July 2006

Violin News & Gossip, Op. 2, No. 49

July 30, 2006 06:09

‘Tis the season, of course, for orchestra auditions. Here are some current opportunities, all of which are detailed on each orchestra’s website. When stated, compensation is included at the end of each listing and it can be a real eye-opener.

Asst. Concertmaster, Section First – Houston Symphony, due 8/1, audition 9/18-20
Principal Second – Milwaukee Symphony, due 8/1, audition 10/21-23 ($65.9k min.)
Section First – Milwaukee Symphony, due 8/1, audition 10/21-23 ($54.9k min.)
Violin, per service – Virginia Symphony Orchestra, due 8/1, audition 8/30 ($85.66/svc)
Section Violin – Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, due 8/1, audition 9/06
Section – New Mexico Symphony, due 8/1, audition 9/7 ($15.3k)

Air Force Strings – audition 8/14 ($45k-$51k)
Assoc. Concertmaster, Section – South Bend Symphony, audition 8/23-25
Asst. Concertmaster – Albany Symphony, due 8/4, audition 9/7-8 ($91/svc + 35%)
Section Violin – Albany Symphony, due 8/4, audition 9/7-8 ($91/svc)
Section Violin – Grand Rapids Symphony, due 8/7, audition 9/22-23 ($104.79/svc)
Concertmaster – Kalamazoo Symphony, due 8/8, audition 9/8 ($35k min.)
Section Violin – Boston Symphony, due 8/9, audition 10/30-31
Asst. Concertmaster – Colorado Springs Philharmonic, due 8/14, audition 8/28-9/1 ($107.72/svc)
Section First, Second – Colorado Springs Philharmonic, due 8/14, audition 8/28-9/1 ($89.77/svc)
Section Violin – Cedar Rapids Symphony, due 8/14, audition 8/26

Section (temp. repl.) – Saint Louis Symphony, due 8/1, audition 9/11-12
Asst. Principal – Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, due 8/1, audition 9/06
Section – Grand Rapids Symphony, due 8/7, audition 9/22-23 ($104.79/svc)
Section – Colorado Springs Philharmonic, due 8/14, audition 8/28-9/1 ($89.77/svc)
Assoc. Principal, Section – Cedar Rapids Symphony, due 8/14, audition 8/26
Section – South Bend Symphony, audition 8/23-25
Principal, Asst. Principal – Arizona Opera, audition 9/9

Section – South Bend Symphony, audition 8/23-25
Asst. Principal – Memphis Symphony, due 8/1, audition 8/26 ($25.2k)
Principal, Section – Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, due 8/1, audition 9/06
Section – Spokane Symphony, audition 9/1
Section – Singapore Symphony, due 9/12, audition 10/06 in NYC, SF, London, Amsterdam ($34.5k USD)

Musician News

7/29/06 - Boston Symphony Orchestra cellist Owen Young performed at a special concert in which Boston University's School of Music celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Tanglewood Institute, its summer program for gifted high school students.

7/27/06 – According to the North Shore Times in Chatswood, New South Wales, Australia, violinist Madeleine Easton has landed one of London’s top jobs: concertmaster of the Hanover Band. “A former Conservatorium High School student, Ms Easton, 28, received the news when she returned home from a tour of Spain with the English Baroque Soloists. ‘It hit me then that I was actually, for real, going to be the leader of a professional orchestra in London, a major international centre for music’, she said. ‘This appointment is going to change my life, I think’. Ms Easton studied with Chris Kimber and completed a Bachelor of Music (honours) degree at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.”

7/27/06 – According to the Buffalo News, The former president of the Buffalo local of the American Federation of Musicians has pleaded guilty to embezzling $74,000 from the very musicians he represented. Mark R. Jones has "pleaded guilty to taking $40,000 from the Musicians Local 92 in Buffalo where he was president and secretary-treasurer, and $34,000 from the New York State Conference of Musicians, of which he was secretary-treasurer. Jones repaid $21,000 of the amount he had taken before the investigation began, and has since repaid nearly all the rest, according to the United States Attorney's office." During the court hearing, Jones "said that he took medication for depression but was fit to make the decision to plead guilty. He likely faces a sentence of 12-18 months, plus a $3,000 fine at a sentencing set for Nov. 28, Judge William M. Skretny said."

7/27/06 – Violinist Gilles Apap, known for a repertoire that “mixes classical music with folk music from all over the world,” performed a concert in Tokyo, reports the Daily Yomiuri. “Apap has won fans for stage performances that are free of the conventions associated with classical music. He often appears on stage in casual attire, for example. ‘I do things that feel natural to me. Putting a tux on is very uncomfortable. So why should I?’ Apap said. He also doesn't hesitate to sing, whistle or walk around on stage during a concert, apparently enjoying direct exchanges with the audience. Apap says it doesn't even bother him if some audience members fall asleep during his performances, as he finds it a fun challenge to think of ways of waking them up. Born in Algeria in 1963, Apap began playing violin at the age of 7. After studying at the Conservatoire de Musique de Nice and the Conservatoire National Superieur de Lyon, he won the Contemporary Music Prize at the International Menuhin Competition in 1985. He later became concertmaster of the Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra--a position he went on to hold for 10 years.”

7/26/06 – Musicomh.com gave an overall lukewarm review to Leila Josefowicz’s Proms performance of the Shostakovich Violin Concerto No. 1, largely due to the reviewer’s dislike of the orchestra’s performance. “The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of conductor Sakari Oramo, gave the most apathetic performance I have heard in a long time. For Shostakovich's First Violin Concerto, we were treated to the immensely beautiful sound of a 1724 Guaneri del Gesu violin played by violinist Leila Josefowicz. Whatever beautiful sound the violin produced, however, was neutralized by the orchestra's wind section's inability to control their note attacks. Also, I felt that Josefowicz could have taken more time in certain places, though generally speaking, the first three movements up to the cadenza were technically perfect – perhaps a bit too perfect to the extent that the music became incredibly dry. The cadenza in the third movement was… probably the highlight of the evening. Her immensely powerful tone and technical virtuosity made the cadenza one that was received without any coughing and much applause at the end of the movement. It showed, however, that the cadenza was the item weighing on her mind as she proceeded to play the last movement as if all the troubles in the world were over.”

7/24/06 - German conductor Heinrich Hollreiser has died at 93, reports PlaybillArts.com. He was principal conductor (first Kapellmeister) of the Vienna State Opera from 1952-1961... He also led operas at Covent Garden, Bayreuth, the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires and the Metropolitan Opera during his career and guest-conducted the Vienna Symphony and the Cleveland Orchestra."

7/21/06 – Teen violinists and sisters Danielle and Rachel Taylor of East Oakland, Calif., were profiled in The Argus, a Bay Area newspaper. "Sometimes some of the street people around here will ask if that was me playing, they thought it was so beautiful. That's one of my favorite compliments coming from someone who has no reason to compliment me," said 18-year-old Danielle, who has just completed her first year at Oberlin. According to the paper, 17-year-old Rachel recently won the national Jack Kent Cooke Foundation competition and its $10,000 award. She used the funds to buy a violin.

7/20/06 – KOCH Records announced that the debut album from Nuttin' But Stringz will be released on October 3rd, 2006. Their album, entitled Struggle From The Subway to The Charts, will include the single "Thunder." Teenage brothers Damien and Tourie Escobar, dubbed Nuttin' But Stringz or N.B.S., first gained recognition for their blending of classical music, jazz, R&B, and hip hop by playing throughout New York's subway system. The duo has performed on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, The Ellen Degeneres Show, The Today Show and VH1's popular Save The Music program.

Orchestra News

8/2-12/06 - The Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra will participate in the International Youth Festival in Aberdeen, Scotland, along with theater, dance, and choral groups from around the world. The trip marks the first overseas tour for the youth orchestra.

7/27/06 – The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra has set an in-house fundraising record for the second year in a row, taking in nearly $2.2 million for the 2006 fiscal year, reports the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. This week, the orchestra also recorded an all-Gershwin disc with pianist Jon Nakamatsu. The recording has been funded by Al Davis, an honorary RPO board member, former board director, and retired Rochester Institute of Technology vice president. With a $90,000 gift, Davis underwrote the majority of costs for the recording, which is slated to be released on the Harmonia Mundi USA label in the summer of 2007.

7/26/06 - The Edmonton Symphony has resolved a long-running dispute with the Winspear Centre for Music over the estate of a deceased philanthropist, reports the CBC. "[Stuart] Davis, who died in July 2005, was a great supporter of both the Winspear Centre and the ESO, which plays at the venue. Symphony officials had been under the impression that Davis, a retired professor who found success on the stock market, had left a substantial bequest to the company in his will. Under the settlement, the ESO will get several hundred thousand dollars, and the Centre will get nearly CAN$2 million.”

Other Music News

7/27/06 - The EMI Group, the British music giant, has decided to call off its efforts to merge with the rival Warner Music Group, according to the New York Times. “The decision by EMI comes after the two companies rejected each other's escalating takeover offers and after a European court ruling that raised doubts about regulatory approval of such a deal…Many analysts continue to believe the two companies will eventually combine, a deal that would create the world's second-biggest music company and yield hundreds of millions of dollars in cost savings after overlapping functions and jobs are cut. But the end of the most recent negotiations solidifies the industry's lineup of four major music companies. EMI and Warner rank as the third- and fourth-largest music companies by market share, and both trail their bigger rivals, Sony BMG, and the Universal Music Group of Vivendi, the industry's biggest player."

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Violin News & Gossip, Op. 2, No. 48

July 26, 2006 21:17

Musician News

The August issue of Chamber Music magazine features a cover article on Aaron Dworkin, founder and president of the Detroit-based Sphinx Organization, which focuses on bringing music education to young blacks and Latinos. Dworkin, a violinist, remarks of the youths reached by the Sphinx Organization: "Whether they evolve into an audience member, or they evolve into an amateur musician whose life is generally enriched by music, or end up in any level of the professional music world that's our goal -- so that they have the opportunity to have that choice." Dworkin adds that if the classical music community treats diversity as a priority, "we will broaden our audience, expand our subscriptions, we'll widen our donor base, we'll have a better board of directors. We'll have a more engaged orchestra, where all our members are happier.”

7/30/06 – Iconic violinist Joseph Silverstein and pianist Derek Han will perform Mozart violin sonatas at Music@Menlo in Atherton, Calif.

7/30/06 – Steven J. Lubiarz, violin, and Joseph Palazzolo, piano, will be performing at the St. Roch Chamber Music Festival in Bad Axe, Mich.. According to the Huron Daily Tribune, Lubiarz is a native of Troy, Mich., and moved to Canada in 2003 to join the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and the Bell’arte Strings as second violinist. “Prior to moving to Canada, Steven performed under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas with the New World Symphony Orchestra in Miami Beach. While completing his masters of music in violin performance and orchestral studies at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts. Steven was also a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. While at Roosevelt, Steven studied violin with Cyrus Forough and Joseph Golan, and Baroque performance practice with keyboardist David Schrader.”

7/25/06 – The LaCrosse Tribune ran an interesting story noting that native son, composer and violinist Arthur Kreutz, would have turned 100 on this date. Kreutz’s compositions included the Paul Bunyan Suite and Dixieland Concerto, both of which were performed by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Here are some highlights from the story: “He learned violin from his father, Rudolph, who conducted the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra and played for several years in the St. Paul Symphony. Arthur Kreutz loved classical and jazz music, touring Europe with a jazz group before studying violin at the Royal Conservatory in Belgium. He also studied violin at the University of Wisconsin and received a master’s degree from Columbia University in New York. He twice won the Prix de Roma from the American Academy in Rome for composition, and received a Guggenheim Fellowship. Kreutz also conducted the New York Philharmonic and had his works performed by the NBC Symphony Orchestra. He wrote three violin concertos, jazz sonatas, ballets, operas, a string quartet and many jazz-oriented works.” Kreutz died of cancer at age 84 in 1991.

7/25/06 – The New York Sun favorably reviewed Leila Josefowicz’s new recording of the Shostakovich Violin Concerto No. 1, recorded with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Sakari Oramo. “This is intelligent, well-judged music-making. Chances are, you would not want to trade your Oistrakh recordings for this one. Nor would you want to trade the young — indeed, teenage — Maxim Vengerov, with Mstislav Rostropovich on the podium. But there is always room for good Shostakovich First recordings, and Ms. Josefowicz and her partners have made one. Normally, the First Concerto is paired with either Prokofiev's First or Shostakovich's violin sonata. Ms. Josefowicz plays the latter, with the pianist John Novacek. This performance is sensitive, knowing, and generally worthy.”

7/23/06 - Violinist Alvaro deGranda played his final concert as a member of the Cleveland Orchestra, reported the Akron Beacon Journal. He is one of a small group of players remaining in the orchestra to have been appointed by legendary former music director George Szell. “DeGranda beamed as he walked up front for a final bow in front of the orchestra he joined in 1966 and served as assistant concertmaster for 31 years of his tenure.”

7/23/06 – At this same concert, the Akron Beacon Journal raved about William Preucil’s concertmaster solos in Scheherazade, referring to them as the high point of the evening and “caressingly lovely.” German cellist Alban Gerhardt received a positive review in his Cleveland Orchestra debut, though the reviewer clearly found Preucil’s work more noteworthy.

7/11/06 – UCLA’s Daily Bruin has reported that James Bruno, a UCLA education professor, has died of cancer at 65. In the obituary, a close friend noted, "In addition to whipping up great Italian food from scratch, "he was a Stradivarius-inspired violin-maker and violinist, a diver, an East Coast swing dancer, a furniture maker, a model train hobbyist, a softball player, a pianist, a palm reader and a huge fan of Frank Sinatra, Mickey Mantle and the Yankees."

Orchestra News

7/19/06 – According to the New York Times, "the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra says it expects to report a six-figure deficit for last season and is dipping significantly into its endowment to cover costs." The orchestra’s current situation is, of course, related to its purchase, from philanthropist Herbert Axelrod, of 30 rare stringed instruments whose value came into question: "Paying off the debt for the instruments, which stands at about $12 million, has prevented the orchestra from dealing with an accumulated operating deficit of $4.2 million, [Board President Stephen Sichak] said. The endowment draw and some intricate financial restructuring will reduce the debt payments to $1.1 million a year, from $1.8 million, the orchestra said." Sichak comments: "We thought about selling the instruments ... The down side is, if we sell the instruments, we'd potentially lose the right to play them. We do not have plans to sell the instruments."

7/19/06 – A musical merger might be finalized soon in Allentown, Pa., reports the Allentown Morning Call. "The Allentown Symphony Orchestra and the Lehigh Valley Chamber Orchestra came one step closer to a merger Tuesday when the board of directors of the chamber orchestra 'overwhelmingly' approved a proposal that laid out a mission statement, leadership and a performance schedule for a combined organization, a board official said ... The chamber orchestra voted on a proposal that was revised on Monday after the Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra voted to withdraw from talks after about five months. The president of the Sinfonia ... said the group feared getting ‘swallowed up' by the two larger orchestras. “The proposal calls for the chamber orchestra to be dissolved into the Allentown Symphony Association, which would be headed by a board made up of members from both organizations. A new organization would have 'Lehigh Valley' in its name." Jim Bartholomew, board president of the chamber orchestra, comments: "It makes sense to join forces to widen our audience and donor base and to have a more focused support of classical music in the community."

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Violin News & Gossip, Op. 2, No. 47

July 23, 2006 16:51

‘Tis the season of violinists at London’s famed Proms concert series. Thirteen concerts will contain 14 violin concerti this summer. In order:

1. Thomas Zehetmair of Austria played the Brahms concerto on 7/21.
2. Leila Josefowicz will play Shostakovitch No. 1 on 7/26. She recorded this work with the same conductor and orchestra last January.
3. Tasmin Little will play Glazunov at the end of July.
4. Janine Jansen of Holland will play Mozart No. 5 on 8/12.
5. Maxim Vengerov will play and conduct Mozart Nos. 1 and 4 on 8/13. Then, the performance will conclude with Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, with Lawrence Power on viola.
6. Christian Tetzlaff, Musical America’s Instrumentalist of the Year for 2005, will play the Beethoven concerto.
7. Vadim Repin will tackle the Sibelius Concerto on 8/19. At least one critic is predicting this will be the highlight of the Proms this year.
8. Nikolaj Znaider will play the Mendelssohn E minor concerto on 8/25.
9. Gil Shaham will play Stravinsky’s rarely performed violin concerto on 8/26.
10. Frank Peter Zimmermann will play Szymanowski No. 1 on 9/2.
11. Leonidis Kovackas, 1988 Paganini Violin Competition winner will play Mozart No. 3 on 9/4.
12. Joshua Bell will play the Bruch G minor on 9/7.
13. Viktoria Mullova will close the Proms season with Prokofiev No. 2.

It’s hard to imagine a more compelling lineup of today’s violinists! Who would you pick as your one must-see from this season?

My money would be on Vengerov’s marathon concert. To play and conduct two concertos, then go right into the Sinfonia Concertante, is something only the most confident artist would dare to do. I’m betting he pulls it off brilliantly, though he’s not necessarily the first person to come to mind for Mozart. However, I’m also partial to Josefowicz and Bell. How about you?


7/21/06 – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contained an interesting commentary on standing ovations: "an applauding audience coming to its feet is so commonplace, its meaning is at best muddled ... Some suggest today's audiences are less sophisticated than those of previous generations; others say clap-happy audiences are simply discarding stuffy performing-arts protocols." James Darsey, a Georgia State University professor and "a specialist in American public speeches," comments: "Not so long ago, the standing ovation was a mode of public criticism, a signal that the performance got two thumbs up ... Now it's pro forma, and the statement becomes the audience congratulating itself, as in, 'I appreciate this art form.' " The writer quotes psychologist Frank Farley: "Social relationships, even at a superficial level, are deeply important to most of us, and imitation is a key factor in binding us as a group. Clapping and standing ovations are likely primal, pre-speech behavior that can be very satisfying."

Musician News

Audiophile Audition reviewed a disc by violinist Kolbjørn Holthe and pianist Tor Espen Aspaas. Most of the reviewer’s comments centered on the repertoire’s background—Richard Strauss’ Violin Sonata in E-flat Major, op. 18 and George Enescu’s Violin Sonata in A minor, op. 25. And, in typical audiophile fashion, he commented on the recording quality and jewel box art. Here’s all he had to say about the performance itself: “Young violinist Holthe and pianist Aspaas have been performing these two works in concert for some time and feel they have been milestones in their development as instrumentalists. They began collaborating in 1991.” Oh well—at least it’s nice to see relatively obscure musicians receive some exposure.

7/26-27/06 – The St. Lawrence String Quartet will be performing at Bay Chamber Concerts, in Camden, ME, with two special guests: legendary pianist Menahem Pressler and violinist Livia Sohn. Pressler, of course, is the founding pianist of the Beaux Arts Trio and Sohn is the wife of St. Lawrence first violinist Geoff Nuttal. The couple rarely performs together, but are apparently making their Maine performances part of a family vacation.

7/20/06 Israelnationalnews.com features a profile of the Israeli band Simply Tsfat. The band performs hassidic melodies and original material using voice, violin and guitar. Many songs are in the klezmer style and may be sung in Hebrew, Yiddish or English—some even mix languages. Here’s what the article has to say about American-born violinist Yehonasan Lipshultz: “Starting violin at the age of seven, little by little Lipshultz gave up music as he and his wife became more and more religious. Eventually he sold his violin to finance the down payment on their house. A book by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov encouraged him to continue becoming more and more religious and to eventually move to Israel arriving two weeks before the beginning of the Gulf War. Lipshultz became enthralled by the Shabbat songs in the local Breslov synagogue in Tsfat. ‘I started learning all these beautiful niggunim instead of Bach and Beethoven and Mozart. One day I said, gee, I could play those melodies, if only I had a violin.’ When he was in the town of Uman, Ukraine that he saw a man selling a violin on the street for 10 dollars. Although Lipshultz too, incorporates some of his musical past in Simply Tsfat's music, he doesn't miss classical music. ‘As I started reconnecting with my Jewish past, I started thinking - no - feeling, how all that musical culture stood by, as a supportive witness, while we walked to the gas chambers’.” The group’s home city of Tsfat is currently suffering through rocket attacks in the region’s unrest.

7/19/06 – Last week violinist James Ehnes wowed ‘em in Cleveland. This week he conquered Philly, making his debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra playing the Dvorak Violin Concerto. Here’s what the Philadelphia Inquirer had to say: "The Mann Center often puts barriers between the audience and detection of a soloist's personality, but Ehnes came across strongly. He has a gorgeous, saturated tone -- alive with vibrato but clear and honest. He's measured and solid, yet he's not hesitant to outline phrases in bold edges." Furthermore, in the second movement, Ehnes showed "a great ability to draw listeners into intimate moments."

7/19/06 – Teachers from the nationally renowned Betty Haag Academy in Buffalo Grove, Ill., are running a Suzuki camp in Winona Lake, Ind., reports the Warsaw (IN) Times-Union. “Last month Haag and 40 students toured Italy. The visit overseas included a performance before Pope Benedict XVI at a special Vatican Mass. They were scheduled to play for 30 seconds. Benedict indicated they should continue to play before the crowd of 100,000.” Haag expects the students to perform at high levels. “They don’t need to be mediocre. They realize they can reach a much higher level.”

7/19/06 – The Toronto Star ran a brief profile of "Indie rock violinist for hire" Julie Penner. “[She] estimates she has recorded or performed live with at least 40 artists and groups, including Do Make Say Think, the Weakerthans and the FemBots, as well as heavy metal outfit Cursed.” Penner says, “I quit violin for a couple of years when I was 15. All the music I listened to and would go see was pop music. Then I decided to start a group with some friends. I didn't give it much thought. Violin is the instrument I play. So I decided to make it work. Since then, I've played on everything from super-folky stuff to metal. Actually, the violin really suits heavy metal because it can get so high and scary-sounding…I can't tell you how many times I've played a show and gone off stage and people, usually girls, have come up and said, ‘I play the violin. And I never thought I could play in bands that I listen to. And now I see that I can’.”

7/10/06 – According to the Baltimore Sun John Fenton Mathews, former principal bass of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for a quarter-century, died of leukemia July 10 at his home in West Brooklin, Maine. He was 80. The obituary notes Mathews's positions with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Seattle Symphony, and the Houston Symphony Orchestra, adding: "In 1959, he won the audition for the BSO's principal bass chair, a position he held for 25 years. He also performed at Wigmore Hall in London and at a small auditorium at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Netherlands. He made his New York debut with a recital at Town Hall in 1963 and six years later took part in a State Department-sponsored tour from Rome to Oslo, Norway, as soloist on the viola da gamba. He taught at the Peabody Conservatory and for many summers was associated with the chamber music school at Kneisel Hall in Blue Hill, Maine. His final public performance was at Peabody in October."

Orchestra News

7/21/06 – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported troubling news regarding the Atlanta Ballet: "In a move it says will save more than $400,000 annually, the Atlanta Ballet has made the 'hard decision' to use only recorded music for future productions, starting with its season opener, 'Giselle,' in October. Ballet officials told members of the company's orchestra Thursday that they won't renew the musicians' three-year contract, which expires at the end of August, said production director David Tatu ... Andrew Cox, secretary-treasurer of the Atlanta Federation of Musicians Local 148-462, said Thursday that he couldn't comment on the ballet's decision because he hadn't had time to discuss it with members and the union's lawyers." Many professional ballet companies have begun using recorded music to save money, although leading ballets such as the New York City Ballet and the San Francisco Ballet still employ live orchestras, said James Fayette, an executive with the American Guild of Musical Artists in New York.

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Violin News & Gossip, Op. 2, No. 46

July 19, 2006 18:32

What is it with Joshua Bell and the Tchaikovsky concerto? Last winter, a Chicago performance came to an abrupt halt when the fantastic fiddler broke a string during the cadenza. His performance this week of the same work at the Festival del Sole in Napa Valley, Calif., had an unscheduled pause, too, though for a different reason: The audience simply couldn’t contain themselves.

According to the Napa Valley Register, “[Bell] was playing the first movement of Tchaikovsky's difficult violin concerto, when he spun out a cadenza (the unaccompanied section) of such mesmerizing tenderness, and such emotional intensity, the audience could hardly contain itself, and broke into an immediate standing ovation. While they well knew there was more to come, they simply could not withhold their emotions any longer. It was that intense, it was that beautiful, and it was that personal an experience. Bell shyly acknowledged the extended applause, then returned to complete the concerto with tonal brilliance, dazzling technique and astonishing artistry.”

Aspen Update

According to the Aspen Times, last week’s chamber music performances were more compelling than the big orchestras’. With Shostakovich’s centennial rapidly approaching, performances of his music can be heard literally at almost every concert venue.

On 7/18, the Aspen Times opined, “The Emerson Quartet delivered wrenching accounts of four of the Russian composer’s quartets. David Finckel, Wu Han and Alexander Kerr gave a blazing performance of the Piano Trio No. 2, and violinist Lev Polyakin stole the show at the Saturday afternoon artist faculty chamber music program, teaming with pianist Jean-David Coen for four witty, jewel-like miniatures, preludes 10, 15, 16 and 24.” The paper also notes that Finckel, the Emersons’ cellist, teamed up with his pianist wife Wu Han to perform sonatas by Shostakovich and Britten.

Regarding the Emersons’ Shostakovich, the reviewer specifically praised the “lapidary violin solo” by violinist Philip Setzer in the third movement. Does this mean his playing sparkled?

Violin soloist Sarah Chang “put her pinpoint accuracy and elegant phrasing to perfect use” in Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in G Minor with the Aspen Chamber Orchestra.

Other Musician News

7/18/06 – Canadian violinist James Ehnes earned a very positive review from the Cleveland Plain Dealer for his recent Cleveland Orchestra debut at the Blossom Music Festival. According to the paper, he “played Tchaikovsky's beloved Violin Concerto as if it were the newest piece on the block. He phrased with utmost expressive flexibility, drawing out the romance or drama, and employed his buttery tone - thanks in part to a 1715 Stradivarius - to rapturous effect. Ehnes also happens to possess one of the most wizardly bow arms in the business. In passages requiring velocity, especially in the finale, he passed across the strings at a speed that sounded dangerous but never obscured notes. Ehnes treated Tchaikovsky as a fine balancing act between eloquent poetry and bold athleticism. [Conductor Jaja] Ling and the orchestra seemed delighted to have met a new friend.”

7/18/06 – Violinist Ralph Morrison played Mozart’s E-minor violin sonata with pianist Susan Azraret Davies at San Luis Obispo’s annual Mozart Festival. The Purple Prose of the Week Award goes to the San Luis Obispo reviewer who commented on the string playing in the Shostakovich Piano Trio No. 2: “The fierce concentration cellist Kristina Reiko Cooper and violinist Nina Fan radiated, [became] downright erotic, especially in the last movement, when they plucked and stroked their instruments like guitars as their eyes flashed with fire.”

7/13/06 - Double bassist Emilio Gravagno, a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted his colleagues in a performance of Berlioz's Roman Carnival Overture, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. This was "an opportunity afforded him by his wife, philanthropist and orchestra board member Carole Haas Gravagno, who won the gig for her husband as a premium in a fund-raiser ($10,000 did the trick)."

7/10/06 – The experts at Sounds & Fury are disputing the authenticity of a photo from 1840 purported to be of Constanze Weber Mozart: "There are no outdoor photographs of groups of people dating from 1840, because the lenses invented by Joseph Petzval, which were to make such portraits possible, were not available yet. It was simply not possible in 1840 to take sharp outdoor pictures of people as long as the necessary exposure time still amounted to about three minutes."

7/10/06 - The Rocky Mountain News reports that the “always-dazzling” Leila Josefowicz performed Colorado Music Festival Chamber Orchestra, which featured the premiere of a one-movement violin concerto by the young composer Mark Grey. “'Elevation' proved a complex, sometimes thorny, mostly invigorating listening experience. In its 19 minutes, the piece bubbled over with musical and rhythmic ideas, always providing plenty for the soloist to do ... Josefowicz made easy work of this virtuoso piece."

7/9/06 – The Kansas City Star profiled Mary Garcia Grant, "a 17-year veteran of the Kansas City Symphony's second violin section" and a co-founder of Summerfest, which opened this past weekend. Grant tells the paper she founded Summerfest because "there was no classical music in the summer here whatsoever. Plus we needed to make money." Responding to a question regarding "the hardest part of the job," she comments: "It's not hard -- If you don't like it one week, it's going to be different the next week."

Orchestra News

7/18/06 – The New York State Music Fund has awarded the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra $70,000 to record a musical work based on the poems of pop-music icon Bob Dylan, reports the Buffalo News. The orchestra will perform the world premiere of "Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan," composed by John Corigliano, next March. “The composer, whose father was concertmaster for the New York Philharmonic, grew up without being exposed to popular music. He had never heard of Dylan until a friend gave him a book of the rocker's lyrics, and Corigliano set them to music before hearing Dylan's tunes.” The State Music Fund was created after Attorney General Eliot Spitzer accused record companies of violating federal and state laws against paying radio stations to play music by their artists. Under a settlement agreement, the companies began paying into the fund to support music education and appreciation for state residents, reports the paper.

7/11/06 – The Western Australia Symphony is now minus a music director, and no one is saying why. "The reason [Matthias] Bamert fell out of favour depends on who you ask, although no one can say on the record because players have received written and verbal warnings not to make any public comment. Before the China tour they signed a code of conduct that reminded them that section 70 of the Crimes Act made it an offence to publicly disclose company matters," reports The Australian. Then, the next day, PlaybillArts.com and other outlets were speculating that Edo De Waart might be the orchestra’s next music director: "De Waart, a former music director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra and Netherlands Opera, would be quite a catch for a band in such a far-flung town as Perth. (The city is roughly 2,000 miles from Sydney and 2,400 miles from Singapore.) But de Waart's career has been concentrated in that part of the world lately: in 2004 he finished up a very successful 10-year stint as chief conductor of the Sydney Symphony and went directly to the Hong Kong Philharmonic, where he is now artistic director."

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Violin News & Gossip, Op. 2, No. 45

July 16, 2006 20:54

The Seattle Symphony Survey, Redux

Of course, word has leaked out about the results of the supposedly private survey the Seattle Symphony musicians union created, circulated and tabulated for itself. On Friday, July 14, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer announced that it had obtained a copy of the results and reported on the findings: “A survey of Seattle Symphony musicians conducted by their union is, on the face of it, a devastating attack on conductor Gerard Schwarz and the leadership of the orchestra's board of trustees, but its conclusions are in question.”

According to the paper, the survey results consist of a 16-page report that tabulated musicians’ answers to six questions. The comments, mostly addressing the leadership of Music Director Gerard Schwarz and the board, were overwhelmingly negative. The union claims an 80 percent response rate, though some musicians said privately that they never received the survey.

The musicians criticized the board for renewing Schwarz’s contract through 2011 without consulting them. Some musicians also criticized the players themselves: "We lack clean ensemble, accurate intonation, we are rarely together, we don't share a sense of style and common vision." Others cited "low morale" and "lack of discipline." Other musicians credited Schwarz for bringing about long-term improvement in the orchestra but said his approach had grown stale.

After the board commissioned an independent review of the survey’s methodology and findings, which were roundly criticized for their essay-only format and internal tabulation, the musicians countered that the survey’s main purpose was to persuade the board not to renew Schwarz’s contract past 2011. By that measure, perhaps the survey will be successful. Considering that 2011 will mark his 28th year with the orchestra, the argument that perhaps a change is in order does not seem unreasonable.

But it is deeply concerning that open enmity that exists between members of the orchestra, those who are perceived as “friends” of the conductor and those who are not: “Those considered to be friends of Schwarz say they have had their instruments and cars vandalized, their mailboxes rifled,” reports the paper. “Inevitably, each side also has strong criticism of the musicianship on the other side of the aisle.”

One can hardly imagine a more stress-filled workplace. Perhaps the survey will improve the musicians’ work environment by allowing for the open airing of differences. It is more likely, however, that tensions will increase as a result of this well-intentioned document. Everyone loses in the presence of such divisiveness.

Read the entire article here: http://www.seattlepi.nwsource.com

Other News

Violinist Michelle Makarski released her latest solo recording, featuring unaccompanied works of Tartini and others, last March, reports the Interlochen alumni newsletter. Makarski, a resident of New York, is a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique and teaches masterclasses and workshops in the U.S. and abroad.

The Juilliard School has announced several new faculty members for 2006-07, including Steven Tenenbom, viola, and Albert Laszlo, double bass.

Violinist Augusto Diemecke has been named string specialist for the Youth Orchestra of the Southern Finger Lakes in Upstate New York. He is associate concertmaster of the youth orchestra's parent organization, Orchestra of the Southern Finger Lakes.

Philip Bauman, music director of Indiana's LaPorte County Symphony has renewed his contract for three years, beginning with the 2007-08 season.

Cellist Sarah Chelgren has been named the conductor of Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies’ Sinfonia group. An alumna of the group, Chelgren is orchestra director at Robbinsdale Cooper High School and is completing her master's degree at Northwestern University. She holds a bachelor's degree in music education from St. Olaf College.

Karen Lynne Deal has signed a new three-year contract extending her tenure as music director and conductor of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra.

Mary Woodmansee Green has renewed her contract as music director and conductor of Pennsylvania's Kennett Symphony of Chester County. She also serves as music director of the Hilton Head (S.C.) Orchestra.

Christopher Zimmerman will step down as music director of the Symphony of Southeast Texas in June 2007. The orchestra's board of directors will begin a search for his successor; each finalist will conduct one concert during the 2007-08 season.

7/12/06 – The New Jersey legislature has cut arts funding by a total of 15 percent for the coming fiscal year, reports the Newark Star-Ledger: "In the late-night frenzy to craft a budget deal this week, lawmakers cut the budget of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts an additional 5 percent, to $19.1 million." The paper adds: "Gov. Jon Corzine originally proposed a 10 percent cut to the grants budget of the arts council ... That number remained firm until the final hours of negotiations, when lawmakers cut another $1.3 million." According to the paper, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra will receive $1 million from the Arts Council.

7/8/06 – The reviews are in for Lemony Snicket’s The Composer Is Dead, a young person’s piece commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony from Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) and composer Nathaniel Stookey. San Francisco Classical Voice gave the work a mostly favorable review, noting that the capacity audience heartily approved, as judged by their laughter and applause. Formatted in a murder mystery style, the work introduces all the instruments while also “solving” a composer’s murder. It turns out that, rather than being the culprits, conductors and orchestras keep the composers alive by performing their music. The reviewer in particular enjoyed Snicket’s characterization of violinists: “The violins are divided into two sections: The firsts, who have the trickiest parts, and the seconds, who are always more fun at parties."

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Violin News & Gossip, Op. 2, No. 44

July 11, 2006 16:01

Violinist Reinhard Goebel, founder and leader of the renowned period music ensemble Musica Antiqua Köln, has become the latest high-profile musician to succumb to the career-altering effects of focal dystonia. He has announced that MAK will disband at the end of 2006, following completion of the group's previously scheduled commitments.

Focal dystonia is a neurological condition that causes paralysis of an isolated body part and, from a musical perspective, is considered the most serious diagnosis a musician can receive. It ended the violin career of former Tokyo String Quartet leader Peter Oundjian. Focal dystonia has also sidelined Alex Klein, former principal oboe of the Chicago Symphony, and pianists Leon Fleisher and Gary Graffman.

Goebel developed focal dystonia in his left hand in 1990. According to PlaybillArts.com, "Goebel turned his discipline to the task of relearning the violin altogether, holding and fingering the instrument with his right hand while bowing with his left. He continued to play this way until 2001, but the disorder is now forcing him to give up his instrument entirely. As Oundjian did before him, Goebel plans to concentrate on conducting, including work with modern-instrument orchestras."

MAK's remaining performances include appearances at several German summer festivals. Additionally, the group will tour Asia in October and the U.S. in November, including New York, Chicago, San Diego, Los Angeles and Berkeley.

Since 1973, MAK's recordings for Deutsche Grammophon Archiv have won many awards. "Among their most highly-regarded releases have been Heinchen's Dresden Concerti (which won five major awards) and Biber's Mystery Sonatas with Goebel as soloist. Yet the group's most famous recording must surely be its fearless 1987 account of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, to this day regularly mentioned in online discussion groups for its combination of precise execution and sheer flabbergasting speed."

My advice: if Herr Goebel and Co. are including your city on their final tour, snap up tickets before they sell out. These performances are certain to be memorable.

Other Musician News

The Philadelphia Orchestra has selected Choong-Jin Chang as principal viola. Chang, a Seoul native, joined the Philadelphia Orchestra as associate principal viola in 1994. He moved to the U.S. at 13 to attend the Juilliard School and has degrees in both violin and viola from the Curtis Institute, where he studied with Jascha Brodsky and retired Philadelphia Orchestra principal viola Joseph de Pasquale.

The Cleveland Orchestra has announced that Joanna Patterson will join the orchestra's viola section at the start of the 2006-07 season. She was most recently principal viola in the Canton Symphony Orchestra, and served as principal viola in the Sarasota Music Festival Orchestra in 2003. Patterson is a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she studied with Cleveland Orchestra Principal Viola Robert Vernon.

Chicago violinist Elizabeth Matesky was profiled in the June issue of International Musician, the monthly publication of the American Federation of Musicians. A teacher with a large private studio in Chicago, Matesky's profile focuses largely on her experiences with her major teacher, Jascha Heifetz.

"Heifetz was in a different stratosphere. Mr. Heifetz was the greatest violinist in the world, but ‘great' doesn't do him justice," she says. "Heifetz never interfered with a player's personality or individual way of phrasing even if it was different from his own style if he found it convincing. He allowed all students to be who they were and, in this sense, he was a profound teacher. He taught with humor, kindness, and humanness." Matesky notes that Heifetz would not allow her to play the big works like Sibelius until after "enormous time spent on sheer technique, Mozart, Khachaturian and other works."

Among her most memorable performances, Matesky recalls being invited to perform the national anthem at the 2002 Crosstown Classic between the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox. Being so soon after 9/11, "I was nervous about the reaction of the South Side baseball audience, but was truly uplifted and gratified when 46,000 fans gave me an ovation normally reserved for home runs, with a few tears as well."

7/2/06 - Finally, as previously reported here, a group of Chicago Symphony musicians voted upon exiting music director Daniel Barenboim an honorary, unofficial title of affection. But now other musicians who were not present at the meeting are objecting that the designation was not put to a vote of the entire orchestra, reports the Chicago Tribune.

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Violin News & Gossip, Op. 2, No. 43

July 7, 2006 22:21

Not surprisingly, the powers that be at the contention-ridden Seattle Symphony Orchestra have decided that releasing the results of a musician survey on Gerard Schwarz’s artistic leadership would be too inflammatory. Monday's Seattle Times provides more specifics on the survey’s contents: "the June 1 survey devised and conducted by the orchestra players' artistic advisory committee (with consultation from the PR firm Rocky Hill & Knowlton) ... probed whether the board listened to the players in deciding to renew [Music Director Gerard] Schwarz's contract, whether the musicians were content with their artistic leadership and whether a new music director should be sought.” However, the board has been informed that the survey’s design was imperfect: “Seeking an independent analysis of the survey, the [orchestra's] executive board contracted the Seattle survey firm of Evans & McDonough. Its report concluded that the June 1 survey was flawed in design, data collection and overall methodology, so that its 'results are highly suspect' ... The board's executive committee instructed the musicians not to distribute the results or make them public."


For a real head-scratcher, go to PlaybillArts.com to see the recently discovered image of Mozart’s widow, Constanze Weber Mozart. The daguerreotype image, which was published internationally on July 7, was found in the municipal archives of the Bavarian town of Altötting. “The photo was taken in Altötting in 1840 when the 78-year-old Constanze was visiting her friend, the composer Max Keller. She can be seen in front at the far left, sitting next to Keller. It is evidently the only photo ever taken of her. The image is one of the oldest surviving examples of photography in Germany. Mozart died in 1791 at the age of 36; Constanze was 29 at the time. She later married a Danish diplomat and lived until 1842.” See the photo here: http://www.playbillarts.com

Musician News

7/10/06 – Violinist William Harvey, winner of Juilliard's 2006 concerto competition, will perform a recital at Indiana University with pianist Jeannette Koekkoek. The program includes music by Szymanowski, Babbitt, Schubert and Saint-Saëns.

7/05/06 - Pinchas Zukerman has renewed his contract as music director of Ottawa's National Arts Centre Orchestra through 2011, reports the BBC. "The renewal comes despite Zukerman's abrupt five-month sabbatical from the NACO and reports of conflict between the conductor and his musicians." While on "sabbatical" Zukerman also made disparaging remarks about his orchestra.

7/2/06 - Former Pittsburgh Symphony violist Jose Rodriguez has died of complications from diabetes, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He was 89. “The youngest of ten children, he earned a master's degree at a conservatory in his native Barcelona, furthered his studies in England and, in the mid-1950s, joined a newly organized symphony orchestra in Ecuador. After emigrating to the U.S. he played viola in the Birmingham (now Alabama) Symphony Orchestra and learned of an opening in the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra during the PSO's 1967 tour stop in Birmingham. Rodriguez joined the PSO at age 50 and spent the next 25 years playing viola under conductors William Steinberg, Andre Previn and Lorin Maazel, touring such countries as China, Russia, Japan and Mexico and performing in the world's best concert halls in Vienna, Berlin and London."

Orchestra News

7/8/06 – The San Francisco Symphony is performing the world premiere of a children’s music drama by author Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) and San Francisco composer Nathaniel Stookey, reports San Francisco Classical Voice. “Following in the manner of the ominous title of A Series of Unfortunate Events, the work is to be called The Composer Is Dead. Perhaps not entirely a coincidence, the performance is timed ahead of the publication of the next Lemony Snicket book by HarperCollins. In fact, the plan is to record the performance, and include a CD with the book. Writer and composer describe The Composer Is Dead as a whodunit murder mystery combined with an introduction to the instruments of the orchestra, a la Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf.” With true Snicket-style melodrama, the author opines, "Ever since I was a boy, classical music has made me weep uncontrollably. I hope The Composer Is Dead does the same for a new generation. It's certainly either alarmingly original or originally alarming." Stookey himself started his affair with music at about the same age expected in the Davies Hall audience. He played the violin and viola with the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra in the 1980s. [I can guarantee at least one sale: My sons adore the Lemony Snicket books. We’re currently starting the eighth book for our bedtime stories, much to the six-year-old’s delight.]

7/7/06 - The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has canceled a baseball-themed concert scheduled for July 8, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “’Musical Doubleheader,’ which was to have been the orchestra's tribute to the All-Star Game [in Pittsburgh] Tuesday, would have paired a world-premiere piece by American composer Richard Danielpour called 'Pastime' and a performance by pop singer Brian McKnight on the second half. The PSO said it was forced to take the action because Brian McKnight canceled his portion of the night. McKnight's management could not be reached for comment." Larry Tamburri, PSO president, comments: "Since people were buying tickets to both parts of the concert, we didn't want to continue with it."

7/7/06 – In positive news for the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, New Orleans Times-Picayune reports: "The Orpheum Theater, onetime vaudeville house, longtime movie palace and recently home of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, has been sold to Dallas businessman Rick Weyand for $675,000. Although Weyand declined to discuss any specific plans for the building, he said he hopes to bring back the LPO as a tenant. 'We are planning to restore the theater,' he said, 'and we are planning to work closely with the LPO, hoping they will use the theater a major portion of its open time.' " The article explains that that the Orpheum was badly damaged in the flood following Hurricane Katrina. “Water filled the basement, drowning many of the orchestra's instruments and all of its equipment, then coursed through the first floor, covering all the chairs and rising as high as the stage."

6/29/06 - Orchestras in Great Britain won't have to pay a potentially disastrous health insurance bill that could have pushed several of them into bankruptcy following review by Revenues and Customs, reports The Guardian (UK). "Many orchestras are formed of self-employed musicians and have not paid national insurance on the income paid to them, as they would have had to for permanent staff... Revenue and Customs has advised the chancellor that the orchestras do not have to pay the contributions, thus averting not only the back tax bill of £33m ($60.9 million) but an annual future bill of £6m."

6/27/06 – In reporting on the financial status of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel includes word that the orchestra’s new contract reduces its season from 43 weeks to 39. This works out to six concerts being cut from the classical season and 10 from the pops. Management theorizes that the reduced season is creating additional demand: "As people begin to realize that they can't just walk up and buy a ticket to any concert, they're turning to subscriptions to be sure to get a seat." The orchestra’s net operating loss will be $688,000 this year as the group approaches the halfway mark of a $15 million recapitalization campaign.

6/26/06 - The World Philharmonic Orchestra, an assemblage of 105 “top professional musicians from 82 countries,” has relaunched following an 18-year hiatus with an inaugural concert in Paris, reports PlaybillArts.com. “Initially founded in 1985 to promote a message of peace and international cooperation, the World Philharmonic Orchestra was created to be an international group of musicians that would assemble each year on a different continent, with new members and a different conductor, for a week of rehearsals and a concert to benefit a designated charity. The first performance was given in Sweden under the baton of Carlo Maria Giulini; the WPO subsequently gathered in Brazil under Lorin Maazel (1986) and in Japan under Giuseppe Sinopoli (1987). In December 1988, Françoise Legrand conducted the orchestra in Montreal in a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony that involved choirs in Moscow, San Francisco and Geneva participating via satellite link. The organization subsequently ceased operations for lack of money.”

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

July 6, 2006 05:26

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

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


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

Musician News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orchestra News

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

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

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

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

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Violin News & Gossip, Op. 2, No. 41

July 2, 2006 10:09

I’ve now received information about the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis competitors’ hometowns and educational institutions.

Just for fun, let’s look at them by enrollment in the major American schools. Many competitors also listed a second school; I indicate those in parentheses. Some people identified their home as being where the school is, despite being citizens of other countries. It’s no surprise that Curtis and Juilliard each claim eight competitors, more than any other school.

Boston University
Yevgeny Kutik, Pittsfield, MA (Juilliard)

Carnegie Mellon University
Eunice Keem, Northfield, IL
Daniela Shtereva, Pittsburgh (Louisiana State Univ.)

Cleveland Institute of Music
Jinjoo Cho, Seoul, Korea
Celeste Golden, Dallas (Curtis)
Liana Gourdjia, Switzerland (Moscow Central Music School)
Rachel Harding, Washington, MI

Curtis Institute of Music
Angelia Cho, Brookline, MA (New England)
David Coucheron, New York (Juilliard)
Bella Hristova, Bulgaria (University of Michigan Prep)
Stephanie Jeong, Philadelphia
Hye-Jin Kim, Philadelphia
Alexandra Osborne, Australia (Sydney Conservatorium)
Elena Urioste, North Wales, PA
Tien-Hsin Wu, Taipei, Taiwan (Juilliard)

The Juilliard School
Emilie-Anne Gendron, Glastonbury, CT
Augustin Hadelich, New York
Erin Keefe, New York (Curtis)
Miho Saegusa, New York (Yale)
Eric Silberger, Indianapolis (Indiana)
Yang Xu, El Monte, CA (Oberlin)
Saeka Matsuyama, New York
Howard Zhang, Los Angeles

Manhattan School of Music
Daniel Khalikov, Philadelphia (Toulouse Conservatoire)

New England Conservatory of Music
Korbinian Altenberger, Boston (Boston Conservatory)
Yura Lee, Boston (Indiana)

Additionally, some competitors list an American school as their secondary institution; here, the primary school follows in parentheses.

Elsa Grether, Paris – New England Conservatory (Conservas de Lausanne)
Anna Tifu, Cagliary, Italy – Curtis (Accademia Stauffer)
Yuuki Wong, Vienna – Oberlin Conservatory (Vienna Conservatory)
Dan Zhu, Brooklyn, NY – Mannes College of Music (Central Conservatory – Beijing)

That leaves just 21 of the 50 participants who do not claim affiliation with an American school. Japan is the country that has the most competitors without an American education (5/7). Of those, Maiko Enomoto and Yusuke Hayashi study at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. And Ryoko Yano identifies the Conservatoire National in Paris as her primary institution.

The other competitors typically list a leading school in their own country, like Shanghai Conservatory (Zhijong Wang), Prague Conservatory (Roman Patocka)and Sibelius Academy (Petteri Iivonen).

All in all, this sounds like an amazing group of violinists!

I’ll be posting the events schedule in a future column.

Other News

When one type of music gets supplanted by another, it is often classical music pushed out. Not so in Duluth this week. The Duluth News-Tribune reports: "Duluth's Fourth of July fireworks have a new opening act. Making an abrupt change to the event's tone, Fourth Fest organizers have abandoned the plan for a tropical-themed bash headlined by a reggae band. Instead, the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra will play Fourth Fest's traditional free pre-fireworks concert July 4."

The Rhode Island Philharmonic has gone from about $1 million in the hole to ending the year with a slight surplus and credits a benefit concert by Yo-Yo Ma as being a huge part of the changing tide: “The one event that kept the orchestra out of the red was the special benefit by cellist [Yo-Yo] Ma and two members of his Silk Road Project on March 7. The sold-out concert, with tickets going for as much as $1,000, netted about $240,000, which pushed an already robust annual fundraising effort way over the top."

Musicians of the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra in Ontario have received an unusual honor. They are prominently portrayed on the cover of the new Thunder Bay Telephone Directory.

When Jeffrey Multer officially dons the title of concertmaster of the Florida Orchestra this fall, he will be occupying a newly endowed chair. The orchestra has announced a recent $500,000 gift from a Tampa couple to endow the Suzette McCune Berkman and Monroe E. Berkman Chair.

Walter Prystawski, the founding concertmaster of the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Canada, has retired after 37 years. NACO Founding Conductor Mario Bernardi returned to the podium for Prystawski’s special farewell concerts last month, which opened with Prystawski and Principal Second Violin Donnie Deacon as soloists for Bach's Concerto for Two Violins.

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Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine