We regret to report the death of Marc Claesen. The cause is unknown. He leaves a partner, Ester Salemi.

Marc, a baritone, sang major roles in Flemish Opera, Dutch National Opera, Darmstadt, Heidelberg and elsewhere. Latterly, he was artistic director of Arte Duct.

Marc Claesen

Speaking tonight on Classic FM, the prime minister talks up his government’s work on music education: ‘As a government we’ve put something like £390m into music education. We’ve created these hubs around the country so that more children get the chance to learn a musical instrument. I think it is important. There’s more to be done.’

But he goes on to say that reading, writing and numeracy must come first. Arts and sport can follow when those basics are nailed down.

He says he always weeps in The Sound of Music.

Oh, dear. More here. 


The Classic FM Interview with David Cameron.

The New Zealand-born conductor Gary Brain has died in Paris, aged 72.

Gary was a percussionist in Wales, Ulster and at the Royal Opera House, London. He became principal timpanist with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra but on a flight to the US a suitcase fell from an overhead locker and crushed his wrist beyond repair. He retrained as a conductor, working with Rafael Kubelik and Lorin Maazel.

He won a Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik for reviving th music of the Swiss-Polish composer Czeslaw Marek and went on to make quite a few recordings for Toccata Classics. Martin Anderson remembers him here.



The cellist Aristide de Plessis informs us:

A colleague of mine recently acquired a 200-year-old cello. She headed to Zurich from Johannesburg to do an audition. Being a student, she had no choice but to check it in as hold baggage as she could not afford a second seat from one hemisphere to another.

Not only did the airline lose her cello in Paris and deliver it to Zurich two days too late, the case was badly damaged with small chunks missing, and the fingerboard had completely fallen off. A closer inspection revealed a nasty, fresh crack on the top, which will devalue the instrument considerably.

The victim of the accident has asked to remain anonymous.


UPDATE: Credit to AirFrance. They contacted us within an hour and are handling the complaint.

She’s unwell again and has been advised not to travel, the LSO has announced.

Her replacement this Thursday is Baiba Skride.


He can rest easy now.
debussy smoking2

‘Passepied’ by the Punch Brothers, courtesy of friend Greg Shea at WGBH.
Chris Thile leads on mandolin.

That’s what is says in the Frankfurter story. Two winners and Jonas failed to show respect.

kaufmann harteros

Another bummer here.

The devaluation of music education took a fresh descent today when a boy of 11 was awarded the Licentiate of Trinity College London (LTCL), equivalent to the final year of a first music degree.

The boy, Curtis Elton, has been playing piano since he was 3.

He has twice appeared as a contestant in Britain’s Got Talent, where he was dubbed Mini Mozart.

His music role models are Liberace and Lang Lang.

You can see where this is heading.


Edward Gardner was to have given his last concert as principal guest conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchetra, but we hear he’s agreed to extend his commitment for another year to give the orchestra more time to choose a new music director.

Andris Nelsons is proving a hard act to replace. Boston may have to face up to the same problem soon.

andris nelsons bayreuth



A man sidled up to me last week at an operatic season launch and gave the secret sign. I twitched my trouser leg and wiggled my elbow. One cult member had found another.

Those who like the music of Bohuslav Martinu don’t just like it. We are passionate devotees of some of the most compelling works of music written by anyone in the first half of the 20th century.

Go explain why to agnostics. And go persuade them to listen. The trouble with Martinu is he wrote so much that newcomers have no idea where to begin. Well, here’s where.

It’s my Album of the Week on sinfinimusic.com.

martinu dogs

There is an alternative picture for cat-lovers.

martinu cat


We hear that tickets for this Friday’s Europa Concert in Athens sold out within half an hour. The concert is the one date in the year where players of the Berlin Phil get to choose the venue.

By picking Athens, they have sent a message of solidarity to austerity -hit Greeks and, perhaps, of dissension to Angela Merkel’s hardline on Grexit.

berlin philharmonie beethoven 9

At last night’s Royal Festival Hall concert, there were no fewer than eight so-called Guest Principal players in the Philharmonia Orchestra.

The concertmaster, Vijay Gupta, was imported from the LA Phil. The flute, Philippa Davies, outstanding in the Dvorak 8th solos, is one of the best session players in town.

But eight substitutes on the front line – including clarinet, harp, timps, viola – and in a prime Sunday-night concert with a world class soloist and conductor – is more than a team can bear and still retain its core identity.

This did not look, sound or comport itself on stage like the Philharmonia Orchestra. This was subs night.