The original

The intention

The interpretation


The stratosphere

We mourn the death from Coronavirus of Robert Avery, founder of Habsburg Heritage Tours who took parties of music lovers to exclusive small festivals around Europe and would anonymously send dispatches to Slipped Disc about things that went clang in recitals.

Robert, who was 70, is survived by his wife of 46 years and constant travel partner, Jane, to whom we send condolences.

Angela Hewitt writes:

It came as a shock this morning to hear that Robert Avery, the founder and director of Habsburg Heritage Tours in London, died on Friday of coronavirus, after spending several weeks in intensive care at King’s College Hospital. He and his wife Jane brought a large group to the Trasimeno Music Festival every year–almost since the beginning. Music was his life, and he never tired of leading music lovers around Europe to places he loved. 


Bergen National Opera has issued an Easter Hymn from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana sung by the Edvard Grieg Kor, company soloists and child members of its talent programme.

What’s different is the dramatic use of sepia postcards to create an atmosphere of unreachable Italy. Of all the from-us-to-you videos that have been sent our way, this is visually the most imaginative by far.

The soloist is called Elisabeth Teige. She’s going places. Watch this space.


The Cleveland Orchestra has finally announced an audition for its vacant concertmaster’s seat, occupied by William Preucil until October 2018, when he was sacked over allegations of sexual misconduct.

Preucil was the highest paid concertmaster in the US.


The next occupant will have to settle for less.

The principal trombone position is also up for audition, and for the same reason.



The  San Francisco Conservatory of Music has signed Edwin Outwater as its music director.

He’s a former resident conductor of the San Francisco Symphony and, more recently, music director of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony.


The University of Illinois reports the death of Professor Nicholas Temperley, a British musicologist specialising mostly in music of his native land. He was 87.

He joined the Illinois musicology faculty in 1967 and twice served as its chair.

His major works are The Music of the English Parish Church (1979) and The Romantic Age: 1800–1914 (vol. 5 of Blackwell’s History of Music in Britain, 1981).  He contributed more than 100 articles to New Grove.


The Chilean-born composer Claudio Spies died in Sonoma, California, on April 2 at a great age.

He was professor of music emeritus at Princeton University.

In this Library of Congress picture from Tanglewood 1946, he is seen at the left in a group with Lukas Foss, Harold Shapero, Esther Geller, Verna Fine, Irving Fine, and Leonard Bernstein.


The conductor Karel Mark Chichon has out together a Mahler-2 highlights video with 79 home-tied musicians of the Orquesta Filarmónica de Gran Canaria and his wife, soprano Elina Garanca.

See what you think.


I am taking Dmitri Smirnov’s death from Coronavirus very personally.

Born in the same year, we knew each other for three decades, ever since I published a front-page lead in a Sunday newspaper on the generation of Russian composers who were seeking asylum in Britain. The story was reprinted here in the Los Angeles Times.

A Cabinet Minister, David Mellor, responded, enabling the Smirnovs to obtain residency papers. They settled happily. I would bump into them at concerts and festivals, always with mutual pleasure. And now, in a matter of days, Dima is gone. Last week, he was posting hopeful pictures from behind an oxygen mask. Hard to accept.

Over the years, I sometimes wondered why he settled here. The music establishment was not welcoming to Russian masters. With his great knowledge and gifts, Dima could surely have obtained a position at an American university or music organisation. But whenever I met him he reminded me of his undying love of Shakespeare and, especially, William Blake. From his home in St Albans he dreamed of England’s green and pleasant land. He could ‘see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour’. He was resilient and optimistic and positive. And now he’s been taken by the plague.

I’m going outside for a few minutes to swear.

Let me list a few of his successes. The conductors who performed his works include Riccardo Muti, Andrew Davis, Peter Eötvös, Oliver Knussen, Vassily Sinaisky, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Gunther Schuller, and Yan Pascal Tortelier. He was published by Boosey & Hawkes and Sikorski, and recorded on several labels. His chamber music was gaining cult status on the fringes of UK music. He was a seriously good composer and he was widely loved. He taught at Goldsmiths alongside my late friend Sasha Ivashkin. He never sold his soul.