Hugo A. Valverde, a 22 year-old student from Costa Rica, pulled off an astonishing coup last month by winning the second horn seat at the Metropolitan Opera.

He tells Audition Cafe how it happened:

‘I took 3 auditions before this one. I auditioned for The Florida Orchestra, The Phoenix Symphony and The Sarasota Orchestra…

‘I was in shock when I heard I made it to the finals, but I didn’t let my mind affect the way I was feeling at that moment. I said “ok man, you are prepared, you have out a lot of effort in this audition so, now you just have to go a focus on the music, sound, clarity, intonation, etc; I didn’t even run the entire excerpts before my final (prelims and semis as well) round, I just played the very first note and that was it….

He sounds pretty cool. Read more here.


Our expatriate American diarist Anthea Kreston has been enjoying the perks of her musical job:

I still have sea legs from my eight days on the River Countess, traveling the Venetian Lagoon and beyond. I was the Artist-In-Residence for the Performance Today tour, lead by the much beloved host, Fred Child. With a weekly audience of 1.4 million listeners, a daily 2-hour show featuring all live performances and interviews, PT is the most listened-to classical music program in North America (and probably the world).

The trip to Italy was surprisingly cathartic. It has been over a year since I have been back to the States, and to be on a boat with Americans, with all of their quirkiness and openness, and ridiculous senses of humor, brought me back to an emotional place I hadn’t even realized I had left – a place of total acceptance, ability to be informal or informal, as the situation allowed, and to be myself entirely. 

I met nuclear physicists (there were three aboard), retired music teachers, couples on anniversary trips, presenters, doctors. I worked hard – the Four Seasons, an unaccompanied program designed around the idea of inspiration which I played at a villa on a hill built by Andrea Palladio (considered to be the most influential individual in the history of architecture), in the city of Vicenza. Thomas Jefferson loved his work, and the United States Capitol building is an example of a slightly modified version of Palladio’s style (named by the 111’th Congress of the United States of America as the “Father of American Architecture”).  

In all of the concerts, Fred and I worked together – although we didn’t know each other well, we have always had an ease, a comfort around each other. Fred would introduce the pieces, speak to the influence of Bach on Ysaye, Biber on Bach.  For an encore, I had the audience sing the Lament Bass which forms the basis of Biber’s Passacaglia – possibly the first unaccompanied work written for the violin – he has 64 variations written above these 4, simple descending notes. The audience sang, I sped them up, added an off-beat snap, a “what you say!” from Fred, and played “Hit The Road, Jack”, which is also written above the same Lament Bass. 

There were several “Performance Chats” as well – lighter fare, with Fred interviewing me between Kreisler showpieces, Meditation from Thais, etc. I had asked Fred before the tour if I could turn the tables and interview him once. It took him several days to say yes – I had never interviewed anyone before, and he had not been interviewed. He finally said yes, but I could feel his hesitation as our Whatsapp Chanel filled with his suggestions of questions and topics. I said – “don’t worry – I’ve got this one!”

I did research on Fred – even found the band he played with as a college student in Corvallis, Oregon (yes – the same small town where we moved from one year ago!) – I downloaded songs, transcribed and wrote out the words to a call-and-response song called “Oatmeal”, which we all performed together at the end of the evening.  We had a great time – a balance between serious and silly – and we relaxed into an easy banter. I found out during that interview that we agree on where to get the best nachos in Corvallis, disagree about the best chocolate chip cookie, and also got a nice description of the most embarrassing pair of pants he had owned. Also – his surprising path towards radio – his successes and setbacks. It was so fun that Fred (I still can’t tell if he was kidding) asked if I would like to be a guest host of Performance Today. Hooray!  Count me in!

Trips to Bologna, Padua, Venice, Ravenna, and plans for future collaborations – by the end of the week I felt like we had all been at camp together – we were hugging and exchanging email addresses – several people offered to help nanny for us in exchange for a place to stay in Berlin, and my daily turns on the tour busses with the microphone laid bare my life to this wonderful group of classical-music fans. 

The final night, after our farewell concert, Fred, Jeff (a hilarious member of the staff) and I went to find the rest of the staff for an after-party. The directions, in typical Venetian style, went something like this: ok – walk towards St. Mark’s, take a left, you will see the boat repair place across the canal, go one or two bridges, cross over, you will see a wine bar, and start to look around for a small opening in the wall. Go down there, and it will open to a large grassy area – we will meet you there. So – Fred, Jeff and I headed out.

We got lost, of course, but I spotted a little opening – about 5 feet high, and shoulder-width wide. I said – “should we try it?” – and we went in, stooped and single file. It went the length of an entire building before opening to a wild grassy area, unlit, with groups of people sitting in circles, rolling all manner of personal combustibles, a juggler (clearly a novice), a three piece band, and random stations with beer or fanciful mixed drinks. We all turned on our cell phone flashlights and made our way around – finding a home-made wooden stage, a circular wooden Stonehenge of some sort, complete with rugs and oversized pillows inside.  Only Italian was heard, and low and behold – we found the rest of the staff off to the side!  It was like Woodstock in there. Who knew something like this could exist in Venice?  The craziest thing was – the next day, after everyone else left, I wandered back to that area – trying to find that wild courtyard again. I did find it – but a miniature iron door was blocking the entrance, locked, and boarded up with a crude piece of plywood. Cut at eye level was a teeny square – I looked through to only see darkness. As I sit, waiting for my flight today for the next quartet tour, I wonder if the whole trip was a dream. 

A judge in Fort Worth has found the pianist Sonya Tsygankova fit to stand trial for the death of her two daughters.

Tsygankova, 33, was sent for treatment at a mental health facility after the tragedy 15 months ago.

She pleaded not guilty to capital murder.

The girls’ father, Vadym Kholodenko, winner of the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, found them dead in the family home in Benbrook, Texas, in March 2016.



Toledo Symphony Orchestra has signed the Canadian conductor Alain Trudel as its next music director, starting in September 2018.

Trudel, 51, succeeds Stefan Sanderling, who served 15 years.

Here’s his first radio interview.

Yulia Khrushcheva, the granddaughter raised by the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev after her father died in the War and her mother was sent to Siberia, died yesterday in Moscow.

It is reported that she fell under a passing train at a railway station. Yulia was 77.

From the Lebrecht Album of the Week:

Every line is inflected with drama, every cadence with a precise calibration of vibrato. Even without much understanding of the Russian language, the interpretation is compelling. Is there a better living singer of Russian Lieder?

Guess who?

Click here.


The American pianist Lara Downes has been named Innovator of the Year at the University of California, Davis, together with the wheat geneticist Jorge Dubcovsky, distinguished professor of plant sciences.

Jorge Dubcovsky is a leader in the field of plant memory – how crops adapt to weather cycles.

Lara Downes has released a timely album America Again, inspired by Langston Hughes’ 1935 poem, ‘Let America Be America Again’.

‘It has been a difficult time to be an artist in America,’ she says.

The Wrocław Philharmonic have named Giancarlo Guerrero as their music director.  He succeeds the US-Israeli Benjamin Shwartz, who has held the job for the past four years.

Guerrero, who is music director of the Nashville Symphony, will conduct four week in Wroclaw this year and eight weeks next. His opening concert takes place tonight.

The Dutchman Jochem Hochstenbach, first Kapellmeister in Bern, has been named Generalmusikdirektor at Theater Trier.


His compatriot Klaas Stok will take over next year in Hamburg as chief conductor of the NDR Chorus.

One other move: Leo Siberski starts in September as Generalmusikdirektor at Theater Plauen-Zwickau, that’s Schumann’s town.

The Iranian harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani made his Israeli debut last night in Jerusalem.

Here’s one we took earlier.

l-r: Haaretz critic Amir Mandel, Mahan, NL

And here’s Amir’s article on Mahan in Haaretz.

After an absence of quarter of a century, the Russian pianist has returned to Deutsche Grammophon with a new contract and a Beethoven sonata set.

photo: DG/Johann Sebastian Haenel

press release:

After a break of 25 years, legendary pianist Evgeny Kissin has signed a new exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon. His discography already contains landmark recordings for the Yellow Label, critically acclaimed collaborations with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan and Claudio Abbado among them, and the association between artist and label resumes with the release of a new Beethoven album in August.

The double-disc set, its programme personally chosen by Kissin from recitals given over the past decade, includes Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas No. 14 Op. 27 No. 2, ‘Moonlight’, No. 23 Op. 57, ‘Appassionata’, and No. 26 Op. 81a, ‘Les Adieux’. It also comprises the evergreen 32 Variations in C minor WoO 80 and a profound exploration of the sublime two-movement Piano Sonata No. 32 Op. 111, the composer’s final work in the genre. The album, Kissin’s first solo recital recording in more than a decade, represents a major addition to his Beethoven discography and an essential document of his artistic development.

“These recordings were made in the moment of performance,” observes Kissin. “Live recordings always surpass studio albums for me, because I feel more inspired when playing for an audience. It means a lot to me to be able to share the spirit of that live experience with others.”

The French baritone Ludovic Tézier has openend a twitter account to assure the opera world that he is perfectly healthy and does not agree with Covent Garden’s decision to replace him in Otello.



Ludovic has posted a video in English in order to explain his position to the UK public.