Around The Classical Internet: February 10, 2012 : Deceptive Cadence Meryl Streep talks about her operatic past, an opera debuts and a cruise goes nowhere: all the classical music news that's fit to link.

Around The Classical Internet: February 10, 2012

Benjamin Zander, lecturing in Davos, Switzerland on "Managing Complexity," was fired after 45 years at the New England Conservatory. World Economic Forum hide caption

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World Economic Forum

Benjamin Zander, lecturing in Davos, Switzerland on "Managing Complexity," was fired after 45 years at the New England Conservatory.

World Economic Forum
  • Conductor, educator and lecturer Benjamin Zander was fired from his post at the New England Conservatory last month over his hiring of a registered sex offender as a NEC videographer. At first angry about his hasty dismissal, Zander gives a more contrite interview to the Boston Globe. Turns out Zander may not have been the only one doing the hiring.
  • Remember all the tumult at the Aspen Music Festival a couple of years ago — when its president and chief executive, Alan Fletcher, was nearly fired and then music director David Zinman resigned? Well, Fletcher was just been given a five-year extension on his contract, and Robert Spano has been flourishing as music director. There are some real goodies on the 2012 calendar.
  • Of more recent memory: Do you recall how last week Simon Crookall suddenly announced his resignation as president and CEO of the Indianapolis Symphony? Well, the orchestra is insisting he was not fired or asked to resign – but is offering no explanation of why his leave-taking was so abrupt.
  • However, the Indianapolis Star is noting that "there seem to have been no 'goodbyes' to the administrative staff he headed nor to the orchestra's musicians, reports from representatives of each part of the ISO community suggest. Does someone leave an organization he's served for seven years of his own volition without even the appearance of a fond farewell? It doesn't seem likely."
  • What was Verdi's proudest achievement? What he called "his favorite of all his works was the Casa di Riposo per Musicisti, a retirement home in Milan for musicians who had reached age 65 and found themselves in dire straits."
  • There's a premiere this week of a lost opera by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, a biracial English composer who died a century ago and in his time was dubbed "the African Mahler." "The story of Thelma is an eclectic brew of Norse myth and romance, with those good old operatic faithfuls of a love triangle between goodies Thelma and Eric and the evil Viking Carl, an underwater kingdom, and a possibly Edgar Allan Poe-inspired maelstrom. For Coleridge-Taylor, who had drawn on both African and European sides of his heritage for musical inspiration (his father, Dr Daniel Taylor, was schooled in England but returned to Sierra Leone in 1875, never realizing he had fathered a son), the choice of this apparently Wagnerian theme may seem eccentric."
  • Did you know that Meryl Streep trained as an opera singer? She studied with Estelle Liebling, whose other students included Beverly Sills. She talked about her operatic study in her recent Fresh Air interview with our colleague Terry Gross. "There's a thing that I learned in my lessons with Estelle Liebling about breathing from your back. I mean, you always think you're going to take a deep breath, and your diaphragm expands. But she would always say, 'There's room in your back, you know.' And that was very helpful, that you expand three-dimensionally, not just in the front."
  • Enough about Madonna and M.I.A.! Did you notice how much classical music was used in this year's Super Bowl ads? Over at WQXR, Brian Wise has catalogued them all.
  • And the intrepid Alex Ross has tracked down the musicians behind the Clint Eastwood "Halftime in America" Chrysler commercial: a trio from Portland, Ore. The music was written by Alison Ables, the horn was played by Lydia Van Dreel and the producer was Collin Hegna, the bass player in Brian Jonestown Massacre.
  • Despite the headline, there aren't any answers in an essay titled "Why There Are So Few Female Composers?" But British composer Kerry Andrew posits that a paucity of visible role models is part of the problem: "The classical composers studied in set works are almost exclusively male. And white. Oh, and dead. It's glaringly obvious: if girls are presented with examples of successful female creators in all genres, they might view composition as a viable profession for themselves."
  • Why is it so hard for new musical instruments to catch on? "Established pop and rock musicians seem more inclined to try just about any instrument other than a new one. ... In the past, support from the establishment has made a difference in whether new instruments find a market. The research and backing of universities and corporations like RCA helped make the synthesizer happen. In Hector Berlioz, the saxophone got a major boost from a major composer."
  • A classical music cruise went nowhere, leaving some very angry customers in its wake. There was supposed to be a "dreamy January escape to the Caribbean aboard a luxury vessel, with composer Roberto Sierra, rising conductor Eckart Preu, Grammy-winning chamber group the Parker Quartet, and a 50-piece orchestra providing the live soundtrack ... and Bill McGlaughlin, the genial host of WFMT's nationally syndicated Exploring Music program, would be on board as a guest artist." And then the company that put the whole thing together went bankrupt.