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Classical Crib Sheet: Top 5 Stories This Week

Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, whose recording of music by John Adams made our Top 10 of 2012.
Bill Swerbenski
courtesy of the artists
Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, whose recording of music by John Adams made our Top 10 of 2012.
  • We've made a list, checked it way more than twice — and now it's your turn. Take a look at our list of top 10 classical releases of 2012. And you should definitely also take a look at our broader lists of 50 favorite albums and 100 favorite songs of this year — there's classical there, too.
  • And the Grammy nominations are out. (Remember all the confusion over what on earth "classical compendium" means? Well, there are only three nominees in that category, so maybe people still aren't sure what it's supposed to mean.)
  • Brian Wise, one of our colleagues over at WQXR, has a piece exploring the classical side of Dave Brubeck, who died on Wednesday, just a day short of his 92nd birthday.
  • Another sad passing Wednesday that went more quietly noted: English composer Jonathan Harvey, who died at age 73. Gramophone has posted a good list of recommended Harvey recordings.
  • Nokia has enlisted the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra to play 25 newly composed classical ringtones for their Lumia devices, after market research revealed that classical music is the most popular genre for ringtones. (The composers? Five Nokia in-house "sound designers," as they explained to the Telegraph.)
  • Classical geek? Keep going...

  • The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra summarily fired music director Arild Remmereit two years into his four-year contract, effective at the end of this season. The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle notes that the conductor has clashed with both the group's board president and chair since his arrival — but in the wake of his dismissal, one of the orchestra's most prominent donors, Betty Strasenburgh, has cancelled a $100,000 pledge that would have funded the RPO's appearance at the final edition of Spring for Music at Carnegie Hall in 2014.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports that New York City Opera GM George Steel says the company will be holding an online auction in January to get rid of 90% of its sets, costumes and props. Steel calls keeping these materials — which range from a 1970's staging of Donizetti's Roberto Devereux with Beverly Sills and Plácido Domingo to Maurice Sendak's creations for Prokofiev's Love for Three Oranges — a "crazy luxury," given the company's financial state.
  • File this under "who knew?" The late actor Larry Hagman (that's J.R. to you, but he was also son of Broadway legend Mary Martin) was a major supporter of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, says the Dallas Morning News. They'll be playing a concert in his memory in January.
  • He might call himself just a "guest" in Chicago, but Riccardo Muti is a pretty lavishly paid visitor: he earned roughly $2.2 million at the CSO in 2011, says the Chicago Tribune.
  • Thursday afternoon, the Minnesota Orchestra announced that they are running a deficit of $6M for the 2012 fiscal year. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune points out that this is "the largest deficit in the orchestra's 110-year history and twice as large as last year's shortfall." Building continues for their new hall, despite the drawdown and despite the organization's continued musician lockout.
  • Speaking of rebuilding: the New York Times has details on a planned $60 million renovation at the Met Opera: "An internal planning document provided by the Met paints a grim picture. 'Because of inertia and limited maintenance time, many of the stage systems are beyond their expected life span and close to failure,' it said."
  • Egypt's newspaper Al Ahram reports that due to the continued turbulence in that country, the Ministry of Culture has reported that all the opera venues in Cairo and Alexandria are shut down until further notice, including the Cairo Opera House.
  • Composer John Adams (whose music appears on one of our Top 10 of 2012 picks, but is perhaps better known online as "Hellmouth") contributed a long review to the New York Times on Camille Paglia's new book, Glittering Images. He doesn't like it one bit, but here's a gem in which he might as well be referring to the tension between popular and art music: "Paglia has signed on to a currently popular thesis that blames serious artists who, because of their arrogance, have lost touch with the general public and brought about their own marginalization. This argument claims that the conventional fine arts have diminished in significance, leaving only those innovators who have 'embraced technology' as worthy of our attention. This is a thin thread on which to hang the appraisal of a living artist. A 'technology' is no more than a way of doing something, a means to an end, and throughout history artists have been stimulated by new technological and conceptual ideas. There is nothing shockingly modern about the dynamic between artistic creation and technological innovation, be it an intellectual discovery like perspective or a new piece of hardware like the movie camera or the electric guitar."
  • Female inmates at Alaska's Hiland Mountain Correctional Center have found an artistic outlet: classical music. Says one former inmate who's chosen to remain in the jail's orchestra even after she was done doing her time: "It's something that gave me something to focus on besides being unhappy and walking around like a robot." Another professed that she hoped her parole would be delayed slightly so that she could still be able to play in a recent concert. (The Washington Post profile includes a nice video.)
  • Also up north: the El Sistema concept has reached Saskatoon. So far, teachers have been using plastic drums, voices and dowels for batons because they can't yet afford real instruments, notes the CBC.
  • Speaking of El Sistema: be sure to hop online this coming Monday at 8 PM ET for our Carnegie Hall Live webcast of Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Orchestra playing an all-Latin program.
  • Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

    Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.
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