In a thoughtful overview of declining fortunes, ex-NY Times critic Allan Kozinn surveys the gloomy aftermath of a contemporary critical debacle:



There is an extent to which the poor performance of reviews as click-bait is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Every day, I receive email summaries from half a handful of newspapers around the country, each promoting a dozen or more stories in that day’s paper, with links to their online versions. Those summaries rarely include links to their classical music reviews. Television and film, sometimes. Pop, yes, but rarely, and only if it’s a major festival. Classical music, hardly ever. An exception is The Wall Street Journal, which sends out an email devoted entirely to Life & Arts pieces. At The New York Times, where twentysomethings come up with new apps almost monthly to point readers to some of its specialties from editorials to cooking, it seems never to have occurred to anyone to build one for the paper’s arts coverage.

Perhaps if papers treated their reviews as if they thought they were worth looking at, and provided an easy access ramp, readers would tune into them.

Read on here.


Lebrecht Music & Arts has just acquired Don Hunstein’s unique photographs of Muhammad Ali, known as Cassius Clay at the time, recording his ‘I Am the Greatest!’ album at the Columbia Records 30th Street New York Studios in August 1963, six months before winning the world heavyweight championship.

Can anyone help us identify the dates for the photographs where he is wearing a striped shirt? We believe it’s March 1964. Is there anyone out there who was at that recording and can confirm this?

© D. Hunstein/Lebrecht Music & Arts muhammad ali

muhammad ali2

The Chancellor can’t make opening night this year.

But she’ll come later in the festival, she says, and pay for her own tickets, self and husband.


merkel bayreuth2

Some say she’s keen to avoid the security risk of an Islam-themed Parsifal.


Tonight’s menu:

1 New Tristan and Isolde opens at ENO

2 Nabucco with Domingo at Covent Garden

3 Trifonov at the Wigmore Hall

trifonov wrist2

4 Lisa Batiashvili with the LSO at the Barbican

5 Gil Shaham with the Philharmonia at the RFH.

Just another Thursday night.

Anyone staying home?



press release:

On Tuesday 28th June the London Musical Theatre Orchestra (LMTO) will be hosting its inaugural gala evening which will also serve as the launch for its first professional season of orchestral performances set to take place between September 2016 and February 2017.

Within the splendour of the Great Hall at Bishopsgate Institute, this gala event— held for guests, patrons and members of the press— will premiere LMTO’s professional orchestra who will play alongside a star West End cast. The finale of the event will be the unveiling of LMTO’s first season of pubic concerts, with the professional orchestra, which will then go on sale.

LMTO is an orchestra which specialises in the performance of Musical Theatre repertoire. The organisation, which boasts over 1,000 musicians and singers, has until now acted as a rehearsal orchestra, assembling monthly, without an audience, to develop players’ repertoire and pit playing skills by playing through an entire show. The organisation has now formed a separate professional Orchestra with which it will undertake public concerts throughout the year; ready to take centre stage as a groundbreaking, one of its kind, London based professional orchestra.

LMTO’s objectives are rooted firmly in the advancement of the art of Musical Theatre for everyone. Its new professional orchestra will comprise some of the world’s greatest musicians with an enthusiasm for musical theatre, who will play alongside the most talented and promising musicians from the rehearsal orchestra. The result is an enriched, passionate and joyous season of musicals in concert, played by musicians that love to play musicals. The depth of character this unique ensemble of musicians bring serves to not only make full orchestral performances accessible to brand new audiences, but also to bring the exciting repertoire of musical theatre to a more traditional orchestral audience.

The launch will showcase the extraordinary versatility of LMTO, bouncing from the great tunes of the 1950s to the rock/pop scores of the last ten years. As a proud supporter of new work the launch will also feature a premiere of an orchestration of a recently debuted British musical, orchestrated by the Broadway & West End legend William David Brohn (Wicked, Mary Poppins, Miss Saigon).

LMTO is the brainchild of Freddie Tapner, Musical Director and Founder of the ensemble. Having graduated from Pembroke College, Cambridge with a First Class Degree in Engineering in 2014, he moved straight to London to pursue a career in Musical Theatre.

freddie tapner

A telling article by Tim Smith in the Baltimore Sun focusses on the imminent annual get-together in his town of the ever-unchanging League of American Orchestras. The headline reads: ‘In Baltimore, the largely white orchestra world talks diversity’.

About 1,000 participants — orchestra administrators, musicians, board members — will fill meeting spaces in an Inner Harbor hotel to explore various aspects of a theme billed as the “The Richness of Difference.”

“This is the first time we’ve made diversity an overarching theme, the focal point of our conference,” said Jesse Rosen, president and CEO of the league, a service organization with about 700 member orchestras. “We thought it was the right time. We want to focus our members’ attention on the importance of the issue so they go back to their communities and have the kinds of conversations they need to have about diversity.”

Matters to be addressed at the conference, hosted by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, include the slow pace of changing demographics inside orchestras — 1.8 percent of musicians in league orchestras are African-American, about the same percentage as a decade ago; 85.8 percent are white — and ways to improve that.

Read on here.

marin baltimore chi-chi

I came away from last year’s LAO conference struck by the forced smiles of wilful denial.

Stadttheater Hagen has announced the death of its music dramaturg, Dorothee Hannappel.

After studying at Austin, Texas, she worked at Frankfurt, Cologne, Darmstadt and Kassel before joining Hagen in 2012.

No cause of death has been given.

Dorothee Hannappel

From the International Trumpet Guild:

Robert E. Nagel Jr., trumpeter, composer, arranger, founder of the New York Brass Quintet, and founding member of the International Trumpet Guild, passed away June 5th at the age of 91. He had an illustrious career as a trumpet player, teacher, composer, conductor, arranger, and was a pioneer of brass chamber music.  

Nagel was born in Freeland, Pennsylvania, on September 29, 1924. He began studying the trumpet at the age of 8. As a child prodigy, he was featured on national radio playing a cornet solo with the Armco band conducted by Frank Simon at the age of 13. While in high school he also studied piano and composition. He attended the Juilliard School of Music for one year before entering the army, where he played in the West Point band for 3 years. After returning to Juilliard, he studied composition with Peter Mennin and Vincent Persichetti. For several summers he was a student at Tanglewood where he studied trumpet with George Mager of the Boston Symphony and composition with Aaron Copland.  

Upon completing his studies at Juilliard he was appointed first trumpet of the Little Orchestra Society in NYC. This appointment launched a freelance career that lasted over twenty years.  During this time he played with conductors Leopold Stokowski, Leonard Bernstein, Pablo Casals, and Igor Stravinsky. He recorded extensively with CBS, RCA Victor, NBC, and MGM.  Among these are many iconic recordings, including the 1961 recording of L’Histoire Du Soldat, conducted by Igor Stravinsky, and the Brandenburg no. 2, by J. S. Bach, conducted by Pablo Casals.  He performed with the Bach aria group, the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, the Casals Festival in Puerto Rico, Yale at Norfolk, and the Aspen Music Festival.  

Perhaps his most enduring contribution to music was in the area of brass chamber music. He was the founder and director of the New York Brass Quintet. For over thirty years, the NYBQ performed across the US and Europe. He commissioned numerous works for the brass quintet and was a founder of the International Trumpet Guild and recipient of the prestigious ITG Honorary Award.  As a composer he has written for orchestra, chamber music, trumpet method books, and arranged solo and ensemble music.  To promote brass chamber music he launched his own publishing company, Mentor Music, in 1959. 

He served as a faculty member of the Yale School of Music, the New England Conservatory, Juilliard, the Manhattan School of Music, the Hartt School of Music, North Carolina School of the Arts, and Rutgers University. Survivors include his brother Donald Nagel, children Deborah Bolser, Roberta Nagel, Edward Nagel,  Heather Nagel, and eight grandchildren. 

Funeral services will take place in Forest Hills, Maryland.  In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the Gideons.

ny brass quintet

Jaap Van Zweden, incoming music director of the New York Philharmonic, signed on today for an extra three years at the Hong Kong Phil, his parallel job.

With Yannick coming into the Met and Gianandrea Noseda starting in Washington, second-hand Jaap looks even less of a bargain for the NY Phil.

yu long van zweeden

press release:

[9 June 2016, Hong Kong] YS Liu, Chairman of the Board of Governors for the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra (HK Phil), today announces that Jaap van Zweden has extended his contract with the HK Phil for three more years. The new contract will last through to the end of the 2021/22 season.

“We are thrilled that Maestro van Zweden has chosen to extend his contract with the HK Phil following his appointment as the next Music Director of the New York Philharmonic,” said YS Liu. “It is reassuring that the Maestro’s directorship of the HK Phil will remain unchanged for the next six musical seasons”.

Jaap van Zweden said, “I always think that every player of the HK Phil is a gem, and together each of these highly talented musicians makes a wonderful orchestra. I am very happy to extend my tenure as their Music Director and it is always an honour to work with them. We have many more exciting projects yet to come”.

Michael MacLeod, Chief Executive of the HK Phil said, “The HK Phil is honoured to share the same conductor with the New York Philharmonic. Jaap van Zweden will be leading two great orchestras in two great cities. In the coming season Jaap will continue to lead the HK Phil on an exciting journey of music making. This is something that the whole orchestra is looking forward to”.


(Retrieved from file. Originally published on Slipped Disc on March 15, 2012)

Daniil Trifonov, winner of the Arthur Rubinstein and Tchaikovsky competitions, gave his debut London recital last night. It was packed with people who had watched his competition performances and many, like me, will have steeled themselves against disappointment. A solo recital on a working night can lack the searing, competitive adrenalin of a cup final.

Daniil’s first half was the Schubert Piano Sonata in B flat D960, preceded by two Liszt transcriptions of Schubert songs. Played on a Fazioli piano with a hardened glitter in the upper registers, Trifonov’s interpretation offered more brilliance than reflective substance.

Depth may be too much to ask from a young man who turned 21 last week (we shared his birthday cake later) but Russians will be Russians and they need to show from the earliest age that they can hammer the Viennese masters and run rings around philosophy.

The second half was another planet. A trickle of Tchaikovsky sentiments preceded one of the most profound and original accounts of the Chopin opus 10 Etudes I have ever been privileged to experience. Daniil reconceived the tricky pieces as a dramatic entity, micro-timing the pauses between one etude and the next to accentuate the attention and give a sense of how Chopin built the set to an explosive climax. Where other pianists pause to wipe their brow, Daniil used silence in the manner of John Cage and the total-serialists – as an element equal to music itself. One hardly dared to draw breath through the set.

This is a major artist, phenomenally gifted and almost fully formed, with fresh ideas and a winning stage presence that is quite irresistible from the moment he bounds through the door and sits at the keyboard, unable to contain his need to share. The legend, too, is spreading like bushfire. Thousands claim to have been there the night the lights went out in Guildford and Trifonov carried on playing his concerto in total darkness. When the orchestra stopped, he played a Chopin waltz.



Flying BA from Amsterdam to London for a Wigmore Hall concert last Saturday, the violinist Cecilia Bernardini was made to remove her 18th century Italian violin from its case and hold it on her lap throughout the flight.

cecilia bernardini violin2

The case, containing three valuable bows, was checked into the hold.

BA are generally good with musicians and this may have been an Amsterdam aberration. To avoid a recurrence, a petition has been launched to persuade BA to clarify their rules and oblige staff to treat violins with respect.

Read it and sign here.

cecilia bernardini violin

 British Airways’ reply here.

The disused inn bought by the orchestra to give a home to refugees from Syria and elsewhere has been declared open.

The first family moved in this week.

vpo refugees

Members of the orchestra welcomed them with an informal jam session.

vpo refugees1

The Vienna Philharmonic will continue to give benefit concerts to maintain the house and support other fugitives from was and injustice.

Applause, please.


photos (c) VPO/Slippedisc

The Philharmonic House for Asylum Seekers in St. Aegyd holds three apartments as well as a large community meeting room where the local population is invited to seek contact with the families. The care of the families will be in the hands of the refugee service of the Diakonie.