Since so many of you fell about over Dudley Moore’s Beethoven variations, here’s his take-off on Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears.

Followed by a pre-Cabaret take on Brecht-Weill.

There is no cogent reason, other than tradition and musicians’ convenience, that concerts start at 7.30 or 8 pm.

Over time, patterns of life have changed but the habit has not.

Now, with socialising and the possibility of refreshments likely to be restricted for a long time to come, we need to consider what’s the best time to start a concert.

Has the audience ever been asked?

Many, in my experience, would prefer 6.30, straight out of work.

The older generation, generally retired, would like to go even earlier.

Before concerts resume, it would be a good idea to conduct a survey of what concertgoers actually want in order that orchestras can go back on stage confdent that they are addressing the maximum number at the optimum time.

Music needs to find a different place in people’s lives. Yet very few organisations, so far, are embracing radical change.

Previous posts in this series here, here and here.


Nothing beats Satie.

There are plenty of poor chillers out there. This is one of the coolest.

This ain’t bad, either.

The Boston Symphony is going ahead in a couple of hours with its new-season launch.

It will be remembered most for this preamble:


The Boston Symphony Orchestra acknowledges the ongoing uncertainty around the COVID-19 health crisis and the lack of clarity regarding the duration of the pandemic. Though the BSO is announcing its usual full complement of performances for its 2020-21 Symphony Hall season and hopes the season will proceed without interruption, the organization is prepared to respond to all recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the City of Boston, should circumstances necessitate changes to its performance schedule or to its current health and safety policies. Should the BSO need to cancel or change elements of the season as outlined in this press release, the organization will communicate about those changes in a timely manner with all its patrons and the greater music community. In addition, ticket holders will be notified about options for ticket donations, exchanges, or refunds. The Boston Symphony Orchestra will always hold the health and well-being of its audience, musicians, staff, guest artists, and the entire BSO community as the highest priority in its decision-making regarding the organization’s performance and event schedule.


An occasional diary from Anthea Kreston

For a while, I woke up every 45 minutes, checking the news, checking on the children and husband, organizing the pantry. Beans in one state or the other – soaking, boiling, burning, scraping off dishes. Naps during the day – some days so proud of myself – schoolwork completed, showers, fruit and ice cream. Happy children. Other days – the days when Jason and one of our girls were sick, the hallway blocked to stop the other daughter – delivering the food, taking the temperature, waiting on the health hotline for 4 hours. Tests came back inconclusive – they were basically unresponsive for 4 days – how am I supposed to create a normal life for the other child while I am desperate with worry over half of my family – I didn’t tell my friends or family – didn’t want to add to their worry – and I felt terribly alone and sick myself from uncertainty and lack of sleep. All is well, luckily. I can’t keep my mind on one thought for more than a fleeting moment. My friend just died of cancer. I planted tomatoes yesterday. I haven’t practiced in 6 weeks. Costco just delivered the groceries – I will spray them down and put them in the shed for 3 days. My daughter’s Country Report is due today and I just realized she has to make a Citations page.

I am one of the lucky ones. Jason and I have a huge studio of students, all online, and we have been teaching that way for years, so it wasn’t much of a transition for us. Our house is incredible – cosy, funky, with a garden that never stops its magic. We are healthy. Our families are healthy. I like beans. My family doesn’t hate beans that much.

My old friends and colleagues have been reaching out – and I have been guest teaching a bunch of studio classes for them online – it’s fun to see the Hollywood Squares of violinists, in their natural environments, cats streaming across the back, some students clearly in their PJ’s. Who cares? I mean, we are all in a state of disbelief. My old friends, in their squares – my daughter coming in with her white board which says “Where is the Peenut Butter?” – and a student playing the Bruch Violin Concerto from Texas. This is normal now. My lucky normal.

After she is done, I ask everyone to get a pencil and paper – they disappear, rummage, return. She plays that opening again – what a way to begin a concerto – what kind of state was Bruch in when he wrote this? We all write down words of how we feel when we hear those first bars. And we share.



She tried it again, faced away from us, eyes closed. And again. And again. Each time, she digs deeper. It’s not about the violin. It’s not about you playing the violin, or notes, or intonation or your vibrato or your bow distribution. It’s about you, as a human. If you feel it, we can feel it together. Separated by distance – we will never meet each other in our entire lives. But we can meet in our hearts. The sound waves, even through my crappy speakers – these go into my chest and resonate. Sad. Lonely. Anxious. Lost. Desire. Timeless. Waiting…….

I ask how many of these feelings they are feeling right now, living under Covid-19. How did Bruch know? Music is a gift to us, unlike any other time in my life. It will nourish, it will distract, it will allow pain and comfort to fully inhabit – it is private – and something we can share, in whichever creative way you are starting to share. It’s our way of processing and our line out of this. It’s our magical, mysterious, intangible gift. We are the lucky ones.


The harpsichordist Elizabeth de la Porte has died aged 78.

Born in Johannesburg in 1941, she studied at the Vienna Academy and the Royal College of Music and was one of the first wave of concert harpsichordists in the 1970s, giving recitals in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the UK.

Her particular affinities for JS Bach and Couperin were widely praise. John Duarte wrote of her 1976 Bach recording for Saga: ‘she plays as a good orator speaks… she carries you in one sweep from beginning to end.’

Elizabeth de la Porte held posts at Morley College and at the Royal College of Music Junior Department – the latter for 55 years.

She married Dr Paul Dawson-Bowling in 1966 and had three children.

From a Guardian report from Berlin:

…Lothar Wieler, the head of the German government’s disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute, specifically warned on Tuesday that singing was ill-advised. “Evidence shows that during singing, the virus drops appear to fly particularly far,” he said.

Virologists also believe singers could absorb many more particles as they tend to breathe deeper into their diaphragms than they would during normal breathing.

A draft bans both communal singing and wind instruments from services over the “amplified precipitation of potentially infectious drops” …

Read on here.


Boutique agency Primo Artists has taken on the North and South America representation of James Gaffigan, chief conductor of the Luzerner Sinfonieorchester.

Gaffigan, 40, is a Yank, but you wouldn’t know it from how little he’s been seen in the States.

That should change now.

We hear that Alexander Buhr, former danaging director of Decca Classical, has joined Sony Classical as head of A&R based in Berlin.

Alex, when I last spoke to him was planning to stay in London, but this may have been an offer he could not refuse.

He was ousted at Decca last December in an internal Brexit-time coup.

He was hired by Sony classical’s new boss,  Per Hauber, successor to Bogdan Roscic who was last seen vanishing into the Blue Danube.

The American organist Cameron Carpenter has put his instrument on the back of a truck and is driving around Berlin, playing outside care homes over the course of four days.

Cameron, 39, says: ‘In Corona times, this is how I reach people at home, by their windows and on their balconies…. The idea is to share Germany’s great composer J.S. Bach and to try to give a cultural service to the city of Berlin if possible.’


Watch video here.

He should have been soloing at the Philharmonie on Tuesday.

press release:

With their European concert, the Berliner Philharmoniker and their chief conductor Kirill Petrenko are supporting UNICEF’s emergency assistance for the protection of child refugees. Especially in light of the threat of the coronavirus, children in refugee camps in Syria and Greece are dependent on support. According to UNICEF, relief supplies such as soap, medication and medical care are lacking.

The Berliner Philharmoniker and Kirill Petrenko will donate their fees to UNICEF’s emergency assistance and also appeal to the public for donations. Christiane Karg, soloist in this program, will also donate parts of her fee for the charitable cause. President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the intendant of Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (rbb) Patricia Schlesinger are both supporting this initiative. The German President will open the European concert, which will be broadcast live at 11am on TV.


The Croatian conductor Baldo Podic, resident at Basle City Theatre from 1983 to his retirement in 2007, has died of the effects of Covid-19 on an illness for which he was already being treated.

Unflashy and accomplished, he was one of those conductors whom singers trusted most with the audience barely aware of his influence.

Born in Dubrovnik in 1942, he conducted extensively in Austria and Germany before winning a post as music director of the Opera Studio of the Opéra de Paris, while also organising festivals in his own country until the Swiss came along, offering lifelong security.

He guest-conducted The Merry Widow in 1986 at the Lyric Opera in Chicago.

UPDATE: His wife Dawn Symes-Podic posted: Last night my husband died. He had multiple underlying health conditions, but COVID-19 got him in the end. I could not see him or comfort him. Wearing full hazmat they took his body in a sealed coffin during the night. Until a vaccine is found and I emerge from isolation, his ashes will stay with the undertakers.

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