Musical Toronto reports an anniversary gift here.

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You love the country houses, the costumes, the makeup.

But you now the dialogue is recycled from a secondhand lexicon of platitudes.

So here’s the remedy – turn off the TV sound and play music written to accompany Downton Abbey.

It’s Lebrecht Album of the Week. Read on here or here.

The rest of the album, proficiently performed by the BBC Symphony, is filled with a pair of authentic concertos by minor composers – X  sounds like a cheerful chappie who would have been in his element scoring comedy series for the BBC and Y reminds me of a country bus shelter in the rain, a timeless passage of time, not at all unpleasant. Switch off the sound on your television and play this to accompany Downton Abbey.

green and pleasant land


The credit rating agency has maintained its negative-outlook status for the Metropolitan Opera, despite a rabbit-out-of-hat $1 million budget surplus in September 2015 and rosy projections from Peter Gelb.

The problem seems to be ‘some softness in box office revenue’ when compared to budget projections.

That would be those 30-40 percent houses we have been reporting lately.

Read Moody’s assessment here.

met half full


The Royal Opera House has sent out an email to people who have bought tickets for Katie Mitchell’s new production of Lucia di Lammermoor, warning of added sex and violence.

The wording of the email is peculiar, to say the least:

The rehearsals have had a terrific start with a strong sense of excitement coming from the rehearsal room. But as they have progressed it has also become clear to us that the team’s approach will lead to scenes that feature sexual acts portrayed on stage and other scenes that – as you might expect from the story of Lucia – feature violence. As a result we have updated our website about this. As you have already booked we wanted to draw your attention to it.

This sounds like a terrible attack of chicken pox in the boardroom, following last year’s furore over William Tell – a row that destabilised the position of the artistic director Kasper Holten.

Board members have since begun attending rehearsals to assure themselves of their propriety.

Holten is on his way out.

A kind of censorship is setting in.

The two casts are led respectively by Diana Damrau and Aleksandra Kurzak. Oh, and in a quick search we couldn’t find any warning on the ROH website.
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Sixty-plus years ago in Manchester, five students of widely varied backgrounds resolved to change the face of music. There was Peter Maxwell Davies, a middle-class Mancunian; Harrison Birtwistle, from a subsistence Lancashire farm; Alexander Goehr, son of a Berlin refugee conductor; Elgar Howarth, who played trumpet and composed; and John Ogdon, who Birtwistle said was ‘the most brilliant of all, nothing was beyond him’.

Max was first out of the traps, writing a staggering trumpet sonata for Howarth and assuming a leadership role that he held all his life. After college, he founded Fires of London with Harry to perform their emergent works. Goehr went on to Cambridge, Ogdon to win the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Howarth conducted operas by Max and Harry at Covent Garden and around the world.

But while Harry kept pushing at the frontiers of tonality, Max settled into an establishment role, accepting multiple commissions for symphonies and concertos – ten of each – and speaking up for music education and endangered orchestras. He was a prodigiously articulate man and a very congenial colleague.

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(c) John Minnion/Lebrecht Music&Arts

In 1971 Max moved to the Orkney Islands, for privacy and contemplation. A gay man in a prurient society, he suffered pain and publicity when relationships ended badly.

He wrote with such ease and excess that one concerto was forgotten when the next rolled up. A violin concerto for Isaac Stern is seldom heard. His middle symphonies are a bit of a blur. But the first symphony and the last are filled with passion and urgency and his Orkney Wedding with Sunrise, a fusion of the organic and the imaginative, will endure to the end of time.

Max died today, on Orkney, aged 81.

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Sir Peter Maxwell Davies at Dartington Summer School of Music, 2009. Photo Kate Mount/Lebrecht Music & Arts

Tributes from Simon Rattle and Peter Donohoe here.

And here from composer John McLeod.

The ex-wife of Jeffrey Melanson, CEO of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, has filed suit accusing him of misconduct with employees at his jobs at the National Ballet School, the Banff Centre and the TSO.

jeff melanson eleanor mccain

Eleanor McCain, 46, heiress to a frozen potato-chips fortune, was upset when Melanson, 42, divorced her by email after nine months of marriage.

She has laid out her grievances in a 34-page court deposition. Melanson has called the claims inaccurate. Details here.


It has been announced that Martha Argerich will tour Italy and Slovenia next month with the Manchester Camerata.

Huge coup for the northern ensemble, fixed by its music director, Gábor Takács-Nagy.

martha argerich

She’ll be playing Beethoven’s first piano concerto.

Out of nine finalists, five won prizes of $15,000 at the Met’s National Council Auditions on Sunday, a career springboard for young talent.

The winners are: soprano Yelena Dyachek, 24; mezzo Emily D’Angelo, 21, countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński, 25; and baritones Sol Jin, 30, and Sean Michael Plumb, 24.

Emily is a voice student at the University of Toronto.

emily d'angelo


Yelena recently won a coveted place in the Houston Grand Opera studio.

UPDATE: Sean, we hear, joins the Bavarian State Opera ensemble next season.

This project fills me with dismay.

Benjamin, a thinker of fanatical precision and desperate fantasy, has been made into an opera by the former Che Guevara collaborator Régis Debray and the Swiss composer Michel Tabachnik, commissioned by Serge Dorny at the Opéra de Lyon.



Maybe he foresaw something of the sort.

Thirty-three days after he went missing, police in Basel have confirmed that a body washed up by the Rhine is that of Daniel Buess, percussionist and co-founder of Ensemble Phoenix Basel.

Daniel, 40, was last seen on the night of February 7 in the Kleinbasler restaurant district after a celebration.

Well-known and well-liked in contemporary music groups, Daniel co-founded EPB in 1998 with the  conductor and pianist Jürg Henneberger and flute player Christoph Bösch. Their favourite venue for world premieres was the city’s Gare du Nord.




The guitarist Maurizio Grandinetti writes:

The percussionist doesn’t talk much behind his monster sets of every possible material that produce sounds when hit.
The percussionist never complains and plays every rehearsal like there is no tomorrow, every sound so intense as it would be the most important and never saves his energy for later.
I’ve been standing close to the percussionist over the years in so many concerts, exchanging so much… Our communication was just music, no words. And work, hard work. It won’t be the same ever again, but we will carry on playing all notes as if there were no tomorrow. Missing Daniel Buess.