It’s an unusually long tenure in any London orchestra, but Bob Hill has finally decided that now’s the time. He will give his last concert on Saturday with the orchestra he joined as principal clarinet back in 1972, when players were still paid in pounds, shillings and pence.

He played for music directors Bernard Haitink, Georg Solti, Klaus Tennstedt, Franz Welser-Most, Kurt Masur and Vladimir Jurowski.

robert hill

We wish Bob and long and happy retirement.

To withdraw from one role is unfortunate. Two starts to look like contempt (pace O. Wilde).

The double-whammy that Anna Netrebko has inflicted on the Royal Opera House and the Met – agreeing at the first to sing Marguerite in Gounod’s Faust and at both to sing Bellini’s Norma – would not have been tolerated in former times.

Rudolf Bing fired Maria Callas from the Met for capriciousness.

Joe Volpe evicted Kathleen Battle from the Met for anti-social conduct.

The house, and the art, was always deemed to be greater than the whims of a singer, no matter how popular or epochal.

That rule no longer applies.

Anna Netrebko has not been banned from the ROH or the Met for leading them deliriously into planning productions that she would never fulfil. She has not been reprimanded, either. She can do this because she is the only living soprano with the power to command top prices in London and (almost) to fill a New York opera house that plays half-empty the rest of the year. She can do, in effect, as she pleases.

So can Jonas Kaufmann, the allround German tenor, who has cut his appearance at both houses to once a season – and has latterly cancelled both.

Both singers are now unassailable. They wield more clout than Peter Gelb and the next intendant put together.

Thankfully, neither is ego-crazed nor misanthropic. Both are courteous to a fault. But when push comes to shove, they push and the best-laid plans of the opera world fall down.

That is not a healthy situation.

kaufmann netrebko


The Vienna State Opera has announced the death of former ensemble member Gabriele Sima.

Winner of the 1979 Maria Callas Prize, Gabriele made her debut that year as Barbarina in Marriage of Figaro. She was an ensemble member from 1982 to 1999, singing 53 roles in 599 performances.

She also sang regularly at the Salzburg Festival and Hamburg State Opera.

gabriele sima

Just tweeted: Are you an avid opera-tweeter or blogger? Would you like to cover season launch next Thurs? DM us & we’ll send u an invite!

That looks like an excuse for the pros to stay away.

coliseum eno

From a correspondent:

Royal Danish Opera just announced its next season.<

The homepage of the Royal Theatre has been hugely criticized for not being up to date since it was launched last year.

If you look into the content of next season not one single singer is mentioned. They are delayed! Now I haven’t seen the printed program but obviously it remains a secret which singers will perform next season.

Check this.<

The names at the foot of the page are company singers, not cast in Fairy Queen.


UPDATE: The singers’ names have now been issued on a separate online programme, but not on the main website which is clearly a disaster.

sydney opera house destroyed

This still is from the new X-Men trailer.

The tenor and stage director Lincoln Clark, who looked after Seattle’s legendary first Ring for a decade after George London’s departure, has died.

A student of Lotte Lehmann, Lincoln sang in European opera houses in the 1960s.

Tenor and opera stage director Lincoln Clark. (Courtesy Clark family / )

A passing video picks out a piano at a Tyneside landfill site in the north east of England. Beside it, a clearance worker called Glenn Akenclose plays its last farewell.

Life, huh?
Glen Akenclose

The new season, announced this morning includes three house premieres of short stage works by Ernst Krenek, on of the most successful inter-War composers, later exiled to Los Angeles.


Ernst Křenek

Der Diktator (The Dictator / first performance in Frankfurt)

Schwergewicht oder Die Ehre der Nation (Heavyweight or the Honour of the Nation /first performance in Frankfurt)

Das geheime Königreich (The Secret Kingdom / first performance in Frankfurt)

Sunday April 30th 2017

Conductor: Lothar Zagrosek

Director: David Hermann

Stage Designer: Jo Schramm

Costume Designer: Katharina Tasch

A research study by Swiss and British scholars has confirmed what many have long suspected: that classical music critics are clinging to criteria that have long since lost their relevance.

That conclusion must, however, be limited by the study’s terms of reference: the scholars examined 90 years of reviews of the 32 Beethoven sonatas in Gramophone magazine, where past performance is generally prized above present and… nothing ever changes. Here’s the study outline:

What sets a great music performance apart? In this study, we addressed this question through an examination of value judgements in written criticism of recorded performance. One hundred reviews of recordings of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, published in the Gramophone between 1934 and 2010, were analyzed through a three-step qualitative analysis that identified the valence (positive/negative) expressed by critics’ statements and the evaluation criteria that underpinned their judgements. The outcome is a model of the main evaluation criteria used by professional critics: aesthetic properties, including intensity, coherence, and complexity, and achievement-related properties, including sureness, comprehension, and endeavour. The model also emphasizes how critics consider the suitability and balance of these properties across the musical and cultural context of the performance.

And the conclusions?

In line with previous results (Alessandri et al., 2015), the majority of critics’ statements (87.57%) were valence loaded, although the valence was typically mixed within each review, with a combination of positive, negative, and mixed statements. Alongside valence loaded judgements given in the canonical form “Performance P is good/bad because of feature F” numerous judgements were found in the form “P is X,” where X is a performance descriptor that also implies an evaluation by being inherently valence loaded. Despite the richness of performance aspects discussed in reviews—as reported by Alessandri et al. (2015)—the systematic analysis of valence loaded statements and their relationship with performance descriptors found that critics’ evaluations resulted in a model comprising just seven evaluation criteria that were reliably used by all the critics in our review corpus.

Could you simplify that?

The six main critical criteria from our emergent model were used consistently by all ten critics across almost 90 years of reviews covering all of Beethoven’s piano sonatas (100 recordings, at least six recordings for each of the 32 sonatas).

In other words, Gramophone is a model of consistency. Nothing significant has changed in its reviews over 90 years. Read the full study here.


music critic cartoon

Arm and leg bones belonging to at least four individuals have been found by workmen clearing asbestos beneath the stage of Cincinnati Music Hall. Coffins were also found in the same area.

It is suspected that part of the hall was built on an abandoned cemetery.

There has been no foul play in the Cincinnati Symphony (below).