cellists are murderers

In the new issue of Standpoint, I offer some reflections on the conflicted legacy of Christopher Hogwood, who died last month.

conduct unbecoming


Hogwood was the first to create a mass market for period instrument recordings, and the first to shout out when he thought the early music movement had done all it could and needed to be wound up. I write:

His honesty went largely unheeded. Early music had become big business. Universities had chairs in it, monthlies and quarterlies were published, cities held festivals and competitions, ensembles once formed had still to be fed. Hogwood went to Boston to convert the venerable Handel and Haydn Society to period instruments. Though he stepped down from the Academy in 2005, he continued to support it financially while suggesting it served no further purpose.

 In every revolution, there comes a moment the morning after victory when the leaders say, “What do we do now?”  Christopher Hogwood will be remembered as a revolutionary who asked that question and never found an answer. 


Your thoughts?

radio france fire

The Maison de la Radio in Paris has been evacuated.

The seventh and eighth floors are affected.

Part of the area was under construction.

At least seven networks were taken off air.


Latest: Luncthime bulletins show smoke still rising, but report there were no victims in the fire. Watch here.

Not every cellist plays it straight.
maisky thunderstruck
This is the Amsterdam Cello Biennale this month.

Raising the roof at the finale, Mischa Maisky and Giovanni Soulima joined 2Cellos in the AC/DC hit Thunderstruck.


h/t: Ariane Todes’s Elbow Music.


It’s the Chinese star and a 12 year-old kid having a crack at the crazy Turkish version of Rondo alla Turca.

Mozart will never sound the same.

Fazil forever.lang lang fazil say

We hear that a small party of six or seven privileged patrons was seen walking across the ROH stage behind the cast and chorus last night as Placido Domingo was taking his bows in I due Foscari.

Earlier in the day, the ROH chief executive announced plans to make the building ‘more accessible’.

Cause and effect?


Royal Opera House building plans

After an absence of 12 years, Kyung Wha Chung prepares for a return to the stage that changed her life.

A remarkably frank and regret-free self-assessment. Watch.

Mr Galamian used to say: ‘You have 10 fingers. They are 10 crooks.’

kyung wha chung rfh 2014

The general director of Florida Grand Opera, Susan T. Danis, has written to patrons saying its business plan is not working, there is nothing left to sell and there is no money for new productions. Unless vast amounts are donated, Florida goes dark.

The critical paragraph in her letter is this:

Since 2006, FGO has sustained only one break-even year. On average the company has not met its income projections annually, which has resulted in significant deficits. Our sole method for survival to date has been the sale of our assets. After the sale of our administrative offices in Doral is finalized, there will be nothing left to sell. Clearly the current business plan is not working. Our immediate response has been to cut $2 million from our production budget for the current season. Unfortunately, these four productions may be the only combination of repertoire that we can produce for $8.6 million, which represents a $2 million budget reduction. This isn’t a sustainable model. 

Florida may be full of wealth retirees, but this reads more like another City Opera crash in the making than a San Diego phoenix rise.

Full letter below.

florida grand opera

Dear Mr. (redacted):

As the General Director of Florida Grand Opera, I wanted to speak directly to you, a member of our family, about your opera company. Since my arrival two years ago, I have been evaluating the organization and examining the fiscal history, relationship of the opera seasons (repertoire and artists) to sales and audience satisfaction, and FGO’s presence in the community.


Across the country arts organizations are facing enormous fiscal challenges in the wake of the economic downturn. It is a bold, new world for the arts and for fundraising. Organizations that were in a solid financial position prior to the downturn are still facing challenging times. Struggling companies are facing an imperative to change and adapt immediately. Through my analysis of the organization I have discovered that FGO, your opera company, is one of these companies and the time is now to make a change for the future.

Since 2006, FGO has sustained only one break-even year. On average the company has not met its income projections annually, which has resulted in significant deficits. Our sole method for survival to date has been the sale of our assets. After the sale of our administrative offices in Doral is finalized, there will be nothing left to sell. Clearly the current business plan is not working. Our immediate response has been to cut $2 million from our production budget for the current season. Unfortunately, these four productions may be the only combination of repertoire that we can produce for $8.6 million, which represents a $2 million budget reduction. This isn’t a sustainable model.

We need to increase our focus on producing opera relevant to our community and strive to present the grand opera masterpieces that you enjoy so much. We have learned that there is a need to expand the awareness of FGO and increase our service to the broader community. Most importantly, past community support has not been at a level significant enough to sustain FGO. This has not been clearly communicated to all of you.

Plan for the Future

In partnership with the Board we have completed a strategic planning process and produced a plan for the future that I wish to share with you. The result is a Comprehensive Campaign which will empower Florida Grand Opera to embark on a new direction for opera in South Florida by maintaining our commitment to the classics that you love, rediscovering rarely performed, but fantastic gems of the repertoire that you haven’t seen at FGO, and scheduling works that look to the future of the art form and celebrate South Florida’s diverse community.

In addition to producing what you see on stage, we want to engage our community and invest in future audiences through expanded Education and Outreach initiatives that introduce children, families, and the younger generation of South Florida to the music and drama you and I both love. We are excited about the future and hope you are too.

Say Yes to Opera!

To fund this vision, we are asking our community (that means you) to SAY YES!! to Opera in South Florida by being a part of our three year $17.5 million campaign.

And we are already off to a fantastic start!  The administrative staff and members of the production teams have come together and contributed to the cause to ensure the vitality of the company over the next three years. Additionally, our colleagues in the opera industry have agreed to support FGO through mutually beneficial partnerships.

Through these efforts, there is enough funding to carry us through this season. But the future of our company rests with you. To sustain the company for the future, reaching this $17.5 million goal is imperative, and we can’t do it without you.

You are invited to share your opinions

I want to share the details of our plans with you. To do that, we are hosting several town-hall meetings to discuss the future of the company. The dates, times, and locations are listed below. We will also be reaching out to you individually to share our excitement about the future and to see how you can help.

I hope that all of you, when asked to Say YES!! will rise to the occasion of ensuring a successful future for opera in South Florida. We’re in this together, and I’m excited to embark upon this journey with you.

Many Thanks,

Susan's Signature

Susan T. Danis
General Director and CEO

The venerable early music pioneer hates the Government’s culture policies and tells them so in a letter (below), accusing Madrid of ‘dramatic disinterest and gross incompetence in the defense and promotion of the arts and their creators’. The prize carries 30,000 Euros and great prestige. Jordi, 73 (pictured left), is not bothered by such things.




30 de octubre de 2014

Sr. José Ignacio Wert
Ministro de Educación, Cultura y Deportes
Gobierno de España

Distinguido Sr. Wert,
Distinguidos Señores del Jurado del Premio Nacional de Música 2014,

Recibir la noticia de este importante premio me ha creado dos sentimientos profundamente contradictorios y totalmente incompatibles: primero, una gran alegría por un tardío reconocimiento a más de 40 años de dedicación apasionada y exigente a la difusión de la música como fuerza y lenguaje de civilización y de convivencia y, al mismo tiempo, una inmensa tristeza por sentir que no podía aceptarlo sin traicionar mis principios y mis convicciones más intimas.

Lamento tener que comunicarles pues, que no puedo aceptar esta distinción, ya que viene dada de la mano de la principal institución del estado español responsable, a mi entender, del dramático desinterés y de la grave incompetencia en la defensa y promoción del arte y de sus creadores. Una distinción que proviene de un Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deportes responsable también de mantener en el olvido una parte esencial de nuestra cultura, el patrimonio musical hispánico milenario, así como de menospreciar a la inmensa mayoría de músicos que con grandes sacrificios dedican sus vidas a mantenerlo vivo.

Es cierto que en algunas contadas ocasiones he podido beneficiarme, a lo largo de más de 40 años de actividad, de alguna colaboración institucional: la celebración del V Centenario del descubrimiento de América, las pequeñas ayudas a giras internacionales y recientemente las invitaciones del Centro Nacional de Difusión Musical a presentar nuestros proyectos en Madrid. Pero igual que la inmensa mayoría de músicos y conjuntos del país, he seguido adelante solo con mi esfuerzo personal sin contar jamás con una ayuda institucional estable a la producción y materialización de todos mis proyectos musicales. Demasiado tiempo en que las instancias del Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deportes que usted dirige continúan sin dar el impulso necesario a las diferentes disciplinas de la vida cultural del Estado español que luchan actualmente por sobrevivir sin un amparo institucional ni una ley de mecenazgo que las ayudaría, sin duda alguna, a financiarse y a afianzarse.

Vivimos en una grave crisis política, económica y cultural, a consecuencia de la cual una cuarta parte de los españoles está en situación de gran precariedad y más de la mitad de nuestros jóvenes no tiene ni tendrá posibilidad alguna de conseguir un trabajo que les asegure una vida mínimamente digna. La Cultura, el Arte, y especialmente la Música, son la base de la educación que nos permite realizarnos personalmente y, al mismo tiempo, estar presentes como entidad cultural, en un mundo cada vez más globalizado. Estoy profundamente convencido que el arte es útil a la sociedad, contribuyendo a la educación de los jóvenes, y a elevar y a fortalecer la dimensión humana y espiritual del ser humano. ¿Cuántos españoles han podido alguna vez en sus vidas, escuchar en vivo las sublimes músicas de Cristóbal de Morales, Francisco Guerrero o Tomás Luis de Victoria? Quizás algunos miles de privilegiados que han podido asistir a algún concierto de los poquísimos festivales que programan este tipo de música. Pero la inmensa mayoría, nunca podrá beneficiarse de la fabulosa energía espiritual que transmiten la divina belleza de estas músicas. ¿Podríamos imaginar un Museo del Prado en el cual todo el patrimonio antiguo no fuera accesible? Pues esto es lo que sucede con la música, ya que la música viva solo existe cuando un cantante la canta o un músico la toca, los músicos son los verdaderos museos vivientes del arte musical. Es gracias a ellos que podemos escuchar las Cantigas de Santa María de Alfonso X el Sabio, los Villancicos y Motetes de los siglos de Oro, los Tonos Humanos y Divinos del Barroco… Por ello es indispensable dar a los músicos un mínimo de apoyo institucional estable, ya que sin ellos nuestro patrimonio musical continuaría durmiendo el triste sueño del olvido y de la ignorancia.

La ignorancia y la amnesia son el fin de toda civilización, ya que sin educación no hay arte y sin memoria no hay justicia. No podemos permitir que la ignorancia y la falta de conciencia del valor de la cultura de los responsables de las más altas instancias del gobierno de España, erosionen impunemente el arduo trabajo de tantos músicos, actores, bailarines, cineastas, escritores y artistas plásticos que detentan el verdadero estandarte de la Cultura y que no merecen sin duda alguna el trato que padecen, pues son los verdaderos protagonistas de la identidad cultural de este país.

Por todo ello, y con profunda tristeza, le reitero mi renuncia al Premio Nacional de Música 2014, esperando que este sacrificio sea comprendido como un acto revulsivo en defensa de la dignidad de los artistas y pueda, quizás, servir de reflexión para imaginar y construir un futuro más esperanzador para nuestros jóvenes.

Creo, como decía Dostoyevski, que la Belleza salvará al mudo (sic), pero para ello es necesario poder vivir con dignidad y tener acceso a la Educación y a la Cultura.

Cordialmente le saluda,

Jordi Savall

We hear from several trustworthy sources that the orchestra wants to get on with making an appointment.

Although Simon Rattle remains music director until the summer of 2018, the players want to end speculation and will announce a decision in the middle of May.

Given the paucity of available top flight candidates, that somewhat limits their options.

rattle Berlin Philharmonic Prom 64_CR_BBC Chris Christodoulou_3

They could go for a short-term appointment, such as Daniel Barenboim, who has indicated he would be available to hold the fort for 3-4 years. Or they could take the plunge and start negotiating to release their chosen one early from his present commitments.

On the basis of general soundings, the present favourites would be:

1 Andris Nelsons, newly signed with Boston.

2 Riccardo Chailly, who is committed to Leipzig and La Scala

3 Yannick Nezet-Seguin, under contract with Philadelphia, Rotterdam and Montreal.

4 Kirill Petrenko, Bavarian State Opera

5 Christian Thielemann, Dresden

6 Others including Semyon Bychkov, Ivan Fischer, Paavo Järvi, Gustavo Dudamel.

Medici.tv will run Carnegie’s first live stream next week – a Joyce DiDonato recital, on Tuesday.

The broadcast will be free, both in the live version and on-demand for 90 days.

There will be three further Carnegie streams: Anne-Sophie Mutter (Nov 18), Leonidas Kavakos/Yuja Wang (Nov 22) and Daniil Trifonov (Dec 9).

That’s right, folks: it’s free.

carnegie hall interior

The Metropolitan Opera is parting company with Peter E. Clark, director of its ineffectual press office. Clark is taking early retirement in March after 30 years at the Met.

Never a proactive press director, he is not personally to blame for the company’s negative media profile.



His departure is unlikely to get the Met off the world’s worst press offices list.