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Classicalite's Top 10 of 2013: James Inverne on the Headlines

By James Inverne on Dec 30, 2013 11:42 PM EST

Any year brings its share of joy, sadness, triumphs, tragedies and just plain weirdnesses. We journalists are there to document them all. And yet, we enjoy a good story, or feel emotion at a heart-wrenching one, as much as anyone. So, in looking back at 2013, these are what spring to mind. At a time of political and economic upheaval (for all that various experts speak of an economic recovery starting to take hold), sadly, many of the ones that ran are of a rather melancholy vein.

Here, then, are ten that already seem like the most important...

1) The exciting one: The news that Sir Simon Rattle MIGHT be returning to the U.K., following his Berlin Philharmonic stint by taking up Valery Gergiev's discarded mantle at the London Symphony Orchestra. Rattle and this orchestra--in fact, Rattle and pretty much any one of his native British bands--tend to be an electric combination.

2) The horrifying one: It is hard to convey the general feeling of repulsion and shock that news of North Korea's assassination of orchestra members caused.

3) The depressing one: The ongoing and savage labor dispute around the Minnesota Orchestra has been indicative of a wider crisis being endured by many orchestras, in Europe as well as the United States. But Minnesota has borne the brunt in many ways, and the departure of its music director Osmo Vänskä brought the crisis to a head.

4) The lucky, lucky one: When Min-Jin Kym had her 1696 Stradivarius violin stolen from a Pret a Manger restaurant, many thought she would never see it again. In fact, violin dealers knew there was a decent chance it would turn up, Strads being so rare and recognizable that they are notoriously hard to trade on the black market. But not only was it recovered, it has now been sold for the advantageous price of £1.385 million! All publicity is good publicity, it seems...

5) The catastrophic one: New York City Opera. A great opera company went bust. Will it reappear? Let's hope that will be one of the news stories we're recalling this time next year.

6) The "what came over him?" one: Musically brilliant, amiable and usually highly articulate conductor Vasily Petrenko brought the issue of women on the podium back center-stage with his ill-advised and outdated comments on female conductors. Very odd. But on the other hand, anything that gets people talking about sexual equality in the arts has its up side, if you see what I mean.

7) The "about time, too" one: The Vienna Philharmonic have finally opened their archives to a historian to explore exactly what happened in that organization during Nazi rule. They rescinded awards given to prominent Nazis. Good for them.

8) The great farewell: In a year that saw several prominent musicians' deaths, nobody commanded more affection than the great conductor Sir Colin Davis. Kindly, highly musical, Berlioz's representative on Earth, generous with his gifts and his time, he is already much missed.

9) The JFK one: If I may plump for a story that I personally spent a lot of time bringing to light, the highlighting of a little-known episode involving Erich Leinsdorf, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and a music librarian allowed us to mark the anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination from a revealing musical perspective.

10) The weird one: That chickens lay more eggs when being played classical music. It's...no, no more to add. Chickens. Classical music. Enough said. Except to ask, which came first--the chicken, the egg, or the nice bit of Mozart?

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TagsJFK, top classical music stories of 2013, Colin Davis, Simon Rattle, Berlin Philharmonic, London Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, New York City Opera, North Korea, Stradivarius, female conductors