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A Classical Music Miscellany- News And Views

  As usual ,there's plenty of interest going on in the anything but stodgy world of classical music . There were two notable passings last week, the great African-American mezzo-soprano Shirley Verrett,79, died .  She was one of the greatest opera singers of our time, a beautiful lady with a beautiful voice who graced the world's greatest opera houses for many years and left numerous recordings,among them, Lady Macbeth in Verdi's Shakespearean opera, Orpeus in Gluck's Orfeo &Euridice, and Princess Eboli in Verdi's Don Carlo ,to name only a few.

  The great Russian violist and conductor Rudolf Barshai also passed away at the age of 86. He was a close friend of and collaborator with the great Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich and many other leading musicians of the Soviet era. Starting out as a violist, he turned to conducting later, and recorded among other things ,all 15 symphonies of Shostakovich, as well as transcribing some of his string quartets and other works for orchestra.

  World-famous conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim, 68, has singed an unprecendented double recording contract with Decca and Deutsche Grammophon records, and will record all nine Beethoven symphonies with his specially formed orchestra the West East Divan, which brings together talented young Israeli and Arab classical musicians in an attempt to forge friendship and foster peace,as well as the piano concertos of Chopin and Liszt, etc.  In an age when the classical recording industry seems to be foundering,this is encouraging news. Despite his extremely busy schedule as a conductor of orchestral concerts and opera, Barenboim continues to perform regularly as a pianist, and has been before the public since he was a small boy.

  The health problems which forced renowned Italian conductor Riccardo Muti,69,to cancel his schedule opening concerts as music director of the Chicago Symphony this September turned out to be not gastric problems,but extreme stress according to his physicians. He is expected to take up his duties in Chicago early next year.

  The financially troubled Detroit Symphony has been on strike for over a month and its future is uncertain despite having recently engaged the world-famous America conductor Leonard Slatkin as its music director and making at least one recording for Naxos records at a time when few American orchestras are making recrdordings at all. 

  German conductor Michael Sanderling has been appointed music director of the Dresden Philharmonic in Germany.  He is one of no fewer than three conductor sons of the eminent retired German conductor Kurt Sanderling , 98 .  The Dresden Philharmonic is not to be confused with the more famous Dresden Staatskapelle, which functions as the orchestra of the Saxon State opera in Dresden as well as playing concerts,and is one of the oldest orchestras in the world.  Sanderling's brothers Thomas and Stefan are also well-known conductors. 

  James Levine's extremely demanding schedule of concerts and opera conducting at the Metropolitan Opera and Boston Symphony have been proceding without incident after his long bout with severe back trouble and previous history of other ailments,thank heaven. 

  Notable musicians who have passed away this year include not only Barshai and Verrett but conductors Wyn Morris of Wales, Austrian Otmar Suitner, Ole Schmidt of Denmark, Fuat Mansurov of the Tatar republic in Russia, Dame Joan Sutherland, English operatic tenors Philip Langridge and Anthony Rolfe Johnson, and conductor Sir Charles Mackerras of Australia. 

  Despite its many problems  , classical music is still very much alive and as relevant as ever.  It is one of the greatest achievments of mankind and something which brings joy and inspiration to countless people all over the world.  There are those who scoff at it and question its importance to society and those who feel that its greatest days are behind it, but it will endure as long as humanity exists. 

Posted: Nov 08 2010, 08:50 AM by the horn | with no comments
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