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Classical Crib Sheet: Top 5 Stories This Week

Feb 1, 2013

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  • Hugely good news for all you wandering minstrels: After years of pressure from groups like the American Federation of Musicians, the FAA has just passed a bill that (finally!) allows musicians to carry their instruments as carry-on luggage or, for larger instruments, to buy an extra seat. However, the federal agency has a year to implement the new standards.
  • The innovative conductor and musician Butch Morris, a friend and collaborator to many in the new music community, died this week of cancer at age 65. Our friend Howard Mandel had a beautiful tribute to the man who figured out a new way to conduct improvisation on All Things Considered.
  • People are twice as likely to cough during a classical concert as they are during normal life, according to researchers led by German economist Andreas Wagner. He told The Telegraph that it has nothing to do with the median audience age: "They might be older (but) there still remains a substantial amount of excess coughing [at concerts] that has to be explained somehow." My opinion? A fit of passive-aggressiveness when audiences don't care for the music, and a weird display of enthusiasm when listeners believe that they "aren't allowed" to clap. (That and $2.50 will get you on the subway to Avery Fisher Hall.)
  • The Newark Star-Ledger talks to the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra about its very embarrassing Richard Dare incident. Dare, who came to the NJSO after serving two years as chief executive of the Brooklyn Philharmonic, was the CEO in New Jersey for all of 11 days last month. He resigned suddenly after the revelation of his "lewd or lascivious acts" in California 17 years ago with a 15-year-old student who later became his wife. "Had we known he was guilty of the offense, we would not have hired him," NJSO co-chairman Stephen Sichak protested to the paper. However: "After they accepted Dare's resignation, top NJSO officials admitted they knew at least some of his criminal history. They also conceded that they chose not to share this information with the 25-member committee that spent several months interviewing potential CEOs. The 43-member Board of Trustees, who had to approve Dare's candidacy, was also unaware of Dare's past." (And where was due diligence at the Brooklyn Philharmonic when he was hired there?)
  • For your weekend leisure time: Listen to the intimate concert we presented, along with our friends at WQXR and (Le) Poisson Rouge, with members of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and Daniel Barenboim at the piano. It includes fine performances of music by Bartok, Boulez, Mendelssohn and a beautiful new work by a Divan alumnus, clarinetist and composer Kinan Azmeh.

Classical geek? Read on...

  • Matthew Guerrieri (better known in some circles as Soho the Dog) was on The Colbert Report last night to discuss that famous duh-duh-duh-DUH.
  • David Schiff offers this recollection in The Nation of Pierre Boulez rehearsing music by Elliott Carter with the Cleveland Orchestra, with the composer in attendance: "In Cleveland, the players were bewildered during the first read-through of the score. Tensions flickered and were fanned by Boulez's effortless, if glum, command of the music's complexity ... As soon as the first break arrived, however, many of the players made a point of telling [Carter] how much they disliked his piece. One violinist confided that he had been playing passages from Der Rosenkavalier because they were undetectable in the general din. Slightly more conciliatory, a tuba player told Carter that he hated the music but appreciated that the score contained a big tuba solo."
  • Remember back when we had HMV record stores in the U.S.? (Some of the branches had a pretty good classical sections.) As the chain's British operation implodes, staffers live-tweeted being laid off — using HMV's official Twitter account. Sample: "Just overheard our Marketing Director (he's staying, folks) ask 'How do I shut down Twitter?'"
  • Al Jazeera has a lovely video profile of the musicians and teachers of the Afghan youth orchestra who are getting ready to perform at both Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center later this month.
  • Lovely, part two: Here's a photo of President Obama listening to a performance by 21-year-old cellist and Make-A-Wish recipient Khari Joyner, a From the Top and Sphinx Competition alumnus, in the Oval Office. Our friends at Minnesota Public Radio have the story behind the image.
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