Daniel Barenboim conducted his first concert in Gaza today.

Given that its Hamas Government has simultaneously made peace with Fatah and endorsed Osama Bin Laden as a holy martyr, this could hardly be a more delicate moment to make music. I, for one, can’t wait to see the film.

 

Here’s the press release:

Maestro Daniel Barenboim performed in Gaza today – ACCENTUS Music to film the concert of the ‘Orchestra for Gaza’
Maestro Daniel Barenboim, UN Messenger of Peace, conducts the ‘Orchestra for Gaza’ consisting of distinguished musicians from Staatskapelle Berlin, Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, and Orchestra of La Scala di Milano, in a peace concert for the people of Gaza today. The concert with works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart takes place this afternoon at the Al Mathaf Cultural House, Gaza.
The ACCENTUS Music documentary team, under the direction of Paul Smaczny, are exclusively accompanying Daniel Barenboim and the musicians for this very special event to film the concert with three cameras.
Maestro Barenboim said: “We are very happy to come to Gaza. We are playing this concert as a sign of our solidarity and friendship with the civil society of Gaza.”
This event has been organized by the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network and the Al Mathaf Cultural House, in cooperation with the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
And here’s the Reuters report:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110503/music_nm/us_palestinians_gaza_music?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Barenboim conducts classical concert in Gaza Strip

 

By Nidal al-Mughrabi – 42 mins ago

GAZA (Reuters) – Classical musician Daniel Barenboim, a supporter of Palestinian rights, broke new ground Tuesday when he travelled to the Gaza Strip to conduct a concert.

Musicians from some of Europe’s top orchestras entered the coastal enclave from Egypt via the Rafah border crossing amid tight security, to form the “Orchestra for Gaza” and play Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” and the Symphony No. 40.

Barenboim’s appearance with the orchestra, players of the Staatskapelle Berlin, Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris and La Scala of Milan, was a first in recent memory in Gaza where traditional Arabic music is more common.

An audience of some 700 attended the hour-long concert at the plush al-Madha center along the beachfront in the northern Gaza Strip.

The event was organized by the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) that cares for Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

When introducing the event, Barenboim said the concert was taking place because “these are people who care about you, this is why we are here today.”

Barenboim has become a controversial figure in Israel for his vocal opposition to its occupation of the West Bank, where he has performed on several occasions.

Since 1999, he has promoted Arab-Israeli cultural contacts and he leads the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, made up of young Israeli and Arab musicians which is based in Seville, Spain.

In 2008, Argentine-born Barenboim, 68, also took Palestinian citizenship and said he believed his status could serve as a model for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

“As you know I am Palestinian … not (just) because I have a Palestinian passport and I am also Israeli, so you see it is possible to be both, but in order … to have justice and peace we have to do many things.

“Our conflict is a conflict of two peoples who are convinced they have the right to live in the same little piece of land, therefore, our destinies are linked,” he said.

“No people should be expected to live under occupation,” Barenboim added as he received a standing ovation from the audience of academics, foreign guests and schoolchildren.

GAZA POLITICS

The concert comes a day before Islamist Hamas, who rule the Gaza Strip, and the more secular Fatah faction that controls the occupied West Bank, were due to sign a reconciliation agreement they hope will heal a political rift between them.

Israel maintains a blockade of Gaza because it is run by Hamas, who unlike Fatah, are hostile to the Jewish state and refuse to recognize interim peace accords or renounce violence.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement, once the dominant Palestinian party, was driven out of the Gaza Strip by Hamas in a brief civil war four years ago.

Barenboim, today considered one of the world’s leading conductors of the operas of Richard Wagner, Hitler’s favorite composer, has further damaged his reputation in Israel where he has tried unsuccessfully to break an unofficial taboo on playing the music of the German composer.

(Writing by Ori Lewis)

Decca has just announced the signing of a young pianist. His name is Benjamin Grosvenor, he’s 18 years old and there has been an unmistakable buzz about him ever since he came out as top pianist in the BBC Young Musican of the Year contest, aged just 11.

Anyway, he now has a label.
But more remarkable is the realisation that he is the first British pianist Decca have signed for half a century. Not since Clifford Curzon, Moura Lympany and Peter Katin has a Brit got to play on home label. Where has Decca been all this time?
Mostly abroad, on expenses. 
Latterly defunct. Good to have them back.
And another thing. I seem to remember Grosvenor signed an artists development deal with EMI. Nothing came of it. I wonder why?
Press release below.

 

DECCA CLASSICS
SIGNS EXCLUSIVE RECORDING CONTRACT

WITH
BENJAMIN GROSVENOR

 

 

YOUNG BRITISH
TALENT SIGNS RECORD-BREAKING DEAL:

–           First British pianist to
be signed to Decca Classics in nearly 60 years

–           Youngest British artist
ever to sign to Decca Classics

 

 

(Credit: Laurie
Lewis. High-res photo available upon request)

 

 

London, Monday 11
April 2011

 

Decca Classics is delighted to
announce the signing of an exclusive contract with 18-year-old British pianist
Benjamin Grosvenor, who has been described by Jessica Duchen in The Independent
as “one in a million – several million” and “a keyboard visionary who knows no
bounds” (Süddeutsche Zeitung).

 

In doing so, Benjamin becomes the
first British pianist to sign with Decca Classics since Clifford Curzon, Moura
Lympany and Peter Katin first graced the label in the 1940s and 50s, and the
youngest British musician ever to sign to the legendary British imprint. 

 

At the age of 11 Grosvenor was the
youngest ever finalist in the BBC’s Young Musician of the Year competition.
Having been carefully nurtured since the age of 13 by his management Hazard
Chase, he has since achieved critical acclaim worldwide and has now secured a
contract with the major label. This makes him the first British musician to sign
with Decca Classics since it recently stated its intention to bring homegrown
classical talent back to the forefront of its roster.

 

Paul Moseley,
Managing Director of Decca Classics says:

‘This is an enormously significant
moment for Decca. As a British company proud of its heritage what could be more
satisfying than making this agreement with the most exceptional British pianist
to emerge in decades?  Benjamin has evolved from a child prodigy to become an
artist of extraordinary imagination and flair. Above all, he has a sound that is
all his own.  The time is now right for this major new step in what will
certainly be a long and very successful career. We are thrilled to be part of
that and look forward to many landmark projects
together.’

 

Benjamin
Grosvenor says:

‘I am very pleased and excited to
sign this deal with Decca. It is a great honour to be asked to record for a
company with such an illustrious history and which has recorded so many of the
musicians that I admire. I am very much looking forward to getting into the
studio to record such wonderful repertoire.’

 

Benjamin’s first recording of
Chopin’s Four Scherzi, Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit and shorter pieces by Chopin
and Liszt will be recorded later this month and released in July. Chopin is one
of Benjamin’s greatest passions and his recent all-Chopin recital at LSO St
Luke’s received much acclaim … “he has built up a glittering career as both
recitalist and concerto performer…the impression we were left with was of the
sweetest physical symbiosis between this player and his instrument” (Michael
Church, The Independent).

 

Benjamin first rose to prominence
when he won the piano section of the BBC Young Musician of the Year 2004 at the
age of 11. Shortly after, he made his debuts at the Royal Albert Hall, London and Carnegie Hall, New
York
.  He has continued to develop an international
presence in Europe, Asia and the USA with performances alongside
renowned orchestras including the London Philharmonic, Philharmonia, Tokyo
Symphony and North Carolina Symphony, with esteemed conductors including
Alexander Lazarev and Vladimir Ashkenazy. Benjamin’s debut sell-out performance
with the Philharmonia was hailed as “a performance that took its expressive and
dramatic cues from the very heart of the music, and in so doing crafted an
interpretation of palpable character and astute panache” (Daily
Telegraph).

 

In addition to his extensive
concerto schedule, Benjamin is an accomplished recitalist and is a regular at
Wigmore Hall and has enjoyed chamber music collaborations with members of the
English Chamber Orchestra.

 

Benjamin is currently in his third
year of studies with Christopher Elton at the Royal Academy of Music in
London and has
recently been chosen to join the BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists scheme,
which provides regular opportunities with BBC orchestras plus many recital and
festival appearances. 2011 highlights for Benjamin include performances at the
Wigmore Hall, London, Birmingham Symphony Hall,
Snape Maltings, Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels,
Gstaad Winter Festival, Brescia and Bergamo Festival and Dvorak Prague
Festival, with major additional plans to be announced shortly.

 

 

 

For further
information please contact:

Louise.Ringrose@umusic.com


A rush release, out tomorrow, features some of the foremost classical artists on Deutsche Grammophon giving their services for Japan quake and tsunami victims.

Big cheers for all concerned. Add it to your collection.
Meantime, I hear the Stuttgart orchestras have raised 70,000 Euros for Japan. Good on them.
Here’s the release information:

Deutsche Grammophon, Decca release Classics for Japan – Music for Healing April 6 to benefit Japanese Red Cross

Charity album features stars of the classical music world including Daniel Barenboim, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Mitsuko Uchida, Seiji Ozawa

As part of the global music relief effort to benefit those affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, some of the biggest names of the classical music world have come together to releaseClassics for Japan – Music for Healing, a digital-only album released on April 6.

Featuring favourites of the classical music repertoire, such as the Andante from Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.21, Massenet’s Meditation from Thais and Beethoven’s Moonlight Piano Sonata, the album boasts a stellar list of artists who are either Japanese or who have enjoyed particular success in Japan, including Mitsuko Uchida, Daniel Barenboim, Seiji Ozawa, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Alice Sara Ott and Akiko Suwanai.

The featured world-class artists hope to demonstrate to classical music lovers across the world the uniting force of music, bringing comfort and relief to all both through the power of music and through the direct proceeds of the album. Funds will be used for the provision of immediate relief and resources, and for the ongoing recovery of the affected population.

Deutsche Grammophon and Decca Classics are working together to release and promoteClassics for Japan – Music for Healing. Universal Music and the artists on the album will donate their proceeds to the Japanese Red Cross Society.

Dickon Stainer, head of the Decca Records Group, has been telling Billboard why he brought the label back from the dead and what he plans to do with it.

No more crossover, says Dickon:  “We’re not decrying the attraction of crossover but we need to pay attention to the classical music which is filling concert halls the world over.”
And no quick-fix solutions, either:  “Building a career like Pavarotti’s takes decades. That long-term planning can’t exist within the mentality of needing a hit in six months.”
All good news, right? He gets the point that classical music has its own dynamics and needs to be treated as a special case. Then he spoils it by saying “The classical industry can learn from digital innovation in the pop world, and the speed with which artists are being broken in pop needs to be mirrored, at least.”
Which must be why Decca is signing competition winners like Bezhod Abduraimov and breaking them overnight – not to mention footballers like the saxophone playing Tyler Rix, pictured with Dickon below.

Anyone spot a contradiction?


Dickon Stainer, head of the Decca Records Group, has been telling Billboard why he brought the label back from the dead and what he plans to do with it.

No more crossover, says Dickon:  “We’re not decrying the attraction of crossover but we need to pay attention to the classical music which is filling concert halls the world over.”
And no quick-fix solutions, either:  “Building a career like Pavarotti’s takes decades. That long-term planning can’t exist within the mentality of needing a hit in six months.”
All good news, right? He gets the point that classical music has its own dynamics and needs to be treated as a special case. Then he spoils it by saying “The classical industry can learn from digital innovation in the pop world, and the speed with which artists are being broken in pop needs to be mirrored, at least.”
Which must be why Decca is signing competition winners like Bezhod Abduraimov and breaking them overnight – not to mention footballers like the saxophone playing Tyler Rix, pictured with Dickon below.

Anyone spot a contradiction?


Milton Babbitt, godfather of American ascetic music, has died aged 94. He was far more than his music let on. A mathematician and wit, he once taught Stephen Sondheim, who spoke of him ever after with warm appreciation.


In a 2004 interview, Sondheim said‘Babbitt taught me what long-line composition is about, how to organise music over a span of time. It has to be the musical equivalent of a plot in a play.’

Here’s a 2006 Babbitt interview.

And here’s his Composition for Four Instruments, with running score. More clips on his Facebook page.

Also gone is Margaret Price, the great Welsh soprano, at just 69. She was a heroine almost without honour in her homeland. Acclaimed in Germany and Austria for her Lieder as well as her opera roles, she was inadequately appreciated in London and insufficiently recorded by Decca, which gave its plum roles to Joan Sutherland and Renata Tebaldi, and later to Kiri te Kanawa.

I heard her last some 20 years ago in Salzburg, a memorable Schubert recital, wonderfully modulated and without the harsh edge that sometimes marred her microphone performances.

Soon after, she recorded for Hyperion’s complete Schubert edition.


It’s a sad day for music when two titans leave the scene.


And here’s an underrated Mahler’s Fourth she recorded with Jascha Horenstein.



And Strauss Four Last Songs on Youtube.

Milton Babbitt, godfather of American ascetic music, has died aged 94. He was far more than his music let on. A mathematician and wit, he once taught Stephen Sondheim, who spoke of him ever after with warm appreciation.


In a 2004 interview, Sondheim said‘Babbitt taught me what long-line composition is about, how to organise music over a span of time. It has to be the musical equivalent of a plot in a play.’

Here’s a 2006 Babbitt interview.

And here’s his Composition for Four Instruments, with running score. More clips on his Facebook page.

Also gone is Margaret Price, the great Welsh soprano, at just 69. She was a heroine almost without honour in her homeland. Acclaimed in Germany and Austria for her Lieder as well as her opera roles, she was inadequately appreciated in London and insufficiently recorded by Decca, which gave its plum roles to Joan Sutherland and Renata Tebaldi, and later to Kiri te Kanawa.

I heard her last some 20 years ago in Salzburg, a memorable Schubert recital, wonderfully modulated and without the harsh edge that sometimes marred her microphone performances.

Soon after, she recorded for Hyperion’s complete Schubert edition.


It’s a sad day for music when two titans leave the scene.


And here’s an underrated Mahler’s Fourth she recorded with Jascha Horenstein.



And Strauss Four Last Songs on Youtube.

Two years ago, I reported the death of Decca, one of the last major classical record labels. My column drew hysterical reactions from toadies of the music industry, prompting one of them to write a web article proclaiming that Norman Lebrecht was dead. 

Well, not quite.

What happened at Decca was that Chris Roberts, then head of classics and jazz at Universal, decided in a late act of spite to wind down the label and leave in in the hands of one executive and a receptionist. Roberts was fired last summer by the Universal chief operating officer, Max Hole. Costa Pilavachi, a former head of Decca, was brought back in a senior role, and the pair have been re-assessing the business top to bottom.
An announcement will be made in the next few days, I hear, that Decca is to be relaunched next month as Decca Classics, hinged to Universal Music UK and no longer governed from afar. Paul Moseley will remain as managing director of a reinforced team and new signings are on the cards.
This is a rare shaft of exceptionally good news for the classical music business, and an even rarer instance of a corporation admitting it made a really bad move and making swift amends.
It does not mean the rebirth of classical recording, but it does mean the decline will be managed in future with a good deal more sensitivity and commonsense.
Decca was declared dead by Universal (and not by me). It is now risen again.

Two years ago, I reported the death of Decca, one of the last major classical record labels. My column drew hysterical reactions from toadies of the music industry, prompting one of them to write a web article proclaiming that Norman Lebrecht was dead. 

Well, not quite.

What happened at Decca was that Chris Roberts, then head of classics and jazz at Universal, decided in a late act of spite to wind down the label and leave in in the hands of one executive and a receptionist. Roberts was fired last summer by the Universal chief operating officer, Max Hole. Costa Pilavachi, a former head of Decca, was brought back in a senior role, and the pair have been re-assessing the business top to bottom.
An announcement will be made in the next few days, I hear, that Decca is to be relaunched next month as Decca Classics, hinged to Universal Music UK and no longer governed from afar. Paul Moseley will remain as managing director of a reinforced team and new signings are on the cards.
This is a rare shaft of exceptionally good news for the classical music business, and an even rarer instance of a corporation admitting it made a really bad move and making swift amends.
It does not mean the rebirth of classical recording, but it does mean the decline will be managed in future with a good deal more sensitivity and commonsense.
Decca was declared dead by Universal (and not by me). It is now risen again.

Barely had DG and Decca said their golden hellos to the new catalogue chief from Naxos (see yesterday’s breaking news) than the budget label flashed back overnight with a new chief operating officer who comes from iTunes. How cool is that?

In classical terms, less than you might expect. iTunes has the lowest sound definition of any major download source and many hardcore classical users are profoundly cheesed off with its quality. However, it also has the largest catalogue and is driving expansion across the sector.

That must rank to the credit of Naxos’s new suit, Andy Doe, who, it appears from his cv, also knows his way around the Universal Music Group and did a spell at Ireland’s enterprising Contemporary Music Centre. Could be worth watching.

Here’s the press release:

 

NAXOS NAMES ANDY DOE AS CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER

Naxos (www.naxos.com), the world’s leading classical music group, has announced that Andy Doe will join the company as its Chief Operating Officer, with special responsibility for the group’s online platforms and non-traditional business. Andy will work out of Naxos’ UK offices. Andy, who spent six years heading the classical activities of iTunes and assisted in making it the world’s largest retailer of recorded music, commented on his new appointment,

“I’m excited to be joining the most innovative company in the classical record business. Having worked with Naxos for six years, I’ve been continually impressed by the company’s growth, and I’m confident that no organization is better placed to thrive amid the challenges of the modern music marketplace. The Naxos team is made up of an incredibly talented group of individuals, and it’s a great honor to be asked to join them.”

Naxos Founder and Chairman, Klaus Heymann, had this to say: “I am delighted to have Andy join our executive team. He has the necessary experience in an area where I see the future of our industry and our group of companies. And he brings youth and fresh ideas to our group even though, by industry standards, with my exception, we have a pretty young team. I look forward to working with Andy who will report directly to me.”

Andy is one of the pioneers of the classical download business. He has spent six years in charge of classical music at iTunes, overseeing its growth from a small independent download store to the world’s largest retailer of recorded music. He increased the classical selection to include almost every commercially available recording and proved the viability of downloads as a major source of revenue for both major and independent labels.

Prior to working at Apple, Andy worked for Universal Classics & Jazz, Classical.com and the Contemporary Music Centre, Ireland. He has worked on numerous recording projects including live performances by Yo-Yo Ma, Philip Glass, John Williams, Leif Ove Andsnes, Alan GIlbert and the New York Philharmonic. He oversaw the launch of the critically acclaimed and commercially successful DG Concerts label.   Andy is also a keen advocate for living composers, and serves on the board of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music. He is a classically trained musician who studied the horn in London with Julian Baker, Kevin Elliott, Stephen Stirling and Roger Montgomery.

Barely had DG and Decca said their golden hellos to the new catalogue chief from Naxos (see yesterday’s breaking news) than the budget label flashed back overnight with a new chief operating officer who comes from iTunes. How cool is that?

In classical terms, less than you might expect. iTunes has the lowest sound definition of any major download source and many hardcore classical users are profoundly cheesed off with its quality. However, it also has the largest catalogue and is driving expansion across the sector.

That must rank to the credit of Naxos’s new suit, Andy Doe, who, it appears from his cv, also knows his way around the Universal Music Group and did a spell at Ireland’s enterprising Contemporary Music Centre. Could be worth watching.

Here’s the press release:

 

NAXOS NAMES ANDY DOE AS CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER

Naxos (www.naxos.com), the world’s leading classical music group, has announced that Andy Doe will join the company as its Chief Operating Officer, with special responsibility for the group’s online platforms and non-traditional business. Andy will work out of Naxos’ UK offices. Andy, who spent six years heading the classical activities of iTunes and assisted in making it the world’s largest retailer of recorded music, commented on his new appointment,

“I’m excited to be joining the most innovative company in the classical record business. Having worked with Naxos for six years, I’ve been continually impressed by the company’s growth, and I’m confident that no organization is better placed to thrive amid the challenges of the modern music marketplace. The Naxos team is made up of an incredibly talented group of individuals, and it’s a great honor to be asked to join them.”

Naxos Founder and Chairman, Klaus Heymann, had this to say: “I am delighted to have Andy join our executive team. He has the necessary experience in an area where I see the future of our industry and our group of companies. And he brings youth and fresh ideas to our group even though, by industry standards, with my exception, we have a pretty young team. I look forward to working with Andy who will report directly to me.”

Andy is one of the pioneers of the classical download business. He has spent six years in charge of classical music at iTunes, overseeing its growth from a small independent download store to the world’s largest retailer of recorded music. He increased the classical selection to include almost every commercially available recording and proved the viability of downloads as a major source of revenue for both major and independent labels.

Prior to working at Apple, Andy worked for Universal Classics & Jazz, Classical.com and the Contemporary Music Centre, Ireland. He has worked on numerous recording projects including live performances by Yo-Yo Ma, Philip Glass, John Williams, Leif Ove Andsnes, Alan GIlbert and the New York Philharmonic. He oversaw the launch of the critically acclaimed and commercially successful DG Concerts label.   Andy is also a keen advocate for living composers, and serves on the board of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music. He is a classically trained musician who studied the horn in London with Julian Baker, Kevin Elliott, Stephen Stirling and Roger Montgomery.

Dame Joan Sutherland, the dominant opera soprano after Maria Callas, died during the night of October 11, 2010 at her home at Les Avents, near Montreux, Switzerland, her family have announced. She was a month short of her 84th birthday.

An overnight star in 1959, when she stormed the mad scene in Franco Zefirelli’s production of Lucia di Lammermoor, the Australian was steered by her conductor husband Richard Bonynge ever deeper into the bel canto repertory of Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti and away from direct comparison with Callas in the big heartbreak roles of Verdi and Puccini.

The power couple adopted a callow Italian tenor, Luciano Pavarotti, and took him on tour in their home country, an education for which he was eternally grateful. Together, ‘Lucy and Joan’ formed a dream team on Decca Records. Her diction was indistinct and her dynamic control imperfect, but Sutherland conveyed a stage grandeur that overcame any minor shortcomings and the power of her voice was unforgettable. Both of these merits she acquired by watching Kirsten Flagstad during her 1950s Covent Garden apprenticeship, where her other mentor was the Czech conductor, Rafael Kubelik.

A simple, friendly woman, happiest in a dressing room with a magazine and her knitting, she avoided tantrums, had no airs and graces and, in retirement, shunned the limelight. She received a dewy-eyed biography from Norma Major, wife of a British prime minister, and dictated an autobiography of total concealment and ineffable blandness.

For all her unassuming personal modesty, her voice defined an operatic era.