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Violin News & Gossip, Op. 2, No. 42

July 6, 2006 at 12:26 PM

Ever since our good friend violinist David Knapp left Chicago for the Twin Cities in 1993, my husband and I have searched for violinists we enjoy playing with as much as we do him. We last played together during a violin-hunting trip to Chicago about five years ago; he eventually ended up with a lovely instrument by David Burgess.

This weekend, Dave came to visit with his wife Yasmine and their children. The first night we sat up talking until 1:30, then the next night, we played string trios—Schubert, Beethoven and Dohnanyi—until 11:30. It was really magical, and a terrific reminder just how fun chamber music can be when played with dear friends.


Fans of mezzo-soprano and former violist Lorraine Hunt Lieberson had their worst fears confirmed when her death was announced yesterday. Her manager issued a statement that simply stated she died “after a long illness.” However, it is well-known that she survived breast cancer previously and that a sister died of the same disease. Her obituary in the New York Times draws an interesting parallel between her two instruments: “That she began her professional life as a freelance violist and did not focus fully on singing until she was 26 may account for the musical depth and intelligence of her vocal artistry. One of her closest colleagues, Craig Smith, the Boston-based conductor and choir director, said as much in a 2004 profile of Ms. Hunt Lieberson by Charles Michener in The New Yorker. ‘There's something viola-like about the rich graininess of her singing, about her ability to sound a tone from nothing’, he was quoted as saying, adding, ‘There's no sudden switching on of the voice, no click’."

Musician News

Amanda Howard has been named assistant principal second violin of the Spokane Symphony Orchestra. Thomas Bandar will also be joining the orchestra’s viola section.

Joseph Caulkins has been promoted to associate conductor of the Southwest Florida Symphony.

Brian Dollinger has been named director of orchestras at Bradley University (Peoria, Ill.). Dollinger is also music director of Iowa's Muscatine Symphony Orchestra.

Mark Russell Smith has extended his music director contract with the Richmond (Va.) Symphony through 2008-09.

Aaron Dworkin, founder of Detroit’s Sphinx Organization, is named one of Newsweek's "15 People That Make America Great" in the issue dated July 3-10. “Dworkin's mission in life emerged: diversifying America's symphonies -- and their musical repertoires ... So in 1996 he founded the Sphinx Organization, a Detroit-based nonprofit aimed at drawing young black and Latino kids into the world of classical music. From a shoestring start, Sphinx now has a yearly budget of $2 million. It has helped about 45,000 students in 100 schools and awarded $800,000 in scholarships. Two years ago kids from Sphinx played Carnegie Hall. Last year Dworkin won a 'genius' grant from the MacArthur Foundation.”

6/27/06 - The Akron Beacon Journal included a short feature on violinist James Ehnes and the 1715 Stradivarius violin he will use for his July 15 Blossom Festival concert with the Cleveland Orchestra. When Ehnes first encountered the instrument, as a senior at The Juilliard School, "there was no way he could afford the 'Ex-Marsick,' named for a great Belgian violinist in the late 1800s who is said to have owned it. But later, Ehnes got to know a collector named David Fulton, who became a fan and a friend ... For seven years, Ehnes has played the instrument on loan from Fulton." Here’s what Ehnes has to say about the instrument: "It shows a fair amount of wear but no damage. I think that's perfect. Sometimes you see a violin that's sort of a show queen. It might be absolutely flawless but you have to think, why is it that this violin has not been played for 300 years?"

6/25/06 - The Indianapolis Star ran a profile of Indianapolis cellists Anne and Dennis McCafferty, a married couple. The paper notes that Anne has spent "33 seasons in the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's cello section ... As one of the symphony's few full-timers who was actually born in Indianapolis, she considers herself fortunate to have such a steady gig." Dennis, a freelancer, "teaches at the University of Indianapolis, plays recording sessions and is a member of the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra as well as a couple of string quartets," Smith adds, quoting Dennis on his freelance career: "There's no predicting it ... But I've gotten used to it, because Indianapolis is a community where there's a lot going on for a few." Anne, who started in the ISO in 1973, comments: "One of the really wonderful things about the ISO is that this orchestra has had more women than many other orchestras for years."

6/13/06 - Elayne Donenberg, a Chicago violinist and pianist, has died of a heart attack at the age of 69, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. Trained at the Juilliard School and at Northwestern University, she "became a concert violinist, playing in the Chicago, Dallas, Hollywood and Indianapolis symphony orchestras during her career." The obituary notes that "although her musical abilities brought her to a host of symphony orchestras around the country, Ms. Donenberg's greatest trait was a willingness to help those in need ... Friends think Ms. Donenberg did so much for others because she had no real family of her own. She was an only child growing up in Evanston and had no children."

Orchestra News

7/3/06 - Beethoven Academie, a 40-member Belgian chamber orchestra whose response to losing its state funding was to list itself for sale on eBay in a desperate attempt to raise funds, shut down its listing. After a week, bidding had topped 100,000 Euros, reports "eBay representatives had contacted orchestra management over the weekend and reminded them of two important facts. First, listing, bidding and sale on eBay constitute a binding contract: the seller must sell the object listed to the highest bidder, and the highest bidder must pay the price he or she bid. Second, buying and selling people is against the law." And beyond legalities, that sum may be large for an individual, but it won’t do much to fund a 40-person professional orchestra: The amount is less than one-tenth of Beethoven Academie's former annual subsidy from the Flemish regional government.” A member of management observed: "At this point, we mostly see it as a way to have gotten attention all over the world. People have heard about us, and if still a millionaire is interested, we would love to talk to him/her. But eBay isn't the right way to sell an orchestra!"

7/3/06 - The Israeli government ranks the country's orchestras based on examintaion by a committee of 13 auditors, reports Ha'aretz: "The vote rates only two groups - the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra and the 21st Century Ensemble (which specializes in modern music) - as 'excellent.' Three other orchestras were classified as ‘good’ - those of Rishon Letzion, Jerusalem and Haifa - as were the Israel Camerata, the Tel Aviv Soloists and the Israel Baroque Orchestra. The orchestras that ranked only ‘satisfactory’ or below were told they have to improve.”

6/29/06 - According to The City Paper (Nashville), the Nashville Symphony played a "hard hat" concert at the nearly completed Schermerhorn Symphony Center "to pay tribute to the carpenters, contractors, electricians, stone layers and many more - that invested their skill, blood and time away from their families to build the musicians a home." The 197,000-square-foot, $120 million dollar facility "has been in the making since December 2003, when excavation of its site began. The paper adds, "While interim conductor Leonard Slatkin told the crowd of 1,300 that they had a hand in the creation of something that would be the envy of the country, carpenter Donny Stubblefield said he's the envy of all his 11-year-old daughter's friends."

6/27/06 – The San Luis Obispo Tribune reports that the San Luis Obispo Symphony and the San Luis Obispo County Youth Symphony will merge this fall. “The two symphonies have shared administration services since 2002, when the youth symphony board voted to hire the administrative staff for the city symphony, according to the organizers." Evaluation of the merger idea "began a year ago and a series of meetings by the two boards led to the merger proposal. Details are still being worked out, but symphony leaders say they are excited about the idea."

From Karin Lin
Posted on July 6, 2006 at 5:29 PM
Thank you for the news about Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. I only heard her sing once, at a very low-key recital at UC-Berkeley several years ago, but I remember being very impressed by both her voice and her musicality. May she rest in peace.

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