Josef Reif went for a drink with colleagues in a wine bar after finishing at the opera on Wednesday night. He put the instrument at his feet in a silver-gray Samsonite backpack that looks rather like a laptop bag. When he looked down, the bag was gone. Auf Deutsch here.

The horn, valued at $8,000, is registered with a serial number and is a Vienna-style instrument, easily recognised. Reif has alerted all stores in the city. It is probably unsaleable in the locality. Keep an eye out for it online. Josef is in great distress.

josef Reif

Live from Munich on Saturday night: Verdi’s Forza with hot tenor. Make a date of it.

kaufmann forza

On Saturday, December 28, the Bayerische Staatsoper will be presenting the season’s third transmission on STAATSOPER.TV. This time, Giuseppe Verdi’s La forza del destino will be streamed live and free from Munich. Martin Kušej’s new production will be featuring two singers in great demand: Munich born tenor Jonas Kaufmann will sing Don Alvaro in his role debut. Anja Harteros, who in 2009 and 2013 opened the Munich Opera Festival alongside Mr. Kaufmann (Lohengrin and Il trovatore), will sing Donna Leonora (role debut). The Bayerische Staatsorchester will be led by Maestro Asher Fisch.

The live audiovisual broadcast will start at 6 p.m. (CET) at The service is free of charge to viewers.

His name is Alexander Sorokow and he has been playing in the Vienna radio orchestra. He is obviously very good. But the Vienna Phil is under scrutiny for violating national and international equality laws by discriminating against women and minorities in selecting new members.

Every male appointment it makes is in defiance of those laws. At some point, the orchestra will have to be called to account before a court of justice.


vienna phil

Llandaff Cathedral in Wales has terminated seven adult choristers, effective tomorrow, in order to save money. The assistant organist has also been sacked. More than 1,000 supporters have signed a petition but the Church of Wales is turning a deaf ear. Trying to hire herald angels for free, no doubt.

Read here.

llandaff choir

They can’t keep the Bolshoi out of the bad news.

Last night at 10.30, mezzo-soprano  Elena Manistina was in a car on Maly Tishinsky Lane waiting to go home when a pair of robbers smashed the side window and grabbed her bag. It contained her passport, cash and credit cards to a value of 150,000 rubles. She was left shocked but physically unharmed, according to first reports.

Вручение государственных наград деятелям культуры России

Ed Smith, former head of the City of Birmingham, Toronto and Gothenburg Orchestras, has a bone to pick with conductors. They are very quick to milk applause for every part of the orchestra, he says, except the main body of strings. A rethink is needed, says Ed. 

Maestros, read carefully and respond. 



When I was Orchestra Manager of the Liverpool Philharmonic in the 1970’s, second or third rate conductors, desperately anxious for a re-invitation, would single out sections or individual players for special acknowledgement at the end of a performance. They no doubt thought that wind and brass players were more “important” and had greater influence on the conductor engaging process than the strings. We all recognised this ingratiating tactic and treated it with the amusement and disdain it deserved. And they were usually never seen again!

But now, they nearly all do it!

Most conductors – including many of the great ones – go through the silly ritual of bringing individual players and sections to their feet for special attention – sometimes even at the end of a single piece. And the string players are, of course, always the last to be acknowledged.

It’s a really quite surprising display of insensitivity and I can’t understand why it’s become so widespread. Of course conductors should get the cellist up after a Brahms Second Piano Concerto or the cor anglais after a Swan of Tuonela or the trombone after a Shostakovich Fourth Symphony and other players where really significant solos have featured. And an especially well playing wind section in a Mozart Piano Concerto might be worthy of separate acknowledgement. But otherwise the orchestra is an orchestra – a group of up to 100 + musicians who play together as one body. It’s not a collection of individual and separate groups of woodwind, brass, percussion and strings.

I believe it should be acknowledged and applauded collectively and equally as such. How insulting it must be for those 60 odd string players (who, incidentally, will have probably put in significantly more graft in terms of rehearsal time) to have to sit and tap their stands enthusiastically whilst their colleagues are bidden to rise (often reluctantly and with some embarrassment) to receive special adulation. Of course, they themselves are not going to give voice to any frustration. That would be churlish. But I’d be very surprised if beneath the surface, whilst applauding their colleagues, there is not at least a little sense of feeling undervalued. And what can the players and sections singled out do other than stand to accept their special applause as commanded by the conductor as gracefully as they can?

No, the only people who can put a stop to this are the conductors themselves ( or their managers). So those who are reading this, please reflect a little on just how upsetting it may be for all their players to perpetuate this discriminatory practice.

Am I being curmudgeonly? Well, I don’t think so – I’m just articulating what I think needs to be said on behalf of those who are unable to. It’s a bit like the devaluation of the standing ovation which has now become so commonplace to mean nothing………..but that’s a separate gripe!

Edward Smith



Our ex-BBC colleague Sally-Anne Thomas was singing cheerily last night in the Church of St-Martin-in-the Fields on Trafalgar Square when the world and its woes intruded on the festive season. Here’s her report:


st martin


Peaceful carol concert at St Martin’s-in-the Fields. First half disrupted by sound of sobbing — turns out someone’s been taken ill. The announcement comes, ‘Is there a Doctor in the…?’ Speaker doesn’t know what to say. ‘House?’, ‘audience?’ ‘congregation?’

Programme hastily rearranged. Second half is marked by sounds of police cars and ambulances racing through Trafalgar Square.

Towards the end, a missile is hurled through one of the windows on the St Martin’s Lane side, showering us with debris. It’s a china mug, which shatters. My cheek is lightly scratched by shrapnel. Rest of the church go on singing a comedy version of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’.

In the pub afterwards we discover about the ceiling collapse at the Apollo nearby. Two people try to steal our programme. For a carol concert? My companion tells me that three men lined up at the urinals in the gents all burst into harmonic song when he was there. On the way home I have to run the gamut of lots of tiny black mice on the platform at Charing Cross tube. A drunk couple take each other’s shoes off on the train. Back at the house, a moody looking fox is lurking in the front garden. Love living in London…


No reason given, but from tomorrow the Talinn Philharmonic is headless. Marko Lõhmus faces a jobless Christmas.

UPDATE: he has gone on radio to say that he submitted his resignation as he could not see a way forward in what he called ‘current conditions’


Interesting statements from the superstar in the WSJ:

There are 50 million kids learning piano now in China. If you asked me 10 years ago, I’d be worried. Back then, the parents were so pushy. Now, it’s much better. Back then, it was four grandparents, mother and father—everything is on one child.

Are Chinese parents really serious about practicing?

People think they’re serious, but they’re not that serious anymore. Most of the kids want to learn. They can end up like pop star Jay Chou or Lady Gaga or Alicia Keys or Herbie Hancock. A lot of my classmates in Juilliard were Asian, but it’s not like today. The head of Juilliard piano has 25 students—23 are Chinese. Some are American-Chinese. But it’s incredible. The thing is, when Asian students are practicing hard, it makes the American students practice hard.


lang lang trophy

Eric “Guitar” Davis, 41, son of Bobby “Top Hat” Davis, was found shot dead at the wheel of his car, close to another murder scene. Details here.

Eric Guitar Davis & The Troublemakers - Here Comes Trouble - Front

Karina Canellakis has been appointed assistant conductor with the Dallas Symphony, starting next year. She graduated from Alan Gilbert’s class at Juilliard and was formerly guest concertmaster at the Bergen Philharmonic in Norway, where ex-Dallas chief Andrew Litton is music director. More career details here.


photo (c) Masataka Suemitsu