Author: Bob Sandla

This Week’s Headlines

Photo of composer Trevor Weston by Ayano Hisa


San Francisco Symphony/San Francisco Conservatory’s Emerging Black Composers Project launches with Trevor Weston’s “Push”

New four-year contract for Minnesota Orchestra musicians, with salary increases

Rachel Hagemeier named president and CEO of Ohio’s Canton Symphony Orchestra

Florida’s Panama City Symphony appoints Sergey Bogza music director

Deborah Borda on renovating the New York Philharmonic’s concert hall at Lincoln Center

Cleveland Orchestra receives complete handwritten edition of Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony

Opinion: A history and re-examination of concert-hall conventions, from formal dress to shushing and bows

Gustavo Dudamel given Canada’s Glenn Gould Prize

Joel Thompson’s “To Awaken the Sleeper” at the Atlanta Symphony, inspired by James Baldwin

As we emerge from pandemic, will pay-what-you-can tickets help draw audiences to concert halls and operas?

Measuring audiences’ return to theaters, concert halls, opera houses, at the start of third season since pandemic began

Northeast Ohio’s wide-ranging classical scene, from Cleveland Orchestra and Akron Symphony to Cleveland Pops, Apollo’s Fire, CityMusic Cleveland, Cleveland Chamber Music Society, and more

New World Symphony and Adrienne Arsht Center among Miami arts groups spotlighting BIPOC artists

Toks Dada, in his first season as head of classical music at London’s Southbank Centre

What to do with old musical instruments?

South African cellist, singer, and improviser Abel Selaocoe releases a mixed-genre recording, “Where is Home (Hae Ke Kae)”

Pittsburgh Symphony: the meaning and message of a U.S. orchestra’s European tours

New classical music streaming service launches in September


This Week’s Headlines

Photo of Matthew Spivey by Cody Pickens

San Francisco Symphony names Matthew Spivey as CEO

Julia Wolfe’s “Her Story,” about equality for women, gets world premiere by Nashville Symphony; will be performed by orchestras of Boston, Chicago, San Francisco

New assistant conductor, acting concertmaster, and section leaders at Florida’s Naples Philharmonic

San Antonio Philharmonic, founded by musicians of former San Antonio Symphony, performs first concert

Chicago Sinfonietta honors late violinist and co-founder Terrance Malone Gray, on program featuring Roberto Sierra’s saxophone concerto

Toronto Symphony CEO Mark Williams to begin tenure with all-access open house, free concerts

2022 Van Cliburn Competition draws 25 million webcast views, increases social media and YouTube engagement

Pacific Symphony Music Director Carl St.Clair plans to step down at end of end of 2023-24 season

Rising double-bassist Matthew Morgan, alum of Dallas Young Strings program, which makes classical music accessible to students from underrepresented backgrounds

Review: Houston Symphony’s new music director, Juraj Valcuha, begins tenure with Verdi Requiem

Four new musicians join Los Angeles Philharmonic (subscription required)

Northern Ireland’s Ulster Orchestra names Auveen Sands chief executive, first woman in the job

Oklahoma City Philharmonic Music Director Mickelthwate on making music in a new hometown

Can a music critic ever be objective?

LACO to perform Clara Schumann-themed “Burn My Letters”

On February 7, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra will perform the U.S. premiere of Burn My Letters: Remembering Clara by Swedish composer Albert Schnelzer, inspired by the life and music of Clara Schumann. Music Director Jaime Martín will conduct the work, a co-commission with Ireland’s RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, Finland’s Lahti Symphony Orchestra, and Sweden’s Gävle Symphony Orchestra. In addition to the February 7 performance, at The Soraya in Northridge, California, LACO will perform Burn My Letters February 8 at Glendale’s Alex Theatre and February 9 at UCLA’s Royce Hall. The concerts also will feature Dvořák’s Symphony No. 6 and Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, with soloist Christian Tetzlaff.

In Seattle, two musical depictions of fateful meeting of Montezuma and Cortés

“Two stunning poems by Seattle poet Raúl Sánchez have become part of the basis for … a unique collaboration” by Early Music Seattle, Mexican-American composer Héctor Armienta, Orquesta Northwest, and Ensemble Caprice, writes Tom Keogh in Tuesday’s (2/4) Seattle Times. “ ‘The Other Conquest’ … on Feb. 8 presents two opposing views of the 500-year-old fateful meeting between Aztec emperor Montezuma and Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés in what is now Mexico…. Ensemble Caprice pieced together a partially lost score by … Vivaldi: a 1733 opera called ‘Motezuma’ (the spelling conforms to that used by ‘Motezuma’s librettist, Luigi Giusti). Ensemble Caprice is bringing its concert version (with story recitation) of ‘Motezuma’ to Seattle for a complete Early Music Seattle concert on Feb. 9 at Town Hall. … At the ‘The Other Conquest,’ Caprice will perform excerpts from ‘Motezuma’ followed by the world premiere of ‘La Conquista,’ with a score by Armienta and libretto by Sánchez. The Ballard Civic Orchestra, one of three ongoing projects under the umbrella of Orquesta Northwest, is dedicated to Latin American classical music. Music director Paula Madrigal conceived of a musical response to Vivaldi’s depiction of Cortés as a hero. She asked Sánchez to write the libretto.”

Malian musician claims kora instrument was broken as a result of TSA inspection

“One of Mali’s most prominent musicians, Ballaké Sissoko, has alleged that the Transportation Security Administration [TSA] destroyed his specially designed instrument during a trip from New York to Paris,” writes Anastasia Tsioulcas on Thursday’s (2/6) National Public Radio. “On Thursday afternoon, the TSA said that its agents did not open the instrument case or create the damage. Sissoko is an internationally celebrated player of the kora—a delicate, harp-like West African instrument … The alleged incident occurred as Sissoko was leaving the U.S. after a cross-country tour with the trio 3MA; he was booked on an overnight flight on Air France. Sissoko had checked his kora, which was packed in a hard case…. Once he arrived at his apartment in Paris, Sissoko says, he found his kora completely taken apart, and that it was accompanied by a note from TSA saying that the case had been opened and its contents inspected…. A number of U.S. organizations, ranging from the American Federation of Musicians union to the League of American Orchestras and the Recording Industry Association of America, have been active in efforts to ‘resolve long overdue inconsistent travel policies’ when it comes to flying with instruments in the U.S.”
Visit the League of American Orchestras advocacy page for aviation tips for traveling musicians.

New report from Association of British Orchestras reveals growth in audiences, numbers of concerts, income

“As the Association of British Orchestra’s annual conference gets underway, new analysis reveals the good health of the country’s symphonic sector,” writes Kyle Macdonald in last Wednesday’s (1/29) Classic FM (U.K.). “Once a year, representatives from orchestras across the UK get together to meet, share ideas, and celebrate the wonderful things about music-making in the country. It’s run by the Association of British Orchestras (ABO) and takes place this year in Manchester and Salford. Classic FM … joins the ABO alongside ensembles from all corners of the country…. Programming, workforce, funding, broadcasting and environment will all be discussed in the three-day event … And as the conference begins, there is every reason to feel positive about the future of orchestral music, as new analysis shows positive growth and resilience in the industry…. Every three years the ABO carries out a detailed statistical analysis of the UK’s professional orchestras. 2019’s report reveals positive growth in key areas: three per cent growth in numbers of performances, and two per cent growth in audience numbers…. There is promising news on the financial side of things too, with a 26 per cent increase in orchestras’ income since 2016.” Read the ABO’s report.

Toronto Symphony 2020-21: new artist in residence, NextGen Composers initiative, Beethoven-inspired works

“Gustavo Gimeno was in Toronto on Wednesday to introduce the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s 2020-21 season, his first as music director,” writes John Terauds in Thursday’s (2/6) Toronto Star (Canada). “The Spanish-born conductor will open the season Sept. 23 with Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 [and] rising star Canadian mezzo soprano Emily D’Angelo [in] arias from Mozart’s ‘La clemenza di Tito.’ … Composer and conductor Samy Moussa has been named the TSO’s first artist-in-residence. His dramatic, two-and-half-minute ‘Crimson’ from 2015 will serve as the season-opening fanfare…. Gimeno is expanding the number of relaxed concerts, which can accommodate people with different listening abilities. He is opening the doors to invite people to sit in on four lunchtime rehearsals. The TSO will mentor three young local composers,” Adam Scime, Bekah Simms, and Roydon Tse, who will be mentored by RBC Affiliate Composer Emilie LeBel in a new NextGen Composers initiative. The orchestra will perform Beethoven-inspired contemporary works by Unsuk Chin and Barbara Croall; concertmaster Jonathan Crow will lead an all-J.S. Bach program; and there will be a late-night performance of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Living composers represented in 2020-21 will include Hans Abrahamsen, Philip Glass, Jennifer Higdon, Nicole Lizée, Wynton Marsalis, and Steve Reich.

Blomstedt, San Francisco Symphony’s conductor laureate: “A day we have not learned anything is a waste”

“Herbert Blomstedt put in many decades as a music director, with all the extra work that entailed,” writes Joshua Kosman in Thursday’s (2/6) San Francisco Chronicle. “Blomstedt, at 92, seems so completely content and at ease…. ‘I just have to make sure we play as well as possible…. I love it,’ he [said] in the middle of one his visits … to guest-conduct the orchestra—in this case a two-week stint that began last week … an annual tradition since 1995, when he ceded the baton to Michael Tilson Thomas after 10 years as music director…. Since 2005, when he gave up his last music directorship of Leipzig’s renowned Gewandhaus Orchestra, Blomstedt has spent his time … as guest conductor with the finest American and European orchestras…. In San Francisco, he has the title conductor laureate…. Just in the past year, he said, he has [added] to his repertoire … Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 2, ‘Lobgesang,’ and Haydn’s ‘Lord Nelson’ Mass…. The day we spoke, he had been at his desk at 6 a.m., going over a Brahms symphony he already knew pretty well…. ‘We are learning all the time. A day we have not learned anything is a waste.’ ”

Boston Symphony adds free events at home, following cancellation of Asia tour due to coronavirus concerns

In photo: Thomas Wilkins leads the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall, March 2019. Photo by Winslow Townson


“The novel coronavirus outbreak in China may have grounded the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s planned tour of East Asia this month, but … players are heading out into the community for a series of pop-up chamber concerts,” writes Zoë Madonna in Thursday’s (2/6) Boston Globe. “The full orchestra also will offer a free ‘Concert for Our City’ at Symphony Hall Feb. 16 led by BSO youth and family concerts conductor Thomas Wilkins [featuring] selections by Tchaikovsky, Ginastera, Brahms, and George Walker. In addition, Chinese composer Huang Ruo will be the featured vocal soloist in selections from his own ‘Folksongs for Orchestra,’ and Sphinx Competition-winning cellist Sterling Elliott will take center stage for a movement of Dvořák’s classic Cello Concerto. The pop-up chamber concerts, which will take place at local organizations including schools, shelter facilities, and hospitals, are not open to the public. However, listeners can join the Boston Symphony Chamber Players at WGBH’s cozy Fraser Performance Studio for a concert and conversation hosted by WCRB’s Brian McCreath (Feb. 13)…. BSO players will also offer a free pop-up concert for the public at the Linde Center for Music and Learning at the Tanglewood campus in Lenox (Feb. 9).”