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.
The winners of the 2009 Praemium Imperiale Awards, honouring outstanding contributions to the arts, were announced today. Five leading international figures were selected by the Japan Art Association, and recognised in the field of music was pianist Alfred Brendel. Selected alongside Brendel were photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto, sculptor Richard Long, architect Zaha Hadid and playwright Tom Stoppard. They join an impressive list of former laureates, including music winners Györgi Ligeti, Mstislav Rostropovich, Martha Argerich and Daniel Barenboim.
For cellist and conductor Paul Watkins 2009 has been a particularly successful year. First came his appointment as music director of the English Chamber Orchestra, a three-year engagement from the current 2009-10 season. Now comes the news that he will also take over as principal guest conductor of the Ulster Orchestra with immediate effect. This engagement, too, is for an initial period of three years.
Sofya Gulyak has triumphed over almost 200 applicants to win the 16th Leeds International Pianoforte Competition. The 29-year-old Russian impressed the panel of judges - including Beaux Arts Trio pianist Menahem Pressler and 1981 Leeds first-prize winner Ian Hobson – with her performance of Brahms’s First Piano Concerto with Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé in the final. She receives the Princess Mary Gold Medal and a cash prize of £15,000.