Originally published on January 27, 2012 2:27 pm
- New York's Columbus Avenue isn't exactly the mean streets – but Chinese conductor Long Yu might not think so anymore. On the eve of making his New York Philharmonic debut last Tuesday, Yu was walking after dinner with a friend when a man approached to bum a cigarette. When Yu waved him off, the man lashed out and struck the conductor in the eye. Yu says he gave chase, grabbed his assailant and punched him back. "Mr. Yu said he went to an emergency room in the middle of the night after discomfort in his eye grew. A doctor said there was a scratch on the surface of his eye, which later acquired a shiner. Mr. Yu went on to conduct the concert Tuesday night, his face swollen. 'A professional is a professional,' he said."
- Finnish conductor Paavo Berglund has died at age 82. Principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for most of the 1970s and principal guest conductor of the Scottish National Orchestra from 1981 to 1985, he also served as chief conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic.
- Bass Paul Plishka is retiring Saturday after giving his 1600th performance at the Met. As one might expect, the 70-year-old has a treasure trove of stories. One involves a vengeful trombonist and a very rotten fish.
- Conductor Richard Bonynge has been named a Companion of the Order of Australia – joining his late wife, Dame Joan Sutherland, in a rare circle of Aussie power couples who are dual holders of this honor.
- The Stradivarius cello that used to belong to Bernard Greenhouse – and before that, by Niccolò Paganini – went for a record price last week: "a fair bit above" $6 million. (The dealer declined to specify the exact bid.) Another mystery? The identity of the buyer, described as a "patroness of the arts from Montreal." She promptly lent the instrument out to a young cellist, also from Montreal.
- The announcement of the Philadelphia Orchestra's 2012-13 season – its first with Yannick Nézet-Séguin at the helm – included the news that the Philadelphians will record for Deutsche Grammophon, after a few years of partnership with the Ondine label and then experimenting with an in-house effort.
- In the Virginia House of Representatives, there's a bill to bar orchestral musicians from seeking unemployment benefits in the summers between their seasons. According to the executive director of the Richmond Symphony, "a quarter of the orchestra's 70 members collect unemployment in any given year, and an even higher number of the Virginia Symphony's members."
- Here's a fascinating profile of composer and "futurologist" Tod Machover of MIT, who shares his amazing – really, truly amazing – findings about the power of making music, as demonstrated by patients with severe physical disabilities: "A few patients with hopeless prognoses and no meaningful life had significant enough changes in their pathology that they could actually think about at least partial recovery. Some found a decrease in auditory and visual hallucinations. There were behavior changes in many that allowed for socialization." (There's a fabulous TED video available featuring Machover and one such collaborator, Dan Ellsey.)
- Here's an engaging essay on Liszt's massive B-Minor Sonata: "Playing through the work one follows Liszt's brain at fever pitch. It is music of drastic intellectuality, clothed in a Dantesque drama."
- Over at the Telegraph, assistant books editor Sameer Rahim – an opera neophyte – has initiated an occasional column about his newfound passion: "I still can't explain why, but a minute into the prelude" – of Wagner's Parsifal, which he more or less stumbled into – "I found myself in tears ... I was certainly hooked and over the next few months saw a dozen or so including Rossini's Barber of Seville, Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, Puccini's Il Trittico – even a modern opera, John Adams' Nixon in China. And I loved every single one."
- Opera newbies in Charlotte were welcomed to a free performance of Madama Butterfly: "When Opera Carolina announced in December it would offer a free performance, the requests outstripped the capacity so quickly the company raised money to do another. The two performances – the second is Saturday – will introduce nearly 4,000 people to Opera Carolina."
- A similar event was announced for Arlington, Tex.: "Cowboys Stadium will join forces with the Dallas Opera for what the press release called '... first classical music simulcast ever conducted in a North Texas sports venue.'"
- Kotaku has the (tongue-in-cheek) score on two dueling game apps involving ... Chopin. "For years I've had to deal with those insufferable Eternal Sonata fans boasting about how their game was the only one to star 18th [sic] century romantic composer Frederic Chopin as a playable character. Guess what, Sonatees? There's a new game in town, and it makes yours look like cheap anime RPG fluff ... Frederic - The Resurrection of Music for iOS, a game that not only stars Frederic Chopin, but allows you to perform several of his most famous compositions. Competitively. Against modern-day ethnic musical stereotypes."
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