Tomorrow, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project marks the centenary of Irving Fine, a composer who died tragically young. His daughter, Emily Fine, MD, has written this reflection for Slipped Disc.

irving fine

My father, known to many as a member of the Boston school of composers as well as the founder of the School of Creative Arts at Brandeis University, would have reached 100 on December 3, 2014.

Sadly, he died abruptly from a heart attack at the age of 47, shortly after conducting his Symphony (1962) with the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood.

I was 10 years old when he died and my two sisters were 8 and 15. The music world suffered a tremendous loss, but for my mother, Verna Fine, raising three daughters, Claudia, Emily, and Joanna, alone at the age of 42, the grief was immense.

She showed remarkable fortitude with the love and support from all those who adored my father, but it was her passion and devotion for his music that especially gave her strength. She continued to remain involved in the music world, promoting his music and the music of other twentieth century composers. She remained close to my father’s dear friends and his devoted students such as: Aaron Copland, Arthur Berger, Harold Shapero, Richard Wernick, Joel Spiegelman and even Leonard Bernstein.

Her advocacy for my father’s music led to consolidating his works with Boosey, partnering with them in various publishing aspects, promoting the performances in her dealings with conductors, chorale groups, chamber groups and various organizations. One of the most powerful relationships she nurtured was with the Library of Congress, the recipient of all his archives, photos, scores, sketches and correspondence. After she died, the Library honored their legacy by creating the Verna and Irving Fine Fund, as well as a wonderful website in the American Memory portal. Brandeis—where he gave so much of himself to create a world-renowned music department— continues to honor him with annual concerts, a funded chair and grants for graduate work in his name. My mother navigated the publication of his biography by Philip Ramey, which was well received. Sadly, she too died suddenly and never actually lived to see the biography released.

But my mother’s not so secret obsession was his Symphony (1962), his only symphony, his last work, and his largest, most complex and perhaps greatest work. We all remember the process— composing was an intense and taxing project for my father—one he could not live without, but one that was hard for a perfectionist. My mother felt strongly that my father’s “new” voice in this piece needed to be heard. So, as we approached the centennial year, the performance of this large work seemed essential—for honoring both my mother and father. For this reason the BMOP concert and Gil Rose’s willingness to work with us is so thrilling. And, the fact that there will be a recording, which will include my father’s works from this concert with a recording done this summer of the other orchestral works, gives the centennial celebrations a greater sense of permanence.

Fortunately, we have had the tremendous support of the Library of Congress and Brandeis. I want to mention, in particular, Nicholas Brown. We met him when he was a music student at Brandeis, having chosen that institution because of the Irving Fine legacy.

His passion for my father’s work has made this year such a positive experience for us all. With his leadership, we have established The Irving Fine Society, which has provided the basic core for advocacy and communication concerning my father’s music and for the centennial. Together we all look forward to a week of concerts, panels, and other activities at the Library of Congress in December of 2014—the true 100th birthday. Brandeis has already honored his birthday with a concert, but will present a full centennial weekend in November. The commemorations joyously started with a performance by Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, and we have and will see performances from Milan to the west coast, by ensembles such as Music from Copland House and the New York Woodwind Quintet. Even I, as an amateur French hornist, have  performed Blue Towers and am arranging a whole Irving Fine concert to include both quintets.

The three daughters have so much to be grateful for. Losing one’s father at such young ages is not easy, but how fortunate are we to have his music. We are also blessed to have children who love music and understand the importance of this legacy. Both my daughter Alison Stein and Claudia’s son Isaac Hurwitz have already been involved and have provided tremendous skills and guidance to us and The Irving Fine Society.



The governing Fondazione Teatro alla Scala took a preposterous decision today on its incoming Sovrintendente, guaranteeing chaos and confusion for the next two years at least.

Alexander Pereira was told by the Mayor of Milan, Giuliano Pisapia, that by shifting loss-making productions from Salzburg to La Scala he made himself unfit to be head of La Scala in the long term.

He will be appointed to the post immediately, but is required to offer his irrevocable resignation’ no later than December 31, 2015 . Pereira has not yet responded but it is unlikely that he can accept the job on these terms. UPDATE: Pereira’s response here.

Nor, as the mayor has admitted, will it be easy to find anyone else of comparable ability and experience who can take over the house at short notice.

It’s a total bungle, a bunga shambles.


The executive and artistic director of Carnegie Hall, formerly a cellist and then chief executive of the London Symphony Orchestra, has sent us this vivid and affectionate tribute to his desk partner Douglas Cummings, whose untimely death was announced today.


Dougie Cummings’ death is a huge loss to the world of cello playing.  He was an astonishing talent who maddened all the rest of us cellists by finding everything easy; I don’t think he understood what the word difficult meant!  Not only was he a great talent and a truly expressive and wonderful player, he was also terrific fun, had a great sense of humor and was a genuine force for good in the orchestra throughout his time there.  He played a number of concertos with the orchestra in very varied circumstances, and I guess not  many principal cellists in any orchestra in the world would have been totally unperturbed, as he was, playing the Shostakovich first cello concerto on an LSO USA tour in a reconfigured cattle market, with portraits of bulls around all the walls and with straw and wood chippings on the floor.  He delivered as great a performance as he would have done in Carnegie Hall.

He was also somebody who had a huge effect on every conductor and soloistwho worked with the orchestra.  His infectious joy of music, totally passionate playing and exquisite sound enthralled everybody who came to work with us.  In addition, his dazzling talent led to him being appointed principal cello of the LSO at a time when he was also the youngest member of the orchestra.  Despite this, he carried the huge responsibility with total ease and great humor.  He is somebody who will remain in the memories of everybody who loves music, loves the LSO and admires great cello playing.

First reports from today’s board meeting in Milan say that a decision has been taken to give Alexander Pereira a one-year contract only for 2014-15 to be its sovrintendente.

(UPDATE: Offer confirmed. The board has informed Pereira that he must leave at the end of the 2015).

He had been expecting six years.

The offer puts all of Pereira’s plans in jeopardy. he may refuse to take the job on that basis, and Riccardo Chailly will be unlikely to join as music director. The mayor of Milan is about to give a press conference.

It looks like La Scala is descending into a very Italian form of chaos.

UPDATE: It’s a death warrant for La Scala.

alexander pereira

Next: Pereira’s response to the offer here.

Mathieu Dufour, principal flute of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, won the Berlin Philharmonic audition for the same position today. If the Frenchman accepts the job, he will succeed the veteran Andreas Blau. Mathieu has played in the CSO since 1999.

Maestro Muti will not be pleased.


Dufour is the second US principal to win a Berlin seat this season, following Pittsburgh’s Noah Bendix-Balgley, who claimed a concertmaster’s seat.

 daniel kurganov

All credit to Daniel Kurganov. Can’t wait for the next instalment.

Maria Joao Pires, whose handsome grandson turns pages at her recitals, has found new management.

Long with Jan Burnett, who used to work for Harold Holt before she set up a standalone, Pires has moved back to Askonas Holt on Jan’s retirement. Nice to know that the career, like her granny pal Martha’s (below), continues to flourish.

argerich pires2

We’ve received news of the death, aged 67, of Douglas Cummings, one of the foremost British cellists of his time.

He was principal cello of the London Symphony Orchestra and a brilliant chamber soloist until his career was interrupted by serious illness in midlife. He recovered, but was never the same again. Our sympathies to Dougie’s family and many friends. He was ever the life and soul of the party, even before the party was announced.

Here’s the official announcement to members of the cello society:



Douglas Cummings, the distinguished British cellist, (b.1946) died yesterday, aged 67.

“Dougie” had a distinguished and brilliant career as a performer, starting at the age of 22 when he became the Principal Cellist of the London Symphony Orchestra – a position never previously earned by so young an instrumentalist. He held this position for 24 years, as well as being a member of its Board of Directors.

The LSO became household names through the BBC Television programmes introduced by Andre Previn; Dougie premiered Previn’s concerto and recorded many wonderful orchestral solos with the LSO. He was an inspirational teacher at the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and Oundle School. Initially a student of Douglas Cameron, Dougie travelled to the USA to take lessons with Gregor Piatigorski.

He worked with some of the music world’s greatest names and obtained particular acclaim through his chamber music, performed with London Virtuosi, the Lindsay String Quartet and the Lake Piano Trio. He was a founder Member of the New Queen’s Hall Orchestra, with whom he made both orchestral and chamber recordings. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music in 1977. The London Cello Society honoured him with Life Membership in 2010.

He is represented on the 2004 album The British Cello Phenomen. For much of his career he performed on a fine Giovanni Battista Rogeri cello. He used gut strings with an uncovered gut A string – his distinctive, quality tone production was evident his eloquent, expressive playing. Dougie was a sociable and amiable character, much loved and well-repected by his colleagues.

His infectious laughter and appetite for life were coupled by a deep knowledge of music and cello playing. His career was brought to a premature end when he suffered a series of aneurysms but he continued to entertain all around him with charisma, charm and humour. In the LSO book of 1970 he says: “Firstly music, secondly eating – that for me is living”. Not only will be sorely missed; he is simply irreplaceable.


UPDATE: Click here for a tribute from the LSO. And here for a reminiscence from Carnegie Hall chief Clive Gillinson.

… Malmö, in Sweden.

Tomorrow, Friday, 1900 Central Europe Time and available afterwards for streaming. All totally free.

Who’s offering to review it for Slippedisc?



In celebration of the Richard Strauss Year: and Malmö Opera present:  Der Rosenkavalier

directed by Dmitri Bertman and conducted by Leif Segerstam 

May 16, at 7pm CEST

Also on-demand through June 5! 

Mark your calendars for the May 16 livestream of Der Rosenkavalier, one of the crown jewels of the opera world!

Some know it as The Knight of the White Rose. But under any name, the opera is recognized as a masterpiece, created by two geniuses of their genres- composer Richard Strauss, and librettist Hugo von Hoffmannsthal, one of the German-speaking world’s literary giants.

Set in opulent Vienna, the story is as universal as love itself. An older woman loses her young paramour to a younger rival but gains in the acceptance of the necessity of recognizing that it’s time to let go.  Intertwined with that bittersweet process is a comic subplot that focuses on the attempt of a lecherous old baron to replenish his coffers by marrying the young daughter of a rich but socially lower family. Those who know the opera can attest that the results are hilarious.

Coming to you from the Malmö Opera in Sweden, the production stars an up-and coming international cast, backed up by Dmitri Bertman, director of the Helikon Opera in Moscow and Finnish conductor Leif Segerstam, both seasoned veterans of the musical stage.

Charlotte Larsson is the Marschallin, the beautiful noblewoman who loses her young lover to a younger rival in one of the operatic world’s most poignant roles. One of Sweden’s most successful lirico spinto sopranos, she interprets the role with intense sensitivity, building on impressive performances including Aida, Mimi, Rusalka, Cio-Cio San, and Tatiana.

Octavian is sung by Dorottya Láng, a young Hungarian mezzo with an impressive top range and a career to watch. A member of the Vienna Volksoper, she has been engaged as an ensemble member of the Nationaltheater Mannheim. Winner of the Emmerich Smola Förderpreis in 2014, her interpretation of the Marschalin’s young lover promises to set the golden standard for her generation.

Swedish soprano Sofie Asplund is Sophie, who turns the head- and heart- of Octavian.  The winner of  last year’s honorable Birgit Nilsson Scholarship and other awards, her role adds to her previous repertoire of Mozart, Cimarosa, Britten and Janacek.

Runi Brattaberg shines as the bumptious Baron Ochs, whose plot to fill his pockets by marrying Sophie is foiled by Octavian. Brattaberg is no stranger  to the role- he appeared as Ochs in Amsterdam under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle and at the New York MET and in Cincinnati. 


photo library

Click on picture to enlarge.

(c) Lebrecht Music&Arts

photo library

He gave a recital yesterday for eight of the nine judges, playing mostly Bach. Chief Justice John Roberts noted that he and the cellist were in the same classes at Harvard.

yo yo ma

The Roxy Music star, 66 years old today, has more classical strings to his bow than is commonly recognised.

He has played in a recorded performance of Also Sprach Zarathustra, produced a string orchestra release and made an uncredited appearance on Deutsche Grammophon. A birthday blog on OUP offers an audio guide to classical ENO. Click here to enjoy.

penguin cafe       brian-eno-synthesizer