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Violin News & Gossip, Op. 2, No. 80

November 19, 2006 at 7:28 PM

Violinist Jennifer Cappelli faced the crowd of about 150 people, said, “Cristina, this is for you, with our love.” Then, just like that, the music began.

As I have reported, Cristina Purje is a young Romanian violinist in Chicago who is fighting an aggressive form of adrenal cancer. On Friday, her colleagues from the Grant Park Symphony, a professional summer orchestra largely composed of off-season Lyric Opera of Chicago players, gathered together to donate their time and passion to raise funds to help defray the vivacious young violinist’s medical and living expenses.

Following extensive bone replacement surgery in her right arm, Purje remains unable to play violin and, given that the cancer has spread to her liver, her future remains far from certain.

But there she sat Friday night, in the front row, flanked by friends and obviously touched by the proceedings. Following the concert’s highlight, Vivaldi’s Concerto for Four Violins, she leaped up and bestowed a bouquet upon each soloist: Liba Shacht, Laura Miller, Jennifer Cappelli and Michael Shelton. And she did the same for conductor Carlos Kalmar at the concert’s completion.

Kalmar, born in Uruguay to Austrian parents and now a resident of Vienna, made the interesting comment that, while he disagreed with America on some things (presumably politics), he was struck by how Americans’ can-do attitudes extend to helping friends in need and that Cristina’s concert came together with a speed, ease and generosity that likely wouldn’t have been the case in other countries.

The concert’s repertoire was almost uniformly light (Dvorak Slavonic Dances, Brahms Hungarian Dances) with one exception: Faure’s Pavane. While my first thought was of the perils of programming a piece reflecting upon death at this type of concert, Kalmar’s comment that it was now time to show off the winds should probably be taken at face value. Purje’s tears and those of her friends flowed notably during this work, however, while they were mostly composed through the rest of the concert, one friend snapping photos throughout.

Afterwards, members of the audience and orchestra rushed to surround Purje with embraces, well wishes and laughter. It was a magical evening.

Once again, you may send checks in any amount made payable to the Grant Park Orchestra Members Committee:

Cristina’s Concert
c/o Grant Park Music Festival
205 E. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60601

Musician News

11/18/06 – Violinist John Cerna, a physics professor at University of Arkansas at Monticello, was profiled recently by the Arkansas Catholic. Read the story here:

11/18/06 – Violinist Corey Cerovsek is playing the Korngold Violin Concerto this weekend with the Edmonton Symphony. He told Edmonton’s Vue Weekly that “A bunch of themes in the Concerto are actually themes from movies. It’s cool, because you completely feel how it sounds like a 1940s movie. There are places where the orchestra comes crashing in and it’s really colourful. There should be a giant screen behind me and pictures of people riding off into the sunset!”

11/17/06 – According to the Saint Paul Pioneer Press, "Alice Preves played viola with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra for almost four decades, but she had the unusual distinction of earning her position within the ensemble three separate times. Preves, who died Wednesday at 65 from complications of liver cancer, first started playing with the orchestra in the 1960s under music director Leopold Sipe. She stepped down twice after giving birth to her daughters, Laura and Sharon. She auditioned and won her chair back each time under conductors Dennis Russell Davies and Pinchas Zukerman. Preves played consistently with the SPCO from 1982 until her retirement this fall." The article quotes Preves's former stand partner, Tamas Strasser: "She was forthright, and she was conscientious, and we trusted each other. We used to complete each other's sentences." Preves was diagnosed with liver cancer in August and retired from the orchestra the following month. “In the months before her death, Preves made a contribution to the orchestra to endow her seat, helping to support the position in the orchestra in perpetuity. Her replacement will sit in the Alice Preves Viola Chair."

11/16/06 - The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Frank E. Saam, 79, a first violinist for the Philadelphia Orchestra for 40 years, died of prostate cancer Friday at home in Lake Luzerne, N.Y. "After being discharged [from the Navy] in 1946, Mr. Saam studied violin at the New York School of Music. He graduated in 1948 and played for the Houston Symphony for one year before joining the Detroit Symphony in 1949. In 1957, the year he married Eleanor Mehrkamper, Mr. Saam was hired as a first violinist by the Philadelphia Orchestra." During his playing career he was "active in the players' unions. He was head of the Philadelphia Musical Society Local 77 contract-negotiating team. In 1993, during a World Series game, Mr. Saam played at Veterans Stadium with the orchestra before 62,000 frenzied fans. Mayor [Edward] Rendell and the Phillie Phanatic were the conductors. When it was over, Mr. Saam raised his instrument high in the air. On the back was painted a giant red P.” Saam retired in 1997.

11/16/06 – The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that Keith Lockhart will step down from his position as music director of the Utah Symphony & Opera following the 2008-09 season. "The orchestra has struggled financially in recent years and is in the middle of a recovery program. Some patrons have been perturbed by what they see as Lockhart's lack of community involvement; a professional consultant's study in 2005 said Lockhart needed to be more engaged with the orchestra." Lockhart has no plans to leave his other gig, as principal conductor of the Boston Pops.

11/16/06 – Outgoing Philadelphia Orchestra music director Christoph Eschenbach revealed at a closed rehearsal that his decision to leave was sparked by a conversation with the orchestra's president, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Eschenbach was told that "80 percent of the musicians did not agree with his artistic interpretations; that 80 percent of the musicians left concerts feeling great anger; and that the orchestra was a 'ticking time bomb’. Eschenbach's comments, in speeches before and after rehearsal, were confirmed by four musicians, all of whom declined to be named.” Read the article here:

Orchestra News

The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra has chosen a winning work in its first International Composer Competition. Frank Proto's "Fiesta Bayou and Kismet" was selected from 53 entries representing twelve countries. He and two finalists each received a commission to create a short symphonic work referencing jazz. As the winner, Proto will have the opportunity to write a full orchestral work for the LPO's 2008-09 season.

The Brooklyn Philharmonic has received a $20,000 challenge gift from Board Chair J. Barclay Collins. The gift is the largest from an individual in the orchestra's 53-year history.

11/17/06 – The Toronto Star reports: "For the first time since it skirted bankruptcy five years ago, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra announced a budget surplus at its annual general meeting yesterday.” Ticket sales increased slightly and subscriptions held steady. But the TSO isn't completely out of the woods yet - it's still carrying a CAN$9.5 million accumulated debt, and further internal cost reductions don't seem feasible. Read the story here:

11/16/06 – Here’s an interesting story from The Hankyoreh in Seoul: “South Korea is prime territory for touring orchestras these days, with a seemingly insatiable classical music audience lining up for tickets in numbers that most Western ensembles would kill for at home. But the popularity of the form has led to an explosion in ticket prices - how does $260 for a seat at the New York Philharmonic's concert sound? Or $400 for the Berlin Phil? And the numbers don't actually add up: there simply aren't enough music fans in Korea to justify the price spike. So who's buying the tickets, and who's getting shut out of the hall?” Read the article here:

11/16/06 – According to the Charleston Post and Courier (SC), the Charleston Symphony Orchestra could be in bankruptcy by February without a life-saving $500,000 infusion from the corporate community. Currently, 99 percent of donations to the orchestra are from individuals.

11/16/06 – The Columbus Dispatch reported on the Columbus (Ohio) Symphony Orchestra's concert held that night, titled "OSU vs. Michigan in Concert: The Greatest Rivalry in Sports," conducted by Scott O'Neil. "The concert's first half will feature appearances by well-known OSU institutions: Brutus Buckeye, a part of the marching band and the Men's Glee Club, with its conductor, Robert Ward. Cheerleaders will enliven the performance as well as a pre-concert tailgate party. The orchestra will also revive a piece by PDQ Bach creator Peter Schickele called 'Adventures in Music.' It takes a sports-announcing approach to Beethoven's famous Symphony No. 5. Sean Cuellar of WSYX-TV (Channel 6) will narrate, and Jim Karsatos, former Buckeye quarterback, will be the commentator." Also featured is O'Neil's piece, "The Greatest Rivalry in Sports in Music," which is based on Charles Ives's "Princeton-Yale Football Game," a musical stunt that uses those two schools' fight songs simultaneously. "The OSU-Michigan version," writes Zuck, "has grown from Ives' two-minute idea to a 25-minute Buckeye-Wolverine 'symphony,' with audience participation and visual components -- footage from past games and visits from former Buckeye players." As a Michigan native, I have two things to say to that: Go Blue and RIP, Bo Schembechler!

From Jude Ziliak
Posted on November 20, 2006 at 4:19 AM
RIP a tenacious violist and human. Imagine if every holder of the chair were required to reaudition for it twice...
From Terri Bora
Posted on November 20, 2006 at 3:48 PM
Many well wishes to Christina. I don't know her personally, but any human being who is aware of anothers endurance of something so tragic as cancer can't help but be moved. In that same vein how wonderful that those musicians are able to rally around her and use their musical gifts to lift her up. THIS IMHO is the reason why one does this thing called music.
I also wish I could hear Corey's Korngold. I've recently discovered this piece and fell in love with it! I'm sure he will do it great justice. He is a wonderful violinist!
From Scott 68
Posted on November 21, 2006 at 4:42 AM
how about them buckeyes?

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