12th March: George Neikrug obituary, BCMG’s new executive director, and Serebrennikov directs opera from home

Tuesday 12th March 2019

Cellist George Neikrug has died

George Neikrug – a renowned cello teacher who was also principal cellist with the Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles orchestras –  has died, the day after turning 100.

Born in New York, Neikrug studied with the legendary cellist Emanuel Feuermann. Aged 24, Neikrug met D.C. Dounis – a Greek pedagogue,  whose revolutionary approach had a profound influence on the young cellist. ‘Trying to tell you about Dounis’s teaching is like asking me to tell you about a whole science like biology,’ Neikrug said. ‘I would say that Dounis taught me to play more like Feuermann more than Feuermann did and it’s too bad Feuermann wasn’t around to see it!’

It was thanks to his studies with Dounis that Neikrug resolved to devote his life to teaching at schools including Detmold, Oberlin, the University of Texas-Austin and Boston University, whose arts faculty he joined in 1971.

In 1960, Neikrug performed Bloch’s Schelomo with the NBC Symphony at Carnegie Hall and Leopold Stokowski, who described the cellist’s performance as ‘unforgettable’.

Neikrug also appeared as a soloist with conductors Leonard Bernstein, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Bruno Walter and Yehudi Menuhin, who said ‘I was most impressed with [Neikrug’s] profound and accurate understanding of the cello… He is a first-rate musician, and I cannot recommend him too highly.’

In 1995 he received the Artist-Teacher Award from the American String Teachers Association. The following year he was awarded Indiana University’s Chevalier du Violoncelle accolade – in recognition of his outstanding lifetime achievement.

BCMG appoints Seb Huckle as executive director

Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (BCMG) has appointed Seb Huckle (pictured) as executive director.

Currently marketing manager for the ensemble, Huckle’s previous roles have been at the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the City of London Sinfonia. In his new role, Huckle will report to artistic director Stephan Meier and will have overall responsibility for the production and delivery of BCMG’s artistic and business plans.

Huckle says: ‘BCMG is an energetic and forward-looking ensemble, commissioning, promoting and above all performing the outstanding music created in our times. I am looking forward to taking on new challenges in the role of executive director, working alongside my colleagues in the talented BCMG team to realise the ambitious plans that will continue to drive forward new music to new destinations.’

Artistic director of BCMG, Stephan Meier, says: ‘Seb has a brilliant track record in bringing new audiences to new music and has already made a substantial contribution to BCMG through his role as marketing manager. I know that with his experience, energy and enthusiasm, Seb will bring a host of creative ideas to his new role as executive director, working with me to build on BCMG’s ambitious plans for the future and invigorating the ensemble with a fresh perspective.’

Wie das Opern-Business mit Serebrennikow sein seltsames Spiel treibt

Willkommen im Serebrennikow-Business. Kirill Serebrennikow ist jener, seit Sommer 2017 von einem dubiosen russischen Justizsystem hausarretierte und wegen angeblicher Unterschlagung staatlicher Theaterfinanzmittel angeklagte Theaterleiter und Regisseur. Ein Ende der Causa ist, solange sich der farcenhafte, wohl noch einmal neu aufzurollende Moskauer Prozess hinzieht, nicht abzusehen. Seither freilich hat der zu Hause festsitzende, von jeglicher virtuellen Kommunikation abgeschnittene Serebrennikov drei Opern, ein Ballett und mindestens zwei Theaterstücke „inszeniert“ sowie einen unfertigen Film vollendet und geschnitten.

Wunder der Theatertechnik. Serebrennikow, obwohl der Welt weitgehend abhanden gekommen, kommuniziert nämlich über USB-Sticks, die seine Anwälte zwischen ihm und den Bühnen hin und her tragen bzw. deren Inhalt mailen, auf dass er via Video-Konzepten und -Anweisungen mitteilen kann, was er will, und später die mitgeschnittenen Proben zu kommentieren und korrigieren vermag. Die zudem noch gedolmetscht werden müssen, denn vor Ort weilt sein angeblich großartiger Assistent Evgeny Kulagin als des Meisters verlängerter Deutungsarm.

Kirill Serebrennikov has been incarcerated since the summer of 2017 by the Russian judicial system and is accused of allegedly embezzling state theatre funding. Since then, Serebrennikov, who is stuck at home and cut off from virtual communication, has “staged” three operas, a ballet and at least two plays as well as having completed and edited an unfinished film.

Serebrennikov communicates via USB sticks, which his lawyers transport back and forth between him and the stage, or sometimes email their contents. That way the director can tell via video concepts and instructions what it is that Serebrennikov wants, who can later comment on and correct the recorded rehearsals.