Orchestra Digest: January 11, 2013

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This week: Toronto loves Mozart, opera meets improv in Chicago, reviewing a tough year in the performing arts, and conductors' pop music favourites. Here are stories we're following, in the news and on the web...
  • The Toronto Symphony's Mozart Festival runs January 9-17, and the Toronto Star interviewed four TSO musicians about Mozart's unique and enduring qualities. 
  • Last week Chicago Lyric Opera and The Second City improv comedy troupe put together a collection of sketches and scenes called "The Second City Guide to Opera", and the Chicago Tribune gave it high marks for hilarity and audience-building. The Chicago Sun-Times reports the show will be reprised in June. 
  • The Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä, nominated for a Grammy for their recording of Sibelius 2nd and 5th Symphonies, will perform those works in a special concert on Feb. 1st, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. This will be the first time in months that the locked-out orchestra has performed with their Music Director.
  • Save Our SPCO, a community group seeking to end the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra lockout, this week delivered a petition to SPCO President Dobson West with nearly 3,000 signatures, the Twin Cities Pioneer Press reports. The petition calls on management to move towards resolving the impasse.
  • The Indianapolis Symphony ended its lockout in the fall, but the current contract hinges on a $5 million fundraising goal by Feb. 3rd - and the ISO is still $2.4 million short, the Indianapolis Star reports. If not met, the 5-year agreement reached in October will be null, and musicians and management will restart contract negotiations.
  • ICSOM Chair Bruce Ridge and Stanford professor Robert J. Flanagan spoke to USA Today about difficulties facing orchestras: Performing arts face strikes, layoffs, bankruptcy. While the headline is bleak, the article notes that orchestras in Cincinnati and St. Louis have weathered the economic downturn quite well. 
  • The New York Times reports that Varèse Sarabande, a US label specializing in film soundtracks, has just merged with a larger British firm, the Cutting Edge Group. Executives involved plan to expand the use of soundtracks in live concert events. 
  • The Philharmonie, a new concert hall in Paris, has attracted controversy over its spiralling price, the Guardian reports. French Prime Minister François Hollande has supported the Jean Nouvel-designed building, but opposition parties and state auditors have criticized overruns that have pushed the cost to 387 million euros.
  • Sir Simon Rattle announced his term as music director of the Berlin Philharmonic will end in 2018, when his current contract expires, the Guardian reports. Rattle's tenure began in 2002, and will reach 16 seasons. 
  • The LA Times asked prominent conductors what non-classical music they enjoy, with some surprising results - Michael Tilson Thomas loves James Brown, Dudamel admires Aerosmith, and Riccardo Muti adores Cèline Dion. Bramwell Tovey declined to name any current pop stars, but listed Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and Cole Porter, among others. 
Compiled by Matt Heller, OCSM President. Sources include the discussion groups of ICSOM and ROPA, as well as NPR's Deceptive Cadence blog. Our new website is now up and running!: http://ocsm-omosc.org/index.php


  • Orchestra Digest: New seasons edition

    Deals, festivals, and a Mozart controversy

    The New York Philharmonic reached agreement on a 3-year contract with modest salary increases, the NY Times reports. This was the first negotiation involving new President/CEO Deborah Borda, with new Music Director Jaap van Zweden set to take over in the fall.  

    The Regina Symphony launched its new Forward Currents Festival this month, previewed in the Globe and Mail. Each year the festival will highlight a different social justice issue; this year's festival focused on Truth and Reconciliation, just weeks after the Gerald Stanley verdict in Colten Boushie's death sparked national outrage. 
    The Vancouver Symphony's Spring Festival is underway this weekend, highlighting musical legends including Leonard Bernstein. The Georgia Straight previews the Festival. 
    Symphony Nova Scotia has launched a new prize for women composers, the Maria Anna Mozart Award, and recently performed its first commission: Kelly-Marie Murphy's Dragon. The Chronicle Herald previewed the concert. 
    The current Canadian Opera Company production of Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio reworked the text substantially to address the casual racism of the original, inserting around 30 minutes of spoken dialogue. Maclean's surveyed the critical reaction. 
    People in the news
    Among the tributes to Tommy Banks, who died of leukemia on Jan. 25th, were laudatory pieces in the Globe and MailCBC News, and Edmonton Journal. A well-attended remembrance ceremony took place Feb. 14th in Edmonton's Winspear Centre.
    Alexander Neef, the Canadian Opera Company's general director for the past 10 years, will add a new role as artistic director of Santa Fe Opera, working alongside general director Robert K. Meya and music director Harry Bicket, the New York Times reports
    The new general director of Calgary OperaKeith Cerny, has a history as a repetiteur for Richard Bradshaw, and as an innovator of opera technology in his previous post with Dallas Opera. The Globe and Mail profiled Cerny as he steps into his new role. 
    Three days after the Metropolitan Opera fired James Levine, following an investigation into abuse allegations, Levine has sued the company for defamation and breach of contract, the NY Times reports
    The Boston Symphony announced an independent investigation had found allegations against frequent guest conductor Charles Dutoit were credible, CBC News reported
    Following Levine's firing, NY Times critic Zachary Woolfe asked: Should We Rethink Maestro Worship? Reporting on Charles Dutoit's tenure with the Montreal Symphony prompted a related commentary by Globe and Mail critic Robert Everett-Green
    Many Canadian orchestra musicians (including yours truly) come via the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, Florida. The Toronto Star followed four such musicians from the TSO, Miles Jaques, Kelly Zimba, Clare Semes, and Charles Settle, as they worked with New World fellows and discussed the future of the profession.  
    New seasons 
    At the centre of the Edmonton Symphony's 2018-19 season, previewed by the Edmonton Journal, is a Sibelius mini-festival conducted by Alexander Prior. 
    The Record spoke with new Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony music director Andrei Feher to preview his first season as music director, highlighting Russian and Eastern European repertoire.
    The National Arts Centre Orchestra launched its 50th anniversary season with a bilingual YouTube video featuring music director Alexander ShelleyThe Globe and Mail also previewed the 2018-19 NAC season. 
    The National Ballet of Canada's season opens with a new Anna Karenina, co-produced with the Hamburg and Bolshoi Ballets. The Toronto Star previews the entire season. 
    As he oversees the Metropolitan Opera and Philadelphia Orchestra, Yannick Nézet-Séguin is standing by his city -- and Orchestre Métropolitain. The Montreal Gazette previewed OM's 2018-19 season, including Sibelius, Mahler, and Bartok.
    The Regina Post-Leader offered a run-down of the Regina Symphony's new season under music director Gordon Gerrard, the RSO's 110th anniversary. 
    Symphony Nova Scotia bids farewell to longtime music director Bernhard Gueller this May; resident conductor / community ambassador Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser spoke to the Chronicle Herald drumming up excitement for the upcoming season. 
    The Toronto Star's John Terauds and Globe and Mail's Jenna Simeonov agree: the Toronto Symphony's 2018-19 season will be familiar, traditional, and safe. Both critics previewed the upcoming season with interim artistic director Sir Andrew Davis, a transition year amid a music director search.
    Under music director Robert Franz, the Windsor Symphony takes a welcoming approach, inviting audience members to join the orchestra on stage in a series titled Beer and Beethoven. The Windsor Star previewedtheir 2018-19 season.
    The Winnipeg Symphony's 2018-19 season will be its first under music director Daniel RaiskinCBC posted a preview, and reported recently on the announcement of Raiskin's appointment. He grew up in St. Petersburg, Russia, studying violin, viola, and conducting. 
    Notice a correction, or an orchestra news story I missed? Please email me at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or post to the list yourself! (Remember to include your name and orchestra in your post.) Thank you! - Matt Heller

    Compiled by Matt Heller, with editorial assistance from Francine Schutzman. Sources include the discussion groups of ICSOM and ROPA. Visit OCSM online at: http://ocsm-omosc.org/index.php. Visit OCSM on Facebook, or tweet us @ocsm-omosc.
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