Rob Hubbard here, taking care of the vacationing Fred Child's blog while John Birge hosts "Performance Today" this week. Fred will be back next week.
The big news of late last week was Christoph Eschenbach being named the newest music director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. The German-born Eschenbach most recently held the same position with the Philadelphia Orchestra. His five-year tenure there was the shortest for any music director since early last century, and there was reportedly much grumbling among musicians about his leadership.
He'll start his job in D.C. in the fall of 2010, and will also take on the newly created position of music director of the Kennedy Center. The National Symphony has been without a music director since the departure of Leonard Slatkin at the end of last season. Ivan Fischer will continue as interim principal conductor through the spring of 2010.
In other classical news, this year's Gramophone Awards for the top classical recordings of the past year were handed out last Thursday in London. The editor-in-chief of Gramophone magazine, James Jolly, talks about the recipients and some highlights of the ceremony on Monday and Tuesday's "Performance Today."
While most of the awards are chosen by a panel of judges, there were two that leaned upon vox populi, as voted upon by readers of Gramophone, the Times of London and listeners to Britain's Classic FM. One was the "Gold Disc," given to the top recording of the past 30 years. And there was a surprise there. The winner was a set of Camille Saint-Saens' complete works for piano and orchestra. Stephen Hough (a guest on "Performance Today" last Thursday) was the soloist on a recording with conductor Sakari Oramo and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
The other voting open to the general public was for "Artist of the Year." And, in a category (and, for that matter, a whole awards ceremony) dominated by Europeans, an American came out on top. Violinist Hilary Hahn took home the top honor, marking the second straight year that the "Artist of the Year" was younger than the "Young Artist of the Year," in this case, violist Maxim Rysonov. While Hahn earned the award for a level of playing that's consistently outstanding, she's especially close to our hearts here at "Performance Today" for her wonderful deadpan comic contribution to our most recent April 1st feature. Check it out on our features page.
Among the other winners was English pianist Paul Lewis, who took home "Record of the Year" for his latest collection of Beethoven sonatas. If you want to get a sense of the great things he does with Beethoven, check out Tuesday's "Performance Today," on which he plays one in suburban Atlanta.