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Classical Crib Sheet: Top 5 Stories This Week

Not mainstream enough to mark? A portrait of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau taken circa 1965.
Erich Auerbach
Getty Images
Not mainstream enough to mark? A portrait of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau taken circa 1965.
  • In its annual December feature called "The Music They Made" commemorating artists who have died in the preceding year, the New York Times Magazine once again neglected to include a single classical musician. Alex Ross called out the omission on his blog: "The omission is particularly maddening this year, since we lost two gigantic figures: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Elliott Carter. Almost every other genre has been represented at one time or another, including avant-garde jazz (in the person of Rashied Ali). If the feature were labeled 'non-classical music,' that would at least be honest."
  • Initially, the Times Magazine editor, Hugo Lindgren, responded by Twitter that classical music simply "lends itself less well to the montage approach" (which Alex parried with a kind link to our own pan-genre "In Memoriam" tribute). But then Wm. Ferguson, the editor of the collage in question, spun out a much lengthier response, in which he said that his model is "a K-Tel commercial" — and I'm paraphrasing only slightly here — he called classical music and composers completely irrelevant to mainstream popular culture, even at the Paper of Record.
  • Meanwhile, over within the strictly classical confines of the Times, Anthony Tommasini asks: Is there any particular glory to playing through-composed music from memory rather than from the written page? "Though it is exciting and even magical to see a pianist giving a triumphant performance of the demonically difficult Liszt Piano Sonata, or any work, from memory, there are different kinds of talents. The towering Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter, by the time he reached his 60s, found it increasingly hard to play from memory. He started using scores in performances. No one questioned him. This was, after all, Richter, a titan of the keyboard. Yet if a Juilliard student can give brilliant and personal accounts of works like Elliott Carter's daunting Piano Sonata or Chopin's 24 Preludes but needs the scores on the music stand to do so, why should that matter?"
  • And very happy news from St. Louis: Conductor David Robertson has inked a new contract with his orchestra. He will remain with the SLSO through the 2015-16 season, reports the St. Louis Business Journal.
  • When Valery Gergiev calls your schedule 'crazy,' you know you're overdoing it, Gustavo Dudamel: "Well, maybe it is a little crazy," the LA Phil icon acknowledges to the Los Angeles Times.
  • Classical geek? Keep going...

  • So, so lovely: Over on the New York Times site, illustrator Christoph Niemann revisits Maurice Sendak's on-air chat with Terry Gross on Fresh Air, replete with Schubert.
  • For those still keeping score: Soprano Angela Gheorghiu announced to France's Point that she and tenor Roberto Alagna are splitting up (again), saying that their divorce was "imminent" and would be "[officially] pronounced very soon." (link in French)
  • Oh dear: Rolando Villazón, who was trying to make his comeback after vocal problems, has just had to drop out of the Royal Opera House's production of Puccini's La Boheme due to "acute bronchitis." (The Mexican tenor leads the trailer.) Dmytro Popov, who was singing Rodolfo later in the run, will be stepping in.
  • This is really not at all classical per se, but "The Studio" skit from Portlandia is already a classic for engineers and audiophile geeks: "That's a Neumann mic right there." (Plus all the "Pet Sounds" references.)
  • Speaking of comedy: Chicago Magazine wonders if Chicago's Second City Guide to Opera with Renée Fleming and Patrick Stewart will fall flat on its face. It's sold out this Saturday night. (You can check out a sample in which Mimi and Rodolfo go to therapy.)
  • And watch superhero Stephen Hawking finish off a terrible, terrible tenor in the U.K. with the first-ever human-created black hole.
  • Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    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.