Jubilation in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Riccardo Muti, 72, has committed til the end of the decade, amid signs that he’s really enjoying himself. Here‘s Larry Johnson’s report, with plenty of Muti quips.

muti blackhawks

The board of the Memphis Symphony has decided to close out at the end of the current season unless they raise a lot of money, very soon.

They can’t find the $20-25 million it would cost to continue. Music director is Mei-Ann Chen.

The orch gives 23 subscription concerts and 146 education and community events each year.

No longer. Report here.



I’m speaking at the Colburn School and the Los Angeles Philharmonic next week.

The first talk is titled below. The second is Reinventing Vienna in the LA Phil’s Upbeat Live.

Come by, say hi!




Gerd Albrecht, who led Hamburg State Opera and the Czech Philharmonic in the 1990s, has died at the age of 78.

A prolific recording artist, Albrecht spent almost his entire career in Germany with the exception of posts at the Zurich Tonhalle and Danish Radio and four years (1993-96) when he was controversially elected chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and subsequently deposed.

In the introduction to the German edition of my book The Maestro Myth, I reported that Albrecht had won the Czech vote by promising a record contract that he could not deliver. Albrecht applied to have the book banned, but the judicial process never got off the ground after Czech musicians supplied me with the incriminating faxes. In the immediate post-communist confusion, a part of the orchestra had become bedazzled by the prospect of western wealth.

Albrecht’s Wikipedia entry describes his period in Prague as ‘a musical success’. Not many who heard the orchestra in that time would share that conclusion. It was an unhappy period, ending in a bust-up with the President, Vaclav Havel.

Albrecht left behind a deeply divided orchestra. He was invited back for further engagements at the 2004 Salzburg Festival and for a 2006 South America tour. The orchestra has lately reverted to Jiri Belohlavek, the music director whom Albrecht displaced.

From 1997 to 2007, Gerd Albrecht was principal conductor of the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo. Since September 2012 he has been musical cirector of the Besançon International Music Festival.

His podium work can be judged on more than 50 recordings, some of them reviving music by Schreker, Korngold and other composers who were banned under the Nazi regime. Albrecht’s father had been an official in that regime.


gerd albrecht


Frank Almond, the Milwaukee concertmaster who was mugged last week and robbed of his precious Stradivarius, has posted a message on his blog from the instrument’s anonymous owner. Frank’s discretion and the owner’s dignified words unite in dealing with this cultural disaster not as personal tragedy but as an attack on human civilisation.

lipinski strad


Here are two extracts:

Due to my devastation at the attack on you, Frank, and the theft of the violin, I feel compelled to write this. First, I’m so happy that you are safe. I speak to your many friends, whose responses to this event have been so touching. It has been my joy and privilege to own the Lipinski Stradivari in recent years. I have thought of myself more as a guardian of a treasure than an owner, a treasure that needs to be seen and heard. It has been in my family for over five decades, deeply loved and used in performance across the world. … I had the good fortune to find Frank to take loving care of it every day and to use his musicality and virtuosity to express his vision with its glorious voice.

… I am even more grateful that his terrible experience on the night of Jan. 27 did not result in permanent injury. I had left the concert hall just a few minutes earlier and thinking of what then happened so quickly is very painful.

As a child overhearing long, expert practice sessions on the Lipinski, I didn’t realize that it was exceptional. To me, that was just how violins sounded. Understanding its capabilities came later: the pure, strong voice, clear, light and dancing, dark, brooding, poignant, tender, ebullient, expressing any emotion the player was feeling. Its loss is devastating.

Perhaps it’s appropriate to say also that I’m not part of any upper echelon, musical or other, just a person who loved her family violin with all its memories and three hundred years of history more than the many opportunities to sell it. My heart is broken.

Read the full statement here.

It has taken about a decade of negotiation, but the Westminster catalogue is finally out – much of it for the first time on CD, which means a whole generation has been denied access to this music. None has ever been available before on download.

It includes the earliest recordings by the Amadeus, Barenboim, Bream, rare as square cucumbers…. Clara Haskil, Hermann Scherchen, oh, just click to read the review. It’s my Album of the Week on Sinfini. Aan unqualified five-star.


Hats off to Ellen DeGeneres.

In the weekend that Dancing with the Stars sacked its live musicians, Ellen’s producers signed a new agreement to pay musicians who appears on her show. She also fronted an ad encouraging legitimate, paid-for use of recorded music.

We like Ellen.

ellen de generes

The Irish government has commemorated Count John McCormack on a 10-Euro coin.

mccormack coin

John McCormack (1884-1945) was a world-renowned Irish tenor, spanning Handel to Hollywood.

Montreal, Saturday, February 1st, 2014 – The Opéra de Montréal regrets to announce the cancellation, due to illness, of the concert by Jonas Kaufmann scheduled to take place on Sunday, February 2, 2014 at 2 pm. The entire Opéra de Montréal team joins you in wishing him a speedy recovery.

A Word from Jonas Kaufmann

«Dear Friends. It is with great regret that I am forced to cancel my concert at L’Opéra de Montréal on February 2. I am in New York with influenza and a high fever and it is for this reason that I am unable to perform at this time. I am extremely sad to not be able to appear in this concert which was planned with such enthusiasm and with such precision and professionalism thanks to the wonderful artistic team at L’Opera de Montreal. This concert was to have been one of the highlights of my North American tour. My management is in contact with the Artistic Director of L’Opéra de Montréal to find a date in the near future when we can re-schedule the concert. Thank you for your kind understanding and I hope to see you very soon “onstage” in Montreal. A très bientôt, with my warmest greetings to you all. Jonas Kaufmann. »


kaufmann harteros


Tom Pickett, a YouTube vice president, has disclosed at Midem panel that his company, owed by Google, paid more than a billion dollars to the music industry over the ‘last several years.’

That looks like good business for both sides, with reasonable trickle-down for artists. Certainly much better than the Spotify scam.

Small labels, though, are still unhappy.


The arrangement was odd, the key changed, the interpretation so bold she risked mangling the Star-Spangled. But every note was on the nail and every heart rose with the song. This was a victory for voice over virtual reality.

UPDATE: Here’s a play-by-play analysis of her performance by Paul Pelkonen.

renee fleming super bowl