For the last three decades of his life, the English composer Sir Malcolm Arnold was blocked by various court orders from accessing his own money.

Malcolm had been hospitalised with mental illness and his family were at odds with his personal carer. It appears that he gave his possessions away, either in lieu of payment for goods and services, or because he had a generous heart. The manuscript of his seventh symphony, one of his most successful works, turned up this week on ebay.

I met Malcolm several times. I have racked my memory and my shelves to ascertain whether he gave me anything and I can honestly declare that he never did.

But if he did, would I have refused it? Of course not.

And who knows when I, or my heirs, might have found it necessary to sell it on ebay?

That’s what I find so sad about this story.




If you’ve never heard the 7th symphony, hear this.


The late comedian, in conversation with Edward Seckerson, talks (in the last three minutes) about her musical influences as a child at the piano and her immersion, though her own child, in vocal music.

The first 20 minutes is about her drama on the faked recordings of Joyce Hatto. Listen here.

victoria wood

The conductor Anthony Barrese has spent ten years searching for an opera on Hamlet by Franco Faccio, with a libretto by Verdi’s Boito, staged at La Scala in 1871.

He reconstructed version will be seen next month at Opera Delaware, and then at this summer’s elite Bregenz Festival. We asked Tony Barrese to explain his obsession. You read his story here first:

franco faccio



I first became aware of an opera based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet with a libretto by Arrigo Boito and score by Franco Faccio in 2002, during my first season as an Assistant Conductor at Sarasota Opera. The early history of the opera is very brief. It was premiered with some success in Genoa in 1865, and the composer gave it an extensive revision for La Scala. The 1871 La Scala production was a disaster; the tenor who sang Hamlet was ill and gave a poor performance. Faccio was so disturbed by this failure that he refused to have the piece performed again in his lifetime, and gave up composing altogether. Thus Amleto lapsed into obscurity for nearly a century and a half. Faccio, however, went on to an impressive career as a conductor, leading the Italian premiere of Aida, and the world premieres of La gioconda, Otello, and the revised Simon Boccanegra. He also became, in effect, the first music director of La Scala, or the first “maestro scaligero.”

By the time I became interested in the opera, there was no usable musical source other than the printed libretto and a few piano vocal score excerpts. What started out as a curiosity (what did these legendary scenes in Shakespeare sound like to a 19th century Italian?) soon became an obsession. But contrary to standard practice, Ricordi had never made a complete piano vocal score, and so my only hope was that the Ricordi Archives in Milan had a copy of the composer’s autograph full score. Through the efforts of Maestro Victor DeRenzi at Sarasota Opera, dramaturg Cori Ellison (then with the New York City Opera), and the eminent Verdi and Rossini scholar Philip Gossett, I was able to contact Gabriele Dotto at Casa Ricordi who informed me that Ricordi did indeed possess the autograph manuscript. This was the summer of 2003, and Ricordi was in the process of moving its Archives from the outskirts of Milan to the beautiful Brera district. As luck would have it, they had a copy of the autograph on microfilm, and I immediately sent away for it.

As soon as the microfilm arrived I had photocopies made on 11 x 17 paper, and before I knew it I was face-to-face with a 900+ page manuscript filled with faded staff lines, and a barely legible handwriting, which contained thousands of 19th century idiosyncrasies. I was on the music staff of Opera North in New Hampshire that summer, and in my spare time I began transcribing the manuscript. The first page was not so bad:

Besides having the violins and violas at the top of the score, and the bassoons written under the trumpets, this page didn’t pose that many problems. But it wasn’t long before I ran into pages like this, where the lines were completely faded, and things were crossed out, and rearranged:

All of this is standard fare for a musicologist, but as a conductor (with degrees in music composition) it became a fascinating exploration of new terrain. I did find that if I could uncover one note in a harmonic progression—since Faccio was still operating in the world of tonal harmony—the rest could be filled in very logically. It was only in places where the composer was experimenting with his version of “wagnerismo” that things got a little dicey.

Today, libretti for both the 1865 Genova premiere and the 1871 La Scala remount are readily available online. Back in 2003, my wife had to go to the New York City Performing Arts Library and make a photocopy of a microfilm of the libretto. This proved to be extremely useful, as Faccio’s handwriting was completely foreign to me at the time.

Note by note, week by week, month by month, I started stitching the piece back together. Besides being a brilliant piece of dramatic theater, Boito’s libretto is a distillation of all the greatest moments of Shakespeare. “To be or not to be” becomes “Essere o non essere;” “Get thee to a nunnery” is now “Fatti monachella!;” and “methinks the lady doth protest too much” is “È soverchio loquace la regina.” I would come to one of these iconic moments, write it out, then rush to the piano to figure out what it sounded like. The play within a play was now a riveting opera within an opera. The scene with the ghost and Hamlet’s mother became a scintillating gran scena e terzetto. With every passing scene, Shakespeare’s tragedy came to light in a musical language that was both familiar and new.

After months of painstakingly putting the pieces together, I finally had my own handwritten full score of the piece, and began engraving it on a computer program. But in order for people to be able to look at it and assess it, I needed to make a piano vocal score of it. So I started again with the first page of the score, simultaneously checking my original work, and reducing it to a playable form for the piano. Right away I found dozens of errors from my first past draft in the first few pages. Things that were unclear on the first pass-through now were illuminated since I had a better understanding of Faccio’s writing style. Once the piano vocal score was completed I began shopping the piece around to anyone who cared to look at it.

I spent the summer of 2004 in Milan and was able to view the autograph manuscript first-hand in the archives over a series of weeks, again checking for uncertainties, and hoping that the physical manuscript was easier to read than the microfilm (it was). During the winter of 2006 my friend Eugene Kohn and I organized a read through of the score for Plácido Domingo, who later wrote “I had the pleasure to attend a presentation of this work…and I remember well the strong impression made by both the quality of the mjusic and the performance.” In 2007 I led the American premiere of Ofelia’s “Marcia Funebre” with the Dallas Opera Orchestra.

Years went by, and I would occasionally tinker with the piece, uncovering layers that had previously been confusing, eventually creating a set of orchestra parts, while in the meantime my conducting career began in earnest. When in 2010 I was made Artistic Director of Opera Southwest in Albuquerque, we experimented with some lesser-known operas like Rossini’s Otello, which proved to be a big hit with the audience and garnered us some national attention. Seeing that, artistically, the way forward for a regional company lay less in the tried and true standard repertoire, and more in unknown works, the board approved a production of Amleto for the fall of 2014.

Opera Southwest formed a partnership with Baltimore Concert Opera through my friend Brendan Cooke, who had been with me at Opera North when I first started transcribing the work, and who had taken a keen interest in its development throughout the years. Now Brendan was Artistic Director at BCO, and General Director at Opera Delaware. In Baltimore, we did a week of musical rehearsals, culminating in two concert performances with piano. These evenings received positive reviews from the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, and (Anne Midgette called the work a “missing link between Verdi and Verismo”). Immediately following the BCO performances, the cast and I all headed to Albuquerque and worked for the next month preparing Amleto for its first fully staged production since 1871.

The Opera Southwest production was an enormous financial and artistic success for the company and was reviewed favorably by the Financial Times, the Corriere della Sera, American Record Guide, and the Santa Fe New Mexican. Opening night was broadcast live on KHFM Albuquerque.

This May, I will lead a new production at Opera Delaware with an entirely new cast, directed by E. Loreen Meeker. In the summer of 2016 the work will be mounted by the Bregenz Festival with another new production, conducted by Paolo Carignani and directed by Olivier Tambosi. It has been an incredible experience to see this piece go from a small curiosity, to an all-encompassing obsession, to being staged by two opera companies in the same year, on different continents. I feel very strongly (however subjective my belief may be), that the piece deserves to be heard more. If it eventually ended up in the standard repertoire, or even on the periphery of the standard repertoire, it will have exceeded my most fantastical expectations.

(c) Anthony Barrese/Slipped Disc 




From Mumsnet’s Justine Roberts column in the FT:

A recent meeting at a music tech giant was augmented by a lively soundtrack which (possibly as a result of my age) I would undoubtedly have found distracting had I worked there every day — both because I would find it difficult to concentrate with all that noise, and because I would be fiercely competitive about wangling my own playlist (dominated by Prince, naturally) on to the system.

On the other hand, a potentially infuriating 40-minute encounter at my bank last week was substantially improved by soothing piped jazz. I found myself humming along quite happily, and was far less bothered by the inertia and incompetence of the staff than I would have been had there been no sound other than the pinging of ATMs, punctuated by occasional interjections of “Computer says no”.

So which is it to be?

exam student headphones

Contrary to earlier reports, the architectural landmark was not laid waste by the X-Men.

sydney opera house destroyed

Instead, it’s the subject of Google’s latest bid for global mind-numb control.

Blurb: A 360° experience capturing one of the world’s busiest performing arts centres between the acts – waking up, in rehearsal and at rest – featuring the outstanding young Australian soprano Nicole Car, cellist and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s Director of Artistic Planning, Benjamin Schwartz and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra itself under the baton of David Robertson, Chief Conductor and Artistic Director. Created in partnership with the Google Cultural Institute and available on the Google Cultural Institute website.…

Watch here:

Following the Covent Garden fuss over blood and sex in Lucia di Lammermoor, it appears that Sadler’s Wells has also caught a cold.

Here’s what ticket-buyers are being told:
Thank you for booking for Natalia Osipova at Sadler’s Wells Theatre. We are writing to you to let you know about some developments with the production.

As you may be aware, all of the work shown in the evening is brand new. It has been brought to our attention that one of the works, Arthur Pita’s piece entitled Run Mary Run, will contain scenes of an adult nature, including brief scenes of simulated drug use.

Since when did ballet require an X certificate?

Why are opera houses treating us like children?
natalia osipova

The Chicago-based soloist Rachel Barton Pine tweeted earlier that AA had refused to board her valuable violin despite having notified her that she could carry it on.

Here’s the full story, from Rachel’s people:


rachel barton pine1

photo Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

Internationally acclaimed violinist Rachel Barton Pine was denied boarding her April 27 American Airlines evening flight #3542 because she was carrying on the “ex-Bazzini ex-Soldat” 1742 Joseph Guarneri “del Gesu” violin, on lifetime loan to her from an anonymous patron.

The plane was to take her from her hometown Chicago O’Hare International Airport to Albuquerque, NM for her engagement this weekend with the New Mexico Philharmonic.

Pine was the first passenger down the jet bridge.  However, the captain (who would not give his name to Pine) refused to allow her to board the plane with the violin case because “its dimensions were not correct for a carry-on”. Pine flies over 100,000 miles a year with American Airlines and has flown the same plane configuration on numerous occasions, placing the violin case in the overhead compartment.

Pine shared with the captain the American Airlines policy stated on their website:
“You can travel with small musical instruments as your carry-on item on a first come, first serve basis as long as it: Fits in the overhead bin; or Fits under the seat in front of you.”

According to Pine, the captain replied, “It is not going on because I say so.”

Pine is scheduled to perform the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the New Mexico Philharmonic, conducted by Fawzi Haimor on April 30. She was flying the evening of the 27th to attend events the next day with students in the New Mexico Philharmonic’s Young Musician Initiative program as part of her community outreach schedule.

According to Pine, agents at the American Airlines ticket counter were very apologetic about the crew’s behaviour and worked closely with Pine to locate and rebook her on a flight option that would get her to Albuquerque in time to honour her commitment to the young musicians.  Rather than a direct flight arriving at 10:30pm that evening, Pine took a 5am flight with a connection through Phoenix the next day.

Unfortunately, these experiences are common among musicians traveling with fragile instruments, even after the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 that required U.S. carriers to allow passengers to carry on a small musical instrument, like a violin or guitar, provided it could be stored in an overhead compartment, closet, or under the seat.

“The Department of Transportation and the airlines have established important policies to protect musical instruments.  However, those policies are meaningless if they are not enforced or if the airline staff and crews are not properly educated and trained.” says Pine.

alban gerhardt cello

Whose? Where?

UPDATE: You give up?

Clue #1 Alban Gerhardt.

Clue #2 Maida Vale Studios, London

The outgoing music director of the National Symphony Orchestra has come in for much criticism in these columns for his inflated fees and questionable decisions in the music business.

His side of the story is not often heard. Washington cellist Steven Honigberg has spent quality time with his conductor and has put together a 40-minute portrait of a maestro he regards as a ‘very private man, much maligned’.

Watch here. You see it first on Slipped Disc.

He has a blunt view of critics. ‘There is a very big problem. We – you, me, all our colleagues in the orchestra – we know our scores much better than the critic… I mostly don’t read them.’



The claim is being made for Camilla Urso (1840-1902), a French artist from Nantes who appeared in New York, aged 12, with her father’s ensemble.

The family moved down to Nashville and Camilla went on to play with the orchestras in Boston, New York and elsewhere. The Viotti concerto was reputedly her speciality.

Why has she been erased from music history?

Read here.

camilla urso

image: NYPL

It has been announced that Hans Waege, dismissed by the Rotterdam Philharmonic on indefinite medical leave, has been named interim general manager of the National Orchestra of Belgium.

Hans could not get on, apparently, with music director Yannick Nézet-Seguin, who famously gets on with everyone.

He takes over in Belgium from Jozef De Witte, who lasted just ten months in the job.