Helen Watts was a singer of that best British school which, with the initial gift of a fine voice, learns the business and does the job, is hardly ever known to miss a beat or fluff an entry, and ends up being taken for granted. To the record-buying public she was a regular and reliable part of the LP scene, and when given a chance – as in the premier recording of Vaughan Williams’ Riders to the Sea – she rose to the occasion nobly.
Although encouraged by his father, the MP Sir John Wallace, to study law, Ian Wallace seemed destined for the stage. His abilities were noticed while he was at Cambridge, and after serving in the Royal Artillery during World War II, he began to perform, at first for the benefit of fellow servicemen who had been wounded or invalided out of the army.
From fast food to Twitter, today’s culture is one of instant gratification, and EMI Classics is determined not to be left in the cold. In a first for the label, two live performances will be recorded tonight and tomorrow, prepared in the foyer, and sold to audience members as they leave the event.
After four years at the helm of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Oleg Caetani has stepped down from his role as artistic director and chief conductor - more than a year before his tenure was due to conclude. The Italian, who took up the post in January 2005, was scheduled to conduct performances in November and December this year and engaged for six weeks of performances in 2010.
Christian Thielemann has been named as the new principal conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden. The German conductor, currently music director of the Munich Philharmonic, will take up the role with the 2012/13 season. More information about his artistic ambitions with the orchestra – one of the oldest in the world, having been founded in 1548 – will be revealed at the formal signing next month.
The Gramophone Listening Room features a brand-new recording of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No 4 courtesy of the English Baroque Soloists – for free to all visitors. Concertos Nos 4, 5 and 6 are already available in the Listening Room for subscribers, but to celebrate the album's release anyone can listen this single concerto. Simply visit The Gramophone Listening Room .
Thierry Fischer has been announced as the new music director of the Utah Symphony Orchestra. The Swiss conductor succeeds Keith Lockhart, whose tenure finished at the end of May. Fischer is currently the principal conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and chief conductor of the Nagoya Philharmonic, positions he will continue to hold. His contract at Utah runs until the end of the 2012/13 season, with an option to renew for a further three years after that.
When recently Gramophone ran an online feature about the world’s most inspiring orchestras – focusing exclusively on their social roles rather than their musical quality – there was a fulsome reaction. Readers wrote to voice their approval and media outlets reported on the initiative. Music has always had a transformative power; it can help to give lives direction, even to give life itself a measure of clarity and meaning. More practically, perhaps, the meritocratic system of auditions can provide a way up for those from underprivileged backgrounds.