A debate has erupted in the Hensingin Sanomat between two Sibelius biographers, war historian Martti Turtola who has a new book ‘Rakastan Sibeliusta’ (I love Sibelius) and Vesa Siren, whose Sibelius biography will appear in a couple of months.

Turtola argues that the relationship between Finns and Nazis has been adequately researched and should be laid to rest. Vesa Siren and Professor Veijo Murtomäki take a different view.

Vesa says hundreds of prominent artists (and officers and businessmen and scientists) in the Nordic countries and Finland praised Hitler and the Nazi regime at one time or another. Much has been written about them, but not enough.

What about Sibelius? Vesa says it is quite true that the Sibelius family hated everything ”communist” and ”red” after the Red Guards raided Ainola during the civil war in 1918 and the Sibelius family feared for their lives.

Vesa adds: ‘With this background, some of his family and inner circle thought the new Führer might be good for Germany, putting ”people to work and banning communists”, as some of the Finnish press wrote. But Sibelius himself was suspicious from the start. (His last visit abroad was in 1931 so the Germany he really knew was the Germany from his student days from 1889 to the Weimar Republic.)

‘He received some medals from Nazi Germany as he did from all over the world. Still, he wrote some critical remarks of ”Rassenbestimmungen” (Race Laws) and antisemitism in his diary. ”These childish Rassenbestimmungen, which are the most complete hogwash!” he wrote. He also condemned the Nazis for eradicating Mendelssohn (during a private conversation with conductor Jussi Jalas, his son in law. I found a note from Jalas about this conversation from January 8, 1942).

sibelius at home
‘The old man with shaky hands and cataract in his eyes also had to fight the German copyright company (Stagma) about his pension (from the Weimar Republic) and his copyright income. I have read this correspondence from the archives. They signed their letter with Heils. but Sibelius always used the remote ”Mit vorzüglicher Hochachtung.”

‘Born in 1865, we can assume that he could have done more. The Finnish writer F. E. Sillanpää (b. 1888) did, for example. Sillanpää wrote extremely critical ”Christmas letter for dictators” in 1938 and got the Nobel Prize in 1939.

During the same years Sibelius met some Nazis in Ainola as he met Stalin’s bureaucrats and Soviet artists (Kabalevsky, Mravinsky, Gilels) after 1944. It is quite true that if Finnish government asked him to meet important persons in different situations from different countries claiming that it might be ”good for Finland”, it was hard for this old man to refuse. (Of course, there were also many visitors that he really liked, from Cecil Gray and Marian Anderson to Jussi Björling, Eugen Ormandy and Isaac Stern).

‘The old man from Järvenpää should not be cleared from all responsibility. But while hundreds of prominent cultural persons in Nordic Countries actually praised Hitler, Sibelius never was never one of them.

‘This is a very complicated discussion and I will devote dozens of pages for it in my next book on Sibelius, published in Finnish this autumn. Lot of new information coming up.’

sibelius mannerheim

Mr & Mrs Sibelius with the Finnish ruler, General Mannerheim

Mary Jo Heath (l.) will succeed the late and much-loved Margaret Juntwait, it was learned today.

Ms Heath presented most of last season’s operas while Ms Juntwait was fighting cancer. She died in June, aged 58.


From the Augusta Chronicle:

‘Randy Houston Mercer pleaded in U.S. District Court to production of child pornography, a crime punishable by 15 to 30 years in prison. According to court documents, Mercer produced child pornography between July 2014 and January, and had sexual relations with underage teens without revealing he was an HIV patient.’

He is being held without bond, described as ‘owner of Peach Augusta, a women’s clothing boutique in Surrey Center, and a professional make-up artist.’

A man of the same name is the make-up designer of three major Broadway musicals.


There is a further link on Broadway World.

Statement by Sovrintendente Alexander Pereira on Riccardo Chailly’s position at the Lucerne Festival:

chailly lucerne

‘We express great satisfaction with an appointment of extraordinary artistic and historic significance, a prestigious completion of Maestro Chailly’s activities. Maestro’s commitments with the Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala in both operatic and symphonic repertoire during the year will correspond in the summer break with his work with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, whose history is distinguished by the names of Toscanini and Abbado and which is composed of some of the best international musicians.’


morris dancing


It’s August.

Things happen.

Police were called after a mass brawl broke out in a pub car park between a group of morris dancers and a blind football team.

The problem, they say, was bells. Not balls.

Read all about it, right here.

morris dancing

UPDATE: This is a hoax….. but such a good one.

chailly lucerne

He’s the new music director of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra. Nice shirt.

Michael Haefliger, festival director, is holding the other pen. Swiss shirt.

See here.

The American University of Beirut is known for its large population of stray cats.

When one of them strayed too far – onto the stage of the concert hall – musicians of the Gurdjieff Ensemble did not know what to do for a minute or so. Then they worked it out. Make sure to watch to the end.

cat on stage

Speaking at Salzburg, Daniel Barenboim has paid tribute to his sadly bedridden friend.

‘He truly changed the musical world,’ said Barenboim, having just conducted  sur Incises in Argentina. ‘The audience raved and applauded for at least 15 minutes… Many don’t see the emotional side of the music, of course, since his music is new… Boulez has managed to feel with his head and think with his heart.

‘I really love these works very much…To me, Boulez is a great composer, but also a great human being.’

At the Barenboim-Said Academy in Berlin, opening next year, Barenboim will name the concert hall after Pierre Boulez.

"Hommage à Pierre Boulez zum 85. Geburtstag" Pierre Boulez, in der Berliner Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin, franzoesischer, Komponist, Dirigent, Musiktheoretiker, Avantgarde, Musik,  [Das Foto ist ein Lichtbildwerk i.S.v. §2 Absatz 1 Ziff.5 UrHG,  Nur redaktionelle Nutzung, Nutzung Honorar-& MwSt. pflichtig! Weitergabe an Dritte nicht erlaubt. Wir uebernemen keine Haftung bei einer evtl. Verletzung Rechte Dritter! Es gelten unsere AGB. t.bartilla@googlemail.com,  Koepenicker Landstr. 150, 12437 B e r l i n, Bankverbindung: Thomas Bartilla, Ing-Diba, Kto. 5526039061, BLZ 50010517, Tel. + 49 178 55 60576 ]Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin, Nutzung für interne Zwecke der Staatsoper unter den Linden Berlin, kostenfrei und ohne Einschränkungen, [Das Foto ist ein Lichtbildwerk i.S.v. §2 Absatz 1 Ziff.5 UrHG,  Nur redaktionelle Nutzung, Nutzung Honorar-& MwSt. pflichtig! Weitergabe an Dritte nicht erlaubt. Wir uebernemen keine Haftung bei einer evtl. Verletzung Rechte Dritter! Es gelten unsere AGB. t.bartilla@googlemail.com,  Koepenicker Landstr. 150, 12437 B e r l i n, Bankverbindung: Thomas Bartilla, Ing-Diba, Kto. 5526039061, BLZ 50010517, Tel. + 49 178 55 60576 ]

photo: medici.tv

Dear Mr. Lebrecht,

Some years ago I (violin teacher in the Mozarteum/ Salzburg) and some students became so upset about Anna Karkowska that we made this video as a satirical protest. The first version was prohibited by Karkowska.
But this version you won’t regret.
With best and vibratoless wishes,
Lavard Skou Larsen

anna karkowska

The pianist-songwriter has become a father, a month after getting married (things move so fast nowadays).

billy joel wedding

He has a 29 year-old daughter by a previous marriage.

He is a recording artist for Sony Classics.



Riccardo Chailly will be the next music director of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra.

Riccardo, 62, is principal conductor at La Sala Milan and music director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus.

He succeeds the late Claudio Abbado, his early mentor.

It’s a brilliant move on both sides.

Press release:

Lucerne, 13 August 2015. Riccardo Chailly is the new Music Director of the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA. He will take up this new position at the beginning of the 2016 Summer Festival, on 12 August 2016, when he will conduct the Festival orchestra for the first time in the opening concert in a program featuring Gustav Mahler’s Eighth Symphony. Riccardo Chailly’s contract is for five years and stipulates that he will conduct the Orchestra in four to five concerts during the Summer Festival. Claudio Abbado, who together with Executive and Artistic Director Michael Haefliger founded the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA in 2003 and who led the ensemble for eleven years, died on 20 January 2014.

“I am truly delighted that with Riccardo Chailly we have succeeded in gaining a magnificent artist as the Music Director of the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA,” observes Michael Haefliger, Executive and Artistic Director of LUCERNE FESTIVAL. “Arturo Toscanini founded this unique symphony orchestra in 1938, and Claudio Abbado reestablished it in 2003 and brought it worldwide recognition. Riccardo Chailly marks the third time a great Italian conductor takes on the leadership of the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA. As an outstanding artistic personality, he will also contribute strong new points of emphasis.”

“To be responsible for this great artistic project initiated by Claudio Abbado is not only a privilege but also something that touches me emotionally,“ says Riccardo Chailly. “Ever since I was 18, when he appointed me to be his assistant at La Scala, Abbado was my model and then my point of reference and lifelong friend, with deep affection up to the very end. I have collaborated with Michael Haefliger for many years in a spirit of full artistic understanding. I believe that working with him offers a real opportunity to maintain and develop the musical profile of the Orchestra and of the Festival, both in Switzerland and worldwide, as they deserve.”


La Scaka reaction here.

John Scott, Organist and Director of Music at St Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue, died of a heart attack on Wednesday, August 12. He was 59 and expecting to become a father in the weeks ahead.

As a teenager, John was the youngest organist ever to perform at the BBC Proms. Our sympathies to his family and community. His compositions are widely performed.

Official announcement follows.

john scott

Saint Thomas Church is heartbroken by the sudden death of John Scott, Organist and Director of Music, on Wednesday, August 12.

John returned to New York on August 11 after a very successful European tour. He was not feeling well the next morning and suffered a sudden cardiac episode. He was taken to Roosevelt Hospital but never regained consciousness. His wife, Lily, was by his side when he died. John and Lily are expecting their first child in September.

The Rector, Headmaster, Wardens, Vestry, and Staff are shocked by John’s untimely death. Our thoughts and prayers are with Lily and John’s family. John and Lily are at the very heart of the Saint Thomas Church family and its mission.

John was appointed Organist and Director of Music of Saint Thomas Church and Choir School in 2004. He previously served at Saint Paul’s Cathedral for 26 years. He was born in 1956 and is a graduate of Saint John’s College, Cambridge. In addition to his beloved wife, Lily, he is survived by two children, Emma and Alex, and two sisters, Judith and Helen.

John’s contribution to music is a lasting legacy to the Church and to the world. He was a man of great faith; the words of J.S. Bach, Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God alone) inspired his ministry.

A Requiem Mass will be offered for the repose of his soul at Saint Thomas Church on Thursday, August 13, at 5:30pm. Funeral arrangements will be posted here in due course.

May choirs of angels receive him and may he have eternal rest.


The composer Nico Muhly writes of his Facebook page (reproduced with permission):

So, I’ve spent the better part of the afternoon driving around Santa Cruz listening to every recording of John Scott in his various guises as conductor and organist I could find on my phone and other devices. It turns out there are LOADS there: hours, days, even? His recording of the chant for psalm 37 on volume ninety-seven-jillion of the Psalms from St Paul’s series remains one of my favorite things in the world.

I emailed him this fact five days ago, and he wrote back from Sweden (his first trip, apparently!) seconds later, “Oh those divine Howells chants!” with his typical enthusiasm and joy. This was a man deeply devoted to the tradition of music and the music of tradition, to his service to the church, and to his ability to transmit the possibility of the divine to friends and strangers.

It is insane to me that he died – like, actively unbelievable. There are so many of us whom he touched as a recording artist, as a conductor, organist, educator, mentor, hero, husband, father, martini partner and interlocutor. He loved plainchant — Lent has never been so austere! — but could throw down a Howells Coll Reg with the lashings of cream and coulis required by such music.

Any of the choristers — now grown — with whom he recorded in 2003, I’m sure, remember his insistence on the distance between repeated notes in Tallis’s Salvator Mundi; when he played my music at the organ in 2013, I was consistently humbled by the freakish connection between his technical abilities and expressive musicianship; to watch him conduct the choir for a random Thursday’s evensong was to watch an essay on simultaneous restraint and spontaneity: centuries of performance practice reanimated, stylised, and tightened. I think of his influence as a form of epidemic: a great choirmaster infects everybody near him with an evangelical love for the music, the tradition, and the rigor required to get it done correctly but in the (liturgical) background: music for use, but music for the only use worth using. Even though the world feels dimmer without him in it, I am excited to spend tomorrow, the rest of the summer, and the rest of my life listening to his recordings, thinking about his influence on all of us, and thinking about the subtle magnificence of his contribution to the world in which we all live. We are all better musicians because of John.



john scott st paul's

The organist Cameron Carpenter adds:

IN MEMORIAM JOHN SCOTT: He was an important colleague and friend to me and to all of us in the world of the organ, so I am sad to have to speak of the death of organist John Scott (1956-2015). He died yesterday of a heart attack in New York City (August 12, 2015), and by far too young a man. As a high school freshman at the North Carolina School of the Arts, I used his recording of “Grande Choeur Dialogue” by Gigout to wake up every morning; his steely control and ceremonial delivery still remains with me in startling contrast to the ribald power and easy-to-get-out-of-hand excitement of the huge brass-type stops he was using on the big organ at Saint Paul’s in London. John could easily have been one of the large number of accomplished organists who cross the street even at the mention of my name, but he was too good. Despite we being at opposite ends of the spectrums of style, belief, and musical performance, he was always so warm and supportive. I wish I could have thanked him again. Be reminded: death is always in the room. 


Te composer Lera Auerbach (on Fb):

I was shocked to learn about the sudden death of John Scott – a brilliant musician and a very kind man. I worked with John on one of my largest and most important works: he prepared the Saint Thomas Boys Choir in NYC to perform the world premiere of my “Requiem – Ode to Peace” with Dresden Staatskapelle at the Dresden’s Semper Opera and at the Frauenkirche couple of years ago. This was one of the most memorable and profound premieres I have experienced and the highlight of my residency with the Dresden Staatskapelle. I worked with John for several years from the very initial conception of this work. We have also planned several projects for future collaborations. I always thought how fortunate are the boys of St. Thomas to have him as their teacher and conductor! He will be greatly missed.


St Paul’s Cathedral has issued this statement:

The entire St Paul’s community is shocked and sincerely dismayed at news that John Scott, a ‘musical genius’ regarded as one of the world’s finest organists and who led the music at St Paul’s Cathedral for 14 years, has died suddenly aged just 59.

St Thomas Church in New York, where John worked since leaving St Paul’s in 2004 reported his death from a heart attack on Wednesday, 12 August 2015.

John’s career at St Paul’s spanned more than a quarter of a century, with the last 14 years as Organist, leading the vast and varied musical output of the Cathedral including directing the world-famous choir of men and boys.

MORE: www.stpauls.co.uk/johnscott