Warner Classics are cock-a-hoop, announcing that a Maria Callas biopic is heading into production, to be directed later this year by the New Zealander, Niki Caro. An awful lot can go wrong between now and then.

Casting is, as they say, not yet complete.

Put in your bids now.

Slippedisc is punting for Penelope Cruz.

Any better offers?

 

penelope-cruz-mango-04maria callas opera highlights

Dutch Public Radio is auctioning off a baton used by Bernard Haitink when he was chief conductor of the Concertgebouw, an orchestra he says he will never conduct again.

Bids have just reached 390 Euros ($534) and there are two days to go.

Click here.

Baton Haitink

h/t: Dianne Winsor

The incoming Munich Philharmonic conductor has published an appeal to the city, in English and German, asking for tolerance and understanding between Russians and the West. The appeal is a stream-of-consciousness ramble, recognisably in Valery’s voice.

Key points:

–  I cannot ignore the fact that parts of Russian society live according to fundamental principles that are different from those of Western societies.

– I respect the principles of life that are extremely important to the people of Russia. These include upholding taboos that have not applied in Western countries for many years.

– Circumstances of Realpolitik can suddenly infiltrate the common ground of our cultural work and cause harsh and jarring discord.

– It is particularly crucial at times like these to still have the courage to listen to the other side and to exchange opinions.

 

The full letter in both languages is published first here on Slippedisc.com.

gergiev-prof

Dear subscribers and friends of the Munich Philharmonic,

The events in and around the Ukraine have been dominating the headlines over the last

few weeks, causing new rifts between East and West that are distressing to all of us. I,

personally, have also become the subject of accusations and controversial disputes. I

would like to take this opportunity to make a personal statement.

I am immensely proud of the fact that I have been appointed by the city of Munich to

head the Munich Philharmonic as Music Director in the 2015/16 season. Yet this

appointment means much more to me. In my opinion it is based on trust and on the

belief that, together, we can and must succeed in upholding this city’s unique musical

culture and to guide it into the future. I am fully aware of the magnitude of this task and

the responsibility associated with it and my future orchestra. Therefore, I shall do my

very best to ensure that our concerts are filled with unforgettable moments.

I am a musician and conductor. However, I am also a Russian citizen with close

connections to my native country. For nearly a quarter century I have been in charge of

the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, one of the world’s most prestigious theatres,

home to the the Mariinsky Opera, Ballet and Orchestra. My range of musical activities

is not limited to this one post. I have been conducting music in the most important cities

around the world for many years and work together with many orchestras and musical

colleagues. Music is both my profession and my passion and I have devoted myself to it,

heart and soul, from a very early age. I also assumed responsibilities to ensure that the

cultural and musical tradition of St. Petersburg continues to blossom.

Future political developements could give rise to problems along the lines of what we

are currently experience since some people might interpret my involvement given my

nationality. In some countries I am seen as a representative of a “different” society,

which does not stand for the values and principles of Western life, or does not advocate

for them strongly enough. But is this accurate? After all, our Russian musical culture

was Europeanised by Mikhail Glinka and is influenced and shaped, in particular, by the

German musical culture. Many people in my native Russia are very well aware of this.

Yet, on the other hand, I cannot ignore the fact that parts of Russian society live

according to fundamental principles that are different from those of Western societies.

For example, many elements of Russian culture are based on the Russian Orthodox

religion and the traditions associated with it which still plays a fundamental role in

people’s lifestyles. It is important to recognize that this tradition has helped the Russian

population to survive such difficult eras in the twentieth century.

I respect my people and their traditions. I also respect the principles of life that are

extremely important to the people of Russia. These include upholding taboos that have

not applied in Western countries for many years, but where many attempts and much

time was needed to abolish them. With respect to my personal stance, there is no one in

my ensemble and team who could accuse me of anything. One of my most important

principles is respect for others and their personal lives.

Of course, I am aware that my work, my initiative and my commitment – to the extent

that music has an influence on everyday life – demand a high degree of responsibility

towards my fellow citizens and at times these functions can be construed in a political

nature. Nevertheless, I aim a continuous believer in music’s power to reinforce societies

and their great traditions. That is why it is very important to me to help promote and

invigorate educational music programmes.

I know that many colleagues throughout the world support me in my efforts. Yet this

can and must not hide the fact that circumstances of Realpolitik can suddenly infiltrate

the common ground of our cultural work and cause harsh and jarring discord. In my

opinion, it is particularly crucial at times like these to still have the courage to listen to

the other side and to exchange opinions. Moreover, we should not lose respect for each

other and never allow for communication to breakdown. We should always be able to

exchange thoughts and ideas.

It might sound banal, which does not make it wrong, in fact, quite the opposite is true in

my experience: Music is the best bridge-builder!

I look forward to welcoming you to many concerts, perhaps as early as July as the

Munich Philharmonic and Marinsky Orchestra complete their Strawinsky Cycle

Yours sincerely,

Valery Gergiev

 

Sehr geehrte Abonnentinnen und Abonnenten,

liebe Freunde der Münchner Philharmoniker,

die Ereignisse in und rund um die Ukraine beherrschen in diesen Wochen die Schlagzeilen und

erneut werden Gräben zwischen Ost und West aufgerissen, die uns alle bestürzen. Auch meine

Person wurde dabei zum Gegenstand von Vorwürfen und kontroversen Auseinandersetzungen.

Deshalb möchte ich mich heute mit einer persönlichen Stellungnahme in Form dieses Briefes

an Sie wenden.

Dass ich von der Stadt München berufen worden bin, ab der Saison 2015/16 die Münchner

Philharmoniker als Chefdirigent zu leiten, erfüllt mich mit größtem Stolz. Doch bedeutet diese

Berufung für mich noch mehr. Sie beruht nämlich in meinen Augen auf Vertrauen und auf der

Zuversicht, dass es gemeinsam gelingen kann, dieser Stadt ihre einzigartige Musikkultur zu

erhalten und diese auch der Zukunft zu öffnen. Der Größe und Verantwortung, die in dieser

Aufgabe liegt, bin ich mir durchaus bewusst. Mein künftiges Orchester und ich werden alles

tun, Ihnen mit unseren Konzerten unvergessliche Erlebnisse zu schenken.

Ich bin Musiker und Dirigent. Ich bin aber auch Russe und meinem Heimatland eng verbunden.

Seit nahezu einem Vierteljahrhundert leite ich die Geschicke eines der angesehensten

Opernhäuser der Welt, die Mariinsky-Oper in St. Petersburg. Mein musikalisches Tätigkeitsfeld

ist darauf nicht begrenzt. Ich dirigiere seit Jahren in den bedeutendsten Musikmetropolen der

Welt und musiziere mit vielen Orchestern und Musikerkollegen zusammen. Mein Metier und

meine Leidenschaft ist die Musik, und ihr habe ich mich von früh an mit ganzer Seele

verschrieben. Ich habe dabei aber auch Verantwortung übernommen, um die kulturelle,

musikalische Tradition von St. Petersburg am Blühen zu erhalten.

Daraus können im Falle politischer Entwicklungen Probleme entstehen, wie wir sie jetzt haben,

und in die mich einige verwickelt sehen. Ich gelte in manchen Ländern als Vertreter einer

„anderen“ Gesellschaft, die nicht entschieden genug für die Werte und Lebensgrundsätze des

Westens stehe und dafür einträte. Doch ist das richtig? – Gerade unsere russische musikalische

Kultur ist seit Michail Glinka europäisch und da vor allem von der deutschen Musikkultur

beeinflusst und geprägt. Das ist vielen Menschen in meiner Heimat Russland sehr bewusst.

Doch ich kann andererseits auch nicht außer Acht lassen, dass die russische Gesellschaft

teilweise nach anderen fundamentalen Prinzipien lebt, als das in den westlichen Gesellschaften

der Fall ist. So spielt die kulturelle – tief in der orthodoxen Religion verwurzelte – Orientierung

für die russischen Menschen eine nach wie vor elementare Rolle in der Lebensführung, was im

übrigen auch geholfen hat, dass die Menschen in Russland schwierige Situationen im

20. Jahrhundert überleben konnten.

Ich achte mein Volk und seine Traditionen. Ich achte und respektiere auch das, was als

Lebensmaxime in Russland den Menschen von hohem Wert ist. Dazu gehört auch das

Festhalten an Tabus, die in den westlichen Ländern seit einigen Jahren nicht mehr gelten, aber

zu deren Aufhebung es viele Anläufe und viel Zeit brauchte. Was meine persönliche Haltung

angeht, so wird es niemanden geben in meinem Ensemble und Team, der mir etwas vorwerfen

könnte. Der Respekt dem anderen und seinen Belangen gegenüber ist für mich ein oberstes

Prinzip.

Ich weiß natürlich, dass meine Arbeit, meine Initiativen und mein Engagement, wo sie auf die

Prägung von Lebenswirklichkeit mit Musik hinauslaufen, ein hohes Maß an Verantwortung

gegenüber meinen Mitmenschen fordern und deshalb immer auch politisch sind. Aber ich

bleibe bei der Musik, weil ich an deren gesellschaftsbildende Kraft und an den hohen Wert

ihrer Tradition glaube. Deshalb liegt mir auch so viel an der Förderung und Vitalisierung von

musikalischen Erziehungs- und Bildungsprogrammen.

In diesen Bemühungen weiß ich mich mit vielen Kollegen in der ganzen Welt verbunden. Doch

das kann und soll nicht darüber hinwegtäuschen, dass realpolitische Probleme plötzlich in die

Gemeinsamkeit unserer kulturellen Arbeit harte und schrille Dissonanzen hineinschicken. Doch

gerade dann ist aus meiner Sicht entscheidend, dass wir den Mut behalten, der jeweils anderen

Seite zuzuhören und uns wechselseitig auszutauschen. Dass wir dabei nicht den Respekt

voreinander verlieren. Der Dialog darf nicht abreißen, niemals! Der Austausch der Gedanken

muss möglich bleiben.

Auch wenn es abgegriffen klingt, aber es ist deshalb nicht falsch, ganz im Gegenteil: Musik ist

der beste Brückenbauer!

Ich freue mich auf viele gemeinsame Konzerte mit Ihnen – vielleicht schon im Juli, wenn der

Strawinsky-Zyklus der Münchner Philharmoniker und des Mariinsky-Orchesters zu seinem

Abschluss gelangt.

Sehr herzlich,

Ihr

Valery Gergiev

Everyone knows how George Martin recuited an ad hoc string quartet – Tony Gilbert (violin), Sidney Sax (violin), Kenneth Essex (viola), Francisco Gabarro (cello) for an overdubbing session on the early Paul McCartney song, Yesterday. McCartney liked it so much he released a voice-free version with guitar and string quartet on the Help! album.

Yesterday has become an encore standby in the lives of many string quartets.

 The Beatles In Austria

It has also made the Beatles irresistible to string arrangers, mostly as hack transcriptions. But a new set from the finest string quartet in the Czech Republic – and that’s saying something – caught my ear. It’s my Album of the Week on Sinfini.com. Click here.

Gerald Finley – the Don Giovanni de nos jours – is giving up a lot of fat festival fees to climb Kilimanjaro in August. It’s in aid of Help Musicians UK, formerly known as the Musicians Benevolent Fund. You can sponsor Gerald and his two sons here.

They are looking to raise £10,000 for HMUK. C’mon Slippedisc readers, we can beat that.

gerald finley don giovanni

Gerald’s statement: I have been very fortunate to scale the heights of music mountains such as Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger, Oppenheimer in Doctor Atomic and also Winterreise, as well as having wonderful new music written for me. It seemed an appropriate moment and a natural choice to take on Kilimanjaro, acknowledging the help of and thanking those colleagues who have aided my musical treks. 

I know that Help Musicians UK have been key in supporting those who find themselves with challenges. We musicians don’t often qualify for straightforward assistance; Help Musicians UK can be there in the tough times. Please help them make a difference to those whose talents need support in difficult circumstances. Give me a tune/song/aria to sing while climbing, to keep the breathing and rhythm strong…!

The First Lady is participating in something called Turnaround Arts initiative, a worthy attempt to upgrade failing schools by adding arts education. She has recuited a number of celebrities to highlight the cause. But when push comes to shove and the kids come to the White House today, all she’ll hear is guitar, drums, ukelel and rap. What kind of message is that? Closing of the American Mind.

Press release extract below.

michelle obama

On Tuesday, May 20, First Lady Michelle Obama will host students from Turnaround Arts schools across the nation and renowned performers and artists at the first-ever White House talent show. Students will perform and showcase their work at the White House, joined by the Turnaround Artists who have been volunteering with their schools to support their arts education. Artists participating in Tuesday’s White House event include Sarah Jessica Parker, Chuck Close, John Lloyd Young, Damian Woetzel, George Wolfe, Alfre Woodard, Troy Andrews (Trombone Shorty), Cristina Pato, Shane Shanahan and Kojiro Umezaki. Artists in attendance include Kerry James Marshall, Kal Penn, Frank Gehry, Clarence Greenwood (Citizen Cope), Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Doc Shaw and Chad Smith.

Nicola Benedetti has been whisked in to replace Janine Jansen, who is unwell. It’s her proper debut with the orch, the previous appearance having been a bit part in September 2011 in Andrea Bocelli Live in Central Park, performing Lorin Maazel’s arrangement of Rodrigo’s “En Aranjuez con tu Amor” (Nicky, how could you?). This time she’s playing Szymanowski (phew!).

Also on debut with the Phil is the London Philharmonic’s Vladimir Jurowski. (What took them so long?)

Press release below.

theaderks-nicolabenedetti
Violinist Nicola Benedetti will make her New York Philharmonic subscription debut —
replacing Janine Jansen, who has been advised by her doctor not to play for at least a week — in
performances of Szymanowski’s Violin Concerto No. 1. Vladimir Jurowski will make his
Philharmonic debut conducting the concerts, Wednesday, May 21, 2014, at 7:30 p.m.; Thursday,
May 22 at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, May 23 at 2:00 p.m.; and Saturday, May 24 at 8:00 p.m. The
program will conclude with selections from Prokofiev’s Cinderella.

Nicola Benedetti made her New York Philharmonic debut in September 2011 in Andrea Bocelli
Live in Central Park, performing Lorin Maazel’s arrangement of Rodrigo’s “En Aranjuez con tu
Amor” alongside Mr. Bocelli, conducted by Music Director Alan Gilbert. Szymanowski’s Violin
Concerto No. 1 is the work with which Ms. Benedetti won the BBC Young Musician of the Year
competition in 2004; it also featured on her debut recording, recorded with the London
Symphony Orchestra led by Daniel Harding on the Deutsche Grammophon label.

 

This is Nora Fischer, soprano daughter of the conductor Ivan Fischer, in the final round of Dutch Classical Talent this weekend. Very confident, accomplished performer, with a touch of the Cathy Berberian about her.

The winner was a cellist, Joris van den Berg. Nora and percussionist Niek Kleinjan were the runners up.

 Nora-Fischer-611x397