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Classical Crib Sheet: Top 5 Stories This Week

American composer Elliott Carter, circa 1975. He died this Monday at age 103.
Erich Auerbach
Getty Images
American composer Elliott Carter, circa 1975. He died this Monday at age 103.
  • Elegies poured in this week for composer Elliott Carter, who died Monday, a month shy of his 104th birthday. My colleague Tom Cole: "He saw his music go from derision to international acclaim. Through it all, Elliott Carter always seemed to look ahead." Anthony Tommasini in the New York Times: "It is impossible to overstate the significance of his astonishing longevity. Here was a towering contemporary composer enjoying a renewed burst of creativity that started in his 90s and kept him going almost to the end." Lloyd Schwartz for Fresh Air: "Many regarded him not only as our greatest living composer, but also as perhaps the greatest American composer of classical music. He lived one of the most fulfilled lives any artist could wish for." The Washington Post quoted Carter himself: "'As society evolves,' he once said, 'people will have to become much cleverer and much sharper. And then they will like my music.'"
  • It wouldn't be a normal week this season without another orchestra going on strike. So, right on schedule, Washington's Spokane Symphony Orchestra went off the job last Saturday, and management has canceled all concerts through Nov. 18. Take a close look at the numbers printed by The Spokesman-Review: "The symphony imposed a contract on the musicians in October that included cuts of more than 13 percent, reducing pay to about $15,130, according to the union. The union offered to take nearly 7 percent in cuts. ... In addition to the pay cuts, union representatives opposed what they call a restrictive leave policy that would inhibit the musicians' ability to pursue other employment opportunities. Many of the musicians have outside jobs, such as teaching."
  • The Minnesota Orchestra management announced yesterday that they have canceled all concerts until Jan. 11 — meaning that they've lost 21 performances, including their very lucrative pops and holiday concerts. Earlier this week, the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra said that they asked to speak with their ensemble's board this past Monday night — and that the board turned them down. This has turned into he-said, she-said, reports ABC TV affiliate KAAL: "The board says they made an offer to the musicians back in April and haven't heard back. The musicians say they can't make a counteroffer until they get an accurate idea of the orchestra's financial health."
  • Meanwhile, management at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra has also announced that they have canceled all concerts through the end of 2012. From The Star-Tribune: "Musicians have made it plain that they would rather continue to play during negotiations. Management has said it cannot afford to continue on the terms of a contract that expired June 30." This, despite the fact that the Minneapolis City Council actually issued a resolution asking them all to go back to the table. (And Minnesota Public Radio has a report profiling two Twin Cities musicians who are so sick of all the tumult that they've quit their jobs. Says one, "There was this kind of 'the bully's going to meet you at lunchtime' feeling for at least a year and a half.")
  • Musical America announced the honorees of its annual awards this week: Gustavo Dudamel won Musician of the Year, while his mentor Jose Antonio Abreu earned Educator of the Year. Composer of the Year is David Lang, pipa virtuoso Wu Man was awarded Instrumentalist of the Year and mezzo Joyce DiDonato was given Vocalist of the Year.
  • Classical geek? Keep going ...

  • You can now hear the archival webcast of the Belcea Quartet's Tuesday performance of Beethoven's String Quartets Opp. 127 and 130 from our Carnegie Hall Live series with WQXR and American Public Media. (This was actually the first concert held at Carnegie Hall since Hurricane Sandy.)
  • The Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra is going paperless: CNET reports that they are now playing their scores off of Samsung Galaxy Note tablets outfitted with special software. Samsung says that the tablet's "touch and stylus interface are perfect for musicians, who often make copious notations on their scores. The software also allows a conductor to make notes or changes in a score and automatically send it to all musicians, so they can literally be on the same page at all times. The orchestra's tablets can also go into special modes for concerts that prevent unintentionally swiping ahead 10 pages or zooming in the middle of a performance. Notifications and other distractions are also disabled."
  • Also on the tech front: Gizmodo has a story this morning about researchers at Tokyo Metropolitan University who have developed a handheld scanner that's able to read sheet music and play back a composition in real time in ways that are appropriate for the scoring and sensitive to things like dynamics. Take a look at the video.
  • There was a management shakeup at the beleaguered Atlanta Symphony Orchestra this week. Three vice presidents are leaving, a personnel shuffle coming a little more than a month after a lockout of the musicians had endangered the new season.
  • The fortepiano Mozart used for the last decade of his life went to Vienna for two weeks for a performance by Russian pianist Alexander Melnikov. This was the first time since Mozart's death in 1791 that the instrument has left Salzburg. You can see a brief video of Melnikov playing the instrument on ABC News.
  • The Associated Press reports that Austrian composer Peter Androsch has an unusual venue to debut his new opera, called Spiegelground: Dead Children Like Scattered Dolls: Austria's parliament. The work, which is based on the killing of hundreds of children by medical personnel in a Vienna psychiatric ward during World War II, will be performed on Jan. 25, International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
  • A discussion has bloomed over on Norman Lebrecht's blog following his republishing (and translating) comments Bernard Haitink made about what the conductor calls the "Mahler cult" for the German publication Das Orchester. Haitink — who has recorded the entire Mahler cycle twice — said: "Once, after a performance of Mahler's Third Symphony, I received a letter, telling me: 'I was so moved, I wept through the whole piece.' I almost wrote back: 'You need to see a psychiatrist.'"
  • Lebrecht also has an early report this morning (without attribution) that a court in Vienna has handed down the sentence for Strad con man Dietmar Machold: six years' imprisonment.
  • A newly published interview on The Believer with Maurice Sendak made shortly before his death last May, replete with a musical relevation: "All through [writing] Bumble-Ardy I worked to music. I've always loved Mozart but recently fell in love with Schubert, who I never took seriously. I knew he was a darling boy. But my god, I began to listen carefully, and Schubert is an immensely great person. Especially the chamber music. It's so great. Who's the Russian piano player? The guy with the big head? Richter. Sviatoslav Richter."
  • A blogger at the OC Weekly has a highly idiosyncratic list of ten classical albums to listen to while studying or writing — well, at least classical-ish, with lots of film scores thrown in. But still, he has Simon Trpceski playing Debussy and the Kronos Quartet playing Philip Glass.
  • Andy Doe, formerly of iTunes and then Naxos and who not-so-bashfully says that he was responsible for the sale of "about half a billion dollars worth of art music, including classical music, new music, and contemporary jazz," has a list on New Music Box of 10 things he wishes people said more often about the recording industry. No. 4: "Every record is different." (What he goes on to explain is that it at least should be: "If a record isn't unique, it shouldn't have been made.")
  • Violinist Anthony Marwood writing for the Australian magazine Limelight on the power of chamber music: "The intensity of interaction mirrors that of quite intimate human relationships, and even though it's the repertoire itself which is the first attraction, there is probably something about the closely connected feeling which is irresistible, despite its potential pitfalls. ... We need strong opinions and clear ideas but a receptiveness to the input of others; an ability to offer suggestions or criticism in a creative and supportive way, and to receive the same open-mindedly and non-defensively. A way of choosing words, a feel for when words are not necessary."
  • An imagined reverie on The Yard about applications rocketing sky-high at the Aspen Music Festival after marijuana was legalized in Colorado Tuesday: "'I was supposed to be Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi next summer, and now I find out that I'm in the chorus for sixteen performances of Einstein on the Beach?' [a soprano] said. 'Seriously, what the eff is that?'" (Get it? Sky-high? I'll be here all week, folks.)
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    Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.