódico Ilustrado Español. The sale price at La Suite was 3,300 Euros.

wagner letter