Israel has fallen off the itinerary of Europe tours by North American orchestra in recent years. The causes are not political. It’s all to do with cost – unusually high insurance premiums – and low expected revenues.

But Toronto has decided to take the plunge, and it’s a timely one. The year 2017 marks the centenary of the Balfour Declaration that created the possibility of a Jewish homeland in the Middle East, as well as the 150th anniversary of Canadian statehood.

Here’s the press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—November 14, 2016: The Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) is pleased to announce a major tour of Israel and Europe under the leadership of its Music Director, Peter Oundjian, that will run from May 7 to 22, 2017.

The TSO will make its first-ever touring appearances in Israel, with performances in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, before travelling to Europe and appearing in Vienna, Prague—as part of the famous Prague Spring International Music Festival—Regensburg, and Essen. The TSO will perform seven concerts in four countries.

Peter Oundjian stated, “The TSO is pleased to be returning to Europe as well as visiting Israel for the first time. A dynamic and world-class city like Toronto should export its excellence. We are proud to represent Toronto and Canadian culture with our outstanding Orchestra.”

toronto symphony

This is a rare sighting of Andreas Knapp, Sir Simon’s assistant at the Berlin Philharmonic, who is also a professional photographer and does not like to come out much from behind the camera.

Andreas (left in the picture) is active with Hangar Music (, a program that gives refugees coming to Germany the chance to learn an instrument and become involved in music.


On the Berlin Phil’s current US tour – Rattle’s last – Andreas arranged with Professor Mark Clague to stage a photo exhibition of his work with dispossessed children and their families, at Ann Arbor, Michigan.




press release, just in:

(ST. LOUIS – November 14, 2016) – At its Annual Meeting today, the St. Louis Symphony celebrated its significant artistic achievements and community impact during the 2015/16 season. The Symphony also reported the strongest financial results in many years and balanced cash operating budget for the first time this century.

Barry Beracha, Chairman of the St. Louis Symphony Board of Trustees, said: “The fact that we enjoy a world class orchestra in St. Louis is a testament to the devoted work and commitment of many people.  Thanks to our growing audiences and generous donors and sponsors, we just completed one of the most successful years in recent Symphony history.”

The Symphony announced significant increases in both attendance and ticket revenue during its 2015/16 season. Overall ticket revenue increased by nearly 4%, to $6.87 million. Live at Powell Hall concert attendance and sales reached their highest numbers since the inception of the series in 2010. And counter to the experience of many American orchestras, classical audiences and sales in St. Louis increased for the second consecutive year.

The Symphony also reported solid growth in philanthropic support. FY16 produced its best ever Annual Campaign total of $7.68 million from 5,394 donors — 30% whom were new. Impressive results were also achieved in building the St. Louis Symphony’s Endowment Trust. Significant contributions have been received over the past three years as part of ongoing efforts to secure endowment funding commensurate with the orchestra’s needs. As of August 31, 2016, endowment related assets under management exceeded $200 million.

St Louis Symphony

At a time when 1,000 sales qualifies as a classical bestseller, we are delighted to see that two new releases broke the 2,000 barrier last week, according to Nielsen Soundscan ratings.

One was a Catholic devotional record. O Emanuel, from J J Wright.

The other was Joyce DiDonato, In War and Peace, evidently making waves.

The next top-selling record barely cleared 400.


Twenty-two years after she was sacked by Met boss Joe Volpe for ‘unprofessional actions … profoundly detrimental to artistic collaboration’, the lyric soprano returns tonight in recital of Spirituals.

It’s an elegant way of laying things to rest.

kathleen battle

If you are attending, do let us know how it was.

The precious J B Vuillaume that LPO violinist Ji hyun Lee left on a Waterloo-to-Dorking train last Wednesday has been found.

Ji hyun has been told by the police that a member of the public brought it in. She will get her instrument back later today.

Good to know we live in a generally honest society.


Dr Polina Weidmann of the Tchaikovsky Museum, editor of the complete Tchaikovsky edition, has died at 69. Her entire adult life was devoted to the study of Tchaikovsky scores. She became the ultimate authority.


Many in the cultural sector are perturbed by the BBC’s decision yesterday to feature an interview with Marine Le Pen, leader of the French far-right Front National, on the Sunday-morning Andrew Marr show.

The BBC has justified the decision by arguing that Ms Le Pen might win next year’s election and become President.

Until now, UK media have confined Ms Le Pen to a hand-basket of deplorables – politicians whose nationalist and racist views are kept off air for fear that publicising them would only boost their grassroots popularity.

The policy is patchy and irrational, sometimes controversial. But the justification for breaking it is absurd. The BBC did not interview Adolf Hitler in Germany at a time when it seemed he might become the next Chancellor. It judged that his views were dangerous and unacceptable. It refused to risk pushing his bandwaggon.

Marine Le Pen is no Hitler, but some of her far-right language is drawn from the same lexicon.

The BBC has given her a gloss of legitimacy. It was a really bad editorial decision, a sign of our confused times.



We have been asked to post the following on behalf of Ji hyun Lee, a first violinist in the LPO:

Ji hyun Lee, a first violinist with London Philharmonic Orchestra, is calling for help to find her missing violin. The precious nineteenth-century French instrument  –  made by J.B. Vuillaume and known as the ‘Saint Cecile des Thernes 1845’ – was last seen on the 22.09 train from London Waterloo to Dorking on Wednesday 9 November.

The labelled violin was in a white silk bag inside a case which is half black leather and half silver carbon fibre, along with her ‘Hill and Son’ bow. The case has an LPO sticker as well as the contact information of its owner.

Anyone with information is ask to contact the London Philharmonic on 020 7840 4200 or email Ms Lee at


There has been a spate of recent instrument thefts on trains in and out of London. Musicians are advised to take extra care and never to leave their instruments unattended.

UPDATE: We understand that a weary Ms Lee left the instrument in the rack of a South Eastern train. By the time she noticed, the train was gone. South Western’s Lost Property and stations on the line were closed so there was nobody to call except the police, who are checking CCTV. South Western trains know for certain that it was not handed in at Dorking, where the train terminated.

2nd UPDATE: It is found.

The former cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, now head of the Birmingham Conservatoire, is leading a campaign to close down the brothel industry in London’s South Kensington district, where he used to live.

He told a weekend diarist that he got involved after his wife was mistaken for a prostitute, a few feet from their home.

julian lloyd webber naxos


Nathan Cole of the Los Angeles Philharmonic tells it as it is.


The camera

It doesn’t particularly matter what kind of digital video camera you use. Imagine that: when making a video, your video camera is one of the least important factors.

It’s true! A cheap camera or a smartphone will work just fine. Of course, there are expensive (and ultra-expensive) video cameras out there, but we won’t see much benefit for our purposes. Expensive cameras are expensive for reasons that go far beyond the scope of an audition video….

The microphones

It shouldn’t be a surprise that you get better sound with better microphones. And we’ve already covered the fact that video cameras don’t record great audio because they have crummy microphones built in. Simple, you think, I’ll just plug in a nice external mic! It’s not so simple. Besides the fact that the vast majority of cameras don’t have professional microphone inputs (XLR), most cameras introduce noise when a mic is plugged in.

The bottom line is that if you’ve spent any money on a decent mic, you don’t want it plugged directly into your camera.

boston audition

Read the full post here.

Fascinating piece by Elijah Ho, accompanying the San Francisco Symphony on its first Korea tour. South Korea today has the highest per capita classical record sales in the world.


In 1948, John S. Kim (the ‘S’ stands for ‘Seong Ryo’, his Korean name) founded the Seoul National Philharmonic, the first symphony orchestra in Korea. But as the Korean war ravaged the country a few years later, his family of musicians — not to mention his actual family — were under serious threat.

“My birthplace, Seoul, was a dangerous place,” says Kim, who first picked up the violin at age 5. “My mother and father pleaded with the Navy Admiral of Korea to protect the musicians of the symphony by providing refuge for them in Busan, just outside of Seoul. My mother’s best friend’s husband happened to be this Navy Admiral, and he offered them a hotel.”

Kim still recalls living all together in that complex, her family alongside all the orchestra musicians and choir members. Whether it was the close quarters or simply a profound love of music, John S. Kim and his orchestra never ceased their musical activities.

Read on here.

korea queues 1