Robert McDuffie’s All-Star Effort
There will soon be another conservatory option for string players in the United States. Internationally renowned violinist Robert McDuffie announced Sept. 22, 2006, the establishment of the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer University in Macon and named Amy Schwartz Moretti, who currently serves as Concertmaster of the Oregon Symphony in Portland, as the director.
The Robert McDuffie Center for Strings is a special institute within the Townsend School of Music of Mercer on the Macon campus. The program will accept up to 10 to 12 string students for the 2007-2008 academic year. Total enrollment will be limited to 26 students, which will include 12 violinists, six violists, six cellists and two double bassists.
“The focus of the Center is to provide highly talented string students the opportunity to learn with some of the nation's renowned string musicians, who will hold the title of distinguished artist at the McDuffie Center. Every student will have direct access to each distinguished artist during their regular monthly visits on campus, and will participate in private lessons, master classes, chamber music coaching sessions, and orchestral sectional work. The McDuffie faculty will impart a sweeping view of music and demonstrate the kinds of career paths available from completion of an advanced string program. Many of the distinguished artists who will teach hold principal positions at major symphony orchestras across the nation, and all maintain prominent solo and chamber music careers.”
Among those who will teach are Andrés Díaz, concert cellist; David Halen, Concertmaster of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra; Christopher Rex, Principal Cellist of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra; Sabina Thatcher, Principal Violist of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; and Paul Murphy, Associate Principal Violist of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
Andreas Cardenes, Concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony and Roberto Diaz, violist and president of the Curtis Institute of Music, will make two visits per year as members of the Diaz Trio. During those visits they will coach and teach master classes. Eugene Levinson, principal double bassist of the New York Philharmonic, will join the faculty in 2008.
"Students selected for the Center will be Mercer students, which means they will receive an academically well-rounded education that a conservatory cannot provide," McDuffie explained. "However, their music instruction will be that of conservatory quality, giving them the best of both worlds and preparing them for the real world."
McDuffie, who grew up in Macon and studied at The Juilliard School, apparently envisions the Center filling a void for music students, particularly for those in the South, who want a conservatory-quality music education within a broader academic program.
"The McDuffie Center will train musicians not for short-term glory, but for long-term artistry and curiosity," he said. "The students will not be trained just to win competitions, but to have rich, productive and satisfying careers."
Moretti will join the University in January 2007 to prepare for the incoming class next fall. In addition to her role as director of the Center, she will hold the academic rank of associate professor as well as the Caroline Paul King Chair in Strings.
As director, Moretti will be responsible for the overall management of the Center, coordinating the schedule of the distinguished artists, as well as the coaching, lessons and master classes, and the recruitment of students in coordination with the faculty. In addition to organizing and coaching chamber music groups, she will give private lessons to the Center's violin students and a handful of selected high school students preparing to enter the Center. She will perform with the Center's faculty on a regular basis.
9/26/06 – Clearly, the departure of Amy Schwartz Moretti, the Oregon Symphony's concertmaster, is big news in Portland, reports The Oregonian. Between Jan. and May 2007, Moretti will commute between Atlanta and Portland. “Her decision to leave Portland was doubly hard, she said, because it meant uprooting her drummer husband. It wasn't easy to tell her boss, either. She phoned music director Carlos Kalmar earlier this month, at his home in Vienna. ‘He was surprised’, she said. ‘He was also concerned that as a performer, was I giving that up?’
Moretti, who joined the Oregon Symphony a year after Kalmar took over as music director, brought multiple skills to her position, playing a key role in the maestro's plan to improve the orchestra. The musicians admired her amiable leadership, keen rhythmic style, ability to demonstrate the conductor's wishes and willingness to collaborate in performances outside the orchestra.”
The orchestra will soon begin a search for her replacement; candidates will audition as temporary concertmaster for certain performances.
Other Musician News
9/27/06 – SUNY Buffalo has announced a benefit concert that will raise scholarship funds for students pursuing internships and careers in public interest law. The concert will be held Oct. 19. Second-year law student and violinist Larissa Shahmatova will be the headliner. The Russian violinist, who holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees in violin performance from Juilliard, has soloed with the Moscow Philharmonic, Moscow Chamber Orchestra and the St. Petersburg Chamber Orchestra. More recently, she has performed solo appearances with the Oregon Symphony and multiple concerts in Avery Fisher Hall and Alice Tully Hall in the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City.
9/26/06 – Fresh from her win in the Canada Council Instrument Competition last week, Toronto violinist Yi-Jia Susanne Hou (pronounced ee-jah Susanne how) will open the season for Symphony Nova Scotia with a performance of Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 1. "The Paganini explores every ability the violinist has," Hou said over the phone from her Mississaugua home on Friday. "It starts with huge leaps and bounds and in the third movement there are double-harmonics which are extremely difficult to play." Hou does not agree that Paganini was a light-weight composer. "He gets a bad rap for being superficial but his music has the qualities of Italian opera — dramatic, maybe even melodramatic — but sincerely felt. If you suspend disbelief and put yourself into that dramatic world you will feel it. It’s up to the musician to create that sincerity." One fact that didn’t come out in last week’s news coverage of Hou’s win is that, prior to twice winning the use of her Guarneri, she also won the use of the Avery Fisher Stradivarius violin for six years at Juilliard.
9/26/06 – The Hartford Courant is reporting that conductor and violinist Peter Sacco has died at age 59. “Sacco had been in a coma since suffering a brain aneurysm on Sept. 11. He was removed from life support Wednesday at Yale-New Haven Hospital with the consent of his family. Sacco, director of orchestral activities at the University of Connecticut, was assistant conductor of the New Haven Symphony and guest conductor of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, where he designed several Discovery Concerts, Family Concerts and Chamber Orchestra outreach programs. He was also music director of the Connecticut Youth Symphony. Trained as a violinist at Juilliard and Yale School of Music, Sacco founded the award-winning Alexander String Quartet in 1980 and was principal second violinist of the New York Chamber Symphony for 13 seasons. He played violin in the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, American Ballet Theater Orchestra, and the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra. Sharon Dennison, principal violinist with the Hartford Symphony, recalled the passion for music Sacco brought to the festival orchestra from its first concert: ‘I loved every minute of it. We would all arrive for the first rehearsal of the season and Peter would remind us all to lay aside our egos and remember what we were there for - the joy of playing music. And that's what we did’.
9/25/06 – According to Playbillarts.com, violinist Susie Park has joined the Eroica Trio on a permanent basis. She replaces Adela Peña, one of the original members of the group. The Evansville Courier & Press of Indiana reports that the ensemble gave its first performance together with its new official lineup on September 16, performing Beethoven's Triple Concerto with the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra. Park, an Australian, has filled in on a number of occasions over the past few months for Peña, who, according to the Courier & Press, has been out of commission due to illness since February. The trio's other members are pianist Erika Nickrenz and cellist Sara Sant'Ambrogio.
9/23/06 – In reporting the death of Sir Malcolm Arnold, the Guardian (UK) writes: "The tormented but irrepressible career of Sir Malcolm Arnold, the most recorded British composer of all time and the first to win an Oscar, ended last night with his death at the age of 84. Arnold, who won an Academy Award for his score for 'The Bridge on the River Kwai,' passed away in hospital in Norfolk after suffering a chest infection ... Arnold was prodigiously talented but had a tumultuous private life, plagued by severe depression, chronic alcoholism and attempts at suicide. He repeatedly ended up in hospital for insulin treatments and electric shock therapy. Yet he found sufficient peace to compose 132 film scores, including those for 'Whistle Down the Wind,' 'Hobson's Choice' and 'The Belles of St Trinian's.' His prolific output also included nine symphonies, seven ballets, two operas, one musical and more than 20 concertos." The paper quotes cellist Julian Lloyd Webber: 'Because he had humor in his music he was never fully appreciated by the classical establishment. He was a total genius but a very badly behaved genius -- but then so was Mozart’."
9/27/06 - The Vienna Philharmonic makes its Australian debut tonight, with Valery Gergiev conducting the first of four concerts to be given through Saturday in the concert hall of the Sydney Opera House.
9/24/06 – According to Channel 10 News in Syracuse, the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra musicians rejected a contract proposal from the orchestra's administration. “The Symphony and representatives from the union have been in negotiations since January of this year to replace a five-year contact that expired last month. The symphony offered musicians a three year deal that would have included benefits and salary increases. But the union turned it down. The new season will start as planned; both sides say they will continue to work on a resolution.”
9/23/06 – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran a profile of the Cobb Symphony Orchestra, calling it the Cinderella story of the Atlanta classical-music scene. "Three years ago, it looked like the orchestra might go bankrupt: It was performing three expensive concerts a year on a budget of about $100,000 and was saddled with almost as much debt. Then something magical --- or at least significant --- happened: An enlightened board of directors stepped in, hired an energetic young conductor named Michael Alexander and put the orchestra on a back-to-basics management plan. Today, the budget is $300,000, the Cobb Symphony gives some 16 concerts a season, and the debt has shrunk to $15,000. Now Cinderella has a new ballroom, too: the Dozier Centre for the Performing Arts, a private arts-and-education multiplex in Kennesaw that has made the Cobb Symphony a resident ensemble."
9/21/06 – Also from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Musicians from Atlanta Ballet are trying to drum up public support for keeping live music part of the production. “Citing costs, the ballet declined to rehire the musicians when their three-year contract expired at the end of August. Using taped music could save more than $400,000 a year, said production director David Tatu….But in a statement released Wednesday, musicians say the orchestra accounts for less than 5 percent of the annual budget, and that recorded music could turn off patrons. The move also makes Atlanta the largest American city without live music as part of its ballet performances, said Mary Kenney, a cellist with the Atlanta Federation of Musicians Local 148-462. So far, reaction from patrons to the ballet's decision has been muted. Tatu said a handful of season ticket holders have canceled their subscriptions. Season and single tickets "have nearly matched last year's ticket sales," he said. The musicians have filed a charge of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board, saying the ballet proposed an 85 percent pay cut after announcing it wouldn't renew their contract. The NLRB is investigating the complaint. The ballet has offered a severance package of $228 per musician, or the equivalent of two performances or rehearsals.”
9/21/06 – The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and its musicians have ratified a four-year extension of their current labor agreement, reports PlaybillArts.com. “The existing contract, which had been due to expire at the end of the current season, gave the musicians 4 percent raises in each of the last two years after a number of years with no pay increases at all. The new extension offers annual 3 percent pay raises, an additional 1 percent pension contribution by the ESO administration, and improvements in health benefits.”
9/21/06 – The Canada Council for the Arts, which holds auditions for its Musical Instrument Bank every three years, has announced its newest crop of winners. For the second consecutive time, Yi-Jia Susanne Hou, a 28-year-old violinist raised in Mississauga, Ont., has won first prize in the violin competition. Once again, she has chosen the 1729 ex-Heath Guarneri del Gesu violin.
"[This violin] became my best friend, my voice, my method of expression," Hou said of the instrument, which she has been performing and recording with for the last three years. Her debut CD, Fire & Ice, with the Sibelius Violin Concerto and concert works by Sarasate, features the instrument and she has two recordings to be released in the coming year.
Jessica Linnebach, an Edmonton native now playing with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, won second place in the violin competition and was awarded the loan of the 1700 Taft Stradivari violin. Another Edmonton violinist, Judy Kang, who now lives in New York, won the loan of the 1689 Baumgartner Stradivari violin.
The musical instrument bank is a collection of rare and fine stringed instruments and bows, including Stradavarius, Montagnana and Pressenda violins. The instruments are valued at more than $18 million, and musicians must audition for the privilege of using one. The instruments have been donated or loaned to the Canada Council for the Arts by wealthy philanthropists and music lovers. Other winning violin players were:
Caroline Chéhadé, a Montrealer who now lives in New York
Marc Djokic, Halifax
Kerry DuWors, Manitoba
Pascale Giguère, Quebec City
Véronique Mathieu, Quebec City
Jean-Sébastien Roy, Montreal
10/15/06 – The Indiana University Jacobs School of Music is sponsoring a benefit conert in support of the Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestra, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Habitat for Humanity Musicians' Village.
Faculty participants include violinists Federico Agostini, Mark Kaplan, Alexander Kerr and Jaime Laredo; violists Atar Arad and Yuval Gotlibovich; and cellists Emilio Colon and Sharon Robinson. International prize-winning student violinist Frederieke Saeijs will also perform.
Other Musician News
9/28/06 – Violinist Lorenza Borrani will open the Albany Symphony’s season with portions of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and the American premiere of Concerto for Violin and Orchestra by Francesco Antonioni.
9/24/06 – The Vermeer String Quartet is playing in Bloomington, Ind. today as part of their final tour. Pianist Edmund Battersby will join the Fab Four.
9/22/06 – According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster Andrés Cárdenes has "signed a five-year contract with the PSO. Retro-dated to Sept. 1, it extends through Aug. 31, 2011. Terms have not been disclosed, but the new contract calls for him to conduct a subscription concert each season, beginning in the 2007-08 season." Cárdenes, says, "I am not going to be at the top of my game forever. I would like to leave when I am in good shape. In the next few years there will be other issues to consider, such as how long I want to be an orchestral player. A lot of concertmasters basically died in their chairs, and I don't plan to."
9/22/06 – According to the Charlottesville Daily Progress, Boyd Tinsley, violinist with the Dave Matthews Band, recently donated $75,000 to the city schools to finance private music lessons, academic tutoring and equipment for tennis. “His charitable fund allows 42 underprivileged Charlottesville musicians to take private lessons and provides one-on-one tutoring for disadvantaged city students.”
9/21/06 – Midori opened the Columbus Symphony season with a performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto. The Columbus Dispatch ponders, “When does an artist's interpretation move from individualistic to quirky? The question came to mind as the violinist's understated, sotto voce approach — an elegant way in which to begin this famous piece — began to extend into a total interpretation. After all, people do want to hear the violinist play the violin. Midori did open up in the last movement, when the music more easily lets the soloist take the driver's seat. That's a good place for an artist of Midori's talent and stature to be.”
9/21/06 - This week, the Toronto Star noted that violinist Jeanne Lamon, leader of Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, is celebrating a quarter century with the group. “Lamon leads from the concertmaster's chair, sitting with the violins. She guides her 18-plus players with head and violin gestures. …Few people know that Tafelmusik is the only period-performance ensemble in the world to offer its musicians a contract. ‘We can actually offer a living wage’, says Lamon, proudly…. She still owns a modern violin, but she only uses it when she is directing modern orchestras. One of her projects earlier this year was to direct the Orchestre Métropolitain in Montreal in baroque-era music. She still owns a modern violin, but she only uses it when she is directing modern orchestras.”
9/15/06 – The Boston Globe ran an obituary for Mrs. Miriam (Soolich) Yeo, a violinist who died at her home. She was 91. “Mrs. Yeo was born in Salem [Mass.] and graduated from Haverhill High School. After graduating, she and her sister, Edna, moved to Washington. Mrs. Yeo did secretarial work and was a typist for the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. She typed out some of the speeches the president would read for his fireside chats. During the late 1940s, Mrs. Yeo returned to Massachusetts and pursued her passion for classical violin, one she had since a child. An accomplished violinist in the Haverhill area, she performed in local orchestras, as well as in a trio with her sisters, Esther and Edna.”
9/10/06 – The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Janee Gilbert Munroe, 83, of Wynnewood, a music teacher and violist who played with orchestras including the National Symphony [Orchestra] in Washington, died of complications from a heart condition in Warren, Maine. Munroe studied at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia; "After her 1945 graduation, she joined an all-female orchestra that traveled to Europe during World War II to entertain the troops." Munroe and her husband, cellist Lorne Munroe, worked together as musicians for the NSO. "Over the next several years, Mrs. Munroe's career on stage was interrupted by motherhood. She eventually had 10 boys and one girl. The family settled in the area in the early 1950s when Lorne Munroe became the principal cellist for the Philadelphia Orchestra and, later, the New York Philharmonic ... Mrs. Munroe earned a psychology degree from Saint Joseph's University. She also taught at the Juilliard School in New York, played with her husband in the Gofriller Piano Quartet, and toured India for one season as the substitute violist with the New York Philharmonic."
9/21/06 - Lyric Opera of Chicago has a new contract with its orchestra musicians, and like several other ensembles around the country, the new deal takes advantage of new union rules to cut labor costs for recording and online distribution. Lyric officials also hope that the new contract will mean a return to weekly radio broadcasts for the company, which has been off the air since 2002, reports the Chicago Tribune.
Now that we’ve all basked in the incomparable playing of the Indianapolis competitors, it’s time to shift attention to the competitors for the 2006 Henri Vieuxtemps Prize. The finals will be held October 21.
Hrachya Avanesyan, 20, Armenia
Camille Babut du Mares, 20, Belgium
Elisabeth Deletaille, 29, Belgium
Céline Di Fabio, 23, Belgium
Marie Gabriel, 23, Belgium
Weronika Godlewska, 23, Poland
Vincent Hepp, 26, Belgium
Naoko Matsui, 27, Japan
Emilio Mecenero, 20, France
Caroline Poncelet, 24, Belgium
And here is some commentary regarding the judging rules: “The regulations stipulate: Persons, who have a family connection or relationship by marriage from the 1st to 6th degree with a competitor or who have made an essential contribution to the latter’s violin studies are not allowed to be members of the Panel of Judges. The Committee has sovereign authority to appreciate whether or not a person has made an essential contribution to a candidate’s musical learning."
The 2006 Judges are Georges Octors (President), Richard Pieta, Gaby Altmann, Jean-Paul Edgard Lochet and Tomiko Shida.
Other Musician News
The Monterey Symphony has made several new string hires based on recent auditions: violinists Sarah Gillies, Emily Packard, Li Pan and Thomas Yee; Christine Liu and Charith Premawardhana, viola and Drew Ford,, cello.
Oberlin Conservatory of Music has announced the appointment of Amir Eldan as assistant professor of cello. Formerly associate principal cello in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Eldan holds a bachelor's degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music and a master's from The Juilliard School, where he is currently pursuing a doctoral degree.
9/27/06 – Violinist Janet Sung will perform Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole at Idaho State University . She was recently appointed Violin Professor at the State University of New York at Fredonia School of Music.
9/21/06 – Violinist Judith Ingolfsson, former winner of the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, will perform the Brahms Violin Concerto with the Northwest Indiana Symphony, reports the Northwest Indiana Times.
9/19/06 – Jazz violinist Regina Carter has been honored as one of 25 winners of a 2006 “genius” grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation of Chicago. The unsolicited award consists of $100,000 per year for five years. Funds can be used however the winner desires. Candidates are selected for their creativity, originality and potential. According to the Detroit Free Press, “the 44-year-old New York resident is known for the brushfire intensity and contagious excitement generated by her improvisations. Her CDs have explored swing-era ballads, Detroit's jazz legacy, Afro-Cuban styles and quasi-classical works.She attracted worldwide attention in 2001, when she became the first jazz musician to play Paganini's Guarneri del Gesu violin of 1743, a historic treasure in Italy.” In a separate article in the same paper on the same day, Carter shares that she is considering enrolling at Western Michigan University or New York University to complete a music therapy degree. This desire is partially motivated by her ability to reach and soothe her mother in the latter’s final days recently.
9/18/06 – As previously reported, violinist Viktoria Mullova, had to leave her Strad at home in London when she hopped on a plane to solo in the United States with the Minnesota Orchestra. PlaybillArts.com is reporting that, in the U.S., she played a violin belonging to Sarah Kwak, the first associate concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra. “It's no Strad, but the virtuosa reportedly likes playing it very much.”
9/18/06 - The Hartford Courant reports that Dorothy Fidlar, the first female principal cello of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and a member of the orchestra for more than 50 years, has died. She was 89 ... “Fidlar also played first cello for the New Haven Symphony Orchestra. She retired from playing with the Hartford orchestra in the late 1990s after 52 years. The Courant once described her music as 'intensely beautiful, made up of molten tones and lovely phrasings.' Fidlar also was a faculty member at the Julius Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford, where she established a recital series called 'Meet the Cello' that featured more than 40 cellists and became a nationally recognized program."
9/16/06 - Violinist/violist John Louis Adams Sr., 82, has died of complications from cancer, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "From the 1950s to the 1970s, Mr. Adams performed with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra while also teaching at Agnes Scott College -- instructing students by day, cramming private lessons into every spare moment, then hurrying to rehearsals and symphony performances ... Mr. Adams started as a violist in 1950 and became principal violist in 1951. In 1962, he switched to violin and became assistant concertmaster. In 1968, he became principal second violinist and retired from the orchestra in 1972….He played in pops concerts at Chastain Park, recorded with Tony Joe White and Joe South, toured with Henry Mancini, performed with James Brown, even joined R&B singer Barry White's tour as a member of the Love Unlimited Orchestra."
This weekend is at the National Symphony Orchestra is delightfully violin-heavy. First, Gil Shaham will perform the Brahms Violin Concerto at a pair of regular subscription concerts. Then, Joshua Bell will breeze into town Sunday for the Season Opening Ball Concert, where he will play the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto.
9/18/06 – The Oklahoma City Journal Record ran an article about the newly formed Tulsa Symphony, noting "the business model TSO president Frank S. Letcher developed to make 'executive musicians' of the symphony cast. By hiring the orchestra's talent full-time, doing everything from ticket sales and developing new business to teaching, much less performing, Letcher hopes to keep the staff on a regular salary not governed by a collective bargaining agreement ... This would offer a way around roadblock contract negotiations that in troubled economic times helped undercut both the Tulsa Philharmonic Orchestra in 2002 and the Oklahoma City Symphony in 1988 ... Under one of the unique aspects of this arrangement, [Principal Trumpet/Orchestra Manager Timothy J.] McFadden said any compensation staff musicians gain from other performances or services ... goes to the symphony. This not only encourages the musicians' community efforts, since they're already on salary, but helps lessen the financial burdens on the nonprofit orchestra." The paper adds: " 'This hasn't been done before to our knowledge, to this extent,' said Letcher, a retired neurosurgeon and U.S. Navy veteran who came up with the concept while watching Katrina relief efforts."
9/18/06 – An article in The Globe & Mail (Canada) theorizes that what ails the Toronto music scene may be too many orchestras. How about combining them? "Simply put, a super-orchestra of 150 would be large enough to handle the increased schedules of opera and ballet, and to perform a shorter Toronto Symphony season. That's how the Vienna Philharmonic functions, as one emanation of a 163-member pool that also provides players for all the ballet and opera performances at the Vienna State Opera."
Here’s what the Indianapolis Star has to say following the announcement of the winners at the 2006 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis: German violinist Augustin Hadelich, 22, with the gold medal; Dutch violinist Simone Lamsma, 20, with the silver medal; and American Celeste Golden, 22, with the bronze:
9/16/06 – “The finals began Friday night in a decidedly darker, more dissonant vein, with the sad, brooding Concerto No. 1 in A minor by Shostakovich and Bartok's Concerto No. 2, the work that helped lead Barnabas Kelemen to his IVCI gold medal in 2002. [Simone] Lamsma, a 20-year-old graduate of London's Royal Academy of Music, began with the Shostakovich. Lamsma demonstrated a capacity for a big, intense sound, ease with a challenging 20th-century work, and great sensitivity to balance with a large orchestra. [Yura] Lee, 21, who studies at the New England Conservatory of Music, followed with Bartok. Lee gave a fabulous performance of the Bartok, full of flair, confidence and physicality. Her performance and fine collaboration with conductor Samuel Wong would seem to solidify her leadership in the contest. [Ye-Eun] Choi, an 18-year-old student at Korean National University of the Arts, also played the Shostakovich.
9/15/06 - Thursday seemed to be the night for spotlighting the sweeter side of violin playing…Lyricism, especially during the slow middle movements of concertos by Franz Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, distinguished the playing of all three violinists who helped close the classical concerto portion of the contest's final round. Bulgarian violinist Bella Hristova set the stage with a deliciously slow Adagio second movement from Haydn's Concerto No. 1 in C, in which she contrasted her rich, sweet, sustained sound against pizzicatos from the string orchestra. American violinist Celeste Golden's slow movement offered lovely phrasing during the Andante cantabile movement of Mozart's Concerto No. 4 in D. After intermission, Germany's Augustin Hadelich contributed songful [sic.] phrasing during the Adagio segment from Mozart's Concerto No. 2 in D. However, Hadelich's solo cadenza from the first movement was full of liberties and grand gestures, featuring some of the most dramatic playing of the night.”
9/14/06 – In referring to performances from 9/13, the paper called the performances of Korean violinists Yura Lee and Ye-Eun Choi and Simone Lamsma of The Netherlands in Mozart concerti “commendable yet substantially different”. Lamsma began with Concerto No. 5 in A. Lee followed with the same work. Choi closed with Concerto No. 3 in G. Lee, 21, played a sturdy, demonstrative, highly musical Concerto No. 5. She began the Allegro aperto movement with big bow strokes, and played the first- and second-movement cadenzas in an alluring fashion, without overdramatizing. Her Turkish-style rondo in the finale was captivating. She seems headed for a medal. Lamsma, 20, gave a clean, elegant performance of No. 5. Her approach, from the unexpectedly slow first entrance in the opening movement, seemed more contained, more introspective. Choi, 18, played Concerto No. 3 cleanly, but also in a manner that was both quiet and confident. This seemed to be a good selling point for the Concerto in G, as the violin makes many melodic contributions. Frank Huang, fourth-place laureate of the 2002 Violin Competition, served ably as guest concertmaster [of the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra].
9/14/06 – The Guardian (UK) report that some restrictions on “hand luggage” on planes are to be relaxed next week after government talks with the airline operators. “The changes are likely to mean bulky items, including musical instruments, will be allowed as carry-on baggage. Orchestras complained that they were being badly affected by draconian rules that effectively prevented musicians taking large instruments on planes. The Department for Transport has been working 'to see if there are any practical steps that can be taken to lessen the burden while not compromising on security.' But it said several restrictions would probably remain, and there was no immediate prospect of a return to the situation that existed before the alerts over an alleged terror plot on August 10 ... Officials will meet industry figures on Monday and the changes could be in place from next weekend. The DfT statement said it would be presenting new proposals 'aimed at lessening the burden on both passengers and operators while allowing us to maintain a rigorous security regime.' "
And for a non-musical but surely relevant tidbit reported in the same paper on the same day: “J.K. Rowling nearly missed a flight back to London when airport security wanted her to check her in-progress manuscript for the new (and last) Harry Potter. ‘A large part of it is handwritten and there was no copy of anything I had done while in the US,’ she said. ‘They let me take it on thankfully, bound up in elastic bands’."
Anton Jivaev has been appointed principal viola of the North Carolina Symphony. After graduating from Tashkent State Conservatory in his native Uzbekistan, Jivaev pursued studies with Randolph Kelly at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and with Roberto Díaz at the Curtis Institute of Music. He won the 2003 Isle of Man Bank Special Prize at the Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition.
9/20/06 – Jaime Laredo will perform the Beethoven Violin Concerto in nine different Vermont communities over 10 days, reports the Barre Montpelier Times-Argus “It’s climbing Mount Olympus, and I hope that by now in my life, I’ve gotten past the tree line,” he says. “I don’t think I will ever get to the top. That is too much to ask for.” Laredo has lived in Vermont for 20 years. “Among his students were up-and-coming soloists Soovin Kim, Jennifer Koh, Leila Josefowicz and Pamela Frank.” Laredo, of course, also led the jury of the Indianapolis International Violin Competition.
9/17/06 - Joshua Bell was featured on A&E's Breakfast with the Arts performing selections from his new recording, Voice of the Violin, which was the number #1 classical CD in the United States last week. Bell will tape From the Top at Zankel Hall in New York on Friday, Sept. 29. Then, on Sept. 30, he and pianist Bradley Moore will perform selections from Voice of the Violin on CBS’ The Saturday Early Show segment "Second Cup Cafe."
9/17/06 – Violinist Stefan Jackiw played an anticipated recital in Baltimore, reports the Baltimore Sun. He’s been popular in Baltimore since his last-minute substitution for Pamela Frank in 2002 at the ripe old age of 17. ‘Stefan is not just a technical wiz, but a serious musician’, says BSO concertmaster Jonathan Carney. ‘He can be considered in the forefront of today's young crop of violinists. He's got everything it takes’. That ‘everything’ includes a luscious tone, seemingly effortless articulation and a richly expressive approach to phrasing….Born in Boston, Jackiw is the son of a Korean mother and German father. "But the name Jackiw is Ukrainian, so someone must have crossed over way back when," says the violinist…. At Harvard University, where he is a senior finishing up a music degree, Jackiw's elective courses have included astrophysics. His big nonacademic interest: "I'm a very avid and serious runner."
9/15/06 – According to the San Francisco Chronicle, violinist Stanley Block turned 100 this week. Still an active member of Oakland Community Symphony Orchestra, his fellow musicians will honor him with a birthday celebration during their rehearsal. ‘We'll have a cake’, said violinist Lynette DeFazio, ‘and also play Stanley's original score, Happy Birthday Medley, which we've performed in concert in past years’. Block says he's not about to give up his violin, an Andrea Castagneri, built in 1748. “A retired attorney in San Leandro, Block bought the violin in San Francisco, but he can't remember what year or how much he paid. ‘The man who sold it to me said it was owned by a nun who gave up the nunnery’. …Since closing his law practice in 1987, he's devoted himself anew to his violin and said he's never played better. He practices between 90 minutes and two hours per day.
9/14/06 – According to a press release, the Russia- and New York-based Apogee Foundation announced that one of its Apogee World Scholars, violinist Dmitrij Smirnov, had won the grand prize of the Il Piccolo Violino Magico competition in Venice, “which he won last week at this invitation-only event for the world's 15 most gifted young violinists.” Based on his performances at the Venice competition, Smirnov also was awarded the special jury prize including the use of a Giuseppe Gagliano (1782) violin throughout the ensuing year of his training. Smirnov studies at the Rimsky-Korsakov State Music School in St. Petersburg. “He was identified by Apogee as an artist of extraordinary ability during his performances at the 2006 Crescendo Festival, where he was selected by Apogee's award jury as the outstanding performer of the event.” Smirnov will perform at the Apogee Music Festival in Odessa on Sept. 25-28.
9/14/06 – Violinist Dorry Macaulay, “a professional musician who played in front of the Queen,” lost her violin by leaving it on a train, reports the Portsmouth (UK) News. “She is desperate for its safe return, as it has great sentimental value because it was a present given to her by her late grandfather, who passed away three years ago.
A frantic search has started, with a host of train stations contacted, but there's still no news on its whereabouts.” According to the 25-year-old’s father, a reward of £100 is being offered for its safe return.
The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and its musicians have ratified a new three-year contract, extending through September 2009, reports the American Symphony Orchestra League. The new contract calls for a salary increase of 3-5 percent each year for a total of 12.6 percent over three years. Improvements to medical, retirement, and family benefits include the addition of newborn care leave. The contract also allows for the use of archival recordings for educational purposes and a professional apprenticeship program will be introduced for musicians of minority communities to join ISO musicians in rehearsal and performance.
9/14/06 - The St. Louis Symphony has extended the contract of popular music director David Robertson through 2010. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “The orchestra has enjoyed a resurgence since Robertson took over in 2005, and the new contract continues the trend of American orchestras locking up their maestros long-term, once it becomes clear that the fit is a good one. To celebrate, the orchestra sold tickets to the opening night concert on Sept. 23 for $20.10 each.
Other Music News
From the Top, the weekly radio program that showcases young classical musicians, is heading to PBS. WGBH Boston, in collaboration with From the Top and Carnegie Hall, has announced plans to produce the music variety program for television, beginning this fall. From the Top: Carnegie Hall will continue to highlight young classical musicians in its familiar format of offbeat humor, performances and interviews. Production is expected to begin this fall, with the series slated for early 2007. Pianist Christopher O'Reilly, host of the radio series, will continue in that role.
9/15/06 - The Los Angeles Times reports that as part of its 225th anniversary celebration, the city is introducing Hear in L.A. While on hold, callers to the city's 311 information center "will hear classical music performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Opera and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra." Plans are to feature "the work of L.A.'s emerging musical artists as the next phase."
Quoting from the Indianapolis Star:
The 22-year-old [Augustin] Hadelich, who recovered from severe burns suffered in a 1999 fire, led a field in which Dutch violinist Simone Lamsma, 20, won the silver medal and American Celeste Golden,, 22, took the bronze.
Korean violinists Yura Lee and Ye-Eun Choi were the competition’s fourth- and fifth-place laureates, respectively. Bulgaria’s Bella Hristova finished sixth.
In recent days, Lee and Choi have been generating lots of excitement with their extroverted performances. By the end of the competition, the jury appeared to prefer that the medalists possess a subtler palette of sounds and a broader range of stylistic interpretations....
Hadelich, who has been studying at the Juilliard School in New York, put the final touches on his long series of solid performances with Bela Bartok’s Violin Concerto No. 2. Hadelich capitalized on the Hungarian composer’s 1930s showcase of the theme-and-variations form to display his range of talents.
Hadelich’s performance, the last at Saturday’s romantic concerto finals, combined virtuosic technique with dependable intonation, a captivating stage presence, a singing style that transcended dissonant harmonies and a sound that could stand up to the full forces of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.
During the semifinals, Hadelich’s Beethoven Sonata No. 1 seemed especially faithful to the composer’s style. Hadelich also was one of few competitors to capture the fun and mystery in the contemporary commissioned piece, Bright Sheng’s A Night at the Chinese Opera. During the classical concerto finals, Hadelich’s Mozart Concerto No. 2 in D featured a freely phrased first-movement cadenza.
Lamsma, a graduate of London’s Royal Academy of Music, demonstrated a quietly elegant approach even from the preliminary round. At that time, she played a naturally paced Chaconne from J.S. Bach’s Partita No. 2, and a fluid, vibrant Faure Berceuse. In her classical finals, she blended clean articulation with moderate expressiveness. On the other hand, at Friday’s first phase to the romantic finals, she stepped up to the demands of Shostakovich’s brooding Concerto No. 1 in A minor.
Golden, who is pursuing her master’s degree at the Cleveland Institute of Music, encountered a few technical glitches during her classical concerto, Mozart’s Concerto No. 4, although she covered well. She came back with a riveting performance of Dvorak’s Concerto in A minor at Saturday’s romantic finals. She combined a bravura style with many sensitive moments.
Read the article here: http://www.indystar.com
9/13/06 – The Chicago Symphony announced this morning that longtime concertmaster Samuel Magad is retiring in January after 48 years with the orchestra. Magad made his debut with the Chicago Symphony at Orchestra Hall at the age of 11, as the winner of the CSO Youth Auditions. He joined the CSO’s first violin section in 1958 under the baton of CSO Music Director Fritz Reiner and became assistant concertmaster in 1966. In 1972, Sir Georg Solti appointed him as concertmaster, a position that he has held longer than any other player in the CSO’s history. In his role of concertmaster, Magad can be heard as soloist on several of the CSO’s most renowned recordings, including Richard Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben and Also sprach Zarathustra, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade.
For more on the luggage debacle….
9/10/06 – According to The Scotsman, BBC Symphony guest conductor Mark Elder “used his performance at the Last Night of the Proms to launch a stinging attack on the heightened airport security, which prevents musicians from carrying their instruments on to planes as hand- luggage. The Musicians' Union yesterday said it planned to lobby parliament over the strict security - introduced after last month's alleged terror plot - which the group claims is having a "devastating impact" on musicians. Under current rules, passengers flying out of UK airports are allowed one item of cabin baggage, which must be no larger than a laptop computer bag. Travellers flying into the UK from destinations including the US are not subject to the same restrictions. The rules make it impossible for musicians with valuable instruments to travel out of the UK. He added: "I think we would all agree that the time has come really to put an end to this unfairness. Otherwise it seems to me that next year we should all look forward to Concerto for Laptop and Orchestra."
A similar article in the Guardian (UK) quoted cellist Steven Isserlis. The British musician, who plays a Stradivarius, said the instrument's owner had banned him from placing it in an airline hold. “With a concert planned in New York next month, he faces flying from Cologne, where he has another engagement, to Montreal and then taking a train to the US. A concert schedule planned two years in advance may need to be stripped down if the security measures remain in place. Isserlis said: ‘It will end up with Europeans playing in Europe and Americans playing in America’.
9/8/06 – According to the blog of Minnesota Public Radio personality Brian Newhouse, violinist Viktoria Mullova, who went so far as to “smuggle” her unprotected Stradivarius onto a Helsinki-bound flight in a shopping bag last month because of the carry-on restrictions in Britain. Now, Mullova tells Newhouse she is concerned about getting her Strad to the U.S. for her appearance next week with the Minnesota Orchestra. He says her plan is to have a friend accompany her to Heathrow Airport. If security refuses to let her bring her instrument in the cabin, she will entrust it to the friend to return it to her home. Then, “when she lands in Minneapolis, she’ll start scrambling for the best instrument she can find.”
Other Musician News
9/18/06 - Violinist Janine Jansen will appear with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in the Metropolitan Museum’s opening concert of the season, playing Vivaldi and Bach. According to the New Yorker, Jansen’s recent recording of The Four Seasons is notable for more than its seductive cover photograph.
9/12/06 - Hai-Ye Ni, the 34-year-old former associate principal cellist of the New York Philharmonic, has been appointed principal cellist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. "A graduate of the Juilliard School of Music, she won the prestigious Naumburg competition in 1990 at the age of 18, and made a much-praised debut at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall in 1991 ... [As a concerto soloist], she extensively performed 'Spring Dreams' by the acclaimed Chinese composer Bright Sheng ... She received an Avery Fisher career grant in 2001 and continues to have the standard concertos in her active repertoire as well as modern ones by Lutoslawski and Dutilleux."
9/8/06 - Violinist Chee-Yun performed Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto with the Winnipeg Symphony. The concert also marked the first appearance of new Music Director Alexander Mickelthwate.
9/8/06 - Violinist James Crawford, concertmaster of the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Symphony, performed with the orchestra as soloist in Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto. The Grand Rapids Press reports that the performance marks a milestone in the return to health of the violinist. “Crawford, appointed concertmaster in the 1993-94 season, was preparing to play Jean Sibelius' Violin Concerto in mid-season two years ago when he felt tingling and numbness in his arm from cubital tunnel syndrome and medial epicondylitis. Crawford spent six months away from his fiddle in rest and rehabilitation. He missed much of the 2004-05 season, returning just a month before the orchestra played in New York City's Carnegie Hall in May 2005.”
9/3/06 - Violinist Cela Gomberg Newman, whom the Sarasota Herald-Tribune refers to as living a “life that reads like a Cinderella story,” has died at age 95. “One of seven children raised in a low-income household in Boston before World War I, Newman was accepted into a prestigious music school [Curtis Institute of Music] at the age of 16, became a concert violinist and married Ruby Newman, one of the most popular bandleaders in the Northeast during the 1930s….After moving to Sarasota in 1968 at the urging of former mayor and fellow violinist David Cohen, Newman performed with the Florida West Coast Symphony for several years and was a longtime volunteer at a popular consignment shop to help raise money for the symphony…. Embarking on a career as a concert violinist, Newman couldn't afford a quality instrument like the one she trained on. A friend suggested she contact bandleader Ruby Newman, a heartthrob who led one of Boston's favorite society bands in the 1930s. She was told he had a spare violin. She wrote to him and he invited her to New York City's famed Rainbow Room, where he was performing, Stone said. After he agreed to lend her a violin, "out of the blue she asked him, 'How come you haven't been taken by some cute dame yet?' and he said, 'I haven't found the right one,'" Stone recalled. They married in 1938 after a brief courtship.”
The Japan Art Association has announced a Praemium Imperiale special award of 5 million yen (currently about US$43,000) to the National System of Youth and Children's Orchestras of Venezuela, the organization which Simon Rattle has called "the most important thing happening in music anywhere in the world" and which produced the young star conductor Gustavo Dudamel. Praemium Imperiale are given annually by the Japan Art Association for outstanding achievement in five fields not covered by the Nobel Prizes: music, painting, sculpture, architecture and theater/film. The gold medals will be formally awarded by Prince Hitachi of Japan in a ceremony on October 18 in Tokyo".
9/13/06 – The San Francisco Symphony will perform in Luxembourg as part of their European tour with Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas. On 9/17, the San Franciscans move on to the Lucerne Festival in Switzerland.
Cellist extraordinaire Janos Starker is profiled in the current issue of Strings magazine.
Violinist Chloe Hanslip, released her first CD for Naxos in August. The all-American disc includes works by John Adams's (his violin concerto), John Corigliano (his Chaconne from his music for the film The Red Violin) and Franz Waxman's Fantasy on Tristan and Isolde. Leonard Slatkin leads the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra has announced the appointment of bassist Eric Polenik to a one-year post. He will substitute for Jesse Watras, who will be on leave this season. Polenik is a 2006 graduate of the Eastman School of Music and is now pursuing a diploma in Orchestra Studies at Eastman.
9/15-16/06 – Violinist Elmar Oliveira will open the Chattanooga Symphony’s new season in a performance of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3.
9/10/06 – The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer is reporting that the Charlotte Symphony has added several musicians to its roster, effective with the 2006-07 season. Joseph Meyer, formerly with the San Francisco Symphony, has been named associate concertmaster. Kari Giles, previously with the Minnesota Orchestra, is the CSO's new assistant concertmaster. And Sacha Barlow, a British citizen, will become the orchestra’s assistant principal violist if she gets her visa in time. Of note is that Barlow is a former psychotherapist: “After a few years as a professional musician, Barlow returned to school for a master's degree in psychotherapy and counseling. She went into practice, setting performing aside. ‘If you can help somebody and see them change, and know that you had a part of it,’ she said, ‘that's a really amazing thing to do’. Barlow decided after seven years that she wanted to live her own life, rather than watch other people live theirs. So she returned to playing -- taking the opportunity to switch from the violin to the viola.
9/9-10/06 – Violinist Gil Shaham joins the Houston Symphony Orchestra and music director Hans Graf for a season-opening gala concert featuring two showpieces by Pablo Sarasate: Zigeunerweisen ("Gypsy Airs") and the Carmen Fantasy, a suite arranged from Bizet's opera with the violin taking the vocal roles.
9/8/06 – Violinist Christian Tetzlaff, “a nerves-of-steel violinist” did not wow the San Jose Mercury News’s music critic, who attended the San Francisco Symphony’s opening gala. “The German virtuoso is pretty much the soloist you want to see out there for Stravinsky's Violin Concerto, with its lacquered surfaces and gazillion details, so many of them exposed, like booby traps. Tetzlaff, as a rule, is a peerless virtuoso; he's right in the center of every note, no tricks or adornments required to pretty things up. [But] Tetzlaff struggled at times to stay on pitch, to get through a number of crazy, winding tightrope passages, and to keep in sync with the orchestra, which had a hard time holding together.”
9/8/06 – Violist Russell Guyver is one of three finalists vying for the job of music director of the Greeley (CO) Philharmonic, reports the Greeley Tribune: “[Guyver] once hated conductors so much, he set up his own chamber orchestra without one. He still plays viola and loves it, but he's also moved to what he calls the dark side. And it turns out he's pretty good at it. As conductor and musical director for the University of Northern Colorado, the student orchestra has won the title of best orchestra in the country by Downbeat magazine numerous times.”
9/7/06 – According to the Washington Post, conductor Zubin Mehta will receive a 2006 Kennedy Center award. Other honorees this year include Dolly Parton, Smokey Robinson, and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
9/7/06 – The Los Angeles Daily News reports that violinist Neal Donner, an active Libertarian, helped defeat California’s Proposition R, which would have enacted term limits for elected officials. “As the petitioner in the lawsuit challenging the city's term limits/ethics-reform ballot measure, Neal Donner didn't really do much more than lend his name to the cause. But the 64-year-old Westside resident - a private violin instructor, writer and longtime political activist - was only too happy to help when a friend from the Libertarian Party called and said U.S. Term Limits was looking for a petitioner in the case. ‘I have the opportunity to stand up and be the representative of a lot of people who agree with my perspective’, Donner said.”
9/6/06 – The Indianapolis Star offered an interesting tidbit about Eric Silberger, a first-round competitor at the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis. It turns out that he is the first Indianapolis native ever accepted into the 24-year-old competition. The paper called his performance “bold, technically solid, charismatic” performance, but it was not enough to advance him to the semifinals. Silberger, 17, who attends high school in New Jersey and has studied with leading violinists in New York, …began with a darkly pensive Grave movement from J.S. Bach's Sonata No. 2, paired with a clearly voiced, demonstrative interpretation of the sonata's Fuga. For his required Paganini Caprices, he chose two that have been heard often this week -- No. 1, which demands a "bouncing" bow technique, and No. 24, a theme with variations including some high-register playing and pizzicatos mixed with staccato bowing. His concluding Tchaikovsky Melodie offered a full-bodied sound but was momentarily marred by a glitch in intonation.”
9/5/06 – The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that six members of the Pittsburgh Symphony are "opting for early retirement." They include violinist Richard DiAdamo, who joined the orchestra in 1968), violist Richard Holland, who joined in 1972, and bassist James Krummenacher, who joined in 1956. DiAdamo comments: "I am retiring from the symphony but not the violin."
9/1/06 - The Lansing Symphony Orchestra's new music director, Timothy Muffitt, traded his baton for a baseball when he made his minor league debut throwing out the first pitch at a Lansing Lugnuts Game. Muffitt debuted as music director on September 9 with the orchestra's season opener.
At the invitation of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, members of the Orchestra of St. Luke's will participate in the fifth anniversary commemoration of 9/11 at Ground Zero. Musicians will play during the reading of the names of those who died in the World Trade Center attacks. The reading begins at 8:46 a.m., the exact time the first plane plowed into the building.
The Independence Symphony Orchestra in Missouri has changed its name to the Heritage Philharmonic. The new name reflects the orchestra's history and commitment to the eastern Jackson County region, and serves as a better representation of its broad audience base. The orchestra consists of 68 musicians from the greater Kansas City area. In addition, James Murray, who served as guest conductor last season, will become music director and conductor.
Musicians of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra have ratified a new, four-year collective bargaining agreement, reports the American Symphony Orchestra League. “The agreement, ratified on August 28, provides for steady improvement in musician compensation coupled with the ability to utilize the musicians for more community engagement and development opportunities. It also includes an electronic media guarantee. The salary range for section musicians will increase from $25,500 to $31,300 if all the community engagement services are elected.”
9/7/06 – The Detroit Free Press is reporting that Detroit Symphony Orchestra management and musicians have agreed to extend their labor contract for a year with no changes in salaries or benefits. “The minimum salary in the orchestra remains $1,900 per week or $98,800 for the season, though many players make more. The previous contract expired this week. Talks will resume later this fall. Neither DSO management nor players will comment publicly on the extension, but it effectively means that the largest chunk of the orchestra's fixed costs -- musician salaries -- will remain constant for another year, which is especially important given Michigan's rough economy and the tough fund-raising environment for the arts. It also gives the orchestra a year to work out an agreement….The musicians agreed to pay cuts in 2004 when the orchestra's deficit ballooned to more than $2 million. However, the deal was back-loaded with sizable pay increases last season. The DSO ranked 11th in musicians' salaries in 2005-06, according to figures from the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians.”
9/7/06 – According to the Oklahoma City Journal Record, the Oklahoma City Philharmonic has received the largest single donation in its history. “The $1.25 million gift from the Inasmuch Foundation is part of $7.3 million contributed to the philharmonic's $9 million Orchestrating Greatness Campaign, which is scheduled to continue through December. … Endowments will be established to attract musicians and expand education programs. [And] A dedicated endowment will provide money for live orchestral services for Ballet Oklahoma and Canterbury Choral Society."
9/7/06 – The Kansas City Symphony opened its season without Music Director Michael Stern on the podium. The orchestra announced that Stern withdrew from this weekend's performances due to the expected birth of his first child... David Robertson filled in for Stern, reports PlaybillArts.com.
9/6/06 – The Fairfax (VA) Symphony is back in the black, reports the Fairfax Examiner. "Now, at the organization's 50th anniversary, Executive Director Jane Kenworthy] said the organization is entering the season without debt, the result of an outpouring of donations and cost-cutting measures that included trimming administrative staff and temporarily cutting musicians' pay. It's a major change from a year ago, when the orchestra was struggling to pay for its first performance of the season ... Though orchestra members agreed to a 10 percent pay cut for the second half of the season, they maintained the size of the 90-piece group. Meanwhile, they nearly tripled the number of individual gifts from the previous season, she said."
General Music News
The Sphinx Organization has opened offices in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. Currently headquartered in Detroit, the organization is establishing roots in New York in order to expand its artistic and educational programming in the area.
9/8/06 – Pluto may have just lost its planet status, but don’t tell British composer Colin Matthews that. His movement honoring the former planet has just been recorded on EMI classics as part of Gustav Holst’s masterpiece The Planets, reports the New York Times. Matthews comments: "I thank God that I was actually on holiday the day that it happened ... At times I've been cursing, but it's very fascinating to be in the middle of it." The article explains that "Holst excluded the Earth, because it has no astrological significance, and Pluto, which was not discovered until 1930. He died in 1934, but there is little evidence that he considered updating his piece."
9/7/06 – The Washington Post is reporting that National Public Radio said it will end production and distribution of Performance Today, ‘the most popular classical music program on the air’. The organization will eliminate 11 jobs in its Washington headquarters as a result. But the Minnesotans ride to the rescue: American Public Media, the distribution arm of Minnesota Public Radio, will produce Performance Today and another weekly classical show, SymphonyCast, starting early next year. APM will continue to distribute the program to some 230 stations. [An APM executive] said discussions were being held with 'PT' host Fred Child and 'SymphonyCast' host Corva Coleman to continue, but no agreements have been reached."
The “Instrument as luggage” saga continues…
Newspapers around the world this week contained three different perspectives on the continuing struggle musicians face when they attempt to board an airplane with their instruments these days.
9/3/06 – According to the Sunday Times – Scotland, Nicola Benedetti may be forced to scrap her tour of China because she has been banned from carrying her £500,000 violin as hand luggage under airline security measures. “The former BBC Young Musician of the Year is due to fly to China next week to play three concerts with the City of London Sinfonia in Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai. However, severe restrictions on hand luggage introduced following the recent terror scare mean that Benedetti would be forced to put her Guarneri violin in the hold. The violinist fears that the irreplaceable 18th-century instrument, which was given to her by her father, could be damaged during the journey. …Steve Abbott, Benedetti’s manager, and Elaine Baines Robins, the general manager of the City of London Sinfonia, are now in urgent talks with officials at the German airline Lufthansa to save the tour.”
9/1/06 – Meanwhile, the unthinkable worry has come true for Paul Casey, a Canadian music student. According to the Ottawa Citizen, Casey, a 20-year-old University of Ottawa viola student Paul Casey "says he is contemplating legal action against Air Canada after his $13,800 viola was damaged beyond repair in the baggage compartment of a trans-atlantic flight this July ... [Casey] arrived in Belgium and found his viola with a snapped neck, a broken back and sporting about 12 cracks on its front." Mark Tetreault, symphonic director for the Canadian arm of the American Federation of Musicians, comments: "We've been lobbying ceaselessly for years ... All we want is a clear policy and not ad hoc decisions at the gate." The paper adds: "Air Canada's policy is that it assumes no liability for many items, including 'musical instruments,' and that it will only reimburse a maximum of $1,500 for damaged items 'unless a higher value is declared in advance.' Casey received a check for more than $1,600, but said that is not enough." Casey comments: "They should use this as an example and make a new policy. If they can't cover the cost, then don't make someone with a $14,000 instrument check it."
8/31/06 – Cellist Julian Lloyd Webber opined in the London Daily Telegraph on the Department of Transport's recent decision that "nothing larger than a laptop can be carried on a plane as hand luggage," writing: "Are we being told that the x-ray machines don't work? If not, why should a laptop be less dangerous than a 17th-century violin or cello, which is basically just a wooden box whose every nook and cranny is revealed by x-ray?" He notes that America's major airlines "banned all musical instruments from their cabins immediately following the recent scare. This, of course, was a complete non sequitur as the alleged plot was to create explosives from liquids, which would be impossible to conceal inside a violin or cello." He adds: "Surely, when both irreplaceable musical instruments and the livelihoods of their owners are at stake, we should be entitled to expect a modicum of common sense?"
Violinist Samuel Thompson sent me another link to his recent NPR performance commemorating the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. NPR has showcased audio clips from 10 New Orleans-related musicians here: http://www.npr.org
The Curtis Institute of Music has announced the appointment of violist Misha Amory to the performance faculty. As a founding member of the Brentano String Quartet, Amory was honored with the first Cleveland Quartet Award, the 1991 Naumburg Viola Award and the 1995 Naumburg Chamber Music Award. He holds degrees from Yale University and The Juilliard School.
9/5/06 – Joshua Bell fans, the wait is over: his new recording, Voice of the Violin, will be released on this date. According to Sony Classical, “Following the success of his best-selling Romance of the Violin—which has been a fixture on the Billboard Classical charts for over two years—this all-new collection presents Bell and his Stradivarius giving fresh voice to works by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Bizet, Dvořák, Donizetti, Massenet and more, accompanied by Orchestra of St. Luke's, conducted by Michael Stern.
9/5/06 – The Shanghai Quartet and guest artists violist Michael Tree and cellist Robert Martin will perform at Bard College. Shanghai first violinist Weigang Li and Guarneri violist Tree are faculty members of the Bard College Conservatory of Music. Cellist Martin is the director of the Bard College Conservatory of Music.
9/4/06 - Violinist Ning Kam will perform the Mozart Violin Concerto No. 4 with the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
9/1/06 - Violinist/conductor Leonidas Kavakos will become artistic director of the Camerata Salzburg for a five-year term beginning with the 2007-08 season, reports PlaybillArts.com. “Kavakos, who was first appointed the Camerata Salzburg's Principal Guest Artist in the 2001-02 season, is internationally renowned as a violin soloist and chamber musician who performs with orchestras and in recitals worldwide. He has won the International Sibelius Competition in Helsinki (1985, aged only 18), the Naumburg Competition in New York (1988) and the Paganini Violin Competition in Genoa (1988). He received a Gramophone Award in 1991 for his recording of the Sibelius Violin Concerto on the BIS label.” Kavakos will make various solo appearances on an American tour in November, including Chicago, Seattle, Philadelphia and New York.
8/31/06 - Los Angeles Philharmonic principal concertmaster Martin Chalifour performed the Sibelius Violin Concerto with the LA Phil at the Hollywood Bowl.
8/31/06 - The 24-year-old American cellist Alisa Weilerstein has been named the winner of this year's Leonard Bernstein Prize at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival in northern Germany, reports PlaybillArts.com. “The Leonard Bernstein Prize — not to be confused with its namesake at the Tanglewood Music Festival — is given each year at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival (SHMF) to a ‘gifted young artist’. The award was established and funded in 2002 by the Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe of the SGVSH, a group of banks in the north German state that hosts the SHMF; the jury includes Zarin Mehta of the New York Philharmonic, Ernest Fleischmann of the Ojai Music Festival and formerly of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein's daughter Jamie Bernstein Thomas, SHMF director Rolf Beck, and SGVSH president Olaf Cord Dielewicz. The Chinese pianist Lang Lang was the first Leonard Bernstein Prize winner; he was followed by violinists Lisa Batiashvili (2003) and Eric Schumann (2004) and pianist Jonathan Biss (2005). Weilerstein is the first cellist to win the award.”
8/30/06 - According to PlaybillArts.com, the 25-year-old American violist David Kim has taken first prize at this year's Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition, which carries a cash award of £3,000 and a solo recital date in London. Kim also won the Peter Schidlof Prize, a discretionary jury award given to "the finalist with the most beautiful sound"; he will receive a bow valued at €3,000 made by Stéphane Muller of Toulouse. Kim is a recent graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music, where he studied with Kim Kashkashian and Carol Rodland. He was recently selected to participate in CMS II, the young artists' program of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. The £2,000 second prize at the Tertis Viola Competition went to Peijun Xue; Ewa Grzwyna took the £1,500 third prize.
8/29/06 - Sphinx Competition winner Gareth Johnson played Dvorak's Romance in F Minor Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. The Cincinnati Enquirer praised his “lyrical gifts and his extraordinary sweetness of tone."
8/25/06 - Violinist Barnabás Kelemen will replace Igor Oistrakh as soloist in the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's opening night gala on September 10, reports the Indianapolis Star. “The ISO's opening night gala will feature the seven violinists remaining on the jury: Jaime Laredo, Pierre Amoyal, Rodney Friend, Cho-Liang Lin, Malcolm Lowe, Joel Smirnoff, Kyoko Takezawa, with Kelemen as the eighth soloist replacing Oistrakh. Kelemen will perform Vivaldi's Concerto in A Minor for Two Violins with Jaime Laredo, led by ISO Conductor Laureate Raymond Leppard. …Kelemen won the 2002 Indianapolis competition. He also won third prize at the 2001 Queen Elisabeth Competition, first prize at the 1999 Mozart Competition in Salzburg and second prize at the 1997 Szigeti Competition.”
8/23/06 – Oregon Symphony Concertmaster Amy Schwartz Moretti received a shout-out in a Wilamette News article about personnel changes at the Oregon Symphony: “[Music Director Carlos] Kalmar began his sound upgrade when he hired Amy Schwartz Moretti as the concertmaster two years ago. She's been the linchpin in an improved string section—the largest section of the orchestra—which has performed with a technical veracity and élan that is almost palpable.” The article noted that Kalmar is taking the bold step of hiring three major wind principals—flute, oboe and trumpet—in the same season.
8/30/06 - The Montreal Symphony Orchestra has announced a new three-year partnership with the National Bank of Canada in which the Bank will donate $1 million Canadian over the next three seasons.
8/28/06 – The Miami Symphony Orchestra has named Venezuelan composer and conductor Eduardo Marturet as its new music director, reports The Miami Herald. “He replaces the orchestra's founder, Manuel Ochoa, who died last month at age 80…The Miami Symphony Orchestra, which appointed Marturet its Associate Principal Conductor last year, is largely supported by and programmed for the Spanish-speaking community in Miami-Dade County. (The now-defunct Florida Philharmonic was seen by many in the community as a primarily Anglophone institution.) The MSO performs about six concert programs per season.”
8/26/06 – The Minnesota Orchestra received a glowing review in the Glasgow Herald: "The transformation [Music Director Osmo Vänskä] has effected in his American orchestra since I first heard them, around three years ago, is staggering," the critic writes. "They characterized a mesmerizingly concentrated account of Samuel Barber's First Essay for Orchestra. The strings are warm, bass-rich and immaculately coordinated, with a wonderful depth that underlined the brooding elements in Barber's much-underrated composition. The woodwind section is meltingly creamy, and the brass burnished and not remotely overblown ... The dynamic risks taken throughout [Stravinsky's Petrushka] were pure Vanska, as, above all, was the layering of textures which resulted in a Petrushka of astounding detail."
8/25/06 - The Denver Musicians' Association and the Colorado Ballet have come to an agreement that will allow live orchestral accompaniment to be provided for the company's first three productions in the upcoming season, reports the Rocky Mountain News. The decision last season to eliminate live accompaniment for performances of Cinderella, according to the paper, led to an increased desire by both parties to ensure live music for future events. “Players will also see their rehearsal and performance fees increased 3 percent to approximately $97.”
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