Douglas Sommer, an Atlanta player for 25 years, has died. Tribute here. Our sympathies to his family, colleagues and community.

Douglas Sommer

The pianist Gabriela Montero is one of ten celebrities named for outstanding work by the Human Rights Foundation, in recognition of her appeals for the restoration of justice and civil law in her home country, Venezuela.

Gustavo Dudamel is named on the HRF@s shame list for his proximity to the Madura regime in Venezuela.

Report here.


Tonight’s premiere of Manon Lescaut will go ahead, conducted by Riccardo Muti in the presence of President Napolitano.

Anna Netrebko makes her house debut in white rabbit fur. Muti’s daughter, Chiara, directs.

More here.

anna netrebko rabbit

Courtney Lewis, 29, has been named New York Philharmonic Assistant Conductor, starting September 2014.

Belfast born, Courtney studied composition with Robin Holloway at Cambridge and conducting at the Royal Northern College of Music, where his teachers included Sir Mark Elder and Clark Rundell. He has served as a Dudamel Fellow with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and as assistant conductor with the Minnesota Orchestra.

Alan Gilbert said: ‘We discovered Courtney after an extensive audition process, and he emerged as a very promising future colleague as our next Assistant Conductor.’


RNCM graduates from the last six years currently hold assistant conductor / fellowship posts with:

Berlin Phil – Duncan Ward

New York Phil – Courtney Lewis

LSO – Alexandre Bloch

ENO – Gergely Madaras

Halle – Jamie Phillips

CBSO – Alpesh Chauhan

A three day competition to select next years new junior fellow starts on Saturday.

Two power players in Miami have got together to link the university’s school of music to the talent-development faculties of Universal Classics. The idea is to give students access to career-building knowhow, and the labels a glimpse of what’s coming up. Looks like a win-win. Press release below.







February 27, 2014 (New York, NY) — Elizabeth Sobol, President and CEO of Universal Music Classics (pictured above), and Shelly Berg, Dean of the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami, announce a strategic business-academic partnership to launch Universal Music U @ Frost, a focused research initiative to identify and innovate new ways for aspiring young professional musicians to build and meaningfully engage with broad-based audiences for “classic” music genres.

The initiative, Universal Music U @ Frost, will center around four areas of innovation –the concert experience, the training of performers, the role of the record label, and the building of a worldwide network of young composers, practitioners and consumers who represent the future of classics.

Frost School of Music students and faculty will work with executives and artists from Universal Music Classics, who will be onsite for hands-on “externships,” to develop and test new live concert and recording models, create new marketing approaches, and innovate new audience and social media strategies in keeping with ever-changing technologies and societal developments.

Collaborative plans for Universal Music U @ Frost also include co-developing a new type of master’s degree in performance at the Frost School of Music with courses relevant to today’s professional world, such as concert programming, new recording paradigms, audience development, entrepreneurship, touring, stage presence, long-term career development, and business management. Some of these courses will be made available online, including an online certificate program

Ms. Sobol, recently 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.  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 continuing its long-standing relationship with the esteemed ECM label.  Prior to joining Universal in April 2013, Sobol was Managing Director of IMG Artists (N/S America) and counted amongst her personal management clients artists such as Joshua Bell, Itzhak Perlman, James Galway, Hilary Hahn, Evgeny Kissin and the Emerson String Quartet.


Shelly Berg is a three-time Grammy nominated arranger and producer, Steinway piano artist and internationally renowned recording artist and award-winning educator. He was identified in 2000 by Los Angeles Times as one of “three educators for the Millennium.” He became dean of the Frost School of Music in 2007 and quickly facilitated the revamping of its entire undergraduate curriculum to be more relevant for the 21st century and in the process recruited over 35 new performance and research faculty with top industry credentials.  The new Frost Experiential Music Curriculum incorporates performance, composition, improvisation, history and theory into small, hands-on “experiential” classes organized around chamber music and small group experiences, and require all undergraduates regardless of major to take classes in music technology, music business and entrepreneurship.

A coroner’s court in Lowestoft, Suffolk, has ruled that Matt Fretton, former agent of the violinist Alina Ibragimova and others, died last October at his home by suicide. The inquest heard that he had become depressed after the accidental death by drowning of his partner, the photographer, Sussie Ahlburg. Matt, who was 49, left a suicide note. At an early stage in his life, Matt was a successful pop star.


matt fretoon smash hits

He leaves close family and many bereft friends.

Die Welt reports that the Mayor of Berlin Klaus Wowereit plans to appoint the iconoclastic Tim Renner as Kultur-Staatssekretär.

Renner, 49, an SPD loyalist, is former chief of Universal Music Deutschland. Probably not too much of a socialist.

His predecessor stepped down from the political post after owning up to having a Swiss bank account.

tim renner

The first sign of life from Warner Classics since it absorbed EMI is outlined below. What is not clear is whether it’s an old-style Warner deal, which involves taking royalties from live as well as recorded events, or a more orthodox, mainstream record deal.

Here’s the release:



Aurora Orchestra and Warner Classics announce a new recording contract which will see the orchestra record three albums for international release on the label.

Building on the combination of creative programming and electrifying performance which have become the hallmarks of Aurora’s concert season, the recordings will take audiences on a series of thematically‐inspired musical journeys roaming across widely varying repertoire. The first disc, due for release in Autumn 2014, will be entitled Road Trip, and features the music of John Adams, Charles Ives and Aaron Copland alongside newly-­commissioned folk song arrangements by Nico Muhly. American singer-songwriters Sam Amidon and Dawn Landes feature as guest soloists.

The crossover soprano Laura Wright has been complaining of her time at the Royal College of Music beneath the headline ‘RCM students bullied me because of my success’.

She claims other students were resentful of her winning a Radio 2 Chorister of the Year Award and whispered a lot. ‘I found quite a lot of … probably bitterness is the right word,’ is her strongest reflection on the college. She adds: ‘I heard people talking behind my back. The main gist was I was dumbing down classical music … It came across as a little bit jealous.’

Bitterness, dear, is not bullying. Nor is jealousy. Lots of people had a bad time in college, but that does not mean they were bullied. Bullying is a campaign of personal aggression that can lead to dire consequences. Its tragic victims come to light every day in the coroners courts.

Laura cannot accuse the RCM of tolerance for bullying on such flimsy charges, nor can the newspaper justify its headline. Bullying is a scourge that requires constant vigilance from college authorities. This is just a low-level publicity grab.



Laura Wright will sing God Save The Queen at the England v Wales match at Twickenham on March 9.

John Briggs, 65, a Yorkshire pianist and briefly a television presenter, received the heavy sentence for sexual offences against two music students and three sea cadets. The boys were aged 10 to 15. Briggs filmed some of the offences, between the 1960s and 1993.

The judge condemned police for refusing to listen to one of the complainants in 1993. Briggs, convicted on nine charges, was described as a relentless and systematic abuser of young boys.

The case follows two failed prosecutions against prominent media figures.

john briggs

Nick Gatfield has left the turbulent company suddenly in a cloud of rumour.  and boardroom intrigue. All Sony will say is: ‘It was an amicable decision for Nick to leave the company at this time. We wish him the best in his future endeavours.’

It sounds like a sacking. Nick was previously a big gun at both EMI and Universal, as EMI Music president of new music for North America and before that as head of Island Records.

nick gatfield

anna netrebko rabbit

Trimmed with silk, our fashion correspondent advises. The white Rex rabbit cape was ‘manufactured by hand at Rome’s Fendi fur atelier in consultation with costume designer Alessandro Lai’ for her Rome Opera debut tonight in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut. Expect animal rights outrage. And a touch of Alice in Wonderland.

Photo by Silvia Lelli