The Concertgebouw will mark the 2020 centenary of Willem Mengelberg’s 1920 inaugural Mahler cycle with a Mahler fest.

Six orchestras have been named. Four have historic links to Mahler – the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna, New York Philharmonic and the Concertgebouw Orchestra itself.

The other two are Ivan Fischer’s Budapest Festival Orchestra (Mahler was music director of the Budapest Opera) and the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra, a modern construct.

This festival means, more or less, that the C’bouw will need an experienced Mahlerian as its next music director.


Deutsche Bahn has announced a plan to play atonal music at the Hermannstrasse station in order to deter drug users from congregating there.

No repertoire has yet been chosen.

A newspaper report says atonality ‘completely undermines traditional listening habits.’

Should we offer them a playlist?

Any more favourites?

The Philadelphia Orchestra has signed a pair of flute players for the new season, starting next mon th.

Patrick Williams, associate principal flute, has been principal flute of the Louisiana Philharmonic and co-principal of the Hyogo Performing Arts Center Orchestra in Nishinomiya, Japan.

Olivia Staton is a recent graduate of the Juilliard School, where she studied with Philly principal Jeffrey Khaner.


From the Vienna-based Russian soprano, Ksenia Skorokhodova:

We are directed to everyone who loves music and wants to be part of a very special artistic career with their support.

Since today, our crowdfunding campaign for the production of professional of video -/ audio on startnext is online.

I’m looking forward to your support. As a reward for support, we offer many rewards, such as an invitation to the recording session, a personalized happy birthday recording or a egyptologist.

Or perhaps a KGB double.

From my morning inbox:

Melanie Stoutzker and the Trustees of Sistema England warmly invite you to join them for the Sistema Europe Youth Orchestra 2018 (SEYO18) concert and reception at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall on 26 August 2018, celebrating the power of music to unite nations and of youth aspiration through adversity.  

This August, Sistema Europe Youth Orchestra 2018 brings together 200 young musicians from 16 countries in Europe for a vital cultural gathering, including young musicians from music for social action projects in England: The Nucleo Project, In Harmony Lambeth, Liverpool, Newcastle and Telford. 

Sometimes one is stupefied by the willing myopia of classical music administrators. The recent history of Venezuela has shown El sistema to be an instrument of a terror regime in Venezuela that is reducing many citizens to the choice of starvation or emigration.

Yet useful idiots in western democracies continue to pretend that El sistema is politically neutral, untouched by politics and of overwhelming (if unproven) benefit to mankind.

This has to stop.


Yesterday the Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero issued the following challenge to Sir Simon Rattle after he continued to defend el Sistema and its premier star, Gustavo Dudamel:

For many years, the Chavez regime has appropriated El Sistema – not merely symbolically, but under a formal Ministry of the regime – as its primary propaganda tool abroad. It has paid hundreds of millions of petro-dollars for this laundering privilege, using an impenetrable “salvation narrative” as its most effective detergent.

Some, not many, refused to be part of the charade. They refused the sort of offers that Abreu – famous for asserting that “everyone has a price” – made to me in person, as long ago as 2004: “Enough money to take care of you for a lifetime, mi querida.” They refused to collaborate with the architects of our nation’s destruction. Some, not many, are not for sale.

Now that the nation has collapsed, those same collaborators are now reinventing themselves as victims, often with the help of loyal journalists and colleagues.

But Gustavo Dudamel is not a victim, Sir Simon, and it is preposterously insulting to the true victims of this crisis to claim otherwise.

Nor, at 35, is he a child that should be wrapped in cotton wool. He is a free, moral agent, whose moral choices are subject to the same public scrutiny as anyone else in a position of power. He “endures” nothing. He is a beneficiary. He is a multi-millionaire beneficiary, in fact, who willingly enjoyed the private-jet lifestyle created for him by Chavez, Abreu and Maduro. He willingly partied and dined for years with the monsters who have destroyed my country. He willingly befriended the cast of a mafia that now controls a narco-state of starving, fleeing, dying, murdered, tortured, deprived citizen victims. He is no victim….

Your final paragraph, Sir Simon, demonstrates – unwittingly, perhaps, but efficiently nonetheless – the mafia structure you have been dealing with all these years:

“The last time we were there, my family and I were robbed of everything in the room. Abreu told me not to worry because he would call number two to solve it. The next day everything appeared in its place. Nothing was missing. What kind of threats would number two throw at the hotel staff to make it so? It was Maduro. Today number two applies that method of terror throughout the country.”

You were robbed. You called Abreu, who called “Number 2”, and your property was immediately returned. You intended to demonstrate that Venezuela TODAY is governed by a brute, and that somehow Dudamel is a victim of that brutality. What, in fact, you illustrated is that he has willingly served a mafia system for years and years, and that Abreu was so powerfully connected to it that he could resolve your problems with a single call to “number 2”. This is the stuff of mafia novels.

Venezuelans know this. They have refused to listen to the “salvation narrative” for years now. In Venezuela, they have a saying: “No se puede estar bien con Dios y con el Diablo” (“you can’t serve God and the Devil at the same time”).

Fifty years ago today we awoke the the news that Soviet-led Warsaw Pact forces had marched into Czechoslovakia overnight, toppling the Prague Spring government of Alexander Dubcek and reimposing Kremlin terror.

It was a sickening blow to those of us who believed in a gentler road to coexistence.

Many Czech and Slovak friends escaped in the following weeks. Others went silent for years.

Much of the new music that welled up in the six months of freedom was suppressed. A Soviet orchestra was barracked at the BBC Proms. Slava Rostropovich, who played the Dvorak concerto, was in tears.

Everybody lost something that day.

In a 2011 Lebrecht Interview with Dame Janet Baker, I warned colleagues that I was going to refer to her as ‘Dame Granite’ – her whispered nickname among awestruck singers who never saw her shocked or rattled.

‘You won’t dare,’ said the BBC producer.

So I did, and Janet simply shook with laughter. It was an icebreaker that enabled her to explore areas of her formative years that she had never spoken about before.

The Dame turns 85 today, wonderful and indomitable as ever.


The interview is (apparently) still available for download here.

One of these days I’ll put the whole series on Youtube.