A fine act of fraternal solidarity. Be there if you can.

At 6:00 pm Sunday, Oct. 23, East Liberty Presbyterian Church will host “A Brass Spectacular!” presented jointly by the Pittsburgh Symphony brass section and members of the Philadelphia Orchestra brass section.  They will be joined by additional colleagues from the Boston Symphony, National Symphony and Cleveland Orchestra brass sections.

The Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony have been on strike since Sept. 30, after management from Pittsburgh Symphony, Inc. (PSI) presented a so-called “final offer” which included drastic and unnecessary cuts which would forever damage the standing and reputation of the orchestra.  The PSI’s response, rather than to continue discussions with the Musicians, was to cancel all performances through Oct. 27.  The Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony have endeavored to present free concerts for the Pittsburgh community to replace every concert unnecessarily cancelled by management.

“My colleagues from the Philadelphia Orchestra and I are very happy to be able to play a concert with our friends on the other side of the state,” said Blair Bollinger, bass trombonist of the Philadelphia Orchestra and one of the organizers of the concert.  “We are proud to stand in support of our colleagues in the Pittsburgh Symphony.”

Craig Knox, principal tuba of the Pittsburgh Symphony, said, “We were thrilled when our colleagues in the Philadelphia Orchestra proposed this concert, and are grateful for the display of solidarity shown by all the musicians who are donating their time and talents for this very special event.”

There will be no tickets to “A Brass Spectacular”; doors will open at 5 pm and seating in the sanctuary hall will be first come, first served. Admission to the performance at 116 South Highland Avenue in East Liberty is free.


The ever-readable Terry Teachout argues today in the Journal that orchestral musicians should not expect to be paid more in 2016 because two generation ago they were paid far less.

In a closing paragraph: Orchestra players would do well to remember how far they’ve come. Six decades ago, the members of one of the world’s greatest symphony orchestras sold cars and wristwatches to make ends meet. They didn’t deserve it then and they don’t deserve it now—but that’s the kind of thing that can end up happening in a world that doesn’t value your services as highly as you do.

There are horrible cracks in this argument and I can’t enumerate them all, but these are the main ones.

1 Terry mentions the value of services. He’s right. Isaac Stern told me that when he was growing up in 1920s San Francisco ‘a musician in the orchestra was a person‘ – even if he earned a pittance. He had social status. As that status declined it had to be replaced with other compensations or orchestral life would have ceased to exist. So wages rose.

2 Orchestras live off prestige. They need to attract the best players they can afford. If you pay them less than the market rate, they will go to LA or New York and Pittsburgh (or wherever) will lose whatever glory it needs to persuade donors to fund its continued existence and the public to attend concerts.

3 Six decades ago, people who worked in banking received modest compensation. How long does the Wall Street Journal think Goldman Sachs would survive if it paid 1950s rates?

4 An orchestra is a dynamic organism. It composition and internal relationships have changed beyond recognition in Terry’s lifetime and mine. The conductor used to be a dictator; today the role is more a negotiator. The ensemble used to be overwhelmingly male; now it might be majority female. Past comparisons become futile in such circumstances.

5 In Pittsburgh and Fort Worth – and in Philadelphia – an aggressive board and an overpaid manager tried to force musicians to accept ‘inevitable’ pay cuts. Not to forgo a pay increase but actually to take a step back into the half-forgotten past and forgo a decent wage, knowing that next time round they will have to give up even more. There was no negotiation, only ultimatum.

6 We have published testimony from musicians in these orchestras – a single parent, for instance – who simply cannot live on what the orchestra pays. So how does that differ from the indigent past?



From the Lebrecht Album of the Week:

For a troubled London teenager in the 1960s, there were three available sources of relief. One was illegal, one was immoral, and the third was available every other week at the Royal Festival Hall. I took myself to hear the Tchaikovsky Pathétique more often than I remember, sitting in the backless choir seats, watching the wealthier part of the audience indulge in plush catharsis.

Over time, the relief wore thin.  Tchaikovsky gave way to Mahler, and the Pathétique became a rare item, out of fashion, off the concert menu…..

Read on here.

bychkov lebrecht

And here.

And here.


The banner for Daniil Trifonov’s new release at the top of a page is a secret door to a competition.

Click on the ad and you could win a signed copy.


What’s to lose?

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a dedicated follower of opera, has agreed to play a role in Washington’s production of Daughter of the Regiment.

Her Honor, 83, will step out on stage as the Duchess of Krakenthorp, a speaking role. Just the once, on opening night, November 12. Then it’s back to the bench.

Full story here.


The Cleveland Indians reached the World Series on Wednesday night with a 3-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. It fell to the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra, conductor Theodore Kuchar, to mark the historic moment.


Fred was not exactly a prodigy.

Like many Jewish kids in Vienna, he played the violin. Put on a train to England in February 1939, just eight years old, he carried a small suitcase and a violin. Taken in by a family in Hull, he gave a public recital in the town hall in gratitude for his rescue.

The violin was his living link to a threatened past, how threatened he could not know.

After the War, he discovered that his entire extended family had been murdered – father, mother, brother, uncles, aunts, cousins – all of them once engaged in running a large restaurant in the second district, all now extinct.

Fred gave up the violin, went to Oxford, started a family. In his 50s, he took up the violin, learning to play the Franck sonata in remembrance of all that had been lost.

We laid Fred Barschak to rest today. He was 86. Bless his memory.

Here‘s an article he wrote on the Kindertransport that saved his life.



The Victoria Symphony has named Christian Kluxen, 34, to succeed Tania Miller next year as music director.

An assistant conductor at the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Kluxen was a Dudamel Fellow at LA Phil in 2014-15 and has since freelanced, mostly in the UK.



To no great surprise, it’s Martyn Brabbins.

An Ilya Musin pupil in St Petersburg, Brabbins is a greatly experienced guest conductor. But at 57 he has only once ever been principal conductor, at an orchestra in Japan.

He succeeds Mark Wigglesworth, who resigned over artistic shrinkage. Under the rosiest of glasses it still looks like a makeshift appointment. The search for a new music director was neither wide nor well-informed. Brabbins will hold the fort for three years. He will conduct just one opera in the first of these years.

That gives him very little chance to instil confidence or exert authority.

ENO remains in trouble, creatively as much as financially.

Press release follows.


English National Opera (ENO) has today, 21 October 2016, announced that British conductor Martyn Brabbins will become Music Director of the Company with immediate effect. 

 An inspirational force in British music, Martyn Brabbins has had a busy opera career since his early days at the Kirov and more recently at La Scala, the BayerischeStaatsoper, and regularly in Lyon, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Antwerp.  He is a popular figure at the BBC Proms and with most of the leading British orchestras, and regularly conducts top international orchestras, returning to the Royal Concertgebouw, Tokyo Metropolitan and Deutsche Sinfonieorchester Berlin this season.  Known for his advocacy of British composers, he has conducted hundreds of world premieres across the globe. He has recorded over 120 CDs to date, including prize-winning discs of operas by Korngold, Birtwistle and Harvey. He was Associate Principal Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra 1994-2005, Principal Guest Conductor of the Royal Flemish Philharmonic 2009-2015, Chief Conductor of the Nagoya Philharmonic 2012-2016, and Artistic Director of the Cheltenham International Festival of Music 2005-2007, and has this season taken up a new position as Visiting Professor at the Royal College of Music.

 Brabbins’s performances of The Pilgrim’s Progress at ENO (2012) were conducted with “wonderful breadth and assurance” (The Guardian) and The Times praised his “exemplary musical direction”. His acclaimed performances of Tristan and Isoldewith Grange Park Opera (2016) caused The Observer to describe him as “a musician’s musician, he can turn his hand with ease and perception to anything.”

The appointment runs until August 2020, and  Brabbins will plan the 18/19 and 19/20 seasons together with ENO’s Artistic Director, Daniel Kramer. We are delighted that Brabbins will already be able to conduct one opera production (title to be announced) in 2017/8.

 Speaking of his appointment to ENO from 21 October 2016, Martyn Brabbins said:  “With an orchestra and chorus of such exceptional calibre, and a musical legacy nurtured by the finest British conductors, from Reginald Goodall through to Mark Wigglesworth, I feel incredibly honoured to have been invited to join ENO and to become a part of this treasured British musical company.  It is quite an act to follow, and in a tough financial climate, but I am determined that ENO will continue to produce stimulating operatic performances of the highest musical quality at the London Coliseum.  I look forward to working with Daniel, Cressida, and with my dedicated and hugely knowledgeable colleagues in every department at ENO to achieve this.”

 Daniel Kramer, Artistic Director of ENO said: “I am very happy that Martyn will soon be at my side, leading this daring company.  He is an inspirational conductor and leader, and I am looking forward to collaborating with him immensely. His most recent work with ENO, conducting Vaughan Williams’sA Pilgrim’s Progress in 2012, was fantastically received and he is highly respected by both musicians and the company. His experience and expertise, particularly in new and contemporary repertoire, will allow us to continue to develop the exceptional music-making for which ENO is known.”
Cressida Pollock, Chief Executive Officer of ENO added:


“I am really looking forward to welcoming Martyn to complete ENO’s artistic team. His wealth of knowledge and experience will be invaluable in supporting our award-winning Orchestra and Chorus, and in ensuring that we continue to make opera of the highest quality accessible to the widest possible audience.”


Yvette Chauviré dominated the Paris Ballet stage for 20 years after the war.


Ten years old when she entered the Paris Opéra ballet school, she emerged as the archetype Giselle,  a role she chose as her farewell in 1972. Her death was announced by the company on Wednesday night.

The Orchestre de la Suisse Romande is a regular source of public entertainment on this site, getting rid of four managers in as many years and failing comically to sign the man it announced as chief conductor.

Through these travails, its president, Florence Notter, has refused to acknowledge the slightest error or misjudgement. She has lately appointed a maestro’s girlfriend as general manager.

However, a crack has finally appeared in the Suisse facade.

Today, the  president of the Association of Friends of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, André Piguet, has made public his resignation, saying it’s all the fault of Florence Notter. He also accused her of – strong word – ‘sabotaging’ the Friends. Piguet has been a key supporter of the OSR for 35 years.


Also resigning from  the OSR Foundation is Martin Engstroem, founder of the Verbier Festival.

He tells unflappable Florence: ‘Your desire to control all aspects of the OSR and the archaic hierarchy that governs the institution make harmonious collaboration very difficult.’

So, what now? Dawn arrests at the Baur au Lac?

The OSR is the Fifa of world orchestras.



From Brian Flescher, principal timpanist with the New World Symphony:

I was not allowed to board with my snare drum  UA90 from Newark to TelAviv. The gate manager insisted I cannot board because my snare drum case went over the faa regulation sized by 1-2 inches. I boarded with them anyways and she came on fuming, made me deplane and threatened to not let me on the flight. Finally I just took out the case and managed to descalate the situation. She insisted I check the case and so there my snare drum sits unsecured with absolutely no protection in the overhead bin.


United are habitually unfriendly to musicians.