We mourn the death today in Jerusalem, aged 85, of Amnon Shiloach, professor of musicology at the Hebrew University and an unrivalled authority on Jewish traditions in music. I had hoped to include him in my recent series on Music and the Jews, but he was sadly unavailable.

He did an immense amount of groundbreaking fieldwork and published a magnum opus, ‘The Theory of Music in Arabic Writings ca.900-1900′.

Other works include: The Musical Tradition of Iraqi Jews,Music Subjects in the Zohar, Text and IndicesJewish Musical TraditionsThe Dimension of Music in Islamic and Jewish CultureMusic in the World of Islam: A Socio-cultural Study.

Away from Jerusalem, he taught at the University of Illinois. Amnon was a paramount teacher who never failed to answer student queries, no matter how dumb. May his rest be sweet, as we say.


amnon shiloah

Peter Sykes, a professor at Boston University, has announced on his Facebook page that he is joining Juilliard:


peter sykes

Today I am very happy to share the news that I will be joining the faculty of the Historical Performance Department of the Juilliard School in New York City as its teacher of harpsichord, starting in September. I will continue at Boston University and First Church in Cambridge, commuting to New York at regular intervals. I am very honored to have been invited to help train our next generation of fine harpsichordists, and will look forward to working with them in the fall.

No word about this from Juilliard, or what it means for the incumbent, Kenneth Weiss.

Our informants, who insist on anonymity, sound none too pleased.



Our operavores Elizabeth Frayer & Shawn E Milnes were at the first night of HGO’s production of Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s masterpiece. They weren’t overwhelmed (as we were), but this is an opera that takes time to eter the soul. Click here for their report – ahead of all New York media.


the passenger

Second review’s just in – George Grella on New York Classical Review is impressed by Weinberg’s musical restraint. Click here.

The French contralto Nathalie Stutzmann, who became a conductor under Seiji Ozawa’s mentorship, has a label deal. Warner has also signed a French harpsichordist. You don’t speak French? Find another label.



Press release:

July 2014 – Warner Classics & Erato are honoured to announce the signing of an exclusive recording contract with one of the most versatile musicians of our time, Nathalie Stutzmann, and with the young French harpsichord sensation Jean Rondeau, who is currently recording his debut album dedicated to Bach.


The revered French contralto and conductor brings with her the dynamic chamber orchestra she founded in 2009, Orfeo 55. Nathalie already has an extensive discography of more than 40 recordings to her name, having performed as soloist under the batons of Herbert von KarajanSir Colin DavisJohn Eliot Gardiner and Marc Minkowski among others. These luminaries must have left a lasting impression on the contralto, who has since developed a parallel career as a fine maestra in her own right under the guidance of her two mentors, Sir Simon Rattle and Seiji Ozawa.


Her next venture with Erato marks a homecoming – she had signed her first contract as a singer with the label in the early 1980s – but also a new chapter now that Nathalie’s rich vocal gifts have matured and she has mastered the rare skill of singing and conducting simultaneously. It is a combined art she will continue to explore on her first recording for Erato with Orfeo 55,Heroes from the Shadows, slated for release in October 2014. The new album shines light on the secondary roles in Handel operas; the lesser characters who are in fact often given the plum arias, and features countertenor superstar Philippe Jarousskyin a duet with Nathalie. Heroes from the Shadows will be launched with a concert at the Wigmore Hall on 17th October.


In Addition, Erato will reissue Nathalie’s three classic Schubert lieder cycles – originally recorded with Inger Södergren for the Calliope label – in conjunction with her upcoming tour of the same repertoire.  “I have known Nathalie Stutzmann from her earliest performances,” recalls Warner Classics & Erato President Alain Lanceron.  “Her debut on disc on EMI was the complete opera Guercoeur under the direction of Michel Plasson in 1986. I followed with great interest the rise and evolution of her magnificent career. I am very proud to welcome her to Erato along with Orfeo 55. She is not only an exceptional contralto, but also a truly unique musician.”


Jean Rondeau is one of the most promising and innovative artists of his generation. His debut recording, dedicated to the music of JS Bach, is slated for release in February 2015 on the Erato label.  At just 21, Jean Rondeau won the First Prize at the Bruges International Harpsichord Competition, where critics praised “a virtuosity that allows him to dash off lightning appogiaturas, phrasing that nourishes and refreshes the drama, lively, ardent, captivating and always dynamically charged” (La Libre). He is also a recipient of the European Union Baroque Orchestra Development Trust, awarded to Europe’s brightest young performers. At the Paris Conservatoire he received a broad education across various disciplines: harpsichord, of course (with Olivier Baumont, Blandine Rannou and Kenneth Weiss as mentors), but also piano, jazz and improvisation, composition, orchestral and choral conducting. Rondeau continued his training at London’s Guildhall School of Music and in several masterclasses with Christophe Rousset, among others.

The memoir by Aaron Rosand, which we published earlier this week, has opened the floodgates to reminiscences by musicians who claim to have suffered at the hands of the superpower violinist Isaac Stern. Most were fellow violinists, but other artists did not escape his attention.

The ensuing discussion on www.slippedisc.com has prompted the Israeli-born pianist Mordecai Shehori to raid his own painful memories.

Mordecai, from 1971 to 1982, was the piano teacher of Isaac’s children. Vera Stern called him ‘almost nightly’ to discuss the events of the day. Why did Isaac turn against him? we asked. ‘Maybe Stern wanted to sever my good relationship with his children? Maybe I upset him because I had a more intellectual and artistic approach to music?  Stern’s taste in music was very narrow. In any case I was dropped and erased. Then Vera was assigned to intimidate my mother and try to deport me back to Israel.’

Read his account below. You may find it disturbing.




My life with Isaac Stern

by Mordecai Shehori

After Stern “saved” Carnegie Hall he did not go home and practice the violin. Instead he appointed himself as the President of Carnegie. It was meant to be an honorary position but it was not. Stern brought to the board of Carnegie Hall many of his wealthy friends who were loyal to him. … Stern, along with his 2nd wife Vera, also maintained complete control over the America-Israel Cultural Foundation. Many of the large donors to this organization also gave money to Carnegie….

In 1982, I gave a successful piano recital at the 92nd Street Y to a full house, played four encores and received a very good New York Times review. I could hear during the second half of the program Stern’s unique voice “clearing his throat” repeatedly.  But I thought that he had just caught a cold.

Two weeks later, I received a call from him: “Mordecai I need to speak to you”.  I was happy. It was 10:00 PM and ran right away over to 81st Street.

Stern told his wife: “Please no phone calls”.  He looked at me with an ice cold stare and started repeating the most devastating phrases that no one should ever have to listen to.

He said: “Mordecai look, some people have it and some do not and YOU just don’t have it.” He continued: “You do not have the looks and personality to be a musician.” This wasfollowed by: “No one EVER will be interested to listen to your piano playing.” And then: “NO conductor or orchestra will EVER be interested to work with you.”

At one point, Stern scolded me for not playing the Promenade from Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition like a military March. I explained to him that the focus is on Mussorgsky’s feelings when strolling at an exhibition of drawings by his dead friend, artist and architect Victor Hartmann.  And that is why there are bars containing meter of 6/4 and 5/4 alternately, whichcancels the possibility of a march. When Stern heard this, his face became red and he screamed: “If you speak like this you DO NOT have a right to call yourself a musician.”

After more than an hour and many more insults, I stood up and thanked him for his time and said: “Mr. Stern just to let you know and in spite of everything you have said, you must understand that I love music, I have a talent for it and I will always play piano.”

Few months later, in Tel Aviv, there was a knock on my mother’s door.  There stood Vera Stern and her Israeli side kick Meira Ghera. My mother thought that I haddied but this was not the case.  Vera refused to sit down and shouted: “Mr. Stern demands that you will exercise your influence over your son and force him to go back to Israel and teach in a Kibbutz. He has NO BUSINESS being in the USA”.

(So now Stern was in the deportation business…by the way he successfully deported others who were not as stubborn as me.)

Shortly afterwards, and I know this for a fact, Omus Hirshbein, then the director of the 92nd Y who was my friend, received a donation check (tax deductable-like all other incidents of Stern “giving money”) for $1,500 with the understanding that Mordecai will never perform again at the 92nd Y.  I could neverreach Hirshbein again and the 92nd Y was closed to me forever.

Eight years later, (1990), I rented Weill Recital Hall where Iplayed a recital for which I received a rave New York Times review. As a result I received two engagements: one at the Lotus Club in New York and the other in Unity Concerts in New Jersey. I was told by the directors of both venues that they then received calls from Stern “demanding” (his favorite expression) to cancel my signed contracts.

Until today I can not understand why Isaac Stern spent so much time and effort in order to destroy me…I really can not understand it at all…after all I was not even a violinist.

And I was a dedicated piano teacher to his children for eleven years.

The only possible explanation that he had a powerful need to control other people’s lives. Same as Caesar with thumb up but mostly down. Instead of practicing his great violins in his gorgeous Studio on 81st Street and amazing country house in Connecticut,  he spent all day on the phone and in meetings, practically betraying his profession. As Horowitz told me many times: “Isaac just plays out of tooon (tune).”

Isaac Stern holds a unique place in music’s history.  Other well-known musicians help those that they feel are deserving and ignore those that do not appeal to their taste. Heifetz and Horowitz helped a number of young talented musicians over the years but they did it in private and refused any public recognition.  In contrast we often joked in Israel that “Isaac does not even go to the bathroom without a TV crew.”


Stern’s destruction of worthy musician that he perceived as rivals or threatening is well known among professional musicians and these reports are NOT rumors but the painful truth…

The fact is that once Isaac rejected you NO Manager will come with a mile distance. It is all over. Especially if you are Israeli. What I heard 1,000 times is “Since you are Israeli and Isaac did not help you, you are no good and we can not work with you”. I barely survived as a pianist and somehow kept my sanity as a man by playing 27 New York Recitals in 27 years with all different programs and creating 31 beautiful CDs for posterity besides publishing historical recordings that gave me great satisfaction by bringing back to life forgotten and never before available recordings  by David Nadien and the other great artists on my label.

In the end, ironically enough, the man who “saved” Carnegie Hall actually destroyed its acoustics forever as a result of the 1986 thoughtless renovation.  Vladimir Horowitz was very upset when he played for five minutes in an unannounced performance at the beginning of the re-opening ceremony. Horowitz’ name was not printed in the evening program and he never returned to Carnegie Hall.  He said: “Isaac killed Carnegie Hall for me.” The last recitals by Horowitz were given at the Metropolitan Opera House.


(c) Mordecai Shehori/www.slippedisc.com (all rights reserved)


The heat-seeking violinist is in trouble. Her flamboyant entry into the Winter Olympics appears to have been founded on fixed results.




AP reports: 

Four Slovenian ski officials were suspended Friday for allegedly rigging the results of pop violinist Vanessa-Mae to help her qualify for the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Competing in Sochi for Thailand as Vanessa Vanakorn, using the surname of her Thai father, she finished a distant last among the 67 racers who completed the two runs in the Olympic giant slalom.

To earn enough points to be eligible for the games in February, she had to compete in official races in Sweden, Norway, Slovenia and Switzerland.

The Slovenian Ski Association said Friday it found evidence indicating that the races it hosted in January were “fixed at the behest of Thai ski officials to meet her qualifying criteria for Sochi.”

The Slovenian association president, Jurij Zurej, said the suspected irregularities included falsification of times and rankings.

“The starting list included a person who did not even compete, a racer who fell was registered as finishing high in the standings,” Zurej said. “In addition, the dates of the competitions did not match the actual state when the races were held.”

Zurej said that Vanessa-Mae might not have known about the violations at the time.

Ken Thorne was a genius at setting other men’s music to film.

He won the 1966 Oscar for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (original Broadway musical: Stephen Sondheim).

He also composed the first Beatles film, Help!, and two of the Superman films, using themes by John Williams.

ken thorne

Facebook announcement:

Anna Netrebko and Azerbaijani tenor Yusif Eyvazov (age 37) are pleased to announce their engagement. The couple met and began dating in March of this year when they appeared together in a production of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Rome Opera House. A date for the wedding has not been set, and Anna and Yusif politely request that their privacy be respected.


eyvazov netrebko2


John Kerry, in Beijing, got out his gitter and played a few Spanish riffs for Chinese vice-premier Liu.

How do we rate him? A bit slow…

The jazz pianist is averse to coughing.

He has taken to walking out when anyone in the audience expectorates.

Last weekend, he walked out at the Salle Pleyel.

The German cabaret artist and children’s author Felix Janosa was so dismayed he voiced his disgust on his Facebook page:





Gestern Abend war was los, nämlich Keith Jarrett im Salle de Pleyel zu Paris, auch ich samt lieber Frau unter den Zuschauern im ausverkauften Haus. Nach den üblichen Ermahnungen, die man wegen kleinerer Huster von Jarrett erwartet hatte und insgesamt sechs vollständigen und zwei abgebrochenen Improvisationen in der ersten Hälfte, fing die zweite Hälfte in deutlich gesteigerter Form an: Auf eine Schostakowitsch-hafte Toccata folgte ein überzeugender Jarrett-Gospel und als drittes eine sehr schöne Ballade. Als jedoch Jarrett sich beim vierten Stück (Jarrett-Standard-Ostinato) durch einen SEHR kleinen Huster wieder aus dem Konzept gebracht fühlte, verließ er nach einigem Hin und Her mit Fans und “Störern” beleidigt den Saal. Selbst über 10 Minuten anhaltendes Klatschen konnten die Mimose nicht davon überzeugen, das Konzert in Würde zu Ende zu bringen. Der Meister erschien dann doch noch mal, aber nur um den enttäuschten Fans zu sagen: “I have no more music in me!” Abgang Jarrett, Pfiffe, Buhrufe und echte Enttäuschung bei vielen Hardcore-Jarrett-Fans, meine Wenigkeit eingeschlossen.


Yesterday evening something was out of whack.  Namely, Keith Jarrett at the Salle Pleyel in Paris, where my dear wife and I were in the audience of a sold-out house.  After the customary admonitions about coughing that we’ve come to expect from Jarrett, and a total of six complete improvisations as well as two interrupted ones in the first half, the second half began in  markedly elevated fashion:  a Shostakovich-ian toccata, followed by a convincing Jarrett gospel number, and then a very beautiful ballade.  But during the fourth piece (a standard Jarrett-ostinato), when Jarrett again felt he had been distracted by a VERY small cough, he left the hall in a snit after some back and forth with fans and “disruptors.”  Even ten minutes of sustained clapping could not convince the shrinking violet to bring the concert to a fitting conclusion.  The master then came out again, but only to say to the disappointed fans, “I have no more music in me.”  Jarrett departed to the accompaniment of catcalls and real disappointment from many hardcore Jarrett-fans, my humble self included.


UPATE: Some readers have asked why we thought Jarrett was disgraced. What else do you call an artist who walks out on people who paid to hear him play? If Myra Hess could play through the London Blitz, Mr Spoiled Jarrett can override a little cough.

The Chancellor will not be attending the opening night of this year’s festival.

A red-carpet fixture in years past, her office has given ‘scheduling clashes’ as the reason for her absence and promised, somewhat vaguely, that she may turn up later in the summer.


merkel bayreuth2


Could be that Angie’s had her fill of tomato bloodbaths, naked virgins, a chorus dressed as rats and other reconfigured charms of the Bayreuth stage.

Desperately covering for Frau Merkel’s absence, Bayreuth has swiftly announced the attendance on opening night of the Bavarian prime minister Horst Seehofer ‘and his entire cabinet’.

Big deal.

Where’s George Clooney when you really need him?