Just watch.

riccotta ensemble

See? Our moves are just as good as theirs.

This is the Ricciotti Ensemble, a Dutch symphony orchestra that pops up all over the place – in this instance at the Amsterdam Canal Festival Stage.

h/t: Hinse Mutter, double bass player in the Ricciotti

The Große Österreichische Staatspreis, granted in music every four years, has been awarded to the Swiss-born composer Beat Furrer in his 60th birthday year. The prize is worth 30,000 Euros and lots of official handshakes.


beat furrer

The general rule with budget airlines is that you get less than you paid for. This latest instalment has an airline telling outright lies to squeeze more money from a travelling musician.

empty plane

Dear Slipped Disc
I was flying from Paris to Bologna on Vueling on Monday afternoon (online check-in was unavailable), and while trying to check in, I was told by the check in agent that the plane was very small, and that my violin case would not fit in the overhead compartments. I would have to check my violin in as baggage, or buy a second ticket at the last minute. I explained that my husband (a violist) had flown with Vueling without problems before, and that I had never flown on any commercial planes so small that the violin wouldn’t fit. These include small 40-seat planes with 3-per-row seating. I even offered to go onboard, and if there really was no space for the instrument, to fit in the overhead compartment, to purchase another seat.

The gate agent, though appreciative that my instrument (a 1970 Guicciardi) and bows were very expensive, fragile, and irreplaceable, insisted once again that the airplane was small, full, and that there would be no place because the instrument did not fit in overhead compartments. Having no other choice, and not wishing to miss my flight, I purchased a second ticket, checked in, and went onboard.

I was quite surprised that the airplane was a standard Airbus A320-200 (the only model plane that the airline has, they have no small planes whatsoever in their fleet), a large plane with 25 rows of 6-abreast seating and standard sized overhead bins, where there was plenty of space for my instrument. Worse still, while I was told that the airplane was full, it was operating at nowhere near capacity (there were many free rows of seats, as shown in the photos I have attached). I took several photos, and a stewardess came to me, and attempted to make similar excuses about the violin not fitting, which was rather comical, as it was sitting comfortably in the overhead bin at the time.

violin stowed

I bought this flight, though I’ve never before flown with Vueling, because it was a Codeshare flight with British Airways, and was cheaper through Vueling’s site than that from British Airways. Sadly, I will not be able to fly BA anymore, as any smaller European route could possibly be served by Vueling instead of British, and subject musicians to the same problems.

I was quite lucky, ultimately, that a second seat was only 120 Euros for this flight, because had the flight been fuller, I can imagine last minute ticket prices could have been 300-500 euros (with their pricing system).

Ultimately, the inconvenience and stress were quite awful because I was lied to repeatedly about the size of the plane, and that it was a “very full” flight by gate and ticketing agents. I was never told that there was a company policy against musical instruments. I also saw golf bags and bicycles as possible “special baggage” when buying my ticket online, but never musical instruments.

If you could post this, I hope that other musicians will be able to avoid the problems, hassle, and near-extortion that I had to go through. Had I been flying with my string quartet, or on a flight that was nowhere near as empty, the costs could have been truly astronomical. I was very lucky that I got home with my instrument intact, though I will never fly with that company again.

Best Wishes,
maria vittoria crotti

Maria Vittoria Crotti

English National Opera, under threat of losing state subsidy, has published its annual accounts with a sidebar of significant achievements. Here’s a selection:
The 2013/14 financial year ended on an unrestricted surplus of £208,000 following box office income of £9,684,000 across 117 performances (2012/13 = £9,678,000 across 132 performances). This represents a box office uplift of 11.4% per performance, and an increase in audience numbers of 11%

Average audience capacity for ENO productions was 75% in the 2,358 seat London Coliseum

201,361 audience members saw an ENO production at the London Coliseum or at the Barbican, with 70,000 attending for the first time

411,235 audience members attended one of 235 performances at the London Coliseum (ENO and Visiting Companies/Productions)

173,102 audience members saw an ENO production at one of our international co-producing partners. 11 productions opened around the world in 7 countries

302 performances of ENO shows took place in London and around the world

ENO is the world’s leading co-producer, having now worked with more than 35 opera companies and festivals

88% of singers and conductors were British born, trained or resident

A third of our tickets across the year were available for £30 or under, with prices starting at £5

Over 1.8 million unique visitors to our website – representing year-on-year growth of 40%

93% growth in Twitter followers, 65% growth in Facebook page likes

Three productions broadcast on BBC Radio 3, reaching over 450,000 listeners


Crisis? What crisis?

After a decade of almost unrelieved mediocrity, this summer’s festival shows some signs of imagination.

The opening concert – John Adams choral work Harmonium – will be flashed in animation onto the outer walls of Usher Hall.

The Festival Chorus gets a spotlight to itself.

Original Mozart productions are being trawled in from Budapest and Berlin.

Sylvie Guillem has a dance project.

A BBC orchestra will play late-night gigs.

The theatre programme has real coherence.

The new director is Fergus Linehan.

Click here for full details. Good start.

usher hall

The flow of new releases has dried up in the past few weeks, leaving labels and critics reliant on reissues. For my Album of the Week on sinfinimusic.com, I was drawn to premier recordings of one of the most naturally gifted and environmentally aware composers of the old Soviet Union, a formidable artist, now living in Belgium. Click here for review.


The master will be 80 in August. Is anyone planning a festival?

No criteria. No bylined author. And a disclaimer saying ‘not verified by CNN’.

This is what TV news journalism has come to.

Click here for the top ten.

berlin philharmonie beethoven 9


For much of the past week, musicians of the Seoul Pilharmonic Orchestra have been wondering how to respond to the cancellation of the US tour and the media vilification launched against their music director, Myung Whun Chung, by their ousted CEO.

Some players urged their colleagues to keep their heads down and say nothing. But bolder spirits have prevailed and this morning the orchestra issued a declaration of support for Chung (who has been out of the country while this was going on), citing the huge advances they have made under his leadership on the world stage, on DG recordings and at the BBC Proms.

The statement may be too little, too late.

We hear the city council is looking for a new conductor.

Declaration here (in Korean).

seoul phil

It could happen anywhere.

It has just happened at cash-poor, orchestra-tightening Radio France.

The boss, Matthieu Gallet, has been caught spending 100,000 Euros on redoing his office.

Read here.

radio france

Peter Tregear, head of the School of Music at the Australian National University in Canberra, has called for collective action by music colleges to address past incidents of sexual abuse and prevent their recurrence. Read the full article here, on an academic chat-site.

Ultimately, root and branch cultural change is what is required, not just a new, and enforceable, “code of conduct”. This will require strong, principled, leadership, not just strong legislation. It will also need to recognise that abusive behaviours in music schools come in many forms; these can be pedagogical, financial, and psychological in nature, as well as sexual.

As I have argued elsewhere, one broad (but I think powerful) cultural change we could institute right now is to recalibrate what we mean by “musical excellence”, as both a pedagogical goal and a standard of behaviour. What’s the point of being a great musician if it comes at the cost of a life well lived, or supports a society not worth living in?

Peter is right. Sadly, it’s in England where the worst abuses continue to be exposed that heads are being dug deeper into the ground. Many of the music schools – including those like Chetham’s which have introduced commendable preventive measures – are in denial about the past, still protecting those who protected the abusers.

Reflect. Discuss.



The international cellist, forced to retire from the concert stage last April with a neck injury, has found a new life as principal of the Birmingham Conservatoire.

It’s a high-profile appointment at an important time. Birmingham City University is building the conservatoire a new concert hall and expanded practice facilities. Julian, 63, will make sure it gets its fair share of public attention.

He said: ‘I am honoured and thrilled to be chosen as the new Principal of Birmingham Conservatoire. The state-of-the-art facilities being built within Birmingham City University’s superb campus will be second to none and superior to many, both throughout the UK and beyond. I am especially excited about the fantastic opportunities that will be on offer to our students.’

Julian Lloyd Webber replaces the outgoing principal, David Saint, who retires in April.


julian lloyd webber2