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

July 8, 2006 at 5:21 AM

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 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:

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 “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.”

From Gabriel Kastelle
Posted on July 8, 2006 at 5:08 PM
Seattle Symphony should release those musician results, and also some statistics about the number of players on injured reserve over the years, which is related to rehearsal methods and stress induced by the "Musical" "Director" Schwarz. The administration are a bunch of abusive cowards for tolerating and encouraging Schwarz for so long. Horror stories never ended when I was living there and studying with and otherwise in contact with many Symphony musicians as long as fifteen years ago. Truly disgusting situation. What a bunch of great players who really deserve relief!

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