We regret to share news of the death of Walter Weller, a concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic who became a widely-recorded international conductor. His wife, Sisi, shared the sad news today with colleagues in the UK.

Named joint concertmaster in Vienna with Willi Boskovsky at the age of 22, Walter also led his own string quartet until 1969. In 1966, he stepped in at sort notice for Karl Böhm and from then on conducted regularly at the Vienna State Opera and the Volksoper.

walter weller1

In 1977 he moved to Britain, becoming principal conductor first of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, then of the Royal Philharmonic in London and finally of  the Scottish National Orchestra where he was so popular that his face appeared on a £50 Scottish banknote.

He made numerous recordings for Decca, EMI and Chandos, including a well-regarded Beethoven cycle with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

He also held posts in Belgium, Spain, Switzerland and Germany (Stuttgart). His repertoire was extensive, rooted in the Austro-German heartland but containing many unexpected passions. He loved the company of orchestral players and was a generous and affable host.

Last month Walter was in Korea, conducting the KBS Symphony, which he described as one of the best orchestras he had known. On his return he was diagnosed with a pancreatic tumour and the end was swift.

Our condolences to Sisi, and their son.

walter weller2

England’s largest county used to have a symphony orchestra but it went kaputt sixty years ago. The conductor Norman Del Mar, of blessed memory, called it ‘a very bad moment for Leeds and Yorkshire.’

The Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra disbanded in 1955.

Fast forward to this week. The New Yorkshire Philharmonic has risen. A bunch of post-grad students have got togther with a former employee of the Royal Liverpool Phil, Rebekah Martin, to start a new band.

Full story here.

They said it couldn’t be done.

They said no opera singer could imitate a high performance car at top heat.

Well, she can.

You saw it here first.

The soprano has not been named by the Australian makers of the advertisement. Can anyone name her?

alfa romeo soprano

News just in from Philadelphia that Ethel Semser is no more.

Daughter of a Philadelphia Orchestra viola player, she moved to Paris with her husband in 1949 and started getting roles at the opera and on record.

Until her retirement in 1974 she recorded Amelia in Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera, the title role in Gluck’s Alceste (with Jean-Pierre Rampal as flute soloist), and both the Gurrelieder and the Pierrot Lunaire of Schoenberg, with the conductor Rene Leibowitz.  On stage in Paris, she premiered Menotti’s The Consul.

Her husband, Charles Semser, was an eminent sculptor.

ethel semser

Medici’s social media links are down so the competition is circulating a photographed sheet of successful candidates.

The best known among them is Leonard Elschenbroich, partner of the Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti.

cello finals

We’ll update as soon as we get a legible list.



UPDATE: Here goes:

Amosov, Fedor Russia
Cho, Brannon USA
Buzlov, Alexander Russia
Cornut, Tristan France
Crawford, John-Henry USA
Elschenbroich, Leonard Germany
Ferrández-Castro, Pablo Spain
Haga, Sandra Lied Norway
He, Sihao China
Ioniță, Andrei Ionuț Romania
Kang, Seung Min South Korea
Kobekina, Anastasia Russia
Lim, Hee Young South Korea
Ni, Tao China
Philippe, Bruno France
Roozeman, Jonathan Netherlands
Cañon Valencia, Santiago Columbia
Ramm, Alexander Russia
Sendetsky, Ivan Russia
Stadler, Alexey Russia
Szabó, Ildikó Hungary
Ueno, Michiaki Japan
Worlitzsch, Valentino Germany
Zhilin, Alexei Russia
Khamidullin, Rustem Russia



The basilica of Saint-Donatien in the city of Nantes caught fire soon after mass this morning.

The pictures are heart-rending.


At Christmas 1846, Felix Mendelsohn presented the manuscript of his second piano trio to his sister Fanny. Months later, Fanny died of a stroke. Felix followed before the year was out. The narrative of their relationship is complex, urgent and symbiotic.

A hint of its dynamics emerges in a new recording that is my Album of the Week on sinfinimusic.com. Click here.


The veteran conductor and pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy today quit the European Union Youth Orchestra ‘with immediate effect’. He has been its music director for 15 years, succeeding Bernard Haitink (who, in turn, succeeded Claudio Abbado and Colin Davis.

We hear that Vova had a principled difference of opinion with the orch’s managing director, Marshall Marcus, who wanted to steer it closer to the orbit of his alma mater, the Venezuela-based El Sistema movement. A genial man who generally avoids confrontation, Vova’s patience apparently snapped when he was offered a reduced role.

The official statement reads:

Vladimir Ashkenazy has announced today that after 15 years as Music Director of the European Union Youth Orchestra he has resigned with immediate effect. He was appointed to this position in 2000 in succession to Bernard Haitink who had been preceded by Claudio Abbado and Colin Davis.

He sends his best wishes to the orchestra’s wonderful musicians, present and past, for whom he feels the warmest commitment and affection. It is a matter of great satisfaction to him that during his 15 years as Music Director so many alumni of the EUYO have taken up leading positions in top orchestras throughout the Union. He also extends  his love and admiration to Joy Bryer the founder and  irreplaceable mentor of this great and noble institution which has so profoundly changed the ethos  of orchestras throughout Europe by inspiring  two generations of musicians to bring to their lives in music new levels of professionalism and engagement. 


photo (c) Keith Saunders

Roger Ruggeri has played double bass in the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra for 52 years, writing its program notes for much of that time. He’s a former conducting student of Pierre Monteux.

roger ruggieri

Shirley Rosin has played in the MSO second violins for exactly half a century. Her mother used to commute up from Chicago to fill in the freelance gaps, and was her roommate on tour.

Both vets retire this month, graduating instantly to the Slipped Disc hall of fame of longest-serving players.

We wish them a long and contented retirement.

Our inveterate opera hunters, Elizabeth Frayer & Shawn E Milnes, tracked down a Barber of Seville production in a private mansion that could be watched by Manhattan passers-by.

And not any old Barber. This was Paisiello’s version, well worth an uptown detour.

As the action unfolded in the courtyard I couldn’t help but notice passersby stopping to watch, and neighbors across the street coming to sit on their stoops.  “Offstage” was literally east 95thstreet just outside the gate of the Fabbri Mansion and it was nice to see the intermix of public and private and the general public’s delight to happen upon an opera in a courtyard on the Upper East Side.

Read the full story here.

paisiello new york

It beggars belief the two of the world’s most-watched music contests are taking place in the same week.

Pre-selections at the Tchaik concide totday with preliminary rounds at Cardiff Singer of the World. The Tchaik is streaming on medici.tv, Cardiff on sonostream (up to 30 days).

You can’t watch both without going mad.

The Russians were never going to budge on the Tchaikovsky date.


tchaik piano selection

So why didn’t the BBC show a little flexibility and shift Cardiff downwind to the end of the month? It can only be the loser in this contest. How many £100k BBC execs does it take to make the right decision?


The soprano has confirmed, as anticipated yesterday, that she’s pulling out of one of London’s hot summer tickets, a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta at the Albert Hall.

press statement:

U-Live hugely regret to say that the concert performance of Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta on Wednesday 24 June at Royal Albert Hall has been cancelled by Anna Netrebko due to illness. Anna is suffering from an acute infection and, as advised by her doctor, is not allowed to sing until at least 25 June.

anna netrebko dresden

We wish Anna a speedy recovery.