Jean Bowen Bloch, influential chief of the Music Division of New York Public Library, died at her home in Washington, DC, this weekend at the age of 92. At the New York Public Library she was head of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound, Chief of the Music Division, and finally Director of the Central Research Library at Fifth Ave. and 42nd St.


Awful news from San Antonio.

Mark Richter, former artistic director of Alamo City Opera, has died. His death has been confirmed by music director Kristin Roach.

More here. 


Grange Park Opera’s 2020 season, announced today, will include the world première of The Life & Death of Alexander Litvinenko – by composer Anthony Bolton, to a libretto by Kit Hesketh-Harvey.

Other works in the season are La Gioconda, La Bohème and Meet Me in St Louis.


The Life & Death of Alexander Litvinenko
A world premiere by composer Anthony Bolton
Libretto by Kit Hesketh-Harvey
16 & 18 July 2020
Exiled and living in London, former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko learns that his former colleagues are using his face for target practice. Litvinenko had publicly accused his FSB superiors of extensive corruption and refused orders to assassinate, Boris Berezovsky. A law is passed that allows Russian traitors to be killed anywhere in the world; a few months later – in November 2006 – Litvinenko is poisoned with radioactive polonium-210 and dies.


Consultant Drew McManus, in an analysis of the strike settlement, reckons that the musicians got none of what they struck for – neither pay parity with LA and San Fran, nor an unchanged pension deal.

While the musicians have been painting this settlement as a win in their press statements, the actual terms don’t support that position, he concludes.

Read the full analysis here.


So what will the new chief bring? All has just been revealed in Berlin.

There’s a lot of Beethoven, including a prison spell.

Focus on Josef Suk and Edgar Varèse. Now that’s unexpected.

Puccini’s Suor Angelica.

And a boutique mini-season for Emmanuelle Haim.

Interesting, though far from revolutionary.

Read press release below.


The 2019/2020 Season of the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation with the New Chief Conductor Kirill Petrenko

The opening of the 2019/2020 season marks the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the Berliner Philharmoniker: Kirill Petrenko begins his tenure as the orchestra’s seventh chief conductor. The traditional opening concert of the season at the Philharmonie on 23 August and the open-air concert at the Brandenburg Gate the following evening, part of the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, are the starting point for many collaborative projects whose energy will spread far beyond the city. The focus will be the concerts in Berlin, which will be supplemented by three tours with Kirill Petrenko: the festival tour at the beginning of the season, a German tour in February and, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, the European Concert in Tel Aviv, followed by a European tour.

“Seid umschlungen” – Ludwig van Beethoven’s 250th Birthday

Naturally, the Berliner Philharmoniker will also congratulate Ludwig van Beethoven on the 250th anniversary of his birth. Three of his major works – the Missa solemnis, the Ninth Symphony and his only opera, Fidelio – are reserved for the chief conductor. Kirill Petrenko will conduct these works, which are so typical of Beethoven, both in Berlin and on tour. Sir Simon Rattle returns to the Philharmonie for the rarely performed oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives. This programmatic focus will culminate with a Beethoven marathon on 25/26 April, during which all the composer’s string quartets and other chamber music works will be presented by musicians from the Berliner Philharmoniker over a two-day period. The quartets can also be heard beforehand during the Easter Festival in Baden-Baden, spread over ten days in the chamber music series, Master Concerts. In addition, Ludwig van Beethoven’s birthday will also be celebrated in the jazz series and the Philharmonic discussion series Discourse. The Education Programme will devote itself to Beethoven with a Fidelio project at Tegel Prison.

Featured Composers

“His music was one of the greatest discoveries of the past few years for me,” says Kirill Petrenko about Josef Suk in his preface to the season preview. The Berliner Philharmoniker will focus on the composer both in symphonic repertoire – conducted by their chief conductor – and chamber music. Continuing the orchestra’s long Mahler tradition, Kirill Petrenko will interpret the composer’s Fourth and Sixth Symphonies. Another emphasis will be Edgard Varèse – a sound experimenter who defies categorization. The majority of his works for orchestra will be heard during the coming season.

Marlis Petersen as Artist in Residence

Soprano Marlis Petersen will serve as Artist in Residence this season – an exceptional singer who has cultivated a close musical friendship with Kirill Petrenko for many years. During this season concertgoers will have the opportunity to experience her from very different artistic perspectives. Marlis Petersen will appear as the soloist in Alban Berg’s Lulu Suite at the opening concert of the season, make her debut in the role of Leonore in Fidelio at the Easter Festival in Baden-Baden and give a song recital entitled “Anderswelt” (Otherworld). “The residency with the Berliner Philharmoniker is a great honour for me,” says Marlis Petersen. “At the same time it is a musical thank you from Kirill Petrenko for our previous work together. I’m very touched by that.”

Education Project with Kirill Petrenko

The Education Programme of the Berliner Philharmoniker will continue to be an important part of the orchestra’s concert calendar. This work also means a great deal to Kirill Petrenko. For his first Education project he has chosen the opera Suor Angelica by Giacomo Puccini, which he will present together with the scholars of the Karajan Academy, vocal soloists and students from Berlin’s music academies and members of our children’s choral project “Vocal Heroes” at the beginning of February.

Orchestra Members as Soloists

In addition to chamber music, another component is part of the DNA of the Berliner Philharmoniker. During the coming season, members of the orchestra will appear as soloists on seven concert programmes, for example, first principal violist Amihai Grosz and first principal cellist Ludwig Quandt, who will be heard as soloists in Richard Strauss’s Don Quixote during the two-week Japanese tour in November conducted by Zubin Mehta, who is an honorary member of the Berliner Philharmoniker.

Short Festivals

Listeners can enjoy unusual programming next season in the form of short festivals. For example, the cultural bond with Israel will be highlighted: in addition to a guest appearance by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under Zubin Mehta during the Musikfest Berlin in September, the short festival “Tel Aviv– Berlin” will take place on 14/15 March. The Philharmonie will be energized for a weekend on 7/8 February with an electronic music festival entitled “Strom” (Electricity). The project will be organized by Stefan Goldmann.

World and German Premieres

Five world premieres, with compositions by Hans Abrahamsen, Peter Eötvös, Donghoon Shin, Toshio Hosokawa and Rachel Laurin, as well as two German premieres – Danny Elfman’s Piano Quartet and Peter Eötvös’s Alhambra – are on the programme for the coming season. Details on dates and performers can be found in the attachment “Information on the 2019/2020 Season”, in our season preview and on our website.

New and Familiar Guests

Santtu-Matias Rouvali (20/21/22 September) and Teodor Currentzis (29/30 November) will make their debuts conducting the Berliner Philharmoniker. In addition to the long-time partners mentioned above,  former chief conductor Sir Simon Rattle and Zubin Mehta, many other regular guests will return to the orchestra: Emmanuelle Haïm, Peter Eötvös, Daniel Harding, Paavo Järvi, Christian Thielemann, Mikko Franck, Adam Fischer, Iván Fischer, Jakub Hrůša, Herbert Blomstedt, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Tugan Sokhiev, Mariss Jansons, François-Xavier Roth and Gustavo Dudamel. The latter two will each present a Late Night concert in addition to their symphonic concerts, and Gustavo Dudamel will also conduct the concert in the Waldbühne.

The Berliner Philharmoniker have again invited two youth orchestras to perform as guests: the Bundesjugendorchester (National Youth Orchestra of Germany), which is supported by the Berliner Philharmoniker, conducted by Christoph Altstaedt, and the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie (Young German Philharmonic Orchestra) under Sylvain Cambreling. The Chamber Orchestra of Europe (6 October and 25 May), the Mahler Chamber Orchestra (15 December), the Venice Baroque Orchestra (3 December) and the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin (9 March) will appear as part of the series International Chamber Orchestras.

Karajan Academy

Since 1972 the foundations for many orchestral careers – both with the Berliner Philharmoniker and with numerous other leading orchestras – have been laid in the Karajan Academy. During the coming season, the members of the Karajan Academy will again work with renowned conductors: in addition to Susanna Mälkki, Ariane Matiakh and Zoi Tsokanou, Reinhard Goebel, Cornelius Meister and Kirill Petrenko will conduct the Academy scholars. Two works will also be premiered during a concert conducted by Peter Eötvös.

Distinctive Concerts with Special Formats

In addition to her orchestral concerts, Emanuelle Haïm will also appear in the series Original Sound, both as conductor with her own ensemble, Le Concert d’Astrée (27 November), and as harpsichordist with members of the Berliner Philharmoniker (20 October). Another noteworthy concert in this series will be presented on 27 October: conducted by Raimar Orlovsky and moderated by Reinhard Goebel, Concerto Melante will perform on instruments made by Jacob Stainer, whose 400th birthday will also be celebrated the following day with a symposium at the Museum of Musical Instruments.

The jazz series organized by Siggi Loch explores jazz from a variety of national perspectives, for example, with the Scandinavian Nordic Guitar Night on 24 September and a pan-American programme entitled Americana on 8 May.

The organ series opens on 13 October with a concert in memory of Jean Guillou, who died this year. His student Jean-Baptiste Monnot will improvise music for Sergei Eisenstein’s silent film classic Battleship Potemkin on the Schuke organ in the Philharmonie.

Marianne Birthler, Kevin Kühnert and Theo Koll will examine the theme “30th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall” on 13 November in the discussion series Philharmonic Discourse. Musicians from the Karajan Academy will also perform.

Partnerships – 30 Years of Cooperation with the Deutsche Bank

Many of the projects mentioned above would not be possible without supportive partners, first and foremost the Deutsche Bank, which has supported the Berliner Philharmoniker for 30 years, with particular emphasis on the Education Programme since 2002. We are grateful that our shared goal of  making music accessible to as many people as possible has united us for so many years, and we look forward to continued collaboration.

We would also like to thank the state of Berlin and the Federal Government, which – with a self- financing share of 59.1% – provide the financial basis for our work.

Private sponsorship has also helped us for 50 years. The Friends of the Berliner Philharmoniker assist us in various ways, including enabling us to purchase instruments and regularly supporting special projects. We are grateful for this long-time support.

The rbb’s Kulturradio, Deutschlandfunk Kultur, ARTE and EuroArts are our media partners, with whom we have collaborated successfully for many years.

Finally, we would like to call attention to the advance ticket sale dates for the new season. Advance sales for the concerts from 23 August through 21 December 2019 begin on 26 May 2019. Tickets for the concerts from 29 December 2019 through 13 June 2020, including the concert in the Waldbühne, may be purchased beginning 3 November 2019.


From Varsity today:

Dr Geoffrey Webber has resigned as Fellow, Precentor, and Director of Studies in Music at Gonville & Caius College following inappropriate behaviour toward a student of the College.

Webber has held the post since 1989. He has been erased from college websites. All sides have taken a vow of silence.

As in medieval times.

His record sleeve biography:
Geoffrey Webber began his musical education as a chorister at Salisbury Cathedral, and after being Music Scholar at The King’s School, Worcester he was elected to an Organ Scholarship at New College, Oxford, in 1977. At Oxford his academic tutors and organ teachers included Edward Higginbottom, John Caldwell, James Dalton, Nicholas Danby and Gillian Weir. After graduating with a First he remained in Oxford to pursue research into German church music of the seventeenth century, combining this with activities as an organist and conductor. He served as Acting Organist at both New College and Magdalen College, and was appointed as Assisting Organist at Magdalen College in 1982 and University Organist and Director of Music at the University Church in 1984. During this time he also became Director of the Edington Festival, a festival of music within the liturgy at Edington, Wiltshire. After completing his doctorate in 1989 he was appointed Precentor and Director of Music at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, and he now also serves as an Affiliated Lecturer in the Faculty of Music, dividing his time between conducting, organ playing, lecturing, teaching, editing and research projects. He is a committee member for the Royal College of Organists and the Church Music Society, and his publications include North German Church Music in the Age of Buxtehude (OUP, 1996), and as co-editor, the Cambridge Companion to the Organ (CUP, 1998), and The Restoration Anthem (CMS/OUP, 2003-).

Dumitru Pocitari, a member of the first violins, won the audition for concertmaster today at the Israel Philharmonic.

He will alternate with David Radzynski and Ilya Konovalov.

l-r: Manfred Honeck, Radzynski, Pocitari


Some desperate young PR team worked several pairs of socks off on getting this report into a weekend slot and it would be terrible if no-one ever got to hear of it because ‘people like us’ don’t watch Murdoch.

Watch/read here.

Warning: You may not have heard of anyone in this report, apart from Bach and Chi-chi.

Roderick Deakin-White, 37, a freelance graphic designer at the Royal Opera House, has been charged with the murder of his Australian partner, Amy Parsons. Ms Parsons, 35, was found dead on Friday t their Whitechapel flat.

Krzysztof Chorzelski of the Belcea Quartet:

Andy Mason raised £2,000 for Music in Hospitals.

Who else?

UPDATE: From Faber Music: Good luck to two Faber composers who will be running the London Marathon today. Anne Boyd has flown over from Australia to compete at the tender age of 73!! And Vikki Stone will be trying to break the Guinness World Record for a female runner dressed in a dog costume – she will be running for the Dogs Trust.


Leon Bosch, former principal double-bass of St-Martin-in-the-Fields.

Robert Simmons, violinist in Royal Ballet Sinfonia (Birmingham Royal Ballet) and Estilo String Quartet, raised nearly £2800 for Mind Charity. He finished in 3 hours 40 and 53 seconds.


Colleagues and students report the passing of Alejandro Planchart, a world authority on medieval music and a prolific contributor to Grove.

Caracas born, he taught first at Yale, then at the University of California, Santa Barbara, conducting numerous recordings of early music.

He died at Santa Barbara on April 28.



Of all the if-onlys, mine is the time-traveller’s wish to have heard Gustav Mahler conduct Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations, as he did with the New York Philharmonic in November-December 1910.

Failing that, the next best things on record are Elgar’s own performance with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1926 and Arturo Toscanini’s with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1935.

For reasons too numerous to list in this post, I am not a huge admirer of Toscanini’s handling of introspective late-romantic works and the BBC recording bears out many of my reservations.

But I may have to change my mind. Somm Recordings have come across an unblemished Toscanini broadcast of the Enigma in November 1949 with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. While hard-driven at times, it comes over as one of the most reflective interpretations you could wish to hear – more controlled than the composer, who could be a tad indulgent, and more emotional than other stiff British upper-lips. This is a staggering performance with an orchestra of virtuosos and a passion for the music that shines through at every bar.

photo: Bob Pembleton

And there’s more on the album – a sensational performance of the Elgar cello concerto by Gregor Piatigorsky and the NY Philharmonic and Artur Rodzinski’s unreleased account of Falstaff. It seems Elgar used to be big news in New York.

Sample here.