Atlanta Symphony Orchestra musicians and management are embroiled in contract negotiations with a deadline of midnight Aug. 25. ASO players are willing to slice 11 percent off their compensation, but only if staff takes the same cut. Cellist Daniel Laufer, representing the players: "We have offered to reduce the size of the orchestra, reduce the individual compensation of musicians, reduce the number of work weeks, and share health care costs with management." ASO president Stanley Romanstein: "We're playing Russian roulette with the future of the Atlanta Symphony."
Adding insult to injury: In a concert last Sunday, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra was billed as backing the pop-opera boy band Il Divo, but at the last minute the orchestra was informed they wouldn't be heard by the audience. Instead, an entirely different orchestra was piped in while the Atlanta players essentially mimed the music. "I was shocked," said one ASO musician. "I wondered why on earth they wanted to book the Atlanta Symphony for this gig if they didn't want to hear the Atlanta Symphony."
Stealth Resignation for Atlanta Opera: After eight years on the job, Atlanta Opera general director Dennis Hanthorn quietly stepped down. So quietly that the company hadn't released a statement until an inquisitive Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter started asking questions. Hanthorn hasn't been talking, but board chairman William E. Tucker noted that "Dennis is probably at a point in his career where he wants to explore broader things, and Atlanta is a traditional city."
Seattle Symphony reboot: Basking in the afterglow of its first season under new music director Ludovic Morlot, the Seattle Symphony has a strategy to dig out from under years of musical and financial troubles. A key ingredient is contemporary music.
Sizing up the São Paulo Symphony: Londoners got a chance to hear the little known São Paulo Symphony Orchestra Wednesday at the Proms concerts. Marin Alsop, who took over the 58-year-old ensemble in March, looks to give the orchestra a more global reach. Reviewing the concert for the Telegraph, Hugo Shirley noted that with Alsop at the helm, "this orchestra is a force to be reckoned with."
Elsewhere In London: The Royal Opera House has dealt a blow to fans of contemporary opera and dance. A wing of the company — ROH2, dedicated to commissioning new works — has been clipped. After two key leaders of the team left for other jobs, the opera house decided to discontinue the program. Perhaps this year's 15% funding cut from Arts Council England also played a part.
London's musical conqueror: Three hundred years ago a self-confident German moved to London and quickly subjugated the music scene. His name was George Frideric Handel. In Gramophone, Richard Wigmore notes how the Saxon earned his stripes as the "Orpheus of our Century" for English music lovers.
A less lucky Londoner: The son of an African father and English mother, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor struggled for success as a biracial composer in London in the early 20th century. To mark the 100th anniversary of Coleridge-Taylor's death, Andrew Achenbach tells the story of the gifted composer who gave us Hiawatha's Wedding Feast.
A persistent pianist with one hand: Nicholas McCarthy can look back with a sense of pride when he recalls the music school who denied him an audition because he was born without a right hand. This summer McCarthy became the first one-handed pianist to graduate from London's prestigious Royal College of Music. He's a member of Britain's Paraorchestra, the first orchestra for disabled musicians, and he headlines a big concert in London next month.
Swed and Wang, together again: Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed's comments about pianist Yuja Wang's choice of concert attire a year ago set off a small tempest in the classical blogosphere. Wang and Swed each returned to the Hollywood Bowl last week. Swed confined his comments mainly to Wang's Tchaikovsky performance, but also noted how she "strutted her stuff in an elegant long purple number with a flashy slit up the right leg ... Thigh and Tchaikovsky, yes, but this time no tongues were wagging."
Elsewhere in L.A.: A shout out for Brian Lauritzen, a classical music announcer and producer at KUSC, whose laid-back style draws listeners into the music. His profile in the Los Angeles Times reveals his southern roots, a penchant for Berlioz and his take on the arts. One factoid you won't find in the article: Lauritzen was once an industrious intern for Performance Today. Go Brian!
Hollywood vs. Opera: Zachary Woolfe thinks that movies like Moonstruck and Pretty Woman are killing opera. OK. (For another view of the current state of opera and its future, hear and read this discussion by a panel of experts, elsewhere on this blog)
John Cage is everywhere: With the 100th anniversary of the birth of the avant-garde composer right around the corner (Sept. 5), New York Times writer Allan Kozinn shares his chance encounter with John Cage's spirit on a New York subway.
The 'Deep Listening' of Pauline Oliveros: If accordions played deep inside reverberant cisterns is your idea of cool music, Texas-born Pauline Oliveros, with her Deep Listening Band, is your composer. The fascinating and willfully independent Oliveros, who turned 80 in May, is profiled by Steve Smith in the New York Times.
How I learned to love Saint-Saens: That could be the subtitle of Smith's review of upstate New York's Bard Music Festival, which this year focuses on the French composer who gave us the "Organ" symphony and Carnival of the Animals.
Daniel Hope's complex history with Berlin: The thoughtful violinist (with eclectic musical tastes) traces his family history back to Berlin. His family fled the Nazis, who installed a decoding station in the Hope family home.
An organ wizard passes: Once dubbed the "Pavarotti of the Organ" (as noted on his own web site), Carlo Curley, a native of North Carolina, died in England Saturday at age 59. Curley made a number of successful recordings in the '80s and was the first classical organist to be invited to perform at the White House. Watch him play John Philip Sousa's "Liberty Bell" at Chester Cathedral in England.
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