We regret to share news of the death of Richard Holland, livewire viola player of the Pittsburgh Symphony. He was 68 and played exactly half his life in the orchestra. Our condolences to family and friends. Obituary here.

photo posted on post-gazette.com

In an interview with a Jesuit magazine, the Pope lists the recordings that matter most to him. His tastes are conservative, but not predictable.


Among musicians I love Mozart, of course. The ‘Et incarnatus est’ from his Mass in C minor is matchless; it lifts you to God! I love Mozart performed by Clara Haskil. Mozart fulfills me. But I cannot think about his music; I have to listen to it.

clara haskil

I like listening to Beethoven, but in a Promethean way, and the most Promethean interpreter for me is Furtwängler. And then Bach’s Passions. The piece by Bach that I love so much is the ‘Erbarme Dich,’ the tears of Peter in the ‘St. Matthew Passion.’ Sublime.


Then, at a different level, not intimate in the same way, I love Wagner. I like to listen to him, but not all the time. The performance of Wagner’s ‘Ring’ by Furtwängler at La Scala in Milan in 1950 is for me the best. But also the ‘Parsifal’ by Knappertsbusch in 1962.



This is a Pope who knows his opera:

When does a formulation of thought cease to be valid? When it loses sight of the human or even when it is afraid of the human or deluded about itself. The deceived thought can be depicted as Ulysses encountering the song of the Siren, or as Tannhäuser in an orgy surrounded by satyrs and bacchantes, or as Parsifal, in the second act of Wagner’s opera, in the palace of Klingsor. The thinking of the church must recover genius and better understand how human beings understand themselves today.

Iain Bell is awaiting the Vienna world premiere of his opera, A Harlot’s Progress. Episode 4: The kid in a candy store



I have a question for you:


What do you call a composer who is so high with adrenaline having watched the first dress-rehearsal of his opera that he will most likely be unable to sleep for days?


Answer: anything you like, he is too excited to give a damn!


Yup. Just home having watched said rehearsal and my giddy little fingers are having even more trouble than normal typing correctly on my iPhone such is my sheer joy!  I had long been told by many throughout this rehearsal period that once lights, props, costumes and sets are in place the piece takes on a completely different identity. I nodded to these well-wishers/advice-givers politely but thought they were being friendly and maybe ever so slightly melodramatic. How wrong could I have been…


I had intentionally gone out of my way to avoid the cast members as they were having their costume meetings/fittings in the previous weeks as I wanted the first time I saw them (on stage) to have its full, unadulterated impact. Well this worked, but in no way did I expect there to be SUCH a powerful symbiosis as all these on-stage factors exponentially complimented one another before my eyes.


The cast, who had up to that moment been performing in mufti or approximations of their costumes, were now inhabiting their characters utterly. Wearing this new clobber altered their gait, their posture, the way they gesticulate and much more besides, intensifying their portrayals immeasurably. I know what you’re thinking; all these observations are ridiculously obvious, it IS opera after all. You are right. But when these are characters who have solely existed in your head until five weeks previously, to watch them incarnate with a whole vocabulary (nay, dictionary) of idiosyncratic body language and a wardrobe to rival many a ‘Real Housewife of Beverly Hills’ is completely overwhelming. I had to fight the temptation to rush the stage just to be amongst it all. Fear not, I remained in my seat throughout!


There was the smallest tinge of melancholy to this evening’s run through as it was the final time the pianos were in the pit to accompany the singers as from tomorrow onwards we work solely with the orchestra. The pianists throughout the past five weeks have been Joyce Fieldsend and Raphael Schluesselberg and knowing this would be the last time they would be our ‘orchestra’ was a little sad. Though they remain with us in rehearsals, their role now moves into a different phase, focusing more on listening and taking notes from the auditorium, coaching the singers and liaising with the conductor to ensure the orchestra/singing balance is appropriate, I feel moved to know that I won’t be enjoying their collective ivory tinkling any longer. They have both been a great source of advice and support for me during these past few weeks.


My reaction to today’s goings-on has confirmed to me on an even deeper level that opera is without question the path I must continue to follow if I’m permitted, and as yet I haven’t heard a single note of the orchestra…that comes tomorrow.


I have a feeling sleep will be low on the list of priorities during the coming days!

After months – it seems an eternity – of droning monks and nuns at the top of the Nielsen Soundscan sales charts, a masterpiece has finally broken through.

Must be someone’s birthday week.

cso verdi req

Also riding high are Helene Grimaud’s Brahms concertos (DG), Jeremy Denk’s Gldberg Variations (Warner) and Philadelphia’s Rite of Spring (DG)

verdi flashmob

Choral groups, first time singers, the BBC Symphony Chorus and many more gather in Covent Garden for a unique performance of Verdi’s ‘Va, pensiero’, led by Dominic Peckham.

Musical Director: Dominic Peckham.

Cameras: Richard Andrews, Andrew Smillie, Andrew Saunders, Lawrence Huck.

Film directed by Andrew Smillie

Announcement just up on the ROH site:

Marina Poplavskaya has fallen ill and had to withdraw from the role of Hélène for final rehearsals and the first three performances of The Royal Opera’s production of Les Vêpres siciliennes on 17, 21 and 24 October.

The role will now be sung by Armenian soprano Lianna Haroutounian (below), who made her debut with The Royal Opera in May 2013 singing the role of Elizabeth of Valois in Don Carlo. Her other recent roles have included Desdemona in Otello for Opéra-Bastille in Paris, Leonora in Il trovatore in Marseilles, Amelia in Simon Boccanegra in Lille, Mimì in La bohème for the Grand Théâtre in Tours and Amelia in Un ballo in maschera at the Stadttheater in Bern and the Grand Théâtre in Tours.  Her roles during the 2012–13 season included Elena in I vespri siciliani at the Megaron Concert Hall, Athens, and Hélène in the original French version of the same opera in Bilbao and Frankfurt; and Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly for Festival de Sanxay.

Marina hopes to be able to sing the remaining five performances on 29 October and on 1, 4, 7 and 11 November as scheduled. The rest of the cast remains the same.


There should have been a live broadcast of Daniil Trifonov’s extraordinary Wigmore Hall recital last night. Instead, BBC Radio 3 ran a repeat of his Edinburgh Festival appearance.

Apparently, the artist had asked for the recital not to go out live. He had suffered concussion a couple of weeks earlier, tripping on a step after emerging from a yoga lesson, and feared that he might not be at his best in a collection of pieces he had never played before.

In retrospect, he had nothing to fear.

trifonov cleveland

You’re not safe out shopping tomorrow when the big man turns 200.

Thomas Südhof, who shares this year’s Nobel Prize for medicine and physiology, told The Lancet in August 2010 that he owes his powers of analysis and concentration to studying a musical instrument.


What apart from your family is the passion of your life?
I always try to understand everything I encounter—not only in science, but also historical and political events and music and movies—get to grips with the content, meaning, and process. This is immense fun, as strange as that may sound.
Who was your most influential teacher, and why?
My bassoon teacher, Herbert Tauscher, who taught me that the only way to do something right is to practice and listen and practice and listen, hours, and hours, and hours.
How do you relax?
Drink wine and talk to the people I love.
What is your favourite book, and why?
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust, because it is a microcosm of the world and Goethe’s beautiful language expresses all of our potential and contradictions.
You can have dinner tonight with a famous person—who would it be?
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, so that I could try and find out if his creativity was conscious or inherent.
h/t Gerhard Veith

Nice twist, this.

The most sexist character in opera will be singing to the beat of a female Italian harpschordist/director in Scottish Opera’s new production.

Speranza Scappucci, assistant to Riccardo Muti in his recent opera productions, says: ‘All the work I have done as a vocal coach hasn’t happened because I am a woman; I was always hired for the quality of what I was doing. In my short career as a conductor it has been the same. I hope that will continue to be the case…. Women got to the podium later than men. Now it just needs time.’

Read more here.


photo: Silvia Lelli

The white lettering of Fazioli shone out across the Wigmore Hall.

The foremost pianist of the new generation, winner of the Tchaikovsky competition, is not a Steinway artist. He plays as he pleases. Steinway sometimes, Fazioli when he sees fit and he’s thinking of test-driving the recharged Blüthner.

Last night, he strode out on stage and ripped off a Stravinsky Serenade at speeds and power the composer could never have imagined when he wrote the piece for his own non-virtuosic hands in 1925. Trifonov followed up with shimmering contrasts of Debussy’s Image and four of Ravel’s Miroirs. Later, he chuckled that he had never played the Stravinsky or the Ravel in public before. ‘And the Schumann Symphonic Etudes (after the interval) was only my second time. First was two nights ago in the Concertgebouw.’

I asked him about the encores, vaguely familiar but resisting my attempts to name them. ‘They were my compositions,’ beamed Daniil. ‘Called Rachmaniana, and written in my first years in Cleveland, when I was homesick for Russia.’


trifonov dg

At 22 years old, Daniil Trifonov is on a roll of first experiences and not letting them go to his head. For each performance, he picks the piano that best suits his physical needs and won’t be reduced to matchsticks.

The new Fazioli had, it turned out, only been played once before. That was by Boris Giltburg, possibly Trifonov’s only rival in the 20-somethings.

Not good news for Steinway.


Or, as it turned out, for the BBC.

The New York-based composer-conductor-headline-catcher Sung Jin Hong is writing an opera based on the hit TV series and a sonnet by Shelley.

That’s what he announces on his website.

How will I compose this mini-opera? Should I consider having specific characters from the drama? How about setting my music to unforgettable moments from the show? Should I focus instead on Shelley’s sonnet, devoted to a single metaphor for the pride and the unrelenting pursuit for power? It is tempting to fully dive into the universe of Breaking Bad and embrace its elements, depicting moral chaos.

Premiere scheduled next January.The-Composer-and-his-cat