We’ve been sent a short clip of a documentary being made about Marc Minkowski, a baroque specialist who has recently become absorbed in his family’s distinguished origins. Should be interesting. First screening is scheduled at EFM Berlin.



This shoe was ‘specially designed for the “8 variations for Stradivari” exhibition at Cremona, Italy. The brown leather mimics the warmness of carved wood and with “strings” up the heel and S-shaped “holes” on the insole and sole, the transformation into a shoe shape is complete. – See more here. Price? A mere $1,650, legs not included. H/t Lisa Riley Fogler.


The Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin spends much of his time exploring neglected corners of repertoire. His latest Busoni album on Hyperion may not sell a million copies, but it renews our acquaintance with a brilliant musical mind in a performance entirely unhampered by technical difficulty. There is, however, once composer M. Hamelin cannot fathom. Read Elijah Ho’s interview to discover who.

hamelin busoni

Cardiff Council, its budgets squeezed by £50 million further cuts, says it cannot afford to maintain St David’s Hall, the nation’s main orchestral venue. The council’s chair of finance says he is seeking an outside operator to take over the hall and he’s not hopeful of finding one.

St David’s which seats 2,000, receives £1.2 million in council subsidy a year. Report here.


cardiff st david's

On Super Bowl Sunday, the soprano Renée Fleming will step out into the arena and sing The Spar-Spangled Banner. Yes, she will actually sing. Unlike the host of Hollywood actors and pop stars who have performed the rite before, this operatic soprano will not lip-synch to a pre-recorded track. She will not gyrate, or fake, or twerk. She will do what she does, which is sing. Beautifully, note perfect.

It is unfortunate that this great sporting event can no longer afford a live orchestra, but the tens of millions who are watching at home will have no difficulty in distinguishing this live singer from so many who performed make-believe with a dead recorded track.

Against the winter’s media soundtrack that opera is an elitist pursuit and classical music is dead, Renée Fleming has a unique opportunity to show the world that opera is a lively art and classical is music for real.

She will not let us down.

renee fleming inaugural


The libel action brought by Jesús López Cobos against the former Teatro Real director Gerard Mortier has been thrown out by a judge in Madrid lower court 48. López Cobos claimed that Mortier had defamed him in an Austrian interview  by saying the conductor had been fired from his post as music director at the Real.

The judge ruled that a conductor, being in a public position, must accept adverse opinion and critical statements as part of his job.

Victory for free speech? First report (as so often) in el pais.


gerard mortier

The conductor Sasha Makila tells Slipped Disc that house where Jean Sibelius lived in his home town Kerava is being put up for sale by the Finnish Government. Sibelius lived there between 1889 and 1902, the period when he composed Finalndia and the first two symphonies. You would have thought the house counted as national heritage but the Finns are an unsentimental lot.
sibelius mattial house
Known as the Mattila House, the auction is being held here today. The lot includes a granary, where Sibelius retreated to compose when his kids got too noisy.
Sasha says he would have kept the sale to himself and made a decent bid, but the property needs a lot of work to make it habitable again. ‘When I saw the list of urgent repairs, I got cold feet,’ he tells us. The Mattila house is not to be confused with Ainola, north of Helsinki, which Sibelius built later from the royalties of his successful works and which remains his national shrine.

renee fleming ball

photo (c) Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

She told an eve-of press conference: ‘I’ve probably sung through it (The Star-Spangled Banner) in my mind and vocally 800 times in the last three weeks.’ Editorial comment here.

She has also just made it into the ranks of America’s richest celebrities.

renee fleming ball

Eduard Laurel is an international pianist who, by his own admission, ‘ became a slave to crack cocaine in his relative youth’. Clean for the past six years, he writes a blog that maintains scrutiny on the ever-slipping critical standards of the New York Times. He’s also just got around to the new, self-acclaimed Lang Lang/Simon Rattle release:


lang lang rattle

 From the opening bars, what detracts from his bustling athleticism is his impetuous rhythm and erratic phrasing, his fast notes clumped together like locusts on the last ear of corn. Soon enough, Mr. Lang’s signature becomes apparent: willful, and comprehensible not as the efforts of an adolescent, but as a young child disciplined enough to control its tantrums. Perhaps this explains Sir Simon Rattle’s brittle, though enthusiastic, partnership.
   It could be argued that Lang Lang has a technique of some brilliance, but this chronicler finds it a disgrace to his trainers and handlers that at this stage of his prodigious career he will likely continue with barely a nod to the decorum, civility, and propriety of this art we call fine, much less delve into matters of taste, tradition or aesthetics. 

Agree? Dissent? Read on. You won’t be disappointed. Click here.

FORT WORTH, Texas, January 30, 2014—The Cliburn, with Sundance Square, will host a special memorial concert in honor of its inspiration and namesake, Van Cliburn, onThursday, February 27, 2014—the one-year anniversary of his passing. The tribute will be held in the new Sundance Square Plaza in downtown Fort Worth from 5:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and will feature recitals by eight Cliburn Competition award winners:

Alexander Kobrin, 2005 gold medalist

Simone Pedroni, 1993 gold medalist

José Feghali, 1985 gold medalist

Antonio Pompa-Baldi, 2001 silver medalist

Maxim Philippov, 2001 silver medalist

Yakov Kasman, 1997 silver medalist

Alexey Koltakov, 2001 finalist

Steven Lin, 2013 jury discretionary award winner

Performance times and repertoire to be announced.

The concert will be free and open for all to attend in Fort Worth, as well as streamed live online at Cliburn.org.

“Van was a member of the Fort Worth community who belonged to the world,” said Carla Thompson, Cliburn chairman of the board. “The Cliburn Board of Directors is hosting this event to celebrate his incomparable life and indelible spirit, not only for those attending the concert in person, but for all of his admirers and friends around the globe. Anyone can join us online for the live streaming—a true international memorial.”

“Van believed strongly in the encouragement of young talent, and the artists that will play each personally benefited from his inspiration,” said Jacques Marquis, president and CEO of the Cliburn. “He also had a lifelong commitment to sharing music with as many people as possible, so the partnership with Sundance Square to hold this event in their magnificent, public space is perfect.”



van cliburn george bush

… not terribly well played. Nor is the music brilliantly constructed. The opening movement is 20 minutes long, verging on inarticulate. The second is embarrassingly derivative. It is only when you get to the adagio that the emotional storm-force of Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s 12th symphony kicks in, revealing its inner anguish.


weinberg 12th

Written in 1976 in memory of his close friend Dmitri Shostakovich, the symphony struggles with its own composer’s life in the shadow of a genius, exposing  untold depths of a human dilemma. I keep going back to hear it again.


Gertrud Stockhausen suffered from depression during her marriage, attempted suicide and was hospitalised in a mental institution. On May 27 1941 she was taken with 89 other patients to the killing centre Hadamar, in Hesse-Nassau.

Early next month, a memorial plaque will be set into the ground outside the house where the Stockhausen family lived in Bärbroich.

Here’s an informative press release (auf Deutsch). Much of the research into Gertrud’s life and death was conducted by a schoolgirl, Lisa Quernes from the Landesmusikgymnasium in Montabaur

stockhausen mother