Category Archives: Music News

News about musical affairs from around the world

Summer Concert

Here’s the promised poll to help decide whether or not the Summer Concert should proceed as scheduled in Ken’s on 11th June. You can only vote once, and the poll will close at the end of the month.

As mentioned in the circulated email, at least four members are definitely unable to attend on that date, so the audience could be sparse. We might get a better turnout if the Concert was scheduled for a different date. At this stage we just need to decide about 11th June: Concert or no Concert?


Anticipation: Igor Levit’s new CD

First off, I can’t believe that I haven’t posted anything here since May. Perhaps I need to add stuff here rather than use emails.

Anyway, I have a definite reason for adding this post, because of the increasing excitement behind the release next month of Igor Levit’s new CD. Well, actually, it’s 3 CDs, each to contain a major work from the Variations repertory. In an inspired move, this brilliant young pianist has decided to couple the Goldberg, Diabelli and ‘People United’ Variations.

Igor Levit

‘People United?’, you ask. Yes, Frederic Rzewski’s monster work The People United Will Never Be Defeated! is well worthy of appearing in the same company as Bach and Beethoven. I’ve written about it here before (can it really be over five years ago?), and make no apologies for doing so again. In fact, I’ve recently added a sixth recording to my collection, and will soon add Igor Levit’s new recording as my seventh.

Just as with Rzewski, I’ve also mentioned Igor Levit before, though not here. I was blown away by his first recording (of late Beethoven piano sonatas) and raved about it either by email or at one of our sessions. I remember that Peadar was disappointed when he followed my advice and bought that CD, but I remain a firm fan (hint: you may see why when next I take a presentation slot), and would dearly love to hear him in the flesh.

My fandom is reinforced by an interview which he gave to Qobuz, one of my favourite download sites, during the making of the new release. He comes across as a lovely guy, full of youthful enthusiasm, as I hope you’ll agree when you see the interview.

Arte Videos and The Opera Platform


Members are familiar with recordings from the Arte TV channel which Dermot and Ron bring to our sessions, making us jealous of the access they have to such wonderful programmes.

Well, we underprivileged ones can now watch also, thanks to Arte on the web.


(Note: The above link brings up a list of available videos which are free to view. Each video remains up for an extended period (six months or so). To speed up loading time, only a limited number of items appears to begin with. I’ve outlined in red a clickable area at the bottom of the web page which displays additional items.)


Arte are one of several broadcasters and opera houses who have come together to launch a very welcome new initiative on the web. Arte’s video web site has a direct link in its menu (indicated by the red arrow in the screen shot above), or you can find The Opera Platform here. The Opera Platform is an initiative of Opera Europa developed in partnership with ARTE and fifteen opera houses/festivals from across Europe. The Opera Plaform launched with David McVicar’s production of La Traviata in a performance recorded on the 8th of May at the Teatro Réal in Madrid. Also available is a recording of Szymanowski’s King Roger, a Covent Garden performance recorded on the 16th of May (was this screened to cinemas?).

Anyway, do make a note of The Opera Platform.

Renata Tebaldi’s Tosca, ROH 1955

It’s amazing what modern technology can achieve. A case in point is the amazing advances which have been made in re-mastering old recordings. At the forefront of this development is Pristine Classics, an outfit which specialises in re-mastering from best available sources. Its most recent offering is a recording of Tosca — not any old Tosca, but the Tosca which began Renata Tebaldi’s debut season at Covent Garden in 1955.

From the Pristine site:

When the BBC began broadcasting FM radio on the VHF band on 2nd May 1955 in the south-east of England, it’s unlikely that many people tuned in on the first night. Indeed, it’s unlikely that many people had the necessary equipment to do so. The incentives might have appeared slender: the same three radio stations, the same mono sound, but a bit clearer and with more treble. Outside of a certain enthusiast market I doubt many people rushed out to buy new radio sets for the occasion.

Which may explain why the present recording came about as it did. Although our copy came via a 1/4″ open-reel tape dub, it’s without a doubt the case that the original recording was made onto 33rpm acetate discs in a recording studio hired for the task of capturing Tebaldi’s Covent Garden Tosca from the BBC’s live FM broadcast of 30 June, 1955, less than two months after the transmitter was switched on.

As with other BBC recordings of the era the precise origins of the recording, who made it, for whom, and where it went to over the years, are entirely unknown. But here it is – a copy has surfaced and found itself directed to me, and although the performance is available as a CD already, the sonic leap forward offered by this higher quality source made it irresistible. This remarkable new find has proved to be immeasurably superior in sound quality to the previously issued recording, with a full, realistic, clear and vibrant sound almost throughout. Magnificent!

If you already have this on CD you’ll want to jettison the previous disc. If you don’t, maybe because you couldn’t bear the shrill, hard, thin and constricted sound, then listen again. It’s a Tosca and a half, and is definitely one you’ll want to hear right now.

So, here’s a sound file of highlights. Renata Tebaldi is Tosca (obviously), with Tito Gobbi as Scarpia. Ferruccio Tagliavini is Cavaradossi, though I don’t think we hear him in the excerpts. The Orchestra and Chrous of the ROH are conducted by Francesco Molinari-Pradelli.

Good news for Philadelphia

Yannick renews

In a sign of his long-term dedication to the Orchestra and Philadelphia, Yannick Nézet-Séguin has extended his tenure as music director [of the Philadelphia Orchestra] for another five years, through the 2021-22 season. Heralded for inspiring and revitalizing the Orchestra, Yannick has developed a deep connection with the musicians of the ensemble that has resulted in thrilling performances. He has brought fresh inspiration to the repertoire, created new access points for community members of all backgrounds, and built audiences by transforming the concert experience. Yannick said, “The warm embrace of The Philadelphia Orchestra and its audiences has been humbling and exhilarating since I made my debut in 2008. Knowing that this love affair with the Orchestra and the City of Philadelphia will continue is an immense joy.”

That’s from the official press release, but it sums up the news quite neatly. Certainly, Yannick is among the current crop of exciting young conductors. Like the Skibereen Echo, I’ve had my eye on him for some time.

Carl Nielsen Anniversary Website

We all know that the 150th Anniversary of the birth of Carl Nielsen is one of the highlights of 2015’s musical year. We will be doing our bit to mark the occasion with our Nielsen Day on 6th June, and that’s by no means to be sneezed at.

But there are other people out there who are also doing their bit to do something special. Chief among these is this site which is a wonder to behold.

Carl Nielsen Anniversary Website

This quote from one of the contributors to the Friends of Radio Three forum sums it up nicely:

This is a model of how the internet can enhance one’s knowledge and understanding – especially if you scroll down and click on ‘Works’ when you can select, hear and follow the score of a host of his pieces.

Clicking on the Menu button reveals this extensive list of content, which gives some idea of the vast amount of information available. This site deserves a bookmark in anyone’s browser.

Screenshot 2015-01-13 12.54.35

First BSO recording from Andris Nelsons

Nelsons BSO

A bit of a milestone, this. Andris Nelsons began his tenure as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in September, and this is the first recording (available lon the orchestra’s own label) to be released featuring the new partnership. This is the blurb on the BSO’s site:

The Boston Symphony Orchestra and Andris Nelsons are very pleased to announce their first compact disc recording, a BSO Classics release pairing the overture to Wagner’s Tannhäuser and the Symphony No. 2 of Jean Sibelius. Both works are taken from concert performances earlier this season at Symphony Hall-the Wagner from Maestro Nelsons’ inaugural concert as music director on September 27, 2014, the Sibelius from his BSO program of November 6-11. The selections are particularly meaningful. It was hearing Wagner’s opera when he was just five years old that made Andris Nelsons want to be a conductor; the Sibelius reflects his strong interest in music of the Scandinavian and Slavic countries, and also builds upon the BSO’s distinguished history of past Sibelius recordings.

Daniele Gatti to take over at the Concertgebouw

Daniele Gatti has been appointed the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s new chief conductor, a post he will assume in 2016. The Italian maestro will thus be the seventh chief conductor in the orchestra’s history. He will be succeeding Mariss Jansons, who announced in April 2014 he was relinquishing the post of chief conductor; Maestro Jansons will be leading the RCO in that capacity for the last time on 20 March 2015.

That’s from the announcement on the RCO website. I find it a rather surprising and disappointing appointment. Certainly, Gatti’s name never even entered my head when the great Jansons announced his resignation.

We shall see.