Best and worst music news of 2019

Best and worst music news of 2019


norman lebrecht

December 26, 2019


1 The Mieczyslaw Weinberg revival

2 Met sees full houses for Porgy and Bess, Akhnaten

3 Lincoln Center gets a rebuild

4 Israel Phil has new baton

5 Sydney makes a good call

6 Women in podium surge

7 Birmingham goes centennial

8 Lang Lang got married

9 Martha’s still playing a blinder

10 Streaming is finally taking shape


1 Brexit

2 Mariss dies

3 Domingo splits the music world

4 Dutoit is rehabilitated

5 Concertgebouw in limbo

6 No jobs for minority conductors

7 Paris Opéra is crippled by cancellations and strike

8 Two maestros got divorced

9 ENO takes a nosedive

10 The LP is back


  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    The return of LP is indeed a curious phenomenon. The CD remains the best medium for recorded music. I would still prefer LPs to music streaming & downloading though.

    • Karl says:

      CDs lack warmth in sound. It’s not as apparent in classical music, but in popular music it is obvious.

      • Leopold says:

        That is absolute nonsense. I wonder why and when this irrational belief started. Maybe because CDs have a shiny surface or are harder to bend? And most of the time it is uttered by people who are not listening to music, but who are alway „testing their equipment“. Of course by listening to Pop/Rock-garbage.

        • Alex says:

          It’s an Analogue versus Digital technology that is the issue.

        • Karl says:

          You snob! Rock is not garbage. Have you listened to an LP and CD of the same recording? I have. I used to run a cafe that had a jukebox with CDs and 45 rpm records. Sometimes I would have the same recording on both media. The difference was very obvious in pop/rock music like The Doors or Beatles. I can’t tell much with classical between my LPs and CDs. It’s really great to not have surface noise on the CD though. That makes CD ideal for classical music.

    • Bill says:

      LP’s are superior
      if you have a piece of vinyl in perfect condition that was pressed and mastered properly and the listener has exactly the correct, expensive equipment to play it back.

      The CD is the best delivery medium for most people who don’t have the money or the patience to deal with a rarified hobby like LP listening.

      • Karl says:

        I remember how hard it was to get a well pressed LP. And keeping them scratch free was hard. Too bad they can’t make LPs out of titanium or zirconium oxide so they wouldn’t scratch.

      • BrianB says:

        I still play my lps, hundreds, as well as CDs. Heck, I still buy them at library sales or eBay.

        • Karl says:

          CDs are so cheap now. They even have free bins in some stores. I got an incredible recording of Bruckner’s 5th last month.

  • Nick2 says:

    Well, we’ll all have our own ideas, but surely Lang Lang getting married is hardly anyone’s idea of what was best in 2019, just as 2 maestros getting divorced has absolutely nothing to do with the worst!

    What about the superb career ending concerts of Haitink? Or the emergence of a new, younger generation of artists like Eric Lu and Sheku Kanneh-Mason?

  • Mick the Knife says:

    Totally Eurocentric if you don’t include the Good (Toronto, Cleveland), the Bad (Chicago) and the Ugly (Baltimore) as far as orchestra finances.

  • brian says:

    The lp never should have been away.

  • Accompanist20000 says:

    “6. No jobs for minority conductors”

    So, Norman, should the orchestra world hand in jobs to any woman and minority conductor? Nevermind talent, knowledge, and experience!
    Hey, I’ve got fresh news for you Norman: it is tough out there FOR EVERYONE. I hold a Bachelor from a well known german Musikhochschule, a Master’s degree from an important London Conservatoire and a doctoral program from one of the top USA music schools… I haven’t been able to start a conducting career, and work as accompanist in an opera house. It is difficult and not only for women and minority. Actually it is easier now for women… in the house where I work we get many female assistants who are really under-qualified for the job, but they are women and that is what matter now. So please..

  • The View from America says:

    #10 worst music news: “The LP is back.”


  • Eyal Braun says:

    Last night I heard two of the “best”.
    Lahav Shani conducted the IPO in Haifa. Martha was the soloist.
    Magnificent concert.

  • George B says:

    You missed no.11 off the worst list: Journalists banging on about Yuja Wang’s dress sense with a disproportionate amount of articles than necessary written on the subject. Can’t think of which journalist this might pertain to though…? Really escapes me…

    • Piaofortissimo says:

      The amount of articles and comments about Yuja Wang’s dresses are perfectly proportionated – an exponential inverse proportion of quantities.

      • Karin Becker says:

        Karin B.
        “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
        And very small minds discuss randy dresses.

        • Pianofortissimo says:

          You are absolutely wrong in this point. You surely don’t know what is being discussed in SD when the focus is on Yuja Wang: her dresses are not small, they are rather the idea, the essence itself, of a dress. Yuja works out the question of the sense of being dressed and to do so concretely. Of course, the meaning of being dressed in a way or another is that it can only be a dress for whom the question of being dressed is important. And don’t forget that the existential and ontological constitution of dressing, the sum of all aspects in the essence of it, is grounded in temporality – sometimes people are dressed, sometimes not. Yuja’s ontological dresses point to a new all-time-high in the epistemology of dressing, not to talk of her exceptional piano technique, which is the main interest of SD’s readers.

          • Peter Phillips says:


          • 18mebrumaire says:

            Brilliant, model deconstruction. Should be required reading for all 1st year undergraduates. More please!

          • George B says:

            Sounds like an awful lot of mental gymnastics to justify over-analysis of someone’s dress sense which seems to have a far more simple and unacademic explanation probably involving a man’s own sensibilities towards women and the impulses he subjectively feels when they dress a certain way (prompting him to inflict the rest of us with a topic most of us see as of little importance and also a little bit un21th century).

            I find it laughable to believe you are honestly defending the academic integrity of this topic when Norman has written such inciteful and academic articles such as ‘It just got shorter’ and ‘NOW YUJA WANG COMES OUT IN HER UNDIES’.

  • Axl says:

    Why the principal horn and trumpet appointments (Cleveland, Concertgebouw and Chicago) isn’t in best news category?
    When many years searching prosess are ending – it’s always best news

    • ilio says:

      As fine as Batallan and Cooper are, it took way too long. I think it was an insult to Gingrich to give him an honorary principal title. They should have given him the job. The late Thomas Stevens said filling positions take way too long these days.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Add to best:

    – BPO has a new music director: Kirill Petrenko

    – Gimme Some of That Ol’ Atonal Music by Merle Hazard.


    – Biased coverage on Lang Lang, Yuja Wang, Peter Gelb, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, female conductors in general…

    • Appleby says:

      Tell us more about the “biased” coverage of Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla. Please illustrate with references to live performances by her that you have attended in 2019.

      • Petros Linardos says:

        This is unrelated to my personal opinion of Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla or Lang Lang, Yuja Wang, Peter Gelb. I don’t even have personal opinions for all of them.

        In general, the above people get a lot of coverage in this blog, mostly very positive or very negative. Judging from other people’s comments, I believe I am not alone in thinking so.

  • Karl says:

    Domingo didn’t split the music world. The AP split the music world with a fabricated sexual harassment story.

    • Karl says:

      There – I just up-voted myself to make it an even 10-10 split. We really are split – but not because of Domingo. It’s because of the AP and the mouthfoaming mob of mindless metoo morons.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      You are right Karl, Domingo hasn’t split the music world because it is only a few blowhards who choose to defend him. His career is over in the US; he has been booted out of Japan; and he is unlikely to continue to be invited in most of Western Europe.

  • Nijinsky says:

    And Whitney Houston is still dead

    Or is she?

    Amy Winehouse too

    And Jesus

    Anyhow, that makes 13 on the worst music news list.

  • Gustavo says:


    11. John Williams to conduct Vienna Phil in 2020.


    11. There will be no Star Wars 10 score by John Williams.

  • I’am not agree with you. The Concertgebouw is not in “limbo”. All the leaders of the orchestra stay in Amsterdam. The Brexit has to be done. The real bad news its Mariss…

    • Gustavo says:

      “The Brexit has to be done.”

      Seems like you sort of guys have been completely brain-washed by the right-wing populists.


  • Pedro says:

    Worst: The retirement of Bernard Haitink and Radu Lupu.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      I see Haitink’s retirement as bittersweet. He’s had a very long and distinguished career, and is stepping down gracefully at 93. He can look forward to a richly earned peaceful retirement, hopefully not unlike that of Kurt Sanderling, whom I believe Haitink admired.

      • Willi Philips says:

        I look at his retirement as a relief. He is (still) a literate, educated, consummate musician, well written, a fine teacher for the younger generation, but he failed consistently to yield performances that incandesced or even inspired. Just the notes, in proper perspective, is not enough. While an interpretation does not require a wild stamp of originality, it does require more than a didactic romp through the score. We obtained that once from Haitink—his late ’70s Also Sprach Zarathustra cut through the bombast and grossness of the work. But mainstream repertory such as Beethoven, Mahler and Bruckner? He’s not even on a shortlist of memorable interpretations, and he was way over-recorded much as with Karajan and Ormandy. Still, I feel he was a vital force that did much good for others in the field, but for the listening audience: not much.

      • Petros Linardos says:

        Oops, Haitink is 90.

        Blomsted will be 93 next summer, and is going strong.

      • Haitink, born 4 March 1929, is 90, not 93.

    • BrianB says:

      My hunch is we have not heard the last of Maestro Haitink. I expect he will step in somewhere or other in 2020.

  • Gustavo says:


    12. Peter Schreier dies.

  • Opera tourist says:

    How can ENO take a nosedive when it is already at the bottom and has been there for some years?

  • ilio says:

    LP’s never went away.

  • Saxon Broken says:


    In case you haven’t noticed, Brexit hasn’t yet happened. We are still making our contribution to the EU budget; and subject to the rules of the EU, and the European Court of Justice (which enforces those rules).

    I suspect we will in exactly the same situation at the end of next year.

  • 6 Women in podium surge

    Women are being appointed to high and mid-level orchestras all over the world at an astounding rate. Is this because, now that all prejudice has been thrown aside, these women are finally being acknowledged as a shining new army of geniuses?
    I would not be surprised if, in 20 years, most high and mid-level posts were held by women, but it will have little to do with their genius at the podium.
    It’s the fashion.
    Don’t misunderstand—it’s way past time that the real prejudices were cast away! But it’s the fashion. Orchestras, most of which are in poor health, need stay ‘relevant.’ They need to be cool.
    So this means some better men are currently being passed over for jobs because they have penises; and some jobs are going to women who are less worthy simply because, well… you know.
    The consequence is that musicianship will suffer, because other concerns are displacing musical concerns. This is not to say that ‘great’ women conductors cannot emerge, it’s just that it isn’t being done in a way that won’t cast doubt and suspicion.
    A great leveling-out is occurring; one conductor is becoming pretty much like another as the schools churn them out by the hundreds—generals without armies. Their authority has diminished much further from the conductors of the past, most of whom were not tyrants, and there may be few if any new ‘legendary’ conductors that will rise up to the demi-god status of the old days.
    This all bodes poorly for the future of the orchestra, and for recordings. Conductors of status ‘get asses in the seats,’ as they like to say. The Bad Old Days were bad in many ways, but there were heroes minted back then, living legends ramrodding orchestras into performances of mythical status. These days? Not so much…

  • Anom says:

    What about the full houses at ENO for Porgy and Akhnaten?