Two members of a gang of violin thieves operating in the southeast USA were arrested today. Details here from Atlanta Violins owner Bill McClain.

strad stolen

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has a new, young president starting soon. One veteran exec sniffed the air and decided to call its quits. He circulated his resignation reasons today.

pittsburgh halls


Dear friends and colleagues:

Last December I began a sabbatical which has been very beneficial for me and my family. It has been a wonderful time of reflection and contemplation. This process has allowed me to do a thorough re-evaluation of my priorities and plans.

As a result, I have decided to retire from the Pittsburgh Symphony. It has been my honor and privilege to work with Music Directors Lorin Maazel, Mariss Jansons, and Manfred Honeck. I have the utmost respect for Jim Wilkinson, Dick Simmons, Tom Todd, the Trustees of the Pittsburgh Symphony, and my colleagues on the staff present and past. I would specifically like to thank Jim Wilkinson, Katie McGuinness, Jesse Montgomery, Yonca Karakilic, Alison Bolton, and Shelly Fuerte for their steadfast support of me, and of the PSO’s artistic excellence.

And to the gifted musicians of the PSO, please know how much I admire and respect you. The very best thing about working here has been listening to you play literally thousands of concerts over a quarter of a century, in Heinz Hall and around the world. These have given me immeasurable joy. And I will look forward to listening to many more in the future.

This orchestra is the cultural crown jewel of Pittsburgh, and one of the great orchestras of the world. I am honored to have been a part of it for twenty-six years, and I will always wish for its continued success and prosperity.

Robert Moir
Senior Vice President of Artistic Planning and Audience Engagement
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra


Last summer, the London newspaper’s music critic led a pack of baying hacks who wrote or implied that the Irish mezzo Tara Erraught was too fat to sing Octavian in Rosenkavalier at Glyndebourne.

Then the same critic went for the mezzo Alice Coote who had hit back over the weight issue.

Now the fusty newspaper has provoked the wrath of Lisa Milne, the Scottish soprano who has retired early for a number of reasons, only one of which was to do with size. The Times ignored the other issues and focussed on fat.

Its report, beneath a profoundly unflattering picture of Ms Milne, begins:

Lisa Milne has given up the opera stage after years of finding “industry image standards” so “wearying and demoralising” that she underwent a breast reduction.

The Scottish soprano, who received an MBE in 2005, is retiring to teach at her alma mater, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS), in September.

She cited a number of reasons for the move, including feeling defeated by the pressures opera put on the way she looked. Alongside surgery on her breasts, the singer said she had a gastric sleeve operation “in order to look right for the stage” and was tired of “constantly being told I wasn’t pretty enough, wasn’t slim enough, wasn’t tall enough”.

Lisa, however, is not one to take things lying down. Here’s her response:

So THE TIMES printed ‘their’ version of Kate Molleson’s story [in the Herald]. I am really upset by it. They printed a photo from The Sacrifice which was years before I had gastric surgery or breast surgery. For them to focus and headline the article as ‘Soprano quits stage ‘unable to look part’.
WRONG. I resent that implication. I quit the stage because of numerous reasons- primarily to be with my family and because I had suffered from extreme stress and anxiety due to my personal life and the pressures of being away. The issue of my ‘ looks’ was other peoples’ problem. Not mine. If companies wouldn’t employ me because of the way I looked what else could I do but try to change how I looked if I wanted to STAY in the career. I did all that but I realised after the massive losses in my personal life and the joy that was radiating from me after working with young singers that my heart and my career had changed direction.

So to The Times I say – don’t try to turn this into yet another opera singer ‘fat’ story. It isn’t my story. And Kate Molleson reflected ACCURATELY the situation. My looks and the pressure to conform were a small part of a much much bigger and more interesting story.

lisa milne


Our colleague Steve Smith has unearthed a beautiful conversation he had with the late Ornette Coleman less than ten years ago. It’s all about the reasons Ornette makes music, the things that music can do.

‘I’ve been aware,’ he says, ‘that sound is the most healing quality of anything in human culture.’

Rest in peace, Ornette.

Read the full interview here.

ornette coleman, century

The new issue of Das Orchester, monthly journal of the German orchestral industry, sets its focus on diversity. Hearteningly, it covers the entire gamut of possible prejudices from race to trans-gender.

In one absorbing article, a member of the second violins of the Bavarian State Orchestra describes how he transitioned from male identity to female with enlightened support from the organisation and the musicians.

Daniela Huber passed the audition for the orchestra in 1978, as a married man with small children. In the mid-1990s, Daniela underwent gender realignment surgery and returned to the orchestra as a woman.

Daniela was fortunate to find a sympathetic doctor in the company. He brokered a meeting with the intendant, Sir Peter Jonas, who told Daniela that he had a similar experience in his own family and knew of another orchestral musician in Bavaria who had transitioned the other way. Daniela felt totally supported.

Not every musician would find it so easy. This is a heartening story of compassion and respect for human difference, an object lesson for organisations in handling the infinite varieties of human difference.

daniela huber

The article, which is in German, is not online; you will have to lay hands on a copy of the magazine to read it.


The great saxophonist, violinist, trumpeter and jazz master died today, aged 85.

He pushed through the barriers into free jazz in 1959 and followed up with The Shape of Jazz to Come, and never looked back. His innovations were on a par with Miles Davis. Leonard Bernstein was an admirer.

ornette coleman, 1959

This week’s Nielsen Soundscan charts will be greeted with cheers at Decca, whose latest monastery recording cleared more than 3,000 albums in the US. That’s the good news.

The bad is that the next two best-sellers sold around 300 each and anything below number 7 sold fewer than 100. The US market is kaputt.

Which monks? The beer brewers. Here’s their press puff:


monks of norcia

The moving music of BENEDICTA was recorded by a group of 18 men; half American citizens and half representing a variety of cultural backgrounds who collectively are heralded as one of the most authentic active singing communities of Gregorian Chant today. They are led by Fr. Cassian Folsom, Prioran American who studied voice at the venerable Indiana University before joining the monastery.  Fr. Cassian will make a rare visit to the United States on June 15 and 16, offering an unprecedented opportunity to learn about this community’s intriguing story first-hand. 

The story of The Monks of Norcia’s youthful (average age 33) members remains the stuff of legend: in 1998 they journeyed to the quaint Italian village of Norcia, and resurrected the historical holy ground of the birthplace of Saint Benedict.  There, the monks became master brewers and standard bearers of Gregorian Chant, after Monastic devotional singing was not heard in the town for nearly 200 years. Says Fr. Cassian, “Music is important to us, especially for the sake of the prayer. Even someone who listens to this without any background will be drawn to it, I think, by its pure beauty and its mystical quality.” 

In addition to the monks daily monastic life devoted to prayer and music, they also strive to communicate their vision of life by way of “earthly experiences.”  To that end, The Monks of Norcia operate a craft brewery at the monastery, Birra Nursia, where they produce brews that have gained devotees from distant countries, bringing new visitors to Norcia, adding to their compelling backstory in an unexpected way.   


The CBSO has announced: Andris Nelsons has had to withdraw from tonight’s concert at Symphony Hall and Friday night’s concert at Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre due to an acute ear infection. CBSO Assistant Conductor, Alpesh Chauhan has kindly agreed to conduct at very short notice.
The programme for both concerts, Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 (Unfinished), Strauss’ Horn Concerto No. 2, and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7 remains the same.

He is due to conduct Mahler’s 3rd symphony next week, his Birmingham farewell. They’re praying for a swift recovery.

andris nelsons bayreuth

Has died on the same day as Ron Moody, 91. British cinema has lost two great stalwarts.

Lee was a formidable Dracula. Less renowned as a singer, until he released a Christmas album at 91:

He once said ‘I would rather have been an opera singer than anything else.’

christopher lee

That’s this morning’s headline in Die Zeit, spinning the line that is coming from Eva’s half-sister, Katharina, and her conductor sidekick, Christian Thielemann. It appears they have succeeded in banning the former co-director from the festival, and for reasons that have not yet been made clear. The word in Vienna is that no-one is telling the truth.

The absurdity is that the Wagners cannot see that the musical world now regards Bayreuth as rat-poison and serious artists and patrons will be striking it off their summer agenda.

katharina wagner



Here’s the text (auf Deutsch):

Was ist denn nun die Wahrheit? Die einen sagen so, die anderen so, und selbst die Dritten, die nie etwas sagen oder lange nichts gesagt haben, rühren die Trommel. Verstehen aber tut niemand, welches Theater auf dem Grünen Hügel von Bayreuth 50 Tage vor Eröffnung der Festspiele gegeben wird. Erster Aufzug: Festspielleiterin Katharina Wagner und ihr Intimus, der Dirigent und Bayreuther Musikdirektor Christian Thielemann, wollen Eva Wagner-Pasquier, die Co-Festspielleiterin, offenbar loswerden – und zwar noch bevor deren Vertrag am 31. August endet. Weil Evas Sängerbesetzungen zu wünschen übrig ließen, weil sie haarsträubende administrative Fehler gemacht haben soll und weil die persönlichen Verhältnisse derart zerrüttet seien, dass sie den Burgfrieden gefährdeten, gerade in der sensiblen Probenzeit.
Also wurde noch im vergangenen Jahr beim Stiftungsrat etwas erwirkt, von dem jetzt, da es greifen müsste, keiner weiß, was es sein soll: eine “Freistellung” Evas von allen Kompetenzen, wie bei Machtwechseln nicht unüblich? Ein Haus- oder “Hügelverbot”, wie es 1975 Wolfgang Wagner über seine Mutter Winifred verhängte, nachdem diese sich vor Hans-Jürgen Syberbergs Kamera liebevoll an den “Führer” erinnert hatte? Ein ordentlicher Beschluss der vier Gesellschafter zur Causa liegt nicht vor. Ist alles also bloß Popanz, Schmu, halbherzige Drohgebärde? Der Bund als Gesellschafter hält sich in Sachen Bayreuth traditionell raus, der Freistaat Bayern schweigt, der Rest sind Dementis. Kulturpolitische Verantwortung sieht anders aus. Überhaupt ans Licht gekommen ist das Ganze, weil sich Eva und ihr Anwalt Peter Raue – zweiter Aufzug – durch den fehlenden Beschluss nicht länger an die vereinbarte Vertraulichkeit gebunden fühlten. Flugs machten via Süddeutsche Zeitung allerlei Briefe und Dokumente die Runde, und ausgerechnet die scheue Eva, die sich kaum je öffentlich äußert, steht nun, ohne konkret in die Offensive zu gehen, als die Nestbeschmutzerin da, die sie niemals sein wollte.
In Gestalt der Bayreuth-Dirigenten Kirill Petrenko (amtierend) und Daniel Barenboim (gewesen) folgt der dritte Aufzug: “Würdelos”, ja “menschenunwürdig” sei der Umgang mit Wagner-Pasquier, um ein Haar hätte Petrenko sein Engagement für diesen Sommer noch aufgekündigt. Schlechter kann die Stimmung auf dem Grünen Hügel also gar nicht sein, zumal sich der Kartenverkauf für den Ring wie für den Fliegenden Holländer schleppend gestaltet. Immerhin ist Eva Wagner-Pasquier nach ihrem Urlaub am Dienstag ungehindert in ihr Büro gelangt. Der oberfränkische Atridenfluch aber, der über den Wagners und den Festspielen lastet, wird auf Dauer nur durch gute, ja durch bessere Kunst zu lösen sein. Dafür stehen auch die Gesellschafter in der Pflicht, gerade in ach so heiklen Personalfragen. Sie müssten sagen, was gelten soll.

Alongside the appointment of Daniel Harding as music direcor, the Orchestre de Paris has announced the versalile German musician Thomas Hengelbrock as principal guest conductor.

Hengelbrock, 56, a violinist by training, is principal conductor of the NDR Symphony. He has history with Harding at the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and was briefly music director of the Vienna Volksoper. He’s the winner of this year’s Karajan Prize.

harding hengelbrock

press release:

Le Conseil d’administration de l’Orchestre de Paris a désigné Daniel Harding Directeur musical à partir de la saison 2016-2017. Il a également choisi Thomas Hengelbrock comme chef associé.
Ces nominations ont été approuvées par la Ministre de la Culture Fleur Pellerin et par la Maire de Paris Anne Hidalgo….L’Orchestre de Paris, qui fêtera son 50ème anniversaire en 2017, a été dirigé successivement par Charles Munch, Herbert von Karajan, sir Georg Solti, Daniel Barenboim, Semyon Bychkov, Christoph Eschenbach et Paavo Järvi,  auquel succédera Daniel Harding en septembre 2016.

Ron Moody, Oliver’s indelible Fagin, has died aged 91.