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The archetype Russian violin concerto – Tchaikovsky’s – looms so large over the musical landscape that all others seem no more than sidebars. Two concertos (each) by Prokofiev and Shostakovich are rooted in political circumstances, inseparable from their history. Miaskovsky’s concerto never took off, despite the advocacy of David Oistrakh, Weinberg’s is emerging too slowly to be counted and the rest barely make up a respectable quorum…


So which concertos feature on the Lebrecht Album of the Week?

Read here.

Or here.

And here.



According to Time magazine:

‘The Defense Department posted a solicitation for a cello on Tuesday, saying it would be conducting an “online competitive reverse auction” to ensure taxpayers get the best price. …

‘An uunnamed Air Force official … specifies that it must be a cello “crafted by Joannes Gagliano 1787” … Captain Derek White, an Air Force spokesman, said procurement rules cap this particular purchase at $150,000. The final price, he added Thursday, will likely be around $75,000.’

Can anyone make sense of this?

air force cello

Suddenly, it’s July.

Europe collapses into festival mode. Anthea Kreston, American violinist in the Berlin-based Artemis Quartet, sees her colleagues disperse. She hasn’t even realised it’s coming up for 4th of July. Here’s her latest diary instalment:

This week wraps up my first season (well, half-season) with the Artemis String Quartet. Three extensive European tours, one American tour, and scattered other events. We have a concert here and there during the summer, but we have all basically broken off to do our own solo summer festivals and will reconvene for intense live rehearsals in August, learning 4 new programs (12 works) for the coming season. We had a magical last few concerts – one in the medieval city of Ghent in the Flemish NW of Belgium. The next was in a teeny hamlet of Schwartzenberg in Austria – which emerged from a long and twisting mountain road to reveal a cluster of heritage-protected clapboard houses. As with all Artemis concerts thus far, I am delighted to discover for the first time a special hall, loyal audience, and to hear stories told by fans of the quartet who have been (as I used to be) faithful fans of the quartet over the years.

As I entered this village, I thought the multi-family, decorated wooden homes would lead us to a quaint and small audience, but quite the contrary. We were a part of the famous Schwartzenberg Schubertiade, a festival which draws top performers from around the world, and whose audience is of the finest water – flying in for a week or longer to attend multiple events each day in the state-of-the-art concert halls. The concert was sold out, and the audience treated us to a rhythmic clapping. The Artemis Quartet explained to me that each town – each concert series even – has its own special way of showing appreciation. Some stand, some offer extended but mf applause, some hoot and holler, some clap in rhythm, some create thunder with their feet. After the concert, a lovely dinner – in a historic building with a long table seating 30 lit by candlelight, featuring local specialities grown in the surrounding villages.

Back home, we dove into final lessons and preparations for the first of two student concerts at the Universität der Künste Berlin, where the Artemis is in residence and responsible for 32 quartets who range in age from undergraduates to international-competition winning quartets with careers of their own.

We also had the time, finally, to take  a proper photo session, with an incredible photographer who came in for the week first to scope locations, then to shoot for a 15 hour session. He had decided that we should meet at 5 a.m. for makeup and wardrobe at our downtown location, so that we could begin to shoot just as the sun was rising. I had gone shopping with our publicist earlier in the week – visiting designer stores along Kurfürstendamm, the Chanel and Michael Kors area. I was poked and prodded, assured that I would not have to suck in (there are things that can do that for you!), turned and studied. We decided on several “looks” and headed to the (gasp) cash register.

At 4:20 a.m. I met Gregor to drive together, arms of clothing in tow.  At the shoot was photographer, his assistant, our publicist, and our make-up person. I guess it has been a long time since I have worn make-up. I sometimes make a half-hearted swipe of lipstick and eyeliner, but this is a rare occurrence. My mother often says, after concerts – “I just can’t tell where your lips or eyes start – you really should wear make-up!”, which I counter with “But, what about Jason’s lips?  Does he look lipless too?”  This time, I got the full treatment. My nostrils were even treated with a full going-over – with a long handled brush with a very soft end. It felt like a little, mini nostril spa-treatment.

Anyway – the photo session went on well into the evening, and the creativity and flow was spontaneous as well as calculated. The initial proofs are amazing. And my nostrils have never looked better.

I am writing this in the car – our first family European road trip!  Heading down to the Dolomites (Northern Italy), and we are about to stop to dip our feet in an inviting looking stream. Jason and I spend the next two weeks performing and teaching at a festival – and we look forward to seeing 14 of our old Oregon students (and their families).  They come with gifts of things we miss from home from peanut butter to sudafed. And the girls will have their first visit to Venice.

Arrivederci until next week!

artemis quartet4


The house sold 34.6 million Euros worth of tickets in the season just ended, up half a million on the previous record.

Seat prices went up and attendance was slightly down at 98.59 percent of full capacity, instead of 99.02% the previous season. But they are basically sold out most nights.

The Met, by comparison, is playing to capacity in the mid-60s percent.

vienna state-opera-house-the

Twenty years ago, the world would have been hard-pressed to name a classical musician from Canada – apart from Glenn Gould, and he was dead.

Today, Canadians are topping the classical summits.

Yannick is king of Philadelphia and the Met.

The soprano Barbara Hannigan is challenging maestros with her dazzling podium flair.

barbara hannigan conducting


James Ehnes and Leila Josefowicz are major-league violinists.

The list of pianists is endless; Hewitt, Lisiecki, Fialkowska, Lortie, two Hamelins….

As for singers: Finley, Heppner, Lemieux, Schade, Brueggergosman… and on and on.

Canada is a nation of 35 million.

What is it doing right?

Most were honoured in 1960, when the Walk was laid down and classical musicians were still household names.

It has been thin trickle in recent years, culminating in yesterday’s addition of Gustavo Dudamel.

Here’s the list in full.

heifetz perlman

Sadiq Khan has announced Justine Simons as his deputy mayor for culture and creative industries.

Justine has been Head of Culture for the Mayor of London for over a decade; this is an internal upgrading.

Justine is founder of the World Cities Culture Forum. She also serves on the boards of the British Fashion Council, British Film Commission, London Design Festival and the Artichoke Trust.


justine simmons

The librettist Alice Goodman has tweeted:

Please pray for the repose of the soul of my husband, Geoffrey Hill, who died yesterday evening, suddenly, and without pain or dread.

Sir Geoffrey, 84, came to attention with the epic Mercian Hymns (1971). Much of his work centres on historic events and the abuse of power, generally rooted in English conditions.

He was professor of poetry at Oxford, 2010-15.



The Reverend Alice Goodman co-wrote Nixon in China and Death of Klinghoffer with John Adams and Peter Sellars.


Gilda Barston, who has died at 71, got her first break at an audition with Leopold Stokowski, who selected her for his American Symphony Orchestra.

A student of Leonard Rose, Gilda went on to co-found the Chicago String Ensemble and to direct the Chicago Suzuki Institute, working as an influential teacher.

gilda barston

The death is reported of the violinist Anahid Ajemian, founder of the Composers String Quartet which played new American music on a regular basis from the 1960s at Carnegie Hall and Columbia University.

Anahid was 92.

Her founding quartet partners were Matthew Raimondi, Bernard Zaslav and Seymour Barab.

Elliott Carter dedicated his fourth string quartet to the pioneering group, which went through several personnel changes and played on into the 1990s.

composers quartet

Morton Feldman, Dmitri Mitropoulos and Duke Ellington below were among her fans.


duke ellington anahid ajemian

lang lang olympics

He’s the world record holder in the Minute Waltz.