Around The Classical Internet: January 20, 2012

Paganeni/YouTube

Violinist Sándor Fehér, the first identified victim of the Costa Concordia shipwreck in Italy.

  • The first identified casualty in the Italian cruise ship tragedy was a 38-year-old Hungarian violinist named Sándor Fehér who played on board the Costa Concordia. According to a musician colleague who survived the crash, Fehér "helped crying children into life jackets, then disappeared while trying to retrieve his beloved violin from his cabin." The above video, apparently made by Fehér last month, was created as a solicitation for a new job.
  • Back in June, we mentioned that the Supreme Court was going to hear a case on whether or not to keep thousands of compositions, books, and works in the public domain. In a 6-to-2 decision (with Justice Breyer writing the dissent for himself and Justice Alito), the Supreme Court ruled this past Wednesday to uphold a new law that reapplied copyright to millions of works that had long been free. The lawyer representing Lawrence Golan, the conductor and scholar who has spearheaded this fight, remarked in an interview that "the decision would greatly increase the number of symphonies that [for] the professor, and artists around the country, 'are now for all intents and purposes unable to perform and record because the [permissions] fee makes it infeasible.'"
  • This week, Juilliard announced a $20 million gift to endow its graduate studies in early music. The money was given by the chairman of its board, Bruce Kovner.
  • The Boston Globe continues its autopsy on Opera Boston: "The company's biggest donor, Randolph Fuller, wanted Opera Boston's leader, Lesley Koenig, out ... Nobody knows exactly what Koenig did to upset Fuller. Some believe he felt threatened by her opera expertise. Others say she wasn't sufficiently solicitous of such a major financial patron."
  • Back to the New York City Opera drama (again): the company's management now has tentative contract agreements in place with both its unions, theoretically just in time to put on its first production of the season, a run of Verdi's La Traviata at the Brooklyn Academy of Music opening Feb. 12.
  • The Los Angeles Opera is introducing dynamic ticket pricing in its 2012-13 season to draw in new audiences: "prices change based on audience demand, with popular shows and seats commanding a premium and less popular shows seeing discounts." (This is not earth-shattering to, say, Broadway. But it's still a pretty new idea for the classical world.) LA Opera is also introducing a new budget ticket for every performance: just $18.
  • In the New York Times, theater critic Ben Brantley and classical critic Anthony Tommasini discuss the new version of Porgy And Bess on Broadway. Brantley notes: "An editor of mine mentioned that it had seemed 'taped-together' to him, and compared it to a drastically abridged Anna Karenina, with connecting passages of plot summary. It's a valid analogy, I think."
  • The Minnesota Opera has, after 13 (!) years, found a new music director: Michael Christie, music director of the Phoenix Symphony and the Colorado Music Festival and former music director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic.
  • Christie will finish out the 2012-13 season in Phoenix before moving on. Says the Arizona orchestra's interim president: "I think we knew Michael was not going to stay in Phoenix forever. He's a rising star."
  • Grand Junction, Colo. now boasts a professional rock 'n' roll orchestra that hosts a complete concert season. The Grand Junction Rockestra's most recent concert included "At Last," made popular by Etta James, The Doobie Brothers' "Black Water" and Tom Petty's "Free Fallin." Development directors, take note: A co-sponsor is Grand Junction Harley-Davidson.
  • "Auld Lang Syne" again, from the top: Tonight, the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra is giving its fifth concert this season to mark a new start: the Chinese New Year. They've already given concerts for Rosh Hashanah 5772 (the start of the Jewish New Year), celebrated the arrival of 1433 on the Muslim calendar on the first day of the month of Muharram, and the beginning of 2012 according to both the Julian and Gregorian calendars.
  • Funds for this multicultural merrymaking were provided by a grant from the European Union as part of its Support to Civil Society project.
  • For Forbes, a business turnaround expert takes on the problem of American symphony orchestras. His ideas, in capsule size: Stop playing (nearly so many) concerts; pay musicians by concert, not by season; only play music most people will like; program concerts by ensemble size ("if you see an orchestra perform a 2-piece program comprised of 20-seat chamber orchestra piece and a massive 105+ seat early-20th-century symphonic firework, please have them call me because they're doomed"); and ensure that the board acts professionally. And second violinists are the equivalent of potted plants, apparently.
  • Awwww: Placido Domingo conducted a group of young music-playing kids from Brooklyn and Harlem who participate in a program modeled on El Sistema. (Go to the video. So cute! So heartwarming!)

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