From violin-maker Jens Stenz:

Danish jazz fiddler, entertainer, composer, singer, “elegantier” Svend Asmussen (born Copenhagen February 28th 1916 ) is 99 years old today.

Asmussens professional career spans 83 years and encompasses music making with Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodmann, Stephane Grappelli, Jango Reinhardt, The Mills Brothers, Edith Piaf, Toots Thielemanns, Herbie Hancock, Jacob Fischer, Jan Johansson, Duke Ellington …

Asmussen still enjoys going to jazz concerts in his native Copenhagen and listens to music at home.
 svend asmussen

A public celebration of the life of Chicago journalist Andrew Patner will be held in Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center on March 18. The event is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required. Seating is general admission and on a first-come, first-served basis. Doors open at 6:15 p.m.

Andrew Patner, who passed away on February 3, was the critic-at-large for WFMT-FM and contributing critic on classical music for the Chicago Sun-Times. A Chicago native and longtime Hyde Park resident, he also was a popular speaker, lecturer and moderator, and author of I.F. Stone: A Portrait (Pantheon, 1988).

More details here.

patner muti

The latest victim is Ramon Vargas, who was due to open in the title role of Massenet’s Werther in March 5th. His substitute is Jean-Francois Borras. Angela Gheorghiu makes her role debut as Charlotte.

ramon vargas

‘No one can remain indifferent at this tragic hour. No one can stay silent. The conscience of every decent person who loves both Russia and freedom must raise their voice in response to this blatant crime.


‘The tragedy has unfolded as we knew it might. This death is neither ‘accidental’, nor is it a ‘provocation’.


‘The murder of Boris Nemtsov, a respected politician, was clearly ordered by someone, and is a culmination of sorts – it reflects an atmosphere which has reached fever pitch in our society. A society starved of pure air, pumped full of fear and jingoism, where good intentions have been driven into a dead-end.


‘In a civilized society, everyone is entitled to a point of view or a position. But there is one unambiguous fact: a country where the majority of the population treats lies and political murders – whether solved or unsolved, actual or symbolic – as part of the daily grind, and has found itself on the edge of moral collapse, cannot command respect. No matter how hard it advertises its historic grandeur.


‘A country does not stand on the shoulders of a single man. Every one of us is a citizen of his homeland, and every one of us is responsible for the state of this land. And here, then, is your answer to the eternal question: ‘What must be done?’


‘Switch off the brainwashing TV screens. Instead, take look at yourself. Follow your conscience – do not try to run from it. Do not fool yourself into thinking that there is no place, no role for conscience in our lives anymore.


‘There is nothing more valuable than a human life. The death of Boris Nemtsov rests not only on those who were ordered to kill him. His fate casts a shadow on all those who failed to protect him.


Gidon Kremer, musician’



The formidable Argentine pianist Pia Sebastiani turned 90 this week.

Catch this unmatched rendition of Ginastera’s first sonata.

pia sebastiani

A young man who is funding himself through college has applied to the elite New York school’s post-graduate program.

He and his parents were shocked and outraged to receive a questionnaire demanding to know the value of their home and the mortgage paid on it; their total gross income for 2014 and the amount of tax paid on it; the name of their business.

This strikes them – and us – as an unpadonable intrusion. The young man has demonstrated that he is funding his college career.

If his father’s name was Sheikh Someone, or his sponsor was a criminal oligarch, we are sure he would not have been sent these forms. Why, as a US citizen, is he subject to Juilliard inquisition?

Have other readers experienced this level of examination? Is it common across US colleges?

What gives Juilliard the right….?



In my monthly Standpoint essay, I assess the likely outcome of the May 11 vote for the next conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic.

For the first time in the orchestra’s history, the choice is not clear-cut or binary. In the past, it was Furtwängler or Walter, Maazel or Abbado, Barenboim or Rattle. This time, there are several names in contention and a perplexing lack of consensus as to what the orchestra expects from its next leader. It is no longer enough just to be the best orchestra. There is a distinct possibility that Berlin could fail to achieve a result in May.

karajan-driving seat



It is not inconceivable that, after the vote, the Berlin Philharmonic could go from one front-runner to the next and be rejected by both.

This orchestra cannot afford to elect second-best. It must pick a convincing figurehead or risk losing its seat at the top table where German culture is defined. There is nowhere to hide. The deadline is mid-May. Between now and then, the backroom conversation will intensify. At stake is the destiny of the best orchestra in the world, an orchestra that suddenly appears painfully unsure of itself. Intriguing? I should say.

Read the full article here.

Great piece here on the difference a vibrant concertmaster can make to a clued-in city like Chattanooga.

‘I like to invite the audience to join me after the concert and bring a friend,’ says Holly Mulcahy. ‘Recently after a show, I used Twitter and Facebook to invite fans to join me at a downtown restaurant – close to 100 people showed up!’

Listen, and learn.

holly mulcahy

Frank-Peter Zimmermann, his manager says, is ‘playing a Guarnerius del Gesù violin, which he has on loan for a few weeks from a kind benefactor,’ after the Stradivarius he had played since 2002 was repossessed.

Well, that’s nice. But all is not as clear as previously presented.

The owners of the Strad said they offered to leave it with Zimmermann on paid loan after the contract expired last week, but that this offer was rejected by the violinist, who is trying to buy the Strad at below the owners’ valuation.

This is not a great heart-string issue. It’s just about money.

frank peter zimmermann


Music scoop of the week comes from (click) Mother Jones.

It appears that a hard-core Christian revivalist from Alabama licensed one of his songs to the 50 Shades of Grey sado-maso film, thinking it was a rom-com.

Paul Janeway, lead singer of Birmingham soul band St Paul and the Broken Bones explained: ‘I knew it was a book, but I had no idea what it was. So I was like, sure, big movie, good exposure. I’ll be in this romantic comedy. Which is what I thought it was: a romantic comedy. It’s a good way to make money in the music business, you know.’


May he be forgiven.



Watch a new BBC feature on our pals Mahan Esfahani and Avi Avital. Click here.


esfahani avital

South Jutland Symphony Orchestra has told director Rasmus Adrian to pack his bags after  financial results for 2014 showed a deficit of almost 3 million kroner ($450,000).

Hey, these things happen. Even in Jutland.


south jutland

When a certain London orchestra discovered a £1m black hole, they renewed the manager’s contract. Apparently in perpetuity.