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Violin News & Gossip, Op. 3, No. 29

April 11, 2007 at 5:31 PM

If you can’t get enough of From the Top, you can get updates delivered right to your e-mailbox. Karen Rile, mother of’s own Caeli Smith, sent me an issue of the newsletter today. To subscribe, send an email to asking for a subscription. Caeli is a roving reporter on the show and was the Summer 2006 intern.


The big news in classical music right now involves the LA Philharmonic. Wunderkind conductor Gustavo Dudamel will succeed Esa-Pekka Salonen in 2009. Various articles abound, including:

4/8/07Los Angeles Times: "After helping make the Los Angeles Philharmonic one of the world's most adventurous and versatile orchestras, Esa-Pekka Salonen has decided to step down as music director at the end of the 2008-09 season. His successor, the Philharmonic will announce Monday, will be Gustavo Dudamel, a charismatic 26-year-old conductor from Venezuela. Salonen, who will still live in Los Angeles, intends to concentrate on composing, although he plans to continue to conduct the Philharmonic and other orchestras."

4/9/07Los Angeles Times: The announcement that Esa-Pekka Salonen will leave the LA Philharmonic in 2009, to be replaced by 26-year-old Venezuelan wunderkind Gustavo Dudamel, caught the vast majority of the orchestra by complete surprise. But after taking a few hours to process the new information, many musicians were quick to praise Dudamel's energy and skill on the podium, and expressed relief at the unusual double announcement: "The future of the orchestra is secure. We're not going to flail around with our hat in hand like every other orchestra, saying, 'Will you please come?'" Philharmonic concertmaster Martin Chalifour is quoted in the article: "I would characterize Dudamel as a sort of Impressionist painter — he's like a painter splashing colors on the canvas."

4/10/07Los Angeles Times: “Three years ago, Gustavo Dudamel entered a conducting competition sponsored by the Bamberg Symphony in southern Germany. When he gave his first downbeat to the orchestra and it played its first chord, he loudly exclaimed, ‘Wow!’ He was 23 years old and music director of the Simón Bolivar Youth Orchestra in Caracas, Venezuela. He had never before stood in front of a professional ensemble. Esa-Pekka Salonen was one of the judges. And when he arrived in Bamberg three days later for the finals, he said in an interview last week, Dudamel was already a seasoned pro. That the competition launched a meteoric career is already part of the Dudamel legend. He is now in demand everywhere. He has a fancy contract to record for Deutsche Grammophon. And Monday, the Los Angeles Philharmonic announced officially that Dudamel would succeed Salonen as music director in 2009.”

4/7/07 – Last week, it just so happened that Dudamel made his debut in Chicago. Critic Andrew Patner, not given to hyperbole, wrote a dramatic review calling the concert “a once-in-a-generation event: A young conductor showed what happens when talent, charisma, excitement, adventure, daring and, believe it or not in a world of Olympian egos, warmth and kindness take the stage. An electrical charge ran through the hall and its buzz didn't stop even after multiple curtain calls, many animated handshakes with principal players and a wild ovation.” Dudamel opened the concert with “a 1954 piece by his countryman Evencio Castellanos, ‘Santa Cruz de Pacairigua’ ... Star violinist Pinchas Zukerman was on hand for the staple of Bruch's G-minor concerto and Dudamel proved a sensitive and perfect partner.” The second half of the program featured Mahler’s Symphony No. 1. Patner writes: “When was the last time we saw almost every player sitting at the edge of his or her seat with eyes focused on the conductor?”

Musician News

4/10/07 – Violinist Yura Lee and the Borromeo String Quartet are among the winners of the 2007 Avery Fisher Career Grants, reports Double Bassist DaXun Zhang is the third winner. Each of the three winners received $25,000 at a ceremony at Lincoln Center last night. The ceremony, which included performances, was taped by WQXR-FM and will be broadcast on April 17. The Borromeo String Quartet consists of violinists Nicholas Kitchen and Kristopher Tong, violist Mai Motobuchi and cellist Yeesun Kim.

4/10/07 – Teen violinist Kassia Beckett Frantz appeared as a panelist on Wisconsin Public Television's Teen Connection, reports the Wisconsin Daily Journal. “The 16-year-old sophomore from Green Bay East High School practices the violin three hours every day. Her goal: to attend the Juilliard School, a top-notch institution that accepts only 6 percent of its music applicants. ‘Violin always comes first for me’, Frantz said. ‘There's sacrifices that I make to reach my goals, and I want other kids to realize the hard work I put in. I realize that in a couple years, missing a dance or a party won't be important if I can achieve my goals of a successful career’." Frantz performed the third movement of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto on the show.

4/10/07 – According to the Virginian-Pilot, transgendered violinist Tona Brown, formerly Thomas Brown, is now launching a new career as an operatic soprano. Brown teaches violin and voice in Norfolk, Va.

4/9/07 – People are definitely talking about Joshua Bell’s Washington, DC, busking experiment. Here is an opinion piece from the Arizona Daily Wildcat, written by a senior majoring in music appreciation. He correctly points out the optimism in the fact that, generally, passing children wanted to stop. Implicit in that observation, of course, is the lament that the children’s adults invariably hustled them along.

Orchestra News

4/10/07 – According to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, the Rochester Philharmonic is finally closing the books on a 7-year, $10 million endowment drive designed to keep the ensemble fiscally solvent for the indefinite future.

4/10/07 – More glum news from New Hampshire, reports the New Hampshire Union Leader: “Little more than a month after the New Hampshire Symphony announced that it was canceling the remainder of its season, Opera New Hampshire is canceling its lone spring production, citing lower than anticipated funding from subscriptions, ticket sales, sponsorships and other sources."

Other Music Issues

4/9/07 – The Independent (UK) notes that “Jean Sibelius was once the world's favourite composer but, thanks to German fascist admirers, his star waned after his death." In recent years, the Finnish composer's reputation has had much of its luster restored, thanks largely to a series of Nordic conductors specializing in his work, but Sibelius is still rarely placed alongside masters like Beethoven and Mozart in the musical canon. Some believe it's time for that to change.

4/7/07 – The New York Times ran an opinion piece by John Marchese, the author of The Violin Maker (the new book about Sam Zygmuntowicz mentioned Laurie’s interview with the luthier). “Another Stradivarius sold at auction for millions of dollars last week, and once again, it's a sure bet that the buyer wasn't a musician. In fact, there are nearly no musician-owned Strads left, thanks to the ever-escalating value collectors place on the Cremonese gems. But is this necessarily a bad thing? Yes, it does mean that most musicians, even great ones, will never get to play on the best of the old Italian violins, but it also forces the music world to pay attention to the stunning number of great instruments being crafted by living makers.”

From Julie C.
Posted on April 11, 2007 at 9:04 PM
Wow, Congratulations to Yura!
From Megan Chapelas
Posted on April 12, 2007 at 11:14 AM
Wow, Dudamel! It's going to be really interesting to see what comes out of there over the next few years - how he can develop and train an orchestra as opposed to his stunning one-offs. I'd like to know how long his contract is.
From Christian Vachon
Posted on April 12, 2007 at 11:19 AM

Congratulations to Yura and the Borromeo Quartet!


From Jose Martinez-Canas
Posted on April 14, 2007 at 7:31 PM
Dudamel? A very poor selection. Hear his
(CD)Beethoven 5th & 7th and you will see I am right.

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