Spotlight: How Mitsuko Uchida Became a Mozart Specialist; Daniel Barenboim's Hefty Paycheck

Classic Arts News   Spotlight: How Mitsuko Uchida Became a Mozart Specialist; Daniel Barenboim's Hefty Paycheck
What the stars are up to onstage and off.

Soprano Barbara Hendricks was in Cannes in late January to announce the formation of her own record label, Arte Verum. The American-born diva, who has recorded extensively for EMI, Deutsche Grammophon, and other majors, said that from now on, she would appear exclusively on Arte Verum CDs. Henricks made the announcement at MIDEM, a music industry trade fair where artists and music executives gathered to talk about such topics as the future of digital downloading. (Baritone Dietrich Fishcher-Dieskau was honored with a lifetime achievement award at the conference.) Hendricks, 57, joins the growing number of orchestras and classical performers who have started their own record labels in recent years in an effort to preserve their artistic freedom in the face of cutbacks at the big recording companies.

In addition to performing a wide range of opera roles, songs and jazz, Hendricks—who now lives in Sweden—remains one of the music world's foremost human rights advocates. Long associated with the United Nations' High Commission for Refugees, she became the agency's first Ambassador for Life four years ago and is now the U.N.'s longest-serving goodwill representative. Recently, Hendricks has also gotten involved in the effort to find journalist Guy-Andr_ Kieffer, a citizen of Canada and France, who was kidnapped in the Ivory Coast in 2004. Last month, Hendricks got a chance to combine both her passions, performing a series of concerts with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in Geneva while meeting with U.N. officials in that city. The concerts were a tribute to Josephine Baker, the American entertainer and civil rights activist. Hendricks will spend the rest of this month performing songs and spirituals in Germany and France before concluding February with a pair of jazz performances in the French city of Metz.

For pianist Mitsuko Uchida, every year is a Mozart year. Although the classical music world is going Mozart-crazy in 2006, Uchida's exploration of the work of the Viennese master will continue into the 2006-07 season, when she caps off a five-year cycle of all 27 Mozart piano concertos with the Cleveland Orchestra. Uchida, the Cleveland's artist-in-residence, will appear as both soloist and conductor in two weeks of concerts featuring Mozart concertos and other works; the mini-festival includes the Cleveland Orchestra premiere of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 5. Considered one of today's foremost interpreters of Mozart, Uchida had the honor of performing Piano Concerto No. 25 at the official Mozart 250th anniversary concert on January 27, his birthday, in Mozart's birthplace, Salzburg, Austria. Although much of Uchida's international reputation rests on her performances of Mozart's sonatas and concertos, she became a Mozartean pretty much by accident. Uchida explains on her web site that she arrived in London as young musician, looking to do something big to make her mark. To her, that meant either Mozart or Schubert. Since Alfred Brendel was widely known in London as a Schubert interpreter at the time, she picked Mozart pretty much by default.

Chicago Symphony music director Daniel Barenboim is not just one of the best-known conductors in the United States; he's also the best paid. Barenboim took home nearly $2 million for his work in Chicago during the 2003-04, the most recent season for which information is available. That's in addition to his fees for conducting elsewhere and performing as a pianist. His salary made Barenboim, who is stepping down from his Chicago post soon, the highest-paid conductor in the country, according to a study by the Wall Street Journal, which drew its figures from documents that non-profit music organizations filed with the Internal Revenue Service. Filling out the top 10: James Levine, Metropolitan Opera, $1.9 million (plus an undisclosed amount for his work with the Boston Symphony); Lorin Maazel, New York Philharmonic, $1.9 million; Michael Tilson Thomas, San Francisco Symphony, $1.6 million; Christoph Eschenbach, Philadelphia Orchestra, $1.4 million (Eschenbach donated 10 percent of his 2004 and 2005 pay to the orchestra); Esa-Pekka Salonen, Los Angeles Philharmonic, $1.3 million; Leonard Slatkin, National Symphony; $1.1 million; Franz Welser-M‹st, Cleveland Orchestra, $1 million; Andrew Davis, Lyric Opera of Chicago, $701,000; and Paavo J‹rvi, Cincinnati Symphony, $626,000. Plšcido Domingo would crack the $1 million mark if you combined his salaries from the Los Angeles Opera and the Washington National Opera. As the Journal notes, salaries for these star conductors continue to rise even as many arts groups struggle financially and musicians' salaries stagnate or decline.

America woke up to Thomas Hampson on January 19—or at least those Americans who watch ABC television. The baritone appeared on the network's Good Morning America and sang "Shenandoah" as part of his Library of Congress-sponsored Song of America tour, featuring both familiar and obscure American tunes. The television appearance came the same day that his tour was scheduled to land at Carnegie Hall. Hampson has earned stellar reviews for his American program at every stop so far and a companion album, also called Song of America, made a strong debut on the classical charts in late January. Hampson will be performing his Song of America concerts through the spring, visiting Detroit, West Palm Beach, and Oxford, Mississippi in March; Chicago and Omaha in May; and San Jose in early June.

Soprano Carol Vaness joined the faculty of the Indiana University School of Music last fall, accepting a part-time position that will allow her to work closely with 10 students each semester. She has also resumed singing after canceling a number of engagements last year in the wake of a traffic accident in California and the successful treatment of a cyst on one of her vocal chords. Vaness is adding now new roles to her repertoire, including Strauss' Marschallin, which she will sing with the Seattle Opera... The recent Golden Globe award for best soundtrack went to the music for Memoirs of a Geisha, which features performances by cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinist Itzhak Perlman. Ma was also recently named Artist of the Year by the listeners of XM Satellite Radio... Soprano Deborah Voigt has been making the rounds of major media outlets to discuss the gastric bypass surgery that helped her drop 135 pounds. Her most recent appearance was January 29 on CBS' 60 Minutes, where she said she is still grappling with her self image: "I look in the mirror and I still see a large person," she told interviewer Bob Simon.

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