A statement by the Canadian singer:

celine dion


Celine Dion has decided to postpone all of her show business activities indefinitely, in order to focus 100% of her attention on her husband Rene, their family, and associated health issues. Since Rene’s surgery last December to remove a cancerous tumor, it’s been a very difficult and stressful time for the couple as they deal with the day-to-day challenges of fighting this disease while trying to juggle a very active show business schedule, and raise their three young children.

Celine has also been fighting an illness that has caused inflammation in her throat muscles, and has not been able to perform any of her scheduled shows in Las Vegas since her last show on July 29th. She has still not recovered from this condition.

“I want to devote every ounce of my strength and energy to my husband’s healing, and to do so, it’s important for me to dedicate this time to him and to our children. I also want to apologize to all my fans everywhere, for inconveniencing them, and I thank them so much for their love and support.” said Celine.

During this hiatus, Celine will cancel her shows at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace until further notice. She will also cancel her tour of Asia, previously scheduled for the fall of this year.

Celine and family have requested that their privacy be respected at this time.

May this inspirational musician rest in peace.

frans bruggen3

The Jury of the VII Mirjam Helin International Singing Competition awarded the prizes as follows:

For women:


kateryna kasper



1st prize: Kateryna Kasper, soprano, Ukraine
2nd prize: Ekaterina Morozova, soprano, Russia
3rd prize: Sunyoung Seo, soprano, Korea
4th prize: Elena Guseva, soprano, Russia

For men:

1st prize: Beomjin Kim, tenor, Korea
2nd prize: Matija Meić, baritone, Croatia
3rd prize: Leon Kosavic, baritone, Croatia
4th prize: Dmytro Kalmuchyn, baritone, Ukraine

The prizes are the same for both men and women:
1st prize €30 000, 2nd prize €20 000, 3rd prize €10 000 and 4th prize €5 000.

The prize of €3 000 for the best performance by a non-Finnish singer of a Finnish song went to Croatian baritone Matija Meić. A total of €133 000 was awarded in prizes. The laureates receive invitations to perform in Finland and abroad.


Frans Brüggen (1934-2014)

This 1985 essay is excerpted from the book Reprise: The Extraordinary Revival of Early Music, with text by Joel Cohen and photos by Herb Snitzer


Of all the melody instruments, the most important during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was unquestionably the violin; the transverse flute trailed forlornly at a distant second place. Yet the first modern superstar to emerge from the early music ranks was neither a violinist nor (primarily) a traverso player. His instrument was the one favored by countless thousands of early music enthusiasts — the recorder. He was a Dutchman named Frans Brüggen (b. 1934).


His enormous public success surpassed anything previously conferred on an early instrument specialist (except perhaps for harpsichordist Wanda Landowska two generations earlier). Brüggen’s public included, but went far beyond, the relatively restrained coterie of the early music faithful. No one ever threatened to make Gustav Leonhardt or Sigiswald Kuijken into a matinee idol; but around 1968 Telefunken, which was releasing solo recitals by Brüggen on a regular basis, began packaging a poster-size photograph of their star with some of his [LP] albums. The handsome virtuoso, heavy-lidded and weary of this mortal frame, gazed out from the photo, past the solicitations of his adoring fans, toward some profound and mysteriously burdensome Unknown. Large numbers of artistic and sensitive young ladies affixed the poster to their bedroom walls.


The recorder was one of the first obsolete instruments to be revived in modern times. This unpromising stick of wood has also been known as the blockflöte, flute a bec, or occasionally just plain flute. It has shared a long history with its sister instrument, the transverse flute (also known as the flauto traverso, flute allemande, German flute, or occasionally just plain flute). But the transverse flute, despite numerous transformations of its manufacture across the centuries (or rather because of them), never went out of style. The modern orchestral flute, many-keyed and silver-bright, descends in a straight line from the wooden traversi of earlier centuries.


The recorder has no comparable place in modern concert life. Its decline and fall had to do perhaps with its somewhat intractable nature. Unlike the transverse flute, which allows its players many kinds of nuances and tonal colors, a recorder has basically only two aural states, sound and silence, on and off—something like the switches inside a computer chip and about equally supple and humane.

bruggen perryman


FB, painted by Norman Perryman (c) Perryman/Lebrecht Music&Arts


And yet, the recorder was counted among the instruments of seduction by the painters of the Italian Renaissance. Many a sixteenth-century painting of a bacchanal contains a symbolic recorder (along with other things meant to signify pleasure) somewhere within its frame. Frans Brüggen revived that seductiveness by indeed playing the instrument, rather than merely brandishing it like some Venetian cupid; and in so doing he managed to rouse his audiences to heights of enthusiasm rarely seen in the calm, contemplative circles of the musical antiquarians.


Long legs nonchalantly crossed, holding the recorder at an odd and slightly defiant angle to his mouth, Brüggen would treat the Telemann sonatas, favorites of the amateur player crowd, to the most astonishing kinds of metamorphoses. Abjuring the ticky-tocky style popular with Baroque performers in the recently elapsed fifties, Brüggen coaxed nuances and shadings from his instrument that few would have imagined possible heretofore. A hundred kinds of instrumental attacks, a thousand kinds of ways to shape a group of notes together, seemed to issue forth from the recorder’s narrow bore. Nothing stood still or grew stolid: in the fast movements, Brüggen’s incredible technique allowed sixteenth notes to cascade into the hall at breakneck speed. In slower passages, the sustained notes would rise disquietingly from the correct pitch, touch a point about a quarter-tone above the center, and sink back again. The little whistle heaved and sighed like a wood nymph in the embrace of some ardent faun.


The Brüggen maniera quickly revolutionized the teaching and playing of the recorder and its music, and not always for the better. Scores of young, aspiring virtuosi took to sticking the recorder at unusual angles to their faces and to playing every long note with a roller-coaster swell in the middle. Controversies flamed at weekend recorder workshops as to whether the celebrated hallmarks of the Brüggen playing style were truly founded in Baroque performance practice. Frans Brüggen himself defended many of his ways from the august podium of a visiting professorship at Harvard. There (and elsewhere) he was able to explain that many of the seemingly audacious things he did with a recorder were simply the application of precepts from seventeenth- and eighteenth-century performance treatises.


But like every good artist, Brüggen applied the basic precepts his own way. The spirit of contradiction coursed hot within his veins, and so he took every possible clue from the old manuals which would enable him to build a performing style that would be different from the Dolmetsch workshops, different from the Amsterdam conservatory, different from the polite, isn’t-it-nice-weather-we’re-having manner of the official chamber orchestras. Different!


Ironically, his originality spawned a host of Frans clones just a few years later. It is flattering for any performer to realize that he is the object of imitation and emulation. For someone with Brüggen’s rebellious and individualistic temperament it must have been infuriating as well.


Controversies and camp-followers notwithstanding, the Brüggen legacy has permanently transformed and deepened our understanding of the recorder and its literature. It had been too easy, even for those who loved early music, to consign the recorder to the slag-heap of music history. The instrument’s peculiar overtone structure and limited dynamic range made it seem more often than not just plain inadequate for the transmission of serious musical thought. By developing the inherent technical possibilities of the recorder to their maximum, and by applying a superior musical intelligence to every tiny detail of performance practice, Brüggen showed us that recorder playing could be as stimulating and rewarding an activity as anything else, and not just for the performer. And he proved that there is really no such thing as an “inferior” instrument; there are only players without enough imagination.


Brüggen’s keen sense of opposition and contradiction led him to many of his important discoveries in the field of recorder technique. Those same character traits also led him to question many other idées reçues of the musical order. He became interested in avant-garde contemporary music, and cultivated friendships with some eminent contemporary composers; one day, during his Baroque seminar at Harvard [with this writer in attendance], he taunted his students by playing the solo piece that avant-garde composer Luciano Berio had written for him, and defying his listeners to pick out the mistakes he was deliberately inserting in Berio’s hard-to-read score. His involvement with the Dutch counterculture movement led to some unusual moments during his recitals: at a [Boston] concert with the trio Sour Cream (Brüggen plus two of his student-colleagues, Kees Boeke and Walter van Hauwe), the last piece featured a Keystone-Kops chase around the concert stage.


A season or two later, the same trio performed again in Boston more determined than ever to épater les bourgeois. While Kees and Walter played Telemann duos, Brüggen wandered onto the Jordan Hall stage, donned a pair of dark sunglasses, stretched himself out on a chaise longue, and nonchalantly began reading a copy of the daily newspaper. The event provoked an indignant editorial from the Boston Globe a couple of days later. At least some members of the educated classes, who often brush their teeth in the morning to the strains of canned Vivaldi, had failed to get the satirical point. Les bourgeois — or some of them, at any rate — were not amused.


Brüggen himself seemed less and less amused by the idea of giving solo recitals on the recorder. He still commands astronomical fees for those appearances, but nowadays [mid 1980’s] his heart and soul are elsewhere. Some of his colleagues view Brüggen’s recent activity as a conductor with a measure of mistrust. The recorder virtuoso’s decision to found (and even in part to autofinance) his own orchestra was greeted in some quarters with the skeptical jeers accorded Secretary of State William Seward as he arranged to purchase Alaska from the Russians.


As it turned out, both the Alaska purchase and the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century (as Brüggen has named it) were worthwhile undertakings, despite the forbidding scale of each. The new orchestra, as its name suggests, is intended for the performance of pre-classical and classical period music. Like many Baroque specialists, Brüggen has become increasingly drawn to the style period just following the one he originally specialized in. The orchestra plays Rameau, Mozart, and even early Beethoven, applying to those later masters the same kinds of approaches that worked so well with Lully and Vivaldi and Bach. The instrumentalists have been recruited from the first ranks of the younger Baroque players; their instruments replicate those in use at the end of the eighteenth century; and the playing style is derived in large part from our historical knowledge about orchestras of that period. More important (and here is the main difference between this orchestra and certain others that have delved into the Mozart-Haydn repertoire with period instruments), the performances are strongly personal statements about the music rather than efficient sight-readings. It is now possible, given the increasing professionalism of early music players, to rehearse Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony in the morning and produce a technically adequate disk recording in the afternoon. That surface approach cannot, however, do justice to the “inside” of a genuine musical masterpiece like the Jupiter. Too many important things must be left undiscussed and undecided.


Brüggen’s current performances reflect a lot of hard work on a myriad of small details: tone color, balances, the articulation of individual notes in inner voices. The result, though, is anything but dry and pedagogical. Familiar works (like the late Mozart symphonies) seem to come alive again, revealing themselves as though for the first time. Hearing that music with this ensemble is something like seeing a familiar Old Master painting on its return from a thorough cleaning and restoration. Colors that had been dimmed and dulled by layers of grit and varnish can now reappear with their true intensity and expressive impact. We are now hearing many “early music” performances of Mozart and Haydn (Beethoven and Schubert as well), offered by people who apprenticed first in Baroque music. Frans Brüggen’s experiments in this direction must be counted among the most satisfying of the lot.


Brüggen’s success with Mozart depends on those same personal qualities that were evident in his recorder playing: the refusal to take anything for granted, the willingness to take risks, and the untiring search for solutions that probe beyond convention and lazy self-evidence.


We have noted earlier [in the book] that the decision to make one’s life in early music has as much to do with the present as it does with the past. Nowhere is that more evident than in Frans Brüggen’s career. Restless, dissatisfied, probingly intelligent, he has consistently refused to play by the established rules. His search for other precepts and other principles came from an inner need to do things his own way. The music of the distant past has been a means toward a personal end. Frans Brüggen the surgeon would have invented an outlandish but brilliantly successful technique to transplant some obscure but necessary vital organ. Frans Brüggen the auto mechanic would probably have set about redesigning the internal combustion engine, just to show the world how badly it had been done in the first place. It was a loss to the hospitals and the garages of this planet, but we music lovers can be glad: young Frans picked up neither a scalpel nor a monkey wrench as his tool for getting even with the world’s dullards, but a Baroque recorder.

Joel Cohen, a trailblazer in the early music field, led the Boston Camerata from 1969 to 2008. He is currently Artistic Director of the Camerata Mediterranea.



That’s what the Detroit Symphony are aiming for, and they’ve launched a new website to achieve it.

The site is a generation ahead of other US orchestras, many of which are clutters of vanities and beatitudes.

Detroit’s is direct, clean and clear. What you see is what you get.

Check it out here. then call your web designer.


Screenshot 2014-08-13 15.52.15

We hear New York Phil’s in hot pursuit.

The greatest tenor on earth isn’t moving the potatoes off their couches in Melbourne. Tickets are being sold at 60% discount.

Click here.

Perhaps he should have offered duets with Kylie.


Frans Brüggen, one of the pioneers of the period instrument movement and a leading international conductor, died this morning at the age of 79. He had been intending to celebrate his 80th birthday in October with his Orchestra of the 18th century.

I saw him last a year ago in Warsaw. He looked so frail and emaciated in his wheelchair at breakfast in our hotel that we wondered whether her would be able to perform. But his leadership was unimpaired and the concert was one of those pinpoint performances that last forever in the memory.

Frans started out as a recorder virtuoso, making his first recordings on Philips before forming the ensemble and recording copiously.

He was married to the art historian Machtelt Israëls; they had two daughters. His death was announced by the orchestra.


Red a portrait of Brüggen by Joel Cohen here.

bruggen young


elektra sweden

Blood is gushing forth in the barrack square. Elektra is biding her time. Enormous steel giants are rising. Elektra curses her mother. A forest is set on fire at Umestan. Elektra demands revenge!

Richard Strauss’s Elektra opens tomorrow in UmeåSweden, with Carlus Padrissa as director. Five performances, 14-23 August: http://www.norrlandsoperan.se/eng/events/0814-elektra/5820

press release:

welsh national opera chorus



Welsh National Opera appoint Alexander Martin as Chorus Master

Alexander Martin will start his role as WNO Chorus Master this August and his debut season with the Company will see him working with WNO’s critically acclaimed Chorus on Rossini’s William Tell and Moses in Egypt and Bizet’s Carmen. In Spring 2015 Alexander will conduct WNO’s new production of Chorus! which will put WNO Chorus centre stage and feature some of the greatest moments in opera.


Alexander Martin says, “After more than twenty years working on the continent I am honoured and thrilled to have the opportunity to direct Welsh National Opera’s fine chorus. The chorus really is at the heart of WNO’s exciting and innovative artistic programme, and the performance and rehearsal spaces available to us at Wales Millennium Centre are second to none.”


After studying Music at St John’s College, Cambridge and the piano at Royal College of Music in London Alexander worked as répétiteur at Opéra National de Lyon, Hamburg State Opera and at the Hesse State Opera in Wiesbaden before embarking on a freelance career working as conductor, assistant and coach at many European opera houses and festivals. He has previously held positions as Chorus Master and Head of Music at Bern in Switzerland before his most recent four years as Chorus Master at the Opéra National de Bordeaux.


In addition to his work in the opera house, Alexander Martin has been active as a pianist in chamber music (Erato recording of Schoenberg transcriptions from Opéra National de Lyon) and as a song recital accompanist with concerts in Athens, Hamburg, Como, Milan, Lyon and Bern.


David Pountney, WNO Chief Executive and Artistic Director says, “Following the departure of the excellent Stephen Harris who lead the chorus to new heights with Moses und Aron, we are delighted to have obtained the services of Alexander Martin as his successor. Alexander brings a wealth of European opera experience with him, and will mark his debut with the company with another gigantic choral milestone: William Tell. We wish him well for an inspiring and creative time with WNO.”


It is a truth universally acknowledged that cellists are easier to get along with than violinists. The first to tell you this are, of course, cellists, but a lifetime’s association with both species confirms that the guys and girls on the lower strings tend to be gentler, sweeter, more agreeable than the more nervous, fractious players on the high wires.

Gregor-Piatigorsky vs Heifetz undated


The same truth applies, on the whole, to female singers (though not, necessarily, to male). Every mezzo I have ever come across or worked with has been a privilege and a pleasure, some developing into lasting friendships, others parting in mutual respect. Never a harsh word, so far as I can recall.

Sopranos, on the other hand….

Now, why is that?


joyce and jessye

He tells Richard Morrison in The Times:

Symphony orchestras in their present form have only a few more decades left, at most. Their financing is already a vulnerability. Will American-style civic pride or the goodwill of European politicians really be enough to feed these large beasts that are basically the same now as they were a century ago? And is that rigid formation really appropriate for today or are we simply stuck with it? I think we are stuck with it. I would welcome a more flexible musical family that could adapt its size and resources to what different composers and audiences required. In Budapest we have a pool of musicians doing a variety of activities. Those orchestras that are flexible will survive; the rigid ones won’t. The same thing happened to dinosaurs, I think.’

Full article here (behind paywall).


ivan fischer

While the Viennese slave away at Salzburg, Berlin Philharmonic players spend August on their yachts – breaking off only to play the occasional world premiere.

Principal horn Stefan Dohr is giving a new concerto by Wolfgang Rihm next week in Lucerne, repeated next month in Berlin. In his time off, he’s a passionate sailor.

Details on his Slipped Disc Community home page.

stefan dohr