A marvellous Renaissance discovery to brighten your isolation.

The pianist Wu Han has been playing this week to audiences of 1,500 in Taiwan. She writes:


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photo: Tay Tat Keng

In the U.S. right now, that joy and inspiration has been taken away from all of us. But I do know that when we are able to be back on stage to play for our beloved audiences, we will play our hearts out just like last night. That joy and appreciation of music will come back with an intensity that we never experienced before.

More here.

There’s uproar at the Royal Conservatoire in Brussels where, for reasons undisclosed, the director, Professor Kathleen Coessens, has been sacked again not long after she was reinstated.

According to a petition that has been got up on her behalf –

On 27 October Kathleen Coessens, Director of the Conservatorium Brussels (KCB) whose support, dedication, and hard work made the national and international success of the Conservatorium, was abruptly dismissed , both as a Director and as a teacher. The decision was taken by the Executive Board (CvB) of EhB on the ground of alleged mistakes in a collaborating with a music academy. Coessens immediately appealed against this decision and, after a few weeks, the Board of Appeal strongly overruled the dismissal, finding it completely unfounded. As a consequence, Ms Coessens was allowed to resume her roles at the Conservatorium. On 2 December, however, the chairman of the CvB invalidated Director Coessens’ mandate claiming an obscure “serious neglect of her duties”.

Astounded by such an abrupt and unilateral action, that we esteem violent and unjustified, we petition the following:
– The immediate and full implementation of the decision of the Board of Appeal for the reinstatement of Kathleen Coessens as Director of the Conservatorium.
– The restoration in the Conservatorium of a peaceful and relaxed climate conductive of real artistic and pedagogic growth: a climate that Ms Brusseel and the CvB disrupted to its very roots at the detriment of the Conservatorium community in general and of the students in particular.
– That Ms Brusseel and the CvB take in due respect and consideration the opinion of a large majority of the staff of the Conservatorium : no less than 135 staff members have already expressed in written their support for Director Coessens, along with an impressive amount of prominent names in the national and international artistic stage.

… and so on.

It looks even less soluble than the Brexit negotiations.


The Finnish National Archive announced today, on the composer’s birthday, that it had acquired 1200 pages of Sibelius manuscripts once owned by the Lienau publishing house.

They include the autographs of the violin concerto, 3rd symphony and ‘Voces intimae’ quartet.

Nobody’s saying what they paid but it’s thought to be in the high six figures.


The French contralto and conductor Nathalie Stutzmann was installed today as principal guest conductor of the Philhadelphia Orchestra.

A protégee of Seiji Owawa, Stutzmann has been working latesly with orchestras in Ireland and Norway.

She had her own ensemble in France, which closed last year for lack of funds.

Stutzmann, 55, made her Philadelphia debut in 2016 and has returned several times. Philadelphia’s music director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, said: “Nathalie is a kindred spirit whose background as a contralto and work as a conductor have influenced her dynamic and highly successful career. She brings a depth of artistry, charismatic musicianship and creativity to her work, making her an ideal collaborator.”


Originally from Adana, Hande Küden was confirmed today – after a year’s trial – as a member of the Berlin Philharmonic’s first violin section.

Turkish musicians are calling it an historic day.

After studies at the State Conservatory in Adana and at the Hanns Eisler School of Music Berlin, Hande  trained with Tabea Zimmermann from 2015 in both violin and viola. Her first job before the Berlin Phil was as deputy concertmaster of the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin.

Marianne Flettner, a German refugee who served as secretary to the Met’s general manager from 1963 to 1974, has died at an advanced age of the effects of Parkinson’s Disease. She must have been around during Bing’s dramas with Maria Callas.

Marianne went on to become artistic administrator at San Diego Opera from 1979 to 2014.



We have been informed that Ann Beckman died on Sunday morning at the age of 69. She held the title of director of studies at Zurich Opera for twenty years and was much in demand elsewhere.

Here’s her most recent CV from Salzburg:

Ann Beckman comes from Kansas / USA, where she completed her studies in piano and conducting. After graduating, she worked as a pianist and musical assistant at the Portland Opera and as a song accompanist at the Berkshire Music Center with Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland and John Wustman; then she was hired as a musical assistant at the Lyric Opera in Chicago. In 1978 she was engaged at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein / Düsseldorf, then at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich and in 1986 as a director of studies at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels. In 1992 she moved to the Zurich Opera House in the same position, where she was the director of studies / pianist and musical assistant to conductors such as Riccardo Chailly, Marc Minkowski, Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Franz Welser-Möst until 2012.Ariadne on Naxos she also played the solo piano in the orchestra of the Vienna Philharmonic. In addition, she supervised numerous productions at the Théâtre du Châtelet and L’Opéra National de Paris as well as at the Festival de Radio France in Montpellier.


Cause of death is not yet known.


The German film composer shared a personal moment with an Israel Philharmonic online gala:

“I said [to a reporter], ‘Actually, I have to confess, I have a rather complicated relationship with my country because I’m Jewish….’

“I started having a major anxiety attack…a major meltdown. I couldn’t wait for the press conference to end. And as soon as it finished, I got on the phone to my mom and I said, ‘Mom, I did something really terrible. I told them. I let everybody know who we are.’ I felt like I put her in danger. That this was the deep, dark secret we should never speak about. There was a long pause at the other end and then she said, ‘I’m very proud of you.’ That is the only time she ever said that to me.”

The Hungarian-Canadian virtuoso ogranist Xaver Varnus has bought a country church in Nova Scotia so that he can practise in peace.

The Pilgrim United Church in Brooklyn, N.S., built in 1847, was down to its last congregants. ‘I found it on the internet,’ he said.

He’s now inviting fellow-organists to come out and play.

I was working on BBC Newsnight, then a new show, when word came through that John Lennon had been assassinated.

Couldn’t believe it.

Some part of me still can’t.

As John O’Hara said long, long ago: ‘George Gershwin died on July 11, 1937, but I don’t have to believe it if I don’t want to.’

The Royal Liverpool Phil are streaming three concerts this week in his memory. £50 tickets are selling fast.


The Metropolitan Opera last night locked out its stagehands after their union refused to accept pay cuts.

Next in line are the musicians.

On the day the New York Philharmonic reached a 4-year wage deal with its musicians, involving a 25% pay cut for 3 years, the Met’s general manager Peter Gelb went for outright confrontation. Gelb wanted a 30% cut, half of which would be restored once box office and donations reach pre-Covid levels, which may be never-never.

Fulltime stagehands earned an average $260,000 in 2019, including benefits, according to the Met.

The musicians, who can see what’s coming, said this: AFM Local 802 President Adam Krauthamer: “Local 802 denounces the lockout by the Metropolitan Opera of the stagehands of IATSE Local 1. We are disappointed that Peter Gelb and Met management are taking advantage of the Covid pandemic to harm and demean these highly-skilled and valuable workers while weakening the cultural treasure that is the Met. The path forward to the Met’s revival should not be at the expense of the very workers who quite literally make the organization function behind the scenes. Taxpayers, private donors and audience members will be disappointed that the Met is taking this short-sighted approach and risking the artistic integrity of the organization. We insist that Peter Gelb and Met management end the lockout immediately and bargain for a fair contract in good faith.”