Rare 1945 film from the Central Music School of the Moscow Conservatory shows a pupil (Margarita Fodorova?) taking lessons with Heinrich Neuhaus and Alexander Goldenweiser.

Neuhaus, a pupil of Scriabin, was Sviatoslav Richter’s teacher.

Goldenweiser’s students included Lazar Berman, Tatiana Nikolayeva and Dimitri Bashkirov.

What’s remarkable is how gentle they both seem – in contrast with the prevailing image of brutal Russian teaching methods.

richter neuhaus

The film above is an extract. You can watch the full half-hour documentary here.

Liberace, thy soul goes marching on.

An oil sheikh in the slave state of Qatar has ordered a grand piano, embedded with crystals, from a London firm, Goldfinch Pianos, each crystal inserted separately by hand.



The price? A mere £420,000 ($600,000).

The Qatar economy is built on tenured labour from the Indian subcontinent. The slave workers have their passports confiscated on arrival, are kept in camps outside the city and forced to work in temperatures of up to 50 degrees C.  (You won’t hear about this on Qatar-based Al-Jazeera; yes, we’ve seen it, in the company of the late Lorin Maazel).

That’s how Qatar sheikhs get to afford crystal Steinways.


(photos: Goldfinch)


Review by voice-savvy New York writer and publisher, Steve Rubin

Those perennial soul mates, CAVALLERIA and PAGLIACCI, got a bit trampled lady night by a concept that set them both in the same Sicilian village, but about 50 years apart. David McVicar’s opulent production, making full use of the Metropolitan’s turntable, worked rather nicely in CAV and bombed disastrously in PAG.

From the start, in CAV, it was Santuzza’s show, and she never left the stage.  The attractive Dutch soprano Eva-Maria Westbroeck, threw herself into the proceedings with her usual sincerity and commitment. She often was upstaged by chairs that were not only omnipresent, but had to be moved by choristers, and the ever revolving turntable stage.  It was fun to watch, and the black and white costumes made a statement of what I don’t know, but it was eye-filling. During the ravishing Intermezzo, McVicar had the choristers carry candles and it was a beautiful sight to behold.  Westbroeck has a genuine dramatic soprano, and she is an honest singer, so there was no lunging into chest voice, and none of the excesses we associate with verismo.  But when she flung out her huge soprano, it often had a decided wobble.  This was an A-for-effort endeavor, but idiomatic it wasn’t. The other singers, Marcelo Alvarez and George Gagnidze, both tried to approximate Italianate singing with varied results.



too many chairs…

The tenor and the baritone were back in PAG, in a production that was so tawdry and vulgar it was actually depressing.  Joining them was Patricia Racette, who played Nedda like a has been hooker, and sounded like an over-the-hill soprano.  There were lots of vaudeville touches, many of them unnecessary, and McVicar cast Canio as a drunk, adding to the coarseness of the proceedings. I cringed during the play-within-the-play scene, it was so unsympathetic. Alvarez gave it his all, which I would rate as B, and Gagnidze threw out huge high notes in a strangulated voice. Many of the secondary singers were lovely.

In the pit was Fabio Luisi, the only Italian around, but you’d never know it.  He conducted both operas with restraint, polish and finesse. The orchestra played beautifully. But where was the passion?  Sorely absent.  Worst of all, Luisi kept the magnificent Met chorus in check, but even his wrong-headed subtlety, couldn’t keep those wonderful singers down.


UPDATE: And another half-half review here from Elizabeth Frayer and Shawn E Milnes. Apparently, the mule had vocal problems and the Met couldn’t find a stand-in.

Piano professor Lev Natochenny has a performing career and reckons he’s good to teach until 70.

The Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst(HfMDK) in Frankfurt wants him off the payroll this year, now that he has turned 65.

Lev, a student of Lev Oborin, has reached for lawyers. This could have far-reaching consequences.


We’ve been sent press reports claiming unhappiness in the Sao Paolo Symphony Orchestra about their American music director. Closer to the ground, it appears the dissent was limited to a small faction with a lot of media friends.


Some time today, Marin Alsop is going to be renewed as music director in Sao Paolo until the end of 2019. Since her arrival in 2012, Marin has put the orch on the world map, performing in 11 Brazilian cities and touring abroad to the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Philharmonie in Berlin), the Salle Pleyel in Paris and the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. Marin Alsop is also music director in Baltimore, where she’s engaged until 2021.

Prom 45, BBC Proms 2012

Albert Einstein’s school was always stronger on physics than on the arts, but the old boy was passionate about playing the violin – so much so that he once said, ‘Life without playing music is inconceivable for me.’

Princeton is building an arts complex. This week, an anonymous old boy and his wife gave $10 million for a music building. Details here.

princeton music

In the Sydney and Melbourne performances of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, directed by Kaspar Holten, the young Australian Nicole Car made such an impression as Tatyana that music director Pappano booked her for the Covent Garden revival. It will be her London debut. Sir Tony thinks Car”s going far.

nicole car

She’s super-articulate, too.

Sayings of Sir Tony Pappano at this morning’s Covent Garden season launch:

‘I’m the music director. And I’m a Sir.’

On Verdi’s Trovatore: ‘Unless it’s driven by the conductor, there’s no cast in the world that can save it.’

‘Three Germans are dominant in Italian repertoire – Jonas Kaufmann, Diana Damrau, Anja Harteros.’

‘There is another tenor besides Jonas. He’s Alexandrs Antonenko.’


photo: Ken Howard

On Joyce DiDonato as Charlotte in Massenet’s Werther: ‘Interesting how many singers choose to do their role debuts with us. They trust us.’

On Michael Fabiano (Lenski in Onegin): ‘He’s quite something. He’s going places.’

On getting the right team together for contemporary opera: ”There are too many mathematician conductors out there.’

pappano didonato

Robert Freeman, former head of Eastman School of Music, has written a book titled The Crisis of Classical Music in America. In a local newspaper interview, he makes some knowing, telling points:


crisis of classical music

– When you’re in school, you’re hoping to be the principal oboe. Then you get out of school and it turns out there are 500 candidates for the job, 100 of whom are perfectly well qualified.

– We keep increasing the number of music schools and thus annual music graduates. Well over 30,000 a year. Orchestras are going in the other direction. We’re graduating too many, too narrowly trained musicians.

You can’t make productivity gains in the performing arts. It still takes 85 players to play a Beethoven symphony and you don’t get anywhere trying to play it twice as fast with half as many players. At the same time, the musicians need to be paid more.

– If you’re part of the the society that thinks I’m not much good with words so I play the oboe, you’re digging your own grave. In addition to those, business skills, computer literacy. The kind of thing any leading citizen in the United States needs. If you learn while you’re a student at a music school something about music and how to play your instrument, you also come to the conclusion the world of orchestras is failing and if you’re a part of that you have to be a part of the solution or get into another field.

– In the history of music, before the French Revolution, musicians were generalists. (Then) musicians turned toward specialization — ‘I’m a violist, I don’t play the violin and I certainly don’t play the piano.’ What I’ve been pushing is in the other direction.

h/t: Keith McCarthy

UPDATE: See here for a response by San Francisco Conservatory Dean, Robert Fitzpatrick.

Austria’s second largest town is a cultural slumberland, with only an annual festival by homegrown Nikolaus Harnoncourt to save it from oblivion.

But a new regime at Graz Opera looks promising.

Intendant Nora Schmid and chief conductor Dirk Kaftan have unveiled their first season.

They will open with Franz Schreker’s Der Ferne Klang and follow up with Bohuslav Martinu’s Greek Passion. That should shake out a few cobwebs.

nora schmid

l-r: Bernhard Rinner, Nora Schmid, Dirk Kaftan

Always good to see new names on the winners’ board. (Always good to read the small print.)

The Lucerne Festival has named three winners of the first Fritz-Gerber-Award, each collecting 10,000 Swiss francs.

They are the clarinettist Mariella Bachmann, 27, the flautist Rafal Zolkos, 28, and the violinist David Sypniewski, 25.

The qualification is that winners must have lived and worked in Switzerland for at least five years.

mariella bachmann2



Karel Mark Chichon, British husband of the international mezzo, will cease to be chief conductor of the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie of Saarland Radio in 2017, it has been announced. He will have held the job for six years.

Four months ago, Chichon started legal action against the Government of Andalusia and Seville City Council over alleged anomalies in their failure to to select him as music director in Seville.

We hope he finds something else.

garanca chichon

Ms Garanca is appearing tonight in a totally sold-out solo recital at the Vienna Opera.