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Violin News & Gossip, Op. 2, No. 69

October 13, 2006 at 1:35 AM

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 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) noted that while Radio Classique and Le Monde de la Musique did include French orchestras on their lists, none of the other voters did.

Musician News

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.”

Orchestra News

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."

From Preston Hawes
Posted on October 13, 2006 at 5:13 AM
Just spoke with JooYeon yesterday and she says she's really enjoying the SLSO. She's really a great player.
From Nicholas Tavani
Posted on October 13, 2006 at 6:02 AM
Mr. Cerone is also the best president in CIM history. It'll sad to see him go...he and his wife made CIM the incredible school it is today.
From Pieter Viljoen
Posted on October 13, 2006 at 6:44 AM
Big congrats to Emmanuel... not only a great violinist but a great artist and he'll probably have a very special career. The quartet he's in (all McGill students) won the Fischbach 2 years ago.

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