‘It’s the only way to prevent closure,’ says the Sovrintendente, Carlo Fuortes.

Read more here (in Italian).

The media are being told that orchestra and chorus strikes led to Riccardo Muti’s departure as music director. There is no precedent for dismissing an orchestra and chorus in a modern Italian opera house.


UPDATE: The plan is to rehire the players and singers, either as freelancers or as part of an ‘outsourced’ orchestra and chorus. This would enable the company to avoid social and pension costs. Fuortes, who has been in the job for less than a year, said the measure would save 3.4 million Euros of the present 12.5 million orchestra and chorus budget.


More news of disintegration at a broadcaster that seems to be running out of control.

François Dru, formerly artistic administrator at the Orchestre de Paris, was hired three weeks ago by Radio France to fill the vacuum left by Eric Montalbetti’s departure as artistic director.

Today, he was guillotined.


radio france




Apparently, he is being blamed for the breakdown in relations between the  music director Mikko Franck and the head of music, Jean-Pierre Rousseau, although so far as we are informed he has yet to have any communication with Mr Franck.

M Dru has just posted this message:

Après trois semaines kafkaïennes et ubuesques, j’ai recouvré ma liberté. Coupé de certains Rois soleil aux méthodes d’Ancien Régime, je ne peux que retrouver honneur et dignité.

Je souhaite bon courage à l’équipe administrative et aux musiciens de l’Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France ainsi qu’à Myung-whun Chung et Mikko Franck. Leur cause est juste…

Et je continuerai de déplorer l’éviction brutale d’Eric Montalbetti, l’immense gâchis que de se priver d’un Directeur artistique d’un tel rang et talent…

After three weeks under the sign of Kakfa and Father Ubu, I have regained my freedom. Leaving a certain Sun King with his Ancien Régime methods, I will recover my honour and dignity.

I wish the best of luck to the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, to the staff, musicians and to Myung-whun Chung and Mikko Franck. Their cause is just. I continue to deplore Eric Montalbetti’s brutal eviction, a waste of a front-rank, talented Artistic Director…

Mr Dru (below right) was formerly artistic director for Leonard Slatkin with the Orchestre National de Lyon.

slatkin dru

Bloomberg reports that the US largest performing arts company is ‘under review for a downgrade’.

Moody’s, which rates the Met’s $100 million of debt A3, seventh-highest, said the review “reflects softening in earned and gift revenue,” according to a report by analyst Dennis Gephardt.

“Management at the Met has disclosed that operating performance weakened significantly in the fiscal year 2014 on the heels of a $2.8 million deficit in FY 2013,” Gephardt said today in the report.

The result will be known before the end of 2014.

The Met’s endowment is shrinking – down to $253 million – and it needs to borrow money from time to time. If its debt is downgraded, that will become difficult and expensive.

met tickets

Franz Welser-Möst, who walked out of the Vienna Opera four weeks ago over artistic disagreements, is a much happier music director at the Cleveland Orchestra. So happy he has just extended his contract to 2022, meaning he will have spent more than 20 years with the orchestra.

Press release follows:


The Cleveland Orchestra announces extension of Franz Welser-Möst contract as Music Director to 2022

Extension confirms the continuing artistic success of the Welser-Möst/Cleveland partnership.

Franz Welser-Möst’s ongoing commitment to Cleveland provides continuity and artistic stability into the Orchestra’s second century.

Welser-Möst will lead the Orchestra even further in music education and community engagement.


Release Date: October 2, 2014 at 10 a.m. EDT U.S.A.

CLEVELAND – The Cleveland Orchestra announced today the extension of Franz Welser-Möst’s contract as Music Director to 2022. With this extension, Mr. Welser-Möst’s tenure will reach at least 20 years, extending four years beyond the Orchestra’s Centennial Season in 2017-18. The announcement was made this morning to the Orchestra’s musicians and staff by the President of the Board of Trustees, Dennis W. LaBarre, and Executive Director, Gary Hanson.

“I am delighted that Franz will remain our artistic leader through and beyond our Centennial,” said Mr. LaBarre. “There is no more successful artistic partnership in the world today thanks to Franz’s extraordinary vision and leadership. I am confident the future will bring even greater success. Franz’s extended commitment provides artistic stability that is increasingly rare in our industry, and enables our shared goal for a Centennial that is a forward-looking foundation for the institution’s second century.”

“Franz is transforming The Cleveland Orchestra,” said Mr. Hanson, “not only artistically with ever-greater elegance and flexibility, but also institutionally through his passion for making us relevant to today’s audiences. For Franz, performing great concerts in local high schools is no less important than our celebrated international appearances. His long-term commitment to Cleveland is central to fulfilling our expanding education and community engagement mission.”

Commenting on the announcement of his extension, Mr. Welser-Möst said, “I love the spirit of The Cleveland Orchestra and there is no greater joy for me than collaborating with these musicians. Their collective dedication to excellence at every performance is inspiring and humbling. We challenge each other to greater heights with each passing season. I am very excited that we will launch the Orchestra’s second century together.”

Mr. Welser-Möst also spoke about the unique qualities of the Cleveland community, “We have a highly sophisticated audience in Northeast Ohio. I feel a special bond with them, whose enthusiasm for their hometown orchestra is matched by their understanding of the work and support required to maintain such an ensemble. And beyond Ohio, the passionate support of our Miami community motivates even further my long-term commitment to the Orchestra and those we serve.”

In recent seasons, Mr. Welser-Möst has led a comprehensive set of new initiatives for the Orchestra toward goals of greater community engagement while extending the Orchestra’s international presence and reputation. Looking ahead to the Centennial and beyond, he commented: “To remain relevant in a changing world requires that we constantly change and grow. Leading up to and beyond our Centennial, we will accelerate the pace of change, breaking more new ground with new audiences, new repertoire, and new types of concert and opera presentations.”

With his extended commitment through the 2021-22 season, Franz Welser-Möst will become the second longest tenured Music Director of The Cleveland Orchestra. Mr. Welser-Möst was named the seventh Music Director of The Cleveland Orchestra on June 7, 1999, and began his tenure in September 2002. In May 2003, his initial five-year contract was extended to 2012. In 2008, a six-year extension was announced to 2018.

Concurrently with his Cleveland appointment, Franz Welser-Möst has also served as General Music Director of the Zurich Opera up to 2010, and in the same role at the Vienna State Opera from 2010 to 2014. He is a regular guest conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic at home and on far-reaching international tours, as well as for opera productions at the Salzburg Festival.




The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and its conductor Riccardo Muti took a blow to their pride last night when principal flute Mathieu Dufour ended a period of prolonged vacillation by announcing he was leaving next month to join the Berlin Philharmonic.

Dufour is a central attraction of the Chicago band and his decision was greeted with some bafflement. He will probably earn less in Berlin where, aside from deep public subsidies, commercial and media fees have dried up. He will need to find a new home, new friends, new fans in a foreign language. And he will be moving from an orchestra with a powerful and charismatic music director to one with an open podium and no certainty of its future direction.

So why?

Mathieu is saying nothing.

mathieu dufour


As a Frenchman, formerly at the Paris Opéra, he may feel the tug of his home continent. As a cosmopolitan, he will embrace Berlin’s dazzling diversity. And as an artist, he is ever ready to take risks.

He was, in any event, never the most settled member of the Chicago ensemble, having flitted off to Los Angeles for six months in 2009 when the CSO was between music directors. Appointed in 1999, Dufour belonged to the Barenboim era and never struck deep roots.

But his departure leaves Chicago with three big holes in the woodwinds – no principal flute from November, no principal bassoon since David McGill resigned in the summer and a big question over principal oboe Eugene Izotov who has successfully auditioned for the same post in San Francisco. Will he stay or, like Dufour, go?


The new 1,800-seat concert hall of NOSPR (National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra) opened last night in Katowice (the seat of NOSPR) with Brahms’ first piano concerto (soloist: Krystian Zimerman), Beethoven’s ninth symphony and music by Polish composers Penderecki, Kilar and Górecki conducted by Alexander Liebreich.
katowice hall  katowice view

Gorecki, who lived all his life n Katowice, complained incessantly of its foul air and general post-War pollution. Let’s hope they’re cleaning it up.

A semi-aquatic marine mammal, unable to find entertainment in the deep, has taken up residence on the steps of the Sydney Opera House.

Anyone casting a pinniped in Puritani?





photos: ABC/John Donegan

My Standpoint column on the miseries of music has provoked widespread discussion. I indicated a couple of likely causes for the negativity. Susan Laney Spector, oboist of the Metropolitan Opera orchestra, has a further suggestion

susan laney spector

It begins at audition

by Susan Laney Spector

I once asked my sister-in-law, who is Deputy Director and Head Curator at the Guggenheim Museum here in New York if, in her experience, there exists in the modern art world a bitterness among artists about the relative “success” or popularity of a fellow artist versus their own. I seem to recall that she confirmed that such jealousies–and perhaps meanness because of them–do exist in that world as well, but that there were plenty of examples of visual artists being supportive of one another and even collaborating and celebrating a peer’s success as a victory for the visual arts as a whole.

Certainly, I have seen examples in the professional classical music world of a certain pettiness and mean-spiritedness towards one’s colleagues–both overtly and of a more subtle nature. Here is my personal theory on one probable cause:

The route to most full-time jobs for musicians is through winning auditions. For an instrumentalist in the United States, such openings are advertised in the American Federation of Musicians’ monthly trade publication. If one is interested in auditioning for an advertised opening, he/she sends a resume and is assigned an audition date. (Occasionally, if the resume of the applicant does not reflect a level of experience requisite for the position, a pre-screening recording might be requested.)

If the position is a coveted one, there can be an overwhelming number of candidates, and auditions can take place over the course of 3-4 days. Especially in the Final Rounds, when a judge or panel of judges is hearing performers at an extremely high level of performance and professionalism, it can understandably be difficult to perceive differences between the contestants/performer, a least those of a purely technical nature: missed notes, incorrect tempi, poor intonation, faulty rhythm, etc. With so many qualified applicants, the judges are left to make decisions and personal rankings based upon subjective thinking, i.e., personal taste. If one has performed flawlessly, but the judge(s)’ choice is based upon a style/tone/approach not of one’s own, then it becomes very easy to become cynical and bitter and think afterwards, “Why did HE/SHE get the job?”


I took fifteen auditions–for regional orchestras as well as Top Five American Orchestras–before winning my position with the MET Orchestra 23 years ago as one of about 250 applicants. I would venture to guess that in 15 previous auditions, I gave a fair representation of my abilities and strengths at perhaps 10-12 of those auditions. In other words, at only a few of the auditions would I have been forced to admit that I had “flubbed” the audition or made mistakes that should have prevented my advancing further in the auditions. In fact, I was in the Semi- and/or Final Rounds of perhaps half a dozen auditions.

While getting that far in an audition is encouraging, it doesn’t pay the bills. Not only that, but once the audition is over, one must wait for the next vacancy to occur. Audition-taking is subject to the vagaries of when and where openings occur, and the travel and lodging expenses (and the cost of missed work) can be great. (Do I sense a young conservatory student KickStarter campaign idea here?)

If one has been encouraged as a student or young professional by those in the business who seem to think he/she has “what it takes” AND one has succeded in conveying this talent without it being marred by stage fright, bad reeds on audition day, a poorly heated audition space, or an ill-timed migraine, then, yes, one can become bitter–at least about the PROCESS by which orchestral musicians are hired in this country. One could also become bitter about the RESULT if he/she knows the playing of the winner and judges him/herself a better all-around musician. But, you see, that is my point: there is so much about music and the arts in general that is subjective.

An audition is not like a spelling bee or a math competition. Many instruments, the oboe included, have “accepted” regional styles of playing, e.g., American versus German versus British, etc. (The Viennese even play on an entirely different INSTRUMENT than oboists elsewhere). For this reason alone, very few aspiring American players audition for foreign orchestras.

Even within any one country, there are all sorts of “dialects”–usually stemming from one influential teacher and his “family tree” of students and their own students, etc. A  product of the “Philadelphia School” of oboe playing, my playing would probably not compare favorably–all other things being equal–to a protégé of John Mack (Cleveland) or Ray Still (Chicago) in the eyes of a judge who had been schooled in one of those styles. While there is certainly “cross-pollination”, distinctions between styles and the approaches and preferences of proponents of each style do exist.

Up to now, I have merely mentioned musical “prejudices”. In fact, far more personal assumptions can be made, based upon a candidate’s appearance, age, sex, and whether or not the candidate is known to someone on the Committee, either as a friend or student. I have attended auditions where a screen separated the Committee from the contestant—and I even saw installed a carpet runner so that the sound of the approaching candidate’s footwear would not reveal his/her gender. But even those orchestras who do conduct auditions behind a screen in an effort to force judges to rule only on what they hear do not keep the screen in place for the Final Round. In the Final Round, if not before, those auditioning for orchestras in America are visible and known to the members of the Committee.

The only American orchestra which does not conduct auditions in this way is the MET Orchestra. Auditions for our orchestra are conducted from start to finish in anonymity, the candidate being referred to as a number and his or her identity revealed only after a vote has been taken and a decision has been reached. I cannot help but think the large number of fine female musicians, as well as the number of very fine youthful musicians just out of music school, that can be found in our orchestra is a direct result of our audition procedures.

I was personally able to recognize early on that I could play a flawless and aesthetically perfect audition—as defined by myself and perhaps by my teacher –and not be the winner. I reconciled myself to this and decided that I did not wish to live with that kind of bitterness and anger after every audition I took. I decided that the only way I could continue to subject myself to these trials would be on the condition that I would only be angry if I had screwed up at my audition. THAT, I rationalized, I had control over.

Whatever “baggage” or personal history each judge brought to the room that day, and therefore the result itself, I had absolutely no control over whatsoever.

So, perhaps the majority of musicians, highly competent as they are, that leave auditions without an orchestra job become bitter because of the arbitrary nature of the audition process. That is one theory.

audition screen


However, this theory does not necessarily explain the circumstance of those musicians who WERE the “winners” and are within the ranks of those high level orchestras and yet feeling bitter and worthy of something “more”.

I’ve seen “malcontents” at every level, professionally: successful teachers who are bitter about not getting performing opportunities, bitter section string players who feel their talents would be better spent playing chamber music or as a soloist, bitter pit musicians that long to play onstage and be the focus of the audience’s attention, rather than the spotlight being upon singers or ballet dancers. I attribute this to human nature and am fairly confident that some variation of this kind of discontent exists in other competitive fields.

I honestly feel no such bitterness. I feel extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to play with the MET Orchestra and to play with such great artists onstage and in the pit. Additionally, I feel that in my tenure with this orchestra, I have worked to continue improving my performance in my rather unique role of blending and supporting two different principal players. As a second wind player, I do not get the solos, but I derive satisfaction from my less obvious but nonetheless critical role in the performance and how well I perform that specific task. I also am called upon to play Principal several times a season; I appreciate the personal challenge, and I have performed well, but I am always ready to leave the “hot seat” after a few performances there.

My guess is that, for any number of reasons, those bitter and vengeful musicians have not found a similar gratification wherever they have found themselves. Some of the successful yet bitter musicians I know are in situations in which there is some less than ideal component: a section leader who is difficult to deal with, being assigned a more grueling work schedule than others for whatever reason, or something as random as one’s seat being in close proximity to the low brass or percussion—a physical challenge that has resulted in tinnitus and other frustrating hearing issues.

However, at least some of the bitter successful musicians I know have failed to come to terms with the role that entirely arbitrary decisions have played in where these individuals find themselves.

My teenage daughter is now taking auditions for Pre-College programs and, soon, for acceptance into a music school. Because this subject is again “on my radar”, I have found two other recent posts which make excellent points with regard to auditions and, in particular, the importance of gaining the ability to reconcile oneself with the reality that success in the field of music (and the arts in general) is determined, at least to some extent, by arbitrary decisions.

Susan Spector

Oboist, MET Orchestra

Lincoln Center, New York, NY 10023


There have been plenty of phony lists in magazines aimed at anxious parents of musical teenagers. This one, however, gets it pretty much right.

The top three choices are impeccable. Lower down, you might wonder whether the bottom three are worthy of inclusion, given their recent decline. Peabody is a glaring omission and Cleveland won’t be pleased.

Juilliard will have sleepless nights at being placed third.

But on the whole, this list is pretty good and Bill Zukerman’s descriptions are credible.

Click here for full list. The #1 school is pictured below.

jacobs school of music indiana

UPDATE: But see dissenting views here.