Sonny Rollins Among Ten Recipients of National Medal of Arts for 2010 – President Barack Obama presented the awards at the White House on Wednesday. The National Medal of Arts is managed by the National Endowment for the Arts – the nation’s highest honor for artistic excellence. Other recipients for 2010 include Quincy Jones, Meryl Streep and James Taylor. Past honorees have included Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Taylor, Cab Calloway, Dave Brubeck, Lionel Hampton, Betty Carter, Benny Carter, Wynton Marsalis and Hank Jones.
James Levine to Step Down as BSO Music Director September 1 – James Levine will leave his current role as Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra on September 1 – a position he has had since 2004. BSO’s Managing Director said Levine’s health issues forced him away from the music-making he so profoundly loves. A search committee is being formed to start the process of appointing the next BSO Music Director. Levine is the 14th Music Director of the BSO since the orchestra’s founding in 1881, and the first American-born conductor to hold that position.
World’s Largest Classical Box Set By a Single Performer – Sony Classical announces the release of Jascha Heifetz – The Complete Album Collection on March 22. The Guinness World Records calls it “the greatest number of audio discs in a boxed set of classical recordings by a single instrumentalist.” The set contains 103 CDs – including three hours of previously unreleased Heifetz recordings, plus a Heifetz in Performance DVD, and a 260-page illustrated hardcover book with discography. Itzhak Perlman says Heifetz is the “God” of all violinists. His recorded legacy spans 55 years of his career – from his first recording session for Victor after his 1917 Carnegie Hall debut, to his last public recital in October 1972.
The Heifetz repertory is huge: staples of the concerto, sonata and chamber music literature with rarely performed gems, world premieres of concertos by Sibelius, Prokofiev, Korngold, Walton, Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Rozsa. There are also many short pieces in Heifetz’s inimitable style, including his only stereo recordings of selections from Porgy and Bess. Few know that Heifetz even wrote a hit pop song under a pseudonym, and that Frank Sinatra said he listened to Heifetz to learn how to improve his phrasing. Countless musicians around the world continue to be inspired by his recordings some 40 years after his last recital. Deems Taylor once wrote that Heifetz has “only one rival, one violinist whom he is trying to beat: Jascha Heifetz.” Original jacket covers are reproduced as they first appeared, and bonus CDs contain previously unreleased recordings from 1934 to 1964. Labels originally issued on LP are RCA Red Seal, Columbia Masterworks and Vox Cum Laude.
New Port Technology Connects Mac Laptops to HDTVs – Apple has updated its MacBook Pro laptops with a new high-speed multipurpose port replacing the present DisplayPort and called Thunderbolt. It is the most versatile and fastest input/output ever used in a laptop, and connects to older gear or standards using adapters. It has HDCP-compliant digital rights management and handles audio along with video. It will simplify connecting the laptops to HDTV displays of all sorts, and solve the problem many users have had of HDCP-incompliant Apple laptops not allowing the viewing of rented or purchase movie downloads on their big screens. Thunderbolt will be in competition with the eSATA standard port, which has been spreading in the Windows PC arena. Some experts feel wireless technologies will become good enough before Thunderbolt can be a popular wired technology, but others point to wired connections always being the easiest and most reliable.