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Following a detailed review of BBC newsletters, we’ve made the very difficult decision to close the BBC Symphony Orchestra newsletter and sadly this is the last newsletter.

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What it means is that the Symphony’s specialist band of followers can only find out what the orchestra is doing on a regular basis by being deluged with unrelated BBC propaganda.



Rebecca Averill responds to the death of the inspirational Robert Gutter:

When I was a lost freshman in a large university orchestra, the maestro walked up to the back of the second violin section took one look at me and said “You belong up there” pointing at the podium.

It took me two years to understand what he meant and when my private teacher saw I understood he dragged me up to the Maestro’s studio announced I understood and the man looked at me and simply stated “its about time”

He was brilliant and often misunderstood but I cherish every moment I spent learning in his studio. I loved nothing more than to make him smile by calling a piece a song or randomly swearing while performing my rhythm exercises.

Never was I prouder than when he watched me conduct after I won a spot in the concerto competition and spending time in Italy.

I failed his dream but never forgot his quiet brilliance and his lifetime commitment to the truth of the melody.

I have kept this picture over 10 years and will cherish it for the rest of my life.


Rest in music and in peace Robert Gutter

An academic survey reports that, in rigorous blind tests, most violinists prefer a new instrument to a Strad.

Does this mean past tests have been tilted in favour of the Strads?

Here’s the summary:

Old Italian violins are widely believed to have playing qualities unobtainable in new violins, including the ability to project their sound more effectively in a hall. Because Old Italian instruments are now priced beyond the reach of the vast majority of players, it seems important to test the fundamental assumption of their tonal superiority. A recent study found that, under blind conditions, violin soloists generally prefer new violins and are unable to distinguish between new and old at better than chance levels. This paper extends the results to listeners in a hall. We find that they generally prefer new violins over Stradivaris, consider them better-projecting, and are no better than players at telling new and old apart.

Now read on here.


We hear that the Deutsche Philharmonie Merck in Darmstadt are about to name Ben Palmer as their chief conductor.

He starts in September, with Mahler 4.

Ben has been artistic director of the Orchestra of St Paul’s in London for the past ten years.

He was introduced to the Darmstadt orchestra by Sir Roger Norrington.

The daughter of Robert Gutter, former music director of the Springfield Symphony and founder of the International Institute of Conducting, has posted news of his death.

Gutter was director of orchestral activities for the past 20 years at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. Born in 1938 in New York City and graduating from Yale, he also studied in Siena with Franco Ferrara.

He was Principal Guest Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra of the Ukraine in Kiev from 1996-2000 and subsequently of the Philharmonic Orchestra Mihail Jora of Bacau, Romania.


UPDATE: A conductor mourns her teacher.

The Observer reports that Elvis mementos are fetching a tenth of their list price as collectors die off and few new ones are coming forward.

‘If you try to sell any Elvis record that could easily have sold for £15-£20 each in the 1980s today, you can hardly give them away,’ says Red, who runs an online Elvis vinyl store.

We are witnessing a similar tendency in the classical sector, where autographed concert programmes, scores and photos are shedding value and trade fairs are poorly attended.

Could it be that the modest collecting hobby is simply dying out?

Do share your experiences.

I saw the last performance of the Covent Garden run of The Exterminating Angel last night and was neither surprised nor disappointed.

Thomas Ades’s opera, based on a movie by Luis Bunuel, describes a disastrous dinner party (or possibly an opera) that no-one is able to leave, despite the doors being open at all times.

For two hours and a quarter, nothing much happens. Then the curtain falls.

This puts Ades’s work in the same current genre as Saariaho’s L’amour de loin, Birtwistle’s Last Supper, Benjamin’s Written on Skin and other masterpieces of the post-modern age.

Characters are put on stage, enveloped in an exquisite case of orchestral music. Two hours later, they are still there. The characters have not developed. Our emotions have not been aroused. No nails have been bitten. We don’t care who lives and who dies. Some social or philosophical comment is being made at the expense of the bourgeoisie and then we all applaud and go home, none the wiser nor the better for it.

The score that Ades has written for this opera is by far the richest thing he has done, with a huge swell of Straussian decadence in the third act and some overt debts to Messiaen. But the innate decadence of the plot defeats creative musical development and you sense the composer is running out of steam when he relies on an underpinning of ondes martenot and a percussionist with a playground whistle.

It was not painful to watch, nor taxing on the ears or brain. It was just static. Like Beckett with orchestra.

But Beckett made his point sixty years ago and theatre has moved on since then.

Main-stage opera is stuck in a rut.

It doesn’t have to be like that. Adams, Muhly, Mazzoli, Srnka and more have found ways to engage the emotions and the intellect without compromising originality or integrity.

The thing about an inert opera like The Exasperating Angel is that it’s going nowhere.

The BBC have announced that David Hill will retire as chief conductor of BBC Singers in August, after 10 years.

His successor will be Sofi Jeannin, a Swede who has been music director of la Maîtrise de Radio France since 2008.

Jeannin, who gained an MMus in choral conducting at the Royal College of Music, has prepared choirs for Sir David Willcocks and Bernard Haitink and sang with London Voices and Terry Edwards before moving to France.


Alexander Ross, 59, a former violinist in the Omaha Symphony, has been found guilty of attempted first-degree sexual assault on a child and third-degree sexual assault on a child.

Ross founded the Omaha Conservatory of Music after being fired from the University of Georgia for sexual misconduct. After leaving the conservatory, he worked at an Omaha violin store.

Report here.


The Royal Northern Sinfonia’s principal oboe Steven Hudson found himself required to don a bird mask in order to play Ross Edwards’ concerto, Bird Spirit Dreaming, in Gateshead this week.

The work was premiered in Sydney in 2002 by Diana Doherty, with Lorin Maazel conducting.

A review in OperaWien counts off the number of singers making their role debuts in Vienna’s Siegfried revival, some of them late replacements for missing stars.

Stefan Vinke sang his first Vienna Siegfried. Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke made his debut as Mime. Tomasz Konieczny stood in for Sir Bryn Terfel as Wanderer. And this was Petra Lang’s first Siegfried-Brünnhilde in Vienna. Some of the small roles were also first-timers.

Nobody seemed to mind. The show was sold out.