Though not violin-related, competition-watchers of all kinds will be interested to see how officials at the San Antonio International Piano Competition resolved a dispute over which contestants should be awarded prizes.
According to the San Antonio Express News, Alexey Koltakov, a Ukraine native now studying at Texas Christian University, has won the top prize and $15,000 cash.
“The panel decided not to award the $10,000 second prize and silver medal but to divide the third prize between American pianists Michael Mizrahi and Grace Fong. Each will be awarded $5,000 and a bronze medal.
Contention arose between the board and the judges concerning the panel's decision not to award prizes for fourth and fifth place, worth $2,500 and $2,000, respectively. This meant that the Svetlana Smolina of Russia and the United States and Vicky Chow of Canada, the two remaining finalists, received no prize money, even though the five semifinalists who had not advanced to the final round received $700 each, according to the paper. To resolve the discrepancy, the board then voted to give an honorarium of $2,000 to each unranked finalist in recognition of their having reached the finals.”
The competition concluded on October 20.
The Indiana University String Academy is reporting that three of its students have just returned from Hungary, where they won honors in the International Popper Cello Competition. James Kim won First Place in Category II (age 12-14); Nathan Vickery won First Place in Category III (age 15 -17); and Shannon Hayden won Second Place in Category III (age 15 -17).
10/31/06 – Baroque violinist John Holloway concludes a U.S. tour in Oberlin, Ohio. His recital repertoire consists of Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin, which he has just recorded for the ECM New Series Label.
10/28/06 - Violinist David Gale played a recital at the Danbury Music Centre in Danbury, CT. Now a student at the Manhattan School of Music, Gale will be a participant next month in the 4th Paganini Foundation International Violin Competition in Moscow, Russia.
10/27/06 – Violinist Tai Murray performed at Carnegie Hall as part of the Sphinx Organization's gala concert. The event included the presentation of Sphinx's Lifetime Achievement Award to the violinist W. Sanford Allen, who was the first black member of the New York Philharmonic (1962-77).
10/26/06 – Joshua Bell is playing in Los Angeles for the next week, mid-way through a brief residency. The LA Daily News recently ran a brief profile of him:
10/26/06 – According to the CBC, Canadian violinist and pianist Angela Park is among the semifinalists for the Honens International Piano Competition, “Park, 28, a native of London, Ont., who now lives in Montreal, was one of 12 musicians chosen to move on to the semifinals in the competition in Calgary. She is a frequent performer on both violin and piano on CBC Radio's classical music series.”
10/26/06 – Radio Polonia is reporting that customs officers at the airport in Poznań confiscated an 18th-century violin from one of the participants of the Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition, 16-year-old South Korean Mari Lee. “The instrument, a Gagliano, on loan from the Yehudi Menuhin School in Britain, had not been declared at the border when the violinist, also a student at the school, arrived in Poland for the competition. The violin was held waiting for documents to be sent in from the school in order for it to be cleared through customs and released. A representative of the Poznań border guard said that it was an unpleasant incident which sometimes happened because travellers to Poland did not know Polish law. The organizers of the Wieniawski competition have now asked all of the participants to check if they have the necessary import-export documents and vowed help if any problems arose. They also said it was the first time in the history of the competition that something like this had happened.”
Musicians of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra have ratified a new, three-year contract. The agreement will increase the musician's salary 2 percent in the first year, 5.6 percent in year two and 4 percent in the final year. It also calls for improvements in working conditions, changes to healthcare insurance, and a signing bonus for all members of the orchestra. In addition, the SSO management has agreed to form a joint task force with the union to address issues related to the musician's pension fund.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra will receive a $1.1 million challenge grant from The Wallace Foundation.
10/27/06 – According to The Australian, the West Australian Symphony Orchestra proudly announced it had snared Edo de Waart as its next music director, announced programs and printed brochures featuring him prominently. Only one problem - they hadn't signed him yet. Now de Waart has pulled out, and the orchestra is embarrassed: "We've tried desperately to get him down here, but the situation is he's not coming to Perth." Read the story here:
10/26/06 – Former Atlanta Ballet pit musicians will be marking the opening of the 2006-07 season with picket signs. The company disbanded the orchestra in August, preferring recorded music to the cost of maintaining a live orchestra. The musicians have filed an unfair labor practices claim, and plan to protest at the ballet's performances this week, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Read the story here:
10/26/06 – Dallas Opera musicians don’t have a contract and may picket the company’s premiere, reports the Dallas Morning News. “[One] bone of contention is the opera's proposal to reduce the core orchestra – players contracted for the whole season – from 57 to 48 musicians, by attrition. The opera company maintains that for smaller-scale operas like Mozart and Handel fewer musicians will be necessary in the presumably much-improved acoustics of the new opera house. Freelance musicians would be hired when operas need larger orchestras, as they are now.” Read the story here:
10/26/06 - The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony saga took a turn for the better yesterday, when the beleagured Ontario orchestra announced that it had raised enough money to make this week's musicians' payroll. The musicians also voted to agree to a 15 percent pay cut for the current season, and the symphony has less than a million dollars to go to meet its goal of bringing in CAN$2.5m by month's end, reports the Globe & Mail (Canada).
In the “how could I have missed this?” category, the Guardian (UK) is reporting that a Swiss orchestra conductor went on trial for the second time on 10/24 for his alleged role in a doomsday cult which lost dozens of members in ritual killings in Canada and Europe in the mid-1990s.
“Michel Tabachnik, 61, a composer who has led major orchestras in Canada, Portugal and France, is accused of criminal association and contributing to the deaths of members of the Order of the Solar Temple - 14 of whom were found burnt and lying in a star formation in a clearing in the French Alps in 1995….Mr. Tabachnik is accused of writing and distributed esoteric texts intended to incite members to believe their death would lead to redemption, so creating ‘a dynamic towards murder’.” Read the entire story here:
10/26/06 – Israeli-born, classically trained violinist Mir Ben-Ari has made her mark on the hip-hop world. Not only has she been featured in the cover story of the American Federation of Musicians’ monthly International Musician for October 2006, she was just profiled in the Independent (UK). Read the Independent’s profile here: http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk
10/25/06 – According to the Associated Press, BET co-founder and violinist Sheila Johnson played courier this week. When her alma mater, the University of Illinois, ran into a snag while trying to arrange transport of four rare Stradivarius string instruments for its American Music Month Celebration, Johnson stepped in. “The Smithsonian had agreed to lend the 17th-century instruments - including a viola, cello and two violins - but they were too fragile for cargo. Also, the museum required a flight without layovers, which is hard to do from Washington, D.C., to Urbana-Champaign [Ill.].So Johnson offered up her jet, which left Dulles International Airport with two curators and her former violin teacher, Susan Starrett.” Johnson will also fly the instruments back to the Smithsonian in December.
10/25/06 - Barry Bowers, who plays a sixing electric violin and specializes in Christian music, has released a new album, "Think On These Things."
10/24/06 - Nigel Kennedy is reported to have broken his arm in a bicycle accident in London, reports Musical America.com. “His press representatives would confirm only that he had ‘suffered injury to his left arm in an accident’ and would be unable to concertize in the immediate future. Doctors have told him not to use ‘the damaged limb for six weeks -- at which point there will be a progress assessment’.” Kennedy has cancelled all his November performances, which included stops in Ireland, Germany, Japan, Wales, London and Paris.
10/24/06 – According to the Lakeland (Fla.) Ledger, the conductor and concertmaster of the Imperial Symphony—both violinists—were to have switched places for a performance this week. Conductor Mark Thielen is the group’s former concertmaster; the current concertmaster is Art Pranno. Thielen and Pranno switched places when Thielen’s Hollingsworth Trio played Beethoven’s Triple Concerto. Pranno retained the podium for Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. Read the entire article here:
10/23/06 – Elisa Barston, acting principal second violinist of the Seattle Symphony, performed the Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Cascade Symphony.
10/22/06 – According the San Antonio Express-News, Nancy Zhou, the only American who competed in the 13th International Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition in Poznan, Poland, was eliminated in the second stage of the four-stage competition. “Zhou, in an e-mail sent from Poland on Sunday, said she felt extremely nervous before starting the second stage and rushed through her playing. However, she's not giving up. She now hopes to prepare for the International Paganini Violin Competition in Genoa, Italy.”
10/22/06 - The Buffalo News included a profile of Michael Ludwig, concertmaster of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Ansgarius Aylward, the BPO's assistant concertmaster, describes Ludwig's playing as "not over-the-top showy, not look-at-me ... It drew you in." BPO Music Director JoAnn Falletta says: "Michael said so many times, 'I want to be part of building this whole region. I want to make the BPO a national presence.' He understands how critical the Philharmonic is to Buffalo and Western New York. He wants to be part of bringing us to the next level." Ludwig notes that his first teacher was his father, Irving Ludwig, a violinist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, remarking: "He was a very tough teacher. He was so meticulous and detail-oriented, not letting things slide, not sloppy, understanding of technical aspects. My dad was always careful to explain why I had to do things in a certain way."
The Spokane Symphony has hired a bevy of new string players, including Esther Olson, assistant concertmaster; Matthew Olson, section violin; Thomas Bandar, viola; and Louise Butler and Roberta Morton Botelli, cello.
The Toronto Symphony has announced auditions for assistant concertmaster. Auditions will be held in January 2007; application deadline is December 8.
The New Jersey Symphony will hold auditions for a section violin candidate on December 4-5. Resumes are due November 15.
The Houston Symphony is also holding section violin auditions. Resumes are due November 15; auditions will be held in January 2007.
10/25/06 – The Columbus Dispatch is reporting that the Columbus Bach Ensemble will cease operations after two concerts in December. "The ensemble, which specializes in vocal and instrumental music from the baroque era, will present two performances of its holiday program, A Baroque Christmas, as scheduled Dec. 2-3. It will cease operations at the end of the year. Concerts slated for Feb. 3 and May 5-6 have been canceled." Christine Mortine, founder and artistic director of CBE, comments: "We had to do the right thing, the fiscally responsible thing ... The organization was not able to match its artistic success with sustainable funding."
10/25/06 – The Kitchener Record (Ontario), contains an update on the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, which is trying to avoid bankruptcy by raising $2.5 million by Oct. 31: "So far, corporate donations are absent from the more than $1.5 million raised by the Save Our Symphony campaign.” The money raised to date includes $782,680 donated by about 900 individuals. It also includes $250,000 from Waterloo Region, $170,000 from Kitchener, $85,000 from Waterloo and $230,000 pledged by 18 symphony board members ... Asked why local corporations have not yet given cash to save the orchestra, [the orchestra representative] said the lack of donations doesn't reflect a lack of support. The corporate process is more complicated than an individual decision to donate, he said ... Potential corporate donors recognize the symphony is an important part of Waterloo Region's fabric, he said."
10/24/06 - Radio orchestras, which continue to play an important role in the musical life of Europe and Asia, were once crucial organizations in the U.S. and Canada. According to the LA Times, the CBC Radio Orchestra is the last of its breed in North America: “Supported by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., this is the only surviving radio orchestra on the continent." Read the entire story here:
According to the American Symphony Orchestra League, San Francisco State University Instruments auctioned off a collection of musical instruments at Christie’s in New York on October 13. Bids included a world record for an instrument by Tomaso Balestrieri; the 1774 Mantua viola was auctioned for $486,400. The total take, $711,000, will benefit the university's scholarship fund.
Violinist Megumi Stohs has been touring with rock flutist and Jethro Tull band originator Ian Anderson, with music from the 2005 CD Ian Anderson Plays the Orchestral Jethro Tull. This is the first time Anderson has actually toured with a stable group of musicians, rather than using pickup orchestras in each venue.
I hear Stohs has posted a blog about the tour on MySpace…
Violinist Lynnette Seah has been awarded Singapore’s Cultural Medallion Award for 2006. The award, Singapore’s highest arts honor, was presented by President S.R. Nathan. Seah is co-concertmaster of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. A news release announcing the award notes that, since beginning violin at the age of 5, the 48-year-old Seah has “since clocked some one hundred thousand hours of practice and performances.” Of all the possible ways to measure one’s musical accomplishments, surely this is one of the oddest?
11/5/06 – Violinist Calvin Dyck will release a new CD, The Dancing Violin, in Vancouver on this date. The CD promises an eclectic mix of dance tunes from 14 countries.
10/29/06 – Violinist Ida Kavafian will lead a masterclass at New England Conservatory.
10/21/06 – The National Symphony has announced that violinist Pinchas Zukerman will step in to conduct for for his ailing friend, Mstislav Rostropovich, the National Symphony Orchestra's music director emeritus, on Nov. 2-4. Rostropovich has for health reasons canceled two weeks of upcoming concerts with the NSO -- an eagerly anticipated all-Shostakovich festival that was to have run Nov. 2-11, in honor of the composer's centenary, reports the orchestra. Rostropovich, 79, will be undergoing medical tests and evaluations and has been ordered by his doctors not to fly to the United States from Russia. "Slava has sent word that he is very disappointed not to be with us next month," the statement said, referring to the conductor by his Russian nickname. No further details about the conductor's health were released. Zukerman will conduct a program that includes Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 with himself as soloist.
10/20/06 – Robert Uchida has been appointed concertmaster of Symphony Nova Scotia, starting next season. The 27-year-old Uchida currently has teaching commitments until then at the Manhattan School of Music. A native Canadian, he has served as guest concertmaster with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, and has performed with the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.
10/19/06 - cellist Truls Mørk announced his withdrawal from all appearances in the next month so as to remain in Norway near his father, who is seriously ill, reports PlaybillArts.com.
10/18/06 - David Aaron Carpenter, a 20-year-old violist, has won the 2006 Naumburg Foundation viola competition. Carpenter, a native of Great Neck, New York, was awarded a $7,500 cash prize; two fully subsidized New York recitals, and other recital and orchestral performances. He is currently a junior at Princeton University and studies viola privately with Roberto Díaz, new president of the Curtis Institute and former principal violist of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Eric Nowlin, 26, a graduate of the Interlochen Arts Academy and the Juilliard School, where he received both his master's and bachelor's degrees studying with Samuel Rhodes received the second prize of $5,000. Jonah Sirota, 30, was named third prizewinner and awarded $2,500. Sirota, a founding member of the Chiara String Quartet, is currently artist-in-residence at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He received his bachelor of music degree from Rice University and his master's from Juilliard. David Kim, 25, received honorable mention. He is currently a student at New England Conservatory, where he studies with Kim Kashkashian and Carol Rodland. The jury included Robert Mann, Misha Amory, Toby Appel, Earl Carlyss, Lawrence Dutton, John Kochanowski, Nicholas Mann, Paul Neubauer, Michael Ouzounian and Mark Sokol.
10/14/06 – According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Joseph Primavera, 80, music director of the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra for 51 years, has died of lung cancer. The obituary notes that after a year playing viola with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Primavera became in 1950 "the youngest first violist in the history of the Philadelphia Orchestra. While playing with the orchestra, he became music director and conductor of the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra in 1954. His mammoth schedule also included conducting four orchestras, giving private lessons, and teaching at several music and public schools. He received a bachelor's of music in conducting in 1967 from Combs College of Music in Philadelphia. In 1968, he retired from the Philadelphia Orchestra to teach the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra full time.
The New York Philharmonic will become the first visiting American orchestra to perform at the new Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Orange County when the orchestra makes two appearances there on October 31 and November 1. The concerts, led by Music Director Lorin Maazel, will mark the orchestra's first appearance in California since 1999 and will be a prelude to the Philharmonic's 10-concert tour of Japan and Korea.
10/20/06 - Conductor Christoph Eschenbach announced today that he will step down as music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra at the end of the 2007-08 season. PlaybillArts.com itemized his achievements during his three years in the post so far: the appointment of nine players, including four principals and an associate concertmaster; four praised concert tours, including two to Europe and one to Asia; and “perhaps most importantly, Eschenbach was instrumental in securing a recording contract for the Philadelphia Orchestra after a ten-year hiatus; three well-received CDs — of Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra (with music by Martinu and Klein), Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 and Mahler's Symphony No. 6 — have been issued so far, with more planned.
All those achievements notwithstanding, today's news won't come as a surprise to everyone: there have long been rumors, within the classical music community and periodically surfacing in the press, that the relationship between Eschenbach and the Philadelphia musicians has not been entirely happy. His personal, spontaneous, sometimes mercurial style of music-making reportedly bothers some players who preferred Sawallisch's reliability in performance; his taste in modern music, which leans toward the spiky and expressionistic, seems not to sit well with the musicians or with the famously conservative Philadelphia audience. There is even, purportedly, lingering resentment among some orchestra members over the precipitous manner of Eschenbach's appointment in 2001 — he hadn't guest-conducted in Philadelphia in more than four years — at a time when several top-tier US orchestras were searching for music directors among a very small pool of available first-rank maestros.”
10/18/06 – The San Francisco Symphony almost had to cancel a rehearsal this week: The area around Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco was cleared for about two hours today while the city police department's bomb squad investigated an odd- and suspicious-looking device on the sidewalk outside the building, reports PlaybillArts.com. “The device — a yellow plastic tub about three feet long and one foot tall, with some clear liquid at the bottom and what appeared to be a bottle of bleach inside with a wire attached to a red blinking light — was determined to be harmless. There were no injuries or property damage….While the morning's rehearsals at the hall were delayed, that night’s concert by the San Francisco Symphony was not affected.”
Violinist.com’s own Gennady Filimonov sent me a note publicizing an unusual concert his group, Odeaonquartet, will play tomorrow night at Earshot Jazz in Seattle.
Jazz great Wayne Horvitz composed a work for string quartet, These Hills Of Glory, plus a soloist. In addition to Gennady, the Odeonquartet is composed of Jennifer Caine (violin), Heather Bentley (viola) and Page Smith (cello).
The Curtis Institute of Music has introduced a new course this year called “The Development of the Violin.” Taught by Philip J. Kass, the course examines the history of the violin, focusing on major violin makers from Italy, Germany, France and England. It also surveys the most influential performers through their recordings. Kass undoubtedly brings an interesting perspective to the course: Until 2002, he worked at William Moennig & Son, Ltd. in Philadelphia, where he handled many of the world’s finest violins.
Violinist Aaron Rosand is celebrating his 25th anniversary as a member of the faculty at the Curtis Institute of Music. Violinist Pamela Frank and cellist Peter Wiley are celebrating their 10th anniversaries at the famed school.
Violinist and conductor Olivia Tsui has been appointed music director of California's Glendale Symphony Orchestra.
The Cedar Rapids Symphony has announced several musician appointments, effective this season. Courtney Cameron has joined the violin section, while Julia Immel, a member of the viola section in 2005-06, has been appointed associate principal viola. New to the orchestra are violists Amanda Wilton and Samuel Gold.
Meanwhile, the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra has also announced new musician appointments, and, yes, there are some familiar names. Courtney Cameron is the new principal second violin. Amber Dolphin has joined the first violin section. Julia Immel is principal viola; the section also welcomes Amanda Wilton and Hannah Bridgeland. Emma Davis Oeth is the new assistant principal violoncello.
Three retiring members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has been awarded the Theodore Thomas Medallion for Distinguished Service, named after the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's founder and first music director to honor retiring members of the orchestra. This year’s honorees are violinist Eric Wicks, who joined the orchestra in 1968; Richard Ferrin, who joined in 1967 and played in both the viola and first violin sections; and Donald Moline, a cellist who joined in 1967 and now lives in Tokyo.
Violist Jesse Levine, music director of the Purchase Symphony at the State University of New York-Purchase, has been named to an additional post as music director and conductor of the New Britain (Conn.) Symphony Orchestra, effective this season. Levine conducted Connecticut's Norwalk Symphony Orchestra from 1980 to 2001. He continues to serve on the Yale School of Music faculty as professor of viola and chamber music and as chair of the String Department.
10/18/06 – According to the Cape Times (South Africa), violinist Michael Duffett has “walked off” with the Gold Medal for Overall Winner, as well as Overall Winner of the Classical section, at the Absa National Youth Music Competition earlier this month. He is 14 years old.
10/17/06 – The San Jose Mercury News raved about the local debut of violinist Scott St. John as new second violinist of the St. Lawrence String Quartet: “The quartet performed with refinement and fire, and, if anything, showed off a new finish to its sound.” St. John replaces Barry Shiffman, a cornerstone of the quartet for 17 seasons. “St. John and Geoff Nuttall, the group's first violinist, met as 10-year-olds in London, Ontario. Shiffman (now music director of the Banff Centre, a world-famous cultural nexus in the Canadian Rockies) remembers St. John beating him in summer camp music competitions when they were teenagers.”
10/17/06 - The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel profiled violinist Hilary Hahn, focusing on the role of classical music in society. Responding to the question, "As a young classical musician, do you feel misunderstood or isolated amid mass pop culture?" Hahn commented: "It's bizarre. In the business, you're told that you have to do outreach because people don't get the music. But when you actually start talking to non-classical musicians, you find out that they know a lot about classical music. Do you know (And You Will Know Us By The) Trail of Dead, an Austin band, sort of an alt-rock group? Their frontman came to one of my concerts in Texas. He came backstage and started to introduce himself, and I said 'I know! You're Conrad!' He said, 'How do you know about us?' I said, 'How do you know about me?' People are getting tired of being told what to listen to by a few radio stations. They're finding their own ways to their music. As I see it, classical music is just another underground movement."
10/16/06 – the Chronicle Herald of Halifax, Nova Scotia, recently profiled violinist Gina Burgess, a young professional violinist in the Maritimes. Read the profile here: http://www.thechronicleherald.ca
10/16/06 – According to the Dallas Star-Telegram, violinist Joshua Bell and cellist Yo-Yo Ma performed together for the first time last weekend. “The gala fundraiser for the DSO's education programs had all the possible pomp and ceremony to go with the exclusive occasion: The string virtuosos had never shared a stage before. Tickets for the event, which included a post-concert dinner, started at $1,000. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst were among those making opening remarks. Yet for all the evening's hype and hoopla, Bell and Ma didn't disappoint. Whereas some superstar musicians might coast on autopilot, both men imbued familiar pieces with interpretive insight and contagious enthusiasm. The audience hung on every note.” The program consisted of overtures and single movements, including the finale of the Brahms Double Concerto.
10/16/06 – Violinist Maxim Vengerov received an interesting shoutout from soprano Measha Brueggergosman in an online diary published in Canada’s National Post: "I opened the new Carnival Center with Maxim Vengerov tonight. "Ohhhh, Maxim. That man is hardcore smokin'! He took a year off from violin to learn to dance the tango. Anyone who does that gets my admiration.” Among other things, she is known for performing barefoot.
10/15/06 – Fresh from being awarded Vermont’s highest honor in the arts, violinist Jaime Laredo was profiled by the Barre-Montpelier Times-Argus. Read the article here: http://www.timesargus.com
10/15/06 – According to the Hagerstown (Md.) Herald-Mail, violinist Nicolas Kendall gave a performance of the Sibelius Violin Concerto that was so well-received, he was called back for an encore. “Kendall returned to the stage and played a crowd-pleasing encore that included blues and jazz riffs - even a wolf whistle. He took his violin out from under his chin and played it like a guitar - picking and strumming with a bit of country flavor.”
10/11/06 - The Juilliard String Quartet celebrated its 60th anniversary with a day of nationwide public radio programming devoted to interviews with the musicians and recordings by the ensemble. The Juilliard also released a new, two-CD set including the Shostakovich Quartets Nos. 3, 14, and 15 on the Sony BMG Masterworks label and a newly updated catalogue will be featured on iTunes. The group is also beginning a yearlong celebration that will include the performance of seven complete Bartók cycles (The Juilliard Quartet played the first Bartók cycle in America at Tanglewood in 1948) in cities across the U.S. and in Japan.
10/15/06 - The Seattle Times reports that the year-long controversy over Gerard Schwarz's reappointment as music director of the Seattle Symphony is taking a nasty turn. "Vandalism, mail tampering, a razor blade, anonymous threats — it all sounds like something out of a `Sopranos' episode," writes music critic Melinda Bargreen. Calling harassment against him "orchestral terrorism," the charges have been made by the orchestra's principal horn, John Cerminaro. He is a longtime friend of Schwarz and an outspoken advocate of the conductor, who had hired him. Security at the orchestra's Benaroya Hall home is working on the matter, while management advised the musicians that "this behavior is not tolerated." The orchestra union denounced "the unfortunate actions of a very small group.... We are respectful, civil people." Read the entire story here:
10/14/06 - The New York Times reports that the London Symphony is putting its time spent during New York residencies to very good use. Musicians on Call is a London Symphony Orchestra program that "takes music to the homebound" that is currently undergoing a six-concert trial run in New York. "Promoted by WNYC-FM to coincide with the orchestra's ninth annual residency at Lincoln Center, Musicians on Call asked listeners to explain in a brief essay why a friend or family member deserved a house concert by one of three duos from the orchestra ... Since 2004, Musicians on Call has regularly serenaded those in Britain unable to attend concerts and, according to its mission statement, draws on scientific research that suggests that listening to live music lowers blood pressure, anxiety and depression." Matthew Gibson, double bassist and vice chairman of the LSO's board of directors, comments: "Today players are coming out of conservatories with the idea that working in a community is actually part of the musicians' life, rather than just playing in the orchestra." Performers are paid about $150 for one of these appearances, slightly more than a rehearsal fee. Read the article here: http://www.nytimes.com
The 18-year-old Korean violinist Suyoen Kim from Germany has received First Prize in the Sixth Hannover International Violin Competition, more commonly known as the Joseph Joachim Competition, since the triennial contest is dedicated to the memory of the great violinist.
Kim captured the vote of the 11-member international jury with Brahm’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major op. 77. She wins a 30,000 Euro cash award, a Naxos CD production and a personal DVD production which includes her performances during the Hannover competition. In addition, the presenter of the competition, the Foundation of Lower Saxony, will secure unspecified concert and recital appearances for Kim.
The Second Prize went to the Korean Hyun-Su Shin, who will be awarded 20,000 Euros. The 10,000 Euro Third Prize went to Kana Sugimura from Japan.
The six finalists were Fanny Clamagirand, Nikita Borisoglebskiy, Zhijiong Wang, Suyoen Kim, Hyun-Su Shin and Kana Sugimura. Violinist.com member and favorite, American Celeste Golden, was eliminated in the semifinal round.
10/12/06 - Of course, there’s always another violin competition looming at this time of year. Next up is the 13th International Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition. This event, held in Poznan, Poland, kicked off last night and runs until Oct. 29. This competition carries a $25,000 cash award and numerous Polish recitals and performances. The next five finishers will also receive cash prizes.
The San Antonio Express-News ran a charming profile of competitor Nancy Zhou. Not only will the diminutive 13-year-old be the youngest competitor in the field of 49, she is the only American in the field.
Nancy studies violin with her father Long Zhou, a violinist in the San Antonio Symphony.
Read the complete story here:
According to the American Symphony Orchestra League, Orlando Philharmonic Concertmaster Tamas Kocsis was recently knighted in three-hour ceremony in Budapest. The Hungarian-born Kocsis is now a member of the ancient Order of Knights, "The Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem." The order was established in 1098, with a mission of serving the needy and the suffering. In more recent times, the order has built and maintained hospitals around the world and assisted victims of disasters. Currently, it is funding construction of a factory in Ghana that will produce HIV medications for those who cannot otherwise afford them. Kocsis was nominated by the Grand Prior of Hungary, whom he met at a concert in Budapest last year. Kocsis receives the title "Chevalier."
10/19/06 – Violinist Jaime Laredo will receive the 2006 Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts from the Vermont Arts Council. In addition to teaching violin at Indiana University, Laredo is the music director of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra and is deeply involved in the famed Marlboro Festival. The Vermont Arts Council released the following bio: “In addition to his work in Vermont, Mr. Laredo is a world-renowned conductor, soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician. He has won the Queen Elisabeth of Belgium Violin Competition, the Deutsche Schallplatten Prize, a Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance, and Musical America's Award for Ensemble of the Year. He has served as Artistic Director of New York's renowned Chamber Music at the Y series, President of the Jury of the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, Artistic Director of the Brandenburg Ensemble, and Conductor of the New York String Orchestra Seminar.”
10/12/06 – People’s Weekly World News ran a review of a film at the Toronto International Film Festival that will be of interests to musicians: “In the elegiac The Violin, Plutarco is an aged and humble violinist with one hand missing. Every day he takes his son and grandson to town to play traditional Mexican music for the townsfolk where they make enough tips to get a few tacos. There is turmoil in the countryside as peasants are being driven out, tortured and killed by an oppressive government force. Plutarco finds a way to help his son, who is one of the leaders of the guerrilla force, by hiding bullets for the guerillas in his violin case. Forced to rent a donkey, which cost him his entire year’s crops, Plutarco quietly slips past the captain guarding the fields where he has hidden his stash of bullets. Plutarco lulls the captain with his enchanting violin music.
Shot in black and white, the film takes on a timeless nature, rooted deep in the history of people’s music. Plutarco is portrayed with great sensitivity by Mexican violinist, Don Angel Tavira, who lost his right hand in a tragic accident at the age of 13.”
10/11/06 –The Columbus Dispatch ran a Q&A with Itzhak Perlman in preparation for a local recital. Read the interview here:
10/11/06 – The Times of London sent a critic to hear the European premiere of Magnus Lindberg’s new violin concerto in Sweden. Dedicatee Lisa Batiashvili earned raves here as she did for the piece’s world premiere at the Mainly Mozart Festivals in New York in August: “This thrilling new addition to the violin repertoire by the 48-year-old Finn was certainly written with the company of Mozart in mind: only oboes, bassoons and horns join the small body of strings, and the music’s 25-minute continuum falls into three movements. The easy way out would have been to compose a postmodern, neo-classical concerto. But Lindberg, fiery and flinty of temperament, and sternly logical of intellect, has written a complex showpiece that scorches its way on to the platform. Lindberg also had the playing of the young Georgian violinist Lisa Batiashvili in mind. The music plays to her distinctive strengths, be it the almost spiritualised intensity of her fine, high playing — the concerto seems to be born out of the ether — or the fierce physicality of her virtuosity in the kaleidoscopic cadenza or the dancing finale….Don’t miss it when it comes to London.”
10/8/06 – The Wichita Eagle ran an interesting profile of violinist Chee Yun that contained several fun facts, including that she has sold 50,000 copies of her cross-over CD "Sentimental Memories," featuring violin versions of popular songs. Also, she is best known in her native South Korea as the star of commercials for Pantene shampoo. Read the article here:
10/8/06 – Violinist Jung Min Shin and violist Craig Bate have won the viola/violin Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante competition at Indiana University. They performed the work with the IU Symphony Orchestra. The alternate duo was violinist Shelby Latin and violist Marisa Bushman.
11/5-11/17/06 - The New York Philharmonic will present a 10-concert tour of Japan and Korea. The orchestra will travel to Tokyo, Oita and Hyogo, Japan, as well as Seoul and Daejeon, Korea. While in Tokyo, the Philharmonic Education Department and the Performance Outreach Department of New England Conservatory will collaborate in a four-day symposium for musicians in Japan, exchanging practices in school-based music education.
10/13/06 – According to PlaybillArts.com, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra board, management and musicians announced today that a two-year contract has been ratified, effective immediately. “The agreement, the result of negotiations held in early September, is valid for the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons; terms will remain the same for both seasons, with the exception of a provision that will allow wage discussions to be re-opened in the second year. The contract guarantees 32 weeks of employment (the same as the prior contract); a 2.63% raise in musicians' base pay plus extra compensation for outreach performances; and health benefits that will cover a newly-hired musician's spouse or domestic partner in their second year with the orchestra. Other updated policies involve reucturing of musician rotation within performance sections, audition procedures and use of taping devices during a rehearsal.”
10/12/06 - Pittsburgh Opera has named Australian conductor Antony Walker as its next music director, beginning later this season, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "Walker has worked closely with [Sir Charles] Mackerras on many opera productions in Australia and Europe, and benefited from his personal relationship with, and advocacy by, the world-renowned maestro."
Which European orchestra do you think is the best?
Ten European classical music media outlets convened by the French magazine Le Monde de la Musique has named its list of the Top Ten European Orchestras. The results of the voting were reported last week by the website AbeilleMusique.com. Representatives of each of the ten participants, ranging from Gramophone magazine (Great Britain) to Radio Classique (France), ranked their preferred orchestras. Each awarded ten points to their top choice, nine to the next, etc. They only considered permanent, conventional-instrument symphonic ensembles were considered. Baroque orchestras, opera orchestras and festival orchestras, all being somewhat different in nature, were not included.
The top ten, with point counts, are as follows:
1. Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (86 points)
2. Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam (85 points)
3. Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (79 points)
4. London Symphony Orchestra (55 points)
5. Dresden Staatskapelle (48 points)
6. Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (47 points)
7. Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig (37 points)
8. St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra (31 points)
9. Czech Philharmonic Orchestra (12 points)
10. Philharmonia Orchestra [London] (9 points)
AbeilleMusique.com noted that while Radio Classique and Le Monde de la Musique did include French orchestras on their lists, none of the other voters did.
The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra has announced the hiring of four string players as full-time musicians for 2006-07, reports the American Symphony Orchestra League. Jonathan Chu, section second violin, holds degrees from the Juilliard School and Vanderbilt University and has performed with the New Jersey Symphony, Nashville Symphony, and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. JooYeon Kong was also named to the second violin section; educated at Rice University and Yale, she has performed in the Symphonic Orchestra of the Encuentro and at the Banff Summer Arts Festival. Two additional musicians-–Bjorn Ranheim, section cello, and Joo Kim, section first violin -- have won full-time positions in the SLSO after serving in one-year replacement positions last season. The orchestra has also announced the retirements of two longtime string players: Beverly Schiebler, section second violin and William Martin, section viola.
Violinist David Cerone has announced plans to retire as president of the Cleveland Institute of Music as soon as a suitable successor is in place. Cerone is the longest-serving president in CIM history.
10/13/06 -- Arnold Steinhardt, longtime first violinist of the Guarneri String Quartet, will give a free performance at the Lincoln Triangle branch of Barnes & Noble in Manhattan.
10/12/06 – Violinist Emmanuel Vukovich, a fourth-year student at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University in Montreal, is the first recipient of the new $20,000 Golden Violin award at the school, reports the Canadian Jewish News. In addition to the cash, Vukovich will receive a 14-karat gold lapel pin in the shape of a violin that replicates the shape of a gold-plated pewter violin Toronto mining magnate Seymour Schulich recently donated to the school when he announced his funding of the award. The gold-plated violin, which is valued at $100,000, will be kept on permanent display at McGill. “Schulich discovered the precious object in the Persian Gulf emirate of Dubai last April. ‘When I saw it, I got very excited’, said Schulich. ‘I thought, if you go to a music school and you want to have competition, what could be more appropriate than this violin? My idea was to create an equivalent to the Stanley Cup for music’. According to the paper, the Golden Violin award is the richest privately funded music scholarship in Canada. “Candidates are top string players who are close to completing their studies at McGill and have demonstrated the potential to embark on a successful performing career. Recipients are chosen by the McGill scholarships committee.”
10/12/06 - According to the Sydney Morning Herald, violinist and artistic director of the Australian Chamber Orchestra Richard Tognetti has won the best classical album prize with his solo album Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin at the ARIA Fine Arts awards at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. “Recording his solo album was like climbing Everest, Tognetti said. ‘Every violinist thinks, God, what would happen if I had to do that?' So I learnt them and started committing myself to the project.” The awards were judged by a panel of critics, broadcasters, and retailers. “Tognetti may have been dubbed a national living treasure because of his skills on the violin, but he is equally comfortable talking about surfboards. The musician with the rumpled attire and quiet demeanour also taught his friend, Russell Crowe, to play the violin for the movie Master and Commander.”
10/11/06 – ContactMusic (UK) is reporting that 71-year-old conductor Seiji Ozawa has canceled two concerts scheduled for early November in Paris due to ill health. “Ozawa, who had to pull out of several appearances with the Vienna State Opera earlier this year, isn't disclosing the nature of his illness.”
10/10/06 – Violinist Hilary Hahn released a new Deutsche Grammophon album featuring Paganini's Violin Concerto No. 1 and Louis Spohr's Violin Concerto No. 8.
10/6/06 – The Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that former Cleveland Orchestra violinist Marie Setzer has died at age 86. Her husband, Elmer, was also a violinist in the orchestra. Son Philip Setzer plays violin in the Emerson String Quartet. “In the days before his mother's death, Philip took his violin to the hospital and played Bach for her. Setzer's last words were a response to her son's question about leaving the radio on: ‘I always want to hear music’. She died listening to Mozart.”
10/11/06 - Ontario's Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony is in dire straits and must raise $2.5 million CDN by the end of the month to avoid bankruptcy, reports The Record (Kitchener, ON). According to the orchestra, the eighteen board members have pledged their financial support for a total of C$230,000, which is close to 10 percent of the overall community goal. The orchestra has also developed a plan to reduce expenses and implemented short-term cost-cutting measures. Staff and musicians salaries will be cut fifteen percent. A statement on the orchestra's website voices "unanimous support" from the musicians. "We, the musicians of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Players' Association, are dismayed by the current financial crisis, and we are working with management in their campaign."
10/10/06 – Let the good times roll in San Francisco. First, San Francisco Opera has announced receiving a commitment of $35 million from Jeannik Méquet Littlefield, the single largest gift it has ever received from an individual and possibly the largest made by an individual to any American opera company, reports San Francisco Classical Voice. Then, the San Francisco Symphony received a $10 million challenge grant last week from Richard N. Goldman. “The $10 million ‘investment in the artistic and financial future of the San Francisco Symphony’ is expected to generate as much as an additional $20 million in donations from others. Goldman will give $500,000 for each $1 million donation, and the donors will have chairs named after them in the string sections. Twenty such contributions are expected, which would bring about $30 million to the Symphony endowment.”
10/8/06 – According to the Argus Leader (Sioux Falls, SD), the South Dakota Symphony is also doing well. "Some of its musicians say the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra is at a high point, an era that might be considered its best years ever ... Having a permanent home -- the Great Hall of the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science -- was a turning point in 1999, says Tom Bennett, executive director ... The orchestra's endowment balance was $74,886 in 1998, increasing to $2.2 million this year. With a $1.7 million annual budget, the orchestra also began increasing pay to a point worthy of recruiting professional players. Rebecca Breitag, orchestra spokeswoman, comments: ‘Sioux Falls having nine full-time musicians for an orchestra our size is extremely out of the ordinary, but we can do it because of the musicians' commitment to the SDSO and community support’."
Other Music News
10/11/06 - The former executive director of a small regional orchestra in Indiana has been arrested and charged with solicitation of a minor, reports the Lafayette Journal & Courier (IN). “Edward Williams, formerly the head of the Lafayette Symphony Orchestra, was arrested when he traveled to an Indianapolis suburb to meet what he thought was a 15-year-old girl he had chatted with online. The ‘girl’ was, in fact, a police officer. The orchestra, which had already cut ties with Williams, is stunned by the news. Maj. Luckie Carey of the Carmel Police Department said Williams was charged with two counts of child solicitation and attempted sexual misconduct with a minor. Williams posted a $30,000 bond and was released Saturday. Last month, Williams opted not to renew his contract with the LSO, which expired Sept. 30.
Just days ago, the ASOL reported this item: “Indiana's Lafayette Symphony Orchestra has announced that Executive Director EDWARD WILLIAMS has chosen not to renew his contract, which expired September 30. Highlights of his two-year tenure include marketing initiatives, balanced budgets, the securing of several grants, establishment of a Music Director Search Committee, and partnership with Purdue University Convocations on the Baseball Music Project, a concert performed in September at Purdue's Elliott Hall of Music.”
10/10/06 – Even though international flight rules are relaxing, the fallout will undoubtedly continue. The New York Times reports, "As international authorities strive to harmonize a myriad of rules for carry-on flight luggage, a Russian-American jazz musician is nursing a broken arm he said he suffered in a struggle with French airport police over his right to board with a prized trumpet. The musician, Valery Ponomarev, 63, a former member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, was preparing to board an Air India flight on Sept. 9 from Paris to New York City, where he lives, when a routine airport ritual erupted into a fierce dispute over his 1961 Constellation trumpet."
Let’s pick up where we left off in getting to know violinist Augustin Hadelich, fresh from his strong win at the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis.
Q.: Do people treat you differently now that you’ve won a major competition?
A.: Well, some are a lot nicer, and some are less so. Sometimes, there’s more awkwardness with the students at Juilliard [where Hadelich is still officially a graduate student]. Everyone expects me to be so much more conceited. I feel like some people just wait to hear me say something conceited.
Q.: How do you like to socialize with friends?
Well, we are in New York, so people typically get together and go eat. I also like to play chess—it’s a very silent way of socializing. And it engages the mind beautifully. It’s very relaxing.
Q.: What book do you have on your nightstand right now?
A.: Nothing right now, but over the summer, I read John Updike’s “Rabbit” series [four books, starting with Rabbit, Run and culminating with Rabbit at Rest]. I prefer fiction in general, including books by Thomas Mann and Tolkein.
Q.: Is it hard to stay in the daily routine of practicing following a major win?
A. Well, I do have more distractions now [laugh]. I didn’t practice very much the first week after the competition, but I am now getting back into my routine. I can finally play other pieces now, and that’s what makes it fun. I’m playing the Dvorak and Mendelssohn concertos right now and enjoying them immensely.
The Mendelssohn in particular is beautiful. People almost think of it as a beginner piece, but it’s actually quite hard. I would never play it at a competition, though.
I’ve noticed that, at competitions, people are really shying away from Tchaikovsky and Brahms now. Everyone plays Shostakovich, Shostakovich, Shostakovich, but you expose yourself so much more in Tchaikovsky. I love the Bartok second and have played it for many years, so I thought I’d be the only one playing Bartok at Indy. Then I see the [competitor] list, and many people are playing Bartok! The Bartok second has sometimes been very successful at Indy, and it seems to be really fashionable in general right now.
Q.: How would you describe your practice routine?
A.: For me, morning is best. After lunch, I get sleepy. So I’ve had ideas about how I could get more good practice time in. Now, I eat breakfast in my room to save time.
Q.: And then you warm up with, what, scales?
A.: I don’t really play scales.
Q.: Wow! Why not?
A.: Well, I’m not very good at them, because I didn’t grow up playing them. You don’t have to play scales that often in musical literature, so just practicing generic scales may not solve those problems when you *do* encounter scales in music. Like practicing a D-flat major scale for hours just because it’s a scale: I’ve never really encountered one in music. I think scales are good for many people, they just don’t benefit me. It’s definitely *not* because I think I’m too good for them. I prefer to warm up by playing my newest piece for a few minutes. The point is just to get your hands to feel warm and relaxed.
Q.: Do you talk about the serious burns you suffered in 1999?
A.: Sure. I was burned in 1999 near my parent’s farm in Italy. I had to go through several months of hospitalization and many operations. They kept me in an artificial coma for a couple weeks to allow my body to heal. Then, when I came out, I couldn’t even move a finger.
The first object with something like that is to survive. At first, nothing else matters. But I really wasn’t sure if I’d ever play again. I couldn’t even try for four months. When I did try, I realized I was just out of shape, but that I would be ok.
Fortunately, my left hand was not injured. It was just the general situation. It’s very time-consuming to heal, and it requires a lot of patience. I have no patience, even less now, but you don’t have a choice. I would just watch TV, play lots of video games. Even when I did start playing, I didn’t have much momentum for another two years.
In 2003, I went to the Steans Institute at Ravinia to play chamber music, and in 2004, I decided to come to Juilliard. I’ve gradually been working harder and harder.
Q.: Do many people ask about your ordeal?
A.: Yes—it’s natural to be curious. And it’s a major thing to happen in a life. But the effect on my playing is less than you might think. Most people have some kind of crisis or need time off from music. People think the suffering went into my playing, but I don’t. Then again, maybe it did.
Congratulations on your major life and musical accomplishments, Augustin. We wish you many more!
Remember, one of Augustin’s prizes for winning the Indy is a Naxos-label compact disc recording contract, and more than 40 concert engagements. These include a domestic and international tour entitled "Pure Gold" with Chinese pianist Yingdi Sun, winner of the 2005 International Franz Liszt Piano Competition of Holland. So, Violinist.com members should have many opportunities to hear this talented violinist for themselves.
The intense, charismatic violinist Augustin Hadelich is fresh from his win at the 2006 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis. Recently, I was privileged to chat with Hadelich by phone for more than an hour. Our conversation was wide-ranging, thought-provoking and entirely delightful.
Q.: What does winning the IVCI mean to you?
A: In my opinion, being a violinist is about playing beautiful music and sharing it in concerts, not about winning competitions. While they are great for creating interest in classical music among the local audiences, most violinists I know hate to do them, because of the stress, the controversy and many other factors. And in the end, it's a matter of taste: it's great that there are many successful violinists out there who play so differently from each other.
Now I get the opportunity through many engagements, a CD recording, Carnegie Hall debut etc. to try and win over audiences, and that is really what I wanted, to tour and play my favorite music in many different cities and with different orchestras, and to get a lot of exposure. In a way, it doesn't really get any easier from here on, since I will have to play at least as well or better in those concerts than how I played at Indy, if I want to really establish myself as a soloist.
But I feel very happy and optimistic, my success has increased my confidence, and I Iook forward to all these challenges, and now I have the wonderful Gingold Strad to help me get my sound to the back of those halls. I started playing on it already, and it sounds great.
Q.: How did you prepare for the competition?
A: In a way, I've been preparing for it for many years, since I've been playing some of the pieces, like the Bach or the Bartok solo sonata for so long. I've started preparing specifically for this competition in April. In June I went to participate at the Marlboro Festival, and that turned out to be really helpful for my preparation, because I learned so much musically playing chamber music for at least 4 hours every day, and practicing the Indy repertoire in addition to that, so I was in really good shape when the festival was finished in August.
I spent a large portion of my time during the summer on the second Bartok concerto, since this was the first time I performed it, and working on my cadenzas for the Mozart concerto. Once the competition started, I just thought about the next round I had to play, and tried to sleep a lot and eat the right things.
Q.: Have you competed in or won competitions before?
A: I have only done two competitions as an adult before Indy: the 2005 Queen Elisabeth and the 2005 Sieblius competitions. I think my playing has progressed a lot since May of 2005, and I've also become better at playing in a competition environment. I never get extremely nervous when I play concerts, so I was really shocked back then how nervous I was when I played my first round in the earlier competitions, because of the pressure. In addition, the Queen Elisabeth competition was so intimidating, and it was really unfriendly towards the competitors. It was a Kafka-esque experience.
In contrast, I can't imagine a friendlier competition than Indy, and the audiences were so enthusiastic, and so many people in the Indianapolis symphony were really into it as well. That helped, because it made me feel like the whole thing had a purpose, that even had I not gotten to the final round it would not have been a waste of my time to go there.
Of course now with the liveeaming there were also people all over the world watching the whole thing, which I think is great. I think it will be even better four years from now though. Due to the sound compression that they now use to make the files smaller, you lose so much detail. Certain things like color and beauty of sound are harder to judge from the videos.
In the Sibelius competition I got to the second round, but that's where my luck ran out. What I learned from that experience is how incredibly important it is what repertoire you choose, and that it was a really bad idea to play a Brahms sonata in the competition, because whichever way you play it, chances are it offends at least half the jury. In a way, it's much easier to be successful with the Ravel or Prokofiev sonatas at competitions.
In Indianapolis I was able to choose the Bartok solo sonata, which has been one of my strongest pieces for many years now, that I've performed at least a dozen times and recorded twice (for the first time when I was 13 years old, and then again at 20).
Q.: How much of a personal stamp were you able to put on the compulsory piece?
A: I was very surprised when I first got the music for the [specially commissioned piece by composer] Bright Sheng piece back in June, because the violin part looked so easy, and instead the piano had all those fiendishly hard passages in it. I had expected a part full of extended technique, like the comissioned pieces for other competitions I've seen (like Hannover 2006). But I soon realized how hard it was to play it in a way that makes sense, and I was still changing my interpretation just days before my second round.
Once I decided that the piece is quite humorous and doesn't really take itself too seriously, I started liking it more and more, and now I think it's a very cute piece. I don't think you can sound good playing a piece that you don't like.
Q.: How did it feel to be the only man in the finals?
A: I think people made way too big of a deal out of the fact that I was the only man in the semis. I don't think it really is that meaningful, and I didn't even think about me being the only man until I read it in the paper. In a way it was good, because it got people to talk about me (even though they kept referring to me as "the only man left in the competition" until the results were announced).Other than that, it didn't matter much, because I am as scared of female competition as I am of male competition.
I was happy though that the final round turned out to be a crowd of really nice people, even though we only really socialized for forty minutes before the results were announced. Other competitors made an effort to have more contact with each other. I’ve learned that it throws me off if I see much of the other competitors. It’s better not to think about them at all. I did know [fellow competitor and Violinist.com member] Yura [Lee] because we spent the summer together, so we talked on the phone a couple of times.
Q.: How do you keep from worrying about the judges' likes and dislikes?
A: It’s actually very useful to think about their likes and dislikes, but only before the competition. When choosing repertoire, I studied the list and thought about what I knew about each judge. For example, Igor Oistrakh was on the list, so I felt there was no way I was going to play the Tchaikovsky. But I felt good about the judges because they are all performers, unlike some competitions where the judges are all teachers or include just a handful of performers. One of my favorite moments of the competition was when the judges had to perform. It was really fun to watch—they had their turn to get nervous, just like we did.
On the other hand, it is impossible not to worry about whether they like your playing. The advice we’re given is to go in and think of the competition as a concert and play for the audience, not the judges. In the first round, that’s impossible to do because we’re all playing the same repertoire, but it got easier after that round.
Q.: Are you playing the Gingold Strad yet, or is there some red tape you have to go through first?
A: I came home with the Strad. [The use of the Gingold Strad for four years is one of the competition’s prizes.] It’s been played for four years without getting an adjustment, though it does need it, so I’ll have to get that done. It sounds very good, though, of course. For the past year, I’ve been playing a Guarneri, and it didn’t speak very easily. The Gingold Strad sounds thinner but the sound travels easily. The further you get from the instrument, the better it sounds, so I know it will sound great at the back of the hall. With one month from winning the competition to my first concert, that’s plenty of time to adjust. I don’t have to change strings as often with the Strad, either. During the competition, I changed strings every 5 days to keep them in the best possible condition. Now it’s been several weeks and I still haven’t had to change strings yet. I’m using Dominant strings now, though I may change that in the future. I used Westminster on the Guarneri. Four years with the Gingold Strad seems like a long time, but I’m sure I’ll miss it terribly when it’s time to give it back.
To be continued…..
10/3/06 – The American Symphony Orchestra League is reporting that Congress has made an important recognition of the value of the arts in coping with future disasters like Hurricane Katrina. “Congress has address[ed] a significant inequity in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster relief policy. One of a scant handful of bills completed last week before Congress left for the mid-term elections - the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill - includes a provision adding nonprofit performing arts facilities to the list of organizations eligible for future FEMA disaster relief.
Under current FEMA policy, the definition of an eligible "private nonprofit facility" specifically excludes performing arts organizations. … When it became clear that overall FEMA reform would not be completed this year, Congress deemed the performing arts provision important enough to lift from the reform bill and add to the must-pass DHS funding bill, along with several other FEMA reform provisions.
FEMA eligibility enables organizations that are located in a Presidentially declared disaster area and own their facilities to seek reimbursement for the costs to repair facilities to their pre-disaster condition, as well as for costs associated with debris removal and emergency protective measures. Each FEMA application is considered on a case-by-case basis. While the new performing arts eligibility does not guarantee that each future application will be approved, it allows requests to be fairly considered.”
10/1/06 – According to MusicalAmerica.com, violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter has announced that she is quitting the stage: “’Yes, yes, I said it. It is my plan to stop when I reach my 45th birthday’, the German-born violin virtuoso declared Sunday evening in an interview with the French-German television channel Arte. “ Mutter will turn 45 in June 2008. ‘Nevertheless, it is not the precise date which counts’, she added, giving herself some leeway, ‘but rather a certain period of time at the end of which I will leave the scene before, behind my back, people dream of my retirement’. …It’s worth noting that Mutter has been a top-ranking, Grammy-winning soloist now for 30 years, now, despite her relative youth. Additionally, she has had her share of personal difficulties. Her first husband, Detlef Wunderlich, whom she married in 1989, died of cancer in 1995. She had two children by that marriage, Arabella (1990) and Richard (1994). In 2002 she married conductor Sir Andre Previn, 31 years her senior. A divorce was quietly announced last month. …Asked what she would do after retiring she remarked: ‘Good Question. Music will be irreplaceable. It is life that will give me the answer. I did not plan to meet Karajan so early. My children are a gift of God. I had not planned to lose my husband after six years of marriage or live as a widow... I plan some small sonatas and the rest will come. I will try to remain faithful to my artistic ideals. We will see’.”
10/1/06 - The Allentown (Pa.) Morning Call, ran a profile of Glenn Dicterow, concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic, in conjunction with a local appearance. Regarding Music Director Lorin Maazel, Dicterow comments: "He's extremely clear and economical with his rehearsal technique. He gets to the point; he doesn't dilly-dally. He has a great efficiency in preparing programs. We're going on tour next year with 10 and 11 programs in Asia, and there are very few maestros who could prepare that amount of repertoire in a small amount of time. He's very attentive, and he has amazing concentration." Regarding the New York Philharmonic's deal with iTunes, Dicterow responded: "CDs, especially classical CDs, are just not selling, and more and more orchestras are offering downloads. It's just the way it has to go. Either that, or we won't be in the market, because people love the convenience of sitting down and just downloading."
10/1/06 – The Anchorage Daily News profiled Art and Eleanor Braendel, cellist and violist, respectively, with the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra. The pair retired last month after 60 years with the orchestra. "They and 15 other musicians, most of them amateurs, started the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra by practicing in church basements and performing in school auditoriums. Now the symphony has bloomed into a municipal institution with 1,200 season ticket holders, 62 tenured musicians and more than 10 concerts this season." The paper adds that the Braendels are focusing on providing a permanent home for the Alaska Fine Arts Academy, which they began under the name the Eagle River Arts Academy in 1984.
9/28/06 – The Philadelphia Inquirer reviewed violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg’s appearance with the Philadelphia Orchestra in Clarice Assad's new Violin Concerto. "This first major concert work by the 28-year-old jazz-steeped Assad is high on lyricism and charm, not so high on the kind of thematic development that could explore more aspects of her melodic inspiration ... True to form, Salerno-Sonnenberg was an emotional live wire, which meant everything to the Assad concerto (a great showcase for her temperament) and gave a particular conceptual cast to Bach's Violin Concerto No. 2."
9/28/06 – The Bay Area Reporter is not a fan of Maxim Vengerov’s new recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto. Vengerov’s mentor Mstislav Rostropovich leads the London Symphony Orchestra on the new disc from EMI Classics. “In an apparent attempt to make clear for all eternity what a truly great concerto Beethoven wrote, the pair have come out with an inflated, grandiose interpretation of the piece that sinks under its own weight. A mere five minutes longer than the average reading of the work, it feels like it lasts an eternity, a syndrome common to performances that elicit listener resistance…. Vengerov follows his master's voice with an opening phrase that is so admiring of each of its own, disconnected sounds, so pearly in their beauty they're kept from touching lest they scratch one another, that the sense of dislocation is deepened.”
10/3/06 – According to the Washington Post, "The National Symphony Orchestra has announced that Kansas will be the site of the ensemble's 2007 American Residency -- the NSO's 17th such extended visit since 1992. Between March 22 and 30, 2007, members of the orchestra will participate in more than 150 performances and education events throughout the state, including complete concerts led by Music Director Leonard Slatkin and Associate Conductor Emil de Cou, and individual coaching of young musicians by NSO members ... There will be a total of six orchestral concerts, including a concert for young people, in Kansas -- ranging from Topeka and Wichita, the largest cities in the state, to the university town of Lawrence ... In addition to concerts of orchestral and chamber music, the NSO will offer lectures, workshops for teachers, workshops for students with disabilities, pre-concert discussions, coaching sessions and music appreciation classes."
10/3/06 – Who are the hardest-working classical musicians? If you answered the folks who populate the major opera orchestras, you’d be correct, as an item in San Francisco Classical Voice shows. “This weekend, for example, [San Francisco Opera] orchestra musicians had to do a turnaround that would tax athletes in the finest condition. Saturday night's Rigoletto had 62 of the orchestra's 69 musicians play until close to 11 p.m., all of them — plus the ‘resting’ seven, and four extras — back in the pit at 1 p.m. on Sunday for a five-hour dress rehearsal of Tristan und Isolde. Can you imagine what it must be like for a violin player, for example, just to do the physical work (never mind the artistry) for eight hours within less than a 24-hour period? I cannot, but my admiration to all, especially considering the sterling quality heard at both events.” Amen, brother.
9/30/06 - The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra is taking to the airwaves, according to the Newark Star-Ledger. “As part of the NJSO's production deal with New York's WQXR (96.3 FM), concerts with [Music Director Naeme] Järvi taped from the orchestra's 2005-2006 season will be syndicated by the WFMT Radio Network. The 13-week series will be picked up in 50 markets across the country, including six of the top 10. Some stations will air the concerts starting in October, others in January. The NJSO radio series is made possible by sponsorship from American International Group, a New York insurance and financial company." WFMT Radio Network Senior Vice President Steve Robinson comments: "We turn down things that are paid for all the time because we don't think they're up to snuff ... But the NJSO is a terrific orchestra." He estimates that the audience for the NJSO series could be about 250,000 people per week.
9/29/06 – A Boston Globe article provides a rare insight into the hiring and “initiation” of new members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. And, even better, the article focuses on a violinist, new member Julianne Lee:
“Last year at this time, Lee was just another first- year graduate student at New England Conservatory. But Lee's violin teacher, impressed by her playing, suggested that she apply for an open slot in the BSO. In March, Lee beat out more than 200 players to score a seat in the orchestra. Tonight, the 22-year-old -- the youngest in the 94-member BSO -- plays her first concert with the orchestra….
[New England Conservatory] is where she caught the ear of former BSO violinist Marylou Speaker Churchill. As part of Churchill's orchestra excerpts course, Lee performed a mock audition at Symphony Hall. ‘I heard all the things that an audition committee is looking for’, remembers Churchill. ‘Beautiful rhythm. Beautiful intonation. Musical phrasing. Exquisite timing. Everything was in place’. As Lee walked off the stage, Churchill pulled her aside. The teacher offered a suggestion she had never given to another student. Send your resume in to the BSO, Churchill said. They're auditioning violinists. Lee had never considered trying out.
Over two days in March, Lee competed at Symphony Hall for a position. The BSO had whittled the list of 225 resumes to 23 violinists. From behind a canvas screen -- the BSO audition process, until the final round, is blind -- the players competed. Late on March 21, BSO Assistant Personnel Manager Bruce Creditor delivered the good news to Lee and Jason Horowitz, 34. They had been selected.
[Retiring BSO cellist Ronald] Feldman has advice for Lee, who will be vying for tenure -- new players are on probation until given permanent status -- in a section of the orchestra traditionally difficult to score points with. Just last year, the BSO denied tenure to assistant concertmaster Juliette Kang, who promptly went on to win a post with the Philadelphia Orchestra as associate concertmaster.
‘Play your music, mind your business, be friendly, but wait until you're actually a member before you let loose’, said Feldman, now director of instrumental activities at Williams College. ‘Everybody appears to be your friend and they're very welcoming but the reality is you're really not a member of the fraternity or the sorority until you actually pass probation’. There is no fruit basket, no formal welcome wagon at the BSO, and until this week, Lee had met fewer than a handful of her new colleagues.
On stage Wednesday, before leading the orchestra, conductor James Levine asked new players to stand and be introduced. With each new name, the orchestra members applauded. By the first break, Lee said she felt comfortable. ‘I still can't believe it’, she said. ‘I think I won't believe it until I'm sitting there. It seems like a miracle’."
Read the entire article here: http://www.boston.com/news/globe/
The New York Philharmonic has announced the addition of several string players to its roster. Min Young Chang is a Juilliard-trained native of Seoul. Mei Ching Huang studied at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University following emigration from Taiwan. Na Sun followed studies at Beijing's Central Conservatory of Music with an artist diploma from Boston University's College of Fine Arts. Two cellists have been selected, too: Sumire Kudo of Japan, formerly cellist in the Avalon String Quartet, and Ru-Pei Yeh, a founding member of the Formosa Quartet in her native Taiwan, have been named to the cello section.
Violinist Christina Jensen has been appointed development-marketing manager at the New York Youth Symphony. She holds undergraduate degrees in violin performance and communications, and received her master's degree in arts administration from Boston University.
10/8/06 – The Ying Quartet is playing at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY.
9/30/06 – Violinist Rachel Lee performed—what else—the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the Rockford Symphony.
9/29/06 – The Scranton Times-Tribune reports that violinist Anne Akiko Meyers played the Tchaikovksy Violin Concerto to open the season of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic. [Granted, this is a cornerstone of the violin repertoire, but of all the season-opening notices I’ve read in recent weeks that involve a violinist and an orchestra, just about every darn one has played the Tchaik. Sibelius, Beethoven, or Brahms, anyone? Anyone?]
9/29/06 – The Guardian (UK) ran a profile of the violinist Kennedy in which he reveals that he is going to release a jazz album in the near future: “[B]ut for a slightly different set of circumstances, he might easily have pursued a jazz career. The standard biography relates that the young violinist was the protege of Yehudi Menuhin. What is less well-known is that Kennedy also caught the attention of the great jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli, who he looked upon as his jazz godfather. Although temperamentally and professionally polar opposites, Menuhin and Grappelli were close friends and recording partners, which left Kennedy ideally placed to absorb the influence of both. ‘Yehudi and Stephane were at the height of their powers when I got to hang out with them as a kid’, he says. ‘One day I'd see Grappelli getting ready for a gig with his brandy and a spliff; on another it would be Menuhin with his muesli and his wife combing his hair’."
Read the entire article here: http://www.arts.guardian.co.uk
9/29/06 – According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sir Andrew Davis, artistic advisor to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, has told the orchestra he has 'decided to step down when his three-year contract expires at the end of the 2007-08 season.' He will fulfill his duties as artistic adviser and hopes to return to guest conduct, but he will not be interested in extending his formal relationship."
9/28/06 – The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette profiled violinist Leila Josefowicz, who performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra this weekend. Josefowicz has "reinvented herself as a performer of contemporary music within the orchestral circuit and her career has taken off as an adult performer." The violinist herself says, "The one criticism I have of classical music and the way people are trained is that it really is not a given that people have to go out and really try new things ... I started working with a lot of great living composers, and that just opened my eyes completely to this whole new world of thinking and being part of a process of creating. It totally just brought me to the next level, inspiration-wise, with my career."
9/28/06 - The Houston Grand Opera has extended the contract of its music director, Patrick Summers, by five years, insuring that he will remain with the company through 2014. Summers made Opera News's list of the 25 most powerful people in U.S. opera this year.
Professional Musicians of Central California, AFM Local #12, has announced that musicians of the Modesto Symphony Orchestra have voted overwhelmingly in favor of a new five-year collective bargaining agreement. It provides a 17 percent increase in pay, a 3.5 percent increase in pension payments, guaranteed services, a defined orchestra complement, and "other improvements."
10/2/06 - The New York Philharmonic and the WFMT Radio Network have announced the third season of "The New York Philharmonic This Week." Debuting October 2, the two-hour weekly radio program will be broadcast and syndicated nationally over 52 weeks by the WFMT Radio Network. The New York Philharmonic continues to be the only U.S. orchestra to broadcast weekly on a national basis.
9/29/06 - The Florida West Coast Symphony and the American Federation of Musicians, Florida Gulf Coast Local 427-721, announced a new three-year agreement. It increases pay for core and per-service musicians, a first-time short-term disability policy, a sick leave policy, a personal leave policy that resembles one currently in place for FWCS staff, and adoption of the AFM's EP Pension plan in year three.
9/28/06 - The New York Times ran an update from Baghdad on the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra. "Throughout more than three years of war, the orchestra has striven to lift the country's spirits and give succor through art. But orchestra members are finding that while art can sometimes provide a brief respite from grim reality, it cannot stand forever as a bulwark against the maelstrom of conflict." Four musicians "fled to Syria and Dubai" this summer, and the orchestra's 59 musicians face equipment shortages and must frequently rehearse without electricity in the former royal concert hall "near the crumbling historic heart of Baghdad, with armed guards surrounding the compound." Some musicians report having to practice in secret to avoid offending extremists who have "deemed music to be un-Islamic." But the paper quotes trombonist Ali Nasser, who braves the "Triangle of Death" as he travels four to six hours each way for thrice-weekly rehearsals in Baghdad: "[My wife] tries to prevent me from coming, but I have to come. We can't survive without music. It's like oxygen."
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