The US conductor Stephen Gunzenhauser whose Dvorak symphonic cycle was a breakthrough project on the budget label, is stepping down after 40 years as music director of the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra, in Pennsylvania.

Gunzenhauser, 77, made more than 70 recordings.

From the Lebrecht Album of the Week:

Never one to leave his audience short of music, Beethoven wrote this oratorio for an 1803 Vienna concert that already consisted of his first two symphonies and his third piano concerto. Since he only finished the oratorio on the morning of the concert, rehearsals were scratchy and the musicians bad-tempered. Even at this distance of time, it is hard to tell how they made any sense of this episodic work…

Read on here.

And here.


Bar none.



We are saddened by the passing of the bass singer Spiro Malas, who died in New York last weekend.

Spiro, a stalwart of NY City Opera and the Met, was taken by Richard Bonygne and Joan Sutherland on the same Australia tour as Luciano Pavarotti. The four remained close friends, including Spiro’s wife, the City Opera mazzo Marlena Kleinman, in their party.

Marlena Malas went on to become a distinguished voice teacher; she is presently recovering from cancer.



From the civil war at the National Theatre in Prague we hear that the bumbling administration gave the conductor Jaroslav Kyzlink a massive pay rise in order to stop from joining other artists in protesting the installation of a Norwegian artistic director.

Read all about it here.

Both artists are orchestra have been wearing white ribbons night after night to protest against Hansen’s appointment.


Now the 16th Tchaikovsky Competition is over, we can take a slightly more distanced and nuanced approach. This site is sometimes criticised by Russian-based for being anti-Russian.

That’s ridiculous.

Many of our favourite living artists are Russian – Trifonov, Kissin, Igor Levit, Berezovsky, the two Petrenkos, Mullova, Margulis, Leonskaya – not to mention the immortals Slava, Oistrakh, Richter, Gilels, Nikolaevya and too many others to mention. No nation has yielded such a deep and persistent tradition of classical genius as Russia. How could any writer about music possibly be anti-Russian.

Anti-Putin is another matter.

What we saw at the 2019 Tchaikovsky Competition was the pervasive effect of Putin’s corruption on the musical process.

The competition was chaired by Putin’s henchman Valery Gergiev, a man who has championed Putin’s crimes in Crimea, Syria and beyond.

Gergiev appointed three trusted pals to chair the major sections of the competition – his swimming-mate Denis Matsuev at the cack-handed piano section’ his Verbier host Martin Engstroem at the violin jury (Engstroem hired Gergiev as his Verbier music director) and Carnegie Hall chief Clive Gillinson to preside over the cellos (Gillinson, in his former job, hored Gergiev as music director of the LSO). So it goes.

No eyebrows were raised, therefore, when the violin professor Boris Kushnir and Mikhail Kopelman, his string quartet partner, were allowed to sway the violin jury in favour of Kushnir’s pupil, the nondescript Sergei Dogadin, a young man who has won several competitions under Kushnir’s eye without managing to establish an international career.

Similarly, there were no protests when the juries were either all-male or majority-male – and none of the winners, needless to say, was a woman. That’s how power works in Putin’s Russia. The power cliques do as they please, without protest.

Russian media that once reported musical events with a measure of objectivity have been tamed or silenced. Russian musicians who try to find an independent voice are kicked out of competitions at an early stage. The Tchaikovsky Competition this year served to advance the cause of mediocrity. The famous Moscow audience was – so far as we could tell on television – comparatively subdued. Putin and his puppets are suffocating the system.

Those of us who love Russia and its music have witnessed a major episode in its decline.


From the TV composer Nick Harvey:


Paul Harvey, 79, from Sheffield, is a former member of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Bournemouth Symphony, also playing regularly in the BBC Symphony. He has composed a great deal of music for film and TV. He is ex-vicepresident of the UK clarinet and saxophone society.


The London Symphony Orchestra’s Principal Clarinet, Andrew Marriner, will play his last concert with the orchestra on Tuesday.

It will mark the end of two eras.

Andrew, 65, joined the LSO in 1977 and has been principal clarinet since 1986.

His father, Neville, played violin in the orchestra from 1939 and was principal second violin from 1954 to 1969.

Father and son together span eight decades of the LSO’s life.

Has any pair managed longer?


Here’s the ROH invitation to an all-inclusive Pride in London weekend:

Join us next month as we celebrate 50 years of Pride in London with a fun-packed family festival.

There’s something for everyone to watch, make, or do. Some highlights include:

– Make Firebird inspired head dresses with prop maker Jane Jones, or upcycle ballet shoes with artist Christine Harewood
– Watch Trouser Power, a new commission celebrating gender fluidity in opera and highlighting iconic trouser roles
– Enjoy Drag Queen Story Hour with Adam All and Apple Derrieres reading stories to children and their grown-ups
– Try on costumes from ROH productions


From my new essay in Standpoint magazine:


If you hadn’t noticed that the Philharmonia Orchestra has a new chief conductor, don’t feel too bad about it. The appointment by a disappearing London institution of yet another double-barrelled Finn is unlikely to set hearts pounding in Penge or points south, no matter how gifted the young chap might be. Santtu-Matias Rouvali his name is, and he told The Times in a PR interview that he rips the hide off woodland deer before cooking it—anything to obtain a sliver of public attention. Well, that’s pretty much all the general public are ever going to hear about him….

The last maestro to win popular acclaim died earlier this year amid fond chuckles and snobbish disparagement. André Previn never inspired the overwhelming confidence of musicians. The LSO leader John Georgiadis recalls in a new memoir, Bow to Baton, that he responded to Previn’s appointment with the declaration: “I greet this news with utter dismay!” Things got no better…

But….. Read on here.

When you’ve finished, watch the less-viewed comeback version of the immortal Mr Preview:

The elite New York college was rocked this weekend by the resignation of its dean and musical conscience, Ara Guzelimian.

Ara told colleagues in a note: ‘My decision to step down as provost and dean is a personal one, driven by a desire to explore a new chapter in my life in the performing arts after what will have been more than 13 years at Juilliard, the longest I have been with any organization. The length of my tenure is a measure of the deeply gratifying nature of my work here, collaborating closely with all of you. I will have worked with Damian for two years by June 2020, helping to make a critically important transition and leaving with the knowledge that the school is led by such an inspired and endlessly creative president. Damian has graciously asked me to serve in an advisory role during the academic year 2020-21, which I have happily accepted. We have much to do together yet, and I look forward to the coming years with great pleasure.’

His is one of a stream of departures under new Juilliard president Damian Woetzel.

The board of La Scala Milan has, as predicted, named Dominique Meyer of the Vienna State Opera as its next sovrintendente, starting at the beginning of 2020.

The present chief, Alexander Pereira, whose contract has not been renewed, will be allowed an extraordinarily long 18-month overlap, staying at the theatre until June 2021.

Meyer, who has been ousted in Vienna in an underhand political coup, said:

‘It is a great honour and the greatest possible pleasure to be able to work for the Teatro alla Scala. For many years I have felt connected to this house, which I love and admire. After wonderful years in Vienna, Paris and Lausanne, I am overjoyed to be able to start a new adventure in Milan – Italy has always held a special place in my heart!

‘I already know many people at La Scala and look forward to meeting the rest of the Scala family and the Milanese opera lovers soon. I will do everything it takes to start shaping the artistic future of this great opera house efficiently, smoothly and with respect for the house and Alexander Pereira.

Dominique Meyer