The organisation has just published a hardline, lengthy statement in response to the musicians’ strike.

It boils down to this:

In order to chart the course for a fiscally stable Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, management has asked that musicians absorb a 15 percent salary concession, and that they agree to transition the current defined benefit plan fully (the plan is already partially closed to new participants) to move to a defined contribution plan with an eight percent contribution for all musicians.  Management has also asked to freeze three open positions in the orchestra for the term of this contract….

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra musicians are exceptional artists, and deserve every dollar and every benefit we can afford to offer,” said (President/CEO) Melia Tourangeau (pictured). “At the same time, at this moment in the Pittsburgh Symphony’s history, we absolutely must dedicate ourselves to a course correction to ensure long-term sustainability for the orchestra.  We are deeply committed to an orchestra that will continue its leadership role in the industry, in the Pittsburgh community, and around the world.


Full statement here.


The saga of the millionaire heiress and the former orchestra manager has now reached court.

If you need to know who’s making the early running, read on here.

jeff melanson eleanor mccain



During rehearsals for the season-opener, Sir Simon Rattle told musicians of the Metropolitan Opera orchestra that he had studied the Vienna Opera score from which Gustav Mahler conducted Tristan und Isolde. He found it full of the most fascinating observations – not just about the work itself but about other conductors and their methods.

Tristan was the work in which Mahler and his designer Alfred Roller brought opera production into the modern era in February 1903. It is probably the opera to which Mahler devoted most thought and preparation. Knowing that, Rattle’s new reading of the score acquires historical significance.

So two violists in the orchestra, Mary Hamann and Katherine Anderson, went to interview the conductor.





Here, among other things, is what Rattle told them:

‘There’s always the question of whether to conduct in two or four. So the score had all these conductors who had conducted this part in two. And all these conductors who had conducted it in four. And then Mahler writes, ‘Richard Strauss in 5?’ Obviously, it’s his way of elbowing Strauss and saying, ‘Who the hell knows what he was doing?!’

‘One of the most interesting things Mahler puzzled through was the problem of balance. You can approach Tristan as a carpet of sound, and the singers come in and out of that carpet. But Mahler wanted the singers to be heard, so he terraced the dynamics, like he did in his symphonies. His is a very original way of letting the singers come through the thick textures in Tristan. It is not a matter of the orchestra just being very quiet, but a real balancing of the voices in the orchestra with the voices on the stage.

‘Nina Stemme came up to me after a rehearsal here to thank me. She said, “I’ve never been able to do so many colors without being covered.”  And I said, “Thank Gustav.”’

This is fascinating stuff, and there’s more of it here.

CHT167392 Copy of a costume design for Isolde, for a production of 'Tristan and Isolde' by Richard Wagner (1813-83) at the Hofoper, Vienna, February 1903, 1904; by Roller, Alfred (1864-1935); Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna, Austria; Archives Charmet; German, out of copyright



photo (c) (right-click to enlarge)

Negotiations broke down last night with President/CEO Melia Tourangeau and her team and musicians began picketing Heinz Hall before 10 am this morning.

It is only the second strike in the orchestra’s history; the last was a six-week walkout in 1975.

But this is a tough one. The musicians are resisting a new round of pay cuts. The orchestra is saying it’s broke. The veteran supporters are sitting on their hands.

The PSO gave its ‘last, best and final’ offer on September 18. Since then, federal mediators have tried to broker a compromise but Tourangeau refused to budge last night from her September 18 position, rendering mediation pointless. The musicians walked out and declared a strike.


Talks have broken down on musicians’ wages. They have walked out.

Press release follows.

Pittsburgh musicians join Fort Worth colleagues on the picket line.

The Philadelphia Orchestra will resume talks with musicians later today (Friday). They could be next.


pittsburgh halls

UPDATE: First picture and why it came to this

UPDATE2: PSO: Why we won’t yield to musicians

Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra On Strike

Musicians Reject Unprecedented Cuts to Pay, Benefits, Orchestra Size

In response to Management’s demands for a 15% pay cut, a freeze of the Musicians’ pension, and a reduction in the number of Musicians, the Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (“PSO”) have been forced to go on strike, effective immediately.

Since February 2016, the Musicians have met regularly with the management of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Inc. (“PSI”) in an effort to reach a fair labor agreement. The current contract expired on September 5, but the Musicians agreed to extend the agreement through September 18 so the PSO’s Gala performance could proceed on September 17. Since then, the Musicians have been working without a contract.

The Musicians came to these negotiations prepared to help put the PSI’s new management team in the best position to succeed. But instead, the Musicians were blindsided by PSI Management’s demands for radical cuts to salary, retirement, and the number of Musicians in the Orchestra.

On September 18, PSI Management presented what it deemed a “last, best, and final” contract offer. In that proposal, Management demands the following:

•          An immediate wage cut of 15% (from $107,239 to $91,153), with only minor increases (2% and 3%) for each of the following two years.

•          A “hard freeze” of the Musicians’ pension plan, in which all participants with less than 30 years of service would no longer accrue pension benefits and would instead be switched to a 401k plan.

•          A reduction in the Orchestra complement (presently 99 plus 2 librarians, though 3 positions are currently vacant) to some lower number that would be unilaterally determined by PSI Management, which would have sole discretion to decline to replace Musicians who retire or leave the Orchestra.

The consequences of those cuts would be severe and immediate. Pittsburgh boasts an orchestra internationally recognized as one of the world’s best. If PSI Management’s proposed cuts were realized, many of the PSO’s finest Musicians will leave. The Orchestra will be unable to attract replacements of the same caliber. The reputation and stature of the Pittsburgh Symphony would forever be diminished.

After receiving Management’s so-called final offer on September 18, the Musicians suggested the parties work with mediators from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (“FMCS”). PSI Management agreed to do so; however, despite a mediation process that lasted more than ten days, and despite continued good-faith efforts by the Musicians to compromise, Management’s demands did not change at all.

On Thursday, September 29, the Orchestra Committee (the Musicians’ bargaining team) presented Management’s so-called final offer to the Musicians for an up-or-down vote. The result was a unanimous rejection of Management’s offer.

The Musicians want nothing more than to reach a fair and equitable agreement. Throughout the bargaining process and in mediation, the Musicians have offered major concessions on salary, pension, and size of the orchestra – all the topics that are the focus of Management’s demands. Management rejected all of those offers.

Management’s refusal to compromise clearly is ideological. New PSI Management has decided, against all evidence, that Pittsburgh somehow cannot support a world-class orchestra, and that a “new business model” is needed. This makes no sense. In 2016, the PSO’s Annual Fund hit a record; ticket sales are up; the Pittsburgh economy is dynamic; the Cultural District is thriving. This is no time for the PSI to abandon the idea that Pittsburgh deserves a world-class orchestra.

The Musicians also have a long history of working collaboratively with PSI Management when the PSO has faced financial challenges. The last strike was in 1975. Frequently since then, the Musicians have agreed to pay cuts, pension changes, and other concessions designed to help the PSO get through difficult times. But the Musicians have never faced demands for concessions this severe, nor have they encountered such a bizarre and stubborn ideological stance. To the extent the PSO faces financial challenges, there must be a better way than to destroy the very institution that PSI Management has been charged with preserving.

At 10:00 a.m. today, September 30, the Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony will establish a picket line outside Heinz Hall. We invite all supporters of the Musicians, and of the Pittsburgh Symphony, to join us in protesting PSI Management’s misguided attempt to force these destructive cuts on the Musicians.

Further, on October 4th, the Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra will present a free “Day of Music” to Pittsburgh as our gift to the community. This will consist of 11 different performances between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Please see the Musicians’ Facebook page (Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra) or our website ( for more details.

The Musicians call on PSI Management to return to the bargaining table, and to work in good faith to reach a fair contract with the Musicians.

From the Lebrecht Album of the Week:

The classical music industry does not so much promote talent as postpone it. Faced with a gleaming young star, the male curators of fame (all men) then seek validation in endless meetings. Agents and record producers hedge and haver. They deliberate and dine out, they call another meeting, and another. Then they write a budget. No wonder the business is in such bother.

It is now seven years since the South African soprano Pretty Yende burst on our ears as winner of the 2009 Hans Gabor competition in Vienna….

Read on here.

And here.

pretty yende

And here.

Police found it 75 kg of marijuana on the roof of Copenhagen Opera House in February, they announced today.

Nobody has come forward to claim the lost property.


The distinguished American composer Christopher Rouse, introducing his third symphony on NPR, let on that he recently got married. The symphony contains a code that spells out his wife’s name, over and over, ‘a kind of physical portrait of her,’ he called it.

Then he went on to say:

‘[Natasha] was sexually abused as a child… So she ran away from home at 16 and decided to hitchhike out west. One of the people who picked her up held her for three days and raped her repeatedly. She ended up in Arizona in Tucson and she was homeless, so she was living under a bridge and eating out of dumpsters. And all of that before the age of 18…

‘I certainly couldn’t have survived that, I don’t think, and I’m not sure most people could either. But that’s why the fact that she is this warmhearted, wonderful person is all the more amazing.

Read on here.


The violinist Grzegorz Kotow announced today that he is leaving the Szymanowski Quartet, which he co-founded two decades ago. In parting, he has some trenchant thoughts on how the quartet world has changed. 

Here’s Grzegorz’s statement:



I have decided to leave my beloved Szymanowski Quartet, of which I was co-founder and have been a member for over 20 years.

I thought there was no better way to say good-bye than to do it with the Schubert Quintet with Misha Maisky in Wroclaw, close to the place where I was born. So Schubert’s amazing final c, which always sounds like destiny to me…was my last note.

I always thought there was no better way to spend life than playing pieces like the Cavatina, but after all these successful years of living with and for the quartet, I have realized that it is time for something new in my life.They were amazing, wonderful years – half my life. During that time I was given the opportunity to perform regularly at the best concert venues around the world. But even more important – and what I am most thankful for – is that, because of the quartet, I had the opportunity to meet so many exceptional artists and audience members. Many have become friends for life.Thank you so much, my dearest quartet colleagues – Agata, Volodia,Marcin, and former members Andrej and Marek – for all these amazing adventures and for sharing the love and madness of quartet playing.

When we started, the world of the string quartet was very different from what it is today... There were only a few of us and we were all like a big quartet family. It was the world of the Amadeus, Italiano, Guarneri and Alban Berg quartets, all of whom we were lucky enough to meet and work with. When the Szymanowski Quartet started out, none of us was thinking about a professional career…we just played for 10 hours a day – crazy, hungry and curious about the new world that we were discovering. Today everything is much faster, with websites, Facebook and self-made recordings… It just happened somehow, and we still don’t really know how, but we were lucky enough to be successful during these 20 years. For me they were such beautiful, amazing years, especially the crazy ones at the beginning.

I’m sure the Szymanowski Quartet will continue its successful career without me and with a fantastic new member.
I feel that it’s time for me to move on…I will not disappear completely, but I will be shifting to the other side of the stage. In the past few years, my wife, Shannen, has built up a very successful artist and touring management agency, which I have become more and more a part of, and which I will now be joining officially as a partner.

I have a feeling that in this way I can serve the music world, using my experience as an artist. For many years I have gotten to know great agents and promoters, some of whom have become very close friends. I also taught at the Musikhochschule Hannover for 15 years. I had a chance to work as a promoter as well, which I will continue . I will be artistic director of a new festival in Austria and artistic advisor to a chamber orchestra in Asia. And …I will finally have more time for my family, since I promised my son that I will be at home for his next birthday, which I have not managed for the last few years.Thank you all again for the great support and friendship I got as a member of the Szymanowski Quartet. I’m looking forward to meeting you soon.
Best wishes Grzegorz

Composer Eugene Birman had the intended premiere of his opera, State of the Union, cancelled by a conductor at Latvian Radio on the grounds that it was too hostile to free market economics.

‘I am an ex-Soviet soldier,’ said the conductor. ‘I am truly thankful for the life that I can have now in comparison to 30 years ago, and I am sick of leftist nostalgia.’

The opera will be performed tonight in Marquette, Michigan, moving on to New York, where it will play at Trinity Church, off Wall Street.

That’s freedom for you.

Report here.



Sixteen months after it elected Kirill Petrenko as music director, the Berlin Philharmonic expects him to sign a contract on October 6, at 2:30pm.

Petrenko has been playing hard to get. Since the election, he has extended his stay at Bavarian State Opera to 2021 (below) and has recently appeared in Berlin, to tumultuous acclaim, with the Bavarian orchestra.

He will not take up the baton as music director with the Berlin Philharmonic until 2019, a year after Sir Simon Rattle’s departure. But the contract signing will at least provide a measure of relief after months of uncertainty.

petrenko munich