American soprano Evelyn Lear — whose roles ranged from title role in Berg's Lulu to Mozart to Sondheim — died at age 86 Monday at a nursing home, though the cause was not announced. (Her late husband of more than fifty years, the bass-baritone Thomas Stewart, died six years ago.)
Definitely make time for this one: "The classical audition ranks among the world's toughest job interviews. Each applicant has 10 minutes at most to play in a way so memorable that he stands out among a lineup of other world-class musicians ... If [percussionist Mike Tetrault] squeezes his glockenspiel mallet too hard, choking the sound, or if he overthinks the dotted rhythm or fails to adjust to the Boston Symphony Orchestra's oddly scaled xylophone bars and misses a few notes, the whole thing will be over."
Alec Baldwin is busy burnishing his image as classical music's biggest pop-culture friend: he just gave the New York Philharmonic $1 million in honor of Zarin Mehta, the orchestra's outgoing president and executive director.
A visit to the Washington National Opera with Ken Feinberg, victims-compensation guru and "master of disasters" since 2001: "'Opera and classical music saved my sanity,' he says as we head into the theater. 'People at the World Trade Center are killed by terrorists; you can go two miles uptown to Lincoln Center and listen to the height of civilization.'"
The end of the relationship between conductor Stefan Sanderling and the Florida orchestra is coming soon — and sooner than expected. "The orchestra announced late Sunday that Sanderling is stepping down as music director two years sooner than he said he was a year ago, when the conductor announced he would not renew his contract after it expired at the end of the 2013-14 season."
Three links on tech and music: Artist Neil Harbisson — dubbed a "sonochromatic artist cyborg" has a very rare kind of color blindness that means that he can only see in shades of grey. But his prosthetic eyepiece "translates" colors into sound for him. He says that Mozart is yellow, "and so is Bach. But Beethoven is more purple and blue. Vivaldi's The Four seasons is interesting — spring is very colourful, winter starts very blue, and summer is yellow ... autumn is colourful too. Rachmaninov is red and blue, Cage is black and white!"
And yet another reason for me to buckle down and finally learn more than the knit and purl stitches: Composer Jeff Bryant has figured out how to power a piano via knitting. He knits scarves with conductive fiber woven into them. Once they're knit, any pulling, twisting or smushing up of the scarves controls the movement of a Disklavier automatic piano.
The London Symphony Orchestra has just played a piece called Transits — written entirely by a computer program called Iamus. (The first recording of Iamus-written compositions will be released in September.)
24-year-old Korean pianist HJ Lim on recording the complete Beethoven piano sonatas (more than nine hours of music being digitally sold by her label, EMI Classics, for all of 10 bucks!): "I don't take life for granted, and I don't know if I will be alive in five years. As far as I know no composer wrote on their score, 'Forbidden to those under age 18.' When you feel so passionate about something, there is no point to wait."
The, uh, teeth of Johannes Brahms and Johann Strauss Jr. were stolen from their graves by a Czech man who allegedly wanted to start a museum. "Austrian police were alerted to the crime after the grave robber released a video where he can be seen apparently pushing the cover to one of the composer's tomb open — and pulling out a skull. He then removes the teeth with a pair of pliers." The man claims to have taken teeth from hundreds of other graves as well.
I will be referring to this advice on dealing with writer's block from original "Mad Man" and father of modern advertising David Ogilvy, written in 1955: "If all else fails, I drink half a bottle of rum and play a Handel oratorio on the gramophone. This generally produces an uncontrollable gush of copy."