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Friday Miscellanea

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Friday Miscellanea

The first glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel? Slipped Disc reports on the first concert in the Czech Republic with an actual audience.

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The coronavirus pandemic claimed its first political scalp in Austria as the junior minister for culture quit under pressure from theatre directors and performers over a lack of urgency in reopening cultural venues even as a lockdown has been eased.
Austria flattened its curve of infections with an early lockdown and soon announced emergency funding for companies. But while it started loosening curbs on public life a month ago and shops, bars, and some museums have reopened, no such steps have been taken or mooted for theatres and other cultural venues. The junior minister, Ulrike Lunacek of the left-wing Greens, came under fire as she seemed at times to treat the challenge of safely reopening theatres as an abstract intellectual exercise rather than an urgent requirement to save livelihoods.
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As is often the case at Slipped Disc, the headline claims rather too much: An Esa-Pekka Salonen Piece Killed My Cello:
 Five minutes before I was to go onstage I put my cello down, stepped over it on my way to wash my hands and heard a crack behind me. A large section of the front of my cello had come off. I can only guess that maybe the very corner of my right heel caught the edge? I had injured my left foot that day – possibly a broken bone since it has taken months to heal – and was not quite on balance.
Go read the whole thing.

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For way, way too long — Spotify, it’s been 14 years for you and 15 for YouTube — you have ridden on the backs of recording artists, musicians and songwriters that have provided you with content and, in turn, billions of dollars in profits, without offering them much in return.
How much profit? Spotify, which controls 36 per cent of the world streaming market, reported third-quarter operating proceeds of $60 million (all figures U.S.) in October 2019. YouTube, meanwhile, revealed its ad-revenue intake publicly for the first time in February: last year it was $15.15 billion, a 36 per cent increase from 2018’s $11.16-billion tally.
And here’s what you’ve been offering the creators in return for all that content that has enabled you to attract and retain tens of millions of loyal subscribers — paltry per-stream or pre-view royalty rates of, by platform: YouTube, $0.00069; Pandora, $0.00133; Vevo, $0.00222-$0.0025; Amazon, $0.00402; Spotify, $0.00437; Deezer, $0.0064; Google Play, $0.00676; Apple Music, $0.00783; Napster, $0.019 and Tidal, $0.01284 (all figures according to the online music distributor Ditto).
Yes, this is the dismal downside of the digital revolution in music: a very wealthy minority and everyone else impoverished.

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Alex Ross, at The New Yorker, weighs in on Igor Levit. It's a long piece and well worth reading in its entirety. Hard to excerpt, but here is a bit towards the end:
If Levit were giving concerts now, he would be playing programs that he had agreed to back in 2017 or 2018. At home, he could choose whatever pieces fit his mood an hour before he turned on his camera. That sense of urgency was especially strong in Stevenson’s “Passacaglia,” in a seething account of Busoni’s “Fantasia Contrappuntistica,” and in a two-and-a-half-hour-long traversal of Shostakovich’s Twenty-four Preludes and Fugues.
Undermining Levit’s newfound freedom was a deep dread for the future of his art. The classical-music world was already in a fragile economic state before the coronavirus struck. Now, with large gatherings forbidden indefinitely, an apocalypse looms. Levit does not face the immediate crisis that has overwhelmed so many working musicians: he is well paid for his concert appearances and recordings, and in 2018 he received the Gilmore Artist Award—a prize of three hundred thousand dollars that is given to a concert pianist once every four years. Levit says, “Those of us who are on the fortunate end of the profession have to be really, really careful about what we say, because so many people are suffering. Still, I look every day at the danger of my whole world dying. Systemically, we are in grave, grave danger. And I cannot say that music matters less, that it is not ‘essential.’ To me, it is absolutely essential. It is my reason for being.”
Just a note about Levit's politics: he is solidly on the left and has gotten criticism from conservatives. As far as I'm concerned, he can be as vocal as he wants, I don't find it offensive in the least and it certainly doesn't affect my estimation of his quality as a musician.

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The finest French orchestra in the world is based in --- Montreal! And we can believe this claim because it comes from a critic from Toronto, Montreal's rival.
If you will permit an anecdote, many years ago the Toronto Symphony decided to record Holst’s virtuoso orchestral showpiece “The Planets” and, because the yet-to-be-renovated Roy Thomson Hall had proven to be a less than ideal recording venue, the orchestra bused to Kitchener’s acoustically superior Centre in the Square.
Invited to accompany the orchestra, I reminded its then music director, Andrew Davis, that the Montreal Symphony was about to record “The Planets” as well, under Dutoit. His response? “We’re not worried.”
Perhaps he should have been. Good as it was, the Toronto recording was surpassed interpretively and sonically by what the Montrealers achieved in the Church of Saint-Eustache.
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 Let's have a double-barreled envoi today. First, Igor Levit with the Piano Sonata, op. 111 by Beethoven. I was really surprised to see that it had only 813 views, but then I noticed it was just posted two days ago.

Next, the Montreal Symphony with the "Mars" movement from Holst's The Planets:

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