Originally published on Tue December 31, 2013 3:39 pm
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." That could be the annual mantra for the classical music world. It has been predicted to crumble for decades, just as optimists continue to point to positive trends. This year is no different. Despite two ugly black eyes — the death of the New York City Opera and the continuing, bitter stalemate between the Minnesota Orchestra's (locked out) musicians and management — terrific music is being made by marvelous artists. Here we offer a short list of the best and worst of 2013.
British conductor Nicholas McGegan celebrates his 'Beatle' birthday today (64, that is). To mark the occasion, he recalls how he first fell in love with opera. It came by way of a newfangled record player and one heavenly Mozart recording. Remember when the operatic light bulb first sparked for you?
Mukhtar Mai is from a small tribal village in Pakistan. In 2002, her brother was accused of sexually molesting a woman from a wealthy land-owning clan. What happened next was horrifying, says singer and composer Kamala Sankaram.
Polish pianist Rafał Blechacz, who at age 20 swept all five top prizes at the 2005 International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, can now add another prestigious award to his collection. Early Wednesday, Blechacz was named the 2014 Gilmore Artist.
The Gilmore may not have quite the name recognition as the Chopin Competition, but it has a distinguished cachet of its own, plus a generous $300,000 cash award.
Van-Anh Vanessa Vo is a veteran when it comes to taking risks, and it pays off in her compelling music. As a young girl in Vietnam, she knew she wanted to be a traditional musician, even though it was a world dominated by men. It was risky, then, when she pestered a master teacher for three years to give her lessons. He finally gave in, taking her on as an apprentice.
Because of a bitter labor dispute, the Minnesota Orchestra has not played a single performance in its concert hall this year. The orchestra's music director, Osmo Vanska (pictured here), resigned in October.
Some Steinway company representatives and employees — like Wally Boot, pictured here — have been working for the company for decades. Boot is the last person to touch every piano that leaves the factory in Queens, N.Y.
For 160 years, the pianos made by Steinway & Sons have been considered the finest in the world. So when hedge fund billionaire John Paulson recently bought the company, it struck fear in the hearts of musicians: Would the famously handcrafted pianos be changed, for the sake of efficiency? Paulson, who owns several Steinways himself, says nothing will change.