The classical guitarist Berta Rojas, vastly popular on Youtube and a Latin Grammy winner, has called off a European tour after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis. She writes: ‘Dear people, for health reasons I’ve had to cancel this week’s European tour. A few days ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer in an early stage, so I have begun the necessary medical treatment.’

We wish Berta a speedy recovery.

berta rojas

The annual general meeting and ,lunch of the League of American Orchestras was sponsored by an artists agency. As part of the deal, one of the agency’s artists got to sing to us after the AGM business was done. The artist was Melinda Doolitle, who came third in 2007 American Idol. Simon Cowell said she should have won.

Melinda told us of her pride in having been chosen to perform at the nearby Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She is not by any stretch of the imagination a classical soloist.

But American orchestras have many strings to their well-bent bow, and many of them stage variety shows around the year, especially at holiday seasons. So Melissa was there to pitch us her act at lunch. And pitch it she did, fully amplified. After that, we went back to contemplating why classical music was losing traction in the USA.

A plan was announced today at the League of American Orchestras convention to saturate the nation’s capital for a week with orchestral activity. Organisers of the ‘immersive’ festival, known as Shift, have made a surprise selection of four ensembles to spearhead the assault. This is one fine day for North Carolina. Press release below.

north carolina symphony


(WASHINGTON)—The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Washington Performing Arts today announced the four North American orchestras selected to participate in the first year of the new weeklong SHIFT Festival, taking place at the Kennedy Center March 27 through April 2, 2017. Chosen from a pool of exceptional submissions from orchestras across North America, the selected orchestras include: Boulder Philharmonic (March 28), North Carolina Symphony (March 29), Atlanta Symphony Orchestra(March 31), and Brooklyn-based ensemble, The Knights (April 1). Collectively, the participating orchestras will offer repertoire by nine living composers, two world premieres, and numerous D.C.-area premieres during the festival, inspired by themes of nature, Americana, creation and creativity, and choral influences.

SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras is a weeklong spotlight on North American orchestras of all sizes that celebrates the vitality, unique identity, and extraordinary artistry of orchestras by creating an immersive festival experience in the nation’s capital. It is the first significant collaboration between the Kennedy Center and Washington Performing Arts in their shared history. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a $900,000 grant for the collaboration, of which $700,000 will be leveraged as matching funds for new gifts to support the program. Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter and Washington Performing Arts President & CEO Jenny Bilfield made the announcement this afternoon in Cleveland at the League of American Orchestras’ annual conference

Message from the French pianist Nathalia Milstein:


Dear M.Lebrecht, I have just seen your post about my prize at the Dublin International Piano Competition…. I have to let you know that there has been a huge misunderstanding;  I have unfortunately no relationship of any kind with the great violinist, except the surname. I didn’t realize how much this rumour has been amplified, but in some concerts I am announced as Nathan Milstein’s grand niece and several people have written to me to ask about him… It is becoming quite embarrassing.

My grandfather, Yakov Milstein, was a renowned Russian musicologist and professor at the Moscow Conservatory. He brought up several generations of pianists, among whom are Bella Davidovich, Elisabeth Leonskaja and others. He also edited and annotated many Soviet scores in an edition which is considered in Russia as the reference nowadays. But he has still no relation of any kind to Nathan… I am really sorry this misunderstanding has gone so far. Therefore I would like to ask you if you would be so kind as to withdraw that information from the article, if it is possible. Yours sincerely, Nathalia Milstein



The one-act opera that Richard Strauss wrote after losing his Nazi state position and his exiled librettist in 1935 is more than  a bit of a problem child. Based on classical myth and legend, it has two guys fancying a goddess who would rather be a tree. Or some such. Not much to engage heart and mind.

To make it work you need an orchestra of angels and a cast of singers with very different ranges who can soar above any line Strauss can throw at them.

It happened last night at Severance Hall. The Cleveland Orchestra, having tuned up on stage for a full hour before curtain, were into the piece like rabbits to fresh lettuce. The singers were all proteges of Franz Welser-Most from his former warren in Vienna. Regine Hangler, whom Franz picked out of a monatery oratorio line, has the power and purity of sopranos of a past generation; she made Daphne seem almost human. Norbert Ernst and Andreas Schager were the guys with the hots for her. There was not a weak link in the cast. The chorus did what they had to do. The semi-staging was no less dramatic than a full staging and Franz Welser-Most conducted as if he’d been waiting for this to happen all his life. Severance Hall delivered unmatchable transaprency.

Best of all, the Cleveland audience sat there enwarpped. Not a fidget or a cough. They soaked up the music, the story, the occasion with an intensity you rarely find in bigger cities. Daphne, for once, worked.

You can’t ask for better than that.


severance hall

It is in the nature of trade conferences to see light at the end of tunnels and the world through roseate lenses. People come from all over the world to be reassured that all is well, and they are still in business.

Even  from this perspective, however, the opening day of the Cleveland conference of the League of American Orchestras has been magnificently tunnel-visioned.

The opening session contained several joyous affirmations of the glory of orchestral music, how good it is for kids, the benefits to health and society and its ineluctable affinities with motherhood and apple pie.

All difficulties are challenges, all retreats strategic, all financial issues unspoken. Oh happy we who assemble in the halls of great muses. Oh welcome tomorrow, so much better than today.

A cheerleader clicks orchestral credos on a screen above his head. We squint and murmur affirmation.

We look at the clock. It has gone back 30 years.

Tomorrow is … whenever.

We’ll keep you posted.



The French pianist Nathalia Milstein, 18, has won the first prize at the Dublin International Piano Competition.

Second was Alexander Bernstein (26, US), third was Alexander Beyer (20, US).

Nathalia is on her way. Her sister, Maria, is the family violinist.


Stephen Roe, the scholar who set up regular music manuscript sales at the auction house 35 years ago, is leaving today to pursue other interests. He may be irreplaceable.

Stephen went to Sotheby’s straight from university (Worcester College, Oxford) and has been wondering for a while if there’s a world out there.

He used to work alone and produce all the sale catalogues himself.  My earliest experience of him was the phenomenal sale of the original Le sacre du printemps score in 1982.

sacre ms



Since then he has uncovered and sold 6 Bach cantatas; Schumann’s Piano Concerto, Mahler’s 1 Symphony, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Totenfeier, fragments of the 10th symphony; 9 Mozart Symphonies, which still holds the world-record price at £2.6m for music ms and much, much more.

He has sold locks of hair of Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms, holds the world-record price for a piece of printed music  (J.S.Bach’s Clavieruebung book 1) and discovered any number of missing works by great masters.
He is leaving to concentrate on writing, with a biography of J.C. Bach on top of his pile. He will also be dealing in Music, Manuscripts and Books through his company Stephen Roe Ltd, and will remain linked in some way to Sotheby’s, as International Senior Consultant.

They will seriously feel his loss.