The federal government has put the national opera company on notice that it is expected to engage ‘an appropriate balance’ of Australian talent, or face a fine of up to $200,000.

It has been reported that OA hired three times as many foreigners last season, a total of 29. Details here.

A similar measure ought to be considered at English National Opera.

In his refreshingly candid new book, Leading Tones (Amadeus Press), the leading US conductor has a go at inaccurate reporting on the the New York Times.

After an unhappy La Traviata at the Met in March 2010, Anthony Tommasini, the Times chief music critic, irritated the conductor by reporting: ‘The problem was that the conductor Leonard Slatkin, appearing at the Met for the first time in 12 years, showed up at rehearsals not fully knowing the score. You did not have to believe the reports that spread on opera chat lines to know this. Mr Slatkin conceded as much on his personal Web site,’

Slatkin says he conceded nothing of the sort. He now responds: ‘Opera chat lines? Tommasini had admittedly relied on anonymous bloggers for some of his information, not the best idea. Both he and the blogger got the facts wrong. I knew the score intimately and could have conducted it from memory. And nowhere on my blog did I say, or mean to imply, that I did not know the score.’

Unfortunately Slatkin’s current website does not go back as far as 2010. Slatkin alleges collusion between certain writers on the Times and a colourful opera blogger. He may not be far wrong.

Read the book. There are several more correctives to received media wisdom.




In this week’s Spectator, I write about the progressive emasculation of the music director.


‘I would never let a music director tell me which soloists to hire,’ a US orchestra president assures me. ‘Nor would I accept his preferred guest conductors.’ Patronage used to be a maestro’s perk, giving old codgers access to young talent that some would shamefully abuse. Loss of patronage has all but disabled the role. Except for Muti in Chicago and Barenboim at the Berlin State Opera it is hard to name a musical institution today where the dominant voice belongs to the music director…

So what, exactly, can Rattle hope to achieve at the LSO? He has told friends he would like to see some changes in personnel, but hiring and firing are entirely in the players’ hands. All the music director can do is nudge and wink to his supporters and hope for a desired outcome. Rattle opened the season with a programme of all English composers, most of them living, but he won’t be allowed to push programming any further than the box office will bear — and it won’t bear more than one such eye-catcher per season….

Read on here.



Janelle Gelfand left the Cincinnati Enquirer last week after 26 years.

No reason given. Presumably the usual newspaper cutbacks. No word of a replacement, either.

Janelle has been a faithful magnifying glass on the arts in her city.

She delivers a graceful farewell, here. 

‘It’s been a privilege,’ she signs off.



If one thing is certain it is that we will never see or hear his like again.

Born Toronto, 25 September 1932, died there 4 October 1982

The National Orchestra of Spain has announced the death of Victor Martín, its concertmaster from 1977 to 2001.

French born, Victor Martin was first violin of the Boccherini Quintet in Rome and founder of the Cassado Quartet. He kick-started the New Music Society in Toronto and the Spanish Chamber Orchestra.

He was professor at the the University of Toronto and, from 1980, at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Madrid.



The trial has opened at Nagoya District Court of a Chinese woman who is accused of destroying 54 of her Norwegian husband’s precious violins and 70 bows.

Qin Yue, 35, is alleged to have threatened her estranged luthier husband that she would ‘destroy the violins if he did not pay’ for the upkeep of their two children.

The luthier’s name is being withheld in court proceedings.

The damage is estimated at $140,000, a much lower sum that previously claimed.




From the new Lebrecht Album of the Week:

When Pierre Boulez became music director of the New York Philharmonic in the 1970s, he refused to conduct Mozart, inserting Haydn instead. It did no good for Haydn. The Mozart lovers deserted in droves, while the cerebral types that Boulez hoped to attract were dismayed to find just as much frivolity in Papa Haydn as in the ‘trivial’ Amadeus. Haydn’s reputation has taken years to recover.

The instant appeal of this recording is that…

Read on here.

And here.

Our diarist Anthea Kreston was rushed to hospital in Berlin last week for emergency surgery. She would like to put the recovery period to good use for improving her German, but that’s easier postponed than practise. For a start, in German medicine they expect you to do everything for yourself….

While in Italy last week, I received in my email inbox several messages which read: “Procrastination Module Overdue”.  You see, in preparation for my intensive German course, I had decided to take an online learning course, designed primarily for science and math students, to bolster my confidence (knowing, as we all do, that after adolescence, the ability for a human to master language is basically impossible).

But, as fate would have it, I ended up in the hospital, and flat on my back this week. I have lost weight (Jason hugged me on the way to work and said – “Anthea, just don’t get any skinnier please”), continued to have blood loss, had difficulty moving faster than a slug during siesta, and have had wavering faith that I was on the recovery. When on my second post-op checkup, the doctor commented that blood was being trapped in the hole left behind by my cyst. There was a shocking but extremely short pain, and she help up a bloody q-tip.  She said – “is that ok?” (a tad late to ask that, I might mention) – she had poked through my incision to allow blood to come though – with a q-tip, for Peet’s Sake!  She then told me to manually keep the wound open, to allow for flow (I was supposed to do this three times a day while training a hot shower head on the wound and massaging it).  I said – “what about a catheter?”, and with a big sigh of relief, I heard her say “great idea!”, followed by, “you can pick one up at the pharmacy and put one in yourself if that is easier for you”.  What is this, do-it-yourself procedure day?  My constant low-level nausea is understandable.

So – I got better and worse, and I was reminded of Bruce’s wise words several times (he is a frequent commenter – and we nearly met up in Spokane this summer, just missing each other by a couple of days).  He said something along the lines of “none of this “it’s been 3 days” – I wish the couch was just a tad closer to the window business”.  

One instance was when I was trying to knock walnuts out of the tree with a huge extended rake, or the time I was on the piano bench installing the newly purchased (from a flea market) vintage topographical school map of Germany, or when I was playing the American and German National Anthems (a beautiful Kreisler arrangement of the German one is on YouTube), sidled up to the mike, next to the hamburger stand, for my daughters’ school-wide field day. 

But, mostly I have been in bed, having food delivered to me, nestled in with a hot pack and tea, reading books – and finishing my over-due Procrastination Module. Today I have a house concert of 4 Beethoven Sonatas (the cycle starts next week – with my colleague and friend Frank-Immo Zichner on piano). We did not procrastinate on our work – our foundation was well-laid before we broke for the summer, so just a couple of quick touch ups this week sufficed.  A procrastinating musician is a musician who plays concerts only in the privacy of her own, acoustically perfect bathroom. 

So here is what I learned from my Procrastination Module.  Procrastination has 4 different elements.  

1- cue (trigger which activates procrastination)

2- routine (when you click into the activity)

3- reward (differs person-to-person – for musicians I think it is pride in improvement)

4- belief (your habits have a belief – to change them you have to change your underlying belief of your habit).  

Interestingly, the first element (cue) is when you think about something uncomfortable that you need to do, and this actually activates your pain centers in your brain – as if you are physically in pain. That is when we switch to do something more fun – to activate dopamine – this is the crux of procrastination. What happens during that instant is that your brain says “no no no I can’t do this – I won’t succeed!”.  

This thought is called product. This is what triggers the pain. What this course suggested that, instead of thinking about product during the Cue, think process. The time you need to do the activity. Don’t think about “What you need to accomplish”, just turn on the timer, and do something, anything, for 25 minutes. 

I tried this this week, to reorganize our household papers, and it really worked!  And I also relabeled, organized and alphabetized all of my quartet music, and finished my final weeks of my learning course – ahead of schedule. Feels great – give it a try!

Message from East Midlands Airport, handling five million passengers a year:

We are always looking for new ways to enhance our passenger experience whilst they are with us at the airport and, what better way than by showcasing some of our region’s best musical talent? Unfortunately we can’t offer performers a fee, but they will be well looked after by our staff while enjoying the opportunity to perform in front of a captive audience.

Might be a good venue for tuba practice.

UPDATE: 24 hours later, the airport withdrew the invitation and apologised.


The death is reported of Aline Nistad, long-serving principal trombone of the Oslo Philharmonic and one of the women trail-blazers on the instrument.

Aline retired from the orchestra in August 2016 after 37 years and was a sought-after teacher in many countries.