-Ilan Volkov will conduct a chamber orchestra of New York Philharmonic musicians in the US stage premiere of Gerald Barry’s The Importance of Being Earnest (2010), at Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center;

-Alan Gilbert will conduct the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ALUMNI at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Ligeti Forward, three programs exploring György Ligeti through three of his concertos — the Piano Concerto, performed by Conor Hanick; Cello Concerto, performed by Jay Campbell; and Violin Concerto, performed by Pekka Kuusisto — alongside works by his students Unsuk Chin and Gérard Grisey as well as works by Alexandre Lunsqui, Marc-André Dalbavie, Dai Fujikura (Japan, b. 1977), and John Zorn;

Ligeti hamburg

(c) Lebrecht Music&Arts

-The New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival will take place as part of the 2016 NY PHIL BIENNIAL, featuring several concerts of pure electroacoustic music;

-Alan Gilbert will lead the New York Philharmonic at David Geffen Hall in works by two American composers of the same generation: the World Premiere–Philharmonic CoCommission of a Trombone Concerto by William Bolcom, with Philharmonic Principal Trombone Joseph Alessi as soloist, and the New York Premiere of Conjurer by John Corigliano, with percussionist Martin Grubinger as soloist in his Philharmonic debut.

-And much more here.

We don’t have the names yet, but there are four South Africans and one each from 15 other nations at the semis stage of the singing contest. The website is useless, but you can watch the live feed from tomorrow on Sonostream.

These are the opera stars of the future.

neue stimmen

This has been expected, but it’s devastating nonetheless. Max Hole has been a huge advocate of classical music during his years as chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group International. He is a very warm, intelligent man, quick to appreciate talent in all forms.

Last winter, Max caught encephalitis in India which landed him in intensive care. Recovery has been slow and he has now decided to leave the job he loved and performed so well. We send him all good wises for a continued recovery. Many of his colleagues wept hot tears this morning on receiving the internal memo below from Lucian Grainge.

You read it here first (with permission).


Max Hole with a recovering tenor
Max Hole with Rolando Villazon in happier times

Dear Colleagues:

As many of you know, this past January, Max Hole contracted encephalitis while travelling in India. As a result he has suffered some memory loss which has prevented him from returning to work.

Max’s absence has been difficult for a great many of us throughout all of UMG. As for myself, I can tell you that I’ve missed him, both personally and professionally, every single day he’s been gone. Max has been my close friend and confidante for almost 30 years.

While his condition has consistently improved over the past nine months and his recovery is making progress, Max has informed me that he has decided, in the best interests of the company, to step down as Chairman and CEO of UMGI, effective immediately. Going forward, our region heads will report directly to me while the central UMGI functions in London will report to Boyd. More organizational updates will follow. I want to thank all of Max’s direct reports who have risen to the challenge of Max’s absence and managed our international business without missing a beat.

Max is extremely proud that he has been a part of the UMG family for nearly two decades and has derived great happiness from all of our company’s recent accomplishments. It’s hard to find someone who loves this company and this business more than Max does, and we owe it to him to continue our work with the same level of professionalism and passion he brought to the office every day. I’m hopeful that as his recovery continues, he’ll be able to work with us on projects in the future.

In the meantime, please join me in thanking Max. To list all the things we have to thank him for would just embarrass him. Instead, let me just simply say, thank you, Max.



UPDATE: Here’s the official announcement:

Santa Monica, October 21, 2015 – Universal Music Group (UMG), the world’s leading music company, announced today that Max Hole will be stepping down from his role as Chairman and Chief Executive of Universal Music Group International (UMGI), effective immediately.

In January, Max contracted encephalitis, as a result of which he has suffered some memory loss. While he is making progress towards a recovery, a full resumption of his responsibilities is not possible at this time. As Max’s recovery continues, he and the company will discuss projects in which Max will have continuing involvement. Following Max’s departure, the company’s regional heads (for those regions outside the U.S.) will report directly to UMG Chairman and CEO, Lucian Grainge.

In making the announcement, Max said, “I have loved working at Universal, the best record company in the world. Lucian is an extraordinary person, both an exceptional creative and business executive for whom I have great affection. We have known each other for a very, very long time and I’m so glad we remain friends. I love so many of my colleagues around the world that there are too many to name, but I’d like to mention my close friends Boyd Muir, Richard Constant, David Joseph, Frank Briegmann, Pascal Nègre, George Ash, Jesus Lopez and Andrew Kronfeld. Finally, there are our incredible artists, some I have been close to and some I have watched and loved from a distance. I wish our artists and Universal a hugely successful future.”

Grainge said, “Max Hole is one of the most talented and accomplished executives to have ever worked in the music business, with an undying passion for music. He has been one of our industry’s most effective champions, opening new markets and creating opportunities for artists and fans everywhere. Max’s contributions to Universal will be forever a part of the fabric of this company and our industry, and he leaves with our deepest gratitude and respect.”

Max joined UMGI in 1998 as Senior Vice President, Marketing and A&R. In 2004, he was promoted to Executive Vice President and subsequently added responsibility for Digital, Strategic Marketing and Commercial Affairs, as well as Asia Pacific and Nordic/Central/Eastern Europe. He was appointed COO of UMGI in 2010 and in 2013 was appointed Chairman and CEO of UMGI.

Max began his music industry career as an independent artist manager and record producer. In 1982, he joined Warner Music UK as A&R Manager, rising to Managing Director of WEA Records and, in 1990, founding Managing Director of East West Records. During his 16 years at the company, he was involved with such successful artists as Simply Red, Tori Amos, Pretenders, Sisters of Mercy, Chris Rea and the Corrs, among many others.

Max was recognized in the Queen’s 2015 Birthday Honours List and awarded Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to the music industry.

Distribution of small labels is dominated by Naxos and its subsidiary, Select. Now Warner are grabbing a slice.

Press release:


pappano aida

For the first time, Warner Classics is extending its global distribution and marketing infrastructure to third-party labels. From November 2015, the company will offer a comprehensive, tailored classical service to select partners including orchestras, artists and independent labels.


Warner Classics Label Services will manage logistics in conjunction with Warner Music Group’s established international distribution company, Alternative Distribution Alliance (ADA) Worldwide, while offering the additional support of specialised classical marketing and promotional initiatives. This new venture has been conceived as a streamlined, one-stop approach for carefully chosen classical brands bringing a complementary artistic profile to Warner Classics’ roster, which includes the former EMI Classics and Virgin Classics (now Erato) catalogues.


From November 2015, EuroArts Music will be the first company to join forces with Warner Classics Label Services, initially forphysical distribution in the US and parts of Europe, with the UK, France and Benelux following in 2016. Founded in 1979, EuroArts is one of the world’s leading independent producers and rights owners of audio-visual classical music programmes. ..

“In an ever-changing market environment, Warner Classics is responding to a strong demand for dedicated label services with a classical focus,” said Markus Petersen, Senior Vice President Global Marketing & Operations, Warner Classics and Erato. “We are offering distribution, product management and promotional solutions for high-quality labels, as well as selected orchestras, artists and broadcast partners whose products and content present synergies with Warner Classics brand values. To this end, we are delighted to represent EuroArts and its prestigious audio-visual catalogue as well as its ongoing filmed projects.”

Eliah Seton, President of Alternative Distribution Alliance Worldwide, added: “We are excited to join the forces of ADA Worldwide and Warner Classics in addressing this growing opportunity in the marketplace. ADA will bring to bear its international strength and expertise in distribution and services, to partner with Warner Classics in providing the best possible representation for independent classical music labels across the globe.”

You can see them here, exclusively. It’s the Bălănescu Quartet.

Anyone recognise the music? Michael Nyman?
balanescu fashion


It has been known for a while that Wasfi Kani’s Grange Park Opera was being pushed out of its original location and as looking for a new venue. Today we learn that the Grange Park owners are planning to set up a rival opera company.

This looks like countryside civil war.

Press release follows.

grange park opera


New plans for Opera Festival at Grange Park

Lord Ashburton and his son Mark Baring, owners of the Grange and its park at Northington in Hampshire, today announced that a new company has been formed to continue the annual opera seasons, following the upcoming departure of the existing company after the 2016 Season.

The Grange Festival will have its inaugural season in 2017 in the widely-admired theatre, directed by internationally-acclaimed counter tenor Michael Chance. The annual opera festival will continue to run as now in June and July with programming for 2017 due to begin shortly.  A Board of Trustees is being formed and will be chaired by The Hon. Sir Charles Haddon-Cave.

Since 1998 the Grange Estate has hosted Grange Park Opera (GPO), an independent opera company, at Grange Park and the Baring family had hoped to agree terms to renew their lease. However, 2016 will be the last GPO season at the Estate.

Mark Baring said of the plans announced today:

“It has been wonderful to have opera at Grange Park each summer and we are delighted to announce that we will continue to do so. A great deal has been achieved in nearly twenty years, thanks to GPO, co-founders Wasfi Kani and Michael Moody and their staff, and the generosity and commitment of many supporters, donors and visitors.  We look forward to working with The Grange Festival to continue what has become a much-loved cultural event. We are extremely fortunate to have two very talented people to lead and chair the new company and, with the encouragement of many other loyal supporters, we much look forward to 2017 and many years beyond.”

Michael Chance, Artistic Director of The Grange Festival, commented:

“I am particularly excited about the range of possibilities which this extraordinary venue, and jewel of a theatre, offers. I am confident that more than three decades of treading boards and vocal communication will stand me in good stead for this exhilarating challenge, and I look forward to building on the 18-year operatic legacy at Grange Park, which has been truly remarkable. My first task is to assemble a small experienced management team.”

More information on the company and programme will be announced in due course. Anyone wanting more information or to contact The Grange Festival should visit www.thegrangefestival.co.uk and email info@thegrangefestival.co.uk.

The Atlantic magazine has published a beautiful and brave piece by Janet Horvath about her devastating experience of what is known as ‘ear trauma’ – the fear of hearing noise.

Janet was principal cellist of the Minnesota Orchestra when the condition kicked in. A student of Janos Starker, she explains how she learned to live with it.

It’s 2011, and my husband can’t kiss me, even on the cheek, because the slightest touch sets off ripples of pain in my head, my face, my jaw. Every noise is an assault—a car alarm goes off, a baby squeals, a group of giggling teens race into the elevator. The ping of an ATM machine. Cicadas chirping. The roar of a leaf blower feels like a knife rotating in my ear. In sympathy, my husband and son tiptoe around me and recoil with each ding. When I must go out, I stuff my ears with custom earplugs and wear Bose noise-cancelling headphones, but they don’t help much. It is impossible to predict when noise will bring me to my knees.

I am a professional musician who can’t tolerate sound.  

Read the full article here.

janet horvath

Janet has since set up a program for playing healthy as a musician.

‘We are taught to sit like statues…’

The midnight oil had burned out before the judges reached a final decision. Several of them have been talking privately about the process. The difficulty was choosing between the top two pianists, the Korean Seong-Jing Cho and the Canadian Charles-Richard Hamelin.

charles-richard hamelin

Several judges felt either of them could have been the winner. The final vote went to Cho by a narrow margin.

The process was completely transparent and fair, devoid of controversy. It was an ideal competition.


The singer, 74, underwent surgery to remove his gallbladder in New York yesterday. His media representative said: the ‘surgery went very, very well. He is recovering satisfactorily and we expect that he will be discharged in the coming days.’

He collapsed last week in intense pain after conducting a rehearsal for Tosca at the Met. The operation was intended to be ‘minimally invasive’ – that is, a small incision, after which the patient is usually sent home on the same day. However, confirmation that he will spend several more days in hospital suggests that the procedure may have been more extensive.

Gallbladder removal – cholecystectomy – is categorised as major abdominal surgery.

We wish Placido (seen here in Il Postino) a speedy recovery.

domingo postino-

She sang 28 roles at La Scala over 35 years, as well as playing Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata 648 times around the world.

Virginia Zeani turns 90 today. Friends in West Palm beach, where she lives in retirement, are putting on a concert tonight with soprano Elizabeth Caballero.

Romanian born, Zeani made her professional debut on May 16, 1948 at the Teatro Duse in Bologna as Violetta. She reached La Scala in 1956 as Cleopatra in Handel’s Giulio Cesare opposite the fine Italian bass Nicola Rossi-Lemeni; the cast also included Franco Corelli and Giulietta Simionato.

She had met Rossi-Lemeni earlier in Florence where Tullio Serafin had chosen Zeani to replace Maria Callas as Elvira in I Puritani. Nicola proposed to Virginia at La Scala. Their son, Alessandro, was born a year later.

zeani lemeni


While performing Giulio Cesare, Zeani was also rehearsing for the world premiere of Frances Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmelites, for which the composer had chosen Zeani to sing the role of Blanche.


virginia zeani PoulencBlanche

A great life in opera.

The judges dithered until after midnight before reaching a verdict. When it came, the public favourite won.

Seong-Jin Cho, 21, of South Korea received his ovation with appropriate humility.


But the long deliberations led to leaks that the verdict had been close.

Just behind Cho, in second place, came Charles Richard-Hamelin, 26, from Francophone Canada. On a day that Canada elected a Francophone prime minister, this was almost a double celebration.

charles-richard hamelin

In third place was Kate Liu of the USA.

Extra prizes:

Fryderyk Chopin Society Prize for best performance of a polonaise (3 000 €) – Seong-Jin Cho

Polish Radio Prize for best performance of mazurkas (5 000 €) – Kate Liu

Krystian Zimerman Prize for best performance of a sonata (10 000 €) – Charles Richard-Hamelin

It was that close.

UPDATE: Whispers from the jury room here.