Around The Classical Internet: January 6, 2012

This is all that remains of a violin PayPal asked a buyer to destroy. i i

hide captionThis is all that remains of a violin PayPal asked a buyer to destroy.

Regretsy.com
This is all that remains of a violin PayPal asked a buyer to destroy.

This is all that remains of a violin PayPal asked a buyer to destroy.

Regretsy.com
  • Paypal has confirmed a story that seemed at first to be too wild to be true: They told a customer to destroy a violin after a contentious eBay transaction. The instrument's provenance was disputed (though incorrect labels aren't exactly uncommon in the violin world). The seller claims that she had the instrument authenticated, but the anonymous buyer disputed its origins — and PayPal, in accordance with their "counterfeit" items policy (which one would think would be more appropriate for fake handbags and the like), asked the buyer to smash it.
  • Claims "Erica," the seller: "The buyer was proud of himself, so he sent me a photo of the destroyed violin."
  • Speaking of eBay shenanigans, the Israel Philharmonic is requesting to join a suit in a Jerusalem court against Meir Biezunski of Haifa, who allegedly stole hundreds of documents from Israel's National Library, the country's state archives and the Jewish National Fund. Biezunski put the materials up for sale on eBay. "The affair began in 2008, when a collector alerted the National Library that a manuscript by the Swiss composer Arthur Honegger he had bought from Biezunski clearly belonged to the library."
  • Remember how shortly before Christmas the Leeds Symphony Orchestra's instruments were burgled? Everything was recovered, totally unharmed, in an industrial yard in Morecambe, Lancashire: "Everything had obviously been carefully unloaded and placed in the yard. Even the covers were still on the two kettledrums."
  • One of the new works on tap for the 2012 Olympics in London is a piece by 33-year-old Scottish composer Anna Meredith for the National Youth Orchestra — without any instruments. The musicians are only using claps, body percussion and beatboxing. (Video at link.)
  • What social impact has the Sistema-trained Gustavo Dudamel brought to LA? Time Magazine visits the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, where "word of the program is spreading so fast that staff can't keep up with the demand."
  • The costume designers for the Los Angeles Philharmonic's upcoming production of Mozart's Don Giovanni will be sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy, the duo behind the fashion label Rodarte. (Frank Gehry will tackle the set design.) Laura Mulleavy: "It only took a few seconds to say 'yes.' My grandmother sang opera, and if she were alive today, this would be her proudest moment."
  • The New York Philharmonic has, after an extended search, finally found a new executive director: 42-year-old Matthew VanBiesen, a former French horn player who has had stints running the Houston and Melbourne symphony orchestras.
  • A sign of the times, or just an anomaly? The Oregon Symphony has dropped its membership in the League of American Orchestras: "When we weighed the $17,000 cost with the benefits of League membership, we couldn't justify the expense."
  • In the New York Times, Zachary Woolfe waxes philosophical about what he sees as the waning of New York City Opera: "Institutions come and go; what is important is the preservation of core values."
  • More on Opera Boston's sudden disbandment, in the form of a board statement: "We are grateful for the extensive media coverage of the closing, as well as the years of coverage of the company's artistic innovation. As we have said before, ours was not an easy decision to make, but we feel strongly that it was the right one." (They claim that contrary to those media reports, "nine of the 11 members were present for the vote." The Boston Globe previously reported that there were 17 Opera Boston board members, not 11.)
  • Mayor Tom Menino of Boston has placed an increased fee on his city's non-profit institutions. If they own property worth more than $15 million, they will now pay 25% of what they would be charged if they were commercial entities. While the Boston Symphony Orchestra managed to get their fee reduced, WGBH's fee went up more than fivefold, from $51,000 to $259,000.
  • Here we go again with "classical music makes you smarter." Researchers in France say that educators who play Bach (as well as Mozart and Tchaikovsky) during their lectures produce students who perform better on post-class quizzes than students just hearing the lecture: "It is possible that music, provoking a change in the learning environment, influenced the students' motivation to remain focused during the lecture, which led to better performance on the multiple choice quiz."
  • Speaking of tests, here's more on that double-blind violin test which placed two Strads (and a Guarneri) up against new instruments:
  • From The Guardian: The report of this test "leaves too many questions unanswered."
  • And a first-hand report from one of the judges, Ariane Todes, who edits the string magazine The Strad: "What does the study prove? It's a stretch to get to the myth-busting generalization that violinists can't tell a Strad from a modern instrument. There are too many philosophical issues and variables to be definitive about that. However the data clusters around a popular modern instrument and an unpopular Stradivari force one to consider the preconceptions that are so hardwired."
  • Though the names of the participants haven't been made public, Discover Magazine's blog points out that the testing was done during the 2010 Eighth International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, which draws internationally renowned violinists as jurors as well as competitors from across the globe.

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