Mary Sauer, principal piano of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for 57 years, is playing her last concert tonight.

Mary was hired as Chicago’s first full-time orchestral keyboardist by Fritz Reiner in 1959. She was officially added to the Orchestra’s roster by Jean Martinon in 1967/68 and named principal piano in the 2000/01 season.

She has served with great distinction on piano, celesta, organ and harpsichord ever since. She has also played concertos in her own right with  Sir Georg Solti, Jean Martinon, Carlo Maria Giulini, Claudio Abbado, Rafael Kubelik, Zubin Mehta, Charles Dutoit, Walter Hendl, Alan Gilbert and Margaret Hillis.

Not many pianists can boast that pedigree.

We wish Mary a long and happy retirement.


She ranks #15 in the longest serving orchestra players of all time.

Some 11th-hour thoughts from Anthony McGill, principal clarinet of the New York Philharmonic:



As I sat in the audience two years ago and listened to Elie Wiesel’s acceptance speech at the John Jay Justice awards, I took some notes so that I wouldn’t forget what he said. His words are particularly important today. Here is my version of what he said.

‘What does it all mean? What does it all mean? Words matter. Words move men. In the face of evil let us speak let us not remain silent. Silence equalled death for so many. Let us show gratitude. Gratitude everyday for being here. Let us smile. We are responsible to one another and for one another. What does it all mean. It’s ok not to know but it is best to be grateful for what we do know and not be blasé about this existence. Be moved. Live. Ask the tough questions. And speak up for justice.’

Donald Trump’s words do matter and they can change people and move people. In fact, they have. The words of another man took away Wiesel’s entire family and the families of so many others. It did happen, it could happen again. Let us not let ignore the words right in front of us in 2016 and let anyone take away or send away our many beautiful diverse families. Let us not deem political correctness or decency or politeness or kindness to be extinct. Let’s not let them con us into becoming that which we are not. I won’t stay silent. I’m with her.

The company says it broke even last season. Local business reports say it made a big loss. Go figure.

Lyric reported $61.9 million in total revenue for the year, down substantially from $86.8 million the previous year.

Total expenses for the year climbed to $84.1 million, up from $79 million the previous year. Earned income dropped to $25.1 million from $34.7 million the previous year, while unearned income fell to $36.1 million million from $52.7 million the previous year.

Given these results, the math shows Lyric incurred a $22.2 million loss for FY2016, which ended June 30, 2016.

Lyric chief financial officer Lane suggested in a cover letter posted with the financial report that the success of Lyric’s Breaking New Ground campaign “afforded us the ability to present a breakeven 2015/16 season.”

More here.

lyric chicago-21

UPDATE: Response from Roberta Lane, Lyric Opera CFO:

Lewis Lazare’s piece was based on looking at a supplemental schedule at the back of Lyric’s audited Financial Statements.  The schedule, Statement of Activities, reflects all of the increases and decreases in Lyric’s net assets by fund.  There are 4 funds shown on the statement:  1.) Our operating fund (this really is the Income Statement reflecting the season’s revenue and expenses and the column to focus on when analyzing the results of operations,  2.) Other unrestricted funds (including activity in our investment reserves), 3.) Temporarily restricted (where we record contributions restricted to a particular purpose, such as Breaking New Ground contributions), 3.) Permanently restricted (which is our endowment).  Mr. Lazare was looking at all of the activity in all of the funds and, incorrectly, concluding that our operations generated a $22 million loss. In fact, our net assets decreased by $22 million, largely as a result of fluctuations in the market value of our investment portfolio (61% of that decrease is accounted for by stock market fluctuations).
As I stated in my letter, we supported our FY 2016 operations, in part, with an $8.6 million budgeted allocation from our Breaking new Ground fund.  Providing operating support for future years was precisely the purpose of the campaign when it was launched in FY 2012.

Ever since Slipped Disc first came onto the scene, the Bergische Symphoniker of Remscheid and Solingen has been popping up as an orchestra in deep financial distress, losing 300,000 Euros a year.

Remscheid and Solingen merged their orchestras in 1995.

Now local officials are suggesting a Berger merger with a bigger town, Wuppertal.

Will three towns go into one orchestra?



Rick Steiner, who recreated Mel Brooks’s  film The Producers for Broadway in 2001, has died in Cincinnati after open-heart surgery.

He won five Tony awards and was a champion poker player.


Marcus Bosch has told the city of Nuremberg he doesn’t want to be music director after 2018.

Marcus, 48, prefers to be professor of conducting in Munich and festival director in Heidenheim.




Peter Donohoe has posted this memoir of a close associate:


Zoltan Kocsis - portrait of the Hungarian pianist, conductor and composer in rehearsal with the Orchestre National de France, December 2004. b. 30 May 1952.

It was with huge dismay that I learned of the death of Zoltán Kocsis. I cannot claim to have known him well, but my awareness, admiration and musical collaboration with him – rare though the latter was – spread across several decades since I first him when I was still a student in 1974.

At that time I made a special study of the works of Bartók, and this led me to enrolling for a summer school in – the then communist – Hungary – the Bartók Seminar in Budapest, held by the great Pál Kadosa – by then in his 70s, and although he was actually a student of Kodály and Székely, had a close affinity with Bartók’s music and it was widely assumed that he was actually a student of Bartók.

I was already aware of Kocsis’ extraordinary recording on the Hungaroton label of the Bartók Piano Concertos Nos 1 and 2. As Concerto 2 was a seminal and life changing work for me, I had studied every recording I could find, and Kocsis’ was the one I admired most. Made when ZK was about 18, it has an insight into this great music that goes so far beyond technical considerations (it is one of the most technically demanding concertos in the repertoire) and that so belies the soloist’s age on that recording. It is also of such command and understanding of the orchestra that it could not really be bettered. Since then excellent recordings have been released by, amongst others, Pollini, Ashkenazy, Richter, Lang Lang, and – although I am inclined not to mention it, I will – myself. Kocsis also re-recorded it later. However, to my ears, none of us have toppled that original, raw, brilliant yet thoughtful, magnificent snapshot of a great artist in his youth.

It was with great joy – and respectful fear – that I discovered that Kocsis was assisting Kadosa in his masterclass and talks on Bartók. The result was a feeling of a direct line to my then greatest 20th Century composer-hero. The atmosphere of admiration for Bartók was something I will never forget, and Kocsis’ demonstrations were phenomenal in their unique combination of confidence and devotion. He also performed for us a suite of short pieces by Kadosa, demonstrating his ability to be so completely convincing at first hearing of totally unfamiliar music.

At one point I was ‘volunteered’ to play through Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion – one of the composer’s greatest masterpieces – in front of the class with Zoltán, and it was one of the most heart-pounding experiences I had ever had. This was when Zoltán first displayed to me his renowned impatience; he made it plain that he wanted to go into the finale as an attacca and I didn’t – something that seemed to inspire an extraordinary degree of anger in him, and one that I railed against on the basis that the composer did not write ‘attacca’ so there was no need for ZK’s ‘appalling attitude’. [incidentally his nickname was something like ‘Jolly’ – an abbreviation of Zoltán. I don’t use it here because I do not really know how to spell it; it is probably not ‘Jolly’, because that is something he could never be accused of being.] [Edit: I am now reliably informed that it should be spelled ‘Zoli’. Thanks to Raluca Rad!]

This inspired a permanent friendliness between us from that moment to the last time we met. He came to my performances at the 1976 Liszt-Bartók competition and was incredibly supportive, and he invited me not so long ago to perform with him conducting his own Hungarian National Symphony Orchestra, playing Bartók’s Concerto No 3 in both Budapest and Pecs. Zoltán drove his wife and me back to Budapest after the Pecs concert, and his wife navigated and sent him down the wrong road for about twenty miles. The screaming temperamental fit that ensued reminded me of that moment in 1974 when we played the Sonata together, and I felt it necessary to again put him straight – again it led to great friendship being renewed. It was another insight into the impatience of genius.

One other example was Jeremy Siepmann’s collection of interviews regarding the performance and interpretation of Bartók. I was one of those interviewed, and one of my main thrusts was regarding the Hungarian-ness of the music; I always feel strongly that musicians of the same country as whichever composer is being referred to should not feel that they have a hotline to the style that excludes the rest of the world. Zoltán’s interview seemed to assume that, as a Hungarian, he had a greater insight into Bartók than anyone from outside his country. This led to me wanting to throttle him again, and I sent a message via Jeremy that the reason his performances of Bartók were so great was because he was a great artist and musician, not because he was a Hungarian. In any case – my verbal message continued – Bartók was from Transylvania, which has far more cultural affinity with Romania than with the totally different one of Hungary; a Hungarian expecting ownership of Bartók would be the equivalent of an English pianist assuming a hotline to Debussy – said I. I never had a response from him, and sadly Jeremy Siepmann has also died recently, so I will never know if he received my slightly tongue-in-cheek poke; however, I have every reason to believe that he would responded in kind.

The last time I saw him perform was in the 2009 Enescu Festival in Bucharest in err Romania…. He conducted Enescu Symphony No 2 wonderfully and the first half was a performance of Bartók Piano Concerto No. 2 – again – this time with another soloist. I wanted to go backstage to congratulate him on his performance of the Enescu, but I didn’t have a chance – something which I so regret now. He did look older than his years on that occasion, but I had no idea that his health was failing.

Even though I did not see him from one year’s end to the next, I feel very strongly that he was a close associate, a great person and a wonderful musician. That he so recently died has hit me very hard, and I am somehow aware that part of my own past has died with him. Very sad.



gershwin smoking

The message of tolerance is timed for today, election day, and delivered to an audience of Syrian and Somali refugees.

Six members of the St Louis Symphony will play as part of a mutual exchange of world music.

The concert is part of the St. Louis Symphony’s Music Without Boundaries program.


The American soprano Catherine Nagelstadt has withdrawn from next month’s Salome revival ‘for medical reasons that prevent her from travelling to America as scheduled.’

Her replacement in the title role is Patricia Racette (below), presently singing Salome with Pittsburgh Opera.

patricia racette

Claire Brazeau is the new principal oboe of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

She succeeds her teacher Allan Vogel, who retired recently after 44 years.

Claire, who has been second oboe with the LACO for the past two years, is also a member of the new music ensemble, Le Train Bleu.


Sophie Joyce is leaving the Coliseum as head of casting at the end of this week.

Her predecessor John McMurray will step down as senior artistic advisor next summer.

That leaves room for a rethink on the casting front.

Until new appointments are made, board members Brian Dickie and Sarah Playfair will provide casting input.