The French radio producer and musicologist Jacques Merlet has died of a respiratory complaint, aged 83.

A gifted, impecunious youth, his organ studies were paid for by the composer Olivier Messiaen. Merlet went on to become an advocate of ancient organs and original instruments, forcefully advancing the careers of Jordi Savall, William Christie and many more. Obituary here.


jacque merlet

Roberto Ruisi, 18 last week and concertmaster of the UK National Youth Orchestra for the past three years, has been given a Stradivarius to play for his next performances.

The instrument, valued at £1 million, is owned by John Ludlow, a violinist who was the youth orchestra’s first leader in 1948. Ludlow bought the instrument in 1965 when Strads were still just about affordable. His lovely gesture is reported in the Birmingham Mail.



photo (c) Jason Alden

Nestlé and Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award has announced Placido Domingo as its honorary president next year. The contest was founded in 2010 and has quickly gained a reputation as one of the cleanest and clear-sighted of its kind.

Its winners are:

Maxime Pascal (France) 2014
Ben Gernon, (UK), 2013
Mirga Gražinyte-Tyla, (Lithuania), 2012
Ainars Rubikis, (Latvia), 2011)
David Afkham, (Germany), 2010

All five winners are highly promising, taking big strides onto the world stage. Mirga Gražinyte-Tyla just last week was appointed assistant conductor with the LA Philharmonic.


So this weekende’s decision to appoint Placido Domingo to an ‘honorary presidency’ that will give the contest ‘important impetus for its next phase’ is puzzling to say the least. ‘I am confident that he will lead the “Nestlé and Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award” in a new groundbreaking era,’ says Nestlé Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe.

Oh really? Or is Nestlé just buying into a strong brand? Domingo is too busy as a singer, director of LA Opera and entrepreneur to give the competition detailed attention.

All Salzburg needs to do to break new ground is keep on picking the best young conductors under 30.

The Australian composer Gordon Hamilton has composed a piece in which the chorus take over the conductor’s job and give instructions to the orchestra. Watch.

gordon hamilton ghosts

Overnight statements from both sides in the Metropolitan Opera dispute are encouraging and conciliatory.

Talks with the federal mediators have been extended by an extra week, the immediate lockout threat has been suspended and ‘all three parties have jointly agreed to retain an independent financial analyst to perform a due diligence financial study of the Met.’

The Met called the move ‘an effort to help all parties reach new contractual agreements’.

The auditor, Eugene Keilin (2nd r. on panel), worked for the City of New York during the 1975 financial crisis.


eugene keilin



His entry signifies a  considerable concession by Peter Gelb, the Met manager, who has refused the unions access to financial data until now. By suspending the lockout for another week, Gelb has all but abandoned his hardline demands that staff must accept a wage cut or face an immediate work stoppage.

The unions agreed to observe social media silence after a campaign that successfully undermined the Met’s obduracy. Members have been told: ‘At the request of the Federal Mediators, we now ask that you please refrain from posting anything on social media.’

Here’s a statement from the musicians:

metropolitan-opera exterior



New York, NY–Saturday, August 2, 2014–At the request of the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS), the Metropolitan Opera, Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, and the American Guild of Musical Artists have agreed to a process for continuing their discussions. It was recommended by the FMCS and all three parties have jointly agreed to retain an independent financial analyst to perform a due diligence financial study of the Met and to render a non-binding report to the parties to assist them in reaching new collective bargaining agreements. During this process the employees covered will continue to perform their regular assignments under the terms of their contracts, which expired at midnight July 31, 2014.

Eugene Keilin, a co-founder of KPS Capital Partners, LP has been retained for this purpose. Mr. Keilin was formerly a General Partner of Lazard Freres & Co. and Chairman of the Municipal Assistance Corporation for the City of New York.

FMCS Deputy Director Allison Beck and Commissioner Kathleen Murray-Cannon commend Metropolitan Opera General Manager, Peter Gelb, Local 802 President Tino Gagliardi, and AGMA Executive Director Alan Gordon for their cooperation and commitment to work with FMCS with the goal of reaching an agreement that is acceptable to the parties.

James Odom, President of the American Guild of Musical Artists states: “We are encouraged with this step forward that we believe will address the issues in contention and will ultimately lead to an agreement that is fair to everyone.”

Tino Gagliardi, President of the Associated Musicians of Greater New York, Local 802 AFM adds: “We all look forward to a fair and independent analysis of the complex issues we have been contending with for months. This is a significant development.”