press statement:

Leonard Slatkin announced today that he must regrettably withdraw from his upcoming conducting dates this May and June. Maestro Slatkin will undergo heart bypass surgery next week and is expected to be fully recovered in about three months. The cancellation encompasses upcoming appearances with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Prague Spring Festival, Chamber Music Society of St. Louis, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and Orchestre National de Lyon.

The Detroit Symphony dates—May 25 to 27, May 31 to June 2, and June 8 & 10—are the last three Classical Series subscription concerts of the 2017-18 season and were to be Maestro Slatkin’s final concerts as DSO Music Director. New conductors for these programs will be announced by the DSO in the coming days.

Maestro Slatkin said: “My wife Cindy and I are of course very disappointed, as we know how much effort has gone into the many activities that are planned, but I also know that all of you will understand the necessity of taking care of these health issues. My cardiologists are among the very best in the field. They have indicated that this procedure should eliminate my heart problems and ensure that I will be able to conduct for many years to come.”


From the Lebrecht Album of the Week:

… ECM’s recording is immaculate. Best of all, ECM have the last of the great booklet writers in Wolfgang Sandner. His notes are a model of useful information and analysis, avoiding the greasy sycophancy that soaks through most glossy booklets these days. I learned a lot, which I rarely do from new releases. Worth buying for the booklet alone….

Read on here.

And here.

Abi Ofarim, the first Israeli to score a number one hit, has died in Munich aged 80.

Singing with his wife Esther, he topped the charts with Cinderella Rockefella in 1968.



The pair divorced two years later.


‘El Sistema is my life,’ he tells CNN’s Christiane Armanpour.

So to get around the regime’s block on him working with the youth orchestras he conducts rehearsals with them online.

He avoids criticising the situation or the regime.


Herman Krebbers, formidable concertmaster of the Haitink-era Concertgebouw Orchestra, died on Wednesday at a great age.

Krebbers was appointed joint concertmaster at the Residentie Orchestra in The Hague in 1951 together with his close friend Theo Olof. The pair moved together in 1962 to preside over the Concertgebouw strings. They were the best frontline partnership in Europe.

Olof stepped down in the early-1980s, around the time that Krebbers’ activities were restricted as the result of an accident.

Krebbers had been a formidable soloist. His recording of the Beethoven concerto with Haitink was for many years the go-to recording for first-time listeners, accurate and passionate in equal measure.

He went on to become a sought-after teacher. Frank Peter Zimmermann was among his star pupils.

Krebbers with Wanda Wilkomirska, who died this week

UPDATE: Concertgebouw announcement.

The State University of New York has rescinded honorary degrees that it granted long ago to James Levine and Bill Cosby.

Levine won’t mind much: he never went to SUNY.

Best part of the Page Six report is the ‘famed conductor’ correction.

Noah Geller has won the audition for the hot seat at the Seattle Symphony, an orchestra in flux with an incoming music director and a high front row turnover. It has lacked a concertmaster for the past three years.

Noah, a Juilliard grad, started out as acting assistant concertmaster with the Philadelphia Orchestra. He joined the Kansas City Symphony in 2012.


The debate on orchestral earnings continues.

We kicked it off with an exclusive survey of German orchestras.

Then British.

Now a reports from a tutti player in the famed Concertgebouw orchestra of Amsterdam, living not much above the minimum wage:

I have been a member (tutti) for about twenty years. Before tax monthly income is €5.040 (US $6,000) and this is the maximum. Of this, I give about 55% to the taxation office. Extras are €1.000/year (before tax) for recordings and radio/tv things, 8% ‘holiday money’ (of course that is taxed as well), per diem when on tour plus a small compensation. Without a family, you will not starve, of course, but we do have to compromise on what food we buy with a wife and children to feed, too. Amsterdam is also not cheap (new colleagues struggle to find an affordable place where they can live, and preferably practise), I feel that I am paying a big monetary price for the honour of playing in this famous orchestra, and if another band wants to appoint me that will reward me with better conditions (money isn’t everything, but it helps to convince that lesser acoustics, possibly different conductors and what not might be worth the move), I will definitely consider it. I am definitely not old and for sure experienced, passionate and a good musician (I hope), but I should have realised this earlier perhaps, because some orchestras have age limits I think? So Amsterdam might have to stick with me until my retirement (looks like around the age of 69,5 or something like that in my case, if I am still alive then…) 😉

Is it any better in Rotterdam?


From our diarist, Anthea Kreston*:

In another one of many double-rehearsal days, I am consumed with the Shostakovich Piano Quintet, and in particular, the fugue. I am babying my arms back to full strength, careful to not use them unless absolutely necessary. I don’t unload dishes, carry bags, or pick up anything heavier than a sandwich. Every day they come back a little more, yet I wonder if I will look back at these weeks and curse myself somehow. There is no injury, just extreme fatigue, and I have a plan, which seems to be holding for now.

A fugue is one of the marvels of composition – the inventor must look at the chosen melody (and rhythm) in a way which will suit a myriad of different purposes in the future. It should be, in its naked form, hummable – catchy – without this, your audience will have no hope if following the thread. It is composed in two sections, and so the B part must be able to fit in harmonically, musically and rhythmically with the A section (cue: Row, Row, Row your boat to “Merrily, Merrily, etc.”). That is the basic structure.

Enter the advanced compositional techniques – the ability to layer more than 2 voices – can the fugue subject work twice as fast, twice as slow? Can the entrances be staggered rhythmically (entering only one beat or one eighth note after the previous entrance), creating a stretto (next voice enters before previous has completed the subject)? What about modulation? Or inversion – with the fugue subject occurring as a perfect mirror? All of these things must be considered simultaneously as the fugue subject is being conceived.

But, the real work of a fugue is the emotional complexity – the way that the fugue, in its most simple form, gives rise to a never-ending goulash of emotions – the fugue pushing against itself, finding darkness where there once was light, tenderness where formality once ruled. I have been reading ahead for the next Fortnightly Book Club – the Gödel, Escher, Bach book. I must admit, I am totally lost for pages at a time, but sometimes something just clicks. I was staring at one of those Escher drawings – not the staircase ones, but those long ones that start with black and white boxes that slowly turn into birds and turtles and chess boards. How do we decide if the black (A section of the fugue) matters more or less than the white sections (B section). At those moments when the bird turns into the turtle – that is the magic of the fugue. When do our hearts change? Does the character of the fugue have to remain somehow the same, or does it transform completely depending on the surroundings?

I have been having fugue dreams – last night it was like this. A person stands alone in a dark room, and slowly says the number 3 over and over again. Someone comes and stands next to him, and in the pause, says 1,2, quickly in a rhythmic triplet. They leave, and a person comes to stand on the other side of 3. They speak at the end of the word 3, saying eeeee, at the same pitch, and then get louder and go up in pitch dramatically. Then that person leaves. A third person comes, and after the 3 person speaks, the new person murmurs, lovingly, “me”. And the dream continues. How does the third person feel? Are they forever changed, or can they still feel what it was like to stand alone in a room, saying 3 over and over again?

A couple of times, in my youth, while dabbling in various illegal drugs, I experienced what I would characterize as a “Fugue State” (or “Disassociative Fugue”). This is, according to Wikipedia, “a rare psychiatric disorder characterized by reversible amnesia for personal identity, including the memories, personality, and other identifying characteristics of individuality. The state can last days, months or longer. Dissociative fugue usually involves unplanned travel or wandering, and is sometimes accompanied by the establishment of a new identity.”

It is no wonder, as I look back, that during these years, I went through a stage of calling myself by different names every few weeks (I eventually legally changed my name from Sarah Jane to Anthea), and also got my rather large tattoo on my shoulder (a hieroglyph loosely translated to “embrace life”).

And so, like all of us, I have lived the life of a fugue – my innate first statement remains intact, and yet is forever changed by the endless stream of countersubjects, inversions, and modulations which have accompanied my life journey.


*Anthea, aged 2.5, her first summer playing violin

From my piece in The Spectator today:

As the curtain opens on the second act of Don Pasquale, I hear a rustle of discomfort. Donizetti’s opera has not been seen at La Scala since 1994. Its restoration, on the orders of a new music director, sets off a critical flutter and Davide Livermore’s new production, set in the Cinecittà film studio during the 1950s dolce vita, seems designed to tweak the Roman nose of national vanity.

Italy is supposed to be a serious country these days, burying buffoonery and hedonism among the Coliseum ruins. Even Silvio Berlusconi is seen as an archaeological relic, not to be disturbed. So Riccardo Chailly’s embrace of opera buffa in his first full season as music director provokes the kind of disquiet that we might feel if Covent Garden reinstated Gilbert and Sullivan….

Read on here.


The nine candidates shortlisted for the Nestlé and Salzburg Young Conductors Award were tested on Arnold Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony, op 9.

The second piece they were allowed to choose themselves.

So long as it was one of these three pieces: Pierre Boulez Dérive 1 for 6 instruments, Paul Hindemith Chamber music for 12 solo instruments and Beat Furrer Gaspra for Ensemble.

The three finalists left standing are:

Gábor Káli (Hungary) Erina Yashima (Germany) and Sergey Akimov (Russia)

Photo: SF/Anne Zeune