Valery Sokolov, a contributor to the forthcoming state-inspired Tchaikovsky Encyclopedia, has written an intensive survey of the evidence, old and new, surrounding the circumstances of the composer’s death.

The article calls on recent research from both east and west and gives full account of the suicide theory, before discrediting it. Sokolov’s conclusion remains cholera-induced kidney failure.

Read the article here. If any reader would care to make an English summary, it would be widely appreciated.

tchaikovsky death mask



One of the founding players of the Philharmonia Orchestra in 1945 and one of the liveliest on the UK scene for decades after, the cellist Alexander Kok has died, aged 89. Mostly known as ‘Bobby’, he was recruited onto several Beatles session.

His brother, Felix, was leader of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Picture gallery here.


stage collapse

Eight singers were injured when a choir stand collapsed into the stage at the Bijie Grand Theatre yesterday.

Eighty members of a chorus were on stage, rehearsing for a choral competition in Bijie, Guizhou province.

Lee Ousley was practising his piccolo for Sunday service on board the USS Dobbin in Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 when the Japanese bombers swooped. A member of the ship’s band, he handed up ammunition for the anti-aircraft guns. After serving throughout the War, he joined the Alabama Symphony as a violinist.

Lee died last month, aged 95.


That’s what the Berlin Philharmonic election has come down to.

When the 124 players go into conclave tomorrow, the largest bloc on first ballot will favour Christian Thielemann. He is the only German candidate, Berliner to his bones, technically reassuring and popular with older audiences.

The drawback is that Thielmann, 56, is a blast from the past, deeply conservative in his repertoire and reactionary in his political views. Once accused by Daniel Barenboim of antisemitism, Thielemann has come close to giving coded support to the anti-immigration Pegida movement. Thielemann has not conducted for years in the UK and only once in the US. He is out of tune with Berlin’s vibrant, multicultural profile.

The question is: who’s going to stop him? Thielemann is unlikely to win on first ballot but so far as we can tell, there is no single candidate for opponents to rally around. The late withdrawals of Barenboim and Jansons have left the anti-Thielemann faction without an interim successor to Simon Rattle, available to hold the reins for 3-4 years until a young talent comes free.

Many in the orchestra favour Andris Nelsons, but he’s too new in Boston to up sticks and leave.

Riccardo Chailly, Kirill Petrenko and Vladimir Jurowski are the remaining options. Can one of them – or a rank outsider – call in enough support on second ballot to stop the Thielemann bandwaggon?

That’s what the election is about.

thielemann sport2

AP reports that the backing orchestra for David Letterman’s nightly show will be disbanded when the presenter retires in ten days’ time. Read here. It’s a rough trade.

david letterman orchestra

The Swedish group has posted:

Our friend, the bass player, guitarist, arranger and producer Rutger Gunnarsson has suddenly passed away in his home in Stockholm at the age of 69.

His unique way of playing his bass, his beautiful string arrangements and thorough work as a producer for countless Swedish and foreign artists and musicians have colored pop music from the early 70s up until today.

Rutger got the most attention through his long and intimate cooperation with Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and ABBA, participating in all of their albums, numerous singles, tours, movies and musicals. Here at the museum we are so grateful for having him here not to long ago, walking around with that special smile of his.

Rutger’s three children, Rickard, Mimmi and Joanna, all mourn their father along with a music world that suffers the loss of a great musician, colleague and a dear, dear friend.
Keep plying your magic bass where ever you are Rutger..
Rest in peace!


New Zealand media are reporting the death this morning from cancer of Jack Body, the country’s best-known composer. He was 70.

Performed mainly in his home country, he also obtained commissions from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and, three times, from the Kronos Quartet.

He integrated gamelan and other South Pacific instruments into his scores.


photo: (c) Robert Catto

Nicholas Gold, a cellist in the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera orchestra, had his cello broken by Southwest Airlines. He wrote to the airline and was offered a fraction of the instrument’s value – ‘our maximum liability’.

Nick is not happy. So he made a little video in his garden, showing the amount of force the airline handlers would have needed to use in order to break his cello’s neck through its reinforced case.

Quite a lot.
smashed cello1

Last week she accused Gustavo Dudamel of being a collaborator with Venezuela’s torture regime.

This weekend, Gabriela Montero has been named one of Amnesty International’s first three honorary consuls for her ‘ability to inspire others through (her) art and personal passion, as well as her individual commitment to human rights’.

Congratulations, Gabriela!


Press release:

montero ex patria

Three top artists from across the Americas to join Amnesty International as first ‘Honorary Consuls’

  • Saúl Hernández: celebrated, Grammy Award-winning songwriter, singer, guitarist, bassist (Caifanes, Jaguares)
  • Gabriela Montero: award-winning and bestselling American-Venezuelan concert pianist, recording artist, and composer
  • Peter Sís: Czech-American internationally acclaimed illustrator, author and filmmaker

Mexico City, Saturday 9 May: Amnesty International today announced its first three ‘Honorary Consuls’ – global artists who will mobilize support for human rights and Amnesty International among the general public and within the artistic community.

The Honorary Consuls have been chosen because of their ability to inspire others through their art and personal passion, as well as their individual commitment to human rights. They today joined Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, in a ceremony in Mexico City to mark their new roles.

“Amnesty International is a global movement of millions of members, supporters and activists who work together to fight injustice. I am delighted that three brilliant and inspiring artists have today joined our cause,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

“Through their art and their huge audiences across the Americas and beyond Saúl Hernández, Gabriela Montero and Peter Sis have the ability to take our human rights messages and campaigns to exciting new audiences. I am extremely grateful to them for their generous commitment to our work.”