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Violin News & Gossip, Op. 3, No. 9

January 31, 2007 at 8:32 PM

1/28/07 – After announcing his impending retirement several months ago, Chicago Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster Samuel Magad has made it official, reports the Chicago Tribune: "As of this month, Magad no longer will be alternating in that crucial leadership role with Robert Chen, who has shared the position of concertmaster with Magad since 1999. At 73, Magad is retiring from the orchestra this month after 48 years as a member of the violin section, 34 of them as concertmaster. No other player in CSO history has held the post longer."

Magad tells the paper: "I decided that, considering my age and length of service, this was the best time to let it go ... I also figured that with Daniel Barenboim leaving at the end of last season, it was just as well that I left too. I've had many music directors in my time, and I didn't want to start with another one."

Assistant Concertmaster David Taylor comments: "I, for one, will be sorry to see Sam go ... We had a lot of fun making music together. Even at the very end of his career, he is still one heck of a violinist."


1/27/07 - Esa-Pekka Salonen is about to take over London's Philharmonia orchestra, and The Guardian has taken the opportunity to profile him and share his thoughts on classical music in London versus LA.: "The greatest risk to classical music is not to respond to the culture until one day it just stops. There are some differences in the artistic structures and traditions of LA and London, but the approach that worked in LA was not to dumb down, but to do the opposite, to challenge the audience. And people responded."

The article, of course, recounts the famous story of Salonen’s big break as a conductor: “Back in 1983 Salonen was a late substitute for Michael Tilson Thomas, who had been due to conduct a Philharmonia performance of the Mahler [Symphony No. 3]. Salonen was then a 25-year-old best known as an uncompromising modernist composer. He had never conducted the work and had barely skimmed the score. But, after a few days of preparation, he went on an understudy and came off a star. One of the reasons the concert went so well, Salonen says, was that ‘it wasn't a make or break thing for me. I wanted to do my best, but I wasn't planning on a conducting career’. The next day he realised things had changed.”

Musician News

Canadian violinist Thomas Cosbey has been appointed concertmaster of the Thunder Bay (Ont.) Symphony Orchestra. He began his career in the Regina (Sask.) Symphony Orchestra and later served as principal second violin in Sinfonia Toronto.

2/24/07 – Conductor and violinist Tito Muñoz, the 23-year-old assistant conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, will make his subscription debut with the orchestra as a replacement for guest conductor Krzysztof Penderecki, who is recovering from surgery. Korean violinistr Chee-Yun will be the soloist. Muñoz sounds like a young conductor to watch: He made his professional conducting debut with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in May 2006, the same month Paavo Järvi appointed him in Cincinnati. Then he made his Cleveland Orchestra debut at the Blossom Music Festival in August 2006.

2/2/07 - Violinist Benny Kim will premiere a commissioned work at the University of Wyoming. A brief ceremony with the composer, noted accompanist Marc Neikrug, will precede the concert. The work, commissioned by UW Cultural Programs and the Department of American Studies, was also cosponsored by four other Wyoming presenters. Kim will also showcase the new work in performances in the sponsoring communities of Rock Springs, Casper, Gillette, and Sheridan. “Playing in L.A., Chicago, and New York, that is all great," he said in a university news release, "but people tend to be jaded about music there. People in places like Wyoming, especially the smaller towns, don't have many opportunities to hear a lot of classical music, especially music that has just been commissioned. This is a very unique opportunity."

2/1/07 – Two of the four finalists in the Madison Symphony Orchestra's 2007 Bolz Young Artist Competition are violinists: Krista Stewart and Sakura Takemitsu. For the first time this year, the competition also will be aired on Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television. The Wisconsin State Journal ran brief Q&A interviews with all four finalists.

1/29/07 – According to the La Crosse Tribune, violinist Samantha Bennett was one of two winners Saturday in the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra’s Rising Stars Concerto Competition. “Bennett, 17, was a semi-finalist in the 2006 Johansen International Competition in Washington, D.C. She was a national semi-finalist in the American String Teachers Association solo competition in 2003.”

1/29/07 - Gina Ferguson, a high school math teacher and violinist with the Christchurch (NZ) Symphony Orchestra, has won a triathlon, reports the Rotorura Daily Post: “Yesterday, looking very much like a hardened athlete, the 26-year-old enjoyed a convincing victory in the fifth round of the National Triathlon Series at Tikitapu (Blue Lake), part of the Bike Vegas Blue Lake Multisport Festival. Ferguson, who only took up the sport two years ago… completed the 1500m swim, 40km cycle and 11km trail run in 2 hours and 31 minutes. ‘I love the off-road stuff and tough courses and this is a tough course, so it suited me really well’," she told the paper.

1/28/07 – Alex Shum, a member of the Kansas City Symphony’s first violin section since 1978, was profiled by the Kansas City Star on Sunday.

1/28/07 – The New Orleans Times-Picayune profiled violinist Rachel Lee in conjunction with her weekend performance there.

Orchestra News

The Rhode Island Philharmonic has announced that Music Director Larry Rachleff has extended his contract with that orchestra through 2011-12. A resident of Houston, Rachleff holds the Walter Kris Hubert Chair at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music, and is also music director of the San Antonio Symphony.

1/30/07 - The Grand Rapids Symphony released its latest recording, a Naxos of America release of [American composer Adolphus] Hailstork's Symphonies Nos. 2 and 3, reports the Grand Rapids Press. This is the orchestra’s 10th commercial recording but its first on a national label in 10 years. The recordings will be released Tuesday in national chain stores such as Barnes and Noble and from, iTunes, CD and other online sites. “Naxos publicist Mark Berry called Hailstork 'an esteemed American composer' and the Grand Rapids Symphony 'one of the best small-city orchestras in the nation'."

1/29/07 – According to Musical America, Venice's La Fenice opera house has named Eliahu Inbal to be its music director. "Inbal, 71 and a charismatic figure in the international music scene, previously served in that capacity from 1984 to 1987. This time, the appointment appears to be temporary, Inbal having signed only a two-year contract, as opposed to the usual four."

1/27/07 - The Colorado Springs Philharmonic performed the world premiere of Garden of the Gods, a baseball-inspired work composed by Glen Cortese, who has just been named music director and conductor of Colorado's Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra.

Other Music News

1/29/07 – According to Bloomberg News, the Juilliard School is more than two-thirds of the way toward raising $300 million to expand. "The 101-year-old school wants to complete its largest fund- raising drive by the end of 2009, Juilliard President Joseph Polisi said in an interview. The money, in gifts and pledges, will endow educational programs and fund expansion of the school's 39-year-old Lincoln Center building… About $84 million of the $300 million to be raised will go to scholarship aid, Polisi said. The school currently awards $11 million in scholarship aid, an average of $18,100 per student. This year, Juilliard is charging $25,610 for tuition and $10,095 to $12,605 for room and board. ‘Any student who has the ability to get into the school, if there is proven financial need, they will receive support’, Polisi said.”

1/28/07 - The Kansas City Star reports: "Missouri arts advocates let out a collective sigh of relief last week when Gov. Matt Blunt included money for the arts in his annual budget recommendation. Blunt recommended $7.8 million for the Missouri Cultural Trust, the endowment for the Missouri Arts Council - a match of $3.3 million transferred to the trust in the previous budget plus an increase of $4.5 million. …Arts advocates had been concerned that the governor might not recommend any money for the arts because of anger over a lawsuit filed by the Kansas City Symphony against the state. The lawsuit contends that the Cultural Trust has been underfinanced by the legislature to the tune of $83 million."

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