Rumor Alert: Wolfgang Sawallisc Staying Put in Philly
Altered Fates in Philly
To set the record straight: ignore rumors that Wolfgang Sawallisc, pictured here, is leaving his position as music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra anytime soon. His contract is good for several more years. (The rumors started two seasons ago, when the pragmatic maestro pointed out that a man in his 70s must sooner or later think of reducing his activities, and since the search for a successor can be quite drawn-out, he proposed helping in the process.)
Meanwhile, 35-year-old David Kim, concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, has been chosen as Philadelphia's concertmaster, starting in September. This ends the search that began in March 1998, when concertmaster Erez Ofer left after his probationary one-year contract was not renewed. Although a graduate of Juilliard, Kim has important local connections. He performed for five years in a trio with principal violist Roberto Diaz, he has other friends in the orchestra, and his chief mentor in becoming a concertmaster has been Anshel Brusilow, who was concertmaster of the Philadelphians under Eugene Ormandy.
Just as Kim is to arrive, one of his friends is leaving: Robert Chen, a member of the Philadelphia first-violin section since spring of 1998, is the new concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Another major "going": after six years, assistant conductor André Raphel Smith will leave his position at the end of the 1999–2000 season. And finally, among the end-of-season retirees was one of the most familiar faces in the Orchestra: violist Gaetano Molieri. It is hard to imagine the Philadelphia Orchestra without him.
The Da Vinci Quartet, which has just been awarded its fourth grant for the 1999–2000 season ($5,000 from the Denver Foundation), now has a new second violinist: Wendolyn Olson, age 27. The Brentano String Quartet has been appointed the first-ever quartet in residence at Princeton University, beginning with the 1999–2000 school year. The San Francisco Conservatory of Music has appointed Jean-Michel Fonteneau as professor of cello for 1999–2000; Fonteneau is a founding member of the Ravel String Quartet and the piano trio Le Nouveau Trio du Val-de-Marne. At Mannes College of Music, Samuel Wong replaced Michael Charry as music director of the orchestra and conducting programs; Charry retired in April 1999.
Vladimir Spivakov will be music director and principal conductor of the Russian National Orchestra, effective September 1999; Mikhail Pletnev, who has held these positions since founding the orchestra in 1990, will become conductor laureate and devote more time to his work as a composer and pianist. Christian Zacharias will join the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne in the 2000–01 season as artistic director and principal conductor, with a four-year contract. Patrick Summers will begin as principal guest conductor of the San Francisco Opera with the 2000–01 season. He is also music director of the Houston Grand Opera.
Composer, conductor, and pianist Marvin Hamlisch will become the principal pops conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., at the start of the 2000–01 season. The newly created post is the first "pops" position in NSO history. Brooklyn Philharmonic Music Director Robert Spano has signed a five-year contract renewal, which will extend his tenure through the 2003–04 season, the Philharmonic's 50th anniversary.
Maryland Maestros' Moves
The state of Maryland will experience some games of "musical podiums" in the 1999–2000 season, and not just in the case of Yuri Temirkanov's first official season at the helm of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (he takes over from longtime music director David Zinman, who has been music director emeritus since last year).
The BSO's associate conductor, Daniel Hege, has been appointed to replace Fabio Mechetti as music director of the Syracuse (New York) Symphony Orchestra, in a unanimous first-choice vote by the search committee. The 33-year-old Hege begins September 1, 1999, and will conduct numerous concerts in Syracuse during the 1999–2000 season. He conducts 80 Baltimore Symphony concerts annually and will continue his work as associate conductor there.
Meanwhile, back in Hagerstown, the Maryland Symphony Orchestra named Elizabeth Schulze as its music director, to succeed Barry Tuckwell. Her first concert as music director was the July 3 Independence Day concert at Antietam National Battlefield, an event that draws a crowd of 30–40,000. Last season, Schulze completed a four-year stint as associate conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington; she is intensely interested in music education and will have ample opportunity and enthusiastic support for similar efforts in Hagerstown.
In February, the 1999 Corpus Christi Young Artists' Competition winners were chosen. Manhattan School of Music student Yoo Kyung Min, a violinist, won first prize in the College Strings division. Cellist Sarah Carter of Seattle took first prize in the Pre-College Strings division, as well as the Young Artist Award.
The 1999 Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) Student Performance Competitions were held in April. Cellist Kacy Clopton of Clarksville, Maryland, won the Junior High School String Award. Violinist Annie Wolaver of Hermitage, Tennessee, took the High School String Award (and her brother Alexander, a violist, was first runner-up in the Junior division). The Collegiate Artist String Award went to violist James Myer Hogg of Fountain Hill, Arizona, and the Collegiate Artist Chamber Music Award was taken by Louisiana State University's Bulgarian String Quartet.
Also in April, the American Symphony Orchestra League awarded its 1998 Gold Baton to Ernest Fleischmann, former vice president and managing director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The award, the League's highest honor, is given annually for distinguished service to music and the arts. The Cypress String Quartet from San Francisco won first prize at the Chamber Music Yellow Springs Competition, founded in 1984 to encourage the development of young ensembles. And Cleveland Institute student Jeff Thayer of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, is the winner of the 44th National Young Artist Competition of the Fort Collins (Colorado) Symphony Senior Division Finals, for which he received $3,000.
Pleeth Passes On
British cellist and pedagogue William Pleeth died on April 6, 1999, at the age of 83. Born in London in 1916 to a Polish émigré family that included several musicians, he started the cello at age seven and began studying with Herbert Walenn at the London Cello School when he was ten. He then spent two years at the Leipzig Conservatory as the youngest student ever admitted to that program.
At age 15, Pleeth began performing as a soloist, and he played the Schumann Concerto with Sir Adrian Bjoult and the BBC Symphony Orchestra on the radio in 1940. But he cared more for chamber music than solo work and in 1952 formed the Allegri String Quartet, which still performs today, though with a different set of members.
Pleeth became a teacher at the Menuhin School in 1977. He had taught the young Jacqueline du Pré for seven years, becoming her most influential mentor. Other students included his son, Anthony Pleeth (who became a Baroque cellist), and cello prodigy Hai-Ye Ni. He also wrote a book, Cello, that is part of the Yehudi Menuhin Music Guide series.
"He has a very fun way of explaining things to you," said Ni in an interview last year. "He connects a lot of natural movements with playing the cello; he would explain the movement of the bow arm as 'like a gambler throwing dice.' If you try to throw dice yourself then you can understand it. He's a very inspiring teacher."
Violinist, composer, and author Howard Boatwright died of heart failure on February 20, 1999, at the age of 80.
Boatwright was born in Newport News, Virginia. He began studying the violin at age ten and debuted in New York in 1942 with a recital at Town Hall. He joined the faculty of the University of Texas in Austin the following year. But in 1941 he had begun composing music for soprano Helen Strassburger—whom he married two years later—and the couple began to perform together. In 1946 Boatwright went to Yale University for a master's degree in composition; his teacher, Paul Hindemith, then helped him obtain a faculty position at Yale. Boatwright remained there until 1964, also conducting the Yale Symphony and acting as concertmaster of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra and first violinist of the Yale String Quartet.
He went on to the Syracuse University School of Music as dean and then became a professor of composition and theory. During his tenure at the school he established festivals, created an electronic music studio, introduced non-Western music to the curriculum, and expanded the early-music program. He also wrote several books on music theory and Indian music, and published about 100 musical works; several recordings of his pieces have recently been reissued by CRI Records. Boatwright is survived by his wife, a daughter, and two sons.
The University of California at Santa Cruz invites high-school seniors to compete in a String Competition to form a student resident string quartet. Each winner will receive a scholarship equal to four years of full in-state college fees (approximately $17,450). While attending UCSC, quartet members will participate in department-sponsored performances and public concerts and receive coachings from top-level professional players. An application and cassette must be received by October 8, 1999. For more information, call the program coordinator at (831) 459-2164, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the department's Web site at arts.ucsc.edu/music.
The Sphinx Competition, designed to encourage string playing among young African-Americans and Latinos, will be held February 24–27, 2000, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Eligibility is limited to African-American and Latino students under age 18 for the junior division or age 18 to 25 for the senior division. The deadline for applications and tapes is December 1, 1999. For more information, write to the Sphinx Competition at 1607 Anderson, Ann Arbor, MI 48104, or visit www.comnet.org/sphinx.
The Corpus Christi Young Artists' Competition will take place February 25–27, 2000, in Texas. Prizes will be awarded in several divisions, including College Strings and Pre-College Strings. Entries from performers under age 26 will be accepted until December 3, 1999; for an application, write to Mary Mayhew at 702 Harrison, Corpus Christi, TX 78404, or call (361) 852-5829.
The Eighth London International String Quartet Competition will be held April 10–16, 2000. First prize is £8,000 ($12,800), concerts in the U.K. and France, and a page on the competition's Web site for three years; substantial prizes will also be awarded to the second– through fifth-place winners, in addition to three other £1,000 awards. The competition, held every three years, aims to discover and encourage outstanding young talent. Applications must be received by December 1, 1999. For more information, write to the competition administrator, Dennis Sayer, at 62 High St., Fareham, Hampshire PO16 7BG, England; telephone (44) 1329-283603; or go to ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/lsqf.
Cellist and pedagogue Janos Starker turns 75 this year, and to commemorate the occasion, Indiana University School of Music and the Eva Janzer Memorial Cello Center will honor him with a gala concert and banquet on September 14, 1999.
The concert will feature Starker and cellists William Preucil, Jr., Gary Hoffman, Maria Kliegel, and Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi, with Mstislav Rostropovich conducting the Indiana University Philharmonic Orchestra. A mass cello ensemble will crown the festivities, and everyone is encouraged to participate. "This event will mark the first time in history that the two giants of the cello (Starker and Rostropovich) will share the stage," says Indiana University Assistant Professor Emilio Colon. "We want as many cellists as possible to join the cello ensemble and witness music history in the making." For details, write to Colon at Eva Janzer Memorial Cello Center, Indiana University School of Music, Bloomington, IN 47405; call (812) 855-6644; e-mail email@example.com; or visit www.music.indiana.edu/som/ejmccf/.
Philadelphia Visits Vietnam
The Philadelphia Orchestra and Music Director Wolfgang Sawallisch embarked on a three-week, 12-concert, seven-city Asian tour May 10–30, 1999. The tour marked the Philadelphia's ninth visit to Japan since 1967 and its first to Malaysia and Taiwan. Continuing a deeply appreciated 14-year tradition, CIGNA Corporation once again sponsored the tour.
But most significant is the fact that the Philadelphians made their debut in Vietnam, becoming the first professional American symphony orchestra to perform there, with concerts in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (familiar to most of us as Saigon). Not until the 1990s had any American instrumental ensemble been to Vietnam, and then only two: the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra of New York and a student orchestra from Long Island. In her brief yet impassioned speech at the press conference announcing the tour, the dean of the Hanoi Conservatory, Tran Thu Ha, called the orchestra's week in her country "the most important cultural event in Vietnam in this century."
Underlining the power of music to overcome the worst, Tran told me that the conservatory, founded in 1956, continued to function all through the war, with students and staff moving to different villages for safety. She described people practicing and performing while bombs fell. In keeping with this spirit, one of the Philadelphia's three concerts, in the Hanoi opera house, was free for the children of Hanoi, and there were master classes and tutorials at the Conservatory, as well as gifts and instrumental demonstrations for the underprivileged children of the Sunshine School of the Christina Nobel Foundation. As Sawallisch declared, "There is no better way to make peace than with music."
There was yet another musically historic relevance to this tour: Pennsylvania's governor, Tom Ridge, is a strong supporter of the arts, and he arranged for his Pennsylvania Asian trade mission to coincide with the tour. Ridge, who fought in Vietnam, thus became the first governor to participate in a Philadelphia Orchestra tour; Philip Horn, executive director of the Governor's Council on the Arts, also attended parts of it.
Philanthropist and arts patron Flora L. Thornton has given the University of Southern California School of Music the largest amount ever donated to a university school of music—$25 million. In recognition, the school is being renamed the USC Flora L. Thornton School of Music.
Founded in 1884, it is USC's oldest professional school and consistently ranks in the top one percent of U.S. music schools and conservatories. Asked how she felt making a gift of this magnitude, Thornton replied, "It's nice to back a winner."
"Flora Thornton's generosity will significantly enhance our ability to attract top talent to Southern California and to nurture and develop it in the fullest ways possible," declared USC President Steven B. Sample. "We are in the midst of a cultural renaissance in downtown Los Angeles—and I think the future will see Mrs. Thornton as a key builder of that renaissance."
A new series of Canadian postage stamps, focusing on craftspersons' trades, will feature the hands of violin maker Jules Saint-Michel of Montreal. The other stamps illustrate the hands of artisans bookbinding, ironworking, glass blowing, oyster farming, weaving, quilting, and leather working with the raw materials used by the crafter—wood, in Saint-Michel's case.
Saint-Michel was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1933, and signs his instruments with his original name, Gyula Szentmihaly. He has twice served as a jury member at the International Violin Makers' Competition in Moscow. His stamp has a value of ten Canadian cents.
South Bank Centre Update
With London's Millennium Dome nearing completion, the 1960s-era South Bank Centre, just down the River Thames, is planning its own update for the 21st century. The design and funding will be worked out over the next two years, with construction to begin in 2001.
Two of three redevelopment initiatives currently under discussion at SBC call for the demolition and replacement of the 913-seat Queen Elizabeth Hall and the 367-seat Purcell Room. The Royal Festival Hall, built for the Festival of Britain in 1951 and home of the London Symphony Orchestra, will receive an acoustical makeover.
The Daily Telegraph's music critic, Norman LeBrecht (author of Who Killed Classical Music?), welcomes "the intended demolition of one of the ugliest and least useful concert halls ever to emerge from a cement mixer. There will be no sighs of regret when the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room crumble beneath the wrecker's ball. On the contrary, musicians and chamber-music lovers will be begging for a chance to pull the lever."
SBC has not aged gracefully. Its concrete exterior is sooty and graffiti covers many surfaces. Inside, worn carpeting, poor soundproofing, and an inadequate backstage area point up the need for rejuvenation. "There's an unloved feeling about the place," says violinist Nettie Isserlis.
The acoustics of the QEH and the Purcell Room inspire mixed reviews. LeBrecht dismisses the halls as "acoustic death-traps which the most inspired of artists have failed to set alight." Some performers feel that the acoustics lack clarity, although the Emerson Quartet's cellist, David Finckel, finds the QEH's sound to be "resonant and crisp—we can hear each other and there is detail in the sound as well as breathing room. We always feel that music travels upwards best; hence the configuration of the seats is ideal."
Previous attempts to redo the center were hampered by the need to keep existing structures in place. Rebuilding most of it from the ground up will allow for a more creative configuration and take greater advantage of SBC's prime location on the Thames, from which the sparkling lights of the city and St. Paul's can be seen at night. Observes David Pikard, general manager of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, one of SBC's resident groups, "People tend to forget what a wonderful location this is."
Operation Opera House
Hot on the heels of Benaroya Symphony Hall's completion in Seattle comes the proposal to rebuild the old, outmoded opera house. Both the Seattle Opera and the Pacific Northwest Ballet have achieved national and international recognition—as well as a devoted, if not fanatical, fan base. The city, these organizations, and their supporters have recognized the need for a first-class performing center to be financed by a mix of public and private contributions.
Seattle Center Director Virginia Anderson describes the proposed plan as not a mere facelift, but a major reconfiguration and enlargement. Great attention is being paid to the backstage areas, with a new performers' wing that will provide state-of-the-art dressing rooms, coaching rooms, a rehearsal hall, and physical therapy, makeup, and wardrobe spaces.
Inside the auditorium, the width will be reduced to improve sight lines. The loss of seats in the orchestra will be offset by the addition of new, improved box seating. A new four-story glass-enclosed grand lobby will open out onto both the street and the Seattle Center. The same architects that designed the very successful Benaroya Hall have been retained for the Opera Hall.
The project is scheduled to begin immediately following the completion of the opera's 2001 Wagnerian Ring Cycle, and to be completed in time for the opening of the 2002–03 ballet and opera seasons.