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Recently in Orchestras Category

Dudamel to Take Over from Salonen

Gustavo Dudamel

Dudamel's baton entices a new wave of classical music lovers

By Roxana Popescu
San Diego Union Tribune

The high-energy Gustavo Dudamel will replace Esa-Pekka Salonen as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic next year.

The hardest part about preparing for a 10-minute telephone interview with Gustavo Dudamel is figuring out what to do with all that energy.

Not with it, actually, but without it: What if his legendary pep didn't come across in a chat crammed between six other interviews? What if he was worn out, or distracted? Because if there's one thing that pops out from all of Dudamel's five-star YouTube clips ? the one attribute both fans and skeptics say defines him ? it's that indomitable energy.

The second hardest part was getting a hold of the man. At 27, Dudamel is arguably the greatest conductor of his generation, considered by many to represent the future of classical music and the hope for its reinvigoration. This fall, he's on a national tour with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, which the La Jolla Music Society presents at the Civic Theatre tomorrow. Next spring, he'll take over as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Read more about this at the Union-Tribune website:

New Concerto from Bright Sheng

Bright Sheng

Sheng work lets symphony tap into Class of '78

By Janice Steinberg
San Diego Union-Tribune

Chinese melodies meet Stravinsky in the music of Bright Sheng, recipient of a 2001 MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant. Sheng's first harp concerto, "Never Far Away," will be given its world premiere by the San Diego Symphony with harpist Yolanda Kondonassis next weekend.

For the symphony's music director, Jahja Ling, "The wonderful thing about his compositions (is) he is able to fuse the Western and Chinese musical language."

What could be more appropriate, in the age of the Beijing Olympics and global Internet culture, than musical dialogues between East and West? In fact, Sheng is one of several prominent Chinese-American composers – along with Tan Dun, Chen Yi and Zhou Long – who mix elements of Chinese and Western music.

Read more about this at the Union-Tribune website:

More Adventurous Programs Please

Thomas W. Morris by Fred Rothenberg

Adventures in Concert Programming

By Anthony Tommasini
New York Times

Thomas W. Morris, a former executive director of the Cleveland Orchestra and now a consultant to orchestras, is hardly naïve about the tradition-bound field of classical music. He realizes that conductors of American orchestras face many pressures to play it safe in choosing programs.

Still, it exasperates him that so many conductors seem so wary of taking chances with unconventional or challenging programs.

"When I'm on a consulting project and I encounter a boring program," he said in a telephone interview, "inevitably I'm told, 'The marketing department made us do it.'" But to him hewing to the timeworn three-part program (an overture, a concerto, a popular symphony) makes as little sense financially as it does artistically.

Read more about this at the New York Times website:

An Organization Reinvented

Symphony Silicon Valley

Symphony Orchestra 2.0

By David Bratman
San Francisco Classical Voice

San José, as its boosters like to point out, is now the largest city in Northern California. But if it's the leader in population, it has a ways to go to catch up to San Francisco in cultural influence. Still, San José is far from the cultural desert that its flat sprawling landscape might suggest to residents of hillier, more congested parts of the Bay Area. The lively downtown has a flavor to it that you could find, perhaps to your equal surprise, in places like Sacramento and Santa Rosa. And there are musical performances well worth hearing here, enough to enthuse the locals and perhaps even draw audiences from outside the city and its suburbs.

San José's leading concert ensemble is Symphony Silicon Valley. Born in 2002 out of the ashes of the old San José Symphony (see a story recounted by SFCV here), it has grown cautiously over the years, with surprising and gratifying success. The orchestra was artistically mature from the beginning, drawing most of its personnel from its predecessor. Where SSV has really grown is in scheduling.

Read more about this at the San Francisco Classical Voice website:

Leonard Slatkin, by Steve J Sherman

Conductor Comes to A Coda

NSO's Leonard Slatkin Leaves on a Note of Regret

By Anne Midgette
Washington Post

Leonard Slatkin is temperamentally nervous. When he takes the stage to conduct, he walks out rapidly, slightly hunched, his head thrust forward, as if moving through a gauntlet and trying to protect himself from the needling arrows of thousands of watching eyes. In person, in his office at the Kennedy Center, he sits back in a pose of assumed relaxation, his soft Muppet face marked with thick white eyebrows and a sharp line of a mouth, and chats.

But he skitters across topics, anticipating the criticism that may be lurking behind every question, mentioning it, steering away from it, then returning to it to show that he is not steering away from it, until one is left with the impression that outside criticism, despite his protests to the contrary, matters to him very much indeed.

The general impression is that conducting is a difficult metier for a man who describes himself as having been chronically shy in his youth. The particular impression, as Slatkin talks about his 12-year tenure at the head of the National Symphony Orchestra, is of encountering someone in the final throes of a failing marriage, going over ground that has been trodden many times before, prodding the scars of old wounds that still have a tired ache.

Read more about this at the Washington Post website:

A Clockwork Orange… In Reverse

Prison Bars

Amid Despair in a Venezuelan Prison, Strains of Hope From a Music Program

By Scott Dalton
New York Times

Los Teques, Venezuela – When Nurul Asyiqin Ahmad was taken seven months ago to her cell at the National Institute of Feminine Orientation, a prison perched on a hill in this city of slums on the outskirts of Caracas, learning how to play Beethoven was one of the last things on her mind.

"The despair gripped me, like a nightmare had become my life," said Ms. Ahmad, 26, a shy law student from Malaysia who claims she is innocent of charges of trying to smuggle cocaine on a flight from Caracas to Paris. "But when the music begins, I am lifted away from this place." Ms. Ahmad plays violin and sings in the prison's orchestra.

In a project extending Venezuela's renowned system of youth orchestras to some of the country's most hardened prisons, Ms. Ahmad and hundreds of other prisoners are learning a repertory that includes Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and folk songs from the Venezuelan plains.

Read more about this at the New York Times website:

Love Triangle


Making noise

Misunderstood and underappreciated, percussion players step forward to tell their story.

By Graydon Royce
Star Tribune

For three hours, Joe Nathan sits and watches the Minnesota Twins play ball. Then, the relief pitcher is asked to get three quick outs in the ninth inning. In 2007, the Twins played 1,458 innings. Nathan pitched in 72. Yet if he fails, a victory is lost. He is indispensable to the club.

Imagine now the percussionist perched at the back of the Minnesota Orchestra. He waits in fretful anticipation as the instruments around him furiously exhaust themselves, playing Mahler's Ninth Symphony. Finally, Osmo Vänskä fixes his eyes on the percussion section and gestures for the cymbals.

Read more about this at the Star Tribune website:

Breakthrough in Vienna


Staatsoper Taps Woman Concertmaster

By Susan Elliott
Musical America

Thursday, May 8, 2008 may go down in history as a major milestone in classical music. The Wiener Staatsoper, most of whose orchestra members comprise the Vienna Philharmonic, appointed a woman as its concertmaster. Albena Danailova, of Sofia, takes first chair in September. According to custom, if all goes well for two years, she will then move into the position permanently.

Her appointment is significant for two reasons: One, she is the first woman to have the post at the Staatsoper, and two, in her new job she will oversee a core of instrumentalists – the Vienna Philharmonic – that has long deemed women musicians to be inferior to men.

Read more about this at the website:

End of the Road in Columbus

Columbus Symphony

Symphony will shut down for summer with future in doubt

Picnic with the Pops series canceled

By Jeffrey Sheban
The Columbus Dispatch

After 57 years of music making, including a triumphant concert in New York's Carnegie Hall, the Columbus Symphony says it will shut down June 1.

Out of money and having failed to reach a new labor agreement with the musicians, the orchestra's board of trustees said today that it is canceling the summer Picnic With the Pops and Popcorn Pops series and most likely its 2008-09 season, scheduled to begin in October.

Columbus would become one of the nation's largest cities without a full-time professional orchestra.

Read more about this at The Columbus Dispatch website:

Riccardo Muti

Muti to be Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director

By F.N. d'Alessio (AP)
San Jose Mercury News

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association named maestro Riccardo Muti on Monday as the next music director of the CSO, the 10th conductor to hold the prestigious post.

CSO Association President Deborah Card announced that Muti, 66, had signed a five-year contract to serve as music director beginning in September of the 2010-2011 season. The post has been vacant since Daniel Barenboim retired in 2006.

Under the terms of the contract, Muti will conduct a minimum of 10 weeks of CSO subscription concerts each season, plus lead the orchestra in domestic and international tours.

Read more about this at the San Jose Mercury News website: