This weekend’s long read delves into some serious backstage turmoil at the Utah Symphony, an orchestra that appears to have been shaken out in quite old-fashioned ways by its Swiss music director, Thierry Fischer.

There has been high player turnover under Fischer’s direction. A popular concertmaster, Ralph Matson, has been demoted.

In June, the only mention of Matson’s change of status came in the form of a statement on the Utah Symphony website: “Thierry Fischer, Music Director of the Utah Symphony has initiated a search for a new concertmaster of the Utah Symphony. Auditions for the position began in February 2015 and are ongoing. Auditions for the Utah Symphony are conducted by the Music Director and the Musician’s Audition Committee. After a new concertmaster has been selected, the Utah Symphony’s current concertmaster, Ralph Matson, will continue with the orchestra in the position of associate concertmaster.”

A guerrilla campaign is being mounted behind the scenes: One former symphony member created Facebook posts offering “Free Ralph” T-shirts, “Just pay attention to the message on the T-shirt” the post reads. “Very bad things are happening in Utah.”

Read the full article here. It’s polite, but quite ugly.


utah symphony

Judith Kerr’s fabulous cat has been brought back to life in Sainsbury’s Christmas ad – a class apart from the creepy John Lewis promo, we think you’ll agree.


judith kerr


But who wrote the post-Stravinskian music? All is revealed below.
rachel portman

Hint: she’s the first woman composer to win an Oscar.



John Ellis, who died on Monday of cancer aged 70, was first-call oboe in the movie studio orchestras under such conductor-composers as John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith.

Los Angeles born, he moved to North Carolina and taught at UNCSA for 26 years which continuing to play with the Winston Salem Symphony. But he kept getting called back to play on soundtracks and in the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. John will be widely missed.

john ellis

The Russian soprano Olga Peretyatko Mariotti, singing Gilda, suffered a flesh wound on Tuesday night when she was accidentally stabbed by Sparafucile (Štefan Kocán) in a performance of Verdi’s Rigoletto.

olga mariotti

It doesn’t look too serious. They’re singing again tonight.

Maybe Olga should have an anti-tet shot.

Be careful out there.


As we reported yesterday, the Royal Opera in Copenhagen has announced savage cuts to help meet the cost of maintaining a swanky new building.

One immediate consequence: it has summarily cancelled auditions for orchestra vacancies. An American friend, who spent an unrecoverable $3,500 on flights and hotels, received the following brutal letter from Copenhagen:

Kære cellokonkurrence deltager. På baggrund af Kulturministeriets sparekrav til Det Kongelige Teater, som desværre også rammer Det Kongelige Kapel med en nedskæring på 7 mill. dkr, ser vi os med beklagelse nødsaget til, at aflyse den planlagte konkurrence om stillingen som solocellist. Vi beklager det besvær det må give, og håber på forståelse for en situation, som det ikke var muligt at forudse.

Med venlig hilsen,

Sven Müller, Operachef Det Kongelige Teater og Kapel

Dear cello contestant. Based on the Ministry of Cultures reduction of grants to the Royal Theatre, which unfortunately also affects the Royal Chapel with a reduction of 7 million dkr., we see ourselves reluctantly compelled to cancel the planned competition for the position as Principal Cellist. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you, and hope for your understanding for a situation that we couldn’t predict.


Sven Müller, Artistic Director,  Royal Danish Opera.


Shocking? Disgraceful? Unprofessional? The least the Danes can do is refund the expenses of musicians who have been caught out by their peremptory cancellation.

Meantime, be warned: If you’re booked in Denmark, get your expenses paid in advance.


The Sydney Symphony, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Orchestre de Paris today joined five world-leader bands in selling their streams and recordings on Google Play Classical Live.

The initial signatories, announced with great fanfare in June, were the Boston Symphony, Cleveland, LSO, New York Philharmonic and Royal Concertgebouw.

The benefits, so far, have been questionable. The orchs get Google branding but not much else. With the collapse of Qobuz, the streaming cloud looks more nebulous than ever.


press release:

13 November 2015: The Sydney Symphony Orchestra has today become the first orchestra in the Asia-Pacific to join Classical Live, an exciting digital initiative by Google Play Music making the best current concert recordings from the world’s leading orchestras available to listeners around the globe.

 Featuring recordings from the Boston Symphony Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, LondonSymphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, Classical Live is the first and only initiative offering current concert recordings exclusively on Google Play Music for digital download and streaming.

 The SSO joins the program with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Orchestre de Paris, by releasing the second symphonies of Schumann and Sibelius with Chief Conductor and Artistic Director David Robertson, and an excerpt from Respighi’s The Pines of Rome with Charles Dutoit, recorded by ABC Classic FM at the Sydney Opera House.

The National Youth Orchestra – the future of music in Britain – has signed a partnership deal with Classic FM (see below). The deal should have been made by the BBC, which couldn’t get its act toegther stuck as it is in aging demographics, endless committees and civil-servant stasis (pictured).

Whether it’s the right deal for the NYO remains to be seen. For Classic, however , it’s a win-win. For the BBC, lose-lose. The next musical generation is lost to the BBC.


press release:

The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain (NYO) and Classic FM today announce that NYO is to become Classic FM’s Orchestra of Teenagers.

The partnership with Classic FM, the UK’s biggest classical music station with more than 5.5 million listeners each week, underlines NYO’s vital role in national cultural life and will enable a wider audience than ever to engage with its work.

NYO and Classic FM will work together to inspire a new generation of young concert goers and a major focus of the partnership is a £5 ticket scheme for under 25s. Classic FM will promote the offer to its listeners, encouraging more young people to experience NYO’s acclaimed performances. Through special programmes during the year, Classic FM will also showcase the work of NYO, using its impressive roster of alumni.

Classic FM has already supported NYO in recruiting the 2015/2016 musicians by promoting its nationwide auditions on-air. This resulted in just under 800 applications from outstanding young players, all Grade 8+. The partnership follows the 2015 launch of NYO Inspire, an initiative aimed at giving teenagers of all backgrounds experiences of orchestral music both as musicians and audience members. This was the biggest expansion in NYO’s 67-year history, and in its first year alone reached 1556 young musicians.

Classic FM has seen a considerable increase in the number of listeners under 25 years of age in the last five years. Not only that, it is also the most socially engaged commercial radio station in the UK on Facebook. The brand has more than 170,000 direct engagements each month and 273,000 likes.

NYO is at the pinnacle of youth orchestras worldwide. Uniquely, it is comprised entirely of teenagers and is renowned for its brilliant, high-adrenaline and fresh orchestral performances. It is also known for its profound influence on classical music, with high-profile alumni such as Sir Simon Rattle, Alison Balsom and Judith Weir, and ex-NYO members in many leading orchestras and ensembles around the world.

Sarah Alexander, Chief Executive of NYO, says: “We are on a mission to be a driving force in engaging teenagers in classical music. With Classic FM, we hope to further open the classical door to a whole new generation of listeners and bring the totally brilliant performances of our outstanding musicians to even wider audiences.”

Sam Jackson, Managing Editor, Classic FM, says: “We’ve recently seen a really significant increase in younger listeners to Classic FM: official figures now show that more than 440,000 under-25s now tune in every week.  At Classic FM, we’re passionate about introducing classical music to everyone – and when it comes to inspiring the next generation of listeners and concertgoers, there are no better ambassadors than these wonderful musicians.”  



Graham Johns got to try out his new Hammerschlag in Mahler’s sixth symphony at Liverpool last night and it pratically stopped shipping on the Mersey. What a whack! Two, actually. And the Scherzo performed before the Andante, which is my presently preferred order. A terrific interpretation of the terror-inducing Sixth by Vasily Petrenko and the Phil.

But back to the whacks. You will recall that Graham made his own noisebox for the performance. He did so, he tells me, in conjunction with Roger Cline, double-bass of the Chicago Symphony, who made the moveable diaphragm that gave the box its traffic stopping resonance.  Roger is a very talented carpenter who has made all sorts of percussion instruments over the years, including bamboo whips and a volume controllable ratchet.

Where was I? Oh, the stage.

So before the performance Graham mentioned to me that the last symphony they played at the Phil before its major refurbishment20-odd years ago was Mahler 6. What if? he thought. So he got permission from the Phil admin and warned the conductor in advance.

In the finale of M6 he lifted his hammer and – smash! – went right through the stage floor. Smash again! Second blow. After that, the demolition crew didn’t have much left to do.

mahler 6 drum